Monday, October 29, 2007

Remembering in Maui

This past week I have been in Maui. I love Hawaii and so did my daughter Marcy. We first brought her here in 1980. She loved the beach, playing in the sand and particularly picking up shells from the ocean. She continued to visit here. One time when she was older, we took her boyfriend with us; another time we took her grandmother. We eventually purchased a condo to stay in when on the island. Her last trip here was with her soon to be husband in 1993. They loved it and vowed to return. It was never to be. She died 5 months after her wedding in October 1993 in a horrific car accident. I often think of her when I am here...a younger Marcy, running free in the sand and water, lying on the pristine beaches, and picking up those seashells she was so fond of.

I pick up those seashells now as I walk along the beach. Yesterday, I saw a young girl walking towards me...a reminder of Marcy in those tiny bikinis that looked so great on her slim but perfectly curved body. The young girl runs after a dog into the ocean waters, laughing, her brown hair bouncing in the sunlight, her laughter infectious as the dog gets soaked by the currents. I stop short, close my eyes. Emotions overwhelm me, and when I finally open them again, the girl and the dog are far down the beach chasing each other. They are but a brief reminder of another life, another time, one tucked far down into my heart forever.

We get moments like this any day of the year, any hour, any minute. It is not only a moment in time, but it can also be a song that reminds us of our child, an anniversary, a birthday, a beautiful sunset, or an activity enjoyed together. Embrace those moments. They are for you alone. You will never forget them nor will you ever forget your child. And you never should.

We all have rushes of emotions that can be overwhelming when we least expect it. This does not mean we will not heal, will not continue to move forward with our lives. We are different people now than we were when our child was alive. We have different goals; different friends; different priorities and hopefully, eventually, a life with a new richness to it that focuses on what our children left us...the gift of having them.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Healing the Grieving Heart

I would recommend for anyone who has lost a child to tune in to the Thursday weekly web-radio series “Healing the Grieving Heart” at broadcast at 9 a.m. Pacific, noon Eastern time.

The show features Dr. Gloria Horsley, family therapist and Dr. Heidi Horsley, her daughter. who also helps on the show. The popular, ongoing series keys in on issues of importance to families that have experienced the death of a child and each week, a different professional, author or parent is interviewed.

The show covers such topics as: Where does sadness end and depression begin after the death of a child; faith; grief in the workplace; coping with pregnancy and infant loss, when here are no surviving children; surrendering to grief; opening your heart with yoga; and building memorials to honor your child.

Dr. Gloria Horsley has worked in the field of family therapy for 22 years and holds graduate degrees from the University of Rochester, Syracuse, Greenwich and Holos Universities. She has appeared on a number of radio and television shows including “The Today Show.” Dr. Horsley’s 17-year-old son, Scott, died in a one-car accident in 1983, prompting her relationship with The Compassionate Friends, which evolved into a commitment to help those families that have gone through the same tragic experience.

Following these broadcasts, the hour long shows are available for your review through TCF’s national website, , which has them available as streaming audio. The shows are archived as far back as June 2005, and you may choose any of the titles that appeal to you. You may also call in to their toll free number during the show and ask questions.

I was interviewed on her show January 2007 about my book, how I came to write it and techniques I and other parents use to move through the grief process. My interview is also in the archives and available for listening.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Remembrance quotes

Reading grief and recovery quotes can be a comfort to surviving family members. I have included here some of my favorites that can give us all strength, hope and a realization that we are all survivors.

Death leaves a heartache no one can heal,
Love leaves a memory no one can steal.
Irish headstone

Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, “I will try again tomorrow.”
Mary Ann Radmacher

And when we have remembered everything,
We grow afraid of what we may forget.
A face, a voice, a smile? A birthday? An anniversary?
No need to fear forgetting, because the heart remembers always.
…Sascha Wagner

“Hope” is the thing with feathers…
That perches in the soul…
And sings the tune without words…
And never stops at all…
Emily Dickenson

One of the hardest things in life to learn is which bridge to cross and which bridge to burn.
Anais Nin

Flowers are the spirits of the children whose footsteps have passed from the earth, but reappear each year to gladden the pathway of those now living.
Cowlitz Indian Legend

When you are sorrowful, look again in your heart,
And you shall see that in truth you are weeping
For that which has been your delight.
from The Prophet
by Kahill Gibran

To weep is to make less the depth of grief.
William Shakespeare

You cannot prevent the birds of sorrow from flying overhead, but you can prevent them from building nests in your hair.
Chinese Proverb

Wherever you are, I am there also.

What we have once enjoyed deeply we can never lose. All that we love deeply becomes a part of us.
Helen Keller

To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.
Thomas Campbell

We Remember Them…

In the rising of the sun and in its going down,
We remember them;

In the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter,
We remember them;

In the opening of buds and in the warmth of summer,
We remember them;

In the rustling of leaves and the beauty of autumn,
We remember them;

In the beginning of the year and when it ends,
We remember them;

When we are weary and in need of strength,
We remember them;

When we are lost and sick at heart,
We remember them;

When we have joys we yearn to share,
We remember them;

So long as we live, they too shall live
For they are now a part of us as
We remember them.

from Gates of Prayer,
Judaism Prayerbook

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Angel of Hope

Many states have an Angel of Hope Memorial, giving all bereaved families the opportunity to memorialize the loss of their child. The statue is a dove-winged angel, whose face is that of a child's, its arms raised as a child to be lifted. In its wings are HOPE.

Richard Paul Evans' book, The Christmas Box, was the impetus for this memorial. The story is of a woman who mourns the loss of her child at the base of an Angel Monument. As a result of this story, the Angel Monument was introduced to the public and is now known world-wide as the Christmas Box Angel. Although Evans' book is mostly fiction, the Angel Monument once existed in Salt Lake City, but it is speculated that a flood destroyed the original statue. Evans commissioned a new Angel statue in response to reports that grieving parents were actually seeking out the Angel as a place to mourn and heal. At its dedication there was no division in race, in religion, or in class. Just one heart huddled together for shelter from life's storms to find peace and hope at the base of the Angel.

This statue has provided comfort and solace to thousands of parents since 1995 and many states now have their own Angel statues due to the dilligence and dedication of bereaved parents who have made it happen through donations. There are opportunities for donors to receive recognition on a wall as well as a plaque for their loved one in many of these states. Find out if your state has one and if they don't, perhaps it is a project you can work on and make happen in your area.

Each year on the second Sunday in December at 7 p.m., there is a world-wide candle lighting for all children who have died. Many communities have these at the site of the Angel. Others plan the ceremony at a local park, church or cemetery area. To find out more about the ceremonies, contact Compassionate Friends website at . If interested in information about starting an Angel of Hope Memorial in your community, contact Hansen's Mortuary in Scottsdale, Arizona. There is one there on the cemetery property, and it is a beautiful tribute to all our chidren.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Starting your own grief support group

I would encourage anyone, who needs the help of a support group to deal with the death of a child, to start their own if there is none in the area in which you live. The group does not need to be part of a national group of bereaved parents. It can serve any purpose you need in your own area of the country.

In order to get started, the local newspaper should be contacted to see if they will do a story in the paper about your first and subsequent meetings. Flyers can be placed in hospitals, funeral homes and religious institutions. Local hospice groups in each state can help. Contact one of the national bereavement organziations for any information or encouragement to get started. See what happens and who you meet. It can be the beginning of a new life that has new goals and new priorities in it. (See previous blogs that have the national organization information in them.)

Through the encouragement of another bereaved parent, I brought 10 bereaved parents together in my community, both mothers and fathers, who have specifically lost their only child or all their children. Hopefully, through these parents we will get others. We now have a place to talk about our children and share fond memories, laugh, enjoy a cup of coffee and discuss coping techniques. We are all in differnt stages of the grief journey, from a few months to over 15 years. Our children were all different ages when they died. Causes of deaths range from car accidents and illnesses to drug overdoses and suicides among others. We feel comfortable sharing and enjoy each other's company.

The group you start doesn't have to be for only childless parents. You can combine forces for a meeting and then break up into smaller groups within the meeting, such as: childless and those with surviving children. Or you can have groups by the number of years the child is gone: 1-5 years, 6-10 years, and over 10 years. There are many ways of running these groups, and I encourage you to try to put one together.

Everyone going through the grief process should know that it eventually becomes bearable. You don't heal from grief. It is with you your entire life. But you can live with it; it becomes a softer grief. You will eventually find something useful and suitable to do with your life and in doing so will honor your children's life. Many people in my book "I Have No Intention of Saying Good-bye" talk about what they have done to remember their child or children. It is comforting for them to tell their story; it is heartwarming for me to write about them. They are brave parents. They have accomplished a lot since their child died and they have made a difference. I hope that everyone going through this unbearable loss will one day make a difference. That is when you will know you are on the other side of grief. And these support groups can start you in that direction.