Sunday, March 29, 2009

When Will I feel better

Why don’t I feel better? It’s been a year…two years…three years since I lost my child.

I hear this a lot. Don’t be impatient. The fact that you want to feel better and move on with your life after the loss of a child is a good sign. What you don’t realize is that it may take a very long time. Each of us reacts differently. Each of us heals differently. There is no set time that you should be well and functioning again. Your mind will do a lot of the work for you. And your body and how you react to your loss will do a lot of the rest. You may be able to do it yourself, you may have family and friends to help you, or you may need professional help. You are in a very vulnerable period of your life; healing is questionable. You must do what is best for you using the resources available to you.

All of us who have lost a child know of the five steps of grief: shock, awareness of loss, withdrawal, healing and renewal. (I will talk about them again in my next blog.) This does not mean you will go through each step and move on to the next systematically. You may very well take a step backwards. There are many things that may trigger a reversal, but don’t be alarmed. That happens; it is not unusual and you should not feel as though you are not, on the whole, moving forward. As an example, you may have a lot of anger in you as to how your child died. As you move through the awareness stage to the withdrawal stage, there is a chance your anger could resurface again and you feel like you have gone backwards. Again, let me say, this is a normal reaction, just as it is normal to question how long this is all going to take before you feel like a whole person again.

The truth is nothing will ever be the same again because you are now a different person with different priorities and different goals. Your child is no longer the center of your life and so you must try very hard to make a new life…one without your child, but one that is both rewarding to you and can perhaps honor your child.

You redefine yourself with the choices you make. You actually chose how you will survive. You can decide whether you are going to be bitter, or you can open yourself to the changes and confront the lessons of grief and treat them as opportunities for growth. Because of what has happened to us, we can learn to have greater courage, we can learn to appreciate different aspects of life that we took for granted before, we can learn the importance of reaching out to others in the same situation who may not be at the same destination but are on the same journey, and we can learn a deeper compassion for others. These are but a few of the lessons of grief that can lead us to a new joy for living if we allow them to.

None of this will happen overnight, and we can’t expect it to. Just know that a grief journey is very hard work, the hardest job you will ever have to do. But you will survive and you will get through it in your own time.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Is There Any Good That Comes from Child Loss?

Is there anything good that comes from losing a child? At first all you feel is excruciating heartache, ever present loneliness, deep emptiness, the old life gone forever, the future a blur, the person you loved most in the world gone forever, and you…changed forever. Nothing is ever the same again. You are a different person.

Days, months, years may pass and you cope as best you can.

And then…out of the depth of grief and despair, grows something remarkable. You begin to see others in the same situation; some of them just moving on one day at a time, others deciding to do something with their lives as they now saw that life…without their child. One bereaved parent meeting another, sharing stories, sharing memories, sharing hopes and dreams of a future they no longer have. And every one of them understands, for they have been there too. They understand as no one else can. There is a need that starts growing inside to do something in memory of the child, a need to show others there is hope and light at the end of a dark tunnel. Who better to do it? I, too, have been there.

Since my daughter’s death, I have met so many people I would have never met in my lifetime. Good, kind, caring people who have lived through the worst possible thing that could ever happen to them. I have met so many who have done so much for others that it has encouraged me to go out and try to help others also. I find it so rewarding. My saying has become, “If I can help just one person, then I have made a difference.” And I do it always with my daughter in my mind and in my heart. I do it in her memory. I do it because I know that she, also, would have done what I do for others, even though, in a different situation. I know that because I have been told for 15 years how she was the rock that bound everyone together. Such a wonderful thing to learn about your child, who you knew deep down was good, but never realized how good.

My life is so different than I would have ever imagined, and I wish I could share it with my daughter. I wrote a book that came from deep inside me. I began speaking to groups about coping with grief. I now write two weekly blogs. I have discovered in helping others, I also help myself.

I developed new priorities and goals. Some things that would have seemed a long time ago very important in my life may have no significance at all anymore. It is because I have already lost the one thing that always added meaning to my life. At one time I dreamed of my life revolving around grandchildren and family. Now it is making a contented life with my new husband of three years and enjoying as best I can what is left of the time I have here on earth.

I also look at things around me more closely now, a brilliant sunrise or sunset. I see beauty I never noticed before: the dessert blooming, the baby birds nesting close-by. It was always there. I was just too busy with the trivial things. I am more sensitive to news stories on TV about children, about war, about the economy. I live more in the moment because I have discovered that sometimes ‘tomorrow never comes.”

Friends say to me they couldn’t have survived losing a child. They don’t understand how I do it. They say they know they never could. I say to them, “Yes, you can. You, too, are a survivor, just like me. What other choice do we have?”

I believe that what I have done with my life is because of my daughter’s life…the fact that she lived has made me a better person…the person I am today. Thank you, Marcy, for living, for changing the world in some small way, and for continuing to help me make a difference.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Dealing With Wrongful Deaths

I have been asked by a few parents, who have seen information on the internet, to comment on wrongful deaths. Below is some information related to this topic. I would encourage anyone involved with this or who knows someone who is, to check with a lawyer before pursuing anything legally. Each state has different interpretations of the laws.

A wrongful death refers to a lawsuit that claims a victim was killed due to an individual, company or entity’s misdeed and carelessness. The victim’s survivors are entitled to monetary damages as a result of improper conduct or negligence. A wrongful death claim could result from one of the following: auto, motorcycle, airplane, helicopter or boating accident; a medical malpractice resulting in decedent’s death; criminal behavior, occupational exposure to hazardous conditions or substances; or a death caused by negligence during a supervised activity.

Ron Goldman’s suit of O.J. Simpson for the death of his son is an example of this. Although he won the case, he has never seen one penny of the compensation he asked for.

I know of one mother whose son was killed while in military training, not in enemy combat. The irony was that this boy was willing to give his life for his country by being in the military in combat, but this is not what happened. According to his parents, the death was unnecessary and happened through carelessness. Without going into detail, the parents chose to pursue legal means due to their son’s death. Not all those involved choose this route, but these parents did as did Ron Goldman.

Dealing with a tragic or sudden death is very difficult. You may not even be able to deal with it right away, but it is best if evidence can be gathered in a reasonable time if the case is going to be pursued. A skilled lawyer can help collect evidence, give legal tips or advice, complete all necessary legal documents and built a case against the opposing party. Those involved should clarify the lawyer’s payment system and how and when updates will be given on the progress of the case.

Parents and surviving family members such as a wife or children may be entitled to receive compensation from an insurance company or from those held accountable for the death. Even though no amount of money will compensate for the loss, receiving compensation may somehow console the grief felt.

Medical, hospital, funeral expenses and pain and suffering are the most common areas that you see compensation given. Different states have different statutes and laws that must be followed and that would have to be checked out carefully.

As the military parents said, they would have preferred not to have to deal with it at all, but in their son’s memory, they felt they had to do something. In their grief they also sought out TAPS, a grief support group for those who have been affected by the death of a loved one in the military. TAPS helped them deal with their loss emotionally, they told me. “We couldn’t have made it through without them,” they said. Seeking professional help for the emotional aspect is as important as seeking legal help.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Using a Recovery Program Incorporating Support Groups

by Sandy Fox

Not everyone agrees that a grief support group is what all bereaved parents need. One psychology counselor, Maurice Turmel, says that support groups are just that; they offer support but no direction. He believes that these parents are simply recycling their pain and not moving forward with their recovery. He believes parents should go through a “proper recovery program” and incorporate a support group within the recovery program, if they chose to do so.

In the end, he says, it doesn’t matter what took your child from you. The grieving and healing process you must undergo remains the same. Dealing with feelings through therapy, group work and guided journaling are the tools and practices necessary for recovery. He successfully uses this approach for all his grieving clients. “Everyone who pursued this program completed their recovery and got on with their lives,” he said.

“There is no substitute for working through your grief if you truly want to heal,” he adds. “Some people simply refuse to move forward, hanging on to their grief as if they were hanging on to their child. They don’t accept that they can actually heal and hold on to that precious child in a loving and expansive way rather than continue with their suffering.”

He continued, “You have to choose healing in order to recover from grief. You have to commit to your own recovery just like any other person who is stuck in some disabling condition. And those wonderful memories you had of each other before the tragedy, where do they go if you choose suffering?”

I have a friend whose husband cannot get past the last two weeks of his son’s life in the hospital. He cannot remember the good times because of it. He is stuck. I can see where this type of program would help him tremendously. On the other hand, there are those who only go to grief groups and find that is enough for them to move on. For myself, I read every book I could get my hands on and that is what helped me. I could identify with different feelings and situations when reading, and I began to understand that my feelings were normal, and I had to help myself climb out of the abyss and into the sunlight again.

I think this program suggested by Dr. Turmel would be excellent for those who are stuck and for those who need a helping hand to see where they are and where they are going. Let me hear from you as to what you did for yourself and how you feel about such a program.

Mauice Turmel holds a PhD in Counseling Psychology. He was a practicing therapist for 25 years providing counseling and therapy to individuals, groups, organizations and families. He is the author of many books, one of which is “How to Cope with Grief and Loss – Support, Guidance and direction for Your Healing Journey.” He has been a guest on numerous regional television and radio talk shows and hosts his own Teleseminar Series on .

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Stillbirth organizations try for prevention

Nineteen percent of parents in the United States have lost a child, any age, any cause. From a recent study three leading causes of a child’s death are miscarriage (42%), illness (26%) and accidents (12%). Other causes include stillbirths (11%), SIDS (4%), suicide (3%) and murders (2%).

The International Stillbirth Alliance (ISA) is a non-profit coalition of organizations dedicated to understanding the causes and prevention of stillbirths (including miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies), making up a large percentage of these causes.

Their mission is to raise awareness, educate on recommended precautionary practices and facilitate research on the prevention of stillbirth. ISA serves as a centralized resource for sharing information and connecting organizations and individuals.

ISA wants to make a difference by uniting groups around these issues. They believe that having a centralized place for stillbirth issues and sharing information will accelerate progress. They want to provide the public with accurate and validated information about stillbirth.

One way they do this is by holding an international conference each year. The two-day meeting, March 8-10, 2009, will be in South Africa and focus on prevention strategies for stillbirth and newborn deaths and providing bereavement care in developing countries. Many sessions and speakers will participate. For additional information, go to: and click on 2009 Conference .

An important project of ISA is to give families and friends the opportunity to honor a baby who has died by having parents write loving messages or poems, thereby creating a beautiful memory. Many parents find comfort in creating memories and sharing them with others. They then realize they are not alone in their grief.

Donations in memory of a child are always accepted to help further their work. If you become a member you will receive all their literature, their newsletters and any important findings dealing with stillbirths. Raising awareness and understanding globally across all areas of society about this important issue is their goal and hopefully, it will lead to prevention through research.