His personality was bigger than life: That’s what people tell Maggie Gil when they talk about her late son, Ricky.
“He was just such a character,” she said in a moment of laughter that rarely accompanies a conversation about her oldest son. “He had friends everywhere he went. People really feel his loss; they feel that he’s not here anymore.”
Ricky Gil died in a car accident in December 2011. He was driving home from work late one night when he missed a sharp turn in the road and flipped his SUV, ejecting him from the vehicle. He was dead by the time he reached the hospital. He was 25.
“I can’t imagine a pain that’s comparable to losing a child,” Maggie Gil said. “A child is a part of your life — all of it. You invest so much of yourself in your kids. It’s not just the amount of time you’ve spent together; it’s what you’ve invested in their future and everything you’ve dreamed for them.”
Maggie Gil is teaming up with Donna Lunsford, founder of Parents in Mourning, to host a six-week memorial workshop for bereaved parents in the Palm Coast area. For the last decade, Parents in Mourning has been an online community through which people whose children have died can share their experiences and offer one another support. Now, the two women hope to create a similar community outside of the virtual world.
“When you meet another parent who has lost a child, it’s like you instantly know each other,” Gil said. “You understand each other in a way no one else can. Everyone’s grief process is different, and everyone’s experiences are different, but your feelings are still so similar.”
Maggie Gil connected with Lunsford shortly after her son died. Lunsford, a psychiatric nurse who lost her own son 12 years ago, was referred as a resource to Maggie Gil; her husband, Keith; and their other son, Danny, 18 at the time.
“When I finally called her, she didn’t say much,” Maggie Gil said. “She just listened. But it was the best kind of listening, because I knew she understood.”
About a month ago, Maggie Gil, who has a master’s degree in psychology for counseling, decided she wanted to do something proactive to create a supportive community of bereaved parents in the Palm Coast area. She had tried attending support groups in St. Augustine, but the drive was too inconvenient, and one attempt to start a group of her own proved unsuccessful.
Maggie Gil decided to call Lunsford, who was already planning a similar endeavor. Together, they organized the Parents in Mourning workshop, which starts Sept. 4.
The group will meet at 7 p.m., at Gingham Buttons Craft & Scrapbooking Boutique, and will continue to meet at 7 p.m. every Tuesday until Oct. 8.
Each workshop will focus on a specific topic about the grieving process and will last about two hours: First, Maggie Gil and Lunsford will speak about that week’s topic. Then, other group members will have time to share their own experiences. The workshops will close with time for a craft project. This is important, Maggie Gil said, because it will let members turn their experiences into something positive.
For Maggie Gil, the death of her son made her want to turn inward. She felt isolated from the rest of the world and alienated by her grief. But, she said, the support of others, whether they were close friends and family or near-strangers — such as the detective who searched her son’s car twice to retrieve his cell phone full of photos and videos — is what ultimately helped her the most.
“At first, living the next second seems unbearable,” Maggie Gil said. “You take your life minute by minute. Now, I can take my life day by day. But you’re never done with your grief journey.”
She and her family are still more removed from social events than they once were. It takes a lot of energy to be around people who aren’t mourning, she said, and she dreads the uncomfortable moment when people who don’t know her well learn of her son’s death.
“I want other people in my situation to take the steps to reach out to people,” she said. “And knowing other bereaved parents helps. They inspire me to live that next day, to take that next step. They let me see that it’s possible to get through this, even if things will never be the same.”
Currently 2 Responses
- I lost my daughter a little over a year ago. She committed suicide, although she had other problems it still was so sudden. I so tired of walking around with a smile and telling everyone I'm ok.
We had such a journey together through all her problem, and I would give anthing for just one day regardless of the problems.
I've tried one other group in Daytona, but found little help. That was a group for people who had a love one who committed suicide. I don't expect that any group can take your grief from you but I would like help in dealing with the pain and someone who will understand the problem on a day to day basis. I would like to try your group so sign me up.
- Loosing your child is a journey that you carry by yourself, alone and with your personal memories...and unless others know the pain that you are feeling they will never understand........
20 The Palm Coast Scrabble Club
20 Take Off Pounds Sensibly (T.O.P.S.)
21 Flagler County Horseshoe Pitching Club
9:00 am - 11:00 am
21 Nutrition Education Program
Friends of A1A produce videos to promote cycling and safety along the coastal byway
The Friends of A1A has produced six new videos designed to attract more cycling visitors to the 72-mile Scenic & Historic A1A Coastal Byway that travels through St. Johns and Flagler counties. Also, AAUW awards scholarships and loggerheads have arrived.
Palm Coast offers summer recreation, tennis, golf camps for children, teens
The city of Palm Coast is planning a summer of fun and recreation for children and teens through its summer camp at Parks & Recreation, as well as summer golf and tennis camps.
Dunk tank at Arbor Day event to raise funds to end polio
The Flagler-Palm Coast High School Interact Club is hosting a celebrity dunk tank to raise awareness and donations to end polio worldwide during Palm Coast's Arbor Day event 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, May 18, at Central Park in Town Center.