This is a tough week for me. A horrible week every year, when I remember the last days with my son, Zack and what led to his death in 2011. I relive what I did and what I could have done differently. I remember all the ways he fought for his life in the end and even the moment when I knew he had fought long enough. I think about the moment I fell asleep with him in his hospital bed and all that I told him in those last moments. I remember the way his hair felt and the moment he took his last breath in our arms. It’s also the time of year that I remember where we were when we told our other boys that their brother died and wouldn’t be coming home again.
When Zack was slipping away and we knew that we would likely remove him from life support, a social worker came to visit us to talk and answer any questions that we had. I’ll never forget sitting on the bench in the atrium on the 2nd floor and asking him “what do we tell his brothers?“. He gently consoled us, offered to provide books to us and gave us suggestions of age-appropriate ways to make sure our kids understood and felt comforted in some small way by our honesty. We left the hospital that day with molds of our sweet boy’s hand and foot, and books to share with our sons as they started their own journey through grief.
Grieving after Zack died took different forms for each of us and I was thankful to have the opportunity to fundraise in his honour to help me continue to share the story of his life. Paul chose to grieve more privately and our boys reacted in ways that fit their ages. Ty was 7, cried with us and asked a lot of questions, while Jayden seemed angry and shed very few tears at only 3 1/2 years old. It wasn’t until Jayden’s 5th birthday, the 2nd one without his twin, Zack, that Jayden’s grief truly hit him. He cried when there were small things that triggered his memory of Zack…family trips, neighbourhood bbqs, birthday parties, even stuffed animals…it seemed random and was getting even more frequent.
One day we found Jayden crying on the couch in our living room during a neighbourhood BBQ at our house.
“What’s wrong, Jayden?” I asked, as I held him tight.
“You know what it is, mom” was the answer he gave us, when he just couldn’t bring himself to say the words ‘I just miss my brother’.
During these moments, we’d snuggle together, thinking of silly Zack memories to make him laugh. Other times, overcome with my own emotions, we’d just lay and cry together until it passed.
When Jayden’s grief seemed to consume him and impact his days at school, we reached out to his teacher to see if she had any thoughts on ways we could help him. The school was wonderfully supportive and connected Jayden with a lovely social worker who came to talk to him once a week for a few months to talk about his feelings and share things he may not have wanted to share with us. He told her that he could see Zack in his room, on the ice when he played hockey and even on the bus on the way home from school. When she met with us to share all that she had learned, we were concerned. She reassured us that he was working through his grief and that it was a reaction that was not uncommon in children who suffer the loss of someone close to them. The school board social worker was instrumental in helping him (and us) get through those tough months and while we still have moments of sadness, we feel that Jayden is over the most difficult days of his grief. We are grateful to have had the help, when we reached out for it.
I’m so thankful for the role that social workers have played in the journey our family has had through our grief. It was difficult to reach out and ask for help, but we did and we are forever grateful for the comfort and support that several social workers have provided in our lives.
This week is more than just a week for us to remember our own loss, it’s Social Work Week from March 6-12th. It is a week to recognize the profession that helped our family through many difficult times and remind others that there is help for similar or other stressful moments in their own lives. All you need to do is ask for help.
- Addictions/Mental Health Monday, March 6
- Bullying Tuesday, March 7
- Relationship Problems Wednesday, March 8
- Stress Management Thursday, March 9
- Caregiving/Sandwich Generation Friday, March 10
Disclaimer: I’m happy to share my connection to social work and how it’s help me and our family. I’m proud to support Social Work Week through this Ontario Association of Social Workers (OASW) sponsored post.