A weekend to reflect on

Written by Dean Patty, father supported by Very Special Kids

Going through a loss in the family is hard enough but experiencing a child’s death, your child’s death, is difficult to say the least. It was shortly after Allegra’s passing that we attended the Bereaved Parents Weekend.

When Ally died, I didn’t know how to react – I felt anger, despair, sadness, emptiness, disbelief.  How long is acceptable to feel this way? I went into the weekend without any expectations but hoping that I would get an answer on how to cope.

Friday night all the participants met at a pub in Daylesford, had a meal with light conversation before travelling to our destination. Accommodation was fantastic and the meals were great.

As usual in situations like these we all had turns introducing ourselves while holding a photo of our lost child, how long it had been since the event and then placed the photo on a remembrance table and lit a candle. Normally I love talking about my children but found it hard during this session. Her death was still fresh and raw and seeing photos of other beautiful children taken too soon was overwhelming. I didn’t want to be a big slobbering mess in front of these strangers, how would that look to them?  We could return to the remembrance table throughout the weekend and I often did.

Throughout the retreat we had a few organised activities; a group Mandala, massage, meditation walk, various art activities and group discussion sessions. I never felt pressured to participate in anything, in fact that was one of the opening statements made by the VSK team. When things got a little too much or I felt the session didn’t align with my beliefs/thought process, I sat to the side or went to the table.

At meal times we sat with different people and shared our experiences having a child with disabilities, the challenges and normal life stuff too. We wrote a letter to ourselves and Very Special Kids would hold onto it until the date we wanted to receive it. I received mine last year on her first anniversary.

The weekend helped me realise that there is no answer on how I should feel or how long I should feel a certain way. The experience of meeting other families and having someone to chat to that understands what you are going through makes us feel less alone. Very Special Kids has always been a great support to our family when Allegra was alive; hospice stays, family and sibling days. We still receive support during this transition and we are grateful of the continuing support of such a great organisation.