Cate: "I was terrified that people would treat me with sympathy."
Cate, a college freshman, reflected on what it was like to lose her father when she was in high school—not wanting people's pity, not wanting to stick out, but also feeling so alone in what she was going through. At first, she had no interest in attending the Caring Place, until she came to see that simply being together with others who felt like she did helped make her journey bearable.
Trying to Appear OK
On May 8th, I learned the difficulties life has to offer at the age of 15. Although my dad had been sick for several years, I never anticipated actually saying goodbye. It was something no one wants to think about, especially while you're still in high school.
I went back to school a week after all the viewings and the funeral; I put a smile on my face and shocked people with my level of tolerance considering the circumstances. No one could really understand how or why I tried to seem like I was okay. I was terrified that people would belittle me and treat me with sympathy because of what I had gone through.
Schoolwork was not really difficult for me, it was more so getting past the "I'm sorry"s and "I know how you feel" because in fact, there was a very small percentage of people who did know how I felt.
The exception was my little sister Marnie. Marnie and I both knew that we could actually tell each other "I know how you feel" and we could fully believe it, but most of the time we tended to ignore the "elephant in the room" and hide our emotions.
It was the constant feeling of being alone that tended to break me down and allowed me to see what grieving really felt like. I realized that the rest of my friends and the world were moving on and I was stuck in this position I did not know how to get out.
Nobody Can Make Me Feel Better
That was until the Caring Place.
Originally, I was extremely irritated when my mom suggested the idea of grief counseling. I kept telling myself I was OK and that nobody would be able to make me any better than I currently was. My sister and I realized it was something our mom felt strongly about, so willingly or not, we decided to do it for her.
I walked into the Caring Place the first night and got my free dinner and sat with my mom and sister observing all the blue volunteer shirts and faces of strangers that all led us to this common place. As my mom broke off into the adult room, my sister and I were placed in the teen room.
I can honestly tell you that not one person in my room wanted to be there that night. Our volunteers didn't even try to talk to us about why we were there, but there was something about the atmosphere that we all agreed to keep coming back.
Making the Long Journey Bearable
I am able to stand in front of all of you with such confidence today because of the support that I received from the Caring Place. More specifically, it was the idea that each one of the teens in my group had lost a parent and they knew what it was like. But as much as we avoided the "elephants in the room", we still had our breakdowns and numerous tears along with laughs and the beginning of friendships.
Being in a room with kids my age who actually knew what it felt like to be missing such an important part of our daily lives made this long journey bearable. I never once felt out of place or different in my group, despite how different the backgrounds we all came from. The Caring Place made me realize I'm going to be different for the rest of my life and that I should embrace it sooner rather than later.
I realize I didn't have my dad at my high school graduation just as he won't be there for my college graduation, I know he won't be available to walk me down the aisle at my wedding, and I also realize that holidays just aren't the same without him. But I also know that having the help and support that I received at the Caring Place, I appreciate the angel I have in my life much more than I could ever imagine.
As the old proverb says, "Just when the caterpillar thought life was over, it became a butterfly". The Caring Place allows everyone to feel as if they are the butterfly in the metaphor as they give each person the inspiration to live with grief. Because after all, everyone just needs a little HOPE.