Sunday, September 29, 2013


Last week I was the guest of the group MOM’S FOREVER, a bereaved mothers group in Montreal, Canada. They invited me there to speak about coping and moving on with your life after the death of a child. They had heard from a friend that I speak at many national conferences and said they would pay all my expenses, and in addition, I could sell my books. I agreed.

None of us had any way of knowing what a great turnout we would have…over 160 people, mostly bereaved mothers and fathers. There was one or two who had lost their spouse and even a couple of people who weren’t bereaved at all. They just wanted to hear what I had to say so that they would know how to act and react to those who had lost a child, as one woman said to me as she bought my two books. She looked a little embarrassed to tell me she wasn’t bereaved, but I told her I wished there were more people in this world who cared as much as she did to do the correct thing with bereaved parents. Bravo to her.

After giving my speech sharing coping techniques, teaching others about our grief, pointers for the newly bereaved, pointers for those who were 5 and 10 years out and even those over 10 years, giving examples from my life and others, and going through the grief process, many told me afterwards they had learned a lot and thanked me. It was heartwarming to know that my trip had been worthwhile, and I sold many, many of my books to those who attended.

The Moms Forever group of 8 women had done a great job planning this and carrying it off. They had no idea how many people would show up but did a lot of publicity to make it happen. They were a friendly, exuberant, classy group of ladies, and you would never know each of them had a different story about what had happened to their child and how they were moving on with or without their spouse. I really commend them for their outlook on life. Sure, they had their moments just like we all do, but they understand clearly that time, hope and a willingness to want to find joy again is their goal.

Thanks so much, Moms Forever, for showing me your spirit. I admire you all and want you to know that in the short time I was there I felt a bond between all of us who walk this lifetime grief journey.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Shells From the Sea

Anne, chairperson of one of the committees at the National Compassionate Friends Conference this past July, did something very unique for what is called the ‘reflection room,’ a place of rest and reflection for bereaved parents. Her project was so unique that I though some chapters might want to do something similar, instead of a balloon or butterfly release. It would be up to each group, whether they just do the shell portion or actually throw them back into the sea.

Over a thousand shells were gathered and placed in the reflection room along with four tall lighthouses that were designed and built for each corner of the room (and at the end of the conference auctioned off). Sharpies were provided and those who came in were welcomed to write on a message on a shell or just their loved one’s name and place them under one of the lighthouses or take them home with them. All the shells left were brought back to the ocean from where they originated and each child’s name on the shell was read before being tossed from the boat into the water. See the youtube video of this being done at .

Almost 800 shells were left with messages of love to our children, grandchildren and siblings. “It was amazing,” said Anne, “to watch how each shell reacted differently to the water.” “Some floated while others drifted; some plunged and others dance; a few bounced back out before peacefully floating on. I like to think that the shells took on a personality of the name written on them. It was a unique experience, one I felt honored to be a part of,” she added.

A few comments from those who participated in the shells from the sea:

Gail Lafferty said..."When I wrote my son's name on the shell at the conference I debated whether to bring it home with me but decided he would love it going back to the water where he loved to be and play as a child...thank you so much...this has touched me so deeply...

Julie Diem said..."This was very touching...and honoring. Thank you for doing this. The reflection room and this activity was one of the most moving and healing things for me that weekend. What a thoughtful, beautiful and honoring act for my daughter and 3 grandsons. May God bless you for all you have done for us bereaved.

Jackie Glawe said...The reflection room was serene and calming and I loved the shell idea! Thank you so much for taking the time to take all the shells to the ocean and video and photograph the process as well...

Donna LaPointe said...This was SO powerful. All I can say is Thank You, Thank You. What an incredible testament to our precious children...

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Tony Brown Foundation

Find and/or create a passion in this world so that you too can live a fulfilling and productive life with purpose after suffering a loss...

That is the mission of the Tony Brown Foundation. Tony died at age 24 from complications during a hospital procedure. Tony loved all sports like football, lacrosse, snowboarding, wake boarding, dirt bikes but especially skateboarding. Broken bones were always in his life. He also loved video cameras. He eventually discovered his dream: to work in the film industry with extreme sports. He died a month short of graduating from Full Sail School in Florida. His future was full of hopes and dreams with a goal to film the sports he loved, have a family and live a full life!

The foundation provides opportunities to explore possibilities to grow, learn and discover new or old passions while moving lives forward in a positive direction. Additional support for those grieving is provided by a support group called Moving Through Grief. They are dedicated to helping families move forward on their grief journey with support, hope and love.

“It is our belief that strength comes from sharing,” said one member.

They have held events such as the annual candle lighting in conjunction with Compassionate Friends worldwide candle lighting; they have donated to the Salvation Army with gifts for children; and to the Valley Food Bank…a huge carriage of groceries. In addition they have hosted a free Angels Across the USA Concert with Alan Pedersen, well known singer, and held fundraisers to contribute to scholarships and blood drives.

The foundation also provides scholarships to help a person attend a Compassionate Friends National Conference and The Camp of Champions. The foundation believes that through these two scholarships, they can provide hope and friendship to those looking to not only learn how to survive the loss of a child but also to those who want to live their lives to the fullest in honor of their loved one’s memory.

A very special Symposium of Life After Loss will be held Oct. 25-26 at the Crown Plaza on Old Ridgebury Rd in Danbury, CT. For all those in the area, it is two days of sharing, growing, learning, discovering and finding hope in your life after loss. Speakers will include Darcie Sims, alan Pedersen, Mitch Carmody, Heidi Horsley and the Love In Motion Signing choir. Registration fee is $75. For further information email:, go to or call 203-805-8239.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Part 2 of Reading Grief Books

continued from last week...

Grief books were a great help to me. Last week I talked about the first one I received that continues to be one of my favorites. This week I'd like to switch gears and tell you about a book called "Remembering With Love" by Elizabth Levand and Sherokee Ilse.

This book has messages of hope for the first year of grieving and beyond. The purpose is to affirm your feelings and bring you hope to light your have a constant source of support. You are not alone. Within this book you will find the voices of many others who have struggled along their own paths, coped and survived. Their experiences emphasize that every individual has a right to their feelings and ways of coping and that no matter what others may say, you have the right to grieve for as long and as hard as you need to. It is their hope that these messages, combined with their words, will help you find the courage and strength that are within you.

Each of the 300 entries includes a wide range of feelings, options, issues and experiences that hopefully, you can relate to as your grief ebbs and flows over time, not only the first year but also beyond. Special days, moments and concerns, a collection of poetry and prose for birthdays, anniversaries and holidays is also included. Each page has a quote from the bereaved of his/her feelings, one or two paragraphs from the author about how to handle the pain, and then a promise for the bereaved to make to themselves to begin the healing process. I found the examples could relate to any death...a child, a spouse, a parent, a sibling..but allows us to identify within ourselves if this is how we feel.

The index at the front of the book is by subject matter, so that if there is a specific topic that appeals to you, it will be easy for you to find.

A couple of examples on these pages inside the book to show you how it is constructed are:

                                     WELL MEANING FRIENDS

"Friends cleaned my house, took everything I had in my daughters' room except their cribs, and put it all away. If made me mad. I felt they were taking away what little bit I had left."

     Our family and friends want to help us in any way they can. They care for us and want to ease our pain. In an attempt to help, they may decide to get rid of the painful possessions that might be reminders of our loved one, or pressure us to take care of this task right away. However, this is a decision which we must make for ourselves.
     If we are distressed because people have made inappropriate decisions for us or given us unhelpful advice, we can consider sharing our feelings with them. We can let them know that while we appreciate their good intentions, they are not being helpful. we can tell them what we might have preferred.

I have a right to my feelings when decisions are made or advice given that isn't helpful to me. When possible, I will ask others to give me the freedom to make my own decisions.

                                CALMNESS FROM WALKING

"During the hard days of grieving, as well as the less intense days that followed, I would take many walks, to be by myself and to reminisce. They always seemed to refresh and calm me, as I recalled my loved one's influence on my life."

     Something so simple as walking may surprise us in its power to calm and refresh us. the adrenaline pumps through our body, our heart beats faster, and our emotions can be refreshed from the exercise of a brisk walk. Or, a slow and peaceful walk can help calm us, even if just for the time being. We may also find walking to be an opportunity to relive the influence our loved one has had on our family's lives.
     When we walk, we can try to keep our heads up high, our bodies straight, and our thoughts open to the moment. We may find this activity quickly becoming a habit--our daily pick-me-up.   

I can use walking to help me gain peace, solitude, and a respite from my daily problems and issues. I will let my walk revitalize my mind and body.
____________         _____________       ______________   _____________    __________

Some pages have poems on them and the author's analyze that. It is their hope that by immersing yourself within these pages you will gather these messages of hope to your heart and your soul, so that you can live the rest of your life 'Remembering With Love.'

Some of the other grief books I enjoyed are "The Worst Loss" by Barbara Rosof, "A Broken Heart Still Beats" by Anne McCracken and Mary Semel, "After the Death of a Child" by Ann Kinkbeiner and "Roses in December" by Marilyn Heavilin. There are hundreds out there now, so look them over and see which ones might be right for you. And don't forget my two books, "I Have No Intention of Saying Good-bye" and "Creating a New Normal...After the Death of a Child," both of which were inspired by the books I read and the people I met who needed resources.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Reading Grief Books

I've often been asked, "What were the first few books you read after the death of your child?" I don't mind at all answering that question because I still feel now, as I did back almost 20 years ago, when there wasn't much around to read, that I was fortunate to find and be given books I felt were very helpful to my situation, a tragic auto accident that killed my daughter. This week I will discuss one of my favorites; next week another one.

The first one I received that continues to be one of my favorites is "No Time For Goodbyes" by Janice Harris Lord. As one bereaved mother said in reviewing the book, "You've managed to put together a knowledgeable, compassionate and factual book to help those of us who have been suddenly thrust into the unwilling role of victims...I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your lifeline." I started reading the book and found myself underlining and starring what words, phrases and sentences I believed related to me and expressed my true feelings. There were many. I also enjoyed reading brief excerpts from stories that were told to the author. A few that struck me I've never forgotten that may also be of help to you are:

"You will never forget what happened. If you are afraid to get better because you think you might forget your loved one, stop worrying. You will never time you will remember the happy memories more easily than the painful ones which fill your mind now."

"...People may have commented on how 'strong' you were.  One of the saddest parts of trauma is that people assume you are strong when you really are in shock. You may appear strong, but you feel like a mechanical robot. When the shock wears off and you desperately need your friends, they have resumed life as usual, believing that you are doing fine."

"...many find it helpful to write down six to ten especially wonderful memories. Get them out and read them often so as not to feel yourself slipping into pain again."

"You may be disappointed in family and friends for their lack of sensitivity and understanding. It can make you frustrated and angry. However, you will have to decide for yourself when it is right to give more of your attention to living."

"Try to delay major decisions for at least a year or more. Moving, remarrying, deciding to have a baby, changing jobs, no matter how positive they seem, will create additional stress."

"Feel your feelings---whether they be sadness, rage, vengeance or others. Find a way to express them, perhaps through writing or sharing them with others who understand or through physical activity."

"Be patient with others who say inept things to you. Very rarely are such comments made to hurt you. While most people desperately want to help you, they may not know what to say or do. Try to be grateful for their attempt, if not the end result."

The book also covers the criminal justice system, death of a brother, sister, spouse, parent as well as suicide, spirituality and professional counseling. Not all parts were of interest to me, but I can say that the ones that were I marked and read over and over. In the back of the book is a list of resources of both other books and organizations that might help.