Sunday, November 24, 2013

Thanksgiving remembrance

When Thanksgiving rolls around, I am always sad; sad because Thanksgiving was the last time I saw my daughter alive in a family setting and the first and last time I ever cooked Thanksgiving dinner for Marcy and her new husband in 1993. Since then, I am, thankfully, invited to friends or family's homes for the holiday, since most know how I feel about this time of year. Memories are all I have now, but they are warm recollections of a wonderful child. She was a gift that I was able to keep for 27 years, a very special gift. I am indeed thankful every day that I had her for as long as it was possible.

My friend, Genesee Gentry, bereaved mother, a wonderful poet (she has written two poetry books), and active in Compassionate Friends, wrote this poem about Thanksgiving. It might hit home for many of you, because once your child has died, others don't want to talk about the child unless we, as parents, bring up their name so that others will remember also.

The thought of being thankful
Fills my heart with dread.
They'll all be feigning gladness, 
Not a word about her said.
These heavy shrouds of blackness
Enveloping my soul
Pervasive, throat-catching,
Writhe in me, and coil.
I must, I must acknowledge, 
Just express her name,
So all sitting at the table
Know I'm thankful that she came.
Though she's gone from us forever
And we mourn to see her face,
Not one minute of her living
Would her death ever replace.
So I stop the cheerful gathering,
Though my voice quivers, quakes,
Make a toast to all her living.
That small tribute's all it takes.

I hope you all have a pleasant Thanksgiving and a happy first day of Chanukah, which falls on Thanksgiving this year.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Mortuaries/cemeteries Contribute to Remembrances

Mortuaries/cemeteries in many towns and cities across the United States have become more than just a place to bury a child.

At many of them in your home town bereaved parents can find grief resources of all kinds, whether it be books, magazines, or articles catalogued about the loss of a child. You can not keep them, but at least this is a source for you in your time of need. I know that at one cemetery/mortuary there are some grief resource people to help you and classes offered by specialists to show you how to move on with your life. Check out your own city to see what you can find.

And speaking of libraries and books/magazines, one city on the East coast has something unique. It is a wooden box with a door outside their library where people can leave books, and others can come by, see what is there that is of help to them and take them. These are mainly grief books. They are expected to return the item for someone else to read and in the process bring an item (it could be a magazine, an article, or a book they received when their child died), they think might be of help to others and leave it in the box with their returned item. This process has worked well for both those who can't afford to buy grief resources or who think they have stumbled on something others should be aware of. Perhaps it can work for other topics besides grief.

At some cemeteries, a special section is devoted to only children who have died. The section is kept looking pristine at all times and a joy to come to see what other parents have done to decorate their child's grave, showing the child's personality. Stuffed animals, toys, and memorabilia from the child's life make each grave unique. Other parents have gone to the extreme of placing large bronzed statues of their child playing baseball, for example, or any other activity the child was involved in.

In addition, one particular cemetery has a bronzed Angel of Hope, inspired by the book "The Christmas Box," and built with community contributions. Not only do thousands come to see the Angel and their child's grave, but an area around the Angel is reserved for those who want to buy a plaque with their child's name inscribed and other meaningful data on it.

I congratulate the thoughtfulness of these mortuaries/cemeteries who know how important and special all these children were to their parents and others. They seem to have made it a point to honor them. The children left their mark on many that will never be forgotten, and all of these things are a wonderful way to celebrate their lives and help bereaved parents.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Being Part of Gloria Gaynor's New Book

Singer Gloria Gaynor’s publicist contacted me about 6 months ago, saying she had heard about me and also read my blog for helping others going through their grief journey. She wanted me to know that Gloria was putting together a new book entitled, “We Will Survive” and asked if I would contribute a story for her book relating how her biggest song hit, “I Will Survive” relates to my situation.

I was thrilled to write the story and sent in a story immediately. It was accepted along with 39 other stories. The book will be available December 1, but a special kindle edition on Amazon came out on Nov. 1. Within 48 hours it worked its way to the top of Amazon’s best seller kindle list. It was amazing to me this could happen so fast.

My story was, of course, about my daughter, her death and how I’ve moved on with my life, trying to help others, somewhat similar to my two books, but not detailed like the books. Other people wrote about different kinds of survival from people who lost their homes in natural disasters, and the 9/11 tragedy, to a woman who changed her mind about committing suicide, survivors of incest and domestic violence and a survivor of the Holocaust. All 39 stories found something in “I Will Survive” that enabled them to hang on, get through, and keep moving forward. It is amazing how many people have been impacted by the song even 35 years later.

Gaynor herself relates what the song has meant to her also. It became a symbol of her own quest to survive personal turmoil and tragedy. She tells her story because she feels the cause is so important that if the book’s contributors can expose themselves and tell the truth, she could also.

I’ve also been asked to help publicize the book when asked to do so by radio, television and speaking to groups later this year.

These stories of survival will touch your heart and could help you find the courage to face what is happening in your own life. I believe it is worth a read.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Questions Asked About Our Grief Journey

At a recent bereavement meeting, a guest speaker asked us to answer questions about where we are in our grief journey. I found everyone very receptive and giving excellent answers to what could be difficult for some. After the person who got the question was done, anyone in the group could voice their opinion on the question or ask questions of the one who had. The speaker then told stories related to these questions and embellished on possible answers not thought of.

In the end, everyone seemed to appreciate the thoughtful questions and some of us old-timers could definitely see how others had moved on with their lives when they originally thought all was lost and they could never be happy again.

I wondered whether this would be a good exercise for all bereavement groups that met on a regular basis. Below are the questions asked of the eight members in attendance, one question per person. How would you personally answer them? You might want to try this with another friend who has lost a child, if you are not in a bereavement group.

  1. What have you learned about yourself? 
  2. What advice would you offer the newly bereaved parent?
  3. How are you different from before your child died?
  4. What has helped the most in your own healing?
  5. How have your relationships or friendships been affected?
  6. What is it now time for you to do in your life?
  7. What have you been considering doing and taking action on? What is waiting in the wings for you.
  8. Knowing what you know now, what would you do differently in the grief process?