Monday, May 17, 2010

The Healing Power of Balloons. We Think.

As summer draws near, so begins my month of “celebrations.” It starts about mid June and ends in July. And I use the term “celebration” very loosely.

The first of these is, of course, Father’s Day. This is followed by my birthday, the anniversary of my husband’s death, and our wedding anniversary. You got it. One solid month of wine drinking insanity. I will tell you, though, I actually prefer it this way. It’s like ripping off a big grief Band-Aid and then I can enjoy my August in peace. Well, as close to peace as I can get.

All of us who have been at this grieving game for awhile are very familiar with the “balloon release.” (For those of you who are joining us from a more normal existence, this is when we release helium balloons in remembrance of our loved ones on special occasions.) For the widows who have children…we really should have bought stock in latex the day after we lost our spouses.

I know the balloon release is supposed to be healing and helpful, but I’ve got to admit, I’ve had very few go smoothly. And I worry every time one of these goes south that I will have to take out a second mortgage on my home to pay for the therapy that my kids will need in the future.

These things can go wrong for all of the obvious reasons. You know…trees, electrical lines, and just the random pop. All of these obstacles impact our need for healing. And there really isn’t a children’s book that deals with the loss of a balloon after the loss of a parent. I could really use something like Daddy Still Knows You Love Him Even Though Your Balloon is Caught on Your Neighbor’s Satellite Dish.

Hmmm…food for thought for my next book.

The good news about the whole balloon idea is that every time we pass Appliance Factory Outlet and they happen to be advertising a sale with tons of balloons, my kids get unreasonably excited and think that the manager is remembering their Dad.

I know I should correct them, but I really don’t want to burst their bubbles. So to speak.

Of course, before the balloon release, I’ve always had a big build-up with my kids as I jolly them along to let go of a helium balloon they’d rather keep anyway. I mean, what’s Dad going to do with that in heaven anyway? And how come you let us keep the balloon from Red Robin, but you’re making us get rid of this one?

This year, my kids have been bringing up the idea of tying a note to the ribbon and letting it go for Father’s Day. Now, I think this is a great idea. What has me worried is that they seem so fixated on it. They’re constantly asking me about it and seem to have been planning this for awhile.

I’m kind of wondering if the note attached is going to read something like, “Help! You left us with this crazy woman and she has no idea what she’s doing!”

Maybe it’s just me, but it always seems like the balloon release is somewhat of a let-down. There was Father’s Day last year when I packed the kids up for a trek to the mountains where my husband’s ashes are buried and stopped at the local grocery store (the last piece of civilization before we hit the official Middle of Nowhere). After I’d waited…and waited…and waited for someone to come along to help me with our Grief Balloons, I finally made it out to my minivan where I opened the back hatch to carefully put our purchase until send off.

As I let go, a gust of wind blew through the car, sending one balloon up in the air. This, of course, sent me into a panic, so I quickly slammed the hatch shut, popping a second one. As my children sat crying in the car, I finally managed to convince them that what we needed was just one family balloon. That’s all Dad really wanted anyway.

Quick thinking, right? Yeah…they didn’t buy it either.

Then there was his birthday when I took the kids out of school for a special Daddy Day. This is something they look forward to every year and I really think my husband would appreciate how we spend the day. You know…playing hooky. Anyway, I drove them to his alma mater, balloons in tow to have a special release. As we stood outside in the freezing November wind, I realized that all of the ribbons had just gotten completely tangled and there was no way I was going to get them apart. I frantically tried to pull them, bite them, saw them with my keys to separate them, but I was fighting a nest of curly ribbon. Everyone surrounding us probably thought it was incredibly touching that my kids were so emotional about remembering their dad, when really they were just pissed that they didn’t get to let their own balloon go and we had to send them up in one big clump.

This year, I’m just about to the point where I’m ready to have a newspaper release or something and just let it blow down the street and eventually find Daddy. That seems a little easier. And something they may be more willing to let go of.


  1. Amy Lyons BrumfieldMay 17, 2010 at 9:46 PM

    I am only 4 mths into this and I like this idea. For my husband's birthday which was only a month after he passed the kids and I decided to try to celebrate. We got my whole family together and went to dinner. It was very nice but I wish we would have done something like the balloons. I think we will try this on Father's Day.

  2. Dear Chick, Your writing is wonderful, and you sense of humor is priceless ♥