Sunday, December 26, 2010

Using Medicines To Ease Grief

There are many pros and cons about using medicine when grieving the loss of a child or any loved one. Some say they couldn’t have survived without it; others say it is not necessary, that you will eventually move on with your life and can do so without any drugs. I believe there is a case for both.

As a society we tend to think there is a chemical solution to every problem we may have and surely the death of a child is way up there on the ladder. Doctors, for whatever reason, tend to hand out prescriptions if we can convince them we are in need of such. But we must be cautious of whether we need medicine or not and ask our doctor what medicines should be taken if necessary.

One bereaved single mother I met recently, who takes medicines for health reasons and has done so her whole life, was told by a few friend and later her doctor, that an anti-depressant would help her during her grief journey. She was not convinced. She didn’t want to put anything more into her body than was necessary. She was afraid of any reactions she might have. And she was not sure medicine was the answer.

This mother was lucky. She had other friends who turned out to be a great support system for her needs. They came over and helped with preparing meals for her family, helped her with housework, even helped her when it came time to pay the bills. On some days they took her out to lunch and even got her to laugh occasionally. If appropriate, and they saw it might help, they would talk about the child and encourage the mother to do so as part of her grief work. They even suggested a grief group where she could share with others. They made sure she got enough rest, enough physical activity and ate right. Through it all, they also gave her space; time to be by herself: to cry, to journal, to do whatever she needed to deal with her pain.

“My friends saved my life by showing me they cared and wanted to help, and I’ll never forget their kindness,” the mother said. “I’m in a good place now. Time and friendships were a great healer for me.”

On the other hand, there are some people who depend on all types of medications to make their life easier. In the case of the death of a child, they believe it is the only way to survive. The severe grief reaction one may have can bring on chemical depression and can lead to all kinds of problems, even suicide.

Dr. Richard Dew, in an article he wrote, says than chemical depressions results from lowered levels of substances in the brain called neurotransmitters. It is generally believed that 10-15% of the population is genetically predisposed to chemical depression. If something happens to lower that neurotransmitter level, this is where the problems begin. Often a trial of antidepressant medication is the only way to tell if this is the case. “It will take three to four weeks to see if there is a response. I always caution my patients that antidepressants will not make you feel good. They make you feel more near whatever is normal for you. For those grieving a close loss, you won’t feel good, but you’ll now be in the same boat as others in your group, and you are more able to do your grief work and benefit from it.”

Dr. Dew cautions that medication may be a necessary aid for some, but it is only one part of the healing process. Coping skills are what will get you through this.

NOTE: If you personally have any reaction to using medicine for grief, I’d like to hear about it. Email me your comments.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Prayer Registry

Editor’s note: I received the following information about a fairly new online website service. It is not in my new book because I didn’t know about it until now, so I thought I’d give you a little information about it in case you would like to join or get more information.

The Prayer Registry ( is a free website service dedicated to all of the families who have lost children no matter the age.

It was started by Sheri Perl Migdol after she lost her 22 year old son Danny in 2008 to an overdose and dedicated to him. The site registers the anniversary day of the child’s death. Members of this online community, the Prayer Team, have the opportunity to honor their child’s legacy, connect with other bereaved parents, and participate in world-wide group prayer for every registered loved one on the anniversary day of their passing, according to Sheri.

“There is no charge for this service,” said Sheri. “It is my sincere hope that every bereaved parent who registers a child will join the Prayer Team and be a source of prayer for all of the children on the other side.”

Sheri needs only the child’s full name along with the death date. The child’s name will be published on the Prayer Registry calendar and she will upload comments, biographies or any other information you want to share about your child with others. “Once a member, you will receive reminders one week and one day before the anniversary day of one of our kids.”

She encourages bereaved parents to email any questions, concerns or feelings that you would like to share. “My door is always open. I hope this site provides some small measure of balm for the wounds of loss. From one bereaved parent to another, I welcome you to my site and offer my support.”

“This is one club that none of us would join by choice, but since we find ourselves in this unthinkable place, we stand stronger when we stand side by side,” she added.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Anniversary remembrances

The first anniversary of your child’s death is very difficult as is many other “firsts.” Above everything else, parents don’t want their child to be forgotten. Many make the effort to make sure this doesn’t happen, particularly on the first birthday after the death.

Here is one idea from a bereaved parent who felt a great need to do something special on her son Scott’s birthday, 8 months after he died. She had a birthday party for him recording the entire event so she would have something to look back on and always remember. She invited both Scott’s close friends and a few of her own who had known Scott his whole life. She asked each person to bring a remembrance story about Scott. It could be a serious or funny story or combination of both.

In the weeks proceeding the party, she went through pictures she had, picked about 50 of them and prepared a music/slide presentation to show guests. She also laid out many scrapbooks she had and displayed items from Scott’s life in the main room: his awards, his football jersey, his prom picture, etc. Friends appreciated seeing items that remind them of times spent together.

This mom also picked out one special picture and used it to make t-shirts for all the guests. When they arrived, she handed them out and asked the guest to put the shirt on for the celebration.

She cooked Scott’s favorite meal: hamburgers and onion rings and made a black forest birthday cake, another favorite, with ice-cream. When everyone was done eating, remembrance stories were told, and then they were handed a small piece of paper to write a short message to Scott and attach it to a helium balloon. In the back yard, a poem the mom wrote was read and a balloon release sent all the messages high in the sky.

She ended the party with a short speech about how she appreciated everyone coming and that she hoped this would be the start of something nice each one of them could do every year on Scott’s birthday to help others and remember, with love, their dear friend. Everyone was encouraged to visit a children’s hospital with little gifts of stuffed animals, making a donation to an organization in Scott’s name, start a scholarship at the school he went to, donate blood to help others, simply light a candle on that special day or any other idea of their choice.

This was her way of celebrating Scott’s life and encouraging his friends to find some good in this horrible tragedy. She could only hope her words found a place in each of their hearts.

As for myself, I always go to the cemetery on that day, bring flowers and talk to my daughter, telling her how much she is missed by both myself, her husband and her friends. One mother I know holds and annual golf tournament since her child was into that sport. Another is involved in MADD and speaks to high school students about drinking and driving, and still another started a memorial page online where others can go and leave messages and remembrances. Friends may want to get together and plant a tree in his or her name and perhaps even place a plaque in the area. There are many things one can do.

Keep everything sent or given to you after your child died, so you can look back with loving thoughts. Best of all, reach out to others who are bereaved and you will find it will also help you in your grief journey.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Video, Interview and Candlelighting

My first You-Tube video is now online about my latest book, “Creating a New Normal…After the Death of a Child,” and I can proudly say I did it myself, with my husband doing the production part (placing it on YouTube with music). The ideas were mine, the photos taken by me and the organization done by myself. It took many hours of planning, visualizing and getting only bereaved parents to participate in the photos. I am proud of the finished product and invite you to watch it and even pass on the link for others to see. The link information is on the right side of this page. Scroll all the way down to where it says You Tube Video and click. When it comes up, click on the arrow box in the right hand bottom corner to make the video full screen and watch it. It's around 4 minutes long. Hope you like it. Let me know.

Open to Hope did a 20 minute interview of me for their show about my new book, but specifically how married couples, who have lost a child, can save their marriage. It will air all week long from Dec. 2-9 from their main site and then be archived for further viewing. I enjoy my conversations with Gloria and Heidi Horsley. Gloria is a bereaved mother and Heidi a bereaved sibling. Together they started the Open To Hope Foundation and their web site in 2007. They now get over a million hits a month. Whether you have lost a child, spouse, grandchild, sibling or even a pet, this site tries to reach everyone with a loss. Check it out.

Sunday, December 12 is the 14th annual Worldwide Candle Lighting. At 7 p.m. local time candles will shine for one hour (creating a virtual wave of light around the globe) in memory of all our children. If you contact your local Compassionate Friends chapter, you can find out if services will be held in your area. You can also look on the TCF website: for a listing of services, which are open to the public. Also houses of worship, hospitals and funeral homes in some areas hold remembrance services. TCF also has a Remembrance Book in which you can post a note to your loved one on December 12 only, but look at all year long. In addition, you may want to share the time with friends and relatives or just spend the time alone in quiet solitude. The choice is yours, but don't miss this opportunity to remember your child and join hundreds of thousands around the world who are doing the same.