An Interview with Anna Cook, Kelly’s mom
I had the honor of interviewing Anna, Kelly’s mom. Her love for her daughter Kelly is palpable and more beautiful than words can express. Thank you, Anna, for your honesty and bravery in sharing the reality of life after loss without your precious daughter. I am so sorry she isn’t here with you where she belongs.
You are a beautiful, beautiful mother.
1.) If you could describe your life now in one word, what word would you choose and why?
Lonely. So few, thank goodness, understand how I feel. When you’re a mom there are so many with whom you share your mothering experiences. Bereaved parents are so few and far between. We can not find our ‘tribe’ easily. Besides, many friends ‘peel’ away leaving you feeling ever so isolated.
2). What is one way you wish your family/friends would have supported you in the first couple years post-loss?
Show up. Sit and listen. Just listen.
3). What is one question you long for people to ask you?
If you didn’t know Kelly, ‘tell me about Kelly’.
4). Describe a day in your life now. What is it like to be you today? What does it feel like, look like, and taste like?
It’s been seven years (this June) since Kelly died. I am certainly not the person I was before. It is imperative that I occupy my time, otherwise I can easily slip into despair. I approach sleep with much angst; Sleeping without a disturbing dream is a gift.
5). How would you define the word “hope”?
In the next moment, the next day, in the very near future, I can make a positive difference in someone’s life.
6). What does the word healing mean to you?
Point of context: my parents died at a relatively young age, 74. Their deaths were less than 2 months apart. I’ve healed from that abrupt assault. My best friend died at 52 from cancer. I’ve healed from her untimely death. Those deaths, in the greater scheme of life, ‘made sense’. Losing a child does not; parents can not absorb that information. I’m not sold on the theory that bereaved parents ‘heal’. I believe they get stronger. The grief is not healed but your ability to endure while still burdened with grief grows.
7). If you could offer another bereaved parent some hope to hold onto, what would you would tell them?
Someone needs you. You may not know them yet but someone does.
8). Have you found any gifts in the midst of your suffering?
I haven’t found any gifts. I have soldiered on but I don’t think of that as a gift.
9). How has your loss changed you?
I have no patience with idle chit chat. I have no interest in participating in large functions. Very few earthly things are of value to me.
10). What do you find to be the most horrific, gut-wrenching, torturous part about living life after loss without your child?
Not sharing today, tomorrow and the next day with Kelly.
11.) What have you found to be the most beautiful part of life after loss?
The most beautiful part of my life has been my children. Now it is my surviving daughter.
12). What is your biggest trigger, and what helps you cope when it hits?
Kelly died in Arizona where she was attending college. There were so many hopes and dreams during those years. When my husband and I travel through Arizona, which we do several times a year, I am hit with so much anguish. I read aloud to him while he drives, that way I have to concentrate. Reading aloud does not allow my mind to drift.
13). What is one thing about your grief, your circumstance, for your life now that you do not feel free to say out loud? And what usually keeps keeps you from sharing it?
If you have not lost a child, then you have nothing to complain about. What keeps me from sharing it, civility.
14). What do you want the world to really really know about child loss or life after loss?
After the death of a child it is possible to laugh again but the melody of your laughter will never be without a note of sorrow.
15). What kind of grief support have you found to be most helpful?
Bereaved parent support group. Period.
16). What do you want the world to know about your precious child?
“She did not need much. Wanted very little. A kind word, sincerity, fresh air, clean water, a garden, kisses, books to read, sheltering arms, a cozy bed, and to love and be loved in return.” ~ Starra Neely Blade
17). How would you describe your life as a bereaved parent?
A foreigner, even amongst friends and family. Always longing to hold Kelly to hear her laugh to see her smile.
18). What is the hardest part about your everyday life now?
Knowing I will not see Kelly for many years to come.
19). How do you keep your child’s memory alive?
Scholarships, sending a Kelly tree ornament to my family each Christmas, asking friends and family to do something on her birthday that brings a smile to their face.
20). If you could say anything without worrying about the way people would react, what would it be?
If you haven’t lost a child then you haven’t lost anything.
21). What do you wish the world understood about the reality of being a bereaved parent?
It is pain they have never known. We do not get over it and we want to hear our child’s name all the time.
22). What helps you most when you feel waves of anger, despair, or grief?
Doing something that requires concentration, and that is challenging physically, and for me that is yoga.
23). What gives you the strength to keep on keeping on?
My husband, who was Kelly’s stepfather, is my rock. I must be a role model to my surviving daughter. She will encounter hardships in her life and needs to know you can’t quit. You must and can continue constructively.
24). What makes you feel most connected to your child who is no longer here?
Being outdoors. Kelly so loved the beauty of nature.
25). What is one thing that would help make your burden lighter today?
Time with my surviving daughter.
26). If you could tell your child anything, what would it be?
I tell her all the time that I love her and I miss her.
27). If your child could tell you anything, what do you think she would say to you?
If you could choose one image that best visualizes/represents your life now post-loss, what would it be?
“After the death of a child it is possible to laugh again but the melody of your laughter will never be without a note of sorrow.” ~ Anna Cook