Sunday, April 28, 2013

Steps Towards Healing

Dr. Darcie Sims, author, bereaved parent and child nationally certified thanatologist, bereavement specialist, licensed psychotherapist and hypnotherapist, recently wrote an article in the fall 2012 TAPS magazine listing a few simple steps towards healing in one of her articles. All bereaved parents should take note of these steps and apply them where and when reasonable to do so. Thanks, Darcie.

                 Steps Towards Healing

• Acknowledge the loss.

• Embrace and own the experience and the loss – whatever you are feeling.

• Allow yourself to experience all the emotions of grief.

• Find ways to express your anger and pain in non-destructive actions.

• Find supports. Build a support system of compassionate listeners.

• Skip the self-judgment. Let the judgment of others pass through you without damage.

• Forgive yourself for whatever you believe you have done or not done.

• Work toward healing.

• Practice forgiving yourself for living.

• Concentrate on your loved one’s life, not the death.

• Discover the person you are now.

• Begin to release the hurt in search of hope.

• Release the anger and the guilt. Be careful what you release. Once released, you cannot have that hurt, anger or guilt again.

• Never, ever, ever forget your loved one lived.

May love be what you remember the most. We will never say good-bye or stop loving our children. You will never eliminate the pain of death, but you can ease the loneliness, confusion and despair. We are all a family circle, broken by death, but mended by love.

Darcie has written many books on the subject of grief. One of her most popular and enduring ones is "Why Are the Casseroles Always Tuna." Her most recent one is "Grief Quest: A Workbook and Journal To Heal The Grieving Parent's Heart." See a complete list on Amazon.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Sleep Habits After a Child's Death

Has your sleep pattern changed since the death of your child? Do you wake up every few hours? Do you toss and turn for hours trying to get to sleep? Do certain dreams wake you up, particularly if your child is in them and you can’t get back to sleep? Do you get enough sleep or do you get too much sleep? Do you fit any of these patterns?

I asked many bereaved parents what they do at night if any of these situations fit them. Hopefully, some ideas from others may work for you.

Zoey: Many nights I cry myself to sleep thinking of my child who died so young. I think of what I have lost, what she has lost and can never have, and it makes me so sad. I do not like to cry in front of others, so at night, in bed, in the dark, for me is a good time to let all my feelings out. It exhausts me to the point that eventually sleep overcomes me.

Candy: I drink something that will relax me. Usually tea does it for me, or even some warm milk or hot chocolate. Liquor is not the answer, nor is it good for your body.

Mark: I make sure I’m in a dark room. Even if I have to wear a mask, I need it to be dark. I grab my son’s favorite stuffed animal and hold it close to me for comfort. It eases my mind and relaxes me so that I can fall asleep much easier.

Alicia: I find it much easier to fall asleep if I have the TV on. It sort of lull’s me to sleep. The only negative about the TV is that eventually you wake up from the sound and have to get up to turn it off. Then my mind starts wandering to my child and sometimes I have trouble getting back to sleep.

Steven: If I wake up in the middle of the night, I go in the other room, so as not to disturb my wife, sit in a comfortable chair and read a book or magazine. I forget everything when I read. When I am done, I go back to bed and find I can usually sleep a few more hours. If not, I just get up and do things around the house until it is time to go to work. I’m usually very tired that next day and that night can sleep. So I have a combination of both good and bad nights

Danny: When my son died, that was the end of my good sleeping habits. Now I find I need to take pills to help me sleep. I don’t believe there is anything wrong with that. I just hate to think I’m getting addicted to anything, so I take a very light dose and hope for the best.

Sara: There is so much to do in a day, I don’t seem to get it all done, so if I find I can’t sleep after waking in the middle of the night, I try to get some of those necessary things done and not leave them for the next day. My grown son, who died far too young, told me he used to do that when he had too much business on his mind and it helped. After getting some chores done, he was able to sleep more restfully. So I am now trying it, and it seems to work, thank goodness. Thanks, Michael.

Dick: I have trouble sleeping because I am constantly thinking of my daughter, who in a split second, was killed in a car accident. I imagine the accident. I see her terror, the terror that now haunts me and keeps me tossing and turning during the night. What do I do to get some rest? I try to put my mind in a better place, a beautiful place where I long to travel to with my family, a beautiful place where all is right with the world and we are all together. Sometimes it works and other times I continue to toss around until morning, when I’m so exhausted, I fall into a deep sleep and am sometimes late for work when I finally do get up.

Carolyn: Sometimes, through all the stress, I find that taking a half-hour to one-hour nap helps me catch up with the sleep I miss at night when my mind becomes very active thinking of my daughter and what a wonderful life she would have had, if not for the skiing accident that killed her.

Finally, if you want to look into it, many tapes and CD’s help relieve the anxiety you may feel after the death of your child and can help you get the rest you so crave. Meditation can clear your mind also. No one remedy works for everyone, but hopefully, trying some of these suggestions will work for you.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Sharing Parents Organization

To provide an atmosphere where grieving parents can come together and share their feelings about the loss of their baby and the love for their baby(ies) is the purpose of the support group Sharing Parents for pregnancy and infant loss.

It was started in Sacramento in 1981 by a Lamaze instructor who saw the need in the lives of her students when their babies died. All members are volunteers for this non-profit, tax exempt organization supported only by volunteers and donations. It does not matter how long ago you lost your child; you should not be ashamed to contact them, even if it’s been years.

I found out about this organization because I received an email from one of its members to ask if they could use one of my articles for their February newsletter. I immediately went to their website and saw what a great organization they have with lots of information geared towards these parents. It would be nice to see other states start a group like this.

They offer a variety of meetings, telephone support, a newsletter four times a year and internet resources. So, if you can not attend their meetings because you don’t live in the area, telephone support, an online newsletter and internet resources are still available.

Three types of meetings are held. General meetings are for bereaved parents who have already lost their child, no matter how long ago. Couples are encouraged to attend meetings to share or just to listen to others. Supportive friends and family are also encouraged to attend. The second type of meeting is for Subsequent pregnancies, parents who are contemplating a future pregnancy and those who are currently pregnant. These meetings are held on the fourth Monday of every month. Short term grief session is a series of four weekly meetings for parents with a recent loss (within a year). There is a specific topic to discuss each week, and to receive the most benefit from this session, you are encouraged to attend all four meetings. This is a safe place to share your grief with people who have experienced a similar loss. It is also a time when small groups may bond and find the support they gain is accompanied by newly found friendships.

At a typical meeting one can expect to either share their feelings about the loss and the love for their babies or where parents can give and receive emotional support by sharing common experiences and learn about the natural grief process while working through and resolving their loss. You are not required to talk. You may simply want to listen and that is okay also. Depending on the meeting, they may watch a DVD or do an art project.

A lending library of books is available. Phone support is also available for those parents who have made the difficult decision to interrupt their very wanted pregnancies after learning that their baby had severe or fatal fetal anomalies. Telephone support is also for between meetings for parents, including fathers, who would like to talk to a compassionate parent.

Meetings are held at the Mercy Women’s Center in Sacramento. Telephone number for additional information is 916-424-5150.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Expressing Your Emotions Through Crying

There are many ways to express your sadness at the loss of a loved one. I’ve often said that when you cry, you are releasing pent up emotions from the grief you feel. It is good to cry and get it all out. It is good for your body and good physically to get that release for the moment.

When you are done, you will feel somewhat better. That doesn’t mean it will never happen again, particularly after the death of someone close to you. You can cry at home alone or in front of others. Some cry a lot. Some people do not cry at all. Crying does not mean you are a weak person. Quite the opposite.

Washington Irving said it best: There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than 10,000 tongues. They are messengers for overwhelming grief…and unspeakable love.

You loved the person you are crying over. They were important in your life. You know you will never see them again. Your heart is broken and your grief unbearable. Crying will not bring them back, but it will ease the pain for the moment.

If you find yourself having difficulty functioning during the day, try these two techniques which I read about in a grief newsletter. First, take deep breaths in and out slowly and be aware of what you are doing. Try this for about one minute and you will feel in control again. If that doesn’t work, hold still and shift your eyes to the 12 o’clock position, hold this position for 15 seconds while calmly breathing. It will likely ground you emotionally and quell the tears. Both of these can be effective when you need to gain control of yourself in certain situations.

Remember, you should not feel embarrassed when you cry in front of someone. If you have lost a child, a husband, a sister/brother, or parents, others will expect some emotions to pour out of you and they will understand.