Surviving the unthinkable

I vividly remember April 19, 1995. My daughter Nina had heard on the
news that something horrible had just occurred in Oklahoma City. She
told me that a federal office building had been bombed, killing many
people, many of them very young children. As the scene replayed
itself on every station. Nina and I knelt in front of the television.
We held hands and were motionless and hushed except for the sound of
our occasional choking sobs. As we watched the horrific scene and the
victim’s loved ones in their shock and grief I distinctly remember my
reaction. After saying a silent prayer that I would never have to
bury my children first, I looked at my daughter through teary eyes
and said aloud, those poor parents! I can`t even imagine! I know that
I could never survive losing any of you.”

 

death leaves a heartache

Little did I know those words that I had spoken to Nina would come
back to haunt me. That only three weeks after the Oklahoma City
tragedy. my own beautiful 15 1/2 year old daughter, my Nina with the
captivating smile, would be killed suddenly and violently, far away
from home on a Florida freeway while on our family vacation. From
that moment on, our lives changed completely. She would not be here
to see her sisters become mothers and enjoy being aunt to her nephews
or watch with pride at her brother`s graduation .A piece of the
family puzzle would be forever missing. As my son gazed out the plane
window on the agonizing flight back to Minnesota. he turned to look
at me and with deep sorrow in his eyes said. “Mom. what will we ever
do without Nina`?” That one sentence said it all. I truthfully
answered back, “I have no idea.”

And so the nightmare began for my family just as it has for all of
you. We were harshly and unexpectedly propelled into the same horror
as those left behind in Oklahoma City. We were left behind to try to
answer the unanswerable and pick up the pieces of our shattered world
changed in a fleeting second.

We have lost our children from many different causes, all of them
life altering. I am quite confident that you felt as I did that we
would never survive the loss of our child. It was unthinkable for no
human being could ever withstand the force of such unbearable pain.
However, if you are reading this right now, that means that, somehow
you have survived I am quite confident that you sit back and wonder
how you ever did. But. like me, you had been directed to The
Compassionate Friends, whether through a caring friend who asked that
we send you the newsletter or you heard about TCF from a
professional. You may have even taken the initiative yourself.
Whether you attend our meetings or read the newsletter as your
contact to other bereaved parents you already took the first giant
step. It was a step that said no matter how much easier it would have
seemed to refuse to go on, you had made that commitment toward
survival, toward learning to cope with the pain and finding ways to
live again. It isn’t an easy road to travel, as it is fraught with
roadblocks along the way.

The first time I noticed I must be progressing was when 1 realized
that I had made it through half a day without crying. For those who
have not lost a child, this may not seem like much of an
accomplishment. But to me it was one that at one time seemed
insurmountable. If you really look closely. I think that you too will
find that you have made progress no matter how tiny the steps may
seem. The grieving process is a long one. Try not to be impatient
with yourself if you thought you were making progress only to find
you have slipped backwards a little. It is a lifelong process
because we have loved our children so deeply and therefore we need to
be patient with ourselves. The ultimate heartbreak does not
begin to heal overnight.

It will be seven years April 19th since the Oklahoma City bombing.
Sadly since that time, we have seen additional tragedies that have
taken the lives of more children such as TWA Flight 800 the school
shootings in Kentucky, Oregon and Littleton and the unspeakable
horror of September 11th. Each of us cried along with those parents
who were just beginning the same painful journey that we know all too
well. 1 wish I could say that another tragedy such as this would
never occur or that I would never again see the shock and emptiness
in another bereaved parent’s face as they walk into a meeting or
their cries of despair on the other end of the phone but 1 know that
is impossible Yet. 1 can say with certainty that those who have thus
far survived the unthinkable will be them for the newcomers who walk
through those doors. We will cling to each other and reach out with
understanding and compassion and hope-through all those tiny steps,
whether forward or backward. Somehow we will survive together.

With gentle thoughts,
Cathy Seehuetter.
TCF/St. Paul. MN
[email protected]

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