Sunday, February 26, 2012

A New Book "Kayak Morning"

In 2007, Roger Rosenblatt's 38-year-old daughter, Amy, died unexpectedly of an undetected heart condition. In his first memoir "Making Toast," (2010) an outlet for his grief, he chronicled how he moved to his daughter's home in Maryland, pulling everyone together to create a hectic, mutigenerational household (caring for his wife, two grown sons and six grandchildren) saving them all and helping to force them into the future. In his new book, "Kayak Morning" this bereaved father speaks on this unacceptable loss, a loss he still deals with. But as he and all of us who have lost a child, say, "Even as we get on with our lives, the grief remains with us always." And so, what can we do to move on in a positive way?
This is our challenge, he comes to understand, as he explores alone for many hours one morning in his kayak, both his own life and that of the half mile long creek. "The nice thing about kayaking is that you ride the surface, which is akin to dealing with the task at hand." Rosenblatt, a versatile author of more than 15 books, an award-winning journalist, playwright and teacher, says that writing, like kayaking, requires precision and restraint and keeps him afloat.
While in the kayak he explores the pain, bafflement and yet deepening compassion that have engulfed him since Amy's death. His observations are sometimes somber but always rich. "You can't always make your way in the world by moving up or down. Boats move laterally on water, which levels everything." Drifting on the water, he he realizes that art does not make up a life. Nor does experience or death. It is Love.
"Kayak Morning" is a solitary book. Rosenblatt is alone with his own thoughts. He does not update you about his family that he introduces in 'Making Toast." What is here is the thoughs and feelings of a father ,who also happens to be a writer, as he struggles with a grief that seems to go on with no end in sight. Readers, however, may find his words comforting and insightful.
Since there are so few books written by bereaved fathers, many men may also find Rosenblatt's newest book comforting to how they, too, are feeling.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Grief Opportunities

Look for opportunities that will help you on your grief journey. When you are ready (and don’t rush it), try to find an activity to distract your mind from your loss.

It could be something at your child’s school. Perhaps you always wanted to be a teacher, but you were too busy raising a family. Now you have the time. You may want to volunteer to help as an assistant in one of the classes. Schools can always use volunteers.

You may want to seek out a cause. For example, if your child was killed by a drunk driver, you may want to contact MADD or SADD and ask to be a speaker at one of their meetings or conferences.

You may feel like going to a football game, a basketball game or a movie. At a sporting event, you’ll be able to get rid of some bottled up emotions when you scream and shout for the team you are routing for. At the theater, see a funny movie so you can laugh. Laughing out loud is good for you and can calm you down.

If you are the type who likes to shop, go buy yourself a new dress or blouse. If you can think pleasant thoughts about looking pretty, you can improve your mood.

Perhaps you are religious and attending a church service or meditating are good activities and will force you to think of positive thoughts.

Spend time walking or running outside. The fresh air, the sounds of birds and other animals, the beautiful scenery and the good weather could lift your spirits and relieve tension.

Try engaging yourself in more family activities. If you have other children, they will not only be worried about you, but also feel left out. Remember, they too have suffered a loss, and it is hard for them also. By including them in your thoughts and activities, your family can remain close.

By doing any of these activities, you will meet new people and perhaps find in them a great support system to help you move on with your life. You can also contact many organizations that deal with child loss. My new book lists them all for you to peruse.

Whatever you decide to do, don’t do it because you are trying to get over your loss; do it because you are just trying to get through the loss. Everyone who has lost a child knows it is easy to suggest these ideas but it is another thing to do them and be able to help yourself on your road to recovery.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Diagraming Your Emotions While Grieving

When you are on a grief journey, your whole reality changes. You are no longer the person you were before the death of your beloved child. You are facing the hardest challenge in your life. It is an emotional challenge to return to the living and move on with your life. Emotions can be overwhelming and many can not think clearly when on a grief journey. Your mind may wonder; you may have trouble focusing; you may have trouble making simple decisions or you may even think you are going crazy. Your mind may be confused, and you could feel disoriented.

You will need to find a new normal after the death. For some, grief can be more manageable if you can visually see your thoughts and feelings on paper. I encourage you to try this diagram exercise to see if it can be of help to you. .

As an example, in the middle of the paper put the words “GRIEF JOURNEY.” There are many different ways you can handle this exercise. First, draw lines from the middle of the circle and

(1) label each line with a thought or feeling that has come about because of your loved one dying. For example on one line you can put “anger.”. Next to the word, list why you feel angry. Another line could have the word “frightened” and you could list next to it what frightens you now that your child is gone. The word “emptiness” might also work for you. Or you may want to

(2) label your lines as to what will help you through your journey. For example, you could list “caring friends.” And next to it, list what friends can do to help you. Or another list could be “exercising” and what you would do to keep healthy.

Another way to do this diagram would be to change the middle of the circle to another topic related to your loss.

(3) use the middle of your circle as a label for “LIST OF GOALS” for the next year. This could be something as simple as cleaning out your child’s closet, redecorating your home, learning to play the piano or listen to music to sooth the spirit, whether it be rock, blues, classical or folk (music can be very healing). List as many as you can think of.

(4) Another topic for the middle of your circle can be “WHAT GIVES ME PLEASURE” during the day. You can include on your lines: reading, exercising, gardening or just working on the computer. They are all ideas you can do with little effort as you work your way through the pain. Think of some more for yourself.

When you get finished with your circle, explain what you have written to your spouse or your best friend. This diagram may allow them to understand how you are feeling much better and in turn, they might be able to help you on your journey through grief.

Don’t think for one minute that this will cure you and make the pain go away. But by expressing your true emotions, perhaps you can move towards healing very slowly, rather than be stuck and not know what to do. According to Alan Wolfelt, grief specialist, “We honor our emotions when we give attention to them.”

Without denying how much you are hurting, you still have a lot to be thankful for. Your life still has meaning; it just takes time to feel those emotions and act on them.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Dealing With Teen Grief

Often forgotten as parents go through their grief journey is the other child, the sibling of the one who died. This other child or children also go through their own grief, feeling unwanted by both parents and isolated from their friends. They are now different; they are the survivors and can feel survivor guilt, whether it be a ski or car accident, an illness or a murder.

They don’t want to or can’t verbalize their feelings and sometimes retreat from everyone. This can become a huge problem both for the teens in school and in the family environment. Teens need a safe, environment to express themselves and because they know how much the parents are grieving, many seek professional support groups specifically designed for them or even seek help from counselors at school. Often times it is a peer group that gives them an outlet to express themselves without judgment. This can be through talking to others in the group or expressing their feelings through writing, music or poetry.

Everyone grieves differently, especially teenagers, and we must respect that uniqueness by providing a haven for them to do their grief work.

Below is a list for parents and teachers of 10 common signs of teen grief.

* Inability to concentrate
* Isolation
* Expressing feelings of guilt
* Idealizing the person who died
* Needing to tell and retell their story
* Acting out behaviors such as drugs, alcohol, permissiveness
* Change in eating or sleeping patterns
* Bullying or becoming the class clown
* Grades dropping
* Talking about giving possessions away and funerals

Parents should understand that although they, too, are grieving, they need to help their other children work through their own grief process and give them as much support as possible. By doing this, both the parent and child may find a new avenue of understanding each other that will lead to an even closer relationship as they walk the grief journey.