My son did exist

My son Did exist.

I have been noticing recently that assorted people do not talk about Andrew – I don’t know if this is a recent thing, or just something I am becoming more away of. I notice this at some dinners we have been at, or even over lunches. It is not at every meal that I expect him to be brought up in stories, I understand that. It is nice to talk about him, or have others talk about him.

Many times we are out with our closest friends or family and they will tell a story of my son. They will talk about him like he is still with us, recalling him fondly, recalling him with love. At times they tell us stories that we have heard a hundred times before, but it still brings a smile to our faces. The time Andrew cooked fish with Uncle Roy and had to shake them first as part of the ritual. Or when he would ask teachers questions that were impossible to answer. Or when Todd, Greg, Nicole, Andrew and I went on our annual summer water park trips and how we managed to cut every single line – Andrew was not one for waiting on lines. I have heard these stories so many times, but I still love to hear them.

Andrew and Anastasia

Andrew and Anastasia at Playland – always a fun place.

Once in a while we will also hear a new story, one that we never heard before, one that makes us laugh and teaches us a little bit more about Andrew. Matt tells us stories from the hockey locker room – some that we really can’t share. Wally tells us about Andrew in school, or just hanging around town. The time they wore pizza boxes on their feet because they could not go into the restaurant without shoes. We are so happy to hear them – but what brings us joy is the fact that people are talking about Andrew with us, they are not forgetting him.

But all too often we do not hear about Andrew. We are with other couples or friends and they talk about their kids, what they are up to and about their college or sports. They talk about Nicole and hockey and Salve. But they do not touch on Andrew.  I am sorry to say, it feels to us like he never existed. It feels like he is forgotten and people have moved on.

Andrew was so proud of Nicole at her Bat Mitzvah

Andrew was so proud of Nicole at her Bat Mitzvah

I talked about this to a couple of close friends and they thought of it in a different light. They thought of it as people not wanting to upset us. Or people just nervous to bring up Andrew around his grieving parents. They are not forgetting him, but in their eyes, they are protecting us from the pain. Trust me, the pain is there whether you talk about him or not. Being silent does not ease the pain; it does not lessen it, or make it go away. It only hurts more. We want to talk about our son. The son we will never see again, the son we will never hold again. We want to keep him in our lives, in our stories, in our hearts. Don’t be afraid to bring up something that you think we are trying to get over, or you are afraid to remind us that our Andrew is gone. We know this. Even through tears it brings us pleasure to talk about all our children, including Andrew. You do not need to walk on eggshells around us.

We know you want to tell us about your children, and we want to hear about them. Don’t be afraid to share your joys, your celebrations, your stories with us. We are here for that, and we want to listen. But in the same conversation, please let us all talk about Andrew, and let us share, too. Yes, we have no new stories; there is nothing new for us. We may have told you this story or that story before, but that is all we have right now.

And when we smile, as Pam expresses it so eloquently, it is not because we are over it, or that we are better, or that the old Perry is back.  It is because we are happy to be with our friends, and happy to be talking about our son.

Andrew, Nicole and Keisha. Keisha was with us for ten years loving and raising our kids.

Andrew, Nicole and Keisha. Keisha was with us for ten years loving and raising our kids.

This goes for anyone who has passed – whether it is a child, a parent, a sibling, or cousin. Talk about them. Share your thoughts and your joys and sorrows with their family. That is what they want. Not just today, tomorrow, this week, or next month – but from now on. Keep them in your hearts, in your minds and in your stories. That is what we want. More than hearing about your sympathy for us – we want to hear your joy when you talk about our lost ones.

 

Epilogue… By coincidence, Dorothy & I went out for a burger after temple Friday night to a place far enough away from home that we would most likely not run into friends. But as luck would have it, we did. We ran into a pair of hockey parents from Andrew’s Mariners days. Parents of someone he had as a teammate for several years, and who we spent countless hours at rinks with, at restaurants and hotels with, but drifted apart as our kids went their separate ways.

It was sort of awkward at first. We had not seen then for several years, long before we lost Andrew. They got up and hugged us, and told us how sorry they were about Andrew. They said he was a good kid and that they were shocked, as was everyone. We talked about hockey and about Nicole, and about their kids. It was very nice.

But more important, that is what we needed. Instead of ignoring us, or just waiving hello, they got up, hugged us, and talked to us about Andrew. Yes, we cried. But it was a good cry. Someone talked about Andrew with us. Someone who did not need to, or have to, but wanted to. Someone who knew him, and still has him in their hearts.

Because he did exist – my son did exist, and he still does.

 

The Elephant in the Room  (with liberties taken with the name)
By Terry Kettering

There’s an elephant in the room.
It is large and squatting,  so it is hard to get around it.

Yet we squeeze by with, “How are you?” and, “I’m fine,”
and a thousand other forms of trivial chatter.

We talk about the weather; we talk about work;
we talk about everything else — except the elephant in the room.

There’s an elephant in the room. We all know it is there.
We are thinking about the elephant as we talk together.

It is constantly on our minds. For, you see, it is a very big elephant.
It has hurt us all, but we do not talk about the elephant in the room.

Oh, please, say his name.
Oh, please, say “Andrew” again.
Oh, please, let’s talk about the elephant in the room.

For if we talk about his death, perhaps we can talk about his life.
Can I say, “Andrew” to you and not have you look away?
For if I cannot, then you are leaving me alone
in a room—with an elephant.

 

 

30 thoughts on “My son did exist

  1. Ned

    Yes, Perry, I hear you asking us to stay close to what is real, what is really going on, what is on our hearts and minds; and for you Andrew is real, really real in the moment, and I honor that and he becomes present for me and others.

    Reply
    1. Kim Culver

      Yes my baby girl very much did exist. I have some family members who don’t want to talk about her. This is my declaration of independence. Cara Jo lived and I NEED to talk about her. She was my child!!! Please remember that.

      Reply
  2. Sally Klein

    So nicely put, Perry! I know you will relish any opportunity to listen to stories about your son and you will also come upon a memory you had not told before and share that with the people in your life even if the story makes you cry. You will still share it and the listeners will be glad to learn of it. :)

    Reply
  3. Michelle

    You always word these so beautifully Perry. Thank you for sharing these thoughts and for helping us all to understand what’s it’s like to grieve such a great loss. You have taught me so much about how to help others who have lost loved ones. xo

    Reply
  4. Barbara

    Someone said it better than me……… Speak Their Name…….Someone I love has gone away and life is not the same, the greatest gift that one can give is just to speak their name. I need to hear the stories and the tales of days gone past, I need for you to understand these memories must last. We cannot make more memories since they’re no longer here so when you speak of them to me it’s music to my ear.

    And one more If you speak my child’s name it may make me cry, if you do not it will break my heart.
    Once again Perry you have done a wonderful job of expressing all of our thoughts.

    Reply
  5. Frank percival

    I love reading your posts about your son and your journey In grief.you make great points and I commend you for having the courage to speak up about these instances.i also feel the same way as you do about my son.pson.people don’t want to talk about him and it does break my heart.i tell them I’d rather cry about a story of him than have silence about him.thank you.

    Reply
  6. nancy taussig

    Perry
    thank you again for putting into words what so many of us have a hard time expressing. It is so important to keep those we have loved and have lost alive in our lives and to keep their memories a part of every day.
    sending love to you, Dorothy and Nicole!
    Nancy

    Reply
  7. Scott

    Hi Mr. Grosser,
    This is an amazing blog, so thanks so much for letting me know about it, and for your thoughts about Andrew. I’m wishing you and your family well.

    Reply
  8. Anonymous

    Perry,
    I am one of those people who do not talk about your son. I not only have no idea what to say, but I hurt when thinking about his passing.
    My two children are almost the exact same age as yours. When I think about Andrew, I have to think about my kids. It scares me too much to talk about it. Call me a coward, I’m even having trouble writing this e-mail, know that I’m thinking of you and the family, but understand I’m not strong enough to do more.

    Reply
    1. Kelly

      First of all I would like to say I am so sorry about your son. I am also a mother who has lost a child when I was 5 months pregnant. I have had to mourn in silence for him, I am not allowed to talk about him with my husband. My family has never spoken of him after he passed away. The only way I survived the lose was because of my oldest son. Nobody has any idea that the silence is the worst thing. I guess if people haven’t lost a child they don’t understand how much we need to talk about it. My son has been gone for 16 years my husband thinks I should be over it by now. We never get over it doesn’t matter how long it has been. He was apart of me and part of me died when he died. My reason for living now are my 2 boys they are my world. Again I am sorry for your lose

      Reply
  9. Moni

    I didn’t know Andrew, but now I do. Sending you and your family much love.

    Grief and Bereavement is such an incredible journey. I thank you for sharing your process, and being so candid.

    I was orphaned at 12, and I have spent my life’s work on this journey for peace and freedom of that hollowness. I have learned to recreate … Everything in order to just be.

    Sincerely, with gratitude,
    (Ps If you would share his favorite song or music in a blog post, I would love to learn that).

    Reply
  10. Wagner

    Interesting article. Mostly I think people avoid it not wanting to bring up pain. But that is the point, most memories are not pain, they are joy. Good to know. We will not forget, would be impossible. Love you all.

    Reply
  11. Joanne

    Yes he did and every time I speak her name I feel like no one wants to hear my praises or life experiences I enjoyed with her. I want to always keep her memory alive to all that knew her, because she was alive and still is with me always. God bless you for this beautiful acknowledgement of those who are still alive in our hearts.

    Reply
  12. Cheryl

    Do you have a book out about Andrew, I can read? I would like to start from the very beginning, you see I have lost a son too. My son was killed in a motorcycle accident in 2013 and I’m so lost. I think reading how you have been coping with your grief.will help me. I’m so sorry for the loss of your son Andrew.

    Reply
  13. Pauline

    Our children very much existed and to us they will always be there in our hearts nd in our thoughts. People have ignored my son and all I want is for someone to say his name.xx

    Reply
  14. Patricia

    Thank you for sharing your feelings. It has validated my own. When I join in on a conversation at work that I may have experienced when my son was alive, people seem to either ignore my comment or I get the impression that they’re thinking, “He’s gone. Get over it. It’s the past.” He did exist. His life was as real and significant as yours. Please don’t dismiss him or my memories of him. The essence of him lives on, just without his physical being.

    Reply
  15. Susan

    Same with me. My 43 year old son passed 6/21/14. That’s a lot of years and a lot of experiences. When I bring up his name, some people do act as if “he’s gone” why talk about him. That’s so strange. So, I purposefully speak of my son, staring them straight in the eyes and silently dare them to say anything inappropriate. I’m ready to “let em have it” about losing a child or any age.

    Reply
  16. Steve

    yes, I know I can relate. Most peoOle will not acknowledge too my wife or myself that we did in fact have a son. They act as if everything is “normal” now, and that we should get on with our lives. That’s what hurts the most. To act as though we were never parents to our son Kaiden. It hurts so
    Writes beyond words can describe, that are few “friends” that chose not to abandon us after his funeral now act as if he never existed.

    To give you some detail our son Kaiden was still born. He was 42 weeks and we went went in the hospital for my wives scheduled induced delivery. That’s when we found out.

    I get some people ignore it, but last week I was at work and one co worker right next to me started to describe how her grand child was just born in detail at the hospital and how the whole family was so relieved he did not pass away.

    Simply put, some people lack compassion and sympathy that our children are still very real too us and will never leave our hearts.

    Reply
  17. Braun

    It’s apparent to me but not others. Please don’t be afraid to talk about my son. He did exist and still is embedded deeply in our hearts. He is so very loved. Help us cherish those stories and memories. We love hearing them and love to share them with you just as much as you talk about your children or grand children.

    Reply
  18. Brenda Garcia

    My daughter, Stefanie passed on in her journey five years ago this October. She exists, she lives not only in my heart and soul but in the four boys she left behind. I think of her daily. It brings me a sense of peace and happiness to speak of her, hear her name. I love her. She lives in Heaven. It is not my time, God has more for me to do and learn. I never erase her phone number, it still on my phone. I write her little things on fb. Friends do not always understand, some have left my life. It hurt but I love my child and she will forever be a part of me, always, always.

    Reply
  19. Mark

    I have learned that only a few will every say something about my daughter, and then usually only after I do…. The rest (90%) are not comfortable with it is what I have taken away from this experience.

    Reply
  20. Neal

    Those not in “the club” need to understand many of us want to hear our child’s name mentioned in public. It hurts more when people don’t talk about our kids

    Reply
  21. Campbell

    I find myself talking about my kids when others are talking about theirs. Then, I sense that they are uncomfortable. It’s nice to be around others that understand.

    Reply
  22. Philip N' Adele

    I can relate to this. We lost our 17 year old son in July of 2013. At first everyone was here for us and sharing stores, etc. It did help us hearing stories about our son. Well we are approaching his 2nd Angelversary. I’ve notice in the last 10 months or so, people aren’t talking about him anymore. And I’ve also noticed when I bring his name up, some people get uncomfortable. Hearing people talk about him helps us. What hurts us is when no one brings up his name. I will say this. After going through some as traumatic as child loss … you find out who your real friends are. They are the ones who will mention your child’s name, share a story, or are there just to listen.

    Reply
  23. Susan

    You are so right Adele. Our son Darrin died Jan 20, 2002. Sometimes you just want to hear his name. I don’t want anyone to forget him, I sure won’t, ever. He was here for 31 years, and he made an impression. This part of my life is so hard. Bothers me when people just throw away their kids, I would give the world just to see him again and get one more bear hug. Love you Darrin

    Reply
  24. Paula Piekos

    The part about just wanting to hear the name again reminds me of all the junk mail that still comes to our house addressed to my mom. I don’t have the heart to ask them to stop sending it because she is deceased. I don’t want to say it.

    Reply

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