Sunday, April 27, 2008

Going to a grief group vs reading books

Why do some bereaved parents go to a grief group?

1. We need to be with people who understand what we are going through. Only someone who has been there can identify with us completely.
2. We will find new friends and closer bonds than we ever thought possible.
3. We can be ourselves there. We can cry when we need to and not worry about being embarrassed. We can hug others whether we know the person or not.
4. We need to talk to someone who is a good listener as we remember our children and share the good memories.
5. If we are further along, we feel a need to help others who ae going through the same grief journey we are. Others were there for us when we needed them the most. Now we will be there for newer ones.
6. We feel a need to do something positive out of a horrible tragedy. Helping others in their worst moment is one way.
7. Because when we reach out to someone else, we also help ourselves.

Why do other parents read everything they can get their hands on?

1. We turn to writings of others to find help and comfort. We may feel uncomfortable being around other bereaved parents and have a hard enough time dealing with our own problems and don't want to hear other's stories in a group setting.
2. We read to see if others feel the same as we do. We want to hear other stories and compare them to our own.
3. We want confirmation that we are not crazy for 'how' we feel or 'what' we feel.
4. We want to learn from experts ways to better our lives and help our grief journey. We are so lost when this happens to us that sometimes we can't even think straight. These experts who write about stages of grief and other topics allow us to understand better what we all go through.

Whether it is through a grief group, on your own, or through reading materials, each of us has his own way of moving forward with our lives after the worst possible thing that can happen to us becomes reality. Dealing with the loss of a child is a lifelong journey, and we should deal with it in whatever way is the most helpful to each one of us.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Meeting other bereaved parents

A friend called a few weeks ago, said a friend of hers had lost a son suddenly, and felt she needed to talk to someone who had gone through similar circumstances. She was worried about her. I told her I’d be happy to talk to her friend, which I did, and we set up a date this week to have breakfast and meet.

I do so enjoy meeting other bereaved parents. We hugged; we knew what each other was feeling, no matter if 1 year or 15 years. I looked at her face. She wore no makeup, and I realized it was
because she didn’t really care what others thought of her. She is her own person: independent and totally in control of her feelings and who she is. As we spoke, I also saw how eye makeup would not have done well on her. Tears formed a lot, although never overflowing.

This was not her first tragedy. Her husband was killed in a plane crash over 35 years ago at age 36, and she has never remarried. I did not question whether she had anyone special in her life now. I did learn that she travels quite a bit and is a history and geography buff, so that when I would mention a place, she could pinpoint it exactly on a map and discuss the area, whether she had been there or not. She has one daughter, who she is close to, and some grandchildren. She is lucky in that respect.

Her son fell sick one day, went to the doctor and finally the hospital. They missed the diagnosis, she told me. They should have done a blood test while in the hospital. Then they would have known it was a rare and fatal virus her son had contacted. The pain started in his neck, and he was dead in less than 24 hours. If they had done the blood test, they could have saved him. A sudden death, just like my daughter, although in a completely different way, but sudden nevertheless. Sudden death is hard to accept. You never dream it could happen to you.

She talked about meeting Elizabeth Kubler Ross and the books on grief that she wrote. We compared notes and agreed on most aspects. She talked about not wanting to go to a grief group, like myself. And about people she believes hide in their religion. She has never once asked “Why me?” What good does it do, she said. I agreed.

She seems to be on the right path. She’ll continue to have good and bad days as we all do and will, all the days of our lives. Her son will always be with her as my daughter will always be with me. Our feelings and thought are more similar than I thought they might be at first. It both surprises and pleases me.

We talked for hours, and probably could have continued, except that I had another appointment to get to. We hugged again, this time with a little more feeling of, “I’m so sorry this has happened to both of us.” We planned to meet again, soon. After all, we have one thing in common that will always bind us together…our children, who are no longer with us.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

A special music slide project

A special project I did in memory of my daughter was a slide/music show on the computer. This is something you may want to do. You can look at it anytime, when the memories overwhelm you, or when friends and relatives come over who would appreciate seeing it.

I started out by going through every album I have from birth to death and chose the pictures I thought represented her life through candid action shots of activities she was involved in, trips she took, boyfriends she had, honors she won, and of course, family posed pictures. I wanted them to have her laughing, smiling and sometimes serious…as she was. Seeing all those pictures brought back so many good memories. I limited it down to around 50 photos (a very hard task). This can be adjusted, depending on how long the music is that you choose. But you want it to match perfectly and can start with too many and cut as you edit. Each picture should be on the screen for no more than 5-6 seconds. I think I did a picture every 4 seconds so I could get more in the time space I had. But any less time than that…you’ll get a headache trying to see everything in the photos before the next one comes up.

Next, I pondered about the music. Should it be a song she loved? One I loved? Should it have lyrics or just be instrumental? Should it be upbeat or slow and meaningful? I ended up choosing “St. Elmo’s Fire,” an upbeat instrumental song that reminded me of Marcy and seemed to go with all the pictures.

If the pictures were already on the computer, all the easier to separate out. If not, I scanned them into the computer. I tried to get them to be around the same size and not too far away. The face was the most important aspect. They were then put in age order. I am not a computer expert, but fortunately my husband is, so he put together the pictures and music to fit perfectly with a special program he has on his computer. It is a program anyone can purchase and download. Or you can have a professional do it for you.

I liked the way it turned out so much that I ended up doing one for my step-dad also and gave a copy to my step-brother. For this one I used the music Brian’s Song, a much softer, gentler type of music that match the man much better. You will know when the music is right for your subject and the pictures you have.

I wish you all luck if you do this project. It is rewarding, and I know you will be happy with the results.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Corresponding with bereaved parents

I want to thank all of you who have either responded to a blog I have written recently or sent me a personal email about your own situations. I truly love getting them, reading them and in most cases, answering them, if you have asked for a response. It is so nice to know that I can help other bereaved parents from what I have said in my blog or in my book through my own and other stories there.

This morning I opened my email and heard from a mother who had lost her 21 month old son in a car/pedestrian accident last year. She had just finished reading my book, saying it was the first one she had read since the accident, and found that reading about other parents who have lost children and what they have gone through reaffirms her own feelings. She, like many, is having a rough time. Her email has inspired me to write today’s blog.

In another email I received recently a mother said she read my book twice, enjoying it more the second time and got even more out of it. She appreciated how well I expressed what she has been and is still feeling.

And still another person said, “After reading your book, I feel less alone in this mess.”

I could go on and on about the hundreds of letters I’ve received over the years, or the ones I’ve received recently through my blog or email, but the important thing here is to emphasize to all of you reading this that corresponding with bereaved parents is a good outlet for ‘you’ to express your feelings and for the person to whom you are writing, to share theirs. By sharing you begin to realize that whatever you are feeling is probably very normal and that all of us must go through these feelings to get to the other side. What is on the other side? I call it hope. We do eventually get better, although we never forget. Time is a great healer.

I encourage you to do whatever is necessary to find a few parents in your situation and begin corresponding with them. Keep a copy of all correspondence and later on look back to see how much you’ve grown. You will see there will be growth, and there will be new beginnings you may never have dreamed could happen. There is a life on the other side that you can be a part of.

One mother sent me a thank you card after I spoke at her Compassionate Friends chapter. The note was very nice, but the quote on the front has stuck with me. “You can’t change the direction of the wind, but you can adjust your sails.” We can not bring our children back, much as we would like to, but we can still find a different type of joy in our lives and grow from there.