Sunday, February 22, 2015

It's All Right To...

It’s all right to…
Scream in the shower
Yell in the car
Cry anywhere you like
Misplace your glasses, the car keys and the car
Put milk in the cupboard, toilet paper in the refrigerator, and ice cream in the oven
Beat up on the pillow, stomp on the ground, throw stones in the lake
Change grocery stores if it hurts
Wear one black show and one navy
Eat French fries for breakfast, toast for lunch, and peanut butter for dinner (as long as you eat)
Write your child a letter. Bake him/her a cake
Smell his/her clothes
Celebrate his/her life on the birthday
Talk to your pets, they understand
Leave his/her room the way it is, for as long as you like
Say his/her name just to hear the sound
Talk about your child to others
Tell loved ones what you need
Say no when you feel like it.
Cancel plans if you want
Have a bad day
It’s all right to hurt
And one day when you’re ready: it’s all right to…
Laugh again
Dance and feel pretty. Have a good time
Look forward to tomorrow. Sing in the shower
Smile at a friend’s new baby
Wear make up once more
Go for a day, a week and even a month without crying
Celebrate the holidays
Forgive those who failed you
Learn something new
Look at his picture and remember with happiness, not pain
Go on with your life. Cherish the memories
And one day when it’s time – it’s all right to…
Love again.

Vicki Tushingham, TCF New Jersey

Editor’s note: This bereaved parent was a prolific writer and good friend of TCF. Her words have always inspired all who knew her.                                                                                                                                                           

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Proactive Grieving Part 2

 continued  from last week. (If you missed last week, please read it first, below today’s blog.)
Where do we start to find peace and turn loss into legacy?

1. We have to make the decision to accept the challenge to survive using the following: identify weaknesses, identify your support, identify goals, create a plan, accept help, and seek tools for the journey.

2. Actively grieve and express your pain. Tell your story.

3. Share your continued struggle with others.

4. Help others who are hurting on their journey. It will help you too.

5. Keep your loved one present in our today…use the present tense.

6. Seek joy, our birthright.

7. Rebuild. Get involved in your journey. Go to TCF meetings. See a counselor or life coach.

8. Rebuild your body: physically , spiritually by eating right and drinking lots of water, spiritually by looking towards God, and mentally by keeping a journal, tracking both good and bad days, and creating a bucket list. Reduce anything that inhibits the healing process (get a massage, cry often, swim, run, walk, sing and dance).

9. Most importantly, create a legacy by writing a book; starting a foundation, organizing a walk, starting a support group, reaching out to others, using your gifts and giving time. Be proactive.

The power in grief is immense. It can destroy us, it can make us sicker than ever, or we can become bigger and better than we have ever been. We can’t change the circumstances of our loved ones leaving us physically but we can transform our lived from the power of that loss. “I have seen so many powerful things people have done for the legacy of loved ones," said Carmody. "Not only can one survive after a significant loss, we can thrive. Surviving is just the beginning. Believe you can."

“Tears are shed when we are born, and they usher us out when we die; the meaning of life is the dance in-between,” he added.

Lee Ann Womach said in her well-known song, “If you get the choice to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance.” You  can sit out as long as you need to but eventually you want to dance our child’s life into the future and that’s what will bring joy back into your life.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Proactive Grieving Part 1

How we process grief in this country has gone under a dramatic transformation, according to Mitch Carmody, bereaved father and well-known speaker for Compassionate Friends and other organizations.

Carmody believes in proactive grieving, that is embracing your grief, taking ownership, finding out more about it, going through it and not around it, and living the loss and not postponing it.

“People are starting to take control of their own journey,” he said. “We have a whole new perspective on loss and recovery. We are starting to talk about loss, show grief on roads, fences, football fields, wherever we can that is appropriate, and even talk it out.”

People have the power to help themselves by helping others. Grief is a life-long journey measured in years, not months. It is what we do in those years that can turn loss to legacy. It takes a long time to process grief. We have good days and bad days; some days we have to start over. By recognizing this, we can control our grief.

Proactive grieving is not going through stages but it is more akin to ascending a stairway…each step negotiated one at a time—on your own time. On his stairway, he has chosen a new model for grieving: shock, trauma, acceptance, introspection, reinvestment and serenity.

With shock, you can’t believe this is happening. You may walk around for months, performing at a perfunctory level, not knowing what we’re doing.

In the trauma stage reality creeps in. The sympathy cards stop coming. People stop calling. This can last months to years. It is critical to move on to the next phase.

Acceptance is where we are challenged to make a difference. People are ignorant of our journey. We must educate them. Help yourself by taking off your mask and let people know we are still grieving.
This leads to introspection and insight. We can’t change what has happened. We need to find ways to go through the journey by looking inside.

By reinvesting we rebuild and have renaissance in our lives. How can I find joy again, laugh again. Reach out to others in honor of your child. When we feel joy, we’ll know it in our mental and physical state.

Then we can possibly find peace, serenity. This is Carmody’s life now. We don’t choose this new life, but it is our life now. We can use every strength of our being as a legacy to our loved one. That’s what will bring us back and make us whole again, according to Carmody. Finding peace is going through grief, not around it, by processing your loss, adapting to its reality and building a new future as a legacy to the loved one who died. Finding peace is turning loss into legacy.

Who can talk about our child better than we can. We become their voice, their arms, their hands. They should have been our legacy, but now it is the other way around: they can help us do that and together it is synergistic. Where do we start? … to be continued next week

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Still Healing from Sandy Hook

I have written before about the heroic teachers of Sandy Hook on December 14, 2012, when a gunman killed 20 children and 6 teachers with 154 shots before he was stopped. Teaching changed in January of 2013, according to one teacher, Abby Clements. “We care about them emotionally as well as teaching them.”

The community is still healing. Divorce, separations, alcohol abuse, drug abuse and domestic violence have been the result of the children’s deaths. All of these parents grieved in a very different way and are still grieving and will continue to grieve for a very long time.

A news story a few weeks ago talks about how these teachers now have a cause that goes beyond caring about these students. For the 37 teachers, the anger about what happened has turned to activism.

They now have a purpose: gunsense. One teacher, Abby Clements, said, “I feel I have a responsibility to make sure that I try to do something. I look at the children every day and I can’t let them grow up in a society where this kind of action is acceptable. I know I don’t want others to go through what we did.”

What they want is to close loop holes that allow online and private sales of guns without background checks. In a survey, 74 percent of NRA members support requiring a universal background check for all gun sales, but, as an organization, NRA does not.

“We’re against a strong lobby, but we know we can make a difference,” said Mary Ann Jacobs, librarian. Some gun owners are afraid of laws infringing on their rights.

“This is not a political issue. The question is, ‘Do you want to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people and prevent more gun violence. It’s not, how can we take people’s guns away."

These teachers are pushing for a ban on high capacity magazines for assault weapons. The less capacity, the less number of bullets in a magazine. And more children and adults would have survived. They don’t want a legacy counted in children they helped keep safe two years ago but in the kids they’ll help keep safe from now on.

There have been many, many shootings in schools since and before Sandy Hook. They believe it is unacceptable that 31,000 Americans, from children through adults, die each year from gun violence.

“We have to have that confrontation with law makers; we have to be ready to have that argument,” the teachers say. "We have to save our children."