Facebook: A Suprising Life Ring in a Mother’s Ocean of Grief

Momservation: No mother has a child to spare.

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Wyatt Bredell

Wyatt Bredell, 15 yrs, forever the heartbeat in his mother and father’s hearts.

I had been avoiding Facebook because sometimes you just get tired of too much information, feeling obligated to wish someone happy birthday, like their status, or act like you care about another picture of some fringe friend’s food.

But of course, I got sucked back in like I always do. Only this time the first status I saw didn’t make me roll my eyes or scroll quickly down in disinterest.

It clenched my heart and punched me in the gut, sick with sorrow for a virtual stranger I claimed as a friend on Facebook.

A girl I had last spoken to in high school or maybe a reunion (and whom I still related to as the girl I knew instead of the woman she became), was reeling from the sudden and tragic loss of her 15 year-old son.

Suddenly it didn’t matter that I didn’t really know her anymore despite the years of Facebook status updates coloring in who she’d become and making me voyeuristically familiar with her life and family.

She was a mother who lost her child. She was someone who was seeking the comfort of Facebook friends, gasping for something, anything to help her breathe again. And I wanted to help her as if she were my very best friend—because in this sorority of motherhood, even a relative stranger’s pain becomes your pain when the unthinkable happens.

How did he die?

It doesn’t matter. When you lose a child, as my mother has—giving me a front row seat to life’s cruelest blow, the “how” doesn’t become about what happened. It becomes about how to carry on. How to survive. How to make the hollow pain that threatens to consume you from the inside out, just for one second let you catch your breath. It becomes about how to keep finding the will to live in a world that doesn’t include your beating heart anymore.

In a heart wrenching reversal I became instantly appreciative for Facebook. At her lowest point, Amy was reaching out to this forum to find strength from a collective of random friends—old, new, fringe, fake, genuine, loyal, colleagues, neighbors, family, congregation, community—made in her 43 years of walking this life.

And this community responded with heartwarming love, support, prayers, kind words and kind gestures; desperate to prop this woman up in her darkest hour of need no matter what their relationship to her had been or was.

My heart recoiled in horror when I briefly allowed myself to step into Amy’s reality. I could not even for a nanosecond imagine such a fate for my own nearly 15 year-old son without feeling like I was being buried alive. And yet, here was Amy: Liking each and every outreach of support. Posting pictures of her beloved, handsome, the-world-at-his-feet son; Pictures of her family as she would always see it—with Wyatt in it. Posting pictures from her son Stuart’s graduation from Navy A-school despite having to immediately leave to go bury another son—so achingly painful a reality that despite it seeming impossible, life still does go on. Giving a painfully raw Facebook status update both eloquent and devastating:

“Chicago skies have now opened up to cry tears of heaven with me for my beautiful boy Wyatt Bredell. I am headed home to a world I no longer understand, to a reality I can’t accept, to a void that will never be filled. I don’t want to come home because the nightmare will be real. Thank you for your love, prayers, and kind words.”

For the first time in a long time I loved Facebook for what it was giving this old acquaintance of mine: a life ring. It didn’t matter the make-up of this database of people or how she collected them. All that mattered was that Amy was reaching out, drowning in her ocean of grief, and a Facebook army created one big arm to reach back to try and keep her afloat.

Vigil for Wyatt Bredell facilitated by Facebook

Vigil for Wyatt Bredell facilitated by Facebook

I cannot stop thinking about Amy and her family and their torturous road ahead. All of us who have left words of support on her Facebook page know that though it eases our heartache for her, there is nothing that can stop her and her family’s devastated sorrow. But since it seems to give her a measure of comfort to see this outpouring of love and support, all we can do is try.

If you would like to become part of the army of Facebook friends trying to be Amy Ruefenacht Callahan’s life ring of support in her ocean of grief for her son Wyatt Bredell, please share this story. Let her see that though we didn’t know her son, we didn’t need to to know his life mattered and that he will be missed. No mother has a child to spare and her pain is our pain.

#RipWyattBredell

17 comments

  1. MaryMac Propersi says:

    I first met Wyatt on Challenge Day at Clayton Valley Charter High School. He shared his story in front of everyone…he spoke for a while. What struck me about Wyatt is that he spoke about his heart…some health issues that slowed him down…but he was going to give life his best. He encouraged others to do the same….and not give up.
    Now that I realize that this was Wyatt speaking, I wish that I had memorized every word.
    Hannah, Mia and I heard sirens that night of September 11th…so many that we stopped and looked at each other, echoing.that there was something very serious going on. Then Hannah’s boyfriend Chris called and gave us the news that Wyatt was gone.
    Hannah has known Wyatt since kindergarten.
    I definitely want to help in any way that I can. My heart breaks on so many levels…my prayers are constant. ♡♡♡

  2. Akcmommy says:

    Your son was a amazing young man. He touched a lot of people’s lives. I will be praying for u and your family and you go through this tough time in your lives.

  3. Susanne Renner says:

    I too first met Wyatt at Challenge Day at Clayton Valley Charter. Like MaryMac Propersi I too was struck by his speak out at the end of the day. He spoke of his heart condition and how it affected his pace of swimming in the pool for waterpolo. He loved waterpolo. So everyday he got back into that pool because he wasn’t going to be afraid and he encouraged others to do the same get back out there and live life. Very empowering message for all of us to hear. we gave him a huge round of applause. When I heard the news, my heart felt heavy and still does. I didnt know him,but that day he became a part of my community family. My thoughts and prayers are with his family.

  4. Traci Rosson (Roddick) says:

    I am so saddened to rad this about your family. My heart is aching for your loss- I’m just sending love & prayers to you all. Xoxo

  5. Beth says:

    Thank you for this post. You have written my exact feelings beautifully- about FB, motherhood, and Amy. Amy has brought me back to FB, just to give her more added strength and love. God bless you.

  6. Suzi Cavin-Meckes says:

    I think your words speak for so many of our thoughts for Wyatt and his family. Thank you for them and I am positive that now and in time when revisited those words will offer the families comfort and the reminder to appreciate all of the memories we are offered.

    It is no surprise to hear through you and Laura Carter that Amy is handling this with grace and class….just as I remember her from our teenage years. As a mother of three boys and two of them still teenagers I am unable to even allow my thought process to take me into the mind of anyone losing their baby no matter the age or the reason. Tragedy is not a strong enough word to express that heart beat missing from your own. However, as impossible as it seems life will go on and memories will continue to be made slowly but surely. Until then one can only find the gift in the past years and the journey of the future. Please Stop, breathe, smell and hug and take the time to Love one another.

    My heart goes out to your family Amy.

    Take care of you-

    Suzi Cavin-Meckes

  7. Debby Marco says:

    I didn’t know your son but my daughter was his student teacher last year and she mentioned him a few times. She shared this article with me and I just wanted to let you know how he touched her life as a teacher. She said he was a remarkable young man and was one of the few students who solidified her decision to become a teacher. I can’t imagine your pain and you know he was a great young man, but I hope it gives you some comfort knowing how he touched the lives of others too. Prayers for you and your family to help you get through this difficult time.

  8. Lynn Peters says:

    There are no words to say that will comfort a mother when she looses a child. To the family and first and most of all Mom, my heart is broken forever with yours!
    Lynn Peters

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  10. kellimwheeler says:

    Thank you everyone for your comforting and thoughtful words — for taking the time to share them. I know it means a lot to Amy and it means a lot to me that we could band together to try and help Amy’s family in this darkest hour. This has been an amazing and beautiful outpouring of love, support, compassion, and prayers. This is the good in the world that should be recognized instead of all the hate and ugliness.

  11. Christine Draa says:

    I am just reading all this now for the first time, Kelli. I clicked on Amy’s name embedded in your post and one of her friends in common with me (besides you) is a college sorority sister. It’s not even 6 degrees of separation anymore in our cyber lives. Thank you for sharing this. I am grateful for the opportunity to honor Wyatt’s life and have a heavy, heavy heart for his mother and family.

    • kellimwheeler says:

      Thanks Christine. I know, I found some interesting small world connections because of this story too. A mother at our high school PTA meeting told me her good friend was Wyatt’s student teacher and he had made a memorable impression on her. Every life sends a ripple into the world…

  12. Amy Callahan says:

    I saw this in my memories and it was hard to read two years ago but I decided to try it again now, two years later. It was still hard to read but what I had not noticed before was the comments at the bottom. I’m reading them for the first time today. I’m thankful for the love and support and that I have never to this day felt judged or negative comments from anyone. I actually think it is a small miracle that nothing negative was said that got back to me. I’m thankful for that.

    One thing to clear up from this is that Wyatt never had a heart condition that affected him in any way shape or form. It didn’t affect swimming, it didn’t affect water polo, there was no affect at all. He made it up for some reason. I guess he was seeking attention. His heart condition was a minuscule hole that didn’t have any affect on him at all. He didn’t take medication, he didn’t have to do anything. It was supposed to close on its own but it hadn’t yet so every five years or more he was seen for it. It breaks my heart that he said all of that at challenge day.

    We miss our sweet boy and wish that we could go back in time. Since we can’t I will continue to try to bring awareness to the issue so that another mother doesn’t have to go through what we did. My other Hope is to help people understand what is the only thing that can possibly bring me peace and comfort during this horrible nightmare is a loving Heavenly Father that assures me that this life is not the end and that I will be with my son again. Families are forever and I believe that with all my being.

    Thank you again for all of the positive comments and love

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