Sunday, March 27, 2011

10 Most Upsetting Things To Experience-Part 1

In a 3-part series I want to talk about the 10 most upsetting things that bereaved parents experience after the death of a child. I first read Barbara Paul's list (below) and I decided to discuss it in a recent support meeting. I discovered there are far more than 10 upsetting things, so I will be sharing those thoughts with you from all the parents who attended in Part 2 and 3.

First, Barbara Paul, psychologist, teacher and trainer with all types of grief and loss has compiled the 10 Most Upsetting Things for Bereaved Parents to Experience. Barbara lost her daughter, Jennifer. In David Letterman order I have listed these experiences for you and added a few comments.

10. Going to the grocery store- it’s difficult to see what your child liked that you no longer have to buy for him/her.

9. People avoiding us- when they see you coming, they go in another direction.

8. Holidays and happy occasions- causes extreme pain for your lost future.

7. Religious assurances- “God only takes the good ones.” This doesn’t relate to where bereaved parents are.

6. Unacknowledged birthdays and anniversaries- these are important to parents and the outside world forgets; no one lets you know your child is thought about.

5. Silence- no one talks about the child or shares stories because, most of all, they are afraid. You need to tell them it’s okay; you want to talk about them; all you have left is memories to share.

4. Call me- if you need anything, they say, call me. It’s hard for a bereaved parent to get out of bed in the morning. There is no energy left to call anyone. Others need to take the initiative.

3. Mothers and Fathers grieve differently- it can be upsetting to discover that it is not the same for either parent.

2. Being told to get on with your life- there is no way to ever get over our grief; but we are alive, and one day will move forward when we are ready.

1. How many children do you have? My only child died, and I always say, “I had one child who died in a car accident.” Don’t say, “No children.” Then you are dismissing what was perhaps your greatest achievement in life. Our child lived and we need to acknowledge that.

Part 2 and 3 in the following weeks will cover the thoughts of other parents who have lost children and it's affect on their lives.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

How Much Time Off Should Bereave Parents Get

Bill Stewardson, from England, whose son, Ryan, was killed in action in Afghanistan, was told by his boss he had one day to grieve. Then he had to come back to work. He was stunned.

“No one can grieve in one day,” he said. Bereavement time in his company and many others is left up to the discretion of the bosses. In most cases, unless they understand how a child’s death affects parents, relatives and friends, the bosses can not comprehend what has happened and therefore, never think to give a person time to grieve.

Stewardson is now on a campaign to put minimum standards in place for workers. He wants a law for the bereaved to be able grieve properly and not have to go back to work before they are ready. He hopes the rules will apply to both soldier and everyone else.

What would be a reasonable time? I think perhaps a minimum of a week, but more practically, two weeks. There are, of course, some bosses who will give as much time as needed, but these people are rare. I know of a few mothers who were off work for months; they could hardly function on a day to day basis. Looking at both sides, certainly, it would not be of help in the workplace if a worker is in such a condition. On the other hand, a worker could take advantage of the boss by taking more time than needed, and the boss could get angry, leading to other problems.

If there were a standard law for everyone to follow, it would definitely help in determining when a worker needs to return to the workplace.

Tell me what your opinion is on this controversial topic.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Helping the newly bereaved

Compassionate Friends has made the following list available to all bereaved parents. I thought it particularly helpful for the newly bereaved and so am sharing it with all of you.
When your child has died, suddenly it seems like all meaning has been drained from your life. When you wake in the morning, it’s difficult to get out of bed, much less live a “normal” life. All that was right with the world now seems wrong and you’re wondering when, or if, you’ll ever feel better.

We’ve all been there ourselves and understand some of the pain you are feeling right now. We are truly glad that you have found us (Compassionate Friends) but profoundly saddened by the reason. We know that you are trying to find your way in a bewildering experience for which no one can truly be prepared.

When you’re newly bereaved, suddenly you find yourself on an emotional roller-coaster where you have no idea what to expect next. Here are thoughts on some of what you may be experiencing or feeling (many of these will apply to bereaved siblings and grandparents):

*You’re in shock from what has happened and a numbness surrounds you to help shield you from the pain.

*You find yourself in denial. Your child cannot be dead. You expect to see your child walk through the door any moment. You see your child in the faces of others walking down the street.

*You wonder how someone can feel this much pain and survive.

*Thoughts of suicide briefly enter your mind. You tell yourself you want to die—and yet you want to live to take care of your family and honor your child’s memory.

*You want to know how the people around you can go about their day as if nothing has happened—don’t they understand that your life—everything that meant anything to you—has just ended? Your purpose in life is gone.

*You rail against the injustice of not being allowed the choice to die instead of your child.

*You find yourself filled with anger, whether it be at your partner, a person you believe is responsible for your child’s death, God, yourself, and even your child for dying.

*You yearn to have five minutes, an hour, a day back with your child so you can tell your child of your love or thoughts left unsaid.

*You are no longer afraid of death as each day that passes puts you one day closer to being with your child.

*Guilt becomes a powerful companion as you blame yourself for the death of your child. Rationally you know that you were not to blame—you most certainly would have saved your child if you’d been given the chance.

*Thoughts of “what ifs” enter your mind as you play out scenarios that you believe would have saved your child.

*Your memory has suddenly become clouded. You’re shrouded in forgetfulness. You’ll be driving down the road and not know where you are or remember where you’re going. As you walk, you may find yourself involved in “little accidents” because you're in a haze.

*You fear that you are going crazy.

*You feel great sadness and depression as you wrestle with the idea that everything important to you has been taken from you. Your future has been ruined and nothing can ever make it right.
*Either you can’t sleep at all or you sleep all the time. You feel physical exhaustion even when you have slept.

*You no longer care about your health and taking care of yourself—it just doesn’t seem that important anymore.

*You’re feeling anxiety and great discomfort—you’re told they’re panic attacks.

*The tears come when you least expect them.

*Your appetite is either gone or you find yourself overeating.

*If you have surviving children, you find yourself suddenly overprotective, not wanting to allow them out of your sight. Yet you feel like a bad parent because it's so difficult to focus on their needs when you're hurting so bad yourself.

*You find yourself reading the same paragraph over and over again trying to understand what someone else has written.

*You find there’s a videotape that constantly plays in an endless loop in your mind, running through what happened.

*You find that your remaining family at home grieves the loss differently and you search for a common ground which seems difficult to find.

*You've been told by well-meaning people, even professionals, that 70-80-90 percent of all couples divorce after their child dies. You are relieved to find that new studies show a much lower divorce rate, from 12-16%, believed to be caused by the "shared experience" aspect of the situation.

*You find your belief system is shaken and you try to sort out what this means to your faith.

*Old friends seem to fade away as you learn they cannot comprehend the extent or length of your grief.

*Things you liked to do which seemed so important before now seem meaningless.

*Others say you'll someday find "closure," not understanding that closure never applies when it is the death of your child.

*Fleeting thoughts of pleasurable activities bring about feelings of guilt. If you child can't have fun, how can you do anything that brings you enjoyment?

*Placing impossible deadlines on yourself, you go back to work, but find that your mind wanders and it’s difficult to function efficiently or, some days, at all. Others wonder when you’ll be over “it,” not understanding that you’ll never be the same person you were before your child died—and the passage of time will not make you so.

*New friends come into your life who understand some of your grief because they’ve been there themselves.

When you’re newly bereaved, you don’t see how you can put one foot in front of the other, much less survive this loss. You’ll never “recover” from your loss nor will you ever find that elusive “closure” they talk of on TV—but eventually you will find the “new me.” You will never be the same person you were before your child died. It may be hard to believe now, but in time and with the hard work of grieving (and there’s no way around it), you will one day think about the good memories of when your child lived rather than the bad memories of how your child died. You will even smile and, yes, laugh again someday—as hard to believe as that may seem.

You will survive.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Preserving Photos and Memorabilia

Preserving photos in this digital age is important. We are all just one computer crash away from lost memories and photos, so it is important not to lose those precious memories, particularly if your child has died and memories and photos are all you have left of that child.

We depend on computers and as we all know, computers can fail us. Also the ever-changing technology can cause loss of photos even though we don’t remove them from outdated memory cards or old cameras.

I remember I used to put all my photos in magnetic albums, which were very popular. These types of albums were found to hasten the deterioration of photos. When I heard that I checked all my old albums and not only were the photos faded, but they stuck to the magnetic clear plastic and/or the backing that held the photos tightly in place.

I immediately took out all the photos, bought new albums with slip in clear plastic coverings and I am hoping this helps to keep them from fading completely. So far I have been very happy.

One woman, Wendy Vaniglia from Palm Beach, Florida went one step further rescuing her photos 16 years after her middle daughter, Candi, died from complications of a congenital brain condition. She created her first scrapbook, the story of Candi’s life, using materials that would preserve her image.

Wendy began talking about the benefits of photo restoration to others and soon launched her own business. She now sells photo preservation software and she creates custom photo books and other gifts made with photos such as mugs, calendars, mouse pads, greeting cards, thank you notes and posters for special events. You can take all kinds of memorabilia, like a poem, something the child wrote or made, not only photos significant to your child’s life, and have Wendy create a memory book. She believes not only is she preserving pictures, but preserving the story of a life.

If you live in the Florida area, she also gives free Fun with Photos sessions or you can reach her at . It is certainly worth the peace of mind to know that your child will be with you in the creative ways you preserve photos and memorabilia as well as always having a special place in your heart.