Sunday, December 28, 2014

Still Surprised by Grief

I read an article recently by Penny Young, bereaved mother, from the Alive Alone newsletter about how after 20 years, it still surprises her that grief can overtake her if the moment is right. Her son, Mathew, died in 1994. I have found that to be so true also.

I agree with Penny that I, myself, do not feel the intense sadness that I felt the first few years. Time passing does that, so we are shocked that this can still happen after 20 years!

Marcy’s 20th death anniversary was also this year as was Penny’s, and just yesterday, I was talking to a friend, and when I mentioned Marcy’s name, tears came to my eyes and my friend saw it and, I think, was a little surprised that after all this time I still grieve for her. No one ever says to me, “Aren’t you over it yet?” because they know I will never be over my child’s death, and they are kind and thoughtful enough to respect that. This latest episode only lasted a few moments, whereas, in the beginning, the same situation could have lasted all day or for days on end.

Grief never completely goes away, nor do you always know when it will hit you suddenly, so if you find yourself discouraged that this is happening to you also after many years, don’t be. As Penny said, “There is a difference between new grief and seasoned grief. It is the time it takes to recover…I have learned that grief cannot be predicted, and it still grabs us every once in a while.”

This is particularly true when we see a sunset we wish our child could see or travel to a location we know they would have enjoyed tremendously. Life is never the same after your child dies. As I have said many times, you have to find a new normal, new goals, and new priorities in your life so that you can move forward with joy and determination to live your life to the fullest. It is not an easy task but one that comes with time, hard work, and knowing this is what your child would have wanted for you…to be happy.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

David Civile Foundation for Boating Safety Awareness

 …Continuation from last post about David Civile who died in a Kayak accident in November 2010.

David’s parents, Joan and Richard Civile started a foundation for boating safety awareness in 2011 to honor his memory and to warn others of the dangers and spare another family from a tragic loss.
The foundation also promotes the importance and proper use of personal floatation devices and knowledge of environmental factors such as air and water temperatures. “Knowledge through education, says David’s mother, Joan Civile, can save lives.” “We seek to inform all boaters but with a targeted emphasis on novice boaters using non-motorized recreational crafts, such as Kayaks and canoes.”

By April 1 of last year, New Jersey officials posted safety boating signs at all its parks in Monmouth County. This is a result of David’s dedicated and loving family working with officials. The signs warn kayakers to consider their ability and weather conditions before embarking, to always wear a PFD, to carry a safety whistle, and to let others know of their boating plans.

While the Civile family funded a few signs and presented them to the town of Little Silver, NJ, in 2011, the year following David’s death, the county parks system funded the signs that are posted in their parks. David’s sister says they continue to work on getting out boating safety messages in all other counties in the state.

The kayak washed up that first night on a neighboring island. Family and friends searched for David for four days to no avail. It took two years for David’s remains to be found near where he launched his kayak. Once again the family was devastated.

Joan says her family is so proud of David, through the way he embraced life. “David has taught us many lessons: to live life to the fullest, treat others with respect and courtesy, make the best of any situation, pursue your passions, find humor in everything, live with integrity and honor and remember to be happy with yourself.”

They turned their unimaginable loss into something they hope all kayakers can benefit from. In particular they want retailers to focus more on safety, ask questions when a consumer buys a kayak, where they are planning to go, what river, ocean, lake? What time of year.? Encourage appropriate gear and necessary safety extras like a tether, a radio, and a light.

“We are in the process of partnering with local retailers like EMS to develop Kayak safety kits which will include these items. We have also contacted manufacturers to ask them why such kits are not marketed more often and to keep the prices down so as not to deter customers, and to have a video and/or require boaters watch the short clip before leaving the store. The foundation is also sponsoring assemblies in schools on boating safety that will cover in and off season water temperatures with emphasis on wearing a life jacket. They also hope to encourage retailers to promote the purchase of a dry suit and other essentials.

“The more knowledge boaters have, the better equipped they will be out in the water,” said David’s sister.

At the heart of the mission is a loving family who misses their son and brother. “We know David’s memory will continue in our hearts and live forever and hope our mission will possibly spare another family from our tragic loss,” said Joan.

I hope they have succeeded in their mission and wish them continued succeed in whatever they are able to do for others in David’s memory.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

A Mother's Story and Praise for Book

Editor’s note: The following is one of many emails I receive from bereaved parents. I love receiving them and learning about your precious children who have died, for whatever reason, at whatever age. Of course, I also appreciate the very nice comments about my books and like that word gets out about them so as to be useful to other bereaved parents. This email was from Joan Civile. After I read it, I looked up her son’s web site and got an insight as to how much these parents have done in their son’s memory. This is her letter to me. Next week I will tell you about the foundation they started and everything she has accomplished  since his death.


My thoughts and prayers go to you on the loss of your dear Marcy. I am also a bereaved parent since November 2010, and another mom recently told me about your book. I was surprised I hadn’t come across it before, as, like you, I have been reading feverishly since our tragic loss. My amazing (his favorite word) 26 year old son, David, drowned, a novice kayaker, in the Shrewsbury River in Monmouth County, NJ, on November 17. Although athletic, competent, and responsible, he was unaware of the danger of cold water temperatures and wind—oddly enough he called me that morning saying he had purchased water proof pants. He had a floatation seat cushion on board which he used in his canoe; his next purchase was going to be a regular life jacket. He had only purchased the kayak three weeks before and wanted to try it out for an hour. He launched in ankle deep water and assumed he would be safe, as he was an avid outdoors man.

He was a manager at Trader Joe's. They called him “superman” because he was the go to person, with an incredible sense of humor, the kind of person everyone wanted as a friend. We miss him more with each passing day. We just had a balloon launch and party for his would be 30th birthday with 40 close friends and family. We served all his favorite foods, even gave out goodie bags. (Talk about crazy things we do to give us comfort!)

Of course, I could go on for hours, especially since our pain is so heightened during this season. As you mention in your book “Creating a New Normal…After the Death of a Child," we never really heal, and although his four year angelversary is approaching, we still feel breathless and surreal, as it seems like yesterday. Time simply takes away the rawness for we get used to the pain, but the missing part seems to worsen. We seem to be doing all the right things to help us, yet the pain is never ending although we do manage to function with God’s grace and our faith.

 We had a wonderful traditional close knit family. Our daughter, then 29, was always best friends with her brother, as was her husband. David even purchased a condo in his sister’s complex. Life was perfect for all of us.

I have now started a foundation for boating safety in the hopes of preventing our tragic loss from happening to another family: (see Dec. 21 story about the foundation.)

My reason for writing this is to simply thank you for such a helpful and resourceful book. Your gift of expressing your feelings touched my heart. I have read dozens of books and yours is my favorite. I also have every intention of reading your first book, “I Have No Intention of Saying Good-bye” shortly. We also facilitate a Compassionate Friends group in NJ, have a great reading list, and look forward to discussing your book with them.

Again, my heartfelt gratitude for such a wonderful book…God bless…Joan Civile

If you are a bereaved parent, I would love to hear your story also. In an email, tell me what happened to your child, background information and what you have done in your child’s memory to move on with your life. Send to 

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Telling People Your Child Died

When you meet someone new, one of the first questions asked of you is “What do you do for a living?” Next is “Are you married? And then invariably, “How many children do you have?”

How far do you go in telling people how many children you have? Do you say, “I have two children, (when one has died)? Or do you say how many you have now not counting the one who died? Or do you explain your story, going into detail about how your child died?

Everyone has their own way of dealing with this. Some have a great need in the first few months of giving all the details. Others don’t want to talk about it at all.

I read about one mother, Mary Cleckley from Atlanta, Georgia, who met my needs exactly, and this is what she had to say: “The criteria I use in determining if I go any further is whether the person asking is going to be a continuing part of my life. Is so, they need to know about my son, and I tell them. Otherwise, we will be constantly dancing around that fact. Better, I think, to have it out in the open. It then loses its ability to interfere with the relationship. If, on the other hand, the person asking is simply passing through my life, then I feel no need to go any further than “I had two children.” Seldom does anyone catch the ‘had,’ instead of ‘have,’ and pursue it. If they do, or if they ask follow-up questions about ages and professions, I tell them first that my 26-year-old son was killed in an accident. Then I tell them about my daughter. I am comfortable either way. If they are embarrassed, I see that as their problem. Just to show you how different we all are, however, my husband feels comfortable answering, “We have one child.” That is the right answer for him, and that is what he should say.

We must all decide what is right and comfortable for ourselves and then say it. That is how to defuse that powerful question and then it loses its ability to traumatize. Don’t let it be a problem.”