Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Heroes of Sandy Hook

The 26th and final playground honoring the children and teachers who lost their lives at Sandy Hook Elementary School almost two years ago opened recently.

This last playground, dedicated to Principal Dawn Lafferty Hochsprung of Sandy Hook, was the fulfillment of a movement started by retired firefighter Bill Lavin, who had the idea to build playgrounds for each of the 26 victims of the shooting in Newton, Connecticut, and do them in towns that were hit hard by Hurricane Sandy two months earlier.

“I think what the families love most is it celebrates who these children were and who the teachers were,” said Lavin. “It doesn’t talk about how they left us nor about the day of the shooting.”

Parents from all over the country volunteered to work for free to build the playgrounds. Everything was donated. Moms and Dads worked dawn to dusk to get it done. The playgrounds were a symbol of their children’s lives. It was important to them their child be remembered in this way. “Our angels are looking down on us and are happy with what was done; it’s beautiful,” said one parent.

Lavin said the heroes of this project are the moms and dads and wives and husbands of Sandy Hook who, while suffering the worst tragedy imaginable, had the courage, strength and generosity of spirit to give to others. When you think of heroes, think of people who, while hurting themselves, pay it forward.

I have personally found doing something worthwhile like this after your child dies gives you some peace and helps you move on with your life, knowing your child will never be forgotten. It is comforting beyond belief, and I can empathize and know what these parents feel and are going through and how proud they are knowing they did something so worthwhile for others to enjoy.

The foundation, Where Angels Play, which was started by Lavin, says they plan to build more where there were other tragedies such as Boston, Colorado, and Oklahoma and bring some joy to other families and communities who need it.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Finding Hope Once Again

It is now October, the Autumn of the year. Children have gone back to school, leaves change colors, animals begin to hibernate, and the amount of daylight decreases until December 21, the shortest day of the year. By Halloween the air becomes nippy.

Those of us who are bereaved watch the seasons change each year, but don’t know how to make the pain go away. We have lost a precious part of ourselves that we would like to have back. But deep down we know that will never happen…so we go on each day, each month, each season, and try to do our best to move on with our lives without our children.

We try to find a new interest, a new cause, a new purpose. We are different. We try not to get stuck in our grief and overwhelmed with pain. We don’t want to live this way, nor, I can guess, do our children want us to. We must accept that our lives have changed.

Change can be difficult but is necessary for us to survive. We must learn to live again, love again, feel joy and peace or our survival will be without value to ourselves or others.

I want to honor my child’s life and her memory by empowering others with courage to continue living life with a sense of grace, dignity, integrity and meaning day after day.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Manifestations of Grief

For the newly bereaved, there are normal manifestations of grief. Here are some of the ones you may come across:

**Lump in throat, tightness in your chest, palpitations. There is probably nothing wrong with you, except for the fact you lost the most precious thing in your life, so don’t run to the doctor unless a symptom persists or gets worse.

**Difficulty with remembering things. Your mind is full of your loss and it is normal to forget. Don’t even consider that you are getting alzheimers. As time passes and you begin to accept your loss, your memory loss problems will begin to disappear. If you feel you need to see a counselor, don’t hesitate.

**Crying at unanticipated times. Suddenly, a fond memory of your child will come to you and you find it difficult to control your emotions. Crying is a very natural emotion that cleanses, and you will feel better after a good cry.

**Having feelings of guilt and remorse. Depending on how your child died, you may feel guilty about a fight you had the day before, or that you never got to do all the things you wanted to do with them. Just remember, whether you had your child for a short or long time, you were fortunate to be able to do many wonderful things that you will always remember.

**Feeling that life no longer holds any meaning. Of course it does. Honor your loved one by doing something in their memory. Start a scholarship or foundation, set up charity runs and/or give to good causes. You will see how good it will make you feel to know your child will not be forgotten.

**Playing the “if only” game. If your child was sick and you did not take them to the doctor, or if you let them drive the family car and they got in an accident—stop there. You can “if only” yourself to death and it does not do anyone any good. What has happened can’t be undone, so move on and stop blaming yourself. If you could have saved your child, you would have.

**Longing to return to the way life used to be. Nothing will ever be the same again for you, so you must create a new life, with new goals, new priorities and probably new friends. You have changed and it is possible that some of your old friends don’t want to be around you anymore. Seek out those who understand what has happened to you by attending bereavement group meetings and meeting new people.

Additional manifestations include: loss of appetite, nausea, diarrhea, lump in your throat, anger at God, inability to sleep or concentrate, inability to complete normal tasks or read a book and anger at the loved one dying.

If you find yourself falling into any one of these categories, know that the grief journey is a lifetime experience and you will feel better with time. Take it slow, and time will be a great healer for you.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

More Grief Quotes, Sayings and Words of Wisdom

Some time ago I wrote a blog listing some of my favorite grief quotes. Now, years later, I have found many other quotes, sayings and words of wisdom from the famous to the ordinary every day person who has something to say. Some of these will tug at your heart strings no matter where you are in your grief journey. Here they are:

“Time does not really heal a broken heart; it only teaches a person how to live with it.” –Arnold L. Sheppard Jr.

“There’s no tragedy in life like the death of a child. Things never get back to the way they were.” –Dwight D. Eisenhower

“It has been said that time heals all wounds. I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens, but it’s never gone.” –Rose Kennedy

“Oh heart, if one should say to you that the soul perishes like the body, answer that the flower withers, but the seed remains.” –Khalil Gibran

“In time of sorrow, everyone deals with feelings in unique ways. Try not to hurt if those closest to your heart seem to grieve less or behave strangely. We cannot always see on the outside how someone mourns on the inside.” –Sascha

“The tragedy of life is not death but what we let die inside of us while we live.” --Norman Cousins

“We will never be the same as we were before this loss, but are ever so much better for having something so great to lose.”—found on Cherrylane

In the 1920’s Ernest Hemingway’s colleagues bet him that he couldn’t write a sad story in just six words: “For sale: Baby shoes. Never worn.”—E. Hemingway

“You never know how STRONG you are until being STRONG is the only choice you have.”—anonymous

“Grief is a solitary journey. No one but you knows the gaping hole left in your life when someone you know has died. And no one buy you can mourn the silence that was once filled with laughter and song. It is the nature of love and of death to touch every person in a totally unique way. Comfort comes from knowing that people have made the same journey. And solace comes from understanding how others have learned to sing again.”-- Helen Steiner Rice

“Friends are angels who lift us to our feet when our wings have trouble remembering how to fly.”--- from TCF Taylors, SC Newsletter

“It is a curious thing in human experience, but to live through a period of stress and sorrow with another person creates a bond which nothing seems able to break.” –Eleanor Roosevelt