Before and After

Special thanks to guest author and Comfort Zone Camper Samantha Worman for sharing her story with us.

Coping with the death of a loved one can be hard, especially if you’re a teen.  There are thoughts and feelings that are hard to explain to other people, even to your own family.  One of the best ways to face these feelings is to find a support system that understands you, and allows you to grieve and grow at your own pace.

One teen, Samantha, shares a blog post she wrote after her father died.  She talks about feeling that she wished she had been able to do something to save her dad, who was in the house with her when he died.  Her words may sound familiar, since many of us have faced feelings of guilt and isolation after a loss.

Samantha also shares another blog post, written just a few months later.  By this time, she had come to Comfort Zone Camp, a weekend camp for kids and teens who have experienced the death of a parent, sibling, or primary caretaker.  She met other teens who had lost parents, and who also had some feeling they were struggling to come to terms with.  Having found a place and a community that truly understood and supported her, Samantha also found some new ways to support herself.

Somedays (August 13, 2010)

Some Days I think about that night that I lost my dad, I think about all the “What ifs…”

What if my music was turned down lower…

What if he had called my name and I couldn’t hear him…

What if it I had come out of my room sooner and would have been able to get him help…

What if he was in pain…

What if it was because of me that he died, because I was cleaning in my room with my music so loud that I didn’t hear him calling for me…

These are the things that periodically pop up in my mind, and I try to keep them down, push them away when the thought begins but there are always going to be those What ifs…


Comfort Zone Camp (November 8, 2010)

This past weekend I attended Comfort Zone Camp for the first time. I was anxious about going and sharing my feelings with this new group of people. Once I go there though, I felt less anxious. I had this most AMAZING big buddy. We clicked right away (kudos to CZC peeps for matching me with her.)

This past weekend I was able to open up about a lot of things that I was holding in. A lot of my walls came down over these three days.

The Bonfire was the most amazing thing I have ever experienced. The little kids and the older ones, it was special. Very heartwarming

Coming home I didn’t think that I would feel much different, but waking up this morning, I woke up as a new person. I felt as if a huge weight was off my shoulders. CZC provided me with some closure on my Father’s death. I learned ways to help me cope and different feelings that I didn’t before put words to.

This place made me a new person, I woke up happy, and relieved. Smiling all day that I have this new feeling that I haven’t seen since before my Dad died.

Thank you CZC for everything.  When I’m older, I plan to come back to camps to be a Junior Counselor and eventually a Big Buddy.

At Comfort Zone Camp, I feel bonded to each and every person.

It’s funny how one thing can change the course of our grief, and help us to manage feelings of guilt and isolation.  What are some things you’ve done to help you cope with your feelings after a loss?  What are some ways you haven’t tried yet, but think could help?  What advice would you give to someone who wasn’t sure how to ask for support in their grief?

Photo credit.

4 Comments:

  1. Bill said on June 9, 2011 at 4:14 pm ... #

    Thank you for sharing your very personal story. Others who read it will find hope in their grief and some will attend CZC because of you. You will make a fine Jr. Counselor and, some day, a fine Big Buddy.

  2. Bess said on February 20, 2012 at 4:52 pm ... #

    I wrote this one day when I was thinking about my dad and the grief process in general. I miss him, but I refuse to let grief control my life. I’m too stubborn for that and I know that he’d want to see me happy.

    Every day was once a struggle,
    I hated very new occasion
    Spent without you
    But I’m gonna pushing on…
    Going on, going on
    I’m trying to get through the storm
    Without you
    Through the storm without you
    I miss you
    But I will survive
    Too strong to die
    To die like this
    I refuse to go down without a fight
    I will win
    I’ll get past this
    Or die trying
    I know you’d hate
    Seeing me like this
    So I will survive
    I’m a survivor
    Pushing past my pain,
    I will survive
    I’ll survive
    I’ll survive for you
    Or die trying
    Slowly, slowly,
    I’m fixing my broken soul.

  3. Bess said on February 20, 2012 at 4:53 pm ... #

    Has anyone else used writing to vent? You could write a memoir like Lynne did w/ You Are Not Alone, or you could try poetry.

  4. Bess said on February 21, 2012 at 5:47 pm ... #

    This is my story:

    As a little girl, my father and I were extremely close. I completely adored him. I was a typical daddy’s girl. My mother…she was just *there.* I loved her, but we weren’t close.

    My father had seizures frequently. He’d been an engineer in the Air Force before I was born and apparently something happened to give him seizure disorder. His commanding officer allowed him to quit for health reasons.

    One morning when I was six years old, I was getting ready for day care. With me, one week I would go to kindergarten on Tues. and Thurs., and day care Mon., Wed., and Fri., and the next week it would be the other way around.

    March 3, 2004 was a day care day. My dad made me my favorite breakfast, hard-boiled eggs and peanut butter toast. I hugged him and said, “Bye, Daddy, I love you.” That was the last time I ever saw him alive. Nearly eight years later, at fourteen years old, I treasure this memory because it means I got to say goodbye.

    That afternoon, my babysitter, Jody, picked me up from preschool. I was curious about what was going on, but at that age I had been the type of kid who obeyed grown-ups and didn’t ask questions, figuring that they knew what to do and that they were always right.

    That afternoon, cars were lined up in our driveway and in the street. Jody took me inside, and our whole family was there. They were all crying. That’s when I knew, without even being told, that my dad died. He’d had seizures a lot, and I knew enough from watching TV (Mom loves true crime shows, especially Law and Order) that a seizure could kill someone. And I had a pretty basic understanding of what death was, because my great-grandfather had died of Alzheimer’s two years earlier. In my six-year-old mind, death was when something happened to someone that made them go to sleep and never wake up, and you would never see them again. So, naturally, I was upset about this, but I didn’t know for sure that he was dead. Still, I decided not to lower my guard. So Mom sat me down. I can still remember where we were sitting: she was in a kitchen chair, and I was in the brown easy chair that had always been my dad’s favorite. We were in the living room, near the window, and my paternal grandmother was sitting on the couch, crying.

    Mom was crying too, as she choked out, “Lizzy (my childhood nickname), Daddy died.”

    I stared at her, understanding but not wanting to believe it.

    The next few months passed in a blur. A few weeks after Daddy’s death, I found out that we would be moving to Michigan. Most of our family lived there, and besides, Mom had never liked living in small-town Minnesota. It made her feel like a ‘country girl.’ I went along with this without a fight. I knew I was ‘just a kid’ and kids never got a say in this kind of thing; resistance would be futile.

    I knew that life without my dad would be tough, but I inherited my dad’s sense of inner strength. He’d had dyslexia all his life and had suffered bullying as a kid because of it, even by the teachers. So I figured I’d just take whatever life threw at me. I’d known I had strength, I just didn’t know how much, or how useful that strength would be. I was the type of person who ‘can take anything you can dish out and then some.’

    I remember the funeral. My mom’s little brother, my uncle Joe, got into some kind of fight with the other family members. I didn’t see him again until the January when I was twelve years old, when my maternal grandma had a heart attack. I remember introducing my cousins Sam (my dad’s little sister’s daughter) and Becca (my mom’s older brother’s daughter) at the viewing – they were both about nine or ten at the time. I remember my grandma Fran, my dad’s mom, quietly explaining during the ceremony that Daddy was in Heaven.

    The next year passed in a blur. I remember my seventh birthday party – we had an indoor one at the community pool, and I invited my friend Kirsten from school. I remember dropping my pool toy in the deep end, and since I could barely swim and I had a life jacket on, my older cousin Alex (Sam’s little brother) had to dive down for it. Grief-wise, I’d basically spent the whole year on autopilot.

    I remember that when I was about seven and a half, I started fighting with my mom a lot. She’d pretty much fallen apart. She’d become angry and quick-tempered. There were a lot of screaming matches between us, which usually ended with me crying. My eyes were nearly always bloodshot. My room was nearly always so dirty it was practically a disaster area. I didn’t have many close friends at school, except for two girls I will call Tianna and Noelle. I also had my best friend, Ella, who was also my cousin. I didn’t talk with any of them about my dad. With Tianna and Noelle, I felt like they wouldn’t understand. They did ask me about him, but when they did even they treated me like I was fragile, which I hated. With Ella, my dad wasn’t only her best friend’s father, he was her uncle. It just seemed like she didn’t want to talk about him. And the day he died had also been the day before she turned seven years old. That had to be hard.

    The summer after first grade was my first one at CZC. It was wonderful, and I am proud to say I have been going nearly every summer since – it would have been every summer, but the summer I was thirteen, after seventh grade, the Virginia branch was full. I went to Boston, to try to go to that one, but it was canceled because of Hurricane Irene. I feel so close to the other campers and counselors. I feel like they understand me so much better than anyone else.

    The spring when I was in fifth grade, I decided that, starting the next fall, I would keep my dad’s death a secret, at least at school. I hate being pitied, being treated like I’m fragile. Compared to me, the other kids at my school are made of glass. They would shatter if they were in my shoes. And *they* thought of *me* as fragile? I’m not. I’m strong, so much stronger than they had ever been and would probably ever be. That’s one of the only good things about grief and loss – while it can weaken some, it makes others stronger.

    When I was eleven years old, the summer after I started sixth grade, my mother remarried. I detest my stepfather. He acts like the king of the household, like we should consider ourselves lucky he deigns to put up with us. And they both insist on treating him as if he were my dad. He’s NOT, and I refuse to act like he is. With Mom, it’s like she’s forgotten that my dad even existed. Whenever someone dies in the family, she acts like I’ve never been to a funeral before and she needs to remind me how to behave. And she hates how, when she invites Cliff to my Confirmation Candidate meetings, I say, “How come HE has to come!? He’s not my dad!” after she points out that both parents are supposed to attend. She snaps at me, “Well he’s the closest you’ll ever have to a dad again.” As if I need reminding that my REAL dad is dead. It also really gets on my nerves when my Aunt Rene, Cliff’s older sister, tries to get me to call Cliff ‘Dad.’ Hello, I already have a dad. I write letters to him all the time. He’s just an angel, and I can’t see him or hear him. And he’s dead. But he’s still my dad.

    When I was about eight years old, my faith in God started to falter. I soon became convinced He wasn’t real. He wouldn’t let bad things happen to His children, would He?

    When I was twelve years old, something happened to me that caused me to believe in God again. He answered a prayer!

    I was on vacation, and there was a hurricane coming near where I was staying. The thought of someone dying, of someone else suffering like I had, infuriated me. I closed my eyes and wished with all my heart for it to all just STOP.

    About five minutes later, the newscaster announced that the storm was easing up.

    I smiled softly, knowing what had happened. It wasn’t, as far as I knew, scientifically possible for a hurricane to do that. Heaven had intervened. God existed after all.

    The storm did eventually hit, but it wasn’t until almost twelve hours later, when a few more people would have been able to get to safety. My prayer, and God’s answering it, had saved lives.

    Now, I believe that God exists, but the reason He doesn’t answer all our prayers is that we never bother to help. God’s a busy guy, you know, and He can’t fix the whole world at once. The story of Noah’s Ark is proof of that. As for why bad things happen, it’s partly because of humans’ free will and partly because those things can make us stronger. we can learn from our mistakes and from other peoples’, but hardly anyone does. Pretty stupid of us, isn’t it?

    So that’s my story. What’s yours?

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