Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Heart Remembers Always

And when we have remembered everything
We grow afraid of what we may forget.
A face, a voice, a smile.
A birthday? An anniversary?
No need to fear forgetting because
The heart remembers always.

How true this phrase is! I will never forget anything about my daughter.

I bet you remember your child’s firsts: first birthday, first nail polish, first lipstick, first date, first haircut, first day of school, and all the honors, awards, sports activities, favorite movies, favorite songs, best photo, best year and so on….

You will always remember the child’s laugh, how stubborn they were, their first birthday, their marriage day, their honeymoon, and on and on…

When you sit down and think about it, so many things come to mind, the majority of them fond memories and a few you just shake your head, but they are still memories you want to keep forever.

You never have to be afraid of forgetting these memories because you delight in them, they remind you of all the love you felt for your child, and their stories are things you can always share with others: adventure stories, funny stories, sad stories, scary stories and emotional stories.

A few of my remembrances:
My daughter’s first birthday. A first birthday is special. I had a small party, invited a few friends over. Presents were opened, but I realized my daughter had no clue what was going on and why she was getting these gifts. I vowed that I would continue the parties and that by 2-years-old she would understand everything. She did, and until she was 19 years old and moved out, I continued having parties and they got bigger and better. It was a fun time, and I even remember the themes of most of them which we tried to change each year. In a way I carry on that tradition now. My husband and I have an anniversary party each year and invite all our friends. Each year we have a different theme and different ethnic foods to eat.

I remember the first time I heard my daughter sing. I could not carry a tune and never tried to sing myself or asked her to sing, believing it was hereditary. One time she came home and told me she got a singing part in a play. I said, “What! But can you sing?” “Of course, I can,” she answered me and was pretty insulted I had even asked. She was right, and I was so proud of her when she sang her part at the end of the year grammar school play.

One thing I always remember is how much we both liked to get our backs scratched. We would take turns at night sitting in front of the TV scratching each other. It was so relaxing. Boy, do I miss that. Nobody scratches like she did!

Have I forgotten what her voice sounds like? NEVER! I am reminded of her voice when I look at a picture of her, when I replay her wedding video once a year, when I read a card she sent me for a birthday with something meaningful written in her handwriting, and when I hear myself say something she would have said. It is the strangest thing to hear yourself say a phrase that you would never think would come from your own mouth. But there it is, and I just smile and shake my head unbelievingly.

It is wonderful knowing she is always with me and that I will never, ever forget her beautiful face, features, smile, laugh, or anything about her. And you won’t forget your child and everything about them either.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Not Leading a Grief Stricken Life

A sentence I read recently hit home for me and I hope for you. “Even though we will forever grieve the deaths of our children, it doesn’t mean we need to lead a grief stricken life.”

We need to have hope and have goals. We need to find something to fill our time, our mind and our days. One friend said to me, “I know you have found what you want to do with your life and you’re doing it by helping others through your writings, speaking at conferences and talking to bereaved parents and particularly listening to bereaved parents. But it’s been three years for me, and I am still looking for something to make me feel my life can be worthwhile again.”

It’s true; I have found what makes me happy. For others it can take a long time, even more than three years. You may stumble and fall a few times, but once you find ‘it,’ you’ll know it’s right; you’ll feel it in your bones and in your heart. Don’t try to bury your pain through violence, drinking, taking drugs or any other kind of destructive behavior. You can not live like that forever and burying your pain only creates more pain. Confronting your pain and working on healing will lessen it and better your life. This is not an easy task, but it can be done. Push yourself and keep trying and one day it will happen.

And your child will be proud of you, no matter how little or big that something is you decide is right for you. Your life will have meaning again and you can smile. It will not ever be the same as it was when your child was alive, but it will be a “new normal” for you and everyone around you.

One gal I know made a conscious decision to train as a volunteer for the New Hope Foundation to help those families move on with their lives. She enjoys their meetings, helping out where needed and talking to the parents and others in the families.

A gentleman found that working with his church has helped him to heal. His child attended church every week and was active in the teen programs. She could never convince her dad to be very active in church activities before her death but now he finds it comforting to both pray every week and do the things that his child can no longer do. He does them in her honor, in her memory and because it makes him feel close to her.

Still another father, who is well-known in the bereavement community and speaks at conferences, will never leave his home unless he is wearing one of the bandanas that his son always wore. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him without one on. Not only does this make him feel close to his son, but in volunteering at bereavement conferences, he finds that he can talk about his son and people want to listen to learn of the relationship they had with each other.

Think of positive ways to express the grief that will always be with you, and you will find that it will help both you and others.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Do/Do Not Do List

This week I am going to borrow a do/not to do list from a Bereaved Parent USA chapter member, Doris Jackson of Indiana, (later re-printed in the Alive Alone newsletter), who very simply has said many of the same things I have in many blogs, but does so very concisely. It is something that you can show friends and relatives and hopefully, they will learn some very important lessons that all bereaved parents already know. Here is her reason for writing this and her list:

“I once had a very close relative say to me, ‘There’s really nothing you can do when someone dies.’ Of course, this was said to me very shortly after my son had died, and I was in shock; shocked that someone would look me in the face and say those horrible words, and shocked that I couldn’t even come back with a reply.” So even though it has taken me awhile, I have compiled the following list for families and friends of the bereaved.

Be patient with us. Our lives have totally changed.

Don’t forget us, one, two, three, four or even five years down the road.

We will never forget their death date, birthday or special occasion.

Try not to be offended if we don’t

Laugh as much as we used to

Don’t want to go out as much as we used to

Don’t feel comfortable in crowds

Are no longer the life of the party

Need to be around other people who have lost children

Do support us by:

Talk about our kids; we love to hear their names.

Support us on our walks, golf scrambles, motorcycle rides or whichever way we choose to honor our child.

Remember us at the Holiday season. They are hard for us.

Ask us how we are doing. Just be sincere when you ask.

Send us cards or pictures of our kids.

Tell us stories about them that make us happy and smile.

Let us talk about our children. Don’t let us hear that stone-cold silence when we mention their name.

Love us just where we are today.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Conferences This Season

This year holds a lot of promise for some wonderful gatherings for bereaved parents. I know some parents are newly bereaved this year and would like to know of these conferences, and others who are interested just need reminding of these events. I start off with information on two new conferences and websites for you to check out the other three national events.

The Western Pennsylvania Regional Conference
The theme “Treasured Memories,” will be held April 20-21 in Meadville, PA. Regional conferences are more affordable for those who would like to go but can’t afford the national conferences. You have the opportunity to share an intimate time with families going through the grief process.

Keynote speakers include TCF Executive Director Patricia Loder, Carla Blowey, author of Dreaming Kevin; The Path to Healing, and Lillian Meyers, PhD, FT, a bereaved parent and licensed clinical psychologist, certified grief counselor and a Fellow in Thanatology. Planned are eight sharing sessions and 12 workshops. There will be picture boards, a butterfly table with a variety of items available for purchase.

Registration fee for the conference is $50 which includes all materials, entrance to all workshops, sharing sessions, break time refreshments and a buffet luncheon. Days Inn has special rates. For more information, contact Ralph and Norma McClay at

Ohio Conference: Changing Colors of Grief

If you live in Carey, Ohio, or anywhere in Ohio, Indiana, Michigan or anywhere in the Midwest and don’t have much time off work, this conference might be for you. It will be a one day Saturday event held at Basilica and National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation. Registration by Sept. 15 is $15 or $20 if received later. Final registration is due Monday, Oct. 8.

Keynote speaker will be Joyce Harvey, who has done seminars for Now Childless conferences, Bereaved Parents USA, Compassionate Friends and is a motivational speaker by profession. Joyce’s only child, Jennifer, died of suicide while in the Marine Corps in 1995. She is the author of “I’m Fine. I’m With the Angels and a contributing author to “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series.

There will be one breakout session in the morning to choose either Anticipatory Grief, Your Funeral Rights, Child/Teen Grief or Men and Women Grief. The afternoon breakout choices are Ambiguous/Disenfranchised Grief, After the Rites, Violent/Sudden Loss or Grief/Depression. Each session will have different speakers.

Overnight Accommodations are available by contacting Brother Randy at 419-396-7970. Complete registration forms and questions are available by contacting Germaine Kirk at 419-224-6711, ext. 431 or email

BPUSA National Gathering (Bereaved Parents USA)
June 29-July 1, 2012, in Tampa Bay, FL. See their website for more information

35th National TCF (Compassionate Friends Conference combined with the 5th International Gathering of Compassionate Friends
July 20-22 in Costa Mesa, CA at the Hilton Orange County/Costa Mesa Hotel. See the website for additional information:

26th National POMC Conference (Parents of Murdered Children)
August 9-12 in Phoenix, AZ at the Arizona Grand Resort. Contact or call 602-254-8818 with question. You can also look on the web site.

Additional info
Compassionate Friends is now making it possible for everyone to get a free online subscription to their national magazine We Need Not Walk Alone with many helpful articles on surviving the death of a child. All you have to do is go to, click on “sign up for national publications” near the top of any page and fill out the subscription form. Then you will get a link each time it is published that you can open on your computer and read online or download for personal use.

If you can not attend the TCF national conference, you can still purchase a momento called “Remembrance of Love.” It is the picture of your child with this year’s national conference logo attached to a heart made out of stainless steel. Donation for this is $10 plus $5 shipping.


Sunday, April 1, 2012

Writing To Your Child

One day sit down and write a letter to your child. Pour out your feelings: the love you will always feel for them, how your heart is broken, any guilt, any anger, remembrances of good times together or anything else that comes to mind.

There are some things you can then do with that letter. You can keep it to yourself and never show it to anyone. You can share it with others in the hopes they begin to understand you better. Or you can throw it in the trash, feeling all the better for having written your feelings down and reading them to yourself.

Writing is good therapy. When I look at my first book I wrote, which details my daughter’s life, I am simply amazed at the details I remembered then that I would never remember now if I had to do it all again. When I finished writing it originally, I felt good. I knew I had written the facts, the emotions and how I survived the tragedy. It was very cathartic.

Now, when I am angry at someone or something that happened, I sit down and write about it. I did that when I wrote the blog on people who say things that are hurtful to a parent who has lost a child. Whether it is a cruel statement like, “God had better plans for your child” or asking “why didn’t I have more children to replace the one I lost,” I got to say how I felt, and again, it was cathartic.

Other ideas for you to write to your child are:
…What I wish I had said to you
…What I wish I hadn’t said to you
…What I wish I had done
…What I wish I had not done
…What I wish you would have done
…What I wish you had not done
…What I wish I could ask you.
…What I would like to tell you
…What it’s been like without you

And lastly, how much I miss you and will always keep you in my heart and mind. You will see, your day will become less burdensome when you get your thoughts on paper.