Sunday, August 29, 2010

Finding a Good Support Group

Finding a good support group to tell your story in your time of need can be very helpful during your grief journey and beyond.

There are many different groups out there to help those who have lost a child. The Compassionate Friends has over 600 chapters in most states and probably one near you. They also have sibling groups and grandparent groups. Bereaved Parents USA doesn’t have as many chapters, but by going to their website, you can find out if there are any nearby. If you want a specific support group like AIDS, SIDDS, Stillbirth and cancer groups, these too, are available. Check with hospice, hospitals or funeral homes for additional information.

In any of these groups, you are able to share your story in a non-threatening, safe atmosphere, and you will eventually find healing. Don’t try to confront your grief alone. Reach out to others. As the Compassionate Friends credo says, “You Need Not Walk Alone.”

According to Alan Wolfelt, Ph.D and professional grief counselor, one should look for healthy support groups with the following characteristics:

*group members acknowledge that each person’s grief is unique.
*group members understand that grief is not a disease, but a normal process without a specific timetable. Everyone grieves at their own pace.
*group members feel free to talk in a group setting, but it is okay if they just prefer to listen.
*group members respect each other’s right to confidentiality. The feelings expressed are not made public.
*each group member is allowed equal time to speak; others should not monopolize the entire time nor interrupt when others are speaking.
*group members should not give advice unless it is asked for.
*group members recognize that thoughts and feelings are neither right nor wrong. They listen with empathy to others without trying to change them.

If you can find a group with this type of support, the healing process has begun.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Signs From Our Children

Is it possible that our children who have died somehow communicate back to us with messages of their continued existence? Through various signs and events many parents believe a child’s spirit lives on forever. Do I believe this is true? I have no reason NOT to believe it.

I have heard of many examples, and who are we to say this can’t be true. I have friends who have gone through the experience. Here are a few examples.

Mitch Carmody, author and bereaved parent, has spoken often of his son to whom he wrote a letter asking for some sign. The letter asked for something to grow in his yard he had not seen before. The following spring three cornstalks grew in his back yard, only one of which had produced an ear of corn. He picked it that fall on the first anniversary of his son’s death. When he peeled back the husk of the ear of corn, he found the cob had rotted and that the mold had formed and stained the back of the husk with the letters D A D. It led him to believe our children are in another realm of existence and can somehow let us know that they are near.

One friend woke up in the middle of the night suddenly, sat up in bed and at the end of the bed saw an image that to this day she says was her daughter who had died the previous year. She says that it only lasted a few seconds, but she knows it was real.

Others speak of butterflies landing on their shoulder at specific opportune times and sitting there for a long time.

A relative visited my daughter’s grave one year right before I had some stomach surgery. On her gravestone is a picture and he says when he looked at it, a halo formed around the top of her head and he heard her say, “Don’t worry, mom will be okay.” When he told me the story a week later, he prefaced it with “I know you’re not going to believe me, but…” I told him, “Of course, I believe you.” I don’t doubt for one second that it can happen. I don’t doubt that our child’s spirit can touch us at any time.

Another friend, who was walking near her home weeks after a death, came across a quarter in the road with the exact birth year of the loved one who died. She took it as a sign. Love survives, and only when we love deeply, do the signs come.

Many bereaved parents go to psychics or gifted people. They want to be told about their child, what is happening to them, how they are and when the psychic can talk to them and/or believes the parents will be able to see and talk to them. I’m skeptic about this, although some parents have had dramatic proof that these people know of the loved ones and can tell parents what they want to hear. Others are disappointed after hearing evidence presented and knowing some of those out there are fakes.

Signs may appear in any shape and form at any time. See if you can recognize them, for if you truly believe that our child’s spirit can touch us, the signs will come. Let me know of your experience.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Windchime Memorials

Editor's Note: I came across this interesting Ezine story about a windchime memorial for your loved one written by Rachel Betzen. Rachel owns and operates the on-line store selling windchimes along with her husband. They are committed to social and environmental responsibility in all their businesses. Perhaps this is something that may be of interest to you.

When we remember loved ones lost and the family and friends most affected, a special memorial can help us honor their lives and soothe the pain of that loss. Memorials for a loved one may include many aspects, but they all have something special that remind us of the person lost. Personalizing a memento allows us to take that special memory and engrave it into something tangible.

When a special memorial engraving is placed beneath a finely crafted windchime, both the imagery and sounds of the instrument make it a powerful symbol of remembrance. For those who have gone before us, a memorial is a celebration of their life. An engraved memento that personalizes our memories on the windplate of chimes, allows us to take the pictures and words that give meaning to our loved one’s like. One family may choose an engraving of a sailboat on the lake, a special gift for a mother whose young daughter had spent many hours on her favorite lake. Another may choose images of trees or mountains to remember someone who loved the outdoors, or a cross as a symbol or the strength the family receives through their faith.

The power of using an engraved wind chime as a memorial tribute, is that a quality windchime invites the listener to pause, take notice, and appreciate the little things in their life that bring reflection. When we do take that pause, the sounds that come into focus are just as important as the images. This is where a hand tuned wind chime makes all the difference between melodious chords and grating metal. High quality hand tuned windchimes are made with different tunings which may also remind us of someone special in our lives.

A medium sized Himalayan tuning reminded one man of his late nephew’s singing voice, a calming sound to his sister’s family. A mother chose a small Stardust windchime to memorialize her young girl and the angels she felt watched over her at the end of her life. Another family decided on a extra-large earthsong windchime, reminiscent of the resounding strength of their son, a veteran whose life was lost overseas.

Memorial windchimes may be hung where we will see them everyday and will provide opportunities to glimpse at the words and images engraved below that keep the memory of our loved one close. Memorial windchimes may also be hung outdoors near the place of someone’s passing, such as by the road where their accident occurred. Wherever they are placed, it is most important that a memorial tribute of a personalized wind chime honor a loved one while giving remaining family and friends a way to pause, remember, and to appreciate the music along the way.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Accepting Other's Beliefs

“How could God have done this to me?”
“My God is a cruel God or he never would have let this happen?”
“It is my faith that has gotten me through this ordeal.”
“I don’t ever want to hear again, ‘God only takes the good ones.’”

When the death of a child occurs in the family, many experience a faith in God they have never known before. They cling to the belief that they will reunite one day with their loved one. They may also say that because they believe in God, He will ease their suffering. Others look upon God as letting them down by allowing their loved one to die. Still others are confused about God’s place in all this.

We hear the word “God” at a funeral service when a death occurs, in sympathy cards, from friends, relatives and even strangers.

We will find people saying things like, “God made sure that your child did not suffer.” On a personal level I ask, why did my child have to suffer at all; why did this have to happen? I heard this comment from a very compassionate woman friend, who I know meant no harm and only wanted to ease my mind after the car accident that killed my daughter. My friend continued, “Would you have wanted your child to have been incapacitated all her life with you taking care of her? She’s better off being with God.” I thought to myself, what in the world makes her think she would have been in bad shape. A second thought quickly surfaced. I would have wanted her to be alive in any condition, and yes, I would have taken care of her.

I would have preferred my friend simply express her condolences to me, but I knew she was a religious person and her faith sustained her in everything she did. When she found out she had cancer, she was accepting of the fact she did not have long to live and used her remaining time to do what she referred to as God’s work.

Others may say to bereaved parents, “You don’t have to grieve too long; you’ll be with your daughter eventually.” That does not mean that I have to agree with a statement like this. I have a choice. I can get mad, or I can decide this is just an easy answer to something not understandable to many. I have chosen the latter.

An irritating phrase that bereaved parents do not want to hear is “God would want you to forgive,” which someone might say if your loved one is murdered and the offender goes on trial. If you believe that the Higher Being of your faith can handle your anger and rage and take the tears away as they talk about heaven or eternal life, you are entitled to do so. If you do not believe any of that, try to explain your feelings. Everyone is entitled to his or her own beliefs.

In the book No Time for Goodbyes author Janice Harris Lord says, “The role of a Higher Being in what happened to you is your own faith decision. If you believe this was meant to be, that’s fine. If it doesn’t make sense, try to understand that those who say what they do, mean well and are sharing their own faith decision and not trying to hurt you.”

On the other side of the fence, those who were once religious may lose all faith, blaming God for letting this death occur and swear they will never go into a church again. That is an emotional decision and could change with time. Others say that after-death spiritual experiences where their loved ones have communicated with them are emotionally and spiritually healing to them. Finally, others believe that their faith in God sustains them as they endure their suffering.

Some good guidelines to follow during this fragile time in your life:

· Don’t discuss God with religious people who use this as an answer to complex questions. Their faith journey may have been different from yours.

· Find someone who has had an experience similar to yours who also has a meaningful religious faith and ask how their faith is helpful to them, whether you end up agreeing or not.

· Contact a religious counselor who has special training in accepting and dealing with grief.

Be accepting of others and their beliefs, even in your darkest hour, shows progress in your grief journey.

Editor's note: This 'coping' article is one of over 80 in Sandy Fox's new grief book, Creating a New Normal...After the Death of a Child. The book can be purchased through Barnes and,,, and iUniverse.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Workshop Memories at TCF

Editor’s Note: This is the fourth and final article in a series that talks about some of the 100 different workshops presented at The Compassionate Friends National Conference July 2-4, 2010. I hope by reading some of the descriptions of these workshops plus the ones written about in previous weeks, you will be encouraged to attend the next Compassionate Friends conference July 15-17, 2011, in Minneapolis. Keep in mind some workshops will change next year, while the most popular ones will be retained. No matter; there is something for everyone. The conference is a wonderful experience and one you will never forget. Best of all, it will help you as you continue in your lifelong grief journey.


When your child dies, one is immediately and unwillingly thrust into a new life. You may become angry, confused, despondent, untrusting. You are forced to deal with emotions and situations that are completely new to you. Who am I now that I have become childless? I am torn, lost and unavailable to be a grandparent unless my child was older and had children of his/her own. I am no longer able to see a future. I am no longer free to be the parent I had been. I am a prisoner of my own deep and unending pain. BUT, I am the mother or father of a child in heaven. I am a parent with beautiful memories to fill my broken heart. I am the mother or father of a child who was loved and adored. Participants explored these ideas.


Discussion included stigmatization, self-blame, anger, confusion and wondering why the death occurred, accompanied by the more common feelings associated with loss: shock, longing and profound sadness. They also delved into the question of how parents eventually absorb these losses and where they find the most help: in support groups, with counselors, clergy, psychics and Internet support groups.


The impact of the sudden, unexpected death of a child of any age, due to accident, murder or undiagnosed medical conditions are explored in this workshop. With no chance to say good-bye, survivors are faced with a range of emotions and factors that can complicate the grieving process. Participants were encouraged to share their personal grief journey.


This workshop takes yoga beyond the physical body and brings it into your daily life. The ancient, yet relevant philosophies and practices of yoga encourage a non-judgmental, compassionate, self-inquiry that aids in releasing that which blocks you from connecting with your source energy. Through the use of breath, movement and experiential exercises, you will stay present for your emotions as they arise, experience them fully as they shift and change and learn to trust that it is safe to feel whatever is present. No mater what stage of healing you are in, self-compassion and loving kindness provide you with the tools for healing the wounds that prevent you from experiencing the joys that life has to offer.


Showing you how meaningful and important making the commitment to survive is for grieving individuals and families was the goal of this workshop. One mother lacked the energy, the desire, and the hope to survive the death of her son. She shares how she went from just existing with the grueling task of grief to choosing the unexpected and eventual relief of surviving. Clients of one bereavement counselor have accomplished this daunting task creating a strategy for successful grieving. The commitment to survive is as life-changing as the loss itself; it requires love, determination and fortitude. Participants learned how to work with the love for your child, add in the love for yourself and survive this incredible loss.


No matter when or how our loved one died, there is compelling evidence that supports the belief we can still feel their presence through signs. This notion uphold the theory that somehow our soul survives beyond the physical restraints of the body, that in some way the essence of life, personality, the vitality and energy that we are as human beings somehow survives death. This workshop explored this phenomenon in detail and provided a slide show of extraordinary anecdotal evidence coming in from all over the world.


This workshop described how we can find creative ways to keep our children close to us by using their clothing or blankets to make special items. Some of the items discussed were the making of a bear from the child’s clothing with a pattern (or you can have do it for you with or without a picture of your child); a memory t-shirt, again with words or both words and a picture of the child; making a quilt from pieces of your child’s clothing; and making purses designed with memories. Also included were an angle pin, bookmark, a sun-catcher and a memory box with your child’s picture on top or inside and what to include in the box.