Sunday, May 25, 2014

Friends and Our Grief

Author Martha Hickman in her book Healing After Loss said, “We found that our circle of friends shifted. We were surprised and disappointed that people we thought were good friends became distant, uneasy and seemed unable to help us. Others, who were casual acquaintances, became suddenly close, sustainers of life for us. Grief changes the rules, and sometimes rearranges the combinations.”

Oh, so true! I have met very few bereaved parents who don’t agree with this statement. Why would good friends become unable to help us? Is it because they don’t know what to say to us and are afraid to say it wrong? Perhaps.

It happened to me. I lost a very good friend during this period in my life. I think it was just the beginning of complications between our relationship and this was just one more thing added to the problem. We never spoke again, nor have I ever seen him since. At first I was very upset, but then, when I began to find other friends I had more in common with, I realized I was better off. I know other friendships can work it out, but some can not, and I accepted that.

Some said I had changed. Of course I had changed. How could I not have changed after losing a child? I always believed I changed for the better. I became more empathetic to others. I learned what was important in life and what was trivial. I set new goals and new priorities.

Others tell me they get angry at how relatives react. Many stay away. Other relatives tell us to “get over it; that it’s been long enough.” We can not expect others to understand, if they have never gone through it. Some people may be afraid that if they stay close, the same thing will happen to them? How ridiculous! But that is the way some think.

I believe the best way to handle all of these situations is to share how you feel. This becomes part of the new you, and with that, a new level of understanding between you and others can help you down that long, difficult road to recovery. Explain that you want them to reach out, talk to you, hold your hand, if necessary and hug you. Ask if you can cry if you need to. If they are true friends, they will accept the change in you. You need to have a good listener. Ask if they can be patient with you because your grief period may be a very long time. Explain you want to keep in touch. Be appreciative if they remember your child’s birthday or death day and very subtly explain that as those anniversaries draw near, your feelings may become very sensitive, and they should understand. And finally, ask your friends to let you do whatever will make you happy.

If others can do these things for us, our grief journey will become easier and can lead to new paths that enrich our lives in new ways we never dreamed were possible.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Pointers for the Newly Bereaved

When you are newly bereaved, you begin to understand that grieving is very hard work. Losing a child is the hardest type of grief you will probably have to go through. It will be a lifetime journey. What follows are three important points for you to think about as a newly bereaved parent.

First, don’t put demands on yourself to get better quickly. You’re not sick. You’re broken. You can be mended, but you’ll always have a missing piece. Take it one hour, one day at a time. Do whatever you feel you need to do: cry, scream, throw a temper tantrum. But don't forget to take deep breathes to calm you down.

Second, read all you can about the experience. There are general books on grieving to help you cope and move on with your life. There are books directed specifically for mothers, others for fathers, and more recently, books for grandparents and siblings. And then there are specific books, depending on your child’s cause of death. For example, if your child died by suicide you will find many books that specifically only talk about that aspect and will refer you to various national support groups where you can meet others like yourself, which can be very helpful. Other specific books and support groups include: murder, SIDS, stillbirths, no living children and so on. All have national support groups. In my newest book, I list most of them for you and include their phone numbers, addresses and emails.

Third, keep a journal about your feelings during this time in your life. You’ll be surprised how many things you would never have remembered if you had not kept one. My journal became the opening quarter of my first book, all about my daughter and my very personal feelings during this period of my life. At first, I was afraid to get too personal, but as I wrote, I realized that people identify with very personal comments, and so I poured my heart out as I wrote and believe it worked both to help others and help me personally to move forward.

As your grief journey continues you will find other major points to deal with. Explore your mind and your heart for very difficult answers to questions we all have as to why this happened to us.

I’m so sorry for your loss and so sorry that you have joined this special club that none of us wanted to belong to.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mother's Day, May 11,2014

On Mother’s Day each year I re-read the copy of a column I have kept by Erma Bombeck. I can’t keep the tears from surrounding my eyes as I read about why our children were taken from us and how this day, Mother’s Day, is the hardest day of the year for us.

To paraphrase, Bombeck says that mothers need to know why they were permitted to go through the elation of carrying a child and lose it to miscarriage, accidents, violence, disease or drugs. We want to protect our child, but we can’t always do so.

Surviving changes us. We look at life differently as we go through the grief journey. We may feel anger, guilt and despair at first, but time has a way of healing our souls. What was important to us at one time may no longer have any meaning.

In one of Bombeck’s books, I Want to Grow Hair. I Want to Grow Up. I Want to Go to Boise, she talked with mothers who had lost a child to cancer. Every one of them said death gave their lives new meaning and purpose. And who prepared them for the rough, lonely road they had to travel? Their dying children. They pointed their mothers toward the future and told them to keep going. The children had already accepted what their mothers were fighting to reject.

The children in Oklahoma City, in Columbine, and in Sandy Hook touched more lives than they will ever know. You can bet that after those events, parents came home and hugged their kids, that day and forever after. As Bombeck says, Mother’s Day is a day of appreciation and respect. “I can think of no mothers who deserve it more than those who had to give a child back.”

Maybe we are all here to perpetuate the life that was lost and appreciate what time we had with our children. It may be about taking each moment and making the best of it, without knowing what is going to happen next.

“Why me?” you may ask, but you won’t get an answer. The answer lies within each of us to do the best we can with the life we have left.

I hope you all find something special to do on this Mother’s Day with friends, relatives or even just going to the cemetery to be with your child for a short time. Do whatever helps you get through this day.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Wings of Hope Living Forward

Wings of Hope Living Forward Inc. that supports grieving parents healing together, has been launched. The website will provide a resource center for grieving parents to find grief retreats, grief groups, books on grief, crafts, articles on grief and healing, additional non-profits run by grieving parents, causes, memorial gifts and much more.

Wings of Hope is a non-profit organization and donations are now being accepted to assist with handouts and retreats. Any parent who has lost a child and created something in their memory are welcome to become a part of this organization. It supports grieving parents who have authored books, have a cause or make crafts for others.

To accomplish their goals as an organization Wings of Hope Living Forward Inc. provides retreats for grieving parents and grieving grandparents; one day workshops for grieving moms, dads, grandparents and siblings to meet and pay tribute to their loved one; summer picnics for grieving parents and their families; and support for parents who create foundations, write books and lobby for rights in memory of their child.

After a recent grief retreat, some grieving parents commented:

Melanie Marshall - Be ready to laugh, to cry, to dance or to quietly meditate. You can do whatever you want, whenever you want. We came from all walks of life but, shared the common bond of missing our precious children. I felt welcome. I felt loved. I felt the presence of our children. You will walk away with new friends who understand & accept you as you are. You'll shake some of those bad feelings that have slipped into your very being such as fear & guilt. It's like a dose of "spring tonic" !! Come laugh with us & play with us & cry with us - you'll leave with a new perspective on life as we know it now.

Renee Hogan Blythe - I had a wonderful time at the Smoky Mountain Retreat. I met the most incredible people and really enjoyed every minute of it. We spent time talking, laughing, eating, having a few drinks, sharing about our children and getting real hugs. We also had free time to do whatever we wanted to go do. This is a way to make new friends when you have lost your old friends like I did. We have 17 people who came to the last retreat coming to this one, plus six or more others driving in for a couple of days. I hope the new people joining us will feel comfortable knowing we are all grieving parents healing together.

Roberta Keene - I had a lot of apprehension about going. I didn't know most of the women, I had been very sick for a long time prior to the retreat. I knew I lived close enough that I could leave at any time I felt uncomfortable. Upon arriving at the retreat I felt like I was meeting old friends! I was very comfortable with everyone, it was so good to meet these people who before were voiceless pictures, I laughed, cried, found out others were really having the exact problems and feelings as I do and it's okay!! I left there with lifetime friends! The bonds that were formed will help me on my journey. I can't wait for Va Beach!!

Lynne Ellen Sevey-Patterson- The last retreat was the best thing that has happened to me sense Matthew died. I am finally moving forward. I have been so stuck in my grief. For the 1st time I realized I wasn't alone or being a drama queen or just plain crazy and if I was I was in great company I felt I could be ME I could cry scream and have fun quilt free and it has carried over in my life. I am Truly Blessed with all the amazing women and a couple men that I now call my sisters and brothers.

Their gift shop has people who make one of a kind jewelry, memory quilts, personalized engraved wooden plaques, clocks, t-shirts, magnets, commissioned portraits, mouse pads and many more items.

Many parents turn to causes after their child dies. Whether it is cancer recovery programs, gun laws, organ transplant or being a part of parents of murdered children, these parents support their causes and get others to help by donating or volunteering. The group will link your cause to their website.

Many activities are being planned. I encourage you to check out their website: and see if it is something that can help you or some talent you have to help others.