BY MELANIE WADE –
Letting go of a child is never easy, and for those who have had to join the unfortunate ranks of parents who have lost their’s, they will say that no one truly understands the pain unless they, too, have lost a child. A healthy part of the grieving and healing process is to talk about that loss, about the pain, with someone who “gets it”, someone who understands. In Polk County, there is one group that focuses on the understanding of what another feels after the loss of a child or grandchild – Remembering Hearts Forever (RHF).
Whether a new member or someone who has been there for a decade, they each have the opportunity to share, to listen, and to love each other through it. One new member, Donnie Rogers, said he thought the group may be “depressing and it might bring back some bad memories,” but he and his wife, Annette, met with the group anyway, and they are glad they did.
It was in 1985 when Donnie and his former wife lost their first child, as an infant, and twenty years later, in 2005, he lost another son to suicide at the tender age of 19 years old. The grieving process was initially a bitter one for Donnie. “When I had to bury my son, there was no one I could talk to except for family… there was no group in Texas… I started getting into fights and things because I was angry over the loss of my son. I’m a first degree blackbelt in Tae Kwon Do and I was using it for bad instead of good,” said Donnie. He had a good job working for the City of Irving, Texas where he was the lead welder. After losing his son and suffering an eye injury, Donnie retired six years earlier than he planned to and moved to a house in Cove he had purchase some years before. “Grief was anger for about a year and then I became reclusive,” said Donnie. “I stayed at home and didn’t want to go anywhere.”
After a while of being a recluse, Donnie grew restless. “I got tired of feeling the way I was feeling so I started remodeling and began a mowing service. I was drinking every day and I didn’t want to keep drinking. It wasn’t me to feel that way. I was a highly motivated person before it happened.”
Once he gained the strength to “get up,” life began again. He gained support in his trek when he met and married Annette, who admits, she’s had some pain herself, but that together, they work through it. Annette attends a local counselor and sometimes Donnie comes along. “It helps us to better understand how to help the other,” said Annette. It was through counseling that they learned of Remembering Hearts Forever.
They wanted to take another step closer to healing, so they decided to attend. “Once I got there, it was kind of depressing and it did bring back some bad memories,” chuckled Donnie, “but it’s becoming healing. It’s good to get it out, off of my chest, with people who understand. They make you feel like it’s ok to talk about it. A lot of people don’t want to hear your depressing story but they [RHF] encourage it; it’s ok to talk about it and it’s ok if you don’t want to talk about it, they all understand.”
Annette said that listening to others stories has helped her understand how she can better help Donnie. “I can vouch that Remembering Hearts Forever has made a difference for him and to now see him actively involved…,” smiled Annette. “Everyone during their lifetime will lose someone that they love unconditionally, but with a child or grandchild, it’s a different loss and I didn’t realize that until this group.”
One of the key facets of the group that Donnie is proud of is their ‘hotline.’ When you join Remembering Hearts Forever, they give you a list of other members, their telephone numbers, and the manner in which they lost their child so that others can call someone up, no matter the time of day or night, and connect with someone who “gets it.”
Donnie said an important step in the healing process is telling your story. He also encourages others to “get out and socialize.” For those trying to help the griever, Donnie says, “Don’t push someone to try to talk about it. Let them speak their mind when they need to. It’s something you need to talk about but not something that needs to be drug out of you.”
For the Rogers, RHF is beginning a process of much needed healing, and they encourage others to seek the same solace. Each year, RHF holds several events on holidays including Mother’s and Father’s Day, and at Christmas.
Their annual Christmas Candle Lighting will be held on December 10th at 6 p.m. at the Union Bank Community Room, in conjunction with The Compassionate Friends Worldwide Candle Lighting, which unites family and friends around the globe in lighting candles for one hour to honor the memories of the sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, and grandchildren who left too soon. As candles are lit at 7:00 p.m. local time, hundreds of thousands of persons commemorate and honor the memory of all children gone too soon.
Anyone who has lost a child, sibling, or grandchild too soon is welcome to attend. “We will light a candle and say our child’s name,” explained Diane Mathis, who heads up the group. “Bring your family and friends to share this remembrance with us. After the lighting we will stay and visit with others that understand.” For more information, contact Diane Mathis at 479-243-0191.