Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief

Delayed Reaction


Frankie celebrated his twelfth birthday last week. For those of you that have been following us for a while, you might remember that one of the things that Tim did before he passed away, was to write birthday cards for Frankie until he turns 18. Tonight, Frankie and I read his card together.

But here is the thing. We just read it tonight. His birthday was the eighth. That was twelve days ago.

I was talking on the phone to a professor from one of the colleges that is going to book me to speak at one of their interdisciplinary training days. During that conversation, I remembered the card. Frankie was camping with his aunt so that brings us to the late date in reading it.

At first, I was quite distraught. I felt horrible and guilty for not remembering the card on the day of his birthday. What does that mean? Tim is still a part of our lives every single day. A few days ago, my friend and I were playing Yahtzee and I came across one of Tim’s score sheets. I recognized his perfect handwriting immediately. I showed it to Frankie and then I noticed the date was 1998. That was two years before I even met Tim. It caused me some teary eyed moments. It always gets to me when the reminder is unexpected. My friend told me later that she saw my face and was worried that the night was going to be ruined for me. But it was a few minutes and then it passed.

The point of that story, was that seeing his writing didn’t jerk my memory about the birthday card either. It wasn’t until the phone conversation I had later.

When I sat down with Frankie and the card, I asked him if he was upset that I forgot about it earlier. Of course, he had forgotten about it, too. He was not upset with me. He liked the card. I think I saw a little mist in his eyes, but it was a good shared moment.

I’ve been processing all of this. I’ve seen the look on a face or two when I’ve told the story. A couple of people looked like I was feeling- surprised that I had majorly screwed up like that. But it did start to occur to me, that maybe this is a positive thing. We love Tim. We miss him. We think about him every day. But maybe we are also starting to move on, just a little bit further. Maybe it is good that we are not hanging on in the same way. We are remembering him, but are also living in the present. Frankie agreed with me. Rather than being angry with me, we shared a moment of being thankful for Tim’s incredible thoughtfulness, but felt free to be moving on at the same time.

Or maybe I’m just rationalizing a major screw-up.

But I don’t think so. It was a good night.

Author: Help for Healing

My name is Darcy Thiel. What people say they appreciate most about me is my genuine nature. I utilize my professional and personal experiences to increase my understanding and compassion to help others. My career has many faces, so let me tell you about a few. I am a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in NY State and am a couple and family therapist. As an Adult Planning Specialist and End of Life Doula, I take my experiences with my parents’ and husband's illnesses and passing to help others navigate the crazy, complicated medical world we live in. This dovetails with the books I have written. Bitter and Sweet: A Family’s Journey with Cancer, the prequel to Life After Death, on This Side of Heaven is an honest and raw perspective on coping with the diagnosis and subsequent loss of Tim, my spouse. I have done extensive speaking on the above topics through live audiences, radio shows, and an occasional TV spot. For more information, see my websites at,, or Copyright Help for Healing by Darcy Thiel © 2012-2019. All rights reserved.

4 thoughts on “Delayed Reaction

  1. Darci- First of all–I cannot Believe your son is 12 already!!! Time flies-doesn’t it!??!.. The things that happen- when we have children are all a part of the BIG PICTURE . Watching them enter Our world..Each and every moment—They are dependent on Us. It’s funny sometimes to Me–that as a Parent–We are trained to encourage them to be “independent” not rely and to teach them everything we can to do- just as much for themselves, as they can! Walking, eating, dressing, making friends, problem-solving, manners, self-care, self-love,…school work, productions/concerts, sports,earning an allowance, more hygiene,…etc. Frankie…was being 12-camping with his Aunt and probably having a really nice time. You were continuing to work and keep the dream alive! You All have to keep living life..because it does go on… And ,I truly believe that there is nothing to feel guilty about. In fact, It might be a good thing that happened to Frankie…to NOT think so intensely about his Dad not being there on HIS birthday…and just being able to enjoy his family and friends without being reminded of loss. IT’s not like Frankie is going to forget His Dad or You either! ! ! The card was there. You shared it. Doesn’t matter what date it happened on…

  2. When I started my divorce process my attorney told me that it was the “best” time to do it because my daughter was so young at the time. I thought my attorney was crazy for saying this, and thought my daughter would never recover. Kids are really more resilient than we give them credit for. My daughter in no way suffered the loss that your son did, but she did manage to cope with things and not let the past effect her. I think this shows that your son has done the same

  3. Morgansmiles, you are lucky that your daughter was resilient and was able to not let the past affect her. Fortunate that for her the experience was a divorce and not a death of a parent. That probably has more of an impact on a child then a divorce because I am assuming your daughter still sees both parents and can continue to experience many wonderful moments with both of them. I would imagine that for a boy to lose his father it probably has even more of an impact because he loses out on that bonding with his dad. It must be difficult for Frankie at times wanting or missing that opportunity to bond with a male role model which in a perfect world would have been his dad. Morgansmile: I am sure you count yourself fortunate that your daughter has both parents. Darcy, I am sure Frankie is resilient as well. But I am sure you hope someday soon that you and Frankie can experience someone special coming into both of your lives that will give Frankie what he so deserves, that male role model and for you the love and companionship you so deserve as well.

    • I agree with everything you’re saying Sharpster. As I stated in my response, my daughter didn’t suffer the same loss. My point was that kids are stronger than we credit them for, we just don’t like to see them sad.

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