I’m the healing father I am today because of the people I met yesterday, and the yesterday before that and the yesterday before that, and on and on. Many of those people jumped in and jumped out, leaving me with fleeting bits of goodness. Others jumped in in a dark way, but I’m grateful for them too because of the lessons I’ve learned by how I reacted to their darkness. A few precious people stuck to me, embedding themselves like a cherished memory. Many of those who stuck to me are parents who have also had children who died. We share a common bond. Because bereaved parents further down the road than I am threw me a rope, a rope of hope that helped pull me to a better life, I’m where I am today in my journey, a good place, a smiling place.
All those people in my life, the good and the bad, gave me a gift, the gift of their time, the gift of their rope. Be it good time or bad time, it’s all been a gift. I never fully understood the gift of time until our son, Brendon, was killed on March 16, 1998. And even then it took a while to fully understand the gift of time. Time with him by my side ended when the rope I threw him when he was born was severed. I was temporarily overrun by the hard reality that physical time with our son had a finish line. I naively thought it would be a never-ending journey.
As I slowly emerged from the downfall of my life, a clearer vision of the world became evident; a clearer vision of how to spend my time. I doubt I would have realized how important time is if I hadn’t been thrown the rope of hope after Bren died. It took me almost two years before I found the rope because I wasn’t searching for it. I wouldn’t have been able to recognize it even if it had been thrown my way. I just wasn’t paying attention. My suffering closed me off to the idea that my life could get better. I also closed myself off to the idea that there were other bereaved parents who had walked the path before me and would be willing to throw me the rope that had been thrown to them. The rope that saved their lives.
“No one knows how I feel,” I said. “No one loves their child like I love Brendon, so how can they know my pain.” Saying that is what kept me from finding the rope, or even searching for it.
Eventually the burden became too much to endure and I began looking for the rope. I began reading books on grief, paying attention to the many other parents who are surviving their journey. They were trying to throw me the rope by telling their stories of healing, by showing me the rope of hope was a good thing. I listened and became informed, but I hadn’t yet grabbed the rope completely because there was a disconnect. The disconnect was because their journeys were paper journeys of faceless words. Although important and helpful, I didn’t connect completely to their experience. Once the rope of hope was thrown to me face-to-face by another bereaved parent, I grabbed it, clutching it fiercely. At that point because I could look into their eyes, feel their arms around me, I felt somewhere deep inside of me that this journey was survivable. Something in me, because of that physical connection, said, “This rope of hope, this loving gesture will pull me into a new life, a life of hope and possibilities.”
As I let their rope pull me along, I met other bereaved parents who also threw me their rope; their rope of hope. Sounds silly doesn’t it, the “rope of hope?” But that’s what it was, what it is and what it will always be, the rope of hope. I now carry that rope with me wherever I go. I’ve never let go of it and I never will. I shudder to think where I’d be today if that rope hadn’t been thrown my way and I grabbed hold.
For those of us who have moved down the road in our new lives and have experienced healing, throw the rope of hope to bereaved parents behind you who are adrift with little hope. Let them know that their smiles can return and life can be good again. Don’t stop throwing the rope, keep trying, keep encouraging. Don’t give up, just as those who threw their rope to us didn’t give up. It will never be an easy life, but the more times we throw the rope and it’s grabbed, the easier it can be for those who think their lives will never have meaning again. It takes a long time and a lot of work to be able to throw a rope. In the beginning we catch them; as we heal we throw them. Throw others the rope of hope and give them the gift of your time. The rope can show them their life can eventually be happy if they do their work. Even though they will forever grieve the deaths of their children, it doesn’t mean they need to lead a grief-stricken life.
If you don’t know another bereaved parent, your rope of hope can be thrown in many different directions. There are many people in the world who are searching for a rope to grab—a rope of hope. Many who are on the path of disease, child abuse, homelessness, alcoholism, drug addiction, loneliness and physical or emotional challenges also need a rope. Animals need help, the environment needs help. Use your rope in fundraising or volunteering. Throw others a rope; give the gift of yourself, your time and your love.
Time on earth is finite; by throwing a rope of hope we can do infinite good.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rob began his journey in March of 1998 when his twenty-one-year-old son, Brendon, was murdered. His path to healing has come through writing, speaking, conducting workshops and facilitating sharing groups on local and national levels. The author of many published essays and poems, Rob’s goal is to continue to give away the healing he was given by others in the early days of his grief.