Friday, April 4, 2014
December 10, 2013. That was the day a parent’s worst nightmare became a reality for Regina Powell Atkinson.
It was that night that she received a phone call telling her that her son - 17-year-old Davey Belue - had been killed in an automobile accident near Andrews.
It was a very foggy night and Belue ran off the road. His 2002 Chevrolet pickup struck a tree.
Atkinson was in total devastation, disbelief and shock. As a minister for decades, she was used to helping people deal with the loss of family members.
While pastor at The River Church in the Warsaw community from 2005-12, Atkinson had even helped friends cope with the loss of a child. But now, she was the one having to try to continue living after her son - who was planning on a career in electrical engineering - was gone.
Her two daughters - 13-year-old Rebecca and 23-year-old Whitney Martin - were one source of strength she needed but after a while she found something else that began to help - Facebook.
“For the first few days, everyone wanted me to stay away from Facebook,” Atkinson said.
But, the day after Davey died, Atkinson found herself on her laptop. She started reading. She continued reading. Post after post her son’s friends had written.
“I found comfort by reading the posts. It was a link to my child. I saw others were grieving over him like I was,” she said.
At first, Atkinson would just read what others were writing on her son’s page. Absorbing all the kind words and memories they were sharing.
Then, she started writing on his page. One of her first posts was a message to Davey’s friends about his funeral that was going to be held that day.
“We will cry uncontrollably. We will feel like we’re dying, but we won’t. We will show up and show off, cause that’s how my Dubba rolled. He would wear some crazy hat and probably be trying his best to make someone laugh,” she wrote. “So everybody, all of you, my new little babies, get yourself ready and let’s do this.”
Atkinson continued writing messages on Davey’s page.
“It was like I was having a conversation with him,” she explained.
Then, Atkinson started writing about her son on her own Facebook page.
“I have always been one to journal. My cousin lost her daughter 22 months ago. I read all of her Facebook posts and saw it was her outlet. It was her way of coping. I then started feeling peace by doing it,” Atkinson said.
She said her posting intensified when her husband, Earl, was called into military duty in Afghanistan and then he had to return home because his son, Jonathan, who lived in North Carolina, had died. The couple was dealing with the deaths of two young people.
“I cannot believe my son is under a mound of dirt. I realize he is with Jesus but I raised that body, cared for him when he was sick, rubbed his head when he didn’t feel good, kissed him. I am having a hard time right now,” Atkinson wrote in January.
There were many posts like these during the weeks following her son’s death. And she was getting responses. First from a few people. Then, more and more people began to converse with Atkinson through her Facebook page.
Many were suffering for the same reason. They had also lost a child.
“I have been introduced to a lot of other mothers going through this. I met a woman from West Virginia whose son died on a basketball court. It’s like we are connected. Some mothers who lost children years ago have reached out to me. They send me private messages and scriptures,” Atkinson said.
Expressing her feelings and reading the feedback she receives has helped pull her from the extreme deep despair she was feeling continuously.
“When I post about never having another Mother’s Day with my son, instantly others will begin to comfort me. It’s like we are an elite group. Now that I am a member of that group, I can reach out to other people and encourage them,” Atkinson said.
She said during her days as a pastor, she would minister at funerals and try to choose words that she thought would help those who were grieving.
“After losing Davey and Jonathan, I realize my words were so inadequate at the funerals. But, being a minister does help me lay aside my grief when I need to so I can help others,” she said.
Atkinson said several times every day she receives messages from the friends she has made on Facebook since her son died.
“I started a memorial page for Davey because I have a fear of people forgetting how wonderful he was,” she said.
Through her connections with other grieving mothers - and with help of a counselor - Atkinson is starting to pull through.
“I think I am coping better. I am learning that it is OK for life to move forward,” she said. “Sometimes some people take offense at some things I say but I do not mean to offend anyone. I have way more supporters than haters. I will never apologize for my grief,” she said.
She said when she began posting after Davey’s death, she had no idea it would turn into what it has become.
“It is a way of expressing how I am feeling each day. It’s been real. It’s been me.”