For many bereaved parents, keeping our children’s memory alive is key to our survival. Sometimes that means talking about them and posting pictures. It can also mean launching a foundation and writing children’s books, which is exactly what Elizabeth did.
Please help me welcome Elizabeth as she shares her turning point in grief. Sharing our loss experiences can have such a profound impact. You never know when the one seemingly small thing you have to share is exactly what someone else out there needs to hear. Heal a Grieving Heart was born from this idea. It provides a platform for other grieving parents to share their stories, connect, and help others.
Finding The Steps That Moved Me Forward
When my Benjamin died, I was completely devastated. Heartbroken. Shattered. Lost. Broken. Suddenly incomplete.
And for us, it probably was not that unexpected. Ben had been sick for a year and a half. He had significant needs attributed to his cerebral palsy and epilepsy. And he really struggled with viruses – one ‘little cold’ that might cause a runny nose and cough for a typical kid, many times for him would mean an ER visit or even PICU stay.
And the last visit was serious. I remember sitting in the ER with him on that late-night trip in and he was smiling and laughing. He would look at me, smile and turn his head. As if saying, “here we are again.” Three days later he was intubated. Two days after that, gone.
I never ever ever expected Benjamin to NOT get better and come home – every other time before, he always made it home. And even in the dim PICU room this last time when his pulmonologist said to me he’s a really sick little boy, as if he knew what was coming and was preparing me, the worried yet hopeful mommy, with the tone of his voice – I still didn’t expect it.
Benjamin had lived through seven previous hospital visits, and yet he always came home. Just not this time.
Your world as you know it, crumbles. Your family life, changed forever. What are we supposed to do now?
What am I supposed to do NOW?
My answer to that question came as I was driving home one afternoon. I felt an odd feeling and the name Ben Smiles came to me. It was so odd that it made me catch my breath. It was so sudden and quick the only way I can explain it is a message from above.
Over the next couple of months, the phrase Ben Smiles evolved into Ben Smiles Memorial Foundation where we would give switch-adapted toys, switches and other devices to kids that were like Benjamin. We have given toy gifts to dozens of children so far. I have met several of them in person and I have seen their smiles.
I can spread joy with our gifts. And I can see my Benjamin in these kids and the hope and gratitude on the mothers’ faces. I can share him with others and continue to make him present in our lives. Even though he is gone, he is still here.
Ben’s Adventures Children’s Book is another way I have found to give tribute to him. I never thought I would become a children’s author, nor did I ever have any aspirations to do so. But here I am, three years after his death, launching the second book in the Ben’s Adventures book series, about a young triplet brother with a disability. He loves his friends and family, has joy for life and uses his vivid imagination to create fun adventures. Ben shows that ALL kids can play & dream despite any physical or medical challenges they may have.
Today, I still can’t believe he’s not here. It’s been three full years and it’s not gotten any easier. But I think of the lives we’ve touched because of his death.
I don’t do it for the praise from others or for the thank yous. I don’t do it to show that I am surviving and have found a way through this. But I do take every opportunity I can to talk about him and share him with others. It makes me happy to know that other families now know him. I love showing his beautiful face and his beautiful smile and talking about his strength. And I can smile when I see other kids smile.
That is my way forward.
To learn more about Ben Smiles Memorial Foundation, visit www.BenSmiles.org
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