Sunday, February 23, 2014

Open To Hope

Another book that I have contributed to is the “Open To Hope” book. It not only highlights the death of a child, but other loses as well.

Dr. Gloria Horsley and Dr. Heidi Horsley chose two of my stories to include. One is on writing down all you can about positive memories of your child and keeping them handy to relate to others when you are together. Don’t dwell on them to the extent that you ignore the present. But they are fun to look back on years later when the pain is less severe. These types of memories we will never forget. Keep them in a safe place within our heart so our children will always be with us, and we will always have opportunities to talk about them to others.

My other story in the book deals with how to keep your marriage healthy after the death of a child. It is an opportunity for growth and bringing the two spouses closer together. Some ideas include talking about your child, remembering the good times and funny incidents, the awards and the honors that made you so proud of them. Talk about your feelings. Most married couples don’t grieve the same way. Allow each other space at your own rate and in your own way. Talk to friends, relatives; look for ways to please your spouse. All these things and more will help you find new ways of moving on with your lives as a couple, without your child.

Other stories in the book talk about spousal death, parental death, surviving and moving on with your life, the emotional stress of losing a loved one, sibling death, how men grieve, laughing again, honoring your child and rebuilding your life with valuable tools to help.

These are all inspirational stories written by authors who also write for the Open To Hope web site, writers who have also experienced deep loss, from which it takes courage and effort to lift yourself out of the abyss you are in. It reminds me a lot of my second book, “Creating a New Normal…After the Death of a Child” in which I give a lot of advice from my experience and the wisdom from professionals.

It is definitely a good read and one I would recommend.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

New Support Group

Editor's note: The following letter I received a few weeks ago is the very reason I do what I do to help the bereaved. Receiving this letter validates what I say and write. I am leaving out the name and company for privacy, but I certainly hope his meeting turned out great for him and he, in turn, can help other parents who have also lost a child. I answered his letter and gave permission to use whatever he felt would be useful.


I am currently reading your book, “Creating a New Normal” and I am so glad you were able to put these concepts on paper. I lost my 25 year old son, golf partner and best friend on February 5, 2011. After going through the pain and struggle of getting back to living and finding my new normal, I found more and more people within my division of the company that were living with this pain. I started a small peer support group from that division which has approximately 10,000 employees. Our first meeting was February 5, 2013 and we had 10 people show up. In less than a year it grew to 30 members.

January 29, 2014, I am having the first Global meeting in Atlanta, and we are opening the group up to the entire company of 80,000 employees. The company has been very supportive of this endeavor and we are really helping people learn to cope with life after the loss of a child. As I was reading one of your chapters last night, I thought how great it would be to share this with the group. So I guess I am writing to ask your permission to use some of your material (credit given of course) to hand out at this meeting. Chapter 8 The Grief Journey: What you know, What the Future Holds is the chapter that spurred this email.

Thank you in advance and regardless of your answer I am so grateful you have written this book. It helps knowing that what we experience is not abnormal and that there is hope on the other side of this tragedy.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Valentine's Day 2014

Valentine’s Day will be upon us in a few days and as always, we’ll be thinking of our child, no longer with us.

I’ve been thinking back to when my daughter was very young. She was always interested in making me something she thought I would like. Little did she realize it didn’t matter to me what she made. As they say, it is the thought that counts. Of course I oohed and aahed at the card that had a stick figure of me, her and her father against our house. It said, “Happy Valentine’s Day to the best mom in the world. I love you. Love, Marcy.”

“I bet you’ll be an artist when you grow up,” I said to her. “No, mom, I’ve decided (at 8 years old) that I want to be a veterinarian and take care of animals,” she answered. At that time we had a beagle and was soon to get another one. We showed the second one in contests and surprisingly he won a few ribbons. But then he grew too big. Beagles are not supposed to exceed 15 inches and ours was 16 inches and disqualified eventually. (Maybe that was what discouraged her from being a “dog doctor.”)

Marcy was always thoughtful about the gifts she gave me. She sometimes thought I didn’t dress “cool” so she started buying me clothing: denim shirts and jackets, as well as dressy blouses. She never agreed with her father about what to get me. He was practical and always bought me pots and pans for cooking, while Marcy would shake her head at him and make me a necklace or a jar for flowers in a craft class. “Mom wants girly things, not practical things,” she’d tell him, up to the time she graduated high school and went off to college. To this day, I have kept all those denim shirts and still wear them and think of her.

Many of the cards after she went off to college, I kept. I wish now I had kept them all. They were most always funny cards, but sometimes they were sentimental  and talked about what I meant to her. I didn’t have to tell her what she meant to me. She knew. We always got along.

And that is what I remember the most: not the cards, not the gifts, but just being together on special holidays like Valentine’s Day and being able to talk about anything and everything. I know I will get some kind of sign on Valentine’s Day, something simple, that will let me know she is thinking of me as I am of her.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

After-care in Trauma Centers

I’d like to relate to you one of my favorite stories from my first book, dealing with the death of two sons and how the parents coped.

Imagine losing two children within a year and a half of each other in two different types of accidents and being left childless. That is what happened to one couple. And their long road to recovery, grieving differently and how they were treated by the medical profession, ended up bringing them to a better place.

One son died in a car accident, the other son in an airplane accident. The hospital staff was very cold and indifferent both times when the parents were told of the deaths. The husband went back to work, as part of his way of coping, but it wasn’t easy. Many times he just broke down during the day and had to go home. He had a good friend take over for him. The wife, on the other hand, didn’t go back to nursing for three months. She said, “I didn’t trust myself to make decisions dealing with people. I felt like someone had taken razor blades to my insides. And my mind shut down, physically and emotionally.”
To make matters worse, at the funeral, the husband’s brother, at 37 years old, leaned over the casket, had a massive heart attack and died. “The pain of what happened was so awful, I can’t even describe it,” he said.

The wife was so angry at the situation. She began reading a lot about death and afterlife. She became very spiritual and it became an important part of her whole journey. The husband’s anger turned to rage and consumed him. It was all he thought about. I was out of control, cursing God for letting this happen to us. “I know now that left unchecked, anger and rage will undo you in every way. I struggled to get out of that mess, but it took a very long time.”

What finally helped this family were three things according to the husband: joining Compassionate Friends, where they found others in similar situations, then started their own group. It gave them something to focus on. Having close friends also helped. One friend convinced the father to seek professional help. “We connected and I saw him for two years. He helped me vent my anger.” Lastly, although it sounds corny, time going by was a big help. Time softens the hurt, but you never forget.

The wife, on the other hand, felt very different. She continued with Compassionate Friends, even after her husband stopped going. She said once, “You never think it’s going to happen to you. This kind of thing happens to others. When it does happen, you realize you’re not invincible and it could happen again as it did in this case.

When the second son died, she reacted differently than her husband. She felt it was right the two boys be together as they were in life. She didn’t feel the anger as her husband did. This is when her spirituality journey came about. She realizes there is a plan out there. Even at the worst times, all the love and support helped us. We wouldn’t have met all the wonderful people who changed our lives. We have come to accept what happened. That doesn’t mean they don’t miss the boys. They know they’ll never have grandchildren and that hurts. And there is no one to carry on the family name.

Through all this, the medical community didn’t have a clue as to how we, and all parents, feel when our children die. So they realized they had to educate people by helping with an after-care  program to recognize this was not how you treat people. The program has worked so well, it has been picked up by trauma centers around the country. A small group puts programs workshops together for professionals (teachers, nurses, policemen) and trains volunteers to help these families and make their journey easier. This family believes they are in the same place now and through it all always kept the communication lines open by talking about their sons.