As Candi sat in the ER after losing her 5-year-old son, Asher, tragically in a farming accident, she wondered how life could go on. The pain was just too great. Candi had seen a therapist for years and knew that her therapist was also a bereaved mom. Candi asked her sister to ask the therapist what she was supposed to do. She answered, “You circle your wagons, and just hang on.”
Honestly, in the 6 years since losing Andy, this may be the best piece of advice I have ever heard. I love the visual that it brings to mind. For listeners who may not be familiar with the saying, ‘circling the wagons’ was done as wagon trains headed west. Each night, when the travelers stopped for the night, they formed a large circle made up of their wagons. They would keep the camp and their livestock inside this circle. This way they could keep the most vulnerable inside, protected from bandits, wild animals, and even stormy weather. Candi’s family and friends were great at circling the wagons. Candi says she felt like a ghost for the first whole year, but somehow, her family remained fed and her other 5 kids continued to participate in school and activities. The circle cared for her when she could not.
Over the past 3 years, Candi’s wagon train has changed. As she became involved in my online support group through Starlight Ministries and met other bereaved moms, they joined her wagon train to be her support. Candi says that she was a sponge, reading book after book on child loss. Recently, she started a bereaved moms group in her own rural community in Utah as well. I would say that instead of being the protected one at the center of the circle of wagons, Candi is working to transform herself into a wagon master. Recently, Candi’s extended family suffered tragedy again when her sister lost her own daughter in a car accident. Candi felt helpless knowing there was nothing she could say to make her sister feel better, but Candi knew exactly what to do. She instructed that wagon train to circle up again, and she now sits with her sister in the dark, scary place holding her while they both just hang on.