Sunday, February 28, 2010

Death of Marcy's Dad

This past week my daughter's father died. It was a shock and unexpected and in that respect similar to Marcy's sudden death, only his was medical reasons. Jess was a kind, loving individual, and although we had been divorced for many years, we remained friends over the years.

One of the reasons was Marcy. We could always talk about her as no other two people could, and he would always mention Marcy in a speech he gave and whenever talking to friends or anyone who knew her. I still always try to do the same. We don't ever want to forget her, nor do we want others to either.

The last time I saw him was at our Godchild's Bar Mitzvah in January. We are both Godparents to Marcy's best friend's children and at the Bar Mitzvah we were both honored and lit a candle and said a prayer during the celebration, since Marcy could not be there to celebrate with her best friend.

Even more recently, in February, Jess became part of the bereavement group I started in the city and was very enthusiastic about playing a major part in helping others in hopes of also helping himself. He was one of those who had a lot of trouble getting through the grief process and I, too, was hopeful this would help him also.

I hope he is at peace now, and I'm sure he and Marcy are both laughing at a funny story he is telling her. They both had a terrific sense of humor. Goodbye, Jess, and thank you for helping me give life to Marcy, our most prized accomplishment.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Dealing With Guilt Feelings

If I hadn’t worked throughout my pregnancy…If I had taken her to the doctor when she complained of that stomach ache…If I hadn’t let him use the car that night…If I had only noticed the change in him…perhaps I could have kept him from suicide…All of these laments are statements many of us have heard or even said ourselves. All the “what if’s” will not bring our children back, but the guilt that they are gone lingers. Common types of guilt follow and some suggestions of what you can do to help yourself cope.

We, as parents, believe we are responsible for our children’s well-being. If something happens to them…an accident, an illness, a drug related problem or more…we feel guilty and that it is our fault this death has happened. We feel helpless. We should have been able to prevent it. We should have taken better care of our child. We should have been able to save our child. These are thoughts that run through our heads.

One mother in my last book had to deal with the death of her child when she sent him to a therapy camp for drug users and he died there when he became ill and no one believed him. Living with how he died is still the greatest challenge of her life. She believes she sent him to his death. Her guilt feelings have tortured her for many years. “I am his mother,” she said. “Intellectually, I know I’m not responsible for his death, but meshing my intellect with my heart is very difficult. I will probably struggle with this for the rest of my life.” She tried to help the son she loved so much, yet the end results were only disaster and continual guilt she lives with to this day. She realizes that if she let it, the guilt could consume her. Instead, she knows her intentions were good and she must try to live her life for the other members of her family. This mother understands that feeling less guilty won’t take away the anger, pain or sadness, but that it is worth the effort to take a realistic look at forgiving yourself.

Parents often feel they are being punished for something they have done if their child dies, even if they have done nothing wrong. When we get angry at our child or aren’t speaking to them because they did something wrong in our eyes, we feel tremendous guilt if that child dies before we can reconcile with them. This becomes a form of self-torture.

When we outlive our child we have survivor’s guilt. A parent may ask, Why am I alive and my child died? We were in the same car crash. My child had so much potential, so much to live for. According to author Catherine Sanders, only with constant reality checks, by constantly comparing our fallible perceptions of reality against the way life really is, can we finally release ourselves from this tenacious source of guilt. And we can’t do it alone. We need the help of others who understand and can be more objective than we are. To rid ourselves of guilt we must accept the fact that we are human. We get mad at our kids and we love our kids. No relationship is perfect and we are not saints.

If parents work long hours and can’t spend a lot of time with the kids, guilt enters the picture if a child dies, and they feel they have been punished for working too much and not paying enough attention to the child. For some, this type of guilt can be instrumental in more creative time being spent with the remaining children. For others, nothing changes and the guilt remains.

When grieving, we may be acting strangely or differently, leading to guilty feelings that we are not normal. For example, crying for seemingly no reason or getting out of town when others think you should be at home mourning, are perfectly normal reactions for someone who is grief stricken. Do what is right for you, not what you think others expect you to do and don’t feel guilty about it.

If you have a child with a long-term illness or disability, when death occurs, you may feel you have already done your mourning before the death happened. If the child was in severe pain, then death may come as a relief. This relief may be mingled with guilt over the fact that you are glad to be relieved of the burden. Or there may be guilt over the fact you are glad they are no longer in pain or suffering, or guilt that you are still alive and they are gone.

We, as parents, are not perfect, even though society may expect us to be. Guilt seems to develop naturally in grief. It takes courage to admit you are not perfect and telling it like it is seems to be the best way to deal with this. Share your guilt feelings with supportive, caring people, a grief group and if necessary, professional counseling. Don’t let it fester and become destructive to you and others. Let the love you feel for your child shine through any guilt feelings.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine’s Day to everyone! I’ve listed for you some things you can do on this special day in memory of your child. Children always loved this holiday for its sweet cards, candy, stuffed animals and going out to eat. And I’m sure you will miss those moments when your child surprised you with that perfect gift. So this year enjoy yourself by sharing this holiday with loved ones who are with you and honor those only in your memory.

A small gift for everyone
You can make the day really special for all those who work for you but get little else other than wages. Be it your newspaper boy, your plumber, your doctor, your housemaid, the postman or the pizza delivery man - you can present each of them, or just the ones visible on that day, with a small token gift like a white rose or a little chocolate box. The smile you get in return will make the gesture worthwhile.

Share a treat with your colleagues
If you work in an office, it would be nice to show your thoughtfulness to colleagues on this day. Cook a nice dish and bring it to the office. If cooking is not one of your strengths, you can buy a Valentine cake and unwrap it during a break or lunchtime to share with your co-workers. It will help you celebrate the occasion with those whom you work with all year long. It could also strengthen your workplace relationships.

Make a Valentine's Day craft
It is also a great time to bring out the creative person hidden in yourself. A beautiful Valentine's Day craft, made all by yourself, can serve as a great home decoration item for your family to enjoy or even a nice gift for a loved one. You can use materials easily available around the home, just as your child would have done for you.

Charity begins on Valentine's Day
Valentine's Day is the time for love and charitable activities. Take time to visit a local hospital, a charitable center, or old age home and spend some time with ailed or old people who have none to care for them. Take a bouquet of yellow roses along and gift a flower to each of those you visit. It will produce a good feeling and this would surely be mutual. Make sure the hospital knows you are coming.

My Wish for You on this Valentine's Day• May love catch you by the throat and force your lips to break into a smile.
• May the files of logic be corrupted in your brain by a bug called LOVE.
• May you unleash a storm of affection on your loved ones.• May chocolates, candies and lovely treats bombard your family members, friends and dear ones.
• May you always have wonderful memories of your child who could not be with you physically on this day but will always be with you in your heart.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Bereavement Conference Information

I have gathered information on upcoming conferences for those who asked who want to attend regionally or nationally. The Compassionate Friends generally holds 3-4 regional conferences a year by local chapters or groups of TCF chapters and believes it is a rewarding opportunity to share an intimate time with families that have also experienced the death of a child and are seeking ways to learn more about the common path on which we walk. The content of regional conferences will vary greatly as planners try to provide a comfortable and pleasant learning and sharing experience for all who attend. Most regional conferences have workshops of some type and quite often a special speaker and other planned events. Usually 50-200 people will attend most TCF regional conferences compared to 1200 or more for TCF’s annual national conferences around the country with more than 100 workshops.

Remembering, Helping, a regional conference March 19-20 in Frankfort, KY. Popular enteretainers include Darcie Sims, writer/humorist and Alan Pedersen, singer. Workshop presenters are Bill Ritter, Alice Wislero-Koller, Misti Lynn Hall and Terri Daniel. The conference will be held at the Capital Plaza Hotel and discounted room rates will be available for those booking a room prior to February 25, 2010 who mention they are with The Compassionate Friends. See TCF's website: for registration materials.

A Ray of Hope for a Healing another regional conference April 16-17 in Meadville, PA. .Several workshops, picture boards, book display and button table are among the activities that will be available during the annual Western PA Conference. Pat Loder, executive director of TCF, will be facilitating a workshop and a sharing session. The conference will be held at the Days Inn, Meadville, PA and special rates will be available. Again check the TCF site for registration materials to fill out.

The first TCF Chapter Leadership Training Program of 2010 will be in Los Angeles. Registration is now being accepted. The program is an all expenses paid (except for travel) opportunity for chapter leadership members to learn how to best run a chapter. TCF has a web version of a new video After a Child Dies. It offers insight and understanding and hope to bereaved parents, siblings, and grandparents, and to those who care about them.

In addition to regional conferences, don't forget about the National TCF conference July 2-4 in Arlington, VA at the Hyatt Regency Crystal Citym for $129 per night for a single or double. There will be more than 100 workshops covering many areas of grief for bereaved parents, siblings and grandparents. In addition you will find a hospitality room, reflection room, butterfly boutique, and a completely stocked bookstore, as well as memory boards. Saturday evening's benquet will end with a candle lighting and the final day ot the conference will feature TCF's eleventh annual Walk to Remember. Whether newly bereaved or a seasoned griever, you will not be alone,for year after year bereaved parents keep coming back to continue to receive help and to help the newly bereaved.

Bereaved Parents USA will hold their conference July 9-11 in Little Rock, AR at the Holiday Inn Airport Conference Center for $99 per night including tax. Kay Bevington, editor of Alive Alone, will be one of the keynote speakers with many different sessions for both now childless and those with surviving children. The web site will soon have all the registration materials online or call Linda Bates at 501-939-2275.

Parents of Murdered Children (POMC) will hold their national conference in Philadelphia, PA at the Ramada Philadelphia Airport. Check the POMC website for further information.