Grief does not get better, it gets different. This was a lesson I learned after attending one of Kate’s Club’s support groups, and I now use this saying all the time. It did not resonate with me at the time when I heard it, but once I began to look at how far we’ve come since our tragedy I knew this was true.
10 years ago, my entire world stopped. It was a change I was never prepared for. Trauma never comes with a warning sign, it just happens. How you deal with it is what makes all the difference in the world. I was a single mother of three children, Malakai, 12, Bryoni, 3, and, Mikkah, 13 months, and let me tell you it was one of the hardest periods in my life. I was working two jobs, taking three classes studying for my paralegal degree, and raising these amazing kids by myself until that day. My babysitter during this time fell through, and I needed someone to watch them. I asked Mikkah’s father if he could help. There is not a moment I don’t wish I would have been able to call someone else.
The morning of January 27, 2012, I came home to find my youngest son Mikkah unresponsive. As we raced to the hospital, all I could think of was how the person I thought would protect him the most was the one responsible. How could a father hurt his innocent child? Watching his little body fight for his life for three days in the hospital broke me. Having to make the choice of taking him off life support destroyed me. Watching Malakai encourage his brother to transition on home devastated me. How, as a family, as a mother, could we move on? I didn’t realize that the universe knew exactly how to help. Months later while I was watching the news, a segment about Kate’s Club showed up on the screen. Instantly, I knew that even though we had therapy we really didn’t have the family and outside support we needed to get through this time. I must admit we really needed help.
I reached out to Kate’s Club and begin having Malakai attend the clubhouses. I knew that he needed an environment and space not only to grieve, but to feel comfortable being able to do so. Slowly but surely, I saw how it began to change him for the better. The real challenge came when he attended his first Camp Good Mourning. I’ll never forget getting that phone call from Debra Brook telling me that he was having an extremely difficult time. Not only did they comfort and console him, but they also really helped him get through that process. Before Malakai aged out of Kate’s Club, he became one of the older members helping other children at camp and was chosen to attend the Kate’s Club Gala. Bryoni started attended Kate’s Club at age 5, the youngest age that members can attend. She was afraid to go to camp and cried all the way to drop off. By time she came home from that weekend I couldn’t pry her from the Kate’s Club Buddies. At age 13, she too is now an older member that helps other children at camp.
Kate’s Club not only saved them, but it helped saved me. Seeing my children grow and thrive, despite the loss of their baby brother, has been nothing short of amazing! I owe a debt I cannot repay due to the kindness, love, and support of Kate’s Club. As this is my 10th year with this wonderful organization, I have accomplished so much. I graduated from college twice and became a homeowner. Malakai has graduated from high school and has moved on into adulthood. Bryoni is a soccer player and a straight A student.
I even had the courage to get Mikkah’s headstone and have been telling his story as a motivational speaker working with the Georgia Department of Victim Services. Kate’s Club taught me that I even though I felt alone in my tragedy and grief, I wasn’t and never will be. It helped me to move forward in life.
With a tremendous amount of love,
Toni E.R. Brown
Kate’s Club Parent and Unofficial Spokesperson