Monday, December 24, 2007

The greatest gift

At this holiday season I have to reflect on how lucky I am. Lucky to have a partner, my husband Lawrence, who is so loving, so caring, so full of life, so willing to be helpful in anything I need, and most of all, so understanding of me and my loss, the greatest loss of all…that of a child.

He makes sure I never forget those special days that are important to all bereaved parents. He has everything marked down in his PDA, birthdays, death anniversaries, special ceremonies. And when those days arrive, we do something special. We either light a candle and he says a short prayer, or we might go somewhere where the lost children are being honored. Every few months he says, “It’s time to go to the cemetery, visit Marcy and bring flowers.” I agree with a smile, happy that he wants to make the journey with me. We always make time in our busy lives to go together.

If I have a bad day…and after almost 14 years there are still and always will be bad days…he hugs me for as long as I need him to. He cries with me also. When we talk to others about Marcy, he gets very emotional. I watch him in awe. Here is a man, who, unfortunately, never knew my daughter (she died nine years before he and I met), yet it is as if he feels everything I feel and more. He speaks of her lovingly as though she were part of him.

It is too bad they were destined never to meet. They would have really loved each other. Marcy, too, was a giver, a sweet person who always tried to look for the good in everyone, who was always there to help a friend, and who was always loving to everyone around her.

But every day he makes me laugh. He tells me a joke or does something funny. He thanks me for laughing at his old jokes. (I don’t know they are old…and I do think they are funny!) Laughter is the most important medicine you can take. Laughter opens up your heart, makes you breathe easier, and gives you hope that today will be a good one. He says, “I love to hear you laugh. I hope a little laughter pushes out some of the sadness in your heart.” It helps.

We have known each other for less than 5 years and it’s as though he has been part of my life forever. I love you, Lawrence. You are by far the best thing that has ever happened to me. And thank you for being who you are and for loving me, the greatest gift you could ever give me.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Passing a milestone

Saturday was a real milestone for me. For the first time in almost 14 years I was able to do something I thought I’d never be able to do again. Let me explain.

When Marcy died and Lynn, her best friend, had children (naming her daughter Marcy after my Marcy) I was thrilled to become their official Godmother. As her three children grew, I became involved in their lives. Only one problem existed. If we were to go out somewhere, either Lynn or my husband Lawrence had to drive. I couldn’t drive and have the kids in the car. As long as someone else drove, I was comfortable about being in the car with them.

My Marcy was killed by an impaired driver, and in my mind, I could not take the responsibility of having Lynn’s children’s lives on my hands and wonder if another impaired driver could possibly cause an accident hurting my godchildren in any way. I realize this may have been over-reacting on my part, but that’s how I felt, and I had to follow those feelings.

For almost 11 years that is how we have operated. Lynn would bring the kids over to play or sleepover, but we never went anywhere that involved a car unless someone else could drive. This past Saturday Lynn, the kids and myself were going to the movies. Both Lynn and I had to drive to the theater separately because I had to be somewhere else right afterwards. I anticipated little Marcy wanting to drive with me, and I was right. I made a decision that it was time; I would face that demon. Marcy, of course, knew nothing of my fear and we chatted as we drove to the theater.

Was I scared? I was petrified, very nervous and, of course, very careful on a before Christmas crowded freeway with thousands going shopping. I drove slowly; I kept to the right; I looked in the mirror constantly and kept a watchful eye for any eratic drivers on the road. I made it to the theater, met Lynn and her son Jonah a few minutes later and felt really good about what I had accomplished.

No, I will not jump in with both feet, and I don’t know when I’ll be able to take all three children in my car, but as they say, one step at a time… as it was when my Marcy died…one step at a time.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Getting through the holidays

After losing a child, most of us find the holidays challenging. Do yourself a favor and try some of these suggestions to give new meaning and purpose to your lives.

LET OTHERS KNOW HOW YOU FEEL. Giving others the tools they need to help you through the holidays is a precious gift, and loved ones and friends will appreciate knowing how they can be of help and what you need from them. You, in turn, will benefit from these caring individuals.

PLAN AHEAD. Spend that special day with people you enjoy being with rather than staying at home thinking of the past. Consider taking a short trip over the holiday, perhaps a 3-4 day cruise can be enjoyable. Or go to a beach location, completely opposite of usual holiday weather.

SEND NOTES or cards that you have bought, written or had printed to special friends, including thoughts about your child or a fond memory you have that includes that person, their children and your child.

DONATE your time or your money to a school or organization your child enjoyed or perhaps help out at a hospital where needed. There are people out there who can use our help during the holidays, particularly care homes for the elderly, and it is a good way to be a friend. Caring about others adds purpose to our lives.

DECORATE a tree, a room, a fireplace with mementos of your child that you and your friends and loved ones can look at and discuss with them. They, in turn, will probably be able to contribute a memory of your child.

HELP OTHER PARENTS WHO HAVE LOST A CHILD. Invite them to your home on a special day and share good memories of both your child and theirs. We all have a special bond with parents who have gone through the same kind of loss. We understand so well.

KNOW YOUR LIMITATIONS. Grief is all consuming. When the holidays arrive, added stress places demands on your time and emotions. Don’t do too much. Try to do what is best for you at that specific time. Accommodate your current needs.

ACCEPT HELP WHEN NEEDED. Sometimes the holidays are overwhelming and you need others to help you with decorating, cooking and shopping. Those close to you are probably trying to offer support at this time. Allow them to, and you will both feel better.

BE YOURSELF. If you want to cry, then do. If you want to laugh, don’t feel guilty. You are not obligated to do anything you don’t feel like doing. Grieving is nature’s way of healing the mind and heart from the worst loss of all. This holiday is for you to hopefully begin to open your heart to the new you.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Spiritual Bereavement Recovery

I am passing along to you some information I received in the mail that some people might be interested in pursuing in dealng with their grief. It is from a certified grief recovery specialist, Christine Duminiak, who facilitates Spiritual Bereavement Recovery and who has also lost a child.

Spiritual Bereavement Recovery addresses both the emotional and spiritual sides of grief. It means learning how to reclaim your inner peace and joy after an overwhelming loss so that you will be able to reinvest in and enjoy life once again. It includes learning how to express your innermost feelings and how to recognize your own direct and personal afterlife signs that you may be receiving from your loved ones, so you will know that they are ok and with God and are still a comforting part of your life.

"My work uniquely combines the spiritual and emotional aspects of grief to help you recover from your grief in a more holistic way," said Christine. "It includes your important ongoing connections to our loved ones and to a God who cares about your pain and loves you very much."

Christine is the founder of the world-wide non-denominational group called Prayer Wave for After-Death Communications and author of the spiritual bereavement self-help book "God's Gift of Love: After-Death Communications--For Those Who Grieve." She has been a featured guest speaker on many NBC affiliates around the country, in print media and has spoken to The Compassionate Friends, MADD and other bereavement and support groups. She has been a facilitator since 1998.

"I have personally received many different types of afterlife contacts from my child and other members of my family who have died," she said. "Some of these were in the form of dreams, visions, coins, audio, music, butterflies, scents and touches. They were a key to my recovery." Christine now does phone sessions with people who want help from experts in the field. She believes phone sessions can help release feelings, help learn after contacts and signs of communication, and learn positive steps to recovery. She emphasized she is not a psychic nor a medium. For additional information, contact Christine at 215-604-0469 or email her at .