Sunday, May 29, 2011

Comments From Readers Part 2

This is the second in a 2-part series of comments made on some of my writings done for the Open To Hope site. To view the others I have already included from my blog, see last week’s blog below this one.

Valentine’s Day- Thank you for your words of encouragement and your ideas. This is my first Valentine’s Day without my son, Dylan. My heart is aching as I read your words and think about my son. He passed unexpectedly nine months ago, and I am still trying to accept my loss and live through one day at a time. On his birthday and Christmas I helped myself by doing something for adolescents living at a local shelter. I did not think about Valentine’s Day, but now that you have given me a heads up, I will plan something. A small gesture helps me and means something to young people who need so much. Thank you for helping those of us who have less experience in our grief journey than you do. I do not want to be here, but I am, and I need all the help I can get! Alicia

Editor’s note: Don’t wait until the next Valentine’s Day. Some of these ideas, which include charity work, making crafts, sharing treats and items young people need, can be used all year long and adjusted to any holiday. It will definitely make you feel good and that you have done something worthwhile in honor of your child.

Elizabeth Edwards- Can anyone tell me what Elizabeth Edwards said about people being scared to talk about her son in front of her? I heard a blurb of her on the news after her passing, and it touched me, as I have lost a child. Susie

Editor’s note: I don’t know her exact words, but the jest of what she has always expressed is that she (like most of us) wants people to mention her son in their conversations. He lived, he was vital, and she wants his memory to live on in others. By hearing our child’s name, we most definitely get a warm, fuzzy feeling and it puts a smile on our face and allows us to perhaps bring up other incidents related to the one mentioned. And suddenly, our child is alive again and will always be so in our hearts. People, she said, should not be afraid of mentioning Wade’s name to her. She wants to talk about him and his life.

Starting a grief group- Starting a grief group in a city that doesn’t have one is a wonderful idea to promote. I began one two years ago this month on the 4th Thursday of every month for mothers who have lost a child. I’m a psychotherapist by profession, but by definition I am a mother whose gifted child, Katie, has died. We started with a simple supper, some wine and tea and go from home to home each moth. Everyone helps so no one feels too much pressure. Our group’s name is “Mothers Finding Meaning.” Mary Jane Hurley Brant

Editor’s note: I, too, started a group for parents who have lost their only child in my area in 2007, and we continue to meet once a month, have programs and discuss various concerns.

Moving on- How do you deal with a family member who you have showed and told over and over what you need. What do you do when they say, “don’t talk to me about your pain because it makes me depressed.” This is my sister, my best friend, the one I could always talk to. She devastated me with her comment. I am so hurt and angry, but I do understand she can’t see me in pain. What am I supposed to do in regards to her. I have nothing happy to say to her so do I stop talking to her. She doesn’t even try to help me because of her pain of seeing me. Plus, she is a believer of moving on. Katrina

Editor’s note: You are not alone. This happens in many families and although this was written to me two years ago, I include it simply because it is very common. I hope everything is well now with Katrina, but for others, here are my thoughts. The sister is also in pain. This was her niece or nephew that has died, and she is not equipped to deal with the loss, so having to have to worry about two people is not in her makeup. Katrina needs to find someone else at this point to talk to: another friend, a professional counselor, or another family member. As much as it hurts her to do this, it will be best at this time and only counter productive to try to make the sister understand. After a period of time has passed, perhaps the two sisters can more easily come together, but to force it now may lead to other family complications. Later on, one thing I would suggest is to think of all the good times with the child in the family situation. Talk about those times and try to smile a little. Moving on will come as time passes and you will find that time is a great healer and very forgiving.

Thanks for these comments and feel free to always comment on any of my blogs or on my Open To Hope site writings at http://www.opentohope.com/

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Comments From Readers Part 1

For the next two weeks I will be printing some comments and excellent thoughts I have received from some of you. Some comments were printed after certain blogs I have written over the years and some are from comments made on Open To Hope articles I wrote (next week's blog). A few of you asked for answers, which I have tried to provide. If you have missed any of these topics, you can always read any article, which are all here for you or under my name on Open To Hope. It is always interesting to read other opinions and perspectives on any topic related to a child’s death, so here we go:

Dealing with a child's death with medicines- “We lost our 24 year old son three years ago, along with my job. My husband’s sales plummeted and we ended up moving to a new state for a fresh beginning. This did not work. I was left alone a lot as he worked overtime. He would also say that he hated it there. Now in another state with family, he still works overtime and still says he hates it here. You suggested meds as a possible solution. Don’t forget counseling. I do not know what to do with him. He wants to move back to our old hometown and not live with family members. He never went to grief counseling. He never talked to anyone. He says he is fine and we are picking on him. I am at a loss, as I don’t want to go back there. I feel he is still bitter, but just cannot see the damage he inflicts. He was a happy, outgoing, involved heavily into church person. Now, I have to drag him to church. He says he hasn’t made friends at church. But at our old church, he turned down every invitation to go out with another couple. Do you address this issue in your books?” Anonymous

Editor’s note: First, let me say I have summarized what this lady said; she does go into a little more detail, but space limits me. The two ideas that immediately come to mind that I write about in my new book deal with ‘anger’ and ‘guilt.’ Some others on ‘how men grieve,’ ‘grief in the workplace,’ and ‘how parents show their grief,’ might be of help. Not knowing the circumstances, it is hard to understand what is really bothering him. But in these coping articles and others I write about, perhaps something will click and you can go from there. Getting him to talk about his feelings or having him talk to someone else close to him may also help. I don’t pretend to know all the answers; these are just some suggestions. Time is the greatest healer and for some, it can be a very long time. Don’t give up on him. Good luck!

Saving your marriage- “Sandy, thank you so much for doing your part to dispel the awful myth that a marriage has to fail after the death of a child. It does such a disservice to grieving parents everywhere.” Mary Tousley

Laughter is the best medicine- “This is so true. I remember the summer after my son died, Wipeout aired on TV. It was the first time in 7 months that my husband and I laughed in a truly carefree way. And it’s such a strange thing to laugh at, but we were and still are very thankful for that show.” Ebe

Giving Bereaved Parents Time Off- “OMG I don’t think I could even return to work after two weeks. It’s been almost 22 months and I wouldn’t be ready now. But that’s me. I think the Family Medical Leave Act should cover this in the case of child loss. Everyone grieves differently, some parents might want to return to work right away but I wanted (still do) to hide away. I am on SSDI so I guess I have the poorly paid luxury (LOL) of doing so.” Sherry

10 Upsetting Things To Experience- “ ‘It’s nice to see you smiling’ or ‘You are such a strong woman, I can’t believe how well you are handling this!’ These things send me right back down into the pit of darkness. I strive to find moments of joy everyday but the tears are always lurking in the background just waiting for a crack in the armour. It’s been 107 days since my youngest child (16) died and the past few days the pain feels brand new again.” Janice

And another on the same topic- “I hate the phrase, ‘God wanted another angle’. Well, if he did, make another! We parents don’t understand that. At least this one doesn’t.” Sherry And still another- “When someone asks me how many children I have I say, One in Heaven (because that’s where he is), the other one here. My son died 6 months ago at the age of 18, and I can really relate to most of the list. I do not believe my son is an angel because that’s just not what the Bible says happens to us as Christians when we die.” Anonymous

More comments will appear next week

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Four Conferences This Summer

Four conferences are available for bereaved parents this summer: TAPS, Compassionate Friends, Bereaved Parents USA and POMC.

May 27-30, 2011 TAPS
This is the 17th Annual National Military Survivor Seminar and Good Grief Camp at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, VA. Anyone who has lost a loved one in the military can benefit from this seminar. For the children they also hold a Good Grief Camp during this time, so that the entire family can receive help. Visit http://www.taps.org/ for details and to register or call 1-800-9598277, even though the main deadline of May 1 has passed. I'm sure they will let you attend if you ask.

July 15-17, 2011 Compassionaete Friends National Conference is in Minneapolis, Minnesota at the Sheraton Bloomington Hotel this year. Reservations must be made by June 21 and are subject to availability. King or doubles are $129; $139 for triples and $149 for quads. There is a free shuttle to and from the hotel and airport in addition to the Mall of America during the conference along with free parking. There are over 100 workshops to choose from including childless workshops and workshops for those who are newly bereaved and seasoned grievers. Other workshops are for siblings and also grandparents. Keynote speakers and sharing sessions are also included. Usually around 1,500 people attend. Additional information is at http://www.compassionatefriends.org/

July 29-31, 2011 is the Bereaved Parents USA Gathering at the Sheraton Reston Hotel in Reston, VA. Hotel rates are $99 for one to four people. Make reservations by June 26. Call 1-703-620-9000. A free shuttle between the hotel and airport is provided and parking is free for those with cars. BPUSA is a smaller conference but tries to have lots of workshops as Compassionate Friends does. Some of the keynote speakers will include Darcie Sims, Mitch Carmody and  Drs. Gloria and Heidi Horsley. Additional information is at http://www.bereavedparents.org/ .

August 4-7, 2011 is the POMC 25th National Conference at the wyndham Airport Hotel in Milwaukee, WI. Call 1-414-481-8000. Rooms are $111. Register before July 6. POMC stands for Parents of Murdered Children and is a large national organization dedicated to those specific bereaved parents. Check the website at http://www.milwpomcsupport.com/ for more information.

I would encourage you to try to attend one of these. It is amazing how much you can get out of them in addition to making contact with other bereaved parents who understand what you are going through.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

No More Pictures!

                               HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY TO ALL

Editor's Note: I thank Kay Bevington for sharing her views on keeping photos and memorabilia as an answer to my post on April 24. Portions of her thoughts are below.

Pictures, pictures, pictures, that word makes some of us uncomfortable and for some it makes us want to scream - NO MORE PICTURES! Having pictures taken of us after the death of our only child or all children is often very difficult and for a time impossible. Taking pictures of places we visit or people that we socialize with is often something we no longer have any desire to do.

I vividly remember the first time our church pictorial was to be printed after my only child, Rhonda's death. It was difficult because it would be the first photo of Rodney and I without our daughter. It was even more poignant because the previous time that the church pictorial was printed, Rhonda had worked as a receptionist for the photo taking of the families of the church. We almost did not have it taken but then decided it would be one thing we would do in Rhonda's memory. I remember coming home and crying for a long time after that photo sitting. On the positive side, I now realize years later, it was a giant step on our healing journey to force ourselves to do something that was umcomfortable but also something we would be faced with for the rest of our lives. We were now a couple and no longer a family of three.

Not long after Rhonda's death I began to realize that no one really cared about photos that we took when we vacationed or met with groups of people. Once in a while, we would take a few photos but rarely shared them with anyone. Gradually over the years we have ceased taking photos, and I no longer keep srapbooks or photo albums as I feel it is a waste of time and money. Who will want them anyway when we are gone? I figure nieces and nephews or a person disposing of our personal items after we are gone from this earth, most likely will not care. So I have decided to save them from this task and not take photos or make scrapbooks.

When attending family reunions, class gatherings or on vacations, often photographers take group shots and then sell them to the participants. We always avoid purchasing them. We tell those who ask why we don't purchase them, that because we have no living children, they would just gather dust and someday be disposed of, so why bother. It usually makes the questioner do a double take and then apologize for asking, forgetting that our only child is deceased.

The word 'pictures' has a totally different meaning for parents with no surviving children. Photos of our child are our most prized possessions, but photos after our child/children are deceased have very little meaning for us.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Comfort Company Can Help on Mother's Day

The Comfort Company is an online retailer of unique sympathy gifts for the most difficult day of the year—Mother’s Day. Grieving mothers deserve support and recognition on this day.

The company has identified the 10 best ways to show love, support and sympathy by running a web-based survey asking grieving mothers, “What can others say, do or give that would bring you comfort on this day? Perhaps you can let them know.

The number one answer did not surprise me. The bereaved parent still wants to be recognized as a mother. In addition, nearly every mother surveyed wanted her loss to be remembered with a card, a phone call, a gift or a hug. Over half of the mothers surveyed considered Mother’s Day to be their most difficult holiday.

I know that I am always grateful to hear from others on that day, a call, a card or an email tells me that both my daughter and I are remembered. I do not received many, but treasure the ones I do get.

Erma Bombeck said in a column she wrote for Mother’s Day many years ago, “Mother’s Day is a day of appreciation and respect. I can think of no mothers who deserve it more than those who had to give a child back.”

Here is the list of the ten things grieving mothers want most for Mother’s Day from the survey.
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1. As stated above, recognize that they are a mother with a hug, a heartfelt “Happy Mother’s Day”, or a simple card to let them know you remember that they are a mother, even though their child is not with them physically.

2 Acknowledge their loss with a powerful message: I know this might be a difficult day, and I want you to know I am thinking about you today. Removing the wall of silence gives a grieving mother permission to talk about the child.

3. Use the child’s name in conversation. One mother said, “ say his name and ask me my fondest memory.

4. Plant a living memorial: a tree or flower bulbs in memory of the child that will live on.

5. Visit the gravesite. Many mothers felt that it was extremely thoughtful when others visited their child’s gravesite and left flowers or a small pebble hear the headstone.

6. Light a candle in memory of the child and let the mother know.

7. Share a memory or picture. Give the precious gift of a memory.

8. Send a gift of remembrance. Items include anything personalized with the child’s name such as a piece of jewelry, a memory box, a picture frame or a donation in the child’s name.

9. Don’t minimize the loss. Avoid clich├ęs that attempt to explain the death, such as “you still have two healthy children.”

10. Encourage a grieving mother to take care of herself. Send a gift certificate to a day spa or any place where she can be pampered and take her mind off her grief for a while.

To learn more about how to support a grieving mother and find unique sympathy gifs, visit the company at www.thecomfortcompany.net .