Life goes on but life has changed
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. ” It can be the call late at night that you never want to receive. It’s the disbelief that it has really happened. And it’s a painful memory that never, ever goes away.
Losing a child is not only devastating for a parent, but also for the child’s friends and siblings.
For some, the pain settles a little as the years drift by. For others, the wound remains raw for years and even decades. For some, there are support groups. Others prefer to grieve and proceed with life privately. Many wish they had died themselves.
How do they cope? That question is answered by the individual. There is no one answer. Tragedy has no limit, and the power of loss can be overwhelming.
The following three stories are from family members who shared their personal stories of loss. How they deal with life after the loss of a child. How they get on with life. And how the pain and memory of that loved one never really ever disappears.
Tracy Beauford sits on the living room floor of her Rifle home, playing with the family’s two Shitzu Pekingese puppies. At first, she seems to be holding it together. The pain has been pushed below the surface.
“I think I’m in denial,” she admitted. “I think I just block it out. But then I think about it every second.”
When her husband, Rich Beauford, enters the room, his eyes fill with tears almost immediately at the mention of his daughter’s name. The memory of Megan hits Dad hard.
The couple also have a 12-year-old son, Cody.
“When it happens, you’re like a puppet,” Rich said candidly. “You’re in shock and you can’t believe it happened. And it doesn’t get easier ” everything’s tough.
Dads aren’t suppose to bury their daughters. Not knowing the exact cause of Megan’s accident is hard on the family.
“We went out to the accident site and there was a glass rooster plate of mine that had been in the car,” Tracy said. “It didn’t even break.”
Tiny details that torment loving parents.
A younger brother also feels the torment.
Cody asked the question, “Why couldn’t this plate be Megan?”
Every month, the family goes to the accident site and decorates Megan’s memorial along I-70.
Rich said at times he even wishes that the whole family had died with Megan.
“I always wish it had never happened,” he said, wiping away a tear. “But sometimes I wish it had been all of us.”
If there is any solace to Megan’s death, it might be that because Megan had designated herself as an organ donor on her driver’s license, her organs were used to help others.
Her heart was donated to a 56-year-old man in Arizona. Her liver was given to a 27-year-old woman from Colorado. Her left kidney and pancreas were received by a 38-year-old man from Colorado. Her right kidney was transplanted into a 39-year-old man from Colorado.
“Megan was able to save four lives with organ donations and give up to two people the precious gift of sight with cornea donations,” wrote Kirsten Kofoed, family-support coordinator from Donor Alliance in a letter to the family. “On behalf of Donor Alliance, the recipients of your daughter’s gifts, and all those who love them, thank you.”
Only those who have lost a child know the true pain of that tragedy.
In the midst of her own devastating grief, Tracy reached out to another mother in Silt who lost her 16-year-old son, Zachary Schwartz, a month later in a vehicle accident.
“I told her who I was and that she didn’t know me,” Tracy said. “I told her I didn’t know why I called, but I told her what to expect.”
Consoling a family in grief can be difficult. People don’t know what to say.
“There were all these people at Megan’s funeral, but it’s something you have to go through by yourself,” Rich said. “It’s not that people have isolated us, it’s just that people don’t know what to say or do. And there’s really nothing you can do to help (relieve the pain).”
There are times Tracy and Rich don’t even know what to say to each other.
“We know how each other feels, but there’s nothing we can do about it,” he said. “I try not to get upset in front of Tracy, but it’s hard. You’re isolated with grief.”
Less than a year after the accident, some days are better than others.
“It’s something we have to live with every day,” Rich said. “I usually try to keep busy so I don’t think about it so much, but there are days you can’t get past it.”
Tracy agrees. The loss has taken its toll.
“I don’t want to leave the house,” she said, tears sliding down her cheeks. “I’m not the same person. It’s aged me a lot. It’s like pulling on a rope day to day. In my sleep, I hear her calling me and saying she’s sorry.”
It’s a loss that will never leave the Beaufords.
“There’s always going to be a hole for the rest of our lives,” Rich said.
It’s a hole that is filled with memories and sometimes tears.
A small flowerpot reminds 10-year-old Alli Cain of the death of her older brother, Joey. The pot was part of a project in a three-day program she attended in the fall of 2006 called “Camp Good Grief” near Grand Junction. The program seeks to help children deal with the death of a sibling, friend, family members, a parent or even a pet.
As part of the camp project, Alli spent parts of two days decorating the flowerpot, taking care to make it as beautiful as possible.
Joey’s death shattered the Cain family’s life, and that’s why the pot had to be shattered.
“Then we broke it, because that symbolized death, and then put it back together,” she said. “It showed that the pot is not the same, just as life is not the same for me.”
Alli also made a small box in memory of Joey. On it, she drew hearts, with the message “I love you” while inside there are trinkets such as a butterfly which symbolizes the transformation from a caterpillar to a butterfly ” from one life to another ” as well as a football picture of Joey and a heart that contains some of his ashes.
Around 70 kids attended her session at Camp Good Grief, and Alli’s group ranged in age from 9 to 11.
Counselors gave suggestions to the kids for venting their grief, such as having a pillow fight with themselves, screaming at the top of their lungs or jumping on their bed.
They are lessons no 10-year-old sister should have to learn, but for Alli they were lessons that have helped.
“I learned that I don’t have to feel like I’m alone,” Alli said. “I know that there are other people that grieve.”
While Alli enjoyed the camp and said she would go again, she said breaking the flowerpot was the most disturbing part for her.
“I felt it was wrong to crush it because it took two days to make it and paint it,” she said.
Symbolism is a powerful lesson the camp tries to teach.
The symbolism of trying to piece the flowerpot back together, just like her family was trying to do in their own lives, eventually made sense to her.
Since Joey’s death, she said she has become closer to her oldest brother, Matt.
“We don’t fight as much,” she said.
Alli said that according to camp counselors, children tend to grieve in waves, with some days being better than others. Adults, on the other hand, are more like a line graph, grief comes more consistently.
All in all, Camp Good Grief was a helpful tool for Alli in dealing with her grief, helping her deal with Joey’s death.
“It’s been a little bit better,” she said. “I used to go home and say I just can’t do it. But now I can. I’m still really sad and I grieve a lot, but probably not as much as before.”
Alli misses Joey, and a mended flowerpot will always serve as a reminder of her ability and strength to heal, at least a little.
It’s Teresa’s faith that helps her the most in coping with the loss of her grandson. And although it’s been five years, she still thinks about little Miles a lot. Dates such as his birthday or the anniversary of his death are very difficult.
“The milestones still catch you,” she said. “You don’t forget.”
One of the hardest parts for Miles and Teresa was watching their son, Jeremy, and his wife, Corrie, go through the gut-wrenching trauma of losing their son.
“The emotion of seeing what they had to go through was so tough,” Teresa said, shaking her head. “It was so hard to see a young couple lose their child. It’s hard to see your children hurting. But we always had faith believing that God would take care of it ” no matter what happened. God has a plan. He sustains us and we know that.”
The memory of the accident has become a little blurred over the years and sometimes seems almost surreal.
Even with powerful faith, torment and pain cause difficult times.
“It’s been five years. The surreal part is, was he ever here?” she said. “We don’t forget him, but it is surreal because he was so young. Was it all a dream?”
What helps Teresa cope is clinging to the knowledge that someday she will see her grandson again. She leans hard on her faith.
“God is the strength in our heart,” she said earnestly. “If we didn’t have the hope that we’d see him again, we’d all be nuts. Knowing that is what drives us to continue. And when we have that faith that we’ll see him again, it makes it better.”
The outpouring of community support was overwhelming, but so was the financial burden of the medical and burial bills on a new family.
Pain of loss is always there but the reality of life must be dealt with, too.
“It shook people because it was a child, but the love of the community and the church was overwhelming,” Teresa said. “It may sound odd, but when people wonder what they can do to help a family who has lost a child, the truth is that money can help relieve some of the pressure and the stress. Right after a death, parents have to deal with time away from work and huge bills for medical stuff and the burial and all. The financial (assistance) was such a huge help.”
Jeremy and Corrie now have a 4-year-old son, Luke, a 2-year-old daughter, Reagan, and are expecting another baby soon.
Two grandchildren and another on the way is a true blessing, but the tragic death of little Miles still serves as a painful memory.
A half-decade later Teresa and Miles Rippy still remember their grandson and deal with it the best they can. They try to focus on his cute way of smiling or the funny things he did.
“It’s a hard thing to get out of your mind and it will destroy you ” even five years later,” Teresa admitted. “The memory pops in your mind and you’ve got to focus on something else. You don’t forget, but you have to push it out of your mind. Death is a part of life, but when it happens so fast, it’s not right.”
Each of the family members have their own place where they remember little Miles, who was cremated and buried at Highland Cemetery in New Castle.
For some, it’s at a special place in the mountains. For others, it’s at the cemetery.
But for all, when you weigh the pain of losing a child, it seems to diminish a lot of life’s day-to-day troubles.
“It puts other problems into perspective,” Teresa said simply.
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