Sunday, November 27, 2011

Making a Holiday Plan

For most of us, the upcoming holiday season will be difficult. It doesn’t matter if your child died last month, last year, 5 years ago or over 10 years ago. We never forget what the holidays were like when they were around: the joy, the laughter, and the delicious meals. Anything they were a part of will always be in our hearts. We will never forget them or the time we were fortunate to spend with them.

Each year I make a plan with five ideas in mind that were given to me by a friend.

First, I predict that the most difficult parts of the holiday season for me will be seeing the joy on a child’s face just as I used to see it on my child: the first time she got to put ornaments on a Christmas tree, the first time she got to go caroling, or later on, the first time she got to bring a gift to a senior home. I will also not be able to buy a gift for my child, even though I’m sure I know what she’d want. Just going shopping, knowing I’d see that special light in her eyes when she opened the package was a great feeling.

Second, the most difficult people to be with might be those who have children my daughter’s age. They now would have children of their own, and I dream of what it would be like for my child to have her own family. I have been to dinners with those who have no surviving children and, although it is sad, at least I don’t have to listen to all the news about the children and grandchildren.

Third, words that would be helpful for me to hear would be my child’s name in a conversation. I don’t want others to forget her. I never will. And when her name comes up and a story about her is told, it is like music to my ears. Memories are all I have now, and I cherish anything that someone else remembers that I may not have known or that triggers another story that I can personally tell.

Fourth, my support people (those who can hear my grief) are my husband, relatives and very dear friends. My husband (not my daughter’s father and never met my daughter) likes to hear stories and is very supportive of anything I may want to do or in her honor. For example, he always accompanies me to the cemetery whenever I feel like going, and he knows how important doing little things in her honor or memory is to me. A few relatives and very close friends are also comforting with thoughts, words and deeds that make me feel good.

Fifth, this year I want to include the following traditions in my holiday celebrations: I want to have people over for dinner who I enjoy being with, particularly those who knew my daughter and are not afraid to bring up her name in conversations. I also want to help disadvantaged kids. I am collecting items and money to buy things for them that they need, according to various organizations. And finally, I’m considering helping serve Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners to those who are homeless. Volunteering is always rewarding.

Think about these five ideas and what has happened in your life. Then fill in these phrases and sentences for your own personal holiday plan, and you may find it a rewarding season for your family and others.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Thanksgiving Remembrance

I always enjoyed Thanksgiving each year and the good foods offered from family members along with the holiday cheer, laughter and love. Our family was small: my daughter Marcy, my husband, my mother-in-law, my parents, and my step-brother’s family. The 10 of us enjoyed the festivities each year at one of our homes, all of us taking turns every few years to prepare the turkey.

The last Thanksgiving we spent together in 1993, a few months before my daughter died, was especially nice. She had just gotten married and she and her husband drove in to be with us. We had so much fun, but there are two things that will stays with me always about that particular Thanksgiving and always puts a smile on my face.

The first happened after dinner. Marcy and her husband went into the guest bedroom and took out the trundle bed, pushing it together, I could see her unhappy face. “What’s the matter?” I asked. “We were just married a month ago,” she said, “and you expect us to sleep in two different beds!” She was serious! And I just laughed. “You’ll have a lifetime of sleeping together,” I said. “This one time of being a few inches apart won’t matter.” Little did I know they would only have four months together before the car accident.

The second incident happened when they were leaving a few days later. My husband put a U of A sticker on the back of her car as they were backing out of the driveway (she was an ASU graduate). She saw us laughing, knew something was up, stopped the car, got out and went around to the back, saw the sticker, took it off, put it on “our” car and drove off waving and smiling. It was so typical of Marcy and my husband, who always teased each other. My heart overflowed with love for her wit, sarcasm and generosity. It was a time of happiness I will never forget, since it was the last time I ever saw her in a family setting.

Now when Thanksgiving rolls around, we usually spend the time with my best friend and her family. It is always nice to be with them, but Thanksgiving is no longer a holiday I look forward to. Everyone but my husband and I have a family member there. They are all laughing and talking about the latest gossip or stories from the children and grandchildren. I don’t have anything to share, so I just sit and listen. I smile at the stories. I know they don’t understand how much I miss Marcy and how I would love to tell a story also. I don’t expect them to understand or acknowledge her; it’s been 17 years. They are not bereaved parents. But it’s hard just the same and always will be.

Thanksgiving is a holiday for us to give thanks. I thank God I had Marcy for 27 years to enjoy, hear her laughter, see her tears, smell that perfume she loved so much, and always touch and hug her. Yes, I still have something to be thankful for on this and every Thanksgiving: my beautiful daughter that I will always love and cherish.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Infant and Miscarriage Loss Book

Children die at any age for any reason. One group of mothers whose stories seem to be less written about is those who have a miscarriage or lose a small baby. Melissa Eshleman of Norway has written a new book “Always Within: Grieving the Loss of Your Infant” in hopes of helping families deal with the loss of a pregnancy or an infant.

Besides a series of stories from those who have endured this type of loss, Eshleman also offers insight from her own experience, losing her son when he was just four days old. She says that losing a pregnancy or infant is such a devastating experience for parents and families, she hopes this book helps in the grieving process. She added, “It’s like having a compassionate and caring support group right at your fingertips.”

The book has stories of more than 20 parents who have dedicated their time and energy into recounting the difficult moments and events following their losses. Each chapter includes helpful advice from parents and thoughts on what family and friends can do to provide support during this difficult time. There are also ideas on how grieving parents can help keep their children’s memories alive through the years, as well as comforting poems, quotes and Bible verses.

Eshleman lost her infant son, Lucas, in 2001. Afterwards, she joined a number of infant loss groups, finding that she could accelerate her own healing process by helping others. Because she knows first-hand the challenges of dealing with such grief, Eshleman said she wanted to fill the void of information that parents need after they lose a baby so suddenly.

“When I lost my son, I was like a lot of parents in that I had no idea where to turn or what to do. I felt alone in my grief,” she said. “It took me too long to find infant support groups and to find comfort in reading the stories of others.”

Although a Norway author, her book can be ordered online at and Barnes and

Sunday, November 6, 2011

"Good Job, Mom"

My daughter always asked me, “Mom, when are you going to write the great American novel?

I would smile, first thinking of how good it made me feel to know my daughter Marcy considered me a good writer. Then thinking, “Could I really do it?” Of course I could. “One day, I said to her. “One day.”

I never dreamed that my great American novel would first turn into a tribute to my daughter in the form of a book on surviving grief and end up being a catharsis for me. I never dreamed I would, ten years later, continue to want to help others and write a second book on surviving grief, still dedicated to my daughter.

I find whatever I do in life now is a reflection of how I want my daughter to be proud of me. “Good, job,” I can hear her say. She would say that a lot, whether I won an award, bought a new car, or dressed fashionably in her eyes. When she and her fiancĂ© went to Maui and stayed in my newly purchased condo in the early ‘90’s, she wrote in my guest book, “We loved it here. It’s perfect. We plan to come back soon. Good, job, mom.” Of course, it was never to be. She died less than a year later.

When I speak at a bereavement conference, write an article for a magazine or decorate my home, my husband says, “Good job.” And I smile, always thinking of how Marcy would have agreed with him.

I believe our children who have died are always with us in one way or another. I believe they guide us when we have important decisions to make. I believe they watch over us when we need them by our side. And I believe they encourage us to do important things in life to make us better people.

I can still feel Marcy hugging me when she was leaving for the airport the last time I saw her. Her body felt so soft as she leaned into my outstretched arms. As she walked away, I thought, “This beautiful person was my creation, and boy, did she turn out to be special.” She turned once to wave and all the enthusiasm, vibrancy and love emanated from her to me, as if she was telling me this would be the last time we’d be together. I never foresaw that. Only love poured from me to her.

Will I write the great American novel? Perhaps. One day. I’ve got a lot left to do in my lifetime, one of them being to fulfill Marcy's request. She will always be in my heart, continue to guide me and be there for me every step of the way. I hope I will make her proud and hear her say in my mind one day when I finish that book, “Good job, Mom!”