Sunday, July 27, 2008

Remembering on Marcy's birthday

Today, July 27, is Marcy’s 42nd birthday. Although she is not with me physically, she is always with me in everything I do and always in my heart and thoughts. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of her and what her life (and my life) would have been like if she was still alive. I see her friends that now have their own children and think about how I will never be a grandmother because she was my only child. I continue to be happy for her friends and only wish them well.

I think of how my life has changed since her death and how I have grown into a different person with different priorities. It didn’t happen overnight. Grief takes a long time and is a long road with many dips and curves along the way. Eventually, I did find my way, and I hope that all of you reading this will hopefully find a full life again, with smiles, laughter, new friends and new activities.

In my new life I have a new husband, caring and thoughtful as anyone would ever want; my daughter’s best friend Lynn and I are very close; and I am the godmother of Lynn and Marc’s children. Their daughter is also named Marcy, after my Marcy. I was honored to have the same name used, and strangely enough, when I look at their Marcy, I notice a similarity in looks, but I don’t dwell on it. She is a completely different human being, and I love her for who she is. I was afraid my Marcy would be forgotten now that there is a new Marcy, but I was wrong. Lynn will never forget Marcy, as I won’t. I know that Lynn’s Marcy is aware of what happened to my Marcy and in most school essays I’ve seen her write, she acknowledges she is named after my Marcy, as though it is important to her.

To go along with this, my husband’s daughter was also born on July 27… but a different year. Isn’t life strange, to have that in common with my new husband of two years. I have noticed that her personality and my Marcy’s are the same. Must be that astrological stuff, I tell myself. I’m glad she’s in my life also, although she lives far away, and I only see her twice a year. We get along beautifully, and she is a charming, bright girl that my husband is very proud of, as well he should be.

With all these good things now in my life, it really helps when the pain comes. And it always does, but I suspect it always will. That’s all right, I tell myself. Out of grief comes a new understanding of what is really important in life.

Today, I will spend the day thinking of Marcy, playing the only two tapes I have of her, look at pictures, visit the cemetery where I will place new silk flowers next to her grave, and go through some of her things I have left…not much…but enough to remember most everything important. Marcy touched so many lives and made a difference to so many people. I continually hope that others will also think of her today and in the days to come.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

A weekend to remember

I spent this weekend remembering Marcy at the National Compassionate Friends Conference in Nashville, TN. It was a wonderful conference attended by more than 1,400 people from across the U.S. We came together to not only remember our children but also to talk about different issues we comfront on a daily basis.

I was in charge of three workshops: Coping Techniques for the Now Childless, A Panel Discussion for those who lost their only child or all their children and a sharing session. I met wonderful mothers and fathers and got reaquainted with those I knew from former conferences. Besides childless sessions there were many sessions for those with surviving children such as grief stress, multiple loss, sudden death, moving from loss to legacy, what to do with a child's belongings, marriage and communication after a child's death, organ donation, healthy and unhealthy grief, signs from our children, anger and guilt, humor grief and scrapbooking, just to name a few...over 100 in all to choose from.

In addition to sessions, there were guest speakers like author Ann Hood (The Kniting Circle), who also lost a child and Darrell Scott, whose daughter Rachel was the first killed in the Columbine school shootings. Both of these were emotionally charged sessions that held your attention for the full time alloted.

Sharing sessions at night, where we all got in large circle and discussed our situations was probably the most popular time. Only there can you shed your mask and be yourself, cry, laugh or do whatever you need to do as you tell your own story while others listen attentively.

I spent time in the bookstore selling my book, but also meeting very warm, interesting parents who couldn't stop telling me how much they loved my title and agreed with it!

The crying, the laughter, the squeals of delight to see long ago friends kept assulting my ears, but it was seeing the hugs (much longer than a normal hug) of both men and women who understood what the others were feeling touched me deeply. In some cases I was one of those people.

On display throughout the lobby of the conference area were boards and boards of children's pictures labeled with poems or some information about them...beautiful children from infancy to adults who died way too young, some of whom would never know marriage and children of their own. It was hard to believe these beautiful children were all gone, more than 1,600 of them...some families losing two and three.

Siblings also attended, 270 of them, and at the closing session sang for the entire group. Siblings are sometimes forgotten during those first dark days. In addition they held sessions to help them cope and also made lifelong friends in the process.

We all make lifelong friends at these conferences because no one understands like another bereaved parent that can identify with you. This is only one of many held throughout the U.S. during the year. Think about attending one. It is truly an experience of a lifetime and one you will not soon forget. Next year's TCF conference is in Portland, OR, the first week in August. Check the TCF website later in the year for more information on it: . And send me a email for other conferences during the year.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

A Gift of Remembrance

Sometimes in the mist of everyday living something special happens that you know you will keep in your heart forever. For me that something special happened this past month.

Out of nowhere I received a letter from Marcy’s first high school boyfriend from 25 years ago, a very personal letter in which he opened his heart about what Marcy meant to him. Fourteen years is a long time to wait to write such a letter, but just the fact that it was sent at all was so very special to me.

He found me because of an article in a newspaper about my foundation in Marcy’s memory, which also names my book, hence finding my email address.

I remember this young gentleman as being very sweet, kind to Marcy, and full of life and laughter. He spent time at our home and reminded me of a couple of times when he was invited to dinner, how they hiked up the mountain near the house and the trips he took with us. I had completely forgotten those times, but he still remembered. How much those times must have meant to him. It gave me an insight into his heart and how it, too, must have been broken when they split up and then when he heard she had died ten years later.

Mostly, he spoke of what Marcy had meant to him and how very special she was, a confirmation of everything I feel also. Since this gentleman didn’t know any of Marcy’s more recent friends, it is amazing how closely the feelings and reactions from him are attuned to what most everyone said about her in other letters to me after her death. The phrases: amazing energy, had so much to give to the world, brought so much light unto others, we are all better for having known her…all so typical of how others saw her. And now another person added to the list. Most amazing was the fact that Marcy died on this gentleman’s birthday, March 2.

I don’t know whether it was intentional or not, but after reading his letter, I still do not know much about him and what he has done with his life. I would like to know, but that may not be meant to be. His letter only concentrated on Marcy, and then he offered me his deepest sympathy.

Thank you, young man, for the gift of remembrance…a gift that came from your heart and now has touched mine forever.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

How Can We Help?

“How can we help?” Parents, relatives and friends have asked that question of bereaved parents... perhaps even to you. Were you reluctant to answer? Here are 10 suggestions of what you may want to say to others to keep communication lines open and promote understanding of your situation.

1. Encourage me to talk about my child and truly listen to what I have to say. You may learn something you never knew that could be of help in how you react to me.
2. Call and ask me to go out with you to lunch, shopping or a movie. Our minds will be free from thinking about our child for a few hours.
3. Have a shoulder ready that I can cry on. At any moment I can lose control of my emotions for any reason. It can be a song I hear on the radio, an anniversary I can no longer share or a special holiday.
4. Be around for me if I need anything and can’t seem to get it done. It could be just changing a light bulb, cleaning the house or shopping for food. There will be times I can’t move and other times I feel exhausted. Try to understand these times.
5. Encourage me to start a new project, join a new organization, or volunteer at someplace that could use our expertise. Perhaps a new job or new environment could help me. Talk to me about it.
6. Understand that I will never be the same and accept the new ‘me.’ Accept that I may now have new goals I never dreamed of before my child died.
7. Encourage me to get rest, stay healthy and exercise. I may not want to do it at first, but keep trying to get me out of the house and not sit alone with my memories.
8. Remember my child during the year with a note about a birthday, a thinking of you card, or a happy memory or thought.
9. Respect the fact that I may not want to participate in some activities. I may now have different priorities and some things are no longer important to me.
10. Just be there for me. Silence is okay. Saying “I’m sorry” is adequate.

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Elaine, thanks for your comment on my Men's Grief blog, June 22. I agree with you completely. Women do grieve in much the same way, but I think men are often forgotten in this grief process, and I wanted to acknowledge that their grief is just as important as a woman's. I have seen in many situations friends asking how the wife is doing, but not necessarily the husband. Most of my comments about grief in this weekly blog are from the heart of a woman. My intention was not to leave out the woman's feelings in this process, but honor the father's also.

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Nancy, who lost her son very recently, sent me an email which I appreciated. It is good to correspond with her, and I hope she seeks some type of help and not go through this alone. It can be a grief group, a counselor, a local or national conference, or reading books that will acknowledge feelings we all encounter. Keep reading my blog and go back and read them all from August '07. It will give lots of info on a variety of grief subjects and personal experiences by others.