Sunday, December 27, 2009

Elizabeth Edwards and "Saving Graces"

I met Elizabeth Edwards, wife of Senator John Edwards, two years ago at the National Compassionate Friends Conference in Oklahoma City. She was the keynote speaker who I thought spoke eloquently and passionately to a crowd of 1,500 bereaved parents about the loss of her son and how it has affected her life.

After the speech, she went into the bookstore to sign copies of her book “Saving Graces.” I, along with probably 1,000 people, stood on line to have her sign and take a picture with her. The line moved very slowly and I walked to the front to see why. Elizabeth was asking each parent his or her child’s name and their story of what had happened. She then got up and hugged each one of them before signing the book with the parents and child’s name in the dedication.

“Wow,” I thought. “This is going to be a long wait, but how nice of her to make each parent feel so important.” After about an hour, her secret service men told her she had to leave, the plane was waiting for the trip to be on the Larry King Show that evening. She absolutely refused to do so until she spoke to every parent waiting in line (another 4 hours). From that moment on I knew she was a classy lady, and despite the fact that she was not well herself and had recently been told her cancer was not curable, my admiration for her grew and grew, especially after facing her husband’s infidelity in the public arena.

I wanted to sit down and read her book, but as things happen, it sat on my shelf for almost two years before I found the time. I have now finished it and admire this intelligent, sometimes witty, but always sincere and caring individual who has gone through what we all have gone through, the death of a child. How she deals with it is a lot of the focus of this book, in addition to her early life of trials and later triumphs. It is also a fascinating look at her husband’s campaigns for Senate, president and vice-president and how she supported him throughout.

What she says saved her life after her son's death is the community of people who surrounded and helped her when son Wade was killed in a car accident. She expresses in her book what we all feel: the raw emotions, the denial, the anger, the bargaining, the depression, and finally, the renewal. She never retreats from the fact that she thinks of Wade every day of her life and misses and will love him always.

Elizabeth found great support in online communities, and her belief in the power of community to make our lives better and richer is still ongoing today. She talks about (ASG), the newsgroup for the bereaved, as well as GriefNet, grief-parents and Tom Golden’s website on grief and healing. “You use these support groups for as long as you need to,” she adds.

She says it simply enough in her book to a mother who lost her son Christian: “At ASG I hope you find what you need. We have different emotions on any given day; all of us will be in pain on every day in which you feel pain… but it is the bond that allows us to be gentle with each other…do not misunderstand: no one else has lost Christian, no one else knows just what an incredible boy he is. But all of us are willing to learn that from you. There is no time, not months or years from now, that we will tire of him. With great regret, I welcome you to”

Sunday, December 20, 2009

New Holiday Traditions

When we lose our child, we change. We become different people, with different goals and priorities. The rituals that we once held sacred to do with our children during the holiday season may no longer be important or appropriate. Old traditions sometimes bring more pain than comfort. We can look towards making new rituals and new beginnings with our family and friends. Here are a few suggestions for your holiday celebrations, no matter your beliefs.

If your family has always decorated the home with beautiful ornaments each year, perhaps a new tradition of having family and friends make a paper ornament for you that represents something related to your child. For example, if your child was active in soccer, perhaps a soccer ball with his name written on it. Or if your child was in choir, perhaps some paper musical notes or musical score sheets. If he or she liked a special food, cut something out from a food magazine and place on an original ornament made out of any product handy or bought. You would end up celebrating your child’s life and he/she would always be remembered. You can keep them or try a different theme every year that somehow relates to your child. It doesn’t take the pain away but will warm your heart to know that he/she is remembered and you may also find out something new about your child that you can treasure forever. Whether Christian, Jewish or any other religion, it doesn’t have to be done on a tree. It can just be a collection you display during the entire holiday season.

Invite friends and family to watch old videos so they can see your child’s personality show through. This will also provide an opportunity for everyone to talk about your child and they will feel more comfortable doing it in this setting, as will you.

Helping others during the holiday season is a good way to share yourself and may give you an opportunity to share stories of your child with others. You can help out at a senior citizen home, a hospital, a food bank or a soup kitchen feeding the hungry. Any of these choices will allow you to feel good about yourself and that you are doing something in memory of your child.

Go to the children’s ward of a hospital and bring something to give related to what your child would have wanted or something you have treasured that you can now part with. It could be a stuffed animal, a game, something electronic or some clothing. Whatever it is, you will make a new friend and feel that your item has made a difference to a child. If you feel up to helping out at the hospital in addition to just visiting, hospitals can always use volunteers. Give of yourself and you’ll have a better holiday.

Different charities usually hold events during the holiday season to raise money for the following year. If, for example, your child died of a particular illness, try to participate in that event in any way you can. Give a donation if you feel you can’t do anything else at the moment, or you can actively help to set up booths, sell food, or anything else they need volunteers for. Many charities have something like a walk-a-thon, for example. Not only is that a healthy activity, but you may also meet new friends by participating and be able to share your story with them. Other organizations may hold auctions or raffles and if you are good at getting items to raffle or auction off, perhaps that can be a new tradition for you.

As for me, the Thanksgiving season is the hardest. It was the last time I saw my daughter in a holiday setting surrounded by all those we cared about and loved. It was the first and only time my husband and I actually cooked a Thanksgiving meal. Usually my mom did the cooking and inviting, but she was getting older and didn’t want to take on the chore. As things happen, she died 5 days after Thanksgiving that year, my daughter the following year. So because of those two events, I now go to other people’s homes for that holiday. We are lucky enough to always be invited to a friend’s house or out to eat. It helps not thinking of what I lost far too soon in life.

If you have a tradition or ritual you’d like to share, please let me know and I will share with everyone.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

That Their Light May Always Shine...

Today is the Worldwide Candlelighting event being held around the globe. New Zealand starts lighting the torch of remembering all children who have died at any age from any cause. Each hour another time zone lights their candles, so that for 24 hours, our children are remembered from the virtual wave of light around the world. This event unites family and friends in a way that transcends all ethnic, cultural, religious and political boundaries. As you participate in this event you may want to know the song that is played at most organized events. It is "Precious Child" by Karen Taylor-Good. The words are below; the song is beautiful. To listen to it, go to or and type in the name of the song to get the lyrics and listen. You can also post a message in the Remembrance Book today only on the Compassionate Friends website.

Precious Child
by Karen Taylor-Good

In my dreams you are alive and well,
Precious child, precious child,
In my mind I see you clear as a bell,
Precious child, precious child.

In my soul there is hole
that can never be filled
But in my heart there is hope
‘Cause you are with me still

In my heart, you live on
Always there, never gone
Precious child, you left too soon
Tho’ it may be true that we’re apart
You will live forever in my heart

In my plans I was the first to leave
Precious child, precious child
But in this world I was left here to grieve
Precious child, my precious child

In my soul there is a hole
That can never be filled
But in my heart there is hope
And you are with me still

In my heart, you live on,
Always there, never gone,
Precious child you left too soon,
Tho’ it may be true that we’re apart,
You will live forever in my heart.

God knows I want to hold you
See you, touch you,
And maybe there’s a heaven
And someday I will again,
Please know you’re not forgotten until then.

In my heart, you live on,
Always there, never gone,
Precious child you left too soon,
Tho’ it may be true that we’re apart,
You will live forever in my heart.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Worldwide Candlelighting December 13

You will never be forgotten. That is the message we broadcast the second Sunday each December during the Worldwide Candlelighting. Hundreds of thousands and perhaps millions of candles will be lighted in remembrance of children, no matter the age or cause of death. This year the event is December 13.

You are invited to join in the global event. Last year there were more than 500 worldwide candle lighting events open to the public with services in at least 20 countries. Community centers, houses of worship, hospitals, funeral homes, and parks are some of the places the event is held. And, of course, thousands were held equietly in homes with friends and family or alone in solitude. Visit for other information about the event.

Genesse, my friend, thank you for this beautiful poem, River of Light, that I am sharing with the world and all the bereaved parents who will be lighting a candle next Sunday while thinking of their children. Please light a candle for your child during the Worldwide Candlelighting event December 13 at 7 p.m., joining all of us in remembering with love. Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukah to all.

A river of light,
flowing east to west
lingering an hour,
then moving on.
Like the children,
here too short a time,
lighting our lives,
then too soon gone.
Gathering together,
being here for each other
on one special night
this time each year.
We light the candles
with pride and sorrow
reminding the world
they once were here.
Their lives live on
in us, the living,
who guard their memories
like precious gold.
To have them back
for just one minute
we would give
a thousand fold.
Tonight we say
they are loved,
they're remembered,
and they will always be.
Like candle flames,
they warm our souls
and light our lives
to help us see.
A river of light,
flowing east to west
lingering an hour,
then moving on.
Like the children,
here too short a time,
lighting our lives...then...gone.

by Genesse Bourdeau Gentry, bereaved parent, author and poet. This poem is taken from her latest book "Catching the Light." Visit for more information. In January I will talk more about grief poetry and Genesse's writings.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Bequests To Give Our Children

There are two lasting bequests we can give our children: one is roots, the other is wings.
----Hadding Carter

I like to think of my time with my child before her death as a nourishing time for her. I am proud of what she was and believe that how she was brought up and steering her in the right direction is what, to this day, makes her memorable to others. Her friends and family always came first. Her thoughtfulness, I always admitted, even exceeded mine.

I remember her wedding and the reception, which was held at a beautiful hotel. First was the cocktail party…but Marcy and her husband were no where to be seen. I began to worry when 45 minutes later they appeared, holding hands and a huge smile across their faces.

“Where were you?” I questioned her, a little angry, but certainly curious.

“We stopped in the dining room to make sure everything was okay with the tables, the decorations and the name cards,” she said, and I discovered that they put Dad’s table (we were divorced) closer to the head table than yours.” “I thought you’d be upset, so I switched the cards. I knew Dad wouldn’t care.”

“You’re right,” I laughed. "I probably would have been upset." Cute, I thought to myself.

That followed through with everything she did. Ever thoughtful of others and not wanting to upset anyone, she always made sure that if she had Thanksgiving dinner with me one year, the following year it was with her father. Fair is fair she would say, and I definitely agreed and had no problem with that.

Another incident made me understand more than anything what she was about. Before she married she lived with a girlfriend and they had gone out to purchase a lamp for the apartment. Marcy was going to pay for it, but the friend insisted on paying, since Marcy had been letting her stay rent-free until she got a job. When her friend was called a few days later and told she had won $1 million dollars from a VISA charge contest (she had charged the lamp on her VISA), Marcy was so pleased for her.

“I’m curious,” I asked my daughter. “Aren’t you just a little jealous that she won all that money when the lamp was going to be on your credit card originally?”

“Oh, no,” she said. “My friend really needed the money, and I’m glad for her.” As I looked at Marcy, I only saw pure happiness for her friend. There was not an ounce of jealousy in her. How proud I was. What a fine human being I brought into this world. There was always something that made me proud of her whether it was in school, at work or in a social situation.

Let them do whatever they want with their lives; that was always my philosophy. If she wanted to be an actress (at one time that was a possibility), a doctor, an accountant like her father, or just get married and be a housewife…as long as she was happy, I didn’t worry about her choices. Where some parents may try to direct their children or worse, tell them what they should do, I was confident Marcy would do the right thing. She was ambitious and wanted a career in addition to a husband and family. I sensed that and let her have her own wings. It was completely her decision as far as I was concerned.

At one point she announced one day after graduating college that she was going to move to New York to be close to her boyfriend who was going to work there soon in the financial sector. Even though her heart was set to have a career in advertising and start in Los Angeles, she was a woman in love and willing to follow her man. I didn’t really approve but, like a good mother, said, “Okay, if that’s what you want.” At the last moment he changed his mind; she got angry and moved to L.A. without him and got an advertising job her first day there. He ended up following her to L.A., but the relationship never worked out. Why do I remember that so well? Because Marcy bought me a card saying how loved I was by her and wrote at the bottom, “Thanks for letting me make my own decisions and my own mistakes. You’re the best mom in the world.” I still have that card 25 years later.

I choose to believe and it warms my heart to think that through these and other examples in Marcy’s life, I gave her the needed roots and let her soar.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sharing at Thanksgiving

This week we celebrate on of our biggest family holidays and my mind often wonders to people like myself, who, except for my husband and his family (who live in Canada), don’t really have any family to celebrate with anymore. Let me be perfectly clear that we don’t sit at home and mourn the fact that my child died more than 15 years ago, and I don’t have my parents or any siblings. We have friends that invite us over or out to celebrate. But is it the same? Absolutely not. Do I think of the happy times I spent with my daughter and all our extended family? Of course I do. And as I think of all of them, who died far too early in life, I also think of others who are now in the same situation as I am, and I’m sad for them. I know how they feel, but I also know that there are ways to deal with it in whatever works best for you. This is one father’s story.

In my book one father had to deal not only with the loss of his child but also with the fact that no one wanted to talk about his son anymore. Father and son were on a helicopter sightseeing tour of New York City, when the helicopter malfunctioned and crashed into the East River. The father tried desperately to save his son by continually diving beneath the water, but to no avail. His son was tangled in the wreckage and was the only one of four people to drown. It took this father years of therapy and help from friends and grief organizations to sort out his devastation. In time he recovered but in the process became estranged from some family members and friends who wouldn’t talk about what had happened.

He has and will always have fond memories of many Thanksgivings that included his son and likes to bring these memories up during the dinner parties he and his wife have during the holiday season. On the other hand, the relatives who he still talks to aren’t interested in discussing his child.

He made a decision: at the dinner table when everyone is talking, he brings his son’s name into the conversation. “They don’t have a choice,” he says. “I make them listen. I don’t want my boy to be forgotten, so I talk about the good memories. They are forced to listen (what else can they do, get up from the table and walk in the other room!). Maybe, just maybe, one time soon, they’ll remember how important it is to me and include him in their conversations."

We all want others to remember our children. I, for one, am glad he does that. He is making a point. Just because his child isn’t here physically, he existed; he was important; he had dreams for the future; he wanted to make a difference; and he is and was loved.

Our love for them will never leave us; our children will always be a part of us, whether it is Thanksgiving, Christmas, or any other day of the year. Love and memories never die.

Note: if you have a story you'd like to share about how you have handled an awkward situation related to the death of your child, please share and send me an email at .

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving: it is November, and we are approaching the time of year for giving thanks. As bereaved parents, we might say to ourselves, “What do we have to be thankful for?” Our child is gone from our lives forever. We will never see them again. We will never speak to them again. We will never hear them call out to us again in the night for comfort. We have lost part of ourselves, and when a family holiday comes around for celebration, we sometimes, for a while, take a step back in our grief journey.

I know when this time of year comes around, I try very hard not to be negative, but it is difficult. Thanksgiving 1993 was the last time I saw my daughter in a family setting eating Turkey and pumpkin pie. It was a happy time for us all, and I try to focus on those and other happy times. So I sat down last week and made a list of all the things in my new life I am grateful for at this holiday season. I’d like to share that list with you.

I am thankful I could share 27 years of my daughter’s life with her. She was a beautiful, intelligent, gracious child who I was always so proud of and will always be proud of. I am so thankful I had her and would not trade that for anything.

I am thankful that I have wonderful memories of my child in photos and tapes, in talking and sharing with her good friends, and in knowing she was very loved by not only her Dad and I but also everyone with whom she came in contact.

I am thankful for friends who are always so willing to share the holiday with my husband and I. Most of the time we go, although it can be very difficult listening to others talk about their children and grandchildren, but we go because we know others care, and it warms our heart.

I am thankful for my three godchildren, born from my daughter’s best friend. Since I will never have grandchildren, I was honored to be asked to be a godmother as Marcy’s Dad was to be a godfather. We are always included in any family gatherings and all birthday parties. The children spend the night occasionally, and we try to do fun things. One of them is named after my daughter and strangely enough, I do not think of my Marcy when I say her name. She is her own person, and I respect that.

I am thankful for a beautiful day when the sun shines down, and I can watch the flowers bloom. I wish I could share it with my daughter in person, but I know she is looking down on me and wishing me well.

I am thankful when I can be of help to someone in need, whether it be someone who needs a meal or someone who just needs company so as not to feel lonely.

I am thankful that I can wake up each day to a new beginning and get excited about the little things I do: exercise, play bridge, work on travel related projects, write and visit with my husband, who is also a very busy person. A fulfilling day is one where I get at least three important things done from a long list of items I’d like to accomplish.

Positive thoughts help tremendously at the holiday season. Open your heart and mind and allow yourself to see the simple everyday things that you can be grateful for. I hope you can take some of these thoughts and incorporate them into your life. Happy Thanksgiving to all of you, and I hope you can share some of the holiday with friends and loved ones.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Sharing Memories

Sharing memories after the death of a child can help the grieving family more than you’ll ever know.

If you were close to the child who died, there are many things you can do to help, but the absolute best is to help keep their memory alive by sharing precious moments you had with the child, whether it was a school function, a working environment, a party or just a fun evening at one of the homes.

I give the example of my own experience when my daughter died. Even those who didn’t know my daughter Marcy were able to share something comforting. I met the couple who happened to be right behind her car accident. I did not know any circumstances of the accident and was eager to hear what they had to say. They were able to give me a minute by minute description of what they had seen. You see, they knew my daughter’s husband through work, but had never met Marcy. They did not recognize either of them because the new car which had just been driven off the dealer’s lot, was unrecognizable and Marcy's husband was pinned underneath parts of the debris. They politely asked me if I wanted to know the details as they saw the accident unfold.

I said, “Yes, I want to know everything you can tell me. No one else could do that.” And so they did. They particularly spoke of how a paramedic was two cars away and tried for 20 minutes to resuscitate Marcy. They took Simon the few blocks to the hospital, knowing he needed a life-threatening operation. They stayed and watched the time unfold and the obviously distraught expression and mannerisms of the paramedic, knowing after a few minutes there was nothing he could do to help Marcy. It was important to hear from them that she looked peaceful, as though she was just asleep. It was also comforting to know she did not suffer. It was an instant death. This couple took the time to tell it like it happened. I appreciated their honesty and will always cherish knowing the facts from an eye witness.

As time passed I received over 100 notes and stories from Marcy’s friends, about what a good friend she was and how she held groups of people together with her friendship and kindness. It was comforting to know how much she was loved and that she left a legacy for others to emulate.

At her funeral more than 300 people attended. Some gave eulogies and spoke of what she meant to them. It does help in the grief process to know that your child was admired by so many. I was told a year later near the anniversary of the accident that some of her friends got together at a restaurant to talk and reminisce about her. One of her friends was kind enough to call and tell me about the meeting. There were funny stories and thoughtful moments. All their comments were precious memories to keep within my heart.

The testimonies of people regarding those who died are witness to what kind of young people they were. Good does come from tragedy in the form of memories, in this case, so I would encourage anyone who has the opportunity and ability to share something comforting with the remaining family after the death of a child to do just that.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Pain and Suffering

A powerful Buddhist quote: “Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.” When you are in pain, your heart aches, your body feels numb, because someone you love is gone. When we suffer, we may ask, “Will we ever be able to move on? We’re in a rut. We resist getting better.”

The onslaught of pain is inevitable when a child dies. This human being was part of you. You helped make this person, so naturally, if they die (for whatever reason), a part of you dies also, and your heart aches for them. Shock, anger, fright and shaken: any of these emotions can cause pain. It may take either a short or long while before your pain is gone, but there are some who never move on, who never can accept what happened. These people are suffering unnecessarily. There are some strategies that might help those who are having difficulty moving forward and beyond suffering.

1. Write a journal about your feelings. If you have a bad dream or even a good dream, write it down in the morning and reflect on it later in the day.
2. Take a long walk each day to reflect, cry, pray or just sit by yourself.
3. Describe your feelings in a poem, drawing or letter to your loved one and put away for a while, look at it again and reflect on what you said or sketched.
4. See a grief counselor or spiritual leader. These people often have words of wisdom to guide you along on your journey and no one else needs to know you have seen them, if you find it embarrassing.
5. Do things with family. Although this may bring back memories you want to forget, it may also bring back good memories of your loved one that you can keep in your heart forever and think about often.
6. Ask friends to share memories of your loved one. Hard as you may try, you can’t remember everything, and your friends may be able to lighten your heart and mind with a story that you can treasure forever.
7. To feel connected to your loved one, wear a piece of clothing or piece of jewelry that was once theirs.
8. Do a small pamphlet of your loved one’s life in pictures and words and give it to special family and friends who you believe never want your loved one forgotten.
9. Contribute to a cause or start a scholarship fund or foundation in memory of your loved one. See that others can make their lives better through your help. Your loved one would be proud of you.
10. Be a friend to another person who is grieving. Shared experiences can help both of you going through the grieving process.
11. Live each day to the fullest. Help others when you are needed. Hug others when they need your touch. Show patience, sympathy, and empathy to others. Give others what you would also like to have, a soft touch, an understanding smile, a shoulder to lean on, and it will come back to you ten-fold.

Make a commitment to yourself that you will do the best you can each in the midst of your loss, and your life will have more meaning and reach a type of fulfillment you never dreamed possible. Follow your heart by taking one step at a time to deal with your pain and suffering.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Hardest Journey of All

The grief journey after losing a child is the hardest journey a person will ever be asked to take.

What you now know:
It’s hard because you’ve lost the most important person in your life.
It’s hard because you can break down physically, mentally and emotionally from all the trauma you have gone through.
It’s hard because you become a different person.
It’s hard because you must take care of yourself to stay healthy and well.
It’s hard because you find yourself crying all the time.
It’s hard because you will lose old friends.
It’s hard because everything becomes a blurred memory and you’re not quite sure how to handle it.
It’s hard because it’s so overwhelming.
It’s hard because you know you must go on and don’t really want to.
It’s hard because people don’t understand your anxiety and find it difficult to help you.
It’s hard because you can fall apart any minute of any day.
It’s hard because of all the birthdays, holidays and anniversaries you shared together.
It’s hard because at this point you don’t really care about anything or anyone except the child you lost.
It’s hard to make any kind of decision.
It’s hard to eat properly and get enough exercise.
It’s hard because you can’t sleep at night.

What you will find in your future:
You have changed for the better.
You will rewrite your address book.
New friends will accept who you are and who you will become.
People who are going through the same experience can be of comfort.
A deeper appreciation of others, particularly family members will be in your thoughts.
You are a more compassionate person.
You have strength you never knew you had.
You have faced the worst thing that could happen and survived.

Remember, “Grief is not about getting over it. It’s about coming through it and finding a way to deal with it by moving forward with your life.”

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Inspirational Music for the Bereaved

So many things remind us of our child. I know that when I hear a particular song that my daughter enjoyed listening to, singing to or dancing to, my heart skips a beat and emotions rush to the surface. It is a poignant moment and tears may come to my eyes or I may have a smile on my face, remembering those times.

Judy Philbin, who sings inspirational music, has a CD called “Candle In the Window” with songs and words most bereaved parents can relate to. Her soft melodious voice is easy to listen to as the words speak to the heart. In this CD she explores the many levels of “saying goodbye” while affirming that love never dies. Some of the song titles include: You Are There, Cry You a Waterfall, Really Gonna Miss You, Love Survives, and I Still Can’t Say Goodbye.

Judy realized the powerful way in which melody and lyrics can offer solace and healing following the death of a loved one. Her music helps one let go of emotions that may be bottled up inside and enables others to move on in their grief journey.

Judy has been singing for grief support events for 20 years in addition to other venues. After losing her daughter during pregnancy, it was the hospital support team that made her understand there are many ways to help others. For her, it was music.

“I realized my songs and words were changing people’s lives. Parents would say to me, ‘Your voice is healing’ or 'that one song helped me understand what I am going through.’ So I compiled songs into this CD,” she said, “knowing this is my way of helping others.

I, too, realized from the beginning that songs with meaningful words would be part of my life. There are many songs that remind me of my daughter for one reason or another. One of the last songs she spoke of before she died was the theme song from Whitney Houston’s, The Bodyguard, “I’ll Always Love You.” It is not that the words could be overwhelmingly related to Marcy. It is just that she loved the song, so now I love it also and always think of her when I hear it on the radio or on my Bodyguard CD. One of Marcy’s friends had a special song played at her funeral that she thought fit Marcy’s personality and life perfectly. I do not know the name of it anymore, but at the time I would have had to agree, it was very meaningful. John Lennon’s song “Woman” is on a video that one of Marcy’s friends did showing highlights of her life. When it is now played on the radio, I always think of that tape and how meaningful the words are to me now.

Judy’s collection of songs takes the listener deep inside to places that may not otherwise be accessible. Each song honors the memory of a loved one while celebrating the power of love to transcend the boundaries of death. To get a copy of her CD or to listen to the tunes, go to or iTunes. I’m sure you will be as impressed with it as I am.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Alphabet of Grief

If you think of every letter in the alphabet, there is a grief word that adequately describes the anguish one feels as a bereaved parent in 98% of them. Thanks to Florence Godfrey from West Virginia who was able to pinpoint these words. If you can think of others, please let me know and I will add them to the list.

alone, aching, agonized

broken, bereft, betrayed, bitter, battered

crippled, crushed, cheerless

Distraught, destroyed, dejected, desolate, devastated, drained, deflated

empty, exhausted

failed, forsaken, frightened


Helpless, heartbroken, horrified, hurt, hit

incompetent, incomplete



lessened, lost


overwhelmed, out of touch

powerless, pained, pining, punched




tormented, troubled, trampled upon

unfit, unhinged, useless


weakened, wretched, worthless


Sunday, October 4, 2009

Time and Its Function in the Grief Process

Last week I was talking to a friend whose husband died last year suddenly. Coincidentally, another friend whose husband died years ago was standing with me. My friend said asked how the other gal with the recent loss was doing. She answered, “Very well, thanks.” I looked at her and thought, yes, she does look much better, as I knew she would after a year or so. “Time is a great healer,” said my other friend, and turned to me…”in most cases.” I knew she was referring to the fact that the loss of a child was too great a loss for anyone to have to bear. I appreciated her comment, but lost it then. I became very teary-eyed, as I shook my head and agreed with my friend. The passage of time does ease most pain.

I got to thinking about TIME in relationship to grieving and realized time plays an important function in the grief process in general.

Time is precious to us. In relationship to our child, the time we spent with them is priceless. As we think of them now that they are gone, time stops for us. We want to remember everything we said to them, all the activities we went to with them, all the loving moments of hugging and kissing. Some of us record what we can remember (and it won’t be everything). We can then ask others what they remember and record some more. As the days, month, and years pass, we will continue to remember as will others. Keep recording and you will discover the gift of remembrance and comfort.

Impatient with time. Time can be a negative in our grief journey. Can we do this grief journey? How long will it take? We are impatient. We want all this to be over with, and soon. It won’t happen that way. Time will not release us. We don’t like that our child is gone; we don’t like that our spouse, our parents, our friends can’t make us feel better. We want to know what we can do to move us along. Wanting to heal is a good sign. Just take it slowly and be patient.

Time and choices. In our grief, will we make wise choices? Maybe, maybe not. We tend to want others to make those choices for us, to relieve us from that burden. We may not even care about what happens in our future right now. Don’t feel that way. Take charge, whether we feel we have the energy right now or not. Reclaim yourself.

Time to move on. As much as we’d like to heal and get better quickly, that won’t happen and others can’t expect us to be better in a month, a few months, or even a year. Everyone grieves differently and everyone is entitled to move at their own pace. Others may get impatient with us, may be uncomfortable with our need to talk about our loss, but that becomes their problem. They may walk away from us, but isn’t that their loss. We try to be the friend they want, but it is very hard. We hope they understand, but most don’t. Now we need friends who are willing to walk alongside us on our journey no matter how long that journey takes.

Time as benchmarks. When your child dies, you will experience many firsts: the first dinner without them, the first school day without waving goodbye, the first year, the first time we go back to work, the first summer vacation with one less family member; the first birthday after the death, and so on. When we pass these benchmarks, we can breathe a sigh of relief. We’ve made it through. We are surviving, even though it is impossible to believe that we did it or even wanted to.

Time to reflect. We each need moments for ourselves, when we don’t want to be with others or do activities we have always done, when we want to think about this loss that has changed our lives so irrevocably, when we want to reflect on “what now?” This doesn’t mean we are running away; it simply means that to act as if nothing has happened doesn’t work. When we realize we can accept what has happened, we are ready to re-enter the world we know. It will be a different world; we will have new priorities and goals; what was once important to us may no longer matter. But that is okay. Change can be for the good also.

Time is a healer
. The intensity we feel at the beginning of our loss will diminish with time and although the pain and hurt will never go away, we learn to deal with it, to live with the unanswered question, “Why me?” “Why my child?” The grief will always be with you and sometimes, unexpectedly, for no good reason, your eyes will become watery and tears may fall as you remember. Don’t be embarrassed. A wave of grief is a common occurrence as it was for me that night last week. It will pass, and your life will continue on with both special moments and private moments locked forever deep in your heart.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Acronym TEAR As Related To Grief

I read in a recent article that grief work can be summarized by the acronym TEAR:

T = To accept the reality of your loss
E = Experience the pain of your loss
A = Adjust to the environment without the deceased
R = Reinvest in the new reality

This made a lot of sense to me. All four of these are important if you are to move through your grief journey.

I remember at first when my daughter died, it was like she had just gone away for a while and that I would see her again. I was denying the loss, probably because I couldn’t believe this had happened to me. It took three years before I realized she wouldn’t be coming back. That is probably the reason that when people ask me which year was the worst, I always respond: the third year.

Losing a child is like no other loss you can ever experience. The feelings that go along with this are horrific and almost unbearable. I brought this child into the world. I nourished and watched her grow. She was my future and now both our futures are gone. These are the thoughts that might run through one’s mind, along with many others, most prominent being, “Why did this happen? What did I do to deserve this? Why me?” During this time you don’t feel like doing anything. Time has stopped for now. But as time passes, you learn to deal with the death and live one minute a day, one hour a day and one day at a time. It is almost like you must relearn to get out of bed, get dressed, eat, go to work. I always think of the man who had to make a list of what he had to do each day so he could learn how to function again after the death of his son. When the time came that he could accomplish one thing on the list, he would feel good and cross it off. It took a long time for him to get through the list, but when he did, he was reassured that he was a survivor.

Life does indeed go on and it goes on without your child. There are many things you did with your child that you may no longer want to even attempt to do. When a friend invites you to a baseball game, your first thought may be, “I did that with my daughter. I can’t ever go to another baseball game.” You will find that if you do go, it will definitely be difficult, but when it’s over, you can look back and breathe a sigh of relief that you made it through. It is these “firsts” that are the most difficult, and there will be a lot of firsts in your new life. Marcy died 4 months after her marriage and a friend of mine was marrying her son off to a beautiful girl. She wanted me to attend, and it was only 6 months after Marcy died. I couldn’t go. I knew I would break down and cry and didn’t want to in front of others. So I asked her to please excuse me, but I couldn’t attend. She understood. But now, many years later I do go to other weddings. Sure, I think of Marcy, but it is with happy thoughts of what a beautiful bride she was and what a beautiful wedding it was. Ironically, I will be attending a niece’s wedding in October, to be held on Marcy’s wedding day. I don’t know how I’ll feel, but I think it will be all right. Enough time has passed, and I’ve adjusted to an environment without my daughter. But it takes a lot of time and effort to live in a world without your child.

I had to define new goals and new priorities in my life after the death of my child. I am now a different person and the new me needs to share with others who have had the same experience as I have, to help others who need a friendly ear, and to share with others new-found wisdom about life and death. Throwing yourself into your daily routine, exercising, and eating right all help to make you feel better. Call friends and family; they all care about you and your well-being.

Dealing with death and the aftermath is very stressful so rest and don’t overtax yourself. Don’t be upset if you start crying at any moment. It is a normal part of the grieving process and will happen often. It will also release all the tension of the day or week that has built up. Don’t feel guilty about it. Lastly, don’t forget to do something for yourself. It could be shopping, walking, or just reading a good book. The grief journey is hard work and you need to do whatever helps you cope best.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Celebrating Uniqueness of a Life

Celebrating the uniqueness of a loved one who has died has healing capacity beyond words, according to Adrienne Crowther, who started a memorial art business a little over a year ago. Her mission was to help people honor and memorialize their loved ones forever with art.

“I have a lifelong passion for art, and I believe that it’s really the ultimate expression of who we are as humans. Art can express emotion beyond words,” she said.

Ironically for Adrienne, her husband recently died, and she and her children were able to put their beliefs to practice. Both of her daughters are artists and they are designing and building a cremation urn for the dad. It will be carved with their hands, designed from their hearts and reflect his personality and essence.

Shine On Brightly, the name of her business, features artist-designed, hand-crafted products to memorialize and celebrate lives of loved ones. A variety of materials and styles are available, including ceramics, jewelry, glass, wood, metal, textile art and paper art pieces. The website also offers links to valuable resources to help with end-of-life issues. It also shows in pictures some of the beautiful artwork that is done. They can also be reached at 1-866-844-4469.

Shine On Brightly is also responding to the rapidly growing rate of cremations in the U.S. and worldwide. Container options for cremation remains are limited and are often mass-produced outside of the U.S. Adrienne said that many people are commissioning art pieces to incorporate the ashes of a loved one. “We also offer beautiful object to honor that person in other ways for those who are uncomfortable with keeping the remains. For those clients we have customized books, jewelry and textile pieces.”

After looking at the web site, one can select a product or work with one of their artists to create a unique, personalized memorial. “Art can pay tribute to someone and serve as a constant symbol of the unique spirit within. We believe that our products are a wonderful way to memorialize a life.”

I know that I constantly look for ways and options to memorialize my daughter. One of my proudest items I display is her picture embossed in a gold pendant that I wear. Many parents opt to take a piece of their child’s clothing, send it to Carey Bears and have it used as the material on a cute stuffed animal that is handmade. There are many ways and products out there to choose from, if that is what you want to do. Or you can take a look at this new website that celebrates each individual’s uniqueness through art.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Googling Your Child's Name

A few days ago I started rummaging through the internet and decided to put in my daughter’s full name when unmarried and see what came up. I was astonished to find two google pages of information on her and links to me, my book, open to hope and the fund established in her name. Fifteen years ago she died, and yet I now have proof that she still lives on for others to see.

The most interesting note I saw dealt with her high school alma mater. Back in 2004, ten years after her death, two of her friends (and I recognized the names, since I knew most of their names during her high school time) had written a brief note saying how much she is missed and mentioned what I assume was the topic of two funny incident between all of them.

Wow! I can tell you how that made me feel. Pretty darn good to realize I am not the only one who remembers. And pretty darn good to know that there are so many sites and so many ways we can remember our children. The sites are out there always for us to see and to set up your own.

In another blog written a few weeks ago on my site, I had a comment about Marcy’s high school and perhaps doing a scholarship there. It was an anonymous note but, wow, someone else who knew Marcy who had a suggestion for keeping her memory alive 15 years after her death. As a side note: for many years I did do a scholarship at the school I taught in. Now I am concentrating more on her fund and helping others through that means.

Yesterday, I googled Marcy’s married name and the same information came up. Amazing what we can find and do on the internet.

I encourage all of you to google your child’s name and see what comes up. I hope you find that your child also is not forgotten.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Forgiveness Has a Satisfying Quality

Are there wrongs that are unforgiveable: the Nazi death camps during the holocaust, the victims of Bernie Madoff, families who lost loved ones on 9/11, a horrific car accident where a drunk driver killed eight members of the University of Wyoming cross-country team?

If you had family members or loved ones die in one of these three occurrences, could you forgive those responsible? In the case of the cross-country team accident, one mother has forgiven the driver; one father can not.

From the mother: “I can’t live my life with hate and anger in my heart; I just can’t.” From the father: “If I forgive him, then my son died for nothing.” Both of these parents now work on committees against drunk drivers and give talks to groups and students.

But the mother has gone one step further. She and the drunk driver who killed her son speak together. They speak across the entire country. The driver shares the fact that every day he realizes what he is responsible for. The two embrace onstage and sometimes shock and anger other parents in the audience. Again, some agree with what the mother is doing; others do not. But the mother says she can’t deal with this without forgiving him.

The driver comes up for parole in a couple of years. Both the mother and father whose children died in this accident disagree as to whether he should go free. The mother wants the boy to have a life, a family; the father is angry that the driver will probably get to, but his son won’t get any of that. “It’s just not in my heart to forgive,” says the father. He can’t do it. They have come to opposite conclusions.

My daughter was killed by an impaired driver. We know it was either alcohol or drugs, but since he was never caught, to this day and probably forever, we never will know the truth. I tell people that I believe he will do it again someday to someone else, get caught and eventually get his just rewards. That is all I want to believe. I am glad I did not have to look him in the eyes at a court trial. I do not know his face, so it doesn’t haunt me. Although that part of my closure has always eluded me, I believe I am personally better off this way. There is no forgiveness and no revenge in me to deal with.

Human beings are driven by two different impulses at the same time. Revenge and forgiveness are like two sides of the coin. Revenge is a universal feature of human nature, and we also know that there is a natural default compacity to forgive that also exists in every human mind on the planet, according to Professor Michael McCoulough from the University of Miami. We are taught that revenge is like a disease but in his recent book, he argues otherwise. The brain system that produces revenge is the same system used when looking for something to eat when we’re hungry. It’s the desire to satisfy a craving.

Forgiveness is part of the brain associated with empathy, he adds. “Forgiveness is born in part from the experience of someone else’s pain. It doesn’t feel good to seek revenge on people you feel sorry for. When someone harms us we get upset emotionally and physically. We might hunger for revenge, but forgiveness is better for our health. If you want to feel better, revenge can do that only in the short term, but it’s kind of like junk food in terms of happiness. In the long term what forgiveness does is restore valuable relationships and that has a long term, satisfying quality to it.”

Look inside yourself and try to understand how you would react if it was you in any of these circumstances and see if forgiveness is the path you would choose

Saturday, August 29, 2009

New Goals, New Priorities After the Death of a Child

This is the fifth and last in a series of five commonalities that exist among bereaved parents. In previous blogs I covered (1) leaving memorials, (2) finding a cause to move on, (3) everyone grieves differently and at different rates, and (4) they all have setbacks. The final commonality is that after the death of a child ,we change, we have different goals, different priorities, different friends and a new life.

My goals, which were once to make sure my daughter had a rich, full life, are no longer there. My reason for living, for doing what I did, are gone. As always, it took a while to decide what I now wanted to do with my life, and I can say I have found the answer for myself. It is to help other bereaved parents, and I do that through my book, my blog, and my speaking engagements at bereavement conferences and elsewhere, where I can share my story and teach others to learn to accept what we can become without our child.

My priorities have also changed. What was once important to us may no longer have any meaning. What others talk about, like the economy or global warming are insignificant to us during our grief journey. There is a powerlessness we feel over life after the loss of a child. It’s hard to believe how much energy it takes just to go on.

Grief rewrites your address book for you. I lost good friends when Marcy died. They didn’t want to be around me. They thought I had changed. Of course I had changed. How could I not change after what had happened! They also probably thought that what happened to me could happen to them; so they didn’t want to hear me speak of it. The truth was, as I have found out in recent years, that a few of them were scared, they didn't know what to say or do for me. The easiest thing was for them to fade into the background. They didn't realize what they were doing hurt more than anything they could have said. Only someone who has been through this circumstance can truly understand and help, and I couldn't expect those few (who have come back now) to understand what, at the time, was incomprehensibe to me also.

People are funny about death. Until the 1980’s it was a hush, hush topic. Death wasn’t spoken about in a home, especially if it was a child’s death. There were no books, no organizations to help bereaved parents. It was literally shoved under the bed. Thank goodness, by the 1990’s there was help out there in the form of books and newly formed grief organizations. There will always be those who still feel that way about death; they do not want to talk about it to you and "it didn't happen."

On the other hand, I discovered that people who were just acquaintances became better friends than those I thought were good friends. And I appreciated them for being empathetic to my situation and wanting to listen to what I had to say. I’m sure many of you have had the same situation. I now have new friends who talk about Marcy and allow me to do the same. I am comforted by the following saying, “A friend is one who knows you as you are…understands where you’ve been…accepts who you’ve become…and still gently invites you to grow.”

And finally, an apropos quote I invite you all to follow that I used in one of my speeches and needs no explanation: “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass…it’s about learning to dance in the rain.” Go dance your heart out!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Having Setbacks During Grief Journey

This is the fourth in a series of five commonalities that exist among bereaved parents. The first three discussed in previous blogs included: wanting to leave memorials to honor the child, finding a cause to help move on, and going through a grief process on your own terms. The blog today discusses that everyone knows they will have setbacks and/or a rush of emotions that can be overwhelming, but that doesn't mean they won't heal.

We have heard people say to us, “Isn’t she over it yet? It’s been a year since her child died.” Yes, we have setbacks and probably always will when we hear our child’s name, go to an event that our child used to participate in, or hear a song they once loved. We freeze and our mind returns to a day, a month, a year earlier and how our life was then. This is natural and others shouldn’t look at it as though we are still where we were a year or so ago. And we shouldn’t look at it as though “we will never heal” from this. I think there is a difference between healing and just being able to move on. I almost don’t like the word “heal.” You never “heal” from the loss of a child. You continue to live and in doing so you accept what has happened and try to make the best of it.

A friend asked me to attend her son’s wedding about six months after Marcy died. I couldn’t go; I wanted to, but the memories were too fresh, and I knew I would cry during the ceremony and after. Another mother told me, “One time I was asked to go to a soccer league game with a friend. I went, but had to leave in the middle. The overwhelming sensation that every time I looked at a player, my son’s face intruded was just too much. It was over three years before I could attend another game comfortably.”

It has been fifteen years since Marcy died. This week I started looking through all the photo albums I've accumulated over my life. Each album brought back memories of my childhood, Marcy growing up, and what I've done since she died. It was both a joy and painful to go through those albums, but I did find periods of time I thought were lost forever. Now I know I will always have them in pictures and be able to look at them. I cried during the process, remembering all I had and all those I have lost over the years, including the most precious of them all, my only child. I know that I will always cry going through these photos and any items I have from her life. Am I regressing? Not at all. It is all part of life.

New friends say to me sometimes, “You are so strong. I could never live through what you have lived through. I would just die.” My answer to them is always, “What choice do we have when this happens to us? If we want to continue with our lives for our spouse, for our other children if we have them, or for ourselves, we will adjust to our present situation and deal with it. I have been able to do that as many others have. I don’t like it. I’d do anything to have my daughter back here with me, but that is not going to happen and I know it. So we move on, but we keep our child in our heart forever. They will always be with us in whatever we do, in wherever we go, and that is comforting to me.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Grieving Differently and At Different Rates

This is the third in a series of five commonalities that exist among bereaved parents. (see full list on Aug. 1 blog). The first two dealt with setting up memorials to honor your child and finding a cause or reason to move on with their lives. Today's blog discusses that everyone grieves differently and at different rates.

The first year, they say, is the worst. Some say it is the second year. Others say the third. No one is correct, because everyone has their own time limitations. If one is to follow the five stages of grief: shock, anger, withdrawal, healing and renewal, some can do them in one year, others may take five years. Don’t think that once you pass through a stage you are done with it. You can always go backwards before you go forward again. That is okay. It happens and it’s nothing to be ashamed of or surprised about. The most important thing to remember is that everyone is different and no one is expected to grieve in a prescribed way.

Husbands and wives grieve differently and to hold your marriage together the best thing to do is to communicate with each other and if other children are involved, communicate with them also. Talk about your child; remember the good times. Spouses should also talk about their fears. We become frighteningly insecure in grief and fear that everything we know and love will be swept away, even ourselves. Women tend to be more open with their feelings while men tend to hold everything back. Men believe they have to be the strong one in the family and so these bottled up feelings can come out in anger and at the wrong time, causing friction with the wife. If you think either of you need professional help, seek it, and don’t wait until things get very bad. Remember, each spouse had a different relationship with the child; therefore, each experiences a different loss. One may be up emotionally while the other is down, or one may pass through one phase faster than the other. Tempers are short and irritations flourish. Harsh things are said that aren’t meant. A spouse could wrongly conclude that he or she can’t depend on the partner for help in grieving.

To survive the heartaches of life, marriages must be built on trust. Nowhere is this more important than when we are plunged into the despair of parental grief.

When my daughter died I was no longer married to my daughter's father, so did not have that connection that many do. My husband at the time was Marcy's stepdad. And although we cried, talked and laughed about a Marcy story, in my heart I knew it was not the same loss for him as it was for me. He knew that, understood and even said so outloud.

I would say that for me the hardest year was the third year. I think it is because you realize by then your child is really gone and you’ll never see them again. Before then, they were just around the corner or they were away and would return. By that third year, it has become reality. Again, it is different for many people, but those who are just starting out, your path will be long and hard, but know that however long it takes, you WILL get through it.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Having a Reason To Move On With Your Life

This is the second in a series of commonalities that exist among bereaved parents. (see the full list on my last blog on Aug. 1). The first one discussed was that parents want to leave memorials of some type to honor their child.

In this blog the second commonality to discuss is choosing to find a cause, a reason to move on with your life.

Parents may become very active in different organizations. These include: Compassionate Friends, Bereaved Parents USA or Alive Alone for childless parents. Not only do they join these organizations to help themselves, but in time, they start helping others who are just beginning the journey. Others who want to become even more involved get on the boards and help in any way they can to keep the organization vibrant for those who follow. Organizations such as Parents of Murdered Children or the survivors of suicide victims have volunteers who help man the phones. By becoming involved you are not only helping the organization, you are helping yourself to grow and move on. For a list of many organizations, see the Resource section of my book.

One mother whose daughter was killed by a drunk driver became active in MADD where she can not only help others to become responsible drivers but also talk about her daughter and tell these people how much her daughter meant to her. Another mother whose daughter was also killed in a car accident now speaks to a Victims Impact Panel in the city where she lives, where part of the criminal’s retribution is to listen to parent’s stories and understand the loss. Becoming this involved helps some parents deal with their loss.

A father who lost three children has started his own Compassionate Friends chapter in his hometown and finds a new purpose to his life. New groups start all the time in a variety of cities dealing with infant loss, SIDS, still births, cancer and other causes of death. All of these have a purpose: to help yourself so you can, in turn, help others. When you are thinking of others and not only your own situation, you are moving forward.

Having a cause, a purpose in life, can be very rewarding. You will know when it is right for you and when everything will fall in place. Until then, keep working on what you want to do with the rest of your life, try to set a goal and aim to reach the sky.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Leaving Memorials

Commonalities exist among bereaved parents. When I was doing research for my book, I discovered after 25 interviews with bereaved parents the following five commonalities:

(1) they want to leave memorials of some type to honor their child; (2) they choose to find a cause, a reason to move on with their lives and spoke of how they would live those lives ;(3) they believe everyone grieves differently and at different rates, and that as painful as it is, it is important to go through this process to come to terms with the reality of the loss; (4) they know they will have setbacks and/or a rush of emotions that can be overwhelming when they might least expect it and that doesn’t mean they will not heal; and (5) they believe they are different people now than they were when their child was alive with different goals, different priorities, different friends, and a new life with a new richness to it that focuses on what our children left us…the gift of having them.

In each of the next five blogs, I will focus on each of these commonalities, repeating them all at the beginning of the blog to keep it all in perspective. The first one: they want to leave memorials of some type to honor their child. All parents want their child to be remembered and what better way to do that then to build memorials. These memorials can be anything from a scholarship named after them, to having their name on a newly built building, depending on your resources.

Some of the things I did were to start a journalism scholarship at my school so that every year I could tell Marcy’s story to the audience at the senior honor’s assembly before announcing the winner. Both my daughter and I were great fans of drama, plays, and any kind of theater production. Because of this, I bought bricks in newly constructed buildings in her memory and could say anything I wanted on the bricks (the building owners sold these bricks to raise money, and I was more than willing to oblige them). I did this at theaters, cultural centers and even the Diamondback Baseball Stadium. Her boss had a memorial area built at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles in her honor. When I attend a production, visit Los Angeles or go to a baseball game, I pause to look at them and smile. I know she is there smiling back at me for doing it. Even her best friend had a complete drama center built at a summer camp, collected the money and did the overseeing of the construction. A dedication was held at the completion and a plaque placed on the building. Most recently I started a foundation in her memory to benefit students and organizations related to communications and drama.

One mother in my book can now go to her church and see a painted mural of her two children along with other children who died. They are playing baseball in the mural, which was painted by a father who had also lost his son. Guided tours tell each child’s story.

Another mother was invited to do a section of an AIDS quilt honoring her son who had died from the disease. Many of his friends participated in the preparation of the section of quilt and it made them all feel part of the memorial tribute. It was displayed in both Drew University in New Jersey and in Washington, D.C., where, spread out, it stretched from the Capitol to the Washington Monument. It is now housed in San Francisco and can be seen by all.

Other parents find it important to speak to different groups on how their child died and the impact of certain actions that could cause a death, in hopes of saving other lives in crisis along the way. Others, like myself, have written books to both tell their story and offer advice that has helped them survive.

Some parents choose to do their own quiet personal memorials at their home where they will celebrate birthdays and holiday or do activities in the schools the children attended. Others like to donate flowers to their church on the children’s birthday or death day. Still others decorate the children’s graves at holidays such as Christmas.

There are so many things to help parents through their grief journey. A parent needs to decide what will work for them when they decide to honor and remember their children.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Memories of the moon walk

When we hear the term “moon walk” our minds immediately think of entertainer Michael Jackson and his famous dance that has become a classic. But there is another literal “moon walk” and a few days ago we celebrated 40 years since man landed and walked on the moon, July 20, 1969. That anniversary brought back a torrent of memories, most of which made me sit in disbelief that so much time has passed so quickly and my life has changed in ways I could never have imagined, both good and bad.

I know where I was at the moment they landed on the moon…my husband, 3-year-old daughter and I had gone to Tucson to visit friends for lunch and sat fixed in front of their television set watching all that was happening. We were so young and innocent as we watched what we thought would be a future of moon walks and other exciting events in outer space during our lifetime.

But time has a way of bring us down to reality. Although we had a comfortable life during those years, we didn’t make a fortune in the stock market of the 70’s and 80’s. I didn’t become a writer for a large newspaper; I taught writing instead and produced my own newspaper for many years. My husband and I grew apart and divorced. And my daughter, who had a wonderful childhood, didn’t live to fulfill her dreams of having children, a career, traveling or a life with her new husband. All my family members are gone now except for a few cousins; good friends have died needlessly from illnesses or accidents; the world has experienced more wars and terrorism than imaginable.

Seeing the film footage of man landing on the moon again brings me to tears because I think of all the good that could have come from science and technology, yet now we have to worry about threats from countries with nuclear bombs. I think of the days of innocence when we all left our home doors unlocked so friends could come in and visit any time of the day or night. And it was okay to let your child play at the park with friends and not have to think about child abductions and worse. I worry about our future children and what kind of world they will be living in.

And, of course, I relive my life with my daughter, the great relationship we had, and think of all the wonderful things she accomplished in her short life and how I will always miss her. Since her death 15 years ago, my life has changed considerably. I did do what I wanted: write a book, but never dreaming she would be the impetus for it. I did lots of traveling, but all the time wishing she could enjoy the trips with me. I had a successful teaching career of 28 years. And I did finally meet the love of my life six years ago and never knew I could be so happy.

I now realize how happy my daughter was with her husband of four short months, looking forward to a bright future. Sometimes I even believe I am living the life she would have, doing the things she would have, meeting new friends and fulfilling dreams I never thought possible. Sometimes I even find myself using words and phrases that would have come from her mouth. I smile because I know she will always be with me, encouraging me to keep going and do whatever makes me happy.

Shine on, silvery moon. I may not see the day of moon travel for all of us, but I know, because my daughter lived, I am a better person, and she is smiling down at me from somewhere up there.

Editor's note: Happy Birthday, Marcy. She would have been 43 years old Monday, July 27.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Grief in the Workplace

Returning to work after the death of a child can be difficult for both the employee and the employer. It is estimated that $37.5 billion in lost productivity can be attributed to the death of a loved one. No matter where the grieving individual is located on the organizational chart, any business will suffer from the loss of productive work time, mistakes on the job, and the disillusionment of other employees who witness the struggle. Staff turnover means costly recruitment and training.

The grief following the death of a child is intense, long-lasting and complex. This poses unique challenges for the one grieving and for the employer.


Besides the obvious that work is the last thing on your mind during this time, you are probably dreading facing your co-workers. You may have difficulty making work decisions, be frustrated, depressed, irritable, and disinterested in work related details. You are probably worried about starting to cry in front of the work force. The sensitivity of people within the work environment has a profound effect on the recovery process.

There are some steps you can take to ease the transition back to work. The office should be called and told what happened. Funeral arrangements can also be relayed for those close to you who may want to attend. Don’t feel you must tell every detail about the circumstances of the death.

Ask for some time off or perhaps you might ask to return for only part days at the beginning of your grief journey. You may also need help with certain projects at work; don’t forget to show your appreciation for that help. Make sure you know the policies on bereavement leave and ask for whatever time you think you need

You may also want to request a grief counselor to meet with the other employees and answer any questions they may have about how they can help or what to expect. That specialist can also teach other employees a little about the grief process so they are familiar with what to do when you are having a bad day.

More than anything, bereaved parents want to talk about their child, whether it be at home, at a meeting or in their workplace. You may want to talk about your child at work, but don’t overdo it. Other employees should be aware that you probably need to talk in order to heal. Mention the child’s name so others will know it is okay for them to talk about the child also.

Above all else, keep the lines of communication open so your employer will know how to deal with the situation also.


Many responsible employers are asking what they can do. Employers should relate funeral arrangements to everyone and even try to attend if possible to show support. It is also important to know the different cultural customs that some employees may practice.

They need to be interested and listen to their employee so that communication is not a problem. Work with the employee, give more time if needed to complete a task or adjust work hours for him. Be aware there is no precise time table for recovery. By showing support and caring, the employer is making the bereaved parent feel more at ease when it is time to come back to the workplace. Showing compassion is key here.

The best response when an employee comes back to work is just to say, “I’m so sorry.” Bereaved parents don’t want to hear any platitudes such as “God only takes the good ones” or “You can have more children.”

Don’t be afraid to mention support groups that may help the bereaved. There are many out there and it depends on the way the child died as to which one they might want to attend. Don’t assume the bereaved parent knows all about them. Check them out yourself by going to the Compassionate Friends site or Hospice site. They would be more than happy to direct you to the right source.

Finally, the employer should make sure that all employees get some type of grief awareness counseling so they know what they are up against when a bereaved parent returns to work.

If you are a bereaved parent and you believe your workplace could use some assistance, don’t be afraid to offer your own advice or see to it that someone else does. There are organizations and professionals out there that can create an environment where the workplace is part of the healing grief process.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Crisis in a Marriage

Many couples who have experienced the death of their child may also experience a crisis in their marriage as a result. This untimely event can be an opportunity for growth bringing the two people closer together.

The belief that a bereaved couple is doomed to divorce is blown way out of proportion. In fact, a Compassionate Friends survey has indicated that only 4 percent of couples who divorce do so because of the child’s death, that something else was wrong in the relationship before the child died. If the couple has always had a good marriage, typically that marriage will grow stronger, not collapse.

Making your relationship a priority during this difficult time should be your goal. One way to do this is to talk about your child. Remember the good times, funny incidents. Laugh at something silly that your child did as well as remember any awards, honors and graduations that made you so proud. Don’t dwell on how your child died. That is not going to bring him or her back. If you feel guilty about something, talk about it. If you are angry about something, talk about that also. Couples have a bond with their child that no one else can match and by talking about those bonds and your feelings, you may realize how very similar you feel or at least respect the opposite feelings of your partner.

The chance of both parents grieving in the same way is unlikely. Partners should allow each other grieving space at their own rate and in their own way. Personality, previous experiences, and your own style of grieving contribute to that respect of grieving space. If one partner wants to cry, that doesn’t mean the other one has to cry. If one partner doesn’t feel like going out, he or she shouldn’t feel obligated to do so. If you can’t decide what to make for breakfast, don’t worry about it; your child died, you need time to adjust, and you eventually will.

A few other suggestions may work for you. Talk to friends about your relationship with your husband to ease the stress buildup. Perhaps they have a good resource for any problems. You may also need to express feelings about your loss to friends that you are not ready to discuss with your spouse.

Sometimes when one partner feels really bad, going off on your own for a few hours or a day may give you a new perspective. Don’t bring your spouse down or make them suffer with sarcastic comments, harmful accusations just because you feel miserable.

Look for ways you can please your spouse to ease some of his/her pain. Do some activity with him/her that you don’t usually do but know the other would like you to. Make a special meal that the other enjoys eating. Or do something related to your child that up until now you have not been able to do.

At the end of the day, coming together is important. Review with your spouse what has happened that day, how you are feeling and what you are thinking. You will more than likely learn a lot about your partner during this period of your life more than at any other time.

Time is also a great healer. As time passes you will discover a sense of acceptance of what has happened to you and your spouse and, hopefully, have the willingness to learn to find new ways of living your life ‘together’ without your child.

Editor's note: I want to make a correction from my last blog about the other side of grief: my friend's son died 2 and 1/2 years ago and her husband did go to grief therapy with her for a year.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Getting to the Other Side of Grief

A friend of mine told me recently that she is moving on with her life after her only son died a year and a half ago. Her voice sounded upbeat. Her spirits were soaring. Only good things are happening now, and she is enjoying what she has to look forward to: grandchildren growing up, graduating, marrying, a good relationship with her daughter-in-law who just remarried. “Now,” she says, “I want to figure out what I want to do with the rest of my life.”

When this first happened, I could not convince her she would survive the loss. She told me that she realizes now what she misses the most besides her son’s presence in her life. “I miss the conversations we had, the fighting back and forth, most times with a good ending. I miss the exchange of loving phrases. I miss the laughter.”

I tried to make a coffee date to see her and was finally successful. Her calendar was busy with whatever activities she enjoys and people she enjoys being with. She will find her way, I am confident, and I am happy she has come so far.

Sadly, her husband is not in the same place. He can not get past his son’s death, nor the way he died. He does not want to go to a grief group or see a counselor. I’m sure he feels a lot of anger and rage at what happened and probably asks himself (as most of us do) “Why me?” Hopefully, he too, can do it on his own, but he is an example of what I am writing these columns for, hoping that something will click for him too. And one day I’m sure it will. It will just take him longer. No two people grieve alike or for the same amount of time. I’m convinced he will come out on the other side of grief as my friend has.

This couple is a good example of how men and women, husbands and wives, aren’t necessarily in the same place after the death of their child. But if they can talk about the child, remember good times and their loving relationship with the child and not concentrate on how the child died or that they couldn’t save them, in the end, their communication will hopefully help each other accept and cope with their loss.

In memory of Vicki Tushingham, active in many grief organizations after her child died, I’d like to share one of her many eloquent poems she wrote during her lifetime that perhaps says it better than I ever could for any mother or father trying to get to the other side of grief:


There is a place called memory,
Where we sometimes like to roam.
Through hills of love and laughter,
A place we know as home.

A place that’s free from all this pain,
Where our hearts are light once more.
A place that lives forever where life is,
As it was before.

Our children live in memory
They laugh and dance and sing.
Their lives are filled with magic
That only heaven can bring.

They feel no hurt or anger,
Their spirits are free as air.
And God’s love will always protect them
In times when we aren’t there.

Cherish this place called memory
Feel the love that lives there.
Remember the joys, the warmth of the sun,
And the bond you will always share.

Smile at happy moments
Laugh at times gone by,
Let the tears you cry be happy ones
Know love will never die.

Have no fear of visiting
The joy will outweigh the pain.
Learn to treasure memory
There is much that you will gain.

For though life is not, as it was before,
And never will be again.
Our memories are much richer
Than if love had never been.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

One Woman's Goal to Help Others

Carolyn Tarver from Sugarland, Texas, a suburb of Houston, believes that it is her mission to keep her son Stan’s memory alive through Project SMILE (Stan’s Memory Includes Loving Everyone). Thousands of children and hundreds of senior citizens continue to be blessed because of Stan.

Stan died 26 years ago at age 17 when he feel off the back of a friend’s car and severed the stem of his brain. He was, according to his mom Carolyn, a beautiful child, tall, blond, blue eyes, and a very sensitive and caring individual, from convincing his mom to help kids in a 5th grade class go to a special park for a special day of fun to making sure the man who loved his mom’s banana pudding got fed.

“Stan always said that the important things in life are relationships, not material possessions or any other thing,” Carolyn said. “He gave me more wonderful memories in his 17 years than a lot of mothers have in a whole lifetime.”

What Carolyn does is appropriate to his memory – Project SMILE. This outreach program began in 1983, the year Stan died. One month before his death, Carolyn remembers taking Easter baskets to a youth shelter for poor children. She thought about it close to Christmas, called the shelter and got information about the children and their wish list spending Christmas Eve determined to brighten their bleak holiday. She reached out to 12 impoverished families from depressed areas in Richmond, Texas. The following year she went door to door in these depressed areas and helped even more people. “I found it very heartwarming to reach out to them in their need and in my grief,” said Carolyn.

As time passed service clubs like the Sugar Land Rotary Club and the Exchange Club of Sugar heard what she was doing and began helping her with both money and volunteer work. She spoke to various other organizations about the needs of many and about poverty. She says she has received letters from children who have said how much it helped their parents. One little boy said, “You’re the best thing that ever happened to me. You knew just what I wanted. I really needed those socks.”

This past year 3,368 children were helped, 1,227 with school supplies and the others with Christmas gifts, now known as Santa’s Exchange. She doesn’t solicit funds and says she gets more money for Christmas gifts, but school supplies are in great demand. In addition she gets help from athletes, churches, businesses and ordinary citizens donating supplies and funds annually. When she is given leftover holiday candy, she fills her car, drives to one of the neighborhood houses, opens her trunk and says, “Kids, go get your friends and come and get the candy.” There is never anything left.

“This has been a beautiful outreach in Stan’s memory and keeps me going,” she says. It wasn’t always like this. At first Carolyn had a very hard time. She didn’t even want to wake up in the morning and face another day. But then a miracle came her way, a small grand nephew that she took care of for the mom who worked, named Cody.

“A lot of healing came those six years I kept him during the day for 8-10 hours,” said Carolyn. “I was forced to focus on something else other than Stan. We had and still have a special love for each other. Cody is now 23, and visits often. He is a caring and sensitive person, and definitely helped me survive.”

She thinks that God used Cody first and Project Smile second to get her where she is today, in addition to a loving husband Carlos, Stan’s stepdad, who begged her to make it through her grief journey. She says Stan’s death didn’t affect him as badly as it did her, but realized much later on that he was in pretty bad shape. “We would hold, cry and comfort each other.” Carlos still works during the day but is very supportive of what Carolyn does.

Carolyn also attributes her Christian faith as helping her a lot through her grief journey. “It has not erased any pain, but it has helped to make the pain bearable. Because of my faith in God, and Stan’s as well, my grief, although very intense and painful, is not without hope because I am confident that I will be with Stan for all eternity in heaven.”

Carolyn, now almost 72, depends on volunteers but is responsible for keeping up with the families and making sure the information about them is correct. From 2001 – 2006 alone, Project SMILE helped over 14,000 children, according to Carolyn’s figures. And the numbers continue to rise. Approximately 2,000 children are her Project SMILE children and the rest are from the Women’s Center and CASA.

In addition to receiving proclamations honoring her for her accomplishments, she has also been honored by various governmental bodies including the Texas State Senate as well as the highest award given by the Exchange Club, the Book of Golden Deeds.

Carolyn’s loving spirit and dedication reflects the love she had and has for Stan, who would be very proud of his mom and her accomplishments. She encourages others who have lost children to find a project that will honor the child’s memory and give a sense of purpose to the bereaved living in a world without their child.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Father's Day

Father’s Day is often a forgotten holiday, overshadowed by the longer standing tribute to mothers. But for the bereaved father, it is a poignant reminder of the bittersweet memory of a loved, now lost, child; bitter for the death and pain and recognition of the inability to stop what happened. Fathers do not often have a chance to share their hurts and concerns. Oftentimes they are unable to do so.

Gerry Hunt from a Compassionate Friends chapter wrote: “Every father believes in his role as protector of his family. He has been assigned the job of fixer and problem solver. He has been told since his youngest days that he must be strong…and must not cry. But each father among us has had to face that point where no amount of fixing, problem solving, and protecting has been able to stop their child’s death.”

One bereaved father wrote this poem:

As this day approaches, I wonder how I will react.
Am I still a father?
I will sit quietly never allowing family and friends to see how I feel.
I will miss my son, but I can’t allow myself to “break.”
I must remain strong and always be the “rock.”
I wish I could just let someone know how much I miss my little angel.
How much I cry and how much I miss hearing “Dad, I love you.”
I am a father, but I wonder, will I just pretend, as usual, that it doesn’t bother me?
Remember me, for I hurt, too, on this special day.

Another father says it took him many years to accept the death of his child, but he has now moved on. “When my daughter was alive, she, with the help of my wife, made a big deal about Father’s Day, always serving me breakfast in bed, giving me a little gift and spending quality time with me. Knowing and understanding how I feel, my wife continues to make it a special day. One of the things we do is visit her grave and tell her what we did that day. At home we light a candle in her memory.

Perhaps this Father’s Day should be a time when family members, whoever they are, give Dad a hug, do something special, help with the chores, and most of all, let him know how important, needed and loved he is.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Giving Eulogies

Last year I felt a great desire to stand up at a friend’s funeral and give a eulogy about her. No one asked me to do it, but I felt a great need for everyone there to know what my friend was really like, as I saw her through my eyes. I sat down at the computer and stared at the blank page. What could I say about her that was personal for me, that made her personality stand out, and that might make people say, “I didn’t realize she was like that….”

I must have sat for almost an hour. Did I not know this person well enough? Was I being foolish trying to do something I was not capable of nor had ever done before? And then suddenly it came to me. I would tell a few anecdotes about what we enjoyed doing together, some of her quirky ideas and thoughts we would discuss, and her personality, how we met, our interactions with one another…Oh, my gosh! It all came flooding out…There were funny incidents, humorous personality traits, how weird she sometimes acted…I had more than enough to write about because it came from the heart.

I was lucky, writing about someone I knew. What if you are asked to give a eulogy about someone you didn’t know well at all…a much more difficult task indeed. Here is the way I would go about it:

I would ask friends and relatives stories about this person, some of the things they liked to do, what they were like as children, what type of education they had, what they liked to eat, drink, read, sing, who they liked to quote, and what activities they were involved in. Were they a fun person, quiet or just a character at heart? Was it a sudden death, an act of violence, suicide or a long and lingering illness that took this person away. These are all the things that should be considered when conveying your sentiments.

You may be surprised at all the information you can gather. Writing a speech about this person may not be the chore you dread, but a way to convey to those who knew this friend how much he or she will be missed. Remember, those at the funeral want to remember their friend with comforting words and the appropriate tribute they believe this person deserved. No one expects perfection at a time like this…writing from the heart will more than accomplish your goal.

Finding the right words is sometimes a chore. Books like “Do Not Stand At My Grave and Weep” can provide numerous suggestions, poems and quotes to use. Online sites with help include:,,,, and .

After my experience with writing my first eulogy I hope that I have done a service by honoring my friend and for those attending the funeral. I felt good about the whole experience and would probably do it again now that I understand how to go about it.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

"How Are You Feeling?"

When we are on a grief journey and someone asks us, “How are you feeling?” the tendency is to say, “I’m fine.” But we’re not fine and one of my friends said that to me a few months after my daughter died. She said in a rather exasperated voice, “You’re not fine and don’t say you are!” I was briefly taken aback and then realized she was right. Why say you’re ‘fine’ when you’re not. What it taught me is from that point on, I told the truth. My answer became, “I’m doing the best I can. Each day is a challenge and I try to get through it as best as I can.”

What a relief it was to tell it like it was. According to author and grief counselor, Dr. Lou LaGrand, grief is a normal human response that seeks expression when facing massive change due to the death of a loved one. If you try to pretend you are doing well when you’re not, you’ll guarantee that the pain will spill out in unexpected ways. He says, “You will not only prolong the intensity of your grief process, you will add loads of unnecessary suffering to legitimate pain and sadness.” He suggests five essentials used by millions of mourners who have found peace through expression. I paraphrase and add my own comments:

First, admit you are hurting, tell it like it is. Don’t suppress or repress the things you feel because it won’t make you look good. Suppression and repression are the two actions that often lead to reactive depression when mourning.

Second, cry when you feel like it, no matter how long it continues and no matter who is watching. You have lost something very precious to you and can’t bear the thought of never seeing them again. Crying is a good emotion that relieves pent up emotions and allows you to breathe normally and relax eventually. If you belong to a grief group, that is a good place to be yourself. If you have relatives or friends who truly understand, that might be another good place.

Third, being alone in a quiet place is good for you for short periods of time. It gives you time to reflect on the relationship you have now lost. But don’t become isolated. That is not of help in the grief process. You need to be around others to seek their advice and help. At grief group meetings hearing how others cope can help you along in your own journey.

Fourth, examine some literature about other mourners who were convinced they had a sign or message from a deceased loved one. Explore the possibility. Many do believe in life after death. At a recent Compassionate Friends National Conference where I spoke, I was fortunate to hear another speaker whose son died. He showed us proof of the fact that we get signs from our children who have left us that they will always be around for us.

And finally, there is a wide range of normalcy in grieving. Grieve at whatever pace seems right for you even if you find yourself going from a good day to a bad one. When we choose to love, we automatically choose to grieve. And although the person is no longer physically present, love never dies; it lives on forever. Follow your own agenda. The history of loss shows you will survive. “Treasure what you have—a way to peace, knowing that your loved one lives on through you and what you have learned from your experience with him or her.”

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Grief, Anger, Denial

This is the final guest blog in this series.

by Mel Menzies
There is a tendency to assume that, following a bereavement, grief must adhere to a certain pattern to be real. But this is not true. The process of mourning, following the loss of a loved one, is different for everyone, and looking for a set response from someone is a dangerous expectation. My reactions, when I lost my adult daughter, may be quite different to yours in a similar situation.And yours, in turn, may be opposite to someone close to you. It is important to grasp this concept, especially between parents who have lost a child, where the death, and emotions that follow, may differ quite drastically. At a time when each needs the support and understanding of the other, it could be quite damaging if one believes the other to be unaffected simply because their way of coping is not the same.

Numbness, and a denial of death, is a perfectly normal initial response. This is the body's defence mechanism kicking in, to ensure that the ill-effects of trauma are minimised before they become overwhelming. Gradually, various emotions, including grief and guilt, will then begin to seep into consciousness over a period of time.However, there are aspects of grief which many mourners experience in common with others, though not necessarily in the same order. Chief among them are:
Denial and Disbelief
Guilt and Regret
Anger and Depression
Pain and Sadness

To begin with, you may find yourself quite unable to accept the situation. Denial of death is commonplace. You expect the person you've loved and lost to come through the door at any moment. You may catch yourself laying a place at the table, and experience a sense of unreality when you realise the futility of your action. You imagine that you hear their voice, lift your head to see them, and are surprised to find no one there.

This pattern of death and denial is a normal reaction. When people said nice things to me about my daughter, following her death, I found myself thinking, quite rationally, that I'd be able to share them with her; that it would be an encouragement to her to know how positively she was viewed by others.

You may have regrets following a bereavement; a sense of 'if only'. If only you had done this. Not done that. If only the deceased had taken more care of himself. If only she'd heeded your advice. Some of these regrets may be completely irrational. Others will be genuine misgivings. Either way, you have, at some point, to come to terms with them. Talking to a friend or counsellor, or sharing with others on a bereavement support group may help.

Guilt, too, may rise to the surface, with or without foundation. Instead of 'if only' this emotion is dogged by 'shoulds' and 'oughts'. You chastise yourself for your 'thoughtlessness', real or imagined, your 'selfishness', your 'indifference'. If you've had a row shortly before a sudden death, you are more than likely to whip yourself with shame and self-reproach. You find yourself going over every detail, every word, every action.

Guilt may also arise as a result of relief. When death has occurred at the end of a long illness or disability, the grieving process, in terms of the emotions experienced, may be similar to that of sudden death, but there will be differences. The main distinction is that mourning is done - for the most part - prior to death. If the patient's suffering has been acute - as is the case with many cancer patients - then death may, actually, come as a relief. The same is true when the life of a loved one has become meaningless to them and an unmitigated burden on the carer - as with those suffering either mental or physical impairment such as dementia or motor neuron disease. In either case, a sense of relief may be mingled with guilt. Guilt over the fact that you are glad to be relieved of the burden. Or guilt that you still have life when your loved no longer does.

I was fortunate enough to experience neither anger nor depression when my daughter died. Research carried out by the Royal Free and University College Medical School in London found that those with a spiritual belief fared better in coping with bereavement than those without. When you have faith to trust that you will see your loved one again, there is little or no experience of anger or depression.

But for many people anger and death do go hand in hand. Blaming the deceased, though irrational, is a natural tendency. So, too, is the lethargy which may follow. Combined with a state of deep sorrow and sadness and a desire to withdraw socially, this may easily lead to depression. Disturbing dreams may add to feelings of despair and helplessness. And fear of a future alone may intensify those feelings.

A sense of physical pain and overwhelming sadness is a normal part of grief. When we experience loss, we naturally curve into ourselves as if we're suffering the acute stage of a belly-ache. We wrap our arms around ourselves; hug ourselves; rock too and fro. Lying down and curling into a ball - a foetal position - we adopt a childlike helplessness, and behave as if grief were an illness. Because that's how it feels!

Let no one minimise the depth of feeling experienced by some people. But these intense experiences will pass. And eventually you will experience an acceptance of death which, though you may never entirely be rid of the pain, will bring you peace of a sort. This can't be rushed; it must be at your pace; your time. Be kind to yourself. But allow yourself, also, to look to a future that offers you hope.

© Mel Menzies, February, 2009Mel's latest book, A Painful Post Mortem, tells the story of a mother dealing with the loss of her daughter. Inspired by her own loss, it is a moving tale with an uplifting conclusion. BUY MEL'S BOOKS at ALL PROCEEDS ARE FOR CHARITY