Smarties, this came in from a lovely young lady who is using KinderMourn to help her through the grieving process after the loss of her Dad. This story reminds us all to support KinderMourn’s Hope Floats Duck Race coming up on April 21st. Our entire team at CSP has supported KinderMourn since the loss of our beloved co-founder, Jen Bunich. There are truly angels on this earth and they reside under the KinderMourn roof. God bless KinderMourn and the Drobnick family. xoxo
By Daria K. Drobnick, age 12
In August of 2009, my daddy and I left for a long-awaited camping trip to the Smoky Mountains. I had been hoping to go on this trip since I was six when I began begging my Dad to take me along on one of his expeditions into nature. It was a three day camping trip and we spent the time hiking up the mountain, running away from bears, escaping rattlesnakes and picking blueberries at the top. I thought then and I still think now that it was the best camping trip that I have or ever will go on. I loved being out in nature and alone with my daddy. I didn’t realize how much I was going to miss those moments.
A few months later in early fall of 2009, my happy eight-year-old world came to a skidding crash. My daddy passed away very suddenly and everything changed. Lots of family and friends came to visit us and I saw people I hadn’t seen for a long time. I was happy they were there and I was glad they came to visit us at a time we needed them most. I felt grateful for their presence –they gave me a shoulder to cry on or a hug when I felt lonely. For a while after things calmed down, it was hard for me to see lots of people who knew about our loss because I didn’t like all the attention and it was all so fresh. It felt too hard to come home for a month or two, so we lived with close friends for a while because none of us felt ready to go home yet. It hurt too bad. I was exhausted and even being with close friends felt too much sometimes because all I really wanted for a while was to be alone and cry. We got so many cards in the mail that for a while our mailbox was stuffed–reading the cards comforted me but nothing could really make me feel happy anymore.
At night, I couldn’t sleep sometimes for hours on end. Some nights worries about scary things that could happen to other people in my family would keep me up–I didn’t want to lose someone close to me again. I had a nightmare that would replay over and over again. It began a few months before our loss and I still have it occasionally. In the dream there was always a feeling of absolute terror that was coursing through and around me. Some unstoppable force or impossible task was at hand and then something would go horribly wrong. That nightmare has visited me less over time–a gift I am very grateful for.
At the time I lost my dad, I was home-schooled and my grief made it harder to focus. I remember skipping assignments if they seemed too overwhelming. We had friends that came to help take the load off my mom’s shoulders–as she was in a place where it was hard to help us with things many days. I also did more work on my own. Sometimes it frustrated me so I would rush through things carelessly. Last fall I started attending school for the first time. It has been good to meet new friends and have a fresh start with people with people who don’t know all of my story. Sometimes it is hard as they can ask personal questions without understanding how that could be hurtful. It feels like I can be enjoyed for who I am with the new friends I am making without bearing the weight of what was all the time.
I began to look forward to Monday nights when we had KinderMourn group with other kids my age who had all lost someone close to them. I felt free to say how I felt in group times because there were other people who would understand my feelings. We all would talk about our past week and explain some of the feelings we had about things that were happening at home. Once we had the fun of an Easter egg hunt. One week we created a little popsicle stick doll to put under our pillow so we could have something to tell our secrets and feelings to at night, especially if they were too hard for us to tell anyone else. He stayed under my pillow for a very long time. Talking to the “stick doll” helped make it easier for me to talk to other people about things that were bothering me and it helped me begin to take my feelings to God over time. It’s more natural to talk to someone who is real than to talk to a stick. For a while the stick was much-needed comfort. Every week at group we had a special snack and sometimes we’d play games and draw pictures. I enjoyed going because I could have fun and be with kids who felt the same way I did. I got to know people and felt accepted there. It gave me hope to keep looking forward and not to get stuck in the past–even though the past matters.
When I think about things that were hard and helpful in my journey through grief, one of the things that bothered me a lot was when people who honestly didn’t know would say, “I know how you feel.” Sometimes when I was feeling sad, it would make me feel worse when people tried to comfort me–as I felt some of the pressure of people wanting me to move through what I was feeling. The feelings take time to work themselves out–you can’t rush it. When I was feeling heavy, it would help the most for people to just be with me and not try to make it better. I have always loved art and writing. We began to meet with an art therapist after our loss that helped me put my feelings on paper and express myself through my art. There were several people in my life that took me and my siblings on special dates regularly. It gave me something to look forward to. My grandmother gifted me with a special journal after my dad died. I still write in it regularly–it gives me a secret place to talk about my feelings and no one else can read it. When I write things down on paper I don’t feel so stuffed with emotions and ideas. I can also describe things that are special and I wouldn’t want to forget.
When you lose someone special in your life you can’t just “get over it.” Honestly, the pain is always going to be there but over time it will lighten as you move through it. It’s like a piece of me will always be missing but over time. God has brought healing to my shattered world through various gifts hidden around every corner.
Here is a poem I wrote a year after I lost my dad:
A little shell on a reef far down,
Lay upon a dune of sand,
A hermit crab had once borne the honor,
Of carrying a shell so grand.
But he has left the shell alone,
And gone to find a bigger one,
So here she lies unused; unwanted,
Waiting for something to be done.
All at once the water recedes,
Sweeping the shell from sorrowful dune,
And so begins a journey long,
Lighted by many and many a moon.
Many dark days take this one very far,
Countless currents have pulled her too;
Then all at once, a wave brakes,
Leaving the shell on the beach for you.
This poem just tells you, “you’re a shell on the wave.”
You’re a servant of the current, a Chosen One,
The ocean will use you to work for good,
And then bring you back home when your work is done.
The 2013 KinderMourn Hope Floats Duck Race Details, in Daria’s words:
One thing that I enjoyed and still enjoy today is the Hope Floats Duck Race. This fun event takes place at the Whitewater Center, and it was one of the few things that brightened up my day when the pain was still so fresh. This is how it works: you buy ducks online at Kindermourn’s website, and then the ducks compete in a race down the rapids at the Whitewater Center. The first ducks to make it across the finish are scooped into kayaks and are the winners of the race. Our team, The Drobnick Quackers, has never won, but the first year we had the most ducks competing in the race. It is a fun experience whether you win or lose. I enjoyed watching the ducks go by. The anticipation and suspense of not knowing who the winner is brings a lot of excitement as we are all hoping together!
Thank you, Daria, for sharing your heart and soul with us today. Smarty tip: GRAND PRIZE is $3,500!! And guess what? One year, Smarty Lynne Perry won the grand prize!!!
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