Sunday, January 26, 2014

It Seems Like Just Yesterday...

I do some of my best and most relaxing thinking when driving in my car. It is also a time when I think of my daughter with both happy and sad thoughts. Today’s thought centered around the fact that time has a way of passing so quickly. How can it be so long...1994?  In a split second she was gone that March.

It seems like just yesterday that she was so happy in her job at the music center in L.A. and meeting such fabulous famous people as the marketing director. I remember one month she let me know that Barry Manilow would be entertaining at a charity event. “Oh, I wish I could come,” I told her. (At the time Barry was my favorite singer). “Well, I’ll tell you what, she said, “since I am in charge of this event, if you want to fly out to L.A. that afternoon, bring a long black skirt and a white blouse, I’ll let you be one of the hostesses. (They all wore black and white.) You’ll get to meet him, and hear him sing. All you have to do is greet people and pretend you also work at the music center.”

“Done,” I said. I made plane reservations, and off I went. When she saw my outfit, she said, “Perfect, you’re hired.” What a great time we had that night hearing all those great songs he used to sing and meeting interesting people.

She would tell me inside stories of some of the stars she had to work with. Just to name two, when Michael Crawford came to star in Phantom, she commented how nasty he was to everyone who tried to be helpful to him before he went on stage. (Maybe he had had a bad day, I ventured, but my daughter didn’t think that was the case.) She also said she thought Charlton Heston was the nicest man she had met in all the years she worked there. He was kind to those who showed him around and when it came to interviews, was always willing to give them to the press. She also enjoyed Yo-Yo Ma, the famous cellist, who she called ‘really cool.’

It seems like just yesterday we were yakking on the phone about their next trip or the next holiday I would see them in Arizona. She always made sure that she was fair to her dad and me and we always shared holidays, one year she came to me, the next was dad’s turn. It definitely helped to keep the divorce a friendly one.

It seems like just yesterday that I went to L.A. for her engagement party and we decided to go house hunting. I was so shocked at some of the prices of homes in 1993 that needed a lot of work, but were in good locations. They were four times what we paid in Arizona at the time, but I remember her words: “L.A. is expensive and there is no way around it. If you want something nice, you pay through the teeth.” She never got to buy a home. Four months after returning from her honeymoon, she was dead.

Time passes very fast. I often wonder what her life would have been like if she had been able to fulfill all her hopes and dreams and also what my life would have been like to watch it all happen. The sad part is knowing it never will happen.

I also want to tell everyone to enjoy your life every single day, every single minute, because you never know what life will bring to you or what can happen in a split second.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

I Loved Lucy

I told all of you about the article I wrote for singer Gloria Gaynor’s new book, “ I Will Survive” (just recently published) which not only includes my story of the death of my daughter, but many stories, not only about a child’s death, but also about those who have been scarred by life’s trials and tribulations but are brave enough to survive the storms with courage and tenacity.

One Sunday, years ago, I wrote a blog about how some people mourn the death of a dog as others mourn the death of a child and believe the dog is like a child to them. I questioned how a dog could be compared to a child and received many critical comments from dog lovers about my article, so I thought these dog lovers would enjoy reading this story in Gloria’s book called, “I Loved Lucy,” not about the TV star, but about a dog--named Lucy after her favorite actress-- that it’s owner fell in love with after having to put a former dog to sleep which was very painful for her.

To give you a few highlights, the author loved this dog so much she decided to even take the dog to work with her, so they could always be together. The author thought of this dog as her kid and spoiled her rotten! When her boss complained, she quit, rather than have to leave the dog home during the day. Lucy, the dog, went everywhere on planes, trains, cars, etc. Oh, she was mischievous at times, according to the author, but the owner chalked it up to the same experiences she would have had with a child and treated the dog as one.

When Lucy was diagnosed eight years later with diabetes, the owner researched and did everything she could for the dog, but the dog later had complications. A stroller was even purchased for the Lucy, since she couldn’t get around much in those later years, but loved her walks. After three years, the diseases finally claimed Lucy’s life. She died at home, in the author’s arms.

The author of this article talks about the void in her life that can never be filled, similar to those of us who have lost a child. She knows she will eventually gather the strength to survive but as she says, “Boy, oh boy, did I love Lucy.”

The book can be purchased at 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Grandparents: The Forgotten Mourners

Since I am now a grandmother (my husband’s daughter’s son), I can well understand the depth of grief a grandparent feels when a grandchild dies, whether it is auto related, from an illness or even a random shooting (like what happened at Sandy Hook or Columbine).

More than 160,000 American grandparents lose grandkids each year. Yet their grief is often minimized. They are the forgotten mourners according to Polly Moore, regional coordinator for Compassionate Friends. “People think, it’s not your child, so the pain must be less intense.” But because of the bond grandparents have with these children, they often feel helpless as well as heartbroken.

A grandparent’s grief is doubled. Not only is there grief for the grandchild but also for the parents of the child. How do you begin to console a son or daughter drowning in grief at the loss of their child, while you struggle with your own grief for all of them?

Getting through all the anniversaries that first year alone is very difficult: the child’s birthday, death day, Christmas, etc. The pain is unbearable, yet most struggle to move on. One grandmother said, “Everything I do reminds me of my grandson. I cry every day with my husband. We can’t comprehend he is no longer with us, but we try to live as normal a life as possible. It is my son and daughter-in-law I worry about the most now.”

A friend of mine lost a grandchild in a sudden death car accident and she tried everything she could to help her daughter deal with the loss, asked friends for help, asked organizations that dealt with such tragedies to speak to her daughter, but all to no avail. I even had lunch one day with the daughter and her mother. I tried to explain that time is a great healer, that she can’t expect to be better immediately, that some parents take as long as five years to heal and move on with their lives, as well as other helpful ideas for her, but all to no avail. To this day, more than 10 years later, she is still as bitter as though it happened yesterday. Her mother, my friend, is terribly worried about her, as she tries to deal with the grandchild’s death also. “It’s so hard to lose a grandchild, but even harder when you feel helpless and have to watch your daughter go through this by herself.”

Other grandparents try to hang on to the good memories and have kept certain items around the house to remind them of their wonderful grandchild. One grandparent said that her grandson, Jason, was a bright loving child who loved to cuddle with all his family members. “I loved holding him tight and telling him how much I loved him ‘up to the sky and down again.’ In his little boy’s mind, he used to try to picture how far that was and often asked me. I would just smile,” she said.

I read once that Vice-president’s Joe Biden’s advice to bereaved parents and grandparents was to rate each day from 1 to 10—and you may never get to 10. He said if you have a good day and make it to a 4 that day, at least you know you made it to a 4. And then you know you can do it again.

In a similar vain, my ex-husband, who struggled with our daughter’s death, had a friend paralyzed from the death of his grandchild, who used to make a list of what he wanted to accomplish that day. The first thing on his list was to get out of bed every day. When he could do that successfully for a while, he added another item to his list, and each day, week, or month, he kept adding things like: today I got out of bed, today I brushed my teeth, today I made breakfast and finally, today I went back to work. In other words, don’t try to accomplish too much at once; you won’t be able to do it. Good advice that my ex tried, and it worked for him.

Here is some advice from grief experts I recently read about in the AARP magazine to make this hard journey easier for all. I have added additional thoughts to this list.

EXPRESS DIFFICULT FEELINGS. Bereaved grandparents can write or talk to a friend or counselor or find support from organizations such as Compassionate Friends, MISS foundation, Alive Alone or Bereaved Parents USA.

READ ALL YOU CAN. Try “The Grief Recovery Handbook”, “Grandparents Cry Twice”, or any book about surviving the death of a child or grandchild. I have a great resource section in the back of my second book, “Creating a New Normal After the Death of a Child.”

STAY EMOTIONALLY CONNECTED TO THE DECEASED. Prayer, contemplation and dreams can provide solace; the lost person’s presence is still felt.

LET GO OF PAIN WHEN POSSIBLE. Don’t feel guilty when intense grief begins to ebb. You will not forget your loved one. There is no need to cling to sorrow. Grievers should remember that the loved one lived, not only that he or she died.

BUILD MEMORIALS. Start a scholarship or a foundation or plant a tree or start a new family ritual. Buy bricks in new buildings or even build a building in the loved one’s memory.

EXPECT A BUMPY RIDE. Grief is unpredictable; it can revive old, forgotten pains. This is normal and one should understand this is just part of the process.

TAKE A BREATHER. Grieving grandparents should give themselves permission to rest. Visit a friend or place that nourishes—a place where they don’t have to be strong for the family. Find what helps you the most. It takes time and patience. There are no quick fixes.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

New Year, New Plans To Move On

Two national conferences and a December cruise are already being planned for bereaved parents this new year. Here is the information on all three events.

"Miles of Compassion through the Winds of Hope" will be the theme at the 2014 National Conference July 11-13. The conference will be held at the Hyatt Regency O'Hare near the Chicago O'Hare Airport. Over 100 workshops will be presented for bereaved parents, siblings and grandparents to attend. Keynote speakers will highlight the three day event. It is advised that you make reservations at the hotel early to get a room. Contact the national office or look at the website for more information:

This national gathering will be held in St. Louis, MO, July 24-27, 2014 at the Sheraton Clayton Plaza Hotel. This hotel is in close proximity to the Galleria Shopping Mall, Art Museum, the science center, the Botanical Gardens, St. Louis Zoo, Muny Opera, Shaw Park and a five minute walk to the Metrolink. Many workshops and speakers are being planned for the bereaved. The website for more information is:

A December 8, 2014 5-night cruise is being planned for all Alive Alone parents with no surviving children. Because the Christmas holidays is a hard time for these parents, the two days at sea will focus on seminars for these parents.

The cruise will be on the Celebrity Constellation. The itinerary includes Fort Lauderdale, Cozumel and Key West. Deposits for the cruise are $25 per person for an unassigned cabin and $200 per person for an assigned cabin. All deposits are due by August 10 and final payment is Sept. 25, 2014. A $50 stateroom credit is included. Airfare is not included.

Prices, based on double occupancy are as follows: inside stateroom, $458.52 per person; ocean view, $518.52 per person; and verandas, $623.52 per person. Gratuities of $60 are extra as is the trip insurance of $29. If interested, contact Joy Hagens at