Saturday, May 2, 2009

More Comfort from Ann Hood

I wrote about attending a group meeting of bereaved parents shortly after Caitlin died. I attended too early after her death, but there was a special guest speaker, Ann Hood. I thought I would hear words of encouragement and see parents who survived and were thriving despite the death of their children. I left talking to myself, repeating the words "unacceptable" over and over. I found myself in a room of pain and received no "comfort" from Ann Hood.

Of course since then, I've grown a great deal and I understand that the grief group is likely the only place many parents can grieve openly, and that what I saw was not my future for everyday of my life. I'm still irritated that I get selling emails from Ann to sell her books, because it reminds of that most awful day. So, how did I receive more comfort from Ann this time?

A hug, "I'm sorry," and a look of sincere understanding.

I had not intended to attend a dedication ceremony at my place of employment, but when I happened upon the event as I was leaving the library, one of my students showed me the program. I glanced at the list of a series of speakers, and a name caught my eye--Ann Hood. I stayed, not to hear the dedication, but to hear Ann's speech. I wanted to hear that she could deliver an uplifting speech and I wanted to stop being angry with a stranger--one who has written beautiful books of which I have read one.

As I sat listening to the speeches of gratitude, and the listing of accomplishments, I stared down at my hands and felt that familiar horrible longing for being somewhere else. Somewhere where I was not a professional women, but a mom at home complaining about not being fulfilled. I see a little hand wrap her hand over mine. I feel my daughter's hand upon mine and I close my eyes. She leans her head against my shoulder and pushes it into my chest--that snuggling mothers cherish. And I rest there with my dream--or was it an angel visit--it felt real and I didn't seem to be actively imagining it--rather the images, the physical sensations came to me. I hear her tell me through love that "it's OK, I'm here." I exhale and open my eyes and wait for Ann's speech.

It was short and lovely--about books and libraries. There was sincerity in her words and she was smiling and I saw a bereaved mother who was surviving and finding a way to thrive. I had my computer and camera for later work and I snapped a pic, because it seemed to be a part of my grief journey. I thought about introducing myself to her, but was sure there wouldn't be an opportunity. While everyone was moving past the jazz combo, working their way toward the refreshments, I took the quickest way out. And it happened that Ann came down the podium steps at that time.

I walked up and introduced myself. "You don't know me, but I was at the parents' bereavement group meeting about a year ago, and I wanted to thank you for what you've been doing for bereaved parents." She smiled and let me hold her hand. "My daughter had only been dead 11 weeks so it wasn't a good thing for me at the time, but thank you." "Oh, I'm so sorry," she responds, and gives me a big hug. "Well, I know you aren't here for this, but I wanted to say 'thanks.'"

I was afraid she'd think I was a crazy person, but I shouldn't have worried. I think bereaved parents know that at any time you will feel grief and you will encounter others on a similar journey. And there is comfort in that.

An interesting side note: I had an appointment in a nearby city that evening and missed the exit I needed. In winding my way to my destination, I found myself in slow moving traffic on side city streets. At one point I come to a complete stop, and I look around--and see the congregational church where that bereavement group meeting was held.


  1. I pray God will continue to comfort you and the rest of your family as you write about your loss. I'm sure what you share will help so many others deal with a tremendous loss and look to the hope and a future that God has in store for us.

    God Bless,

  2. All the events you describe fit together so nicely and I believe they speak volumes about your love for your daughter and her love for you. My eyes just welled up reading about Caitlin snuggling into you as you felt the urge to leave. I'm certain she was there.

  3. Tears filled my eyes as I read about Caitlin and her hand wrapping around yours. For some reason, it's always the thoughts of the hands that strike my core so intensely.

    I don't know if what you felt was a dream or an angel visit, but I do know either way, it was your girl. I know she loves you, and is proud of her mother.

    Interesting sidenote, indeed!

  4. What a beautiful post.

    I enjoyed reading your blog today.
    I am still new to the land of blog, but so loving reading others stories. Everyone has a story and so many of them are so touching....
    Hope you will stop by for a visit.
    The May give-away has started and this month there will be 10 winners.

  5. That book is in my humungous "to read" pile. I'm glad you did eventually find some comfort in her words.

  6. This was such an interesting post for me. I have read both books on her grief, the fiction and the non - and to hear your impression of her speaking from the place you were at was very helpful.

    Kaitlin was there with you - for sure.