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Walk to Remember addresses loss of a child

Parents share their ‘hidden pain’

Madigan Public Affairs Sgt. Tyrah Johnson remembers her son Tyson “Bullet” Johnson at the third annual Madigan Walk to Remember event at Letterman Auditorium Oct. 13.

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One by one, the children’s names were spoken aloud, candles were lit and the silence was broken.

“It’s really our passion to change the culture of silence around pregnancy and loss, to speak your baby’s name and tell your story,” said Miriam Krause, the guest speaker at Madigan Army Medical Center’s third annual Walk to Remember for pregnancy, infant and child loss at Letterman Auditorium Oct. 13.

Sergeant Tyrah Johnson, a transportation coordinator with the 593rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command, joined the event to remember and honor her son, Tyson, who passed away right before he came to term just over a year ago

“It’s hard for somebody to understand when they haven’t been through it, so it’s like that hidden pain,” Johnson said. “I was 40 weeks and five days, so I was right there at the finish line. That was the hardest and worst experience I ever went through in my life.”

Joining in the remembrance event, though, with other parents who lost their own beloved children, let her feel like she was honoring Tyson’s legacy and celebrating him.

“I want him to be known; I want them to know him,” she said.

Dedicating an event for remembrance and reflection with others who experienced similar losses is just why the Walk to Remember ceremony exists.

“Healing isn’t about forgetting; it’s not about getting past or putting something behind you,” said Col. Michael Place, Madigan commander, who later lit a candle for the children he and his wife, Jackie, lost — Sara Golden and Patrick John. “Healing is really about remembering — remembering and appreciating, remembering and mourning — but also deciding to live and live well.”

Through speakers and music, a candlelight walk and fellowship, the Walk to Remember was a part of that healing. Joining in the event for the second time is a part of Johnson’s journey, one that started at Madigan when she received help from nurses after Tyson passed.

“Madigan had the best program … to go through the worst thing you could possibly go through — they made it the best they could,” Johnson said.

Even today, she seeks out the people who helped her the most — Sandra Moore and Silke Saelens, both of whom are nurses; and Megan Coker, a bereavement photographer — whenever she stops by the hospital.

Now she talks with a counselor regularly about Tyson, nicknamed “Bullet” by a fellow sergeant in her last unit who, himself, was called Shotgun.

“(He said,) ‘He’s going to be a little bullet, like me.’” Johnson said with a laugh. “He nicknamed him before I even had a chance.”

She talks about what Bullet would be up to today if he lived. Being willing to talk about the children they lost is the advice Johnson would give to other parents.

“You’re still going to have the heartache and pain; you’re going to have the hard days; you’re going to have the good days,” she said. “It’s OK to cry; it’s OK to just let it out. It’s OK to speak your child’s name. It’s OK to talk about them.”

Krause, who works with the TEARS Foundation, also encouraged parents who suffer the loss of a child to let themselves mourn.

“The best advice that I can give you is in your own time and place, embrace the care and comfort of others on this journey,” Krause said, whose own unborn son died 24 years ago. “Give yourself breaks, be patient with yourself and allow yourself the time to mourn. In time, we will laugh again, live again, love again.

“However we will not be the same — forever changed by the gift of our child living through us.”

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