Sunday, October 26, 2008

Continuing to learn from others

This past week would have been my daughter’s fifteenth wedding anniversary. She never even lived to see her first anniversary. Almost five months after her marriage she died in a car accident. Her dreams, hopes for the future… everything gone. My hopes for her: a family, a bright future, a wonderful marriage…all gone.

Each year I think what her life would have been like now. She would have had children to love and share with her husband; she probably would have had a career in the advertising or public relations field. Or perhaps she would have preferred staying home and just be a mother. They would have traveled eventually, seen the world, learned from the experiences and been better people for it. Perhaps my grandchildren would have done something special in this world and for this world. I dream of all that and then I see how what has happened has changed me forever. In some ways, it has made me a better person.

“You are a very special person,” a friend says to me. “You made the best of what has happened to you. I couldn’t have done it.” (Of course you could have, I think to myself.)

“I don’t know how you lived through it,” says one mother to me. “What choice did I have at the time,” I say to her. “You just do.”

“Does time really heal your wounds, your heart?” asks another mother. “Do you ever get over it? “No,” I answer. You never fully heal; you never get over it; you never forget.

But you do change. As time moves forward, we can all move forward. We can do what is best for us. It may not be what we originally thought we would do, but it can still be meaningful. People have come into my life and become part of it in ways I never imagined. I thought I would always teach; I retired three years after my daughter died, but in a way, I am still teaching, teaching others how to survive a child’s death, teaching others about the grief journey. And strangely enough, as much as it may help them, it still helps me too. I continue to learn from others. I continue to grow. It is a sign I am healing…slowly and continually.

I think Bob Baugher, psychology instructor at Highline Community, said it best in an article he wrote for a bereavement magazine: My precious child…I am because of you. Your child is your child because of you. And you are the person you are today because of your child; not because of your child’s death, but because of your child’s life. He lived. She lived. You live… and who would you have been without this wonderful human being, who came into your life and changed it forever.

Those who have lost a child ask me, “What magic thing will happen to me that will make me feel better?” There is no magic. There is only time and meeting others in your same situation. Talk to them. Listen to them. Find out what they have done, how they have coped and in turn, it will help you cope.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Another new direction

I was asked recently to be part of the Open to Hope Foundation, , to help those who have suffered a loss to cope with their pain and find hope for the future. It was my blog, my involvement and speaking at many national bereavement conferences, and my meeting Gloria and Heidi Horsley, grief specialists, that led me down this path. I am a true believer that everything happens for a reason, and I can see now what direction my life is taking.

Believe me when I say that this is definitely not what I thought my life would be like. My daughter was my life, but now that she is gone, I have found the path that most suits me. It was not an easy path, but deep down, I knew that my life would be dedicated to those grieving, who like me, need some direction with surviving. “What do I do with my life now that this has happened to me and everything has changed?” That is the question I asked myself when I came up with the idea of my book and finding out what others did and how they moved on with their lives. Finding something good out of tragedy is not an easy task. But my goal has always been, if I can help one person, I’ve succeeded. And if my book has helped anyone, then it was worth writing.

This new sight, Open to Hope, grew out of Gloria and Heidi’s broadcast show on “Healing the Grieving Heart” which can be heard every Thursday morning on . Open to Hope is a wealth of information for all kinds of grief, not only a child’s death. One can find information on death of a spouse, cancer, AIDS, having faith, counseling, hospice, organ donation, suicide, teen grief, and grief and how it relates to marriages, depression and all facets of life. They also hope to find moderators for their interactive help groups.

All of the articles are written by experts in the field in addition to those who have been there and are well-known. They share stories and offer assistance to others. The contributing authors and others will also answer questions you may have. The site is still being worked on and improved day by day, but the important thing is that it is there now for others.

Just a few examples of personal stories now appearing include: “Bereaved Mother Feels Like She Can’t Go On,” “When a Miscarriage Occurs After Fertility Treatments,” “Military Losses Often Complicated by War Coverage” and “The Poetry of Death: Can It Comfort Us?”

I was asked to be part of the “Death of a Child” section and will be writing a variety of articles on coping, personal stories and information material. Some of my blogs may also appear on the site. Take a look at the site, and see if you don’t agree that this site has great potential for helping others.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Others advise how to help bereaved parents

On my web site, I have listed 10 ways that others can help us through our grief. Here are 10 additional ways I collected from friends to develop a new level of understanding between you and your friends that may help parents as they travel down that long, difficult road to recovery.

**Acknowledge my grief; don’t ignore me because you are uncomfortable with the subject of death. It makes me wonder if what happened means nothing to you.

**Don’t try to understand the depth of my pain. Just put a loving hand on my shoulder or hug me without saying anything. Sometimes silence is more comforting than words.

**Be aware that anniversaries of my child’s birth and death may be particularly difficult. Perhaps if you could call or invite me out, it might help a little. At least acknowledge you also remember those important dates.

**Don’t call with the excuse that you’ve been too busy to call. Am I or my child that unimportant to you that you couldn’t spare five extra minutes? I believe people make time for everything they think is important, and I appreciate those who just call and chat.

**Just because I have surviving children doesn’t mean the pain of losing a child is any easier. The excruciating pain will always be there, whether an only child or one of many.

**Don’t forget that in most cases, there are two of us who have lost a child. Express your sympathy to both of us, not just me. My husband hurts just as badly as I do, and his pain is as real as mine.

**If I have surviving children, ask them how they are doing and encourage them to talk about their feelings also. Losing a sibling is just as devastating to them.

**If I act rude or uncaring at times, forgive me. The intense pain I feel is overriding any other emotions right then, and I truly don’t mean to act that way.

**If you invite me out, expect me to talk about my child. I have had the most unbearable loss of all happen and sometimes getting those feelings out helps. Don’t worry about not knowing what to say. Just be there to listen.

**Leave your religious beliefs at home. I will cope with the religious aspect of my grief in my own way. What you believe may be much different from what I believe, so don’t try to tell me sayings like, “It was God’s will.”

I believe if others can just do these 10 things for us, our grief journey will become easier. I often think of this quote by Henri Nouwen when I acknowledge who is a real friend. “When we honestly ask ourselves which persons in our lives mean the most to us, we often find it is those who, instead of giving advice, cures or solutions, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair and confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not healing, and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”

Sunday, October 5, 2008

News happenings for those grieving a loss

Two different spirituality workshops are available for those looking for assistance during their grief journey. Perhaps one of these could be of help to you.

For those living in the Phoenix/Scottsdale, AZ area or anywhere close by, Sunni Welles, a renowned international medium from Sedona, AZ, and Christine Duminiak, a certified grief recovery specialist and facilitator of spiritual bereavement healing will be holding a seminar October 18 from 10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. for those interested in specific readings, learning grief healing methods, ways loved ones contact us from heaven, how to get afterlife contacts and healing meditation with loved ones. The day-long seminar will be held at the Scottsdale Thunderbird Suites, 7515 E. Butherus Dr. in Scottsdale. There is an optional lunch buffet that needs to be booked by October 13. Go online to or call 1-866-697-6561 for more information on not only this seminar, but also other ones they do across the U.S.

A 2-day workshop to explore feelings about difficult grief issues, the signs you receive from your children and what your role in life is now will be given by Jane Bissler, grief counselor; Deneene Florina, hospice spiritual care and bereavement counselor; and Sara Ruble, founder of Angel of Hope in Ohio and bereaved mother. Upcoming seminars are Oct. 11-12 in Kent, OH; Nov. 8-9 in Oakbrook, Il; and Nov. 15-16 in Rutland, VT. You can register for any of the 2-day workshop by going to or contacting Sara at 330-221-4784. These ladies do these workshops all over the U.S. and can tailor make them in any city. Those who benefit the most from these workshops are (1) those grieving significant losses, (2) those experiencing major life changes, and (3) professionals who seek a better understanding of grief.

For those who would like to hear experts discuss the many aspects of grief, with a main focus on the death of a child and its effects on the family, “Healing the Grieving Heart” can be heard on the web live at every Thursday at noon EST. Rebroadcasts are at 11 a.m. EST Sundays on a number of radio stations across the country and streamed online simultaneously at . Hosts of the show are Dr. Gloria Horsley, bereaved parent with 23 years in family therapy; and Dr. Heidi Horsley, bereaved sibling and professor at Columbia University’s School of Social Work. Upcoming shows include: Oct. 9: Recovering from a Traumatic Event; Oct. 16: From Trauma to Social Advocacy; Oct. 23: End of life issues; Oct. 30: Miscarriage and Infant Loss.

In other news, the 12th annual Worldwide Candle Lighting will be held on Sunday, December 14, 2008. This event commemorates all deceased children throughout the world. While this event is still two months away, if any group will be holding a service that is open to the public, Compassionate Friends would like to know about it, and they will print it on their website: .