the elephant

In just over a week, I will return to work, part-time, as a high school teacher. I realize I have been fortunate to have an extended time off from work.

I have been afraid of seeing people who I have not seen. I have felt incapable of handling their words, emotions, or lack thereof. I have been afraid of Owen not receiving the acknowledgment he deserves.

In order to ease the transition back, it was recommended to me that I write a letter to my colleagues specifically outlining how I am feeling and how they could approach me. In the spirit of support, I am sharing my words.

Hi all,

If you have not yet heard, I will be returning to work, part-time, on the first day of school. I am incredibly anxious about this and am looking for your support.

Since Owen was born, my perspectives about life and relationships have changed. I believe it is important to be honest and open with each other. I have also learned that I am able to articulate my words and thoughts much better through writing. So, in light of this, I thought I would make myself vulnerable and address the elephant in the room while hiding safely behind my computer.

I realize death is not easy to talk about. It is scary. It is a subject that we have little understanding of. As a society, we tend to avoid talking about it, offering platitudes in lieu of vulnerability and human connection. I do not expect you to understand, but I appreciate your willingness to support me along this journey.

My son means the world to me. I ache for him. I long to physically hold him in my arms, yet I know this is not possible. I have spent the past 9.5 months trying to understand and navigate a life that seems foreign. As time surges forward, we are moving with it, one step at a time. There is no other choice. However, we have brought Owen along with us. We speak of him in the present tense as he is always with us in spirit, in everything that we do. We celebrate his monthly birthdays (the 30th of each month) as he deserves to be celebrated.

Talking about Owen will not make me sad. Please allow Owen to be present with me. Do not hesitate to ask about him. He is all I think about and all that I want to talk about. I would love the opportunity to hear or speak his name.

There is no fix. I say this with great hesitation. There is no ‘fix’ when your child dies. No words, advice, or magic serum will ever bring Owen back into our arms. We will stumble forward. There will be moments you may see me smile or laugh, this does not mean I am moving on – there is no moving on. As I have said, we are learning how to live with Owen present with us in a much different way to expectation. This loss is immeasurably sad, but Owen’s presence in our lives makes us immeasurably happy.

People cannot be replaced. At some point, we may decide to add to our family. This is a decision we will make together as a family, in the same way another family makes this decision. When someone dies, they cannot be replaced.

Let me cry. I will cry. Please allow me to. Cry with me if you feel the need. Tears do not hurt. I cry because I love.

Make yourself vulnerable (and make me smile). Ask me to see photos of Owen (but tell me when you have seen too many!). Ask me to tell you about him. Ask me about the adventures we take him on. Ask me about float planes. Tell me when you have thought about him (this is my favourite).

If you have not already been, I would love the opportunity to take you to Owen’s Garden. His rock collection (surrounding the garden) is growing. It is such a beautiful space that tells a beautiful story (his rocks have come from some amazing places and adventures!). Again, I thank you for helping to build it.

With love and appreciation,
Robyn, Mum (with a ‘u’) to Owen Benjamin


3 thoughts on “the elephant

  1. Heather August 28, 2015 / 6:00 pm

    So wise Robyn!! I wish I would have had this as a template to send to my coworkers back in January. Good luck Mum! It will be hard at first but you know that.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Debra August 29, 2015 / 4:28 am

    Beautiful letter, Robyn! Brave and honest. I second what heather has said. It will be hard for a while, but counting the seconds will turn into counting the minutes and then counting the minutes will turn into counting the hours. And then finally you’ll begin counting the days, and maybe even the weeks and months at some point. And while there have definitely been some missteps for me, I have also had some incredibly powerful moments with colleagues who have not shied away from my pain. I also have found it helpful to have one main support person at work who I can escape and cry with when I need to. Not sure if you have someone like this but it has been so helpful for me. Sending love to you, Mark, and Owen. I’m here for you mumma!


  3. Gretchen September 2, 2015 / 11:46 am

    Great job, Robyn. My fingers are crossed that your generous words for your colleagues will help them to say Owen’s name in your presence. I hope you are received back at work with compassion, encouragement and acknowledgement of your son.


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