When you lose a child, you find out very quickly that you are not alone in your grief. Immediately following Quinn’s sudden death many wonderful people reached out to us and shared their pain of losing a child. One of the first groups to contact us is a national organization called Parent Heart Watch, often referred to as “the best damn organization no-one wants to be a member of”. We were quickly swept up by parent members (that’s official for I lost a child too) of Parent Heart Watch and immediately taken under their wings. We’ve been blessed by their outpouring and now consider many in that organization as friends. Those we’ve met have been instrumental in giving us the motivation and tools to start the Quinn Driscoll Foundation.
Along the way, we’ve met many parents who’ve lost children, each with varying stories; however all share a common bond, grief. We all process grief a little differently. Never experiencing loss of this magnitude in my life, I naturally went into research mode and found reference to a model I studied in college as a Social Welfare major, the Five Stages of Grief (Kubler-Ross Model) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K%C3%BCbler-Ross_model. After brushing up on “how I was supposed to feel”, I sat back and waited for the stages of grief to line up in front of me like a buffet of emotions.
The first year and a half after Quinn died was a whirlwind to say the least. Running on nothing but pure adrenaline, I took it upon myself to conquer my emotions and prove that Kubler-Ross had it all wrong. Of the five stages, the buffet was only serving up Acceptance, so with a vengeance I consumed as much of it as I could. As with any buffet, consuming too much of any one thing is probably not a good idea…
I've eaten from that same demonstrative buffet line for two solid years now and my taste for Acceptance is starting to wane. As many fellow parents have advised me, “the second and third years are the worst”. How could that be? Isn't the initial timing around a tragedy the worst part? I’m not feeling anything but Acceptance, maybe I’ll escape the year 2 and 3 blues. Call it naivety, call it wishful thinking, call it denial… I've now come to the realization, grief is not tangible, and it’s definitely not something you can control, never-the-less pick and choose what stages you want to consume in the emotional buffet line.
The past few months have been a real test of my emotional well-being to say the least. Since our fundraising event (a huge success by the way), I’ve been overwhelmed with a sense of helplessness, an anxious buzz that is as powerful as any emotion I’ve ever felt. I find myself (my family and friends catch me doing this) wandering in and out of conversations, thinking about nothing in particular. If I were to describe it, it feels like the pit you get in your stomach right before the biggest final exam you’ve ever taken or like the way you feel when you know you’re going into a difficult situation. Therein lies the rub, you never get to take the exam or take the situation head-on. The feeling becomes a perpetual swirl of angst, an endless buffet line filled with everything you hate.
As with any difficult situation in life, you can fight or you can flee. I choose to fight, I choose to accept the fact that we lose way too many young people in this country from sudden cardiac arrest. I choose to stop trying to make emotions a tangible good and use my grief as a means to help others. Although the pain is often debilitating, I was obligated with a mission, one I did not ask for, but one I will see through.