I started at The Center back in 2001 with my 7 year-old daughter Halee after we lost my husband Greg in a car accident. He was on his way home from work, following a lady who was driving erratically and she lost control. He was hit by another vehicle and died instantly. At the time he died, I was at home with Halee and Hannah, who was two weeks from her first birthday. And, I was just over two months pregnant with my son Gregory.
Our first experience with The Center was just Halee and I because Hannah was not old enough yet. Our pediatrician recommended it. He felt Halee was not opening up very much and that I needed some help to get me through the time. Suddenly being a single mom with “two and a half” children was a lot for me to handle.
The first day at The Center was like the world taken off my shoulders.
I came here and the people were just amazing. I felt like it was the only place I could come where others could actually understand what I was going through – it was amazing. The first night we came, Halee was beaming. All this time she was building up her emotions. It was a safe world for her. She could say anything – or nothing about what she lost.
Being a widow at 31, I didn’t know what to do or how to handle things. My family was 300-plus miles away. I was alone with almost 3 kids. I could have easily gone back home to live with my parents or close by my parents or something. But I didn’t and a big reason was The Center. I had that one hour a week that I could come here, say what I wanted or if I didn’t want to say anything I didn’t have to. If I wanted to cry or not, facilitators and other participants understood what I was going through. I felt like I could open up and they were listening. They weren’t judgmental.
When we left, Halee seemed to understand our family life and how dynamics had changed. She was more able to open up & she was being her nice little self again. I was able to better understand my life as a widow.
When Hannah turned 3, she started to ask a lot of questions about her father. And even though we were very open with her about her father being in heaven, about the accident in general, she kept asking a lot of questions and she wanted her Daddy. She couldn’t understand when I was always picking her up from daycare when other kids sometimes got picked up by their daddies. “How come my Daddy never comes? I love you Mommy but I wish Daddy could pick me up.” A little while later, she started acting like he was an imaginary friend to her. And that’s okay but it got to the point where he was there with her all of the time. For example, if I put something on the table for her to eat, she might say that Daddy said she didn’t have to eat it. Things like that came up & I realized she really needed The Center. So I came back with Hannah, and again, the first night she came in here, she was so happy by the time we left; it was wonderful to see the look in her eyes. The whole way home she talked about her facilitators, the kids in her group, everything. There was a light at the end of the tunnel.
The Center opened her life and helped her understand that it’s ok that Daddy is in heaven.Hannah got up in front of class one day (two days after I got re-married in 2005) with a picture and she said “I wanted to explain that I have two Dads now.” The kids looked kind of funny like you’re not supposed to have two dads. Then she said, “I have two dads cause by Mom just got married and he is my step-dad. But I call him Dad – and he’s the dad I can talk to and play with and do things with. My other Dad died and he’s in heaven now. I can talk to him and he hears me but he can’t talk to me. He shows me in little ways so I know that he is there. I talk to him at the bus stop and I just know that he is watching down on me.” So a little 5-year-old could get up in her class to make the other kids understand that it’s okay that Daddy is up in heaven, and life is going to be okay. She wouldn’t have been able to do that without The Center.
The Center helped me move on, because I have been able to come out of my shell and find happiness again.
Without The Center, I don’t think I could have moved on the way I have been able to. The Center helped me not only with my kids, but to find myself as a person again, and to find another normal relationship. Life is never normal (the same normal) after you lose your husband, the father of your children. At The Center, I realized that life can be normal, it’s just a different normal. My late husband’s parents are so thankful for The Center because they saw what a difference it made for me and for the children.
And from The Center and my experience at The Center – I went on to do the training and became a facilitator at The Center. And now each week I can give back a small piece of what The Center gave to me.
Lori Davis-Parent is now a volunteer facilitator on Thursday nights supporting other adults, and a speaker for United Way on behalf of The Center for Grieving Children.