Sunday, March 31, 2013

Taylor's Gift

“Taylor’s Gift: A Courageous Story of Giving Life and Renewing Hope” a book coming out tomorrow, April 1, chronicles the grief journey of Todd and Tara Storch and their 13-year-old daughter, Taylor, who died after a skiing accident in Colorado in 2010. More importantly, they speak of donating Taylor’s organs.

They found peace in discovering a purpose for Taylor’s death: saving others’ lives and to also tell the profound stories of the people affected by organ donation. So, in addition to the Storch story, those who received the organs and whose lives were saved are also featured. Taylor’s Gift Foundation was founded in 2010.

Both Todd and Tara tell their story of hope and healing, in addition to stories from a teenage girl with special needs to a young nurse and mother. The nurse received Taylor’s heart and Tara got to listen to it. Most importantly, they say there is an urgent need for organ donors. More than 100,000 people are waiting for transplants. Only 40 percent of adults over 18 are even enrolled in state donor registries.

One of the myths associated with organ donation is that some people are afraid that doctors won’t make an effort to save lives, but Tara says that doctors are under a Hippocratic oath saying they will do everything in their power to save a person. Another myth is the fact that a person might think he/she is too old. But older adults can also have very healthy organs.

As for healing, the couple talks about being surrounded by love, even in their darkest hours. “The best thing our friends did was to just be there,” said Tara. “There were no expectations; no judgment. They didn’t try to fix me.” The friends realized, as many of us do who have been there, that those of us who have lost our child are changed forever and there is no going back. We are different people, with different goals now that our child has died and others must learn to accept that. Tara was lucky that she had such thoughtful, considerate friends who never gave up on her, even on days when Tara herself wanted to give up.

When you decide to donate, a representative goes through a checklist of organs. This can be very hard for the family, but necessary. If you have a compassionate person, they understand this and will be gentle with your feelings. Families have the choice of which organs they want to donate or not donate.

Tara and Todd talk about all these aspects in their book, and I’m sure will put many people at ease to know this decision is entirely up to each family and what they feel is best for them. The Storch family wants to make a difference in the world and “organ donation is a beautiful way to outlive yourself.”

To be an organ donor, go to

Sunday, March 24, 2013

How Are You Feeling?

When someone asks you how you are feeling, whether it is one month, one year or 20 years since your child died, what is your answer to them? Read the responses I received from some friends who have lost a child, and think about what you would say if asked. Perhaps some of these bereaved parents will give you ideas in answering for your loss. My response is at the end.

I typically do not share my feelings with others. However, if the person is sincere, I tell them it is a daily internal struggle. I try to be positive but some days it is hard to hold a good thought. I long to see my son. The angel of death has visited my home twice, and I hate this long distance relationship with my family. I am grateful God blessed me with the time I had with my son and husband. I know it will be a glorious day when our Lord re-unites us in the kingdom of heaven. Until then, I try to find joy in my daily activities. Ever so thankful am I to God.

I answer this question differently, at different times, depending on who is doing the asking, what environment I am in, and how honest I want to be with my feelings at that particular moment. When it is asked by a friend that I feel safe with, I usually am pretty honest about my pain and sadness if, in fact, that is how I am feeling. On the whole, I usually say I am doing fine, as I normally do feel good. Unless it is a holiday, anniversary, birthday, etc. which, of course, then I say “I’m okay, but I feel very sad. Thank you for asking.”

As time passes the insensitive remarks don’t hurt as much. I am prepared for meaningless pleasantry, “How do you feel?”, “Nice to see you.” People feel as though a certain amount of time must pass and then you will be over it. No matter how many years have passed (almost 16 years for me), it doesn’t work like that. This pain will stay with me for the rest of my life. Some say, “I don’t know how you do it.” I answer, “I don’t remember being given a choice.” I am stronger now. Support groups gave me the tools to work with. The conversation with my true friends runs a different course. My friends aren’t afraid to talk about my son and they are aware of my grief process. I am grateful for my close friends.

My response depends on who is asking me the question. If it is someone close to me, I answer honestly. If it is someone I hardly know and is just being polite, I give my standard answer: “It is very hard to go on after your child dies. But what choice do we have? We either move on with our lives or we might as well lie down and die. I choose to live the best I can in this horrible situation, do what I can for others in the same circumstances, and keep the memory of my son always in my heart.”

It has been almost 30 years since my daughter’s death and 7 years since my son’s death. No one asks anymore how we are doing. We do, however, talk with a cousin of the fun times that we all had together. My daughter’s third grade teacher also lost a child that same year. This year she sent us a Christmas card asking how we are now doing, after losing two children. I wrote back and told her that this was our first Christmas at home since our children died and that we finally put up a Christmas tree. Normally, we go somewhere else at Christmas to keep the heartache at bay.

I often wonder how really interested the person is who asks this question or whether they are just being polite. I doubt they want to hear my answer, but just feel obligated to ask me. So I answer. I try to explain what I’ve been doing since my daughter died two years ago, how her death has affected my whole life, how I have changed and what is important to me now. I want them to understand this is a life-long process, and I will never recover…that the grief will always be there, but that I hope, with time, it will be a softer grief. Then I thank them for asking.

I know my friends really care, but my grief has not been long enough to access whether they understand my hurting so badly or they are just asking what they think a friend should ask. Don’t get me wrong, I do appreciate when they try to comfort me, put their arms around me and try to tell me everything will get better eventually, but I don’t believe that someone who has not lost a child can ever understand how we really feel. The support group I go to twice a month helps a lot, and these people know exactly how I feel because they have been there too.

I tell people who ask that losing a child is like cutting out part of your heart, something you’ll never recuperate from. You’ll change from this loss, but know that it can be a good change in the end. I’ll always keep the happy memories of my son in my mind and heart and that has kept me going. I believe God has a plan for us all and we will eventually learn what that is. In the meantime, I try to honor my child, my precious beauty, who died far too young.

I tell people the truth when they ask me how I am feeling. I say, “I have good days and bad days, but I’m doing the best I can under the circumstances.” I then thank them for asking and that I appreciate that they care enough to ask. The reason I answer like this is because a few months after my daughter died, my husband’s business partner came up to me and asked the dreaded question. I quickly said, “Oh, I’m fine.” She turned to me as she worked, stared at me, searched my face and finally said, “You’re not fine and don’t ever say you are.” I decided she was absolutely right. I’m not fine and never will be again. So now I tell it like it is and try to be truthful.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Closing the Comment Section of My Blog

I've had it!! I'm frustrated!! I try to help people with my blog on surviving grief and look forward to many nice comments and have even enjoyed controversal ones over the years. But to have to read the spam that is being put on the comments section of my blog recently is truly disgusting.

Don't these people have anything useful to fill their days besides going into someone's blog and making it sound like an advertisement for various products, most of which don't even exist? I even had a friend send me an email saying she wanted to leave a message about one of my blogs but saw that it was full of spam and felt uncomfortable leaving a real message.

That was the icing on the cake for me. I was angry that I have to cut out comments from parents that might be beneficial for others to read. But so be it. I don't have the time or inclination to deal with spam. Those of you who also have blogs, I hope this has not hit your site.

I have taken off probably almost 100 spams. Google has caught more than 2,000 of them that I never even knew about. I am tired of cleaning it up every day now, so unfortunately, I'm going to have to close off the comment section of my blog for now. I will still write my weekly blog on Sundays, but you will not be able to leave comments, as much as I like to read the ones from those who are grieving the loss of a child. I'm truly sorry it has to be this way, but if I can find a way to keep the spam out, I will open it up again. I WILL KEEP WRITING, SO KEEP LOOKING FOR MY BLOGS.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

How Many Children Do You Have?

When a new friend asks you very innocently, “How many children do you have?” you may not know how you want to answer that question if one of your children has died. Let me tell you what happened to me just after my daughter died that brought it all home and reinforced how I now answer that question.

I received a phone call one day from an alum of my college sorority almost 30 years after graduating Arizona State University, saying they were going to print a book on all the sorority girls in every chapter across the nation, since this was a special anniversary of the sorority. She wanted to include my name, address, year of graduation, whether I was married, my husband’s name, my occupation and then the inevitable, “How many children do you have and what are their names and ages?” I was able to answer all of the questions except the last one. I froze.

What should I say? Should I just give her name and age and let it go at that? Should I tell them she had died that year? My first inclination and the one I chose to go with was, “No, I don’t have any children.”

We then hung up and the guilt at what I had done began to overwhelm me. How could I have said that, I thought. I had a beautiful daughter for 27 years, and now I’m pretending she never existed. How could I do that?

In the next instance, I was calling back the alum and with tears in my eyes and a choked voice, I explained what I had done. She was very sympathetic and said she understood (which, of course, she didn’t). I told her I decided I wanted to acknowledge my daughter and explained how much she meant to me.

The alum had a solution. She had run into the situation before and said very kindly, “We’ll just put her name and that she is deceased, so that it read: Marcy 9 (Dec.) That way your old sorority girls will know at least that you had a child, even though, unfortunately she is not living now.” It turned out that that is the way it was done in the entire book if a child or husband was deceased. I thought that was a good idea and told her to go ahead and do it. I felt so much better after correcting my horrendous error. Maybe because this phone call happened so close to her death and was the first time I had to acknowledge that fact, I literally didn’t know what to say.

From then on, my approach was different. When someone asks me, “How many children do you have?” I tell them I had one fabulous daughter who died in a car accident when she was 27 and just married, which then opens the door for further conversation and allows me to talk about her and tell others about her life, When I speak about her, it is my way of acknowledging her and keeping her memory alive.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

What I've Learned From My Daughter's Death

Today, March 2, is the 19th anniversary of my daughter’s death. That is why I'm writing this blog today, Saturday, instead of tomorrow on my usual day to write. She would have been 47- years-old this year in July, and it seems like it just happened yesterday. Just yesterday she was swinging in that swing in the backyard, screams of joy coming from her. Just yesterday she was graduating high school, wearing that white robe and so excited to go to college. And just yesterday, she was married, looking so lovely in her satin dress and walking down the aisle with her father and me each holding one arm. Where have all the years gone? They go so quickly. What have I learned in all these years since her death?

First and foremost, I’ve learned the love I have for my daughter will never change. She was the best thing that ever happened to me, and I would tell anyone that. She was kind, generous (to a fault sometimes), and beautiful, both inside and out. People surrounded her, and if they had a problem, she was there to help them. As one friend said to me after her death, “She was the string that held us all together; she was there to pick us up when we fell; and she always had a kind word and solution for everything. I will always miss her.”

I’ve learned that time doesn’t make the hole in my heart heal; time just softens it a little. My heart sometimes aches when I think of what a waste her death was. She had so much she wanted to accomplish: a career, a family, and so much more. And in one split second, it was all gone.

I’ve learned that talking and meeting others who have also lost a child is not only a big comfort, but they understand, like no one else can. They, too, have been through the worse thing that could ever happen to a parent. Our children were not supposed to die before us; they were to outlive us.

I’ve learned I am not afraid to talk about my daughter. I will bring up her name whenever appropriate in a conversation, particularly when it is someone who knew her and is talking about an era, a place, a situation that perhaps she was involved in. The most satisfying is when I am asked about her, allowing me the freedom to reminisce, smile, laugh and be happy in the moment.

I’ve learned to help others by talking to them individually or in front of a thousand people. I remember a teacher saying to me that if he could help just one person, his goal has been reached. I have received many emails and letters thanking me for my talks, my advice and just being there when they needed a hand to hold, a shoulder to cry on or someone to listen to them pouring their heart out.

I’ve learned what is important in life. It is the little things: a beautiful sunset, a flower that has just bloomed, a butterfly landing on your shoulder, a rainbow after a hard rain. I miss my daughter the most and my eyes get misty knowing she will never be able to appreciate any of that anymore. Who won a football game, the price of gas, and the newest TV show…all so trivial, so unimportant, compared to what has happened to so many of our children and us.

I’ve learned to live every moment to the fullest because I now know how short life can be for so many. Take that trip you always wanted to take but could never find time for; eat that extra dessert you crave; call that friend you’ve been meaning to get in touch with; and love. Love your family no matter what. Enjoy them; always hug then; do things together. Time will not stand still for anyone or anything, so make the most of it.

Most of all I’ve learned I am a survivor. I have moved on with my life, accomplished many goals, and my daughter’s death inspired me to write two books to help others. I believe everyone can be a survivor. It may take a long time, it may be a very difficult struggle, but when you get through your personal grief journey you will find, as I have, there is a life on the other side of grief.

Marcy, I will be at the cemetery on this day to visit you as I do a few times each year. It is our special time together. I will tell you all the things I think you would want to know. I will sit and chat with you as we so often did. We were very close and told each other everything. I miss you terribly and all those wonderful times we had together. But my love for you will never change. I love you now and will forever.