Sunday, January 29, 2012

Grief is...

Today, I bring you a poem written by Alice Wisler and a wise saying from Nehru to actor Glenn Ford.

Grief is laughing with your children and wishing for the absent one to make the circle

Grief is crying in your car at stoplights.

Grief some days makes you brutally honest; other days, grief muzzles you.

Grief reconstructs your heart.

Grief is sadness, hope, smiles and tears rolled tightly like a snowball.

Grief makes you search past the stars and the moon for Heaven.

Grief strips you of everything you were pretending to be.

Grief gives you new priorities.

Grief opens hidden treasures from deep with in your soul.

Grief allows you to empathize more deeply with others who ache.

Grief makes you unapologetically bold.

Grief is a daily companion, best dealt with by admitting you do walk with it, even after all these years.

Grief is the price of love.

And from actor Glenn Ford…He tells this story: The Indian Statesman, Nehru, gave Ford a rose and said, “Keep this rose and look at it for a long time.”
When the two men met again a year later, Nehru asked whether Ford had kept the rose and looked at it. Ford said, “Yes, I have.” “And what did you think?” asked Nehru. The actor answered, “I kept seeing the rose. Even after it faded and lost its petals, I kept seeing the rose.” Nehru nodded and said, “That is the secret of love. If you love something, you will see its beauty. Even if it fades and goes away, you will always see its beauty.”

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Inevitable Question

On a recent cruise, I sat with five other ladies for dinner. It was not until the last night when the inevitable question came up: “How many children do you have, Sandy?” That has to be the most dreaded question a bereaved parent must answer.

I find the best way to tackle it is to say, “I have one child who was killed in a car accident.” The reactions are typical. “Oh, I’m so sorry,” they murmur to me from around the table. And then they feel uncomfortable and don’t know what to say next.

The one lady who asked me broke the ice and said, “I lost my son also, to cancer.” Ah, a kindred spirit. I looked into her eyes and we formed a bond that nothing could break. We chatted across the table for a few minutes about bereavement groups and how some parents find it difficult to deal with the death, no matter how long it has been. I also mentioned to the others that statistics show that in any given room, 20 percent of the parents will have lost a child. I found that stat to be very high and was sure others would also.

The lady next to me then says, “Can we talk about something more pleasant?” She had never had children and obviously couldn’t relate. And so we dropped the topic.

After dinner, the lady who lost her son came up to me and said, “They don’t understand and never will until it happens to them. Don’t they know we want to talk about them? It’s all we have left.” I agreed.

That is the No. 1 thing that bereaved parents want most…to be able to talk about their child in a comfortable setting. They don’t want the child to be forgotten, so they bring them up in conversations when appropriate. It shows others that the bereaved parents are not afraid and want to talk, and in the process, others, too, may have a story to tell, particularly if they knew the child. Now everyone will feel more comfortable talking about the child to the parents. Bereaved parents should tell others it is okay to bring up good memories, because that is all we have left.

The greatest give we can get from others is a conversation about our child, as though they mattered and were important not only to us, but to others. They lived and now we must live for them through our conversations, activities we do, and memorials we set up in their honor.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

When We Let Go

Letting go doesn’t mean forgetting our child that died!

...When we let go, we accept what has happened. That doesn’t mean we like what has happened but understand this is part of life.

...When we let go, we realize we will always love our child, no matter what they may have done in the past.

...When we let go, we are no longer the person we were before and never will be again.

...When we let go we are able to find some healing and hope in the midst of the worst possible thing that can happen to us.

...When we let go, the pain becomes bearable, although the hole in our heart will always be there.

...When we let go we are able to experience and enjoy a different kind of life.

...When we let go we are letting go of the familiar and trusting the unknown.

...When we let go, we can still integrate our life with our child’s. We can do many things in their honor, we can build memorials, we can help others.

Our child will always be a part of us, no matter where we are or what we are doing. We will find that letting go allows us to move on with our lives.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Remembering You Each Month

Another year has now passed without you, my child. I loved you so much. Many occasions throughout the year remind me of you.

January was the month you got engaged, in 1992. You and Simon went to the cabin in Prescott, AZ, and he proposed to you there. You called, so very excited. Ironically, in 1999, my Godchild Marcy was born on the exact day you got engaged seven years earlier. She is a product of my daughter’s best friend Lynn, who honored her best friend by naming her after you. I was so pleased she did that.

February reminds me of the wonderful Valentine Day cards you never failed to give me, always cute, always funny, always signed, LOVE, Marcy. I have kept a lot of them. I wish I’d kept them all to look at from time to time. Now I only get one card with a loving message on it from my husband. It makes me smile, but I miss your cards the most.

March is the month you died, so it is not my best month. You and Simon had just bought a new car, driven it out of the lot and were on your way to your favorite restaurant to celebrate the purchase. Out of a side street came a white van speeding at 70 miles an hour and missing the stop sign, he slammed right into your new car. You didn’t know what happened; you died instantly. Simon lived, but it took him 15 years and many operations to recover. I have done many memorials and set up scholarships so that Marcy will not be forgotten.

In April I always think of the grandma you loved so much who was born during that month and how the two of you got along so well and always did things together. She was your best babysitter, always willing and available to help out when needed. I know she taught you many things that helped you mature into the wonderful person that you became. She died of a broken heart one year after you in 1995.

May brings Mother’s Day, probably the saddest holiday of the year because you are gone. We used to celebrate Mother’s Day by going out for lunch or dinner and you would give me a very sweet gift every year. You loved giving gifts: to me, to your father and to all your many friends. I always think of you on Mother’s Day and how it will never be the same without you.

One June in the late 80’s, I remember thinking it would be a great idea for you, my mom and I to go on a trip together. We chose St. Thomas on my mom’s birthday and spent 5 days there together shopping, sightseeing and relaxing in the sun. Mom’s luggage never arrived, and you thought it a perfect opportunity to get my mom some updated clothes to wear! It was one of the only times the three of us got to enjoy each other with no one else around.

July is your birthday month. I dutifully celebrate it each year as does a few of your friends, and I always go to the cemetery to personally wish you a happy birthday. You died at age 27, and this year you would have been 45 years old. (And it always seems like just yesterday I was holding you and wishing you a happy birthday.) You always asked for a sister or brother, but it was never meant to be. I clean your stone until it shines every time I go. I know you would have wanted it to always look good. You were always very organized and neat.

August, after graduating college, you headed to Los Angeles and got the most perfect job in the marketing department of the L.A. Music Center. You loved the work and the people you worked with, and they felt the same about you. You were so good at what you did and when I’d see stories written by you, I was so proud. Here, I was a journalist, took classes in school to learn to write, and you did it naturally, not from books. A stone dedicated to you is on the Music Center plaza near the water fountain.

September is my birthday month, and I miss your cute cards, your thoughtful gifts and all your hugs. Birthdays were special to you, and you always made sure that your Dad never forgot either.

October to me represents Halloween and all the years I had to help you dress up and trick or treat when you were young. You were a fairy princess, a cowgirl, and sometimes just a ghost. You always looked cute, and your dad and I always enjoyed trick or treating with you. You knew the candy had to be inspected before you could eat any of it. So, you spilled it on the floor when the night was over to go through and throw away any open pieces.

November and December were family holidays. Thanksgiving and Christmas/Chanukah were your favorites. You loved having the family together for meals, you loved cooking some of the food and you loved the presents. Family was important to you, even though ours was small. You sometimes invited friends who didn’t have anywhere to go for the holidays and that was perfectly fine with us.

You never had a chance to fulfill your dreams; you had so many. You loved life, you loved others, and we, in turn, all loved you. I am glad I have wonderful memories to think of as each year passes.

You will always be a part of my heart and the heart remembers always.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Year's Suggestions

Happy New Year!

Each new year brings the question: What can I do this year to move on with my life, without my child? Here are a few suggestions for you to think about.

Our child gave meaning to our lives. Why not take the love we will always have for them and put it towards helping others when we can through volunteering. We know what it is like to lose a child, we know all about the grief journey. Helping others through this horrific event to move on with their lives helps us too. I know that I always feel good when I’ve been able to show others a new, meaningful path to walk through my writings or my speaking engagements.

Helping others comes in many forms. Volunteering in hospitals, particularly a children’s hospital can be rewarding. Even though you may not qualify as a medical assistant, just being there, talking to the children, perhaps playing games with them will bring out your training from within. The simple fact that you have mothered before allows an understanding you and another child can have. You may also want to share items that once belonged to your child. Seeing the look on their faces will be enough to know you’ve done a very special thing. Volunteering can also take place in a senior home where the elderly can get very lonely. All they want is company and someone to talk to and visit with them. Perhaps a small gift would be appropriate also.

Charities that raise money are another way of volunteering, particularly if that charity is meaningful to you. Your child may have died from a disease, such as cancer, and now you may want to support a cancer charity. This can be done in many ways. One is through donations. Another is to participate in one of their events such as a walk-a-thon, auctions, raffles, setting up equipment and/or working at a booth in one of their special events. In addition to helping, you can meet new people and be able to share your story with them.

It is always amazing to me to see bereaved mothers or fathers volunteering to fight for a cause or a change in our laws that will prevent other children from dying as theirs did. One mother became an advocate for not driving when drinking and speaks at MADD conventions and workshops, using her daughter’s life and death as her prime example of how one second can change your life forever. Another got laws passed in one state dealing with the driving age. Still another got tighter restrictions on gun control.

Volunteering at a soup kitchen or food bank is always needed, as are places that help the homeless with essential items such as clothing. Dedicate a few hours a month to a cause that interests you or one you feel strongly about.

This new year fight back to a meaningful life again. It is not easy, but I know that is what my child would have wanted for me, and I try my hardest to be happy about something or do something meaningful at some time each day. Eventually, it will come naturally to you too.