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.