Sunday, August 31, 2008

A message of hope

One mother who I know quite well lost her only child, Valerie, almost twenty years ago. In a recent writing for a bereavement newsletter, she offers hope to those who are just beginning their grief journey. I find that it can be very comforting to those newly bereaved and even those a few years down the road to hear from others on how they have survived and moved forward with their lives. (That is how my book came about.) I am pleased to include Francine’s honest appraisal of what she felt and did with her life and how we can all renew our lives in the face of unbearable sorrow.

“This is a message of hope…a message that you will heal with time. Well, heal somewhat. I don’t think we ever truly “heal.” We never get over the death of our child, especially an only child as in my case.

Time helps. Your child still lives in your heart, in your memory. With time, you start living another life, a different life…a life not as a parent but a life as a spouse, as a family member, as a friend, and as a career person.

The possibilities are so wide…you can sponsor charities in the name of your child and have his/her memory relived through other people’s lives. You can give of your own person to assist people in distress. After what happened to us, we understand hardship, and we feel compassion. We are capable of reaching out.

There is no use dwelling forever upon one’s grief. We have to live with the living. My daughter, Valerie, was 16 when she died. She has now been dead longer than she lived. To this day I still miss her dearly and think of her every day, several times a day. But in the course of those twenty years, I have volunteered for several charities: the UNICEF shop, the Florence Nightingale Foundation, and programs that take care of the elderly. I also became the godmother of several children in third world countries. How rewarding to be able to help those young people to get a decent start in life.

Sometimes I have the feeling that Valerie is helping me in my everyday life. And, of course, there is always the supreme reward: the hope of seeing my child again in the afterlife. What a soothing, enlightening perspective. Be positive. It helps.”

As a footnote to my friend's message, she sponsored this 4-year-old girl in Chile with letters and money and helped her finance her nursing schooling. She is now 22-years-old, a registered nurse and works for the Armada de Chile, Chilean Navy. Francine also had the pleasure of visiting and meeting her five years ago. She is so proud of this child's great success story. Other children Francine has sponsored were from the Philippines, Guatemala and India. The cost of supporting a child is only $30 a month through the CFCA at .

I invite anyone who would like to share their perspective with others on the ways they have survived grief, to email me, and I will try to include your voice in upcoming weeks.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Signs from our children

Mothers have an uncanny way of knowing exactly about their child’s health, and in Susan’s case, it was gratifying to have the head of pediatrics realize it when he said to her “You knew all the time, didn’t you?” Susan did. He had no clue how she could have known that her daughter was dying because the doctors kept reiterating until the day the baby died that she would be fine.

Susan’s baby was born with multiple physical birth defects and was in and out of the hospital many times during the first 8 months of her life before she died. Doctors insisted that when she got a little older they could operate on her and she’d be fine. But little was known in those days about many of her defects and doctors assumed wrongly that she would be okay.

Susan spent as much time as possible with the baby. Things just got worse and Susan knew. She went to a spiritual counselor to talk about this feeling she had that her baby wouldn’t make it. The counselor went into a trance, told her the baby would not live long, described the physical disabilities, hitting everything right on. Susan believes this counselor felt everything the baby felt as she was dying. What the counselor said validated Susan’s feelings and helped her cope.

Susan says that her baby was her greatest teacher. She believes the baby was an old soul—all knowing. She explained that it was like the baby was looking into her soul and that there was a peace about the baby that Susan had never felt before.

The spiritual counselor said the baby wanted to learn one more thing before she died: how to accept love without being able to give it. She couldn’t physically put her arms out to be held and she couldn’t give anything back. She had a huge presence about her that Susan will never forget.

Susan remembers one incident in the hospital right before the baby died that confirmed her belief that people, on some level, know they’re leaving, even little ones. The baby put her arms up, crying like she wanted to be held, something she had never been able to do before. A nurse Susan had never seen before, sitting in the corner of the room, said to her, “Do you want to hold the baby?” She had never been able to hold her before because of all the complications and disabilities. She picked her up and could see in her baby’s eyes that she was trying to tell her something. Then the baby started gasping, and she had to put her down. The baby died later that night. To this day, Susan believes the nurse in the room was an angel. And the baby was telling her goodbye and that everything was okay. She believes it was an amazing experience, one she’ll never forget. Many have had unexplained experiences where children have sent parents signs with whispers of love.

The death of the baby ended her marriage, but Susan admits that she was in the marriage for all the wrong reasons. Susan found help with the Center for Living With Dying, Hospice and learning Reiki, an ancient Japanese hands-on healing modality meaning soul power and reminding us of our ability to heal ourselves.

Susan continues to this day to work in the grief field to help others and has come to understand the meaning of her life and her purpose here on earth. She believes it was because of a small baby who came into her life for a very short but meaningful time, a child who taught Susan about unconditional love.

(Portions of this story were condensed from Susan’s entire story that is one of the 25 in my book.)

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Additional sources for bereaved parents

In my last blog I listed some chat rooms for bereaved parents. Here are additional sources for your perusal. Next week I will tell you a story about a very spiritual person and her young baby who died.

Fernside Online A non-profit, non-denominational organization serving grieving children and their families. This site encourages sharing stories, feelings, and memories with trusted friends, honoring the search for new beginnings.

Hygeia Just as despair can be given..only by another human being, hope, too can be given..only be another human being. An online journal for pregnancy and neonatal loss.

MISS (Mothers in Support and Sympathy) An organization with the mission of providing a safe haven for parents to share their grief after the death of a child.

Angel Child Legacies This site offers parents the opportunity to celebrate the life of their child or children by submitting the child’s legacy to the site. Help with saying “just the right thing” is offered.

Angel Hugs Real help to get through the bad times like holidays, birthdays, death anniversaries, and family gatherings. Includes a “photo tribute” to “our beautiful kids” and “stories from heaven.”

Miscarriage Support and Informational Resources Support for women who have suffered a miscarriage can be found through the comprehensive list of chats, newsgroups, books and more.

Virtual Memorials They create memorials that celebrate the lives and personalities of those lost and provide a place where these cherished images and biographies will have a permanent home.

Journey of Hearts: You are invited to join the journey of recovering from losses and significant life changes – a process that does not occur overnight. Journey of Hearts was designed to be a Healing Place with resources and support to help those in the grief process following a loss or a significant life change. This site offers something for anyone bereaved.

The Grief Warehouse Designed for parents who are coping with the death of their child. The goal is to be a warehouse of information and personal experiences…a place where you can come, gather ideas, and share what worked for you on your journey of grief.

Angels of Addiction They offer support and help to the addict, and support for bereaved families and friends.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Grief chat rooms and email support

There is a wealth of information on the web dealing with bereavement support. I will list for you some of the sites and leave it up to you to check them out. Perhaps there is something here that will help you on the road to recovery.

CHAT ROOMS GROWW offers a grief recovery chat room that is open 24/7. They also host many types of moderated grief support chats. It is a place where peer groups teach that you have permission to grieve. It is a place of belonging and one that helps you to get through the pain so you, in turn, can help others. The organization offers multiple bereavement support chats. These are scheduled, facilitated live chats for grieving family members with such topics as parent/grandparent bereavement, bereaved two years and under, bereaved over two yeaers, pregnancy/infant loss, sibling support and survivors of suicide. iVillage/parentsPlace has an extensive chat schedule that includes a variety of chats on parenting. There is at least one chat for bereaved parents to help them work through their grief.

GriefNet.Org ( ) This is an internet community of persons dealing with grief, death and major loss. They have 37 email support groups and two web sites. They provide help to people working through loss and grief issues of all kinds. Support groups include accidents, only child, suicide, SIDS, substance abusers among others. More descriptions are on the web site.

Grief Loss & Recovery ( ) This site offers online grief support through an email discussion group (list serve). The group offers emotional support and friendship and provides a sage haven for bereaved persons to share their grief.

SIDSID ( ) This is an email support for SIDS and Infant Death. To subscribe, send an email to . In the body of the email type: SUBSCRIBE SIDSID – PSC

LossofaChild To subscribe to this list, send an email to . In the body of the email, type This list is for those families who have lost a child due to tragedy or illness. This list serves as a support group to help get through this most difficult time.

In my next blog I will list all the additional grief-support web sites that I have.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Blog and email responses

I received two comments from my blog related to the Compassionate Friends Conference I wrote about two weeks ago that I’d like to respond to. Also I have a note to another email received on the topic of laughing.

Neil, who attended the conference recently in Nashville as I did, wrote and asked about a Christmas gathering for those who have lost their only child. Christmas is such a special time of year that you want to be with people you are close to, whether relatives (if you have them) or people who understand what you are going through. Is there a place for them to be? My suggestion would be to contact those in the same situation as you who you have met and try to arrange to get together, perhaps someone you met at the National TCF conference recently. I can tell you that after the two national NOW CHILDLESS conferences I held in Arizona, many of the participants became very close and make special plans to meet in one of the cities a few times a year and also go together to other conferences held for bereaved parents during the year. I do know that there are groups who try to get together over the holidays from Alive Alone. They decide on a location and meet there, always having a great time. If you contact Kay Bevington at the Alive Alone organization at , she can direct you to that group and to others who might want to do exactly what you would like to do, get connected to those with whom you can share experiences and feel comfortable. Hopefully, in 2009 there will be another NOW CHILDLESS conference held and you will get to have the experience of being with all these special people from all over the U.S.

Betsey, who also attended national TCF, wanted to find out about regional conferences close to where she lives. The best place to get the information for this is to go to the Compassionate Friends website at . They usually list all the conferences held during the year as they come up. There are not that many, simply because it takes a lot of work to put on a conference as I am well aware, and in today’s society, most people don’t have enough time. But those that are put on are well-worth attending. I have been to both large and small conferences and each has its benefits, so it is worth looking into. Right now TCF web site is only listing next year’s TCF conference in Portland, but be patient. They will list them as they come up, or you can call their toll-free number at 1-877-969-0010 and talk to someone in the office. The other two organizations that list regional conferences for everyone are the Alive Alone Newsletter (contact or the Bereaved Parent USA site: .

One email I received from a reader expressed his frustration on the topic of laughing. He thought it was disrespectful to laugh at anything while in mourning for your child. My response to him is that it is okay to laugh and is one of the first challenges you come to as you move through the grief process. At first you do feel guilty when you start laughing after crying for so long. Laughter has been found to be the best medicine for you and a positive way to help cleanse your body. Although you grieve your child, you don’t have to feel any guilt for laughing when it is appropriate. One day you will have a sudden lighthearted feeling and you will know that it is okay to laugh without any guilt feelings, that your child is probably laughing with you and that he or she is glad you are moving forward.