I’ll Take the Beef Chow Mein

by Tom Wyatt

Tom Wyatt and grandson, Thatcher

So much of my progress is a result of my seeking knowledge. I gathered this knowledge by asking other bereaved parents questions and by observing their actions. I did this because as the cliché goes, “Knowledge is Power.”

I realized very early on that no one could take this dark ride for me. Choices had to be made and right or wrong I had to make them. I could have chosen to let my life end when John died. Not necessarily in the physical sense, but more so in the spiritual sense. It would have been very easy for me to bury my soul right along with Johnny. Five years earlier, I stood just as Blake was standing then at a brother’s grave and I watched a parent do just that. Why on earth would I want to inflict that much pain on my surviving son?

To deny the pain that I felt would have been impossible but it would have been equally futile, dishonest, and destructive to deny the love I feel for Blake and Kelsey. Denial is a huge waste of time and energy. I think what has helped me most has been acceptance.

I will never accept that there is a good reason for John’s death. I don’t believe in the “Grand Tapestry” theory. If you do and it works for you then I say BRAVO! for you.

I accept that he is gone. That one sounds simpler than it actually was.

I accept that my life will always be different.

I accept that tears will always be a part of my life just as laughter will also always be a part of my life.

I accept that sometimes when I hug the kids, I’m actually hugging Johnny in my heart.

I accept that it is up to me to make the most of my life.

I once wrote that it is how we let our children’s lives affect us that becomes the legacy that they leave behind. I believed it when I wrote it and I still believe it today.

All of these things that I’ve accepted and the ones I’ve not mentioned didn’t all happen at once. Each progression in our grief work brings new acceptance with it. It doesn’t happen instantly either. The decisions are ours to make. We are on our own but we are not alone.

Just as I found out that getting better does not mean forgetting Johnny, I discovered a group of people who have been there and understand. People that I could turn to for advice, compassion and support. I went to The Compassionate Friends (TCF) meetings and I shared my fears and feelings. It wasn’t easy and it hurt but it also helped. It supplied me with information which in turn became options. No one, and I do mean no one, has the right to tell any of us how to grieve our children’s deaths. Having said that let me say that another bereaved parent is qualified to exchange ideas with us. It is up to us to sort out what will help and what will not help us. I personally would have a real problem with taking advice from someone 4, 5, 6, 7 or more years down the road and is still standing on “square one.”

There are people who look up and are bewildered when they realize they are alone because they have alienated everyone around them. They chose to let their child’s death become their very existence. I find this terribly sad.

If you’re newly bereaved the road ahead is nasty, but if you find a way to survive it you will emerge a stronger person. Make choices that feel right for you. Remember that every step won’t be forward and that every step backward isn’t always a defeat.

TCF is a well of ideas and knowledge. We in TCF need to remember that we are a support group whose mission is to help people resolve their grief in a positive manner.

Don McLean wrote in the song Crossroads, ‘There’s no need for turning back, all roads lead to where we stand and I believe we’ll walk them all no matter what we may have planned.” Search out what works for you. Call a phone friend or me when you need someone to talk to or just to be listened to. I wouldn’t be here today if I hadn’t done that. It’s like a Chinese Menu where you can select an entree from column “A” and a side dish from column “B.” Find out what your options are and make your choices.

May we all find peace and hope for tomorrow.

About the Author: Tom Wyatt earned a M.B.A. from Washington University and began his career as a stock broker then later as a small business owner. Following the death of his four year old son, Johnny, on March 5, 1991, Tom became very active in Compassionate Friends. He currently writes and shares articles and poems for Bereaved Parents of the USA. After receiving his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology in 2000 from the University of Missouri, Tom has been counseling bereaved parents pro bono. He and his wife, Ruth, have three children; Blake (27), Johnny (4) and Kelsey (20) and two grandchildren.

Republished with permission from
National Newsletter of Bereaved Parents of the USA,