Sunday, October 30, 2011

For Bereaved Grandparents

This is Part 3 in a 3-part series of feelings expressed by the bereaved who belong to Compassionate Friends chapters all over the world. This writing is from a grandmother’s perspective, a completely different view. She is from Missouri. All Compassionate Friends chapters welcome grandparents as well as parents and siblings to their meetings and national conferences..

I am powerlessness. I am helplessness. I am frustration. I sit here with her and cry with her. She cries for her daughter and I cry for mine. I can’t help her. I can’t reach inside and take her broken heart. I must watch her suffer day after day and see her desolate.

I listen to her tell me over and over how she misses Emily, how she wants her back. I can’t bring Emily back for her. I can’t even buy her an even better Emily than she had, like I could buy her an even better toy when she was a child.

I can’t kiss the hurt and make it go away. I can’t even kiss a small part of it away. There’s no Band-Aid large enough to cover her bleeding heart. There was a time I could listen to her talk about a fickle boyfriend and tell her it would be okay, and know in my heart that in two weeks she wouldn’t even think of him. Can I tell her it’ll be okay in two years when I know it will never be okay, that she will carry this pain of “what might have been” in her deepest heart for the rest of her life.

I see this young woman, my child, who was once carefree and fun-loving and bubbling with life, slumped in a chair with her eyes full of agony. Where is my power now? Where is my mother’s bag of tricks that will make it all better?

Why can’t I join in the aloneness of her grief? As tight as my arms wrap around her, I can’t reach that aloneness. Where are the magic words that will give her comfort? What chapter in Dr. Spock tells me how to do this? He has told me everything else I’ve needed to know. Where are the answers? I should have them. I’m her mother.

What can I give her to make her better? A cold wet wash cloth will ease that swelling of her crying eyes, but it won’t stop the reason for her tears. What treat will bring joy back to her? What prize will bring that “happy child” smile back again?

I know that someday she’ll find happiness again, that her life will have meaning again. I can hold out hope for her someday, but what about now? This hour? This day? I can give her my love and prayers and my care and my concern.

I could give her my life. But even that won’t help.

                                                              Margaret Gerner

Sunday, October 23, 2011

If Only They Knew

This is the second is a 3-part series of parental thoughts of their child who died. This one is from a Compassionate Friends chapter in Australia.

If they only knew that when I sometimes weep quietly, it’s not in self pity for what I have lost; I weep for what he has lost, for the life he loved, for the music which filled his very being…for the poetry which moved him to tears, for the beauty about him that daily fed his soul, for the exhilaration and excitement of flying the skies, of searching for his God in the vast space of the universe. For all that, he loved and lost, I cry.

If only they knew the feeling of deep grief, the emptiness, the dull pain, the endlessness of death, if only they understood the insanity of the platitudes so freely spoken: “time heals…you’ll get over it,” “it was fore the best…” “God takes only the best,” and realized that these are more an insult than a comfort, that the warm and compassionate touch of another means so much more. If only they knew that, we will not find true peace and tranquility until we try to stand in the shoes of others. If only they knew that we will not be understood until we learn to understand compassionately, and we will not be heard until we learn to listen with hearts as well as minds.

If only they knew that when I speak of him, I am not being morbid. I am not denying his death, I am proclaiming his life. I am learning to live with his absence. For 26 years, he was a part of my life, born, nurtured, molded, and loved; this cannot be put aside to please those who are uncomfortable with my grief. If only they knew that when I sit quietly, apparently content with my own company, I am not self-indulgently unhappy, dwelling on things which cannot be changed. I am with him, I am seeing his face, hearing his voice, remembering his laughter, recalling his excitement and joy in life. Please allow me this time with him, as I do not begrudge you your time with your children.
                                                      Jan McNess

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Communicating With My Child

For the next three weeks I’d like to share with you three parent’s views on the death of their child. All appeared in newsletters of a Compassionate Friends chapter somewhere in the world. This first one is from California and the mother here talks about conversations she has with her child.

Eighteen months ago, I dedicated a bench to Philip. It’s in a space Philip would like, out in the natural world, with abundant wildlife and wonderful views across hills and sea.

I go there often to spend time alone with my beloved son. I sit on the bench, look at the vistas, and remember our family as it used to be. I talk to Philip. I make him promises. I ask for his guidance. I muse on what his life would be like now. I tell him how deeply I love him, how missing him gets harder with each passing year. I tell him about his brothers, about his sister-in-law and his little nephew, both of whom he never met. I tell him how important he is to us. I tell him that we will never forget him, that though our lives are five years past his death, we still think of him all the time and want him with us. I tell him that I am having a terribly hard time accepting that he has died, and that I am doing the best I can.

I have no idea if I am communicating with a Philip who has survived death or with myself, who hopes he has. Sometimes I think I feel an impatient nudge, a sort of, “Get on with it, Mom, it’s not what you think” message. Sometimes I feel his arms around me in compassionate understanding. Sometimes I don’t feel any response at all.

I am grateful for these private times with my child. Whether he lives on in some other sphere, and how I hope he does, or whether he resides only in our deepest heaerts, there is an honoring of him in these conversations, a recognition of his existence and its importance, that matters very much to me.

I believe that we all need to find our individual ways of keeping the channels to our children open. My conversations with Philip may seem odd to some people, but they are right for me. I encourage you to honor your own private ways of communicating with your beautiful child, whatever thay are. If you are searching for the channel that will work for you, consider what some other bereaved parents have found helpful: poetry, painting, journal writing, hiking in the natural world, daydreaming, music, meditation, lighting candles, wearing a deceased child’s clothing, sitting in his/her room, playing a sport she/he loved, and many others.

May the time spent in Private dialogue with your child bring you peace-filled moments, a renewed sense of connection, and strength to continue the difficult journey we are all on.
                                               Kitty Reeve

Sunday, October 9, 2011

A Mother's Worst Nightmare

When Jeanne and Ray Buesser’s son, Danny, died, Jeanne said it was like a road falling away from her. She was numb. She didn’t know how she would survive one day, even one hour.

Jeanne has survived both the death of her son from a tumor in his abdomen, the sudden death of her husband two years ago and the subsequent diagnoses of her other two sons, one with apraxia, the other with autism. How much can one person endure?

It was the apraxia that was so confusing to both Jeanne, Ray and many other parents, since it is very hard to detect in early stages of development. She told me that what happens is that children cannot produce the correct sounds to verbally make themselves understood and the words come out garbled. Because the child cannot phonetically break down words, there are many learning issues. It is hard for them to read and they have trouble processing. She emphasized that in most children, the intelligence level is unaffected. Her goal is to get the information out there to help others.

When I speak of Jeanne, I have nothing but praise for her courage and fortitude to make the most of the hand that God has dealt her. She realizes this is a tough road, but is determined to make it through. The comfort she gets from family and friends, the Compassionate Friends group she belongs to and from helping others learn about apraxia has been extremely beneficial.

I hope I was also helpful to Jeanne when I encouraged her to get her story published about her son and apraxia, since it is not a well-known disease at all and the public needed to be educated. The book that came about from this is He Talks Funny, a children’s book on the subject, but one that any parent can go through with their child and learn much also.

Jeanne is a very busy lady. Besides taking care of her two boys, she runs a non-profit support group for parents of children with speech impairments, is president of the Apraxia Network of Bergen County New Jersey, outreach coordinator of the Cherab Foundation (a world-wide foundation for children with speech impairments), speaker at conferences on the topic, publishes articles on Apraxia, PTO treasurer at her son’s school, president of the Learning Disabilities Association of NJ, and volunteers at a local Temple doing mailings and cooking for Feeding the Hungry.

Her latest endeavor is a book focusing on poetry she wrote through the years on her own personal journey in addition to a little about her life before her children. The book is Journey…From Darkness to Light and will be available soon. Her many poems are simple, direct and full of all the emotions that build up each day after your child dies when you feel totally lost and empty. As she says in one of her poems…her loved ones will always be with her…she knows they are safe inside her heart and mind. Those of us who have lost children understand the torment, the anguish and the incomprehensible loss she speaks about. Her comfort, she says, is in knowing that one day they will all be reunited.

Keep checking for the publication of her new book and visit her website at

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Grief, Loss and Peace of Mind

Today’s special guest columnist is Dr. Lou LaGrand, grief counselor and author of eight books, the most recent,“Love Lives On: Learning from the Extraordinary Encounters of the Bereaved”. In this ezine article he shares his ideas on good grief.

Are you in a state of confusion? Have you made the decision that you will get through this loss? Are you confronting your loss and fears? If not, why not?

Peace of mind is the ultimate goal of good grief so that one can begin the work of reinvesting in a life in the absence of the physical presence of the deceased. Peace of mind is also an inner strength that has both emotional and biological value of immense proportions. From it flows unexpected joy and a new energy base. But how can a mourner get it in the turmoil of grieving?

Even though you may be grieving, everyone has the capacity-regardless of background or experience-to obtain this precious commodity. Achieving inner peace is not only one of the tasks of your grief work, it is the foundation for adapting to perpetual change. Here is one proven approach to consider in this quest.

1. It all begins with desiring it; really wanting it 100 per cent (not, 50, 75, or 98 percent). If you decide yes, it becomes one of the highest priorities of daily life. This intent is essential. You will base decisions on what is important for you to challenge or to let go of. And, you will be more open to learning what others have accomplished in order to find inner peace. Be aware that there is great wisdom out there in the experience of others. Recognize that peace of mind is an ongoing work in progress, not something you "get" and do not have to maintain.

2. Take a personal time-out each day. For most, this is the most difficult part of finding peace because it means cutting into the rapid paced living style that is characteristic of western culture. Look at your daily schedule and find a way to spend 20 minutes just for yourself. Get away from it all, the telephones, radio, and television. Seek the solitude you deserve. Listen to soothing music or visualize your favorite nature view as you are lying down with your feet elevated on a pillow.

3. During reflection time, review your past life for what you are grateful for. This is another key piece of inner work that is necessary to change your inner focus. Include the positive authority figures in your life, the books that influenced you, your friends, clergy, and the experiences that taught you important lessons. This daily task will positively influence your unconscious mind and the effect it can have on your self-image and your coping image.

4. Each day at reflection time, further develop your gratitude attitude by writing down at least three things you are grateful for that happened the preceding day, whatever they may be. You made it through the visit with your attorney, an old friend telephoned, you had a great, loving flashback memory, one of your kids said "I love you," you thoroughly enjoyed your visit to the seashore, or your loan application was approved, are examples. Don't forget all of the so-called little things--your mobility, a place to sleep, an automobile, neighborhood, abilities you use, and hobbies. You will profit significantly from where this developing mind set eventually takes you.

5. Adopt the belief that you always have a silent partner--your Higher Power. Your Higher Power (God, Krishna, Allah, The Source, The Universe) will always be there with you. You are never alone. You always have a divine being to turn to for help. There is no separation from this Power. Ask for assistance, the wisdom to fully examine and make the correct choices. You will receive it. Pray for the strengthening of this belief and watch the results unfold in your life as many before you have reported.

6. Make it a habit to start living according to this scientifically proven observation: for every thought or emotion you accept there is a corresponding physical representation of that thought or emotion in your body. When you grieve, every cell in your body feels the tension. Negative thoughts heighten stress levels; they possess great power to minimize you as a person. Keep putting this question to yourself, "Do I want peace or conflict to dominate my life? Rid yourself of negativity.

At all costs, avoid common energy drains. Yes, it is hard work. You have to be vigilant and aware of what you allow to stay within. For example, forgiving others and yourself puts money in your energy bank. Choose loving thoughts and joyful memories to energize you because what you give out keeps finding its way back.

7. Every day give yourself a relief break from grief work. Allow yourself to be distracted from grief. Accept an invitation to eat out. Go window shopping. Find something to do that gives temporary release from sadness. Everyone needs it. Smile back. And it's okay to laugh when appropriate. You are not showing disrespect to your loved one in any way. These breaks are absolutely necessary to your mental and physical health. They will promote healthy grieving without illness.

8. Last but not least, peace of mind is attainable if you choose to exercise daily and make it a major goal of reinvesting in life. Physical activity is not only a proven stress reducer, it will increase blood flow to the brain. Numerous studies have shown that exercise releases natural tranquilizing chemicals in the brain bringing relief from the constant demands of grief work. Walk daily for a mere 20-30 minutes.

Make the commitment today to self-care and you will take a major step toward eliminating unnecessary suffering as you grieve the loss of your loved one.