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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Henderson

Healing Hearts: June K Collins' Journey from Tragedy to Triumph


Children in heaven
Journey from Tragedy to Triumph

Healing Hearts

In life, we often face challenges that test our strength, resilience, and faith. For June Kay Collins, the journey of motherhood took an unexpected turn when she faced the profound tragedy of losing her son, Caleb. Despite the heartbreak and unimaginable pain, June's story is not just about grief; it's about transformation, resilience, and the power of turning tragedy into triumph.

 

June's journey began in 2009 with the birth of her son, Caleb. However, what should have been a joyous occasion quickly turned into a harrowing experience when Caleb faced numerous health complications due to a placental abruption during birth. Despite his challenges, Caleb's fighting spirit and the unwavering love of his family became a source of inspiration for everyone around him.

 

Throughout Caleb's life, June and her family navigated the complexities of caring for a special needs child with unwavering love and dedication. Despite the countless obstacles, Caleb defied the odds, achieving milestones that many medical professionals deemed impossible. His resilience and courage taught June invaluable lessons about strength, perseverance, and the true meaning of unconditional love.

 

Tragically, Caleb's journey on this earth was cut short in 2012, leaving June and her family devastated by the loss of their beloved son. The pain of losing a child is a burden no parent should ever have to bear, yet June found herself thrust into a world of unimaginable grief and despair.

 

In the aftermath of Caleb's passing, June embarked on a profound personal journey of healing and self-discovery. Drawing upon her own experiences and guided by her unwavering faith, June found solace in helping others navigate the tumultuous waters of grief. Through her organization, Life After Child, and her forthcoming book, "Mama, You Don't Heal," June empowers women who have experienced child loss to rebuild their lives and rediscover purpose amidst their pain.

 

June's message is one of hope, resilience, and the transformative power of turning pain into purpose. She encourages women to embrace their grief, honor their child's legacy, and find solace in the knowledge that their journey is not defined by their loss but by the love they continue to carry in their hearts.

 

As June shares her story with the world, she reminds us that even in our darkest moments, there is light to be found. Through her unwavering strength, courage, and determination, June K Collins exemplifies the indomitable spirit of a mother who has turned her tragedy into a beacon of hope for others.

 

In the years to come, June envisions herself continuing to advocate for mothers who have experienced child loss, sharing her message of healing and resilience with audiences around the world. With each passing day, she honors Caleb's memory by living a life filled with purpose, love, and unwavering dedication to helping others find light in the midst of darkness.

 

June K Collins' story is a testament to the power of the human spirit to overcome adversity and emerge stronger, wiser, and more compassionate than ever before. In honoring Caleb's legacy, she has become a guiding light for countless mothers navigating their own journey of grief, reminding them that they are never alone and that healing is possible, even in the midst of profound loss.

 

As we reflect on June's journey, let us be inspired by her courage, resilience, and unwavering determination to turn tragedy into triumph. May her story serve as a beacon of hope for all those who find themselves navigating the turbulent waters of grief, reminding us that even in our darkest moments, there is always the promise of a new dawn.

 


Transcipt of Episode:


Michelle Henderson 

Hello? Hello. Hey, how are you? I am doing fantastic and I am really excited about this show, this episode because I know that, oh my goodness, my listeners will benefit. And I just want to say thank you, thank you, thank you for really showing us your story that you're about to tell us, which I've already read your book, so that's why I'm saying sharing your story because it is a very vulnerable situation that you're in. But I believe you are going to help so many people by your story. A lot of my listeners, they have lost children and I know that a lot of people just don't know how to help people also if they know somebody who has lost a child. And so we have so much to cover. So I'm going to go ahead and get started. So why don't you go ahead and tell us first, and then we'll talk about your book. Alright. Tell us first about Caleb and about his legacy and how as a little boy, how he was.


June K. Collins

Yeah, so in 2009 I had my son, Caleb. Most of the time when you have a child, it's supposed to be one of those wonderful times, but I ended up having a complete placental abruption and basically my baby tore away from my wall and he wasn't breathing. And because of that he had a lot of special needs. Obviously he wasn't able to get the oxygen he needed, so he had microcephaly and a seizure disorder. He had a whole cerebral palsy. He had a whole bunch of things going on with him. So just to stop right there, you kind of go from having one dream to another dream. Obviously you dream of having what society calls the normal child and obviously he was a special needs child, which is totally, it's a whole different lifestyle. So we finally got Caleb on the right medication he needed and he had his doctor's appointments every three months and everything. And we kind of went along like that. And when we were in, obviously I live in a small town and they had to ship him to a large city for when he went to the nicu. So when they were up there, because obviously I had lost so much blood, I had to stay there at the hospital I was at. So my dad and my husband at the time went to the hospital and they basically told him if he lives within the 24 hours, he's going to live for a while, which he did make it.

He was a little fighter. That's one thing that I always say about Caleb is he taught me and gave me so much strength from as much as he had to fight from a little infant, one day old baby. So I don't know, for me, I had 10 years in my head just the way that they were talking and all the problems that he did have. And so I had 10 years in my head, so we kind of went on with life just like that as special needs parents. And he had a feeding tube, so we had to continuously feed him. And so we kind of went on that, went to his daughter's appointment, gave him his medication, and we kind of fell into place and we finally got into a happy spot with his medication and everything. So fast forward to 2012, we actually had to take shifts and we called it shift work. And so basically we would take turns overnight because he would wake up several times, number one to eat and number two to some special needs kids. They wake up a lot in the middle of the night. So obviously he was one of those children. And so we would have to get up and comfort him and you would be up for a while at a time. My ex-husband was on shift work and I woke up to him screaming. I remember running down the stairs, well, before I get into that, Caleb, I want to say this about Caleb. A lot of people, the doctors and everything, they always told us he's not going to be able to do all of this stuff. He's not going to be able to hold his body temperature. He is not going to ever walk or stand or he's not going to talk.He's not. He's going to be basically, and I think they give you the worst case example, but they give you the worst case. I'll just say that. They give you the worst case scenario. And one thing Caleb did was he did a lot of stuff that they said he wasn't going to do. He held his body temperature. He said, mom, he said Mom and dad, he stood up, he smiled. They said that he wouldn't be able to smile and he smiled and he would try to talk at two, he was two, three months. So I mean he had so much emotions and the way that we treated Caleb was we treated him. He would treat any other child, we would do things with him. If he couldn't do it, he couldn't do it. We'd keep trying and then we would take him on vacations. We took him out, we took him shopping, we did everything. We didn't want him to be that special needs child that just stayed at the house because we felt like because of his wheelchair or because of his feedings that we had to sit at. One time and we took him shopping. We just had him out and just doing as much as he could possibly do. We didn't want to sit at the house. I guess that's the biggest thing with that is we wanted him to be as normal as he could, could be. So we started doing that and we just kind of went on that for a really long time. And then again, we had to do shift work, what we called shift work. And one person would stay up and well, they wouldn't stay up. They would wake up every single time that we had to wake up in the middle of the night and we would alternate because we figured that we both had, someone needed sleep, someone needed to be in a good mood. So that was kind of us. So basically we did that. And then in 2012, he had come back from his doctor's appointments, his doctors, his team of doctors that he had was three and a half hours away and he would go every three months to go see those doctors, shout out to Shans in Gainesville, go Gators. But we would always go down there. And he went to his doctor's appointments that day and then we came home and he was always worn out after that. So he fell right asleep.He was on night shift. So I went to sleep and I woke up to him screaming and ran halfway down the stairs. And I was like, what's wrong? And he's like, Caleb's not breathing. And I'm like, are you serious? That's the only thing my mind could think of. I know it wasn't a joke, but for me, I just couldn't comprehend. Number one, I was tired. Number two, no one can comprehend that. And he said no. And I ran downstairs dialed 9 1 1 because where we're at 9 1 1 EMS comes anyway if you don't answer. And I grabbed Caleb off the bed and I started CPR on Caleb and I did CPR on Caleb until EMS arrived and they took him to the hospital. And obviously when we got to the hospital, we were shuffled into that little room that no one likes to go into. And the doctor and the chaplain came in and told us that they did everything they possibly could, but Caleb didn't make it. And that was the incident. That was kind of where I started from, was there.


Michelle Henderson 

Right, absolutely. And I do want to also go back because when you're talking about special needs and our children with special needs, I call them warriors because when I actually taught a special needs population, and to me, I would always tell the parents, I would say, you know what? Your child is teaching me more than what I'm teaching them. And so a blessing in disguise, and I know when we get that smile, we get that name. When they show us that they can actually do things that the doctor said they can't, that is a blessing and that is just like, oh, thank you so much for showing me that. Let's go ahead and talk about your book, because again, I think this is such a good resource, a great resource for people who have lost a child or if you know somebody who has lost a child. But I do want to ask you about this cover because absolutely love this. Can you tell me the inspiration behind your cover?


June K. Collins

Yeah, it turned out everything I wanted it to be. So when I was thinking about how I wanted, I don't even think I had the title yet. I wanted something. I was just scrolling through pictures, child death, child images of passing or child loss. And I found this image and it was an image of a bunch of kids going into a light and they were in a wooded area. And I was like, I want something like that, but not that. And so I got with the person that actually did my cover, and I basically begged him. I was like, I got to have, I want you because his artwork is awesome. And we decided on the clouds. And then we had just going through it, I wanted kids and I wanted kids of every color and age in there. And then my cover where it looks, it's ripped open to me, it was like a symbolism of you just your being ripped open with the child and then the clouds and the light, because I believe in God and I believe that you go into the light. And I wanted them going into the light. And then I think the last thing that we did was like, it's for when it's got to be pink. And he's like pink. I said, we need to do pink. He said, okay, let's do pinks and purples. And that's where the pink came from because my book is geared towards women.

And obviously my son was in a wheelchair, so I had to put a child, a little boy in a wheelchair.


Michelle Henderson 

Absolutely. I know when I saw the book, I thought, oh my gosh, I've got to talk. I always love to see the inspiration or hear the inspiration for book covers because it does. It really inspires people to go, oh wow. And your cover does that. And I don't know if I mentioned the name of it for the people who are just listening, but it's Mama, you don't heal. And it's for all the mothers struggling to rebuild their life and find purpose after a child life. Now, the one thing I want to cover next is the grieving stages. And that's one thing that you talk about in your book and what I thought we could do, if it's okay with you, if I talk about a stage, tell me what it means to you and then we'll go on to the next stage and do the exact same thing. Does that make sense?


June K. Collins

Yeah,


Michelle Henderson 

It does. Okay. Okay. Do you want me to do the seven stages or do you want me to do the five stages? Because you talk about both.


June K. Collins

I usually use the seven stages when I talk about it. Yes. But either way, fine. And we can do all of them.


Michelle Henderson 

Oh no, we'll do, yeah, no, we'll do the seven stages. Alright, so let's talk about the first one, shock and disbelief. So what does that mean to you in your story?


June K. Collins

Oh man. So I didn't last long in that arena, but it was kind of like what I was talking about earlier. For me it was like, this isn't happening. This is a bad dream and I'm going to wake up from it. And I think everybody dreams those dreams where you finally wake up and you're like, whew, I'm glad that I woke up. And that's what it's like. It's like a dream. You're just sitting there in a dream and you can't wake up from it. And you're like, okay, this can't be real. And just like your mind, like I talked about earlier when I asked my husband, are you joking? Your mind just can't wrap around what just happened. And for me, I had no words. And at first I had no tears. I just sat there, what's going on? And I was surprisingly calm when all that was going on, which is really strange. But I in law enforcement, so I'm guessing it's because of that, somewhat of that. But yeah, I was surprisingly calm,


Michelle Henderson 

So I wrote this down. Okay, so is it denial and anger or just denial?


June K. Collins

Well, we'll discuss both of them. Okay. We can discuss both of them. Okay. So denial for me, I didn't want to believe, and you've read my book, why I would have to go through child loss when I just went through all the trauma of his birth. And I guess I was just a little bit in denial that this can't be happening to me now. I had a lot of anger. I was angry at everybody that had children that were healthy, that treated them wrong, or what I felt was wrong at the time that took, they just didn't take advantage of them having their children. I was very, very angry at God because not only did I have to go through his traumatic birth now, I had to figure out how to deal with a child, him being gone now. Because for me, I thought the reason why he, me and him both live, both of us live was because of the fact that we were going to do it together. And now half of us were in heaven. And here I am by myself and I was angry, very, very angry at God. And I think the biggest anger came from God at that time.


Michelle Henderson 

Right, right. Yeah. Bargaining. And then I'll put depression together, bargaining and depression.


June K. Collins

I think for me, bargaining was a hard one for me. I think that not so much of, okay, well if you can change things, I can. I'll do this or I'll do something differently. Just please don't make this be happening to me and please. But I think my bargaining, a lot of my bargaining was, please help me get through this. Please help me get through this later on. That was the biggest thing. And then denial. I'm drawing a blank right now. Oh,


Michelle Henderson 

Depression.


June K. Collins

Depression. Excuse me. Okay, so depression. So my depression, I didn't even know I was going through depression. And I think that's a big thing that a lot of women that I've talked to and a lot of women that are going through it don't really understand that just because someone hasn't said you're depressed or that you don't feel depressed doesn't mean that you're not going through it. I was going through depression and didn't even know it. I think that was one of the biggest things for me. And I was one of those people that I was going to pack my grief away in a little chest and not think about it. So basically what I did was I did everything possible to make sure that I wasn't grieving. I went back to work. I started a master's degree program in forensic psychology, just anything that I possibly do not to deal with it. But I was going through depression and I went so far in my depression. I didn't have suicidal thoughts, but I always used to tell myself, well, if something happens to me, it's okay. I can go be with Caleb. And whether I came out and said it or not, that's kind of suicidal to me. You know what I mean? It's horrible to be in that place. And there's many people that live in that place, and I talk to women every day that are in that place and they don't think anything's wrong with it. And it's that deep depression. And then you also have, you don't want to do anything. I was going to work and I was talking to my parents, but I didn't want to talk to anybody else, and I just wanted to be left alone. I hated the feeling of being alone, if that makes sense. And it was just that, and depression will do that to you. And then to top it all off, I was dealing with my grief, and then I was also dealing with who I was as a person before my grief, and I talk about it in the book, but I feel the person that you are before your traumatic event, which for me, who was my child loss? You are a totally different person. So I was also having depression on the way I used to treat people the way that I used to do things and things that were important to me that now I feel guilt. I guess that kind of goes along with guilt too, is why was I so worried about these little things that mean nothing in life? And so that was part of it too.


Michelle Henderson 

Yeah. Oh, absolutely. Okay, so loneliness and reflection. Oh, I guess you already talked about reflection, but


June K. Collins

Yeah, it's so funny because especially when you're going through the depression and you're going through child loss, you want to be left alone, but you have this overwhelming feeling of being alone that no one else understands who you are as a person. And that loneliness, I think, ties into the depression. And that's where my loneliness came in, is I felt so alone that no one could possibly understand. And that was anybody no doctors could understand, no therapists could understand. And I was just in this little, I felt like I was in this little corner where I was the only person that has ever lost a child. And a lot of people get into that space when there's so many of us out there.


Michelle Henderson 

Absolutely. Okay, the last one, last two Reconstruction and acceptance.


June K. Collins

So I'll go with reconstruction first. So when I was, I can remember going through my child loss and I was pretty far into my child loss. And I can remember sitting on the couch and just thinking about my life and the way it was going. I was only 31 when Caleb died, and I was like, I can't live like this. I'm only 31 years old and you never done it. You really haven't done anything at 31. You think you did when you're that age, but you haven't done really anything in life. And I just remember saying, I can't be like this. I don't know how I'm going to do it, but I can't be like this anymore. And I just started reflecting on things that I wanted to change about myself and different things. And then I would reflect on Caleb on the good times versus the bad times, and I still do that to this day. Obviously I talk about the bad, but I reflect more on who he was and what he did and what they said he couldn't do. And I think acceptance comes in there, and I think it's the word that I can't, I, no, you'll never, I guess everybody gets confused about acceptance. Like, no, I'll never accept that Caleb's gone. Do I understand that he's gone yet? And I accept that he did pass away. Yes, I did. But I think people get confused with acceptance. You're going to accept that your child died and everything's going to be okay, and you just don't, with acceptance. I think acceptance for me anyway, was more of I accept that this did happen and that I have to work through it every day because I think not so much anymore every day, but I think that all your life, the rest of your life, you're going to have those bad days.


Michelle Henderson 

Absolutely. And when you have those bad days, and I loved how you talked about how your daughter helps you on your bad days. So it's really nice to find people that will be by your side when you have a bad day. I went to your website, and I absolutely love this because you do help other people through it, and I love this. And it says, imagine if you could begin to find peace with your child's death, you could rebuild your life while still honoring your child. You knew steps to help you on the unbearable days. You knew how to change your mindset around your loss. You could find peace and sense of healing without hiding your child's death from the world. And I love that. So if I was somebody who has lost a child, what services do you give on your website?


June K. Collins

Yeah, I have a Facebook group and there's a lot of women. I think there's 1200 of us in there now. And that is just basically, it's kind of like, I call it a group program and it's just for any woman that's lost a child or children, I do have several in there that have lost more than one child. And basically it's just a group. It's kind of like a group program and obviously it's just a Facebook group, it's free to anybody, but we kind of do it that way. And that's kind of the first step for anybody because I think there is something big in the fact that you have to be ready. You have to be ready to work towards your and rebuilding your life. And that's a huge step. And a lot of people aren't ready for that yet. So I have that group that women can go into until they're ready.

And it's just basically a program that, I did a program up and basically what I do is we just go through lessons and we talk about grief and we talk about it. Our child lost grief in a positive way because there's a positive way to do it and a negative way to do it. And I don't like the use of negative words. I'll never get over my child loss. I can't do this. So basically the way that the group is structured is we talk about we're having bad days and we talk about how we get through them. And that's kind of the way it's structured. And it's not just me talking in there. There is the most amazing 1200 women that I've ever met going through it, and they're all in different stages. So that is kind of the first step. And then obviously if somebody wants private counseling or I say counseling, coaching, we can go privately. And that's the coaching coaching that I have. I think that everybody's child loss is different. I think we're all the same. It's hard to explain, but basically I think we're all the same, but the things that bother us that keep us from rebuilding and moving forward are different. They're kind of all tied together, but they're different. And that kind of coaching is how I do one-on-one, when you need that extra by yourself, how do I get through this? This is the hardest part to me, but it just depends where you're at. But that's kind of where we go and we go from what's your biggest setback and what is keeping you from rebuilding? And we go step by step that way.


Michelle Henderson 

Oh, I love it. I love it. And of course, and I love this in the book that and okay, I got to say one thing in the book where you said you always talk to the reader, you'd say, mama, and I love that because I'm thinking she's talking to me, that kind of thing. And I love how you say you won't ever get over missing a child. You can move forward and continue with your life, but you'll never get over it. So don't let anybody tell you otherwise. So I totally agree with that. So looking at, I'm changing things here. So what inspiration statement do you like to tell people?


June K. Collins

I have, one thing I always tell them is basically when you're ready, you have to do a hundred percent, you have to be in, it's nothing you can do. But the biggest thing that I tell women all the time, no matter what, is that the day that your child died is the day that his legacy, well, for me, his legacy began, your child's legacy began the day that it, that's the day that your child's legacy begins because it's up to us. It's up to us. If you want your child to be remembered, if you want your child to keep being with you moving forward, you have to do it yourself. It's all on us. Like Caleb, and I'll use me as an example. The day that Caleb died, I could have pushed him away and put him in a chest and never talked about him again. But because I kept pushing and I learned how to deal with my child loss, Caleb lives on with people that never met Caleb. And obviously with the book and all the people that would've never met Caleb and don't know him except for my stories, they know him now and that's his legacy. And I feel with child loss, that is one of the biggest things we think we can't talk about it because you're going to upset somebody or someone's going to say something off the wall, which they do anyway. It doesn't matter. It's more tender when it's your child loss. But yeah, that's kind of my biggest thing is your legacy's going to, legacy's going to live on because of me. And it's so important for women to know that.


Michelle Henderson 

Absolutely. Absolutely. All right. Are you ready for the last question? Which is the wheel? Let me bring it on. All right. So see, this is the school teacher in me. I always tell everybody, so let's see what is going to fall upon. Oh, and I love this one for you. That's a good one. So yeah, that is an excellent one. We're talking about moving on, so I love that. So five years from now, where do you see yourself?


June K. Collins

Well, from the mom aspect of it, I see myself with a teenager working through teenager things. Bella will be 13, or excuse me, she'll be 15. So I'll be dealing with that stuff. As for me, I see more books in the future. I see my me becoming a well-known author. I'll claim it and just continue working with moms that have lost children my niche. That's what I love doing. And yeah, I guess for me too, it is like a no brainer for me, but I'll say it is like Caleb will still be in my life. I'll still have pictures up of him. My daughter will know him, my husband now, he'll continue to know him. We'll still celebrate. I don't celebrate. I used to just because it's been 11 years, but at Christmas time, I'll put up my Christmas tree for angel babies and I'll continue. One of the things that I do is I buy ornaments. Hallmark makes these seashell ornaments. And so I buy one every year and I'll keep continuing to do that to honor him. And then I'm hoping that I will be mostly on the beach. I would love to move back to Florida where I'm originally from. And I would love to be living on the beach. Well, maybe not the beach beach because of the hurricanes, but just living out there, the beach bum life. But yeah, that's kind of where I see it and still educating myself.


Michelle Henderson 

I would love to come and join you. Oh my gosh. Except I would have lots of sunscreen on. I'd be underneath an umbrella, but I get it. For me, it would be the scenery, but it's very healthy out there. Alright, so what I'll do is I will put in your Facebook group the link so that people know where to find you on that, and also your website. So I'll put all that information, but to come to a close, sometimes I do inspiration paragraph or I summarize. But what I think I really feel pulled for is think of one word that describes Caleb. I know it's hard with one word.


June K. Collins

Good Lord. Let me think about this one. Yeah, there's so many of 'em. There's


Michelle Henderson 

So many. Yeah.


June K. Collins

Yeah. God, why can't I think of a word?


Michelle Henderson 

It's okay, it's


June K. Collins

Okay. Just give me a minute. Let me think.Special. I don't know if that's the word though. Let's see. Amazing. I would say amazing. Amazing. I think everything that he did in his life and all the trials that he went through in his life, it's amazing how he made it through all of that. I mean, there's so many stories I could tell you about traumatic things that he went through and his seizure disorder and his cerebral palsy and his swallow problems and he beat 'em all. And he was still just this happy go lucky child. And it's just amazing how much someone, even as small as Caleb, a toddler, could go through so much, still have that happiness. So to me, he is just completely amazing everything he went through and still showed some kind of emotion and happiness.


Michelle Henderson 

Alright. Alright, amazing. So when I think of Caleb, I'm going to think of amazing, that one word. So thank you June so much for again sharing your journey and your life story and everybody else. I hope that you have a fantastic week and I hope that you enjoyed this episode and please share with other people who really need to know this message. Alright, I will see you next week. Bye guys.

 

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