Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Stepping Stones of Grief

Come, take my hand, the road is long. We must travel by stepping stones. No, you're not alone. I'll go with you. I know the road well, I've been there. Don't fear the darkness. I'll be with you.

We must take one step at a time. But remember, we may have to stop awhile. It is a long way to the other side and there are many obstacles. We have many stones to cross. Some are bigger than others...SHOCK, DENIAL, AND ANGER to start. Then comes GUILT, DESPAIR AND LONELINESS. It's a hard road to travel, but it must be done. It's the only way to reach the other side.

Come, slip your hand in mine. WHAT? Oh, yes, it's strong. I've held many hands like yours. Yes, mine was, one time, small and weak like yours. Once, you see, I had to take someone's hand in order to take the first step.

Oops! You've stumbled. Go ahead and cry. Don't be ashamed. I understand. Let's wait here a while and get your breath. When you're stronger we'll go on, one step at a time. There's no need to hurry.

Say, it's nice to hear you laugh. Yes, I agree, the memories you shared are good. Look, we're half way there now. I can see the other side. It looks warm and sunny. Oh, have you noticed? We're nearing the last stone and you're standing alone. And look, your hands, you've let go of mine, and we reached the other side.

But wait. Look back. Someone is standing there. They are alone and want to cross the stepping stones. I better go; they need my help. What? Are you sure? Why yes, I'll wait. You know the way, you've been there. Yes, I agree - it's your turn my friend, - to help someone else across the stepping stones.
                                        Author Unknown

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Embracing a New Life After a Tragic Loss

“If you believe yourself unfortunate because you have loved and lost, perish  the thought. One who loved truly, can never lose entirely.”  - Napoleon Hill, American author.

I saw this quote recently and it got me thinking about my daughter’s death. I will never forget her. So, in some sense, she will never be entirely gone. Sure, I’d love to hold her like I did the very last time I saw her. Sure, I’d love to talk to her again. I’d even love to see her one last time. I know I can’t, and that breaks my heart. But I also know I am stronger because she lived, and every day I appreciate life more fully, being able to help others get through their loss, and know I have a reason for being here. I have let go. I have moved on as so many have.

Others can’t move on. I’ve seen them. They have trouble getting out of bed. They can’t function during the day because they are constantly thinking about the child who died. They can’t work. They can’t even cook for their family. Helping their other children with homework is non-existent. And worse yet, they pull away from their spouse and their marriage suffers.

I have a friend who is extremely worried about her daughter, who lost a child. This friend has also lost a grandchild, a double loss for her as she thinks there is no help for her daughter, yet she has a grip on her part of the tragedy. Not so, the daughter. Even though the daughter has two other children, she is angry at everyone and everything. Her bitterness shows in every word she speaks and in every action she takes. She sees no purpose in her life anymore. My friend begged me to talk to her daughter, so one afternoon we all went to lunch when she came to town. I tried to tell her she has a family she must think about. They, too, are suffering: husband and two sons. I’m sorry to say there was no moving her. Nothing I said seemed to get through to her. I feel sorry for the mother who lost her child in an accident, and more so for my friend, who feels so helpless in trying to help her daughter cope. Voltaire, the French philosopher said, “The longer we dwell on our misfortunes, the greater is their power to harm us.” I do hope she can get help from a counselor, a clergy, relatives or friends.

Eventually, I am also hoping to get her to go to a Compassionate Friends group in the state where she lives (there are over 600 chapters across the U.S.), where all her feelings will be understood by those who attend regularly and say TCF saved their lives. By listening to other stories similar to her own, I refuse to believe she won’t come around. Only time will tell.

In the meantime, I continue on with my quest, my reason for being. I know my daughter is with me and will guide me. I know she is proud of me. I remember her always using the phrase “Good job, Mom,” when she was proud of my accomplishments in any field of endeavor. I know she is saying that now after all I have done for others and will continue to do. My loss helped me examine who I am, why I am here on this earth. If others can do this, hopefully it can help them too.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Who Will Be There For Me When I Am Older?

Many single bereaved parents who have lost their only child and have no surviving relatives often wonder who will take care of them when they are older and/or in need of help. They are frightened as they look into the future.

This is a legitimate concern. It has come up at many bereavement conference sharing sessions from those who don’t know who they can turn to?

One suggestion is that good friends can be very helpful. Perhaps you need someone to pick up a few things at the grocery store. You can thank them by inviting them over for lunch or dinner. Or you may want a companion to go out with you to a movie, play or just shopping for some new clothes. Don’t be afraid to ask a good friend if they would like to join you.

If you can’t drive anymore for whatever reason, there are many organizations that will provide free vans to take you where you want or need to go. I know someone who worked for such an organization and became good friends with the surviving parent he helped. Look into social services that are available in your state or city where you live.

Buying long-term care insurance, if you haven't already, is a good idea. When you need it, a qualified professional can come over for a few hours a day, a half-day, or even longer to help you out if your health doesn’t allow you to do all you need done. I can’t imagine what my neighbor around the corner, who has Parkinson’s, would have done without this wonderful companion who helps her now not only get a lot stronger, more confident, and walking again, but also was a wonderful sounding board for listening to stories about the daughter she lost a few years before she got ill.

Many think Hospice is only for those who are dying, but hospice has come a long way since its founding. Its goal now is to pursue quality living with compassionate, quality patient care, so that if someone has special needs, it is available. Whether it is help with paying household and other bills, cleaning the home or seeing that correct medicines are being taken at certain times, Hospice is there to help or to find someone who can. If you find you can’t take a shower by yourself anymore, want a hair cut at home, or want groceries delivered, that can also be arranged.

These are only a few suggestions. Many wonderful people are out there to help and be friends with as you grow older. Getting involved in organizations now, widening your network of people you meet and becoming friends with some of them will help you a lot as you grow older and realize that you are not alone. There are people out there who care.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

What Grieving People Need to Know

Dr. Heidi Horsley, a licensed psychologist and social worker, who is executive director of the Open to Hope Foundation and assistant professor Columbia University School of Social Work in NYC, gives her professional perspective on four of the most common questions asked by those grieving a loss.

How long should grief last?
“Everyone is on their own personal grief journey. I don’t believe in putting a time frame around grief. The journey of a hundred miles starts with a single step. If you take that next step, you will eventually find your way out of the darkness and back into the light.”

Can you give some examples of healthy ways to process grief?
“It is important to have support when you are grieving and to look towards others who are further along in their journey. Take care of yourself, by getting enough water, eating healthy, getting enough sleep and exercising. Be kind to yourself and love yourself, you’ve been through a lot. Don’t beat yourself up mentally if you have a day where you don’t feel like or are unable to get out of bed.”

What benefit can be achieved by seeking professional support?
“Losing a loved one is extremely difficult, and often society tends to minimize the impact of losing a family member. As a grief therapist, and as someone who has lost a brother, I normalize what my clients who have suffered a loss are going through. I offer support and guidance, and give clients tools that may help them eventually find hope again. I don’t expect my clients to get over the person who died; instead, I help them to incorporate their loved one into their lives in new and different ways. As a professional, I can also let the client know if I am concerned about something they are doing, particularly if they are engaging in dangerous or harmful behavior.”

What is the most important thing a grieving person can do to help themselves?
“According to the research, gratitude is the fastest way to feel better. Easier said than done, since after suffering a great loss, it is often difficult to find anything to be grateful for. Find gratitude in the little things in life, such as the sun, friends, and memories. You are who you are today because you knew them, they changed your life in profound ways and left you a better person. The best way to honor your loved one is to pay tribute to them by living your life to the fullest with gratitude.”

At you can read many stories and get many perspectives of grief and loss in addition to listening to the web radio program featuring other grief experts who discuss many aspects of bereavement with a main focus on the death of a child and its effects on the family.