Romeo and I met when I worked as an engineer and he as a Vice President with a major aerospace firm. He became my mentor, my friend and later my husband and the father of our children. When we were expecting our son, I told him I wanted to name him, Romeo III. He objected. I told him if our son grew up to be half the man that he and his father were; he would be wonderful, since I considered both of them to be exceptional men.
He was an amazing man and husband but he was a phenomenal father. He attended our kids school events which in and of itself was amazing. He helped run a multi billion dollar organization but knew at the end of the day his kids would remember looking out into the audience and seeing him.
He was supportive and nurturing with Romeo, our daughter Briahna, and me as well. He made sure that he had one on one time with both Briahna and Romeo. He would alternate with the kids and give them each a day alone with him to partake in their favorite activity. For Briahna, he would spend a day or late afternoon at SeaWorld with her. She loves Shamu. He would take our son Romeo to Disney Quest and play the video games with him. He even insisted I have my mommy escapes where he would send me off to play golf with my friends.
We spent our weekends having family adventures and we were always on the go. He was very involved in their day-to-day activities. He made the children’s breakfast every day before school. He would walk the kids to the bus stop and be there to pick them up after school. He would greet our son with, “Dr. Doty, how was your day?”
He even attended their field trips. He was a little unnerved at attending the field trips; he thought it better if only the moms participated. I assured him he would be a big hit and he was. The other moms loved him! He was an amazing husband and father.
Romeo passed away and we were devastated. He was so much more than a husband and father. We were in a daze, we did not realize when one day ended and another began. We were going through the motions and we did not think we would or could survive. I saw my two children and their spirit slowly drain away. I heard about New Hope for Kids from 3 different sources in a span of a few days. I knew I had to do something, to try to provide them with some peace or some way to deal with our overwhelming loss.
We arrived at New Hope for Kids for the first of many sessions. It was there that we discovered how to grieve. That is was okay to grieve. That we were able to do this in our own time frame and not what society thought was an adequate amount of time. Through New Hope for Kids, I discovered Romeo felt all alone in a room full of his friends and classmates. I discovered that he kept all of his emotions bottled inside because he did not want me to know how much he was hurting. My 9 year old son was trying to protect me. Children often try to become the parents and protectors of the surviving parent. I learned that my children were petrified whenever I was not with them or when I was just a couple of minutes late. They had an overwhelming fear that something had happened to me as well. I discovered through New Hope for Kids that all the feelings we were experiencing were normal…if there is such a thing.
New Hope for Kids taught my children how to handle their grief; it gave them an outlet for their anger, their sadness, their loneliness, their pain and their confusion. They were allowed to honor their father’s memory by discussing their life with him. They were allowed to create projects to honor him. My son Romeo made a box with his father’s favorite sports teams. They attended a weekend camping outing with New Hope for Kids. At camp, they had a candle light vigil to honor their loved ones. They were allowed to write a letter to their dad telling him how much they loved him. How much they missed him. How they wished he were still here with them.
I remember thinking my kids were at a point we should stop attending. I did not share this feeling with anyone at the time, but I remember their art session that week. I was struck by the realization that my son was still having problems with the loss despite how he wanted me to see him. Their instructions were to draw themselves how they wanted others to see them. On the back of the paper, they were asked to draw how they really felt. My son drew a happy face for the one he wanted others to see. On the back, he drew a face with lots of tears streaming down the face and off the picture. They had another art project where they were allowed to use colors to express their true emotions. I remember looking at it and seeing a lot of red. I discovered this represented his anger.
They have a hurricane room at the Center for Grieving Children. This room is padded and it has a punching bag. My son loves this room. It is in here that he would punch this bag, scream at the top of his lungs and throw himself into the wall. He was able to release all the pent up anger and sadness that he was holding inside. It was New Hope for Kids that taught me that my 4 year daughter did not conceive the finality of death. That it was normal for her to wake up and ask where her father was. She would look at his pictures and see that he was healthy and wanted to know when he would return home to her.
My children realize they will forever be defined by that moment. This reality is okay, their loss is a part of who they are. However, they are strong and resilient. They have learned, through New Hope for Kids that they can survive anything because they have survived this. Today my children are smiling, playing and enjoying life. They can now think of their late father and smile. They are able to enjoy the love he gave them. They can think of him, revel in the joy he brought to our lives, and not wallow in the sorrow of his loss. New Hope for Kids taught my children how to enjoy life again. It taught me how to enjoy my children and my life again. I stand here as proof of what an amazing job New Hope for Kids has done. I know this first hand. I cannot express in words how priceless New Hope for Kids is to all of us that have attended their amazing program.