Sunday, February 24, 2013

Frozen In Time

I heard an interesting phrase the other day: “When your child dies, your life is frozen in time.” As I thought about it, how true that statement became.

The year my daughter died and the day, month and time are etched forever in my memory. If someone mentions the year 1988, I catch my breath. Yes, that was six years before my daughter died and Marcy graduated college that year and moved to Los Angeles to find a job which took her only one day to find! If another person mentions the year 1997, yes, that was three years after her death. I retired from teaching that year, but what did it matter. My daughter was dead. Everything that happens now is before or after 1994, the year she died.

Even if someone tells me their child died March 23 or the birthday is March 1, I count the days before March 2 or after March 2, when Marcy died, so I can compare how soon before or after Marcy’s death another parent lost a child. It has meaning to me even if to no one else.

I find myself always doing that…even to this day, 18 years later. Time stood still the day my child died and nothing will ever be the same again. I remember when it was the 10th anniversary of Marcy’s death. How could that be, I thought. It seems like just yesterday that car smashed into her car. No, it seems more like just today. Can it really be 18 years?

I sometimes compare this feeling to how Robert Redford felt in the movie, “The Way We Were” with Barbra Streisand after they had divorced. Although not the same as losing a child, Redford is in a friend’s boat and they are reminiscing about good years and “best times” they had. Redford is having trouble remembering the best times before his marriage ended and the best times after he knew his marriage was ending. They all became jumbled together. He can only remember the day she left him, even knowing the relationship was not working out. As I watched this, it brought home the point that we all have a “before” and an “after” time in our lives. For bereaved parents it is when our child dies.

Note: If any of you have these same feelings and would like to express them to others who may read this, feel free to write in the comment area of the blog.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Grief Is a Tidal Wave

Stephanie Ericson has written her thoughts on grief that I would like to share with you. Her metaphoric description of the word grief in the first sentence is a perfect description for me and I’m sure many of you of just how you feel when losing a child. The continuing sentences emphasize different aspects of grief and what may become of us because of it. I have used some of these phrases in many speeches I give each year at National Compassionate Friends conferences in the summer months because I am pulled to them simply by the profoundness of the words and their meaning to me and I hope to you.

Grief is a tidal wave that overtakes you, smashes down upon you with unimaginable force, sweeps you up into its darkness, where you tumble and crash against unidentifiable surfaces, only to be thrown out on an unknown beach, bruised, re-shaped, and unwittingly better for the wear.

Grief means not being able to read more than two sentences at a time. It is walking into rooms with intentions that suddenly vanish.

Grief is three-o’clock in the morning sweats that won’t stop. It is dreadful Sundays, and Mondays that are no better. It makes you look for a face in a crowd, knowing full well there is no such face to be found in that crowd.

Grief is utter aloneness that razes the rational mind and makes room for the phantasmagoric. It makes you suddenly get up and leave a meeting in the middle, without saying a word.

Grief makes what others think of you moot. It shears away the masks of normal life and forces brutal honesty out of your mouth before propriety can stop you. It shoves away friends, scares away so-called friends, and rewrites your address book for you.

Grief makes you laugh at people who cry over spilled milk, right to their faces. It tells the world that you are untouchable at the very moment when touch is the only contact that might reach you. It makes lepers out of upstanding citizens.

Grief discriminates against no one, it kills, mains and cripples. It is the ashes from which the Phoenix rises, and the mettle of rebirth. It returns life to the living dead. It teaches that there is nothing absolutely true or untrue. It assures the living that we know nothing for certain. It humbles. It shrouds. It blackens. It enlightens.

Grief will make a new person out of you, if it doesn’t kill you in the making.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Acting Normal After a Child's Death

If you have lost a child, think about some of these statements and relate them to your life and your situation.

If you think you are going insane, THAT’S NORMAL

If all you can do is cry, THAT’S NORMAL

If you have trouble with the most minor decisions, THAT’S NORMAL

If you can’t taste your food or have any semblance of an appetite, THAT’S NORMAL

If you have feelings of rage, denial and depression, THAT’S NORMAL

If you find yourself enjoying a funny moment and immediately feeling guilty, THAT’S NORMAL

If your friends dwindle away and you feel like you have the plague, THAT’S NORMAL

If your blood boils and the hair in your nose curls when someone tells you “It was God’s will,” THAT’S NORMAL

If you can’t talk about it, but can smash dishes, shred old phone books or kick the garbage can (preferably empty) down the land, THAT’S NORMAL

If you can share your story, your feelings with an understanding listener or another bereaved parent, THAT’S A BEGINNING

If you can get a glimmer of your child’s life rather than his/her death, THAT’S WONDERFUL

If you can remember your child with a smile, THAT’S HEALING

If you find your mirrors have become windows and you are able to reach out to other bereaved parents, THAT’S GROWING.

                                               ---from CRUISE
                                               ---bereavement counselors in the UK

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Sharing Our Children At Meetings

I, like many people, still attend bereavement meetings, even after almost 19 years since my daughter died. Some groups in states meet every other week, some once a month. Since most of our members either work or are vey active in their community, our group meets every other month.

It’s not that I need to go to these meetings. I want to. I have made friends in the group, and I want to help any new people as they try to find their way back to a new normal. I am so proud of these members. I have seen them grow so much since the first time they attended, when they were completely shattered and didn’t know where to turn.

Talking about their loss and about their children and knowing everyone understands what they are going through because we, too, have been there, is so very helpful. Sometimes we have guest speakers who are grief specialists and impart lots of information to us. I know what we do has been helpful, and I am proud of that. I also try to get information to them about conferences, speakers, candle lightings, etc. in addition to our programs.

Each meeting we have one of the members think of a discussion topic or plan something of interest to involve all of us. Recently, one bereaved mom, came up with a unique idea that I wanted to share with you, as an example of something you might want to do if you belong to a bereavement group.

She had each of us bring a picture of a special birthday our child celebrated, pass it around the group and tell everyone about the special day, special plans that were made and anything unique about it. We all participated. We talked about everything from parties in the mountains and ice-skating to balloon releases and backyard pool parties. The mom had done a large colorful poster of all our children’s names and birthdates and placed it on the table with a beautiful birthday cake she had bought that we ate. We decided that every January we would celebrate our children’s birthdays for that year as part of our yearly programs and make it a special tradition.

This is the kind of thing that we feel makes our group special. We all want to remember our children and the joy they brought to our lives. What better way to do this than to find different ways of sharing their lives with others.