Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Earthquake

Out of the blue one day last week, someone brought up the 1994 Northridge Earthquake in the Los Angeles area. Oh, yes, that was part of a heartbreaking year, when my daughter was in a fatal car crash. Remembering that year, the earthquake triggers some fond memories, certainly not of the damage, destruction and death of many people, but of what transpired that morning of January 17. I received a phone call from my daughter asking if I had heard the news. I looked at the bedside clock which read 6:30 a.m. and said, “No, I was sleeping. What happened?” My daughter told me they had just experienced an earthquake of around 6.1 where she lived with her husband in Sherman Oaks, and she was under the kitchen table!” “Don’t worry, she said, we’re all right, and I called to let you know that.” (Always so thoughtful and considerate). I smiled. “Nothing was damaged,” she continued, but she called me first and needed to make another call to her dear friend’s mother in Tucson to let her know that her daughter was on the East Coast that week and that she didn’t have to worry about her. “Okay, I said. “I’m glad you called me.”

When my daughter died two months later, her friend’s mother came to the funeral. She said it was because she wanted to face me and let me know what a special daughter I had and how much she appreciated that call two months earlier. To myself I said, I know she was special, but it was still great hearing it from others.

All that month and for many after, I received many cards and letters telling me how special she was to others, and it always warmed my heart. Many years later, I even heard from her first boyfriend, who I think always had special feelings for her even after she broke up with him. He told me that it had taken him a long time to get up the courage to write me to let me know how much she meant to him and still does. He reminisced about many events we all shared, again bringing back wonderful memories for both of us.

Every time I hear someone mention 1994, I always associate it with the death of my daughter. It could be a casual remark someone makes about the O.J. Simpson murders, a marriage, a divorce, the death of a well-known personality such as Nixon or Jacqueline Kennedy, a sports team winning a championship or a statistic comparing the population growth then and now. My heart skips a beat when that year is mentioned, even now, more than 22 years later. I want to shout, “Hey, my daughter was beautiful inside and out, and I don’t want her to be forgotten.”  I know I never will.

Because of all the people who loved her, I know that will never happen. And I have made sure of that through all the meaningful things I have done in her memory including setting up a perpetual foundation to give financial aid to college students to finish their degrees.

Not a day goes by that I don’t think of my daughter, who died far too young. She had so much to do, so much to give…And after the pain that accompanies memories of people long since gone, I remember all the good times and the wonderful people I have met while I try to help others deal with their loss as I know my daughter would have wanted to do.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Writer Found Grief Books Helpful With Personal Loss

I  found that when my daughter died, I didn’t want to go to bereavement groups and listen to everyone who sat in a circle, crying and telling their story. It was very sad seeing and listening to those people, and I wanted to do something to lift myself up, not dig a deeper hole that I could crawl into and feel safe. I turned to books also, grief books that had ideas and passages I could identify with. Not all books were helpful, but as I read everything I could get my hands on at the time (and there wasn’t that much in 1994) I could say, “yes, I feel that way too” or “no, I don’t agree with that.”

Everyone has his own way of facing the grief that comes with losing someone you love. Writer Alex Weiss found that books helped him deal with personal loss in eight important ways.

Here are Weiss’ eight ways books helped him heal from loss. I agree with most of what he says. See if you can relate also. Remember, this is a summary of his thoughts only.

Books reminded me I wasn’t alone. I could find similarities in characters who dealt with death who felt lost and confused. It helped me feel less lonely and made me realize just how many possible realities are out there, how many people deal with what I’m going through, and that I’m certainly not alone in how I feel.

Books showed me there are so many things worth living for. When you lose someone you love, it can seem as if the entire idea of living worthless. But it didn’t take long for books to show me how many beautiful things exist in the world and the millions of paths one can take. Even though positive outcomes are hard to imagine during loss, books showed me there will always be something worth living for.

Books didn’t bullsh*t the hard stuff. Guidance counselors, therapists and friends all try so hard to make things better when you lose someone. The human instinct is to reassure a person in pain that it will get better. But when every part of you hurts, that isn’t exactly what you need to hear. What you do need is for someone to tell you the truth of how sucky this is, and that’s exactly what some authors and characters showed me.

Books showed me how to process emotions in a healthy way.  Books helped me realize how important it is to focus on each emotion – heartache, anxiety, inspiration, growth—ort through them and really try to understand why I’m feeling the way I am. And that in itself is a life lesson worth learning whether you’ve experienced personal loss or not.

Books taught me that a short life isn’t a bad life. One of the things I struggled with most is that this person close to me hadn’t been able to live out the amazing life she/he deserved. It took a few books that dealt with death and the loss o young lives that made me realize it doesn’t matter how many years you have, it matters most in how you live them.

Books inspired me to learn and grow from loss. Books gave me a reason to actively search for good in the world, and ever since, I’ve been committed to taking time out of every day to stop, look and find something to smile or be grateful about. Experiencing death takes a different toll on everyone, and while the lessons may not appear right away like they do in books, you will grow and take something positive away.

Books have never made me feel bad for feeling bad. This is probably the most powerful and important lesson I got out of reading a lot during my stages of grief. When years started to pass but I still felt the pain of loss just as strongly, if not worse, my friends and family around me didn’t feel as approachable. I started to feel bad for feeling bad, as if there’s something wrong with me and I should just move on already. The thing is, books never told me there was a time limit. They told me it was okay to feel bad, that it was okay to feel happy, that it was okay to move on when it felt right to me, and not to move on when it wasn’t. Books empowered me then, and they continue to do so every time I pick one up—and I can’t imagine my life without them.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Sudden vs. Anticipated Death

Sometimes the question comes up, “Which is harder: sudden death or anticipated death?” Would  it be better to know your child is dying and being able to say ‘good-bye’ and live life filled with lots of things you could do together, or is no preparation in the event of a sudden car accident or such, easier on the parents.

Many people have been interviewed on this topic and all have a variety of opinions. There isn’t one better choice. Death will bring the same shock, whether you knew it was coming or didn’t. What you do need is the same support from others. You will need more support systems with anticipatory loss and not as much with sudden death.

In sudden death, you didn’t get to say good-bye. That is the common complaint. According to death specialist Darcie Sims, “We never say good-bye.” I found this to be so true and the title of my first book reflects this idea.

But no matter how you look at it, there is incredible pain. Regardless of your loss, it is important to get support from those who had someone die the same way. You will feel a particular bond with them. Hope is the main goal of Compassionate Friends and that is what they try to do, give hope, when you feel there is none there. TCF provides the opportunity to connect with others and eventually you will find joy again.

Different people try different ways of self-help. One father had massages, exercised, moved around a lot and did a lot of reflection. One mother felt yoga was very beneficial, as was hiking. She said she would get a sense of serenity in doing one of these activities. Another mother made baskets of stuff for bereaved. She thought it would help others and ended up starting an organization to this goal. She also did a lot of running and just getting out of the house to clear her mind. Another father said that anything that gets you out of bed and taking that next step is helpful. He also said he got great support and information from TCF that allowed him to reach out and help others as well as himself. Still another mother said golf and getting into nature, allowed her to do a lot of searching. With that in mind, she met a lot of fabulous people who helped her and that she also helped.

All these people give a few realistic goals you can set for yourself: (1) self care- drink a lot of water and breathe; take care of your body (2) find a safe person to talk to; family doesn’t want to hear it all the time and (3) find something that brings you joy.

We can grow through grief. Set goals of where you’re going to be in the future and strive to reach them. Some will tell you it doesn’t get better, but it really does. You can find joy in doing what makes you happy and through people coming into your life who truly understand what you are going through.

A wave can knock you down again and again, but one day you’ll get on top of that wave and move on to find hope again.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Recent Comments On My Blog Postings

Editor's Note: I really appreciate the comments sent to me about my blogs. At the end of most of the comments is the name of the blog read and commented on and some have given me their real names. This year at the national TCF conference I even met some of you. So many bereaved parents and each one reacts differently to their loss. I wish it was possible to talk to and see all of you, but that is not possible. I hope that you have found some way of coping now and that some of what I've said in my over 460 blogs has led you to a more positive look at your situation. I'm sorry that I had to suspend comments directly on the site, but I was getting unnecessary spam. If you'd like a personal answer, you can send me an email. The email address is on the right side of each blog.          Sandy Fox

I cannot move beyond the loss of my son. on Grief chat rooms and email support
Maggi Crowston-Boaler
on 8/17/16
Our son was diagnosed with Duchene muscular dystrophy when he was six.My wife was pregnant (one month) and we had another daughter. We discovered my wife is a carrier and we know both our daughters are carriers too,HE died when he was 15 She carries a lot of guilt with her.The pain s ever present, i can crack up at just the mention of his name and our marriage such as it is, could not get much more sterile on The divorce rate

We lost our sixteen year old daughter to suicide ,with her being our only child ,it has been extremely tough we have been married 20+ years , grief has played a big factor in my wife wanting a divorce after three months of losing our daughter, I was completely caught off guard when she told me , I have had to leave it to god to help with both losses , there is good days and not as good but we all must get up try to go about life & I am a believer that time will help heal , our loved one will always be in our heart.
on 7/23/16
I am a single parent that lost my only child in sept 2015 and i can honestly say this is the only thing that actually made sence. Gave me a silver lining in some ways. Thank you on Coping As a Single Bereaved Parent
on 7/20/16
We lost our son eight years ago. Your words resonate completely with my own experience of loss and grief. My son will be with me forever, and ever. Thanks for your post! on My New Reality
on 4/20/16
Sandy, May I include this article and the information you're providing in the Piedmont, VA TCF chapter newsletter??? I will attribute it, of course. onKnot My Baby and First Candle Organizations to Help the Bereaved
on 3/23/16
My email is on Valentine's Day 2016
on 2/14/16
Hey Sandy, I would love to interview you about your books for an article I am writing on grief. Do you have an email I may reach? on Valentine's Day 2016
on 2/14/16
Thank-you. on Class Reunion Jitters
on 10/23/15
My daughter passed away in January and I am still learning how to answer that awful question: how many children do you have? I don't want to tell the truth and ruin someone's day, but I don't want to lie and do a disservice to her memory. I applaud you for being honest and for honouring your daughter. One day I hope to do the same, at the moment all I do is change the subject... Love and strength to you ❤️ on Class Reunion Jitters
on 10/3/15
I agree, as a trama therapist, fellow blogger, and someone who recently lost a 22 year old, I find that I sometimes feel responsible for holding other peopl';s grief. Silence is golden on Calling On the Bereaved
on 9/24/15
We are approaching one year since our baby girl was taken from us. I created a blog to try and write about my feelings since I have a hard time talking in person about them. Is this something that is healthy to do? Would you mind reading it and letting me know what you think? I'm just trying to find ways to cope. on Calling On the Bereaved
on 9/21/15
Hi Sandy, I am an author publicist and wanted to know if I could send you offers for free review copies of books on grief, when available, seeking editorial/review on your touching site? Thanks, Beck on Richard Edler Words of Wisdom
on 9/9/15
Awwwww Thank You!!!! I had a great Great Chat with a mom last night her name is NANCY.......Your blog is great!!!! Call me lets chat....... 503 901 7900 on Tears To Triumph-Creating With Sea Glass
Deb Hart
on 8/11/15
Wonderful posting, Sandy!! on Supportive Husbands
on 7/21/15

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Books To Help Young People Cope

Adults are always trying to make sense of the death of a loved one. This is especially true of a child. We know how hard it is for us, so it must be just as hard for children to understand and accept a sibling’s death or a grandparent or parent. Young children will most likely have questions about why death happens and what happens to the people they love after they are gone.

There are a number of books written to provide children with a sense of comfort and to help them understand their feelings of sadness and grief. It is an education all children should have in their life, so that when they are confronted with death of a sibling, parent, or grandparent, their reactions are normal. Here are a few of the books, aimed at 4 years and older.

Muddles, Puddles and Sunshine by Diana Crossley, is an activity book designed to help children ages four and older deal with their feelings after losing a loved one. The activities range from arts and crafts to journaling and allow the child to make sense of the concept of death.

Ladder to the Moon by Maya Soetoro-Ng is a story about a young girl who wants to connect with her late grandmother whom she has never met. When a ladder appears at the girl’s bedroom window, she is able to take a magical journey with her grandmother. The author, who is also President Obama’s sister, was inspired by her own daughter’s questions about her grandmother, who passed away before she was born.

When Dinosaurs Die by Laurie and Marc Brown, offers is a straightforward explanation for young readers about the meaning death, funerals and other concepts dealing with loss. The answers to the questions are designed to spark conversations between children and their parents about feelings.

God Gave Us Heaven by Lisa Bergren and Laura Bryant, who can give younger readers who have questions about what happens to their loved ones after death, a sense of comfort. In the book, a little cub’s father describes Heaven as a beautiful, happy place where loved ones go after they have died.

I Miss You: A First Look At Death by Pat Thomas, explains death to young children in gentle, basic terms that they can understand without subscribing to any particular religious belief. The book explains that death is a natural part of life and that grief is a normal feeling when a loved one is lost. 

Missing Mummy by Rebecca Carr, is a moving story about a little boy who’s mother has died. The story is told from the boy’s perspective, and gives the reader a closer look at all of the emotions a child can experience after losing a parent.

If you are part of a family who has recently experienced loss, perhaps one of these books can help. Allow a child the time they may need to process their grief . Don’t hesitate to seek professional help, if needed.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

A Word of Hope

A Word of Hope
by Sandy Fox

I’ll walk beside you, I’ll be your friend,
Many can’t understand as I do,
How hard this can be.
Grief is powerful
Death of a child is catastrophic
We can’t undo the tragedy,
But we can learn from it.
You have already survived the worst part,
Don’t let it take you down too far,
You will lose friends, 
Change your address book many times,
Take out names of people you thought were friends,
Change your goals and priorities,
Change how you see the world,
You may have regrets, but push on.
You will feel your child in everything you do
That is good. You don’t want to lose that.
One day your smile will return,
So will your laughter,
You will be whole again
And feel good about yourself and others,
You will never be the person you were before the death,
You will never forget what happened,
But you can create a new normal, a rich meaningful life
That includes all those you care about and love.
Make the most of your life and continue breathing.

‘Hope’ will always keep you going.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

September 11, Fifteen Years Later

Today, September 11, is the 15th anniversary of the most horrific terror event to ever occur on U.S. soil, the fall of the twin World Trade Center towers. I can tell you where I was on that day at that hour as I’m sure millions of people can. It is a day we will never forget.

I had arrived in New York at 3 a.m. that morning (my plane from Phoenix had mechanical problems and was 5 hours late). I checked into a Days Inn Hotel in Newark, N.J. and awoke around 9 a.m., turned on the TV and saw what was happening.

I was in New York and New Jersey to publicize my new book on surviving grief, “I Have No Intention of Saying Good-bye,” that had just been published. I had contacted bookstores in the area and a TV station, where I was going to be interviewed. Needless to say, the interview didn’t happen that day, nor for the next seven days that I was stuck in the area because of plane cancellations. Too much was going on, and the TV station was kind enough to let me come back months later for the interview. The bookstores and compassionate friends groups where I was to speak let me go on with the show. But as you can guess, the bookstores were quite empty; everyone was at home or visiting those they knew who were part of the tragedy. The compassionate friends groups had a good turnout and most commented as to how timely my book was then.

A few days after getting home I was contacted by the FBI and asked if I had seen anything that night or the next morning. I hadn’t. It turns out that one of the hijackers was right next door to me. Pretty scary!

We now have a beautiful, poignant memorial in place along with a museum and many memories. Thousands come every day to see it and especially on 9/11 to honor those killed, first responders and everyone who helped to save lives in the aftermath. In the classroom teachers are utilizing age-appropriate lesson plans and teaching students about the importance of remembering 9/11. On social media, you can share your acts of commemoration, tributes and/or messages of remembrance with hashtag #Honor911 or be part of the volunteer efforts.

Since 2001, individuals and organizations have responded to 9/11 with service and volunteer efforts, many supporting the philanthropic wishes and interests of those killed on 9/11. In 2009, this work was formally acknowledged and supported with the establishment of the September 11 National Day of Service and Remembrance. Organized by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNRS), a federal agency, the official page can be found here: . Download tool kits for the National Day of Service and Remembrance that offer resources for "do-it-yourself" and age-appropriate discussions around service and 9/11.

It is dedicated to keeping alive the spirit of unity and compassion that arose in response to the 9/11 attacks. They promote the annual observance of September 11 as a day of charitable service and doing good deeds. Many ways exist for you to get involved on this day.

In the museum, the memorial exhibition, In Memoriam, commemorates the lives of those who perished on September 11, 2001 and provides visitors with the opportunity to learn about the men, women and children who died. Visitors enter the exhibition along a corridor in which portrait photographs of the nearly 3,000 victims form a "Wall of Faces," communicating the scale of human loss.

Nearby, touchscreen tables allow visitors to discover additional information about each person, including photographs, images of objects and audio remembrances by family, friends and coworkers. Rotating selections of personal artifacts are also featured. An inner chamber presents profiles of individual victims in a dignified sequence through photographs, biographical information and audio recordings.

If you have something you’d like to contribute to the museum, get in touch with  them.