In the very short conversations I had via facebook with two members of the Help-a-Heart support group, I could already tell: This was a tight-knit group. It is like a secret club that you never knew existed – and you never really wanted to be a member – but now that you are, you are so incredibly thankful it exists. You are so glad there are those that have walked the paths before you – even though you wish no one had to go through all the emotions you are going through.
It is not the first time I have found myself in a “secret club” such as this. My first experience was after losing my brother in a car accident. It wasn’t until a year later, in college, that I started reaching out and helped create a grief support group. I found out I wasn’t the only person who had lost a member of my nuclear family in an unexpected, tragic way. And since then, I have had the very painful job of guiding other friends and acquaintances through similar circumstances. Almost fourteen years after the fact, I have become a sort of veteran of this secret club. Grief is no stranger to me, and I have great empathy for those experiencing its grasp for the first time.
Now I find myself thankful for the veterans of the congenital heart defect secret club. The women and men at the support group this evening were welcoming and kind. It was hard for me to share our story – it was hard for me to have tears fall down my face in a roomfull of strangers – but I didn’t leave tonight feeling like they were strangers. We have a shared story – different but all bound in one common book.
And just as I seek to comfort and encourage those dealing with the raw emotions that come with losing a loved one, these veterans sought to comfort and encourage us. Many went out of their way to be sure we knew we could reach out with questions and seek support. It felt good to have such genuine interaction with people we didn’t know just hours before. That is one thing about these secret clubs – There is no pretense involved, no falseness, no games.
It was overwhelming but also encouraging. I feel uplifted and stronger, while simultaneously feeling just a bit more worried about what might be coming for us. But – as we were reminded by a few people – it’s one day at a time. We really can’t live more than that.
One day at a time.