Sunday, July 26, 2015

Gifts From Grief

     For the next few weeks I’m going to tell you about some of the wonderful workshops I attended at the National Compassionate Conference recently. This first one is called “Gifts of Grief,” given by Donna Goodrich. I paraphrase the handout she gave us listing the gifts, plus add my own thoughts.

As we all know, we can’t bring back our children who have died. And I’m sure we’ve all said that we’d give up any “gifts” we may receive as a result of their death, just to have them back, alive with us again. We know this can’t happen, so we must look for the gifts we are now offered and let them be a living memory to our child.

Here are some of the gifts you may receive if you attend a TCF meeting:
1      The gift of  “courage” to go to your first TCF meeting.
2      The gift of hope from other bereaved parents at that meeting.
3      At that meeting did you find someone: to share precious moments of your child with them? Did          you laugh with them? Did they allow you to talk about your child?

The above are all gifts that you may receive at that first meeting. But as you continue going to these meetings, you will find that there will be changes “within you.” Here are some of the changes you may find:

4     You have become a more compassionate and forgiving person than you were before your child           died
5      You understand the value of an “I love you” like never before.
6      You understand what matters most in life today.
7      You are more supporting of others going through a loss than ever before.
8      Your life has a better focus and greater meaning since your child died
9      You’ve learned to live in the moment.
10  You may get pictures of your child from others that you didn’t know existed
11  You may talk about your child whether others like it or not.
12  You may give of yourself to others more.
13  You now have more loyal and compassionate friends who understand your loss.
14  You learn happy stories about your child from others.
15  You are a better person now than before our child died.
16  You have a better appreciation of life and who to share it with.
17  You forgive ourselves and others and give them a second chance.
18  You have deep relationships with people you would never have thought of as being close to.
19  You have the ability to empathize with those suffering.
20 You receive “hugs” from heaven when you find pennies, see dragonflies, butterflies, rabbits,                rainbows, hummingbirds—all showing up at just the right time. They help us through the darkest        days and let us know that our children are still with us in some way.

“There are many gifts in grief and it may take you a lifetime to find them, but they are there for us—given because we continue to love our children and seek a continued connection to that love,” said Donna.

What “gifts” have I received from the death of my daughter? Here are some. I became a book author of two books on surviving grief, never dreaming those books would include my daughter. I became known not only for those books, but everything I have written and contributed to other books, other newsletters, online writings and my eight years of blogs on surviving grief. My life’s desire is now to help others cope with their loss, speak to groups and keep my daughter’s name and life alive in other’s memory. I have learned what is important in life and not to dwell on the little things that don’t matter. I have become more empathetic to others, more giving and have wonderful, lasting friendships with those I can now identify with. I also agree with Donna’s list of changes that take place within yourself.

Our children may be gone from our lives, but nothing can take the beautiful memories we will always keep and treasure.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Supportive Husbands

They say the third time is the charm. That is so true for my third husband and me, now married nine years, but together for 12 years. I couldn’t have asked for a better husband. He is kind, thoughtful and it is such a comfort to know he understands and supports me during the good days and the not so good days, as I continue my never-ending grief journey.

We go to the cemetery together; he never lets me go alone. He always reminds me when it is time to go there in case I have forgotten an important date. We choose to go about 4 times a year. (For some people that is a lot; for others not enough. Many factors go into this decision and whatever is best for you personally is what you should do.)

My husband has watched videos of my daughter and understands her personality and our relationship. On what was her wedding day, we watch the DVD of the ceremony together because he knows it is what I want to do. It is a lovely memory, since it is the only DVD I have of her. I do have lots of photos to look at and have also shown many of those to him also.

Although they were destined never to meet, my husband gets very emotional and teary-eyed when he speaks of Marcy to others, her accomplishments and how well we got along as I have explained her to him over our years together. It always brings tears to my eyes to hear him speak so fondly of someone he only knew through me.

My husband also has one beautiful daughter, also an only child, who now lives in Belgium. She and Marcy were born in the same month and on the same day, even though 17 years apart. When I speak of that to others, I, as well as they, get goose bumps. What were the chances of that happening? They are so much alike that when I talk to his daughter on the phone or see her in person when we visit, I see the same personality come through, the same expressions and the same words out of her mouth that remind me so much of my daughter. We get along beautifully, something I am grateful for.

And now we have a grandson, something I thought would never be. A picture of Marcy is on a wall in her Belgium apartment so that my grandson will know where his middle name Marc comes from. She has made sure he knows the connection and will continue to do so throughout his life.

My husband and my stepdaughter make sure I am a great part of our grandson’s life. Not only is he thrilled with his first grandson, but more importantly to him, is the fact that I, too, can share that joy with him. He knows how much it means to me. I truly love this little boy and know that as he grows up, I will always be ‘grandma’ to him. I understand it is not important that we are not blood relatives. I am as close to him as any grandparent can be and can’t wait for the next time we are together.

I hope you, too, have the love and support that I have found and that it has helped you cope with your loss.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Making a Difference

Thoughts from a recent speech I wrote and gave to a bereavement group on surviving...

You all have a future after the death of your child. Because you are all doing the best you can, you are survivors, survivors from what I believe is the worst possible thing that could ever happen to you. You may question whether you are capable of being a survivor, you may not believe it yet, but in time you will.

All of us have to work it out in our own time sequence. For some it is a shorter period, for others, much longer. I don’t need to tell you what it feels like, how your life changed in a split second, how difficult it is. It is indeed the most unbearable loss of all. But I truly believe we were left here to do some good, to help others who may not know where to turn.

Time is our friend. Time does not heal us completely but it does soften our grief. Hope can be found even when all seems lost. With hope, we are on our way to the reconciliation of our grief and the reinvention of ourselves after this devastating loss. We are forever changed, and it is our choice whether this experience expands or diminishes us. It often takes years to recognize this.

The quote, “I can not choose what I feel, but I can choose what I do about it” has meant a lot to me over the years since my daughter’s death. I choose life. I choose joy again. I choose not to be a victim. Despair and lifelong agony need not be a choice. I know there will be “moments” but those can be safely put back in place. I also choose to help others in the best way I can, through my writing and through my speaking. I choose to make a difference for those who have lost a child and for those who crave to know how to act and react to others who have lost a child. I do all this not only because I want to, but also in my child’s memory. She would have wanted this from me.

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...”

Sunday, July 5, 2015

3 Important Points For Newly Bereaved

For the newly bereaved, grieving is hard work. It is the hardest work you will ever have to do, but you can do it and survive this loss.

There are three important points to always keep in mind as you go through your grief journey.

(1) 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 in your heart. Take it one hour, one day at a time for as long as you need to. Don't let anyone tell you it is time to get over this, especially those who don't understand what you are going through if they have never lost a child. Only those who have gone through this can understand. Take deep breaths constantly.

(2) Read all you can about the experience. Read grief books that talk about how newly bereaved go about moving on with their lives and what other bereaved parents have done to help themselves. Read professional books written by counselors that talk about what you will be feeling at any certain time and practical solutions to those feelings. Although these latter types of books are not personalized with stories of real people and real experiences, reading what professionals have to say can be of help. Read magazine articles on the subject of loss as well as articles from newspapers.

(3) Keep a journal about your feelings. Each day, sit down and write what you are feeling, so that when you look back you can see how far you have progressed. You’ll be surprised how many things you would never have remembered if you hadn’t kept one. My journal became the opening quarter of my first book, all about my daughter and especially my feelings during this period of my life. As I look back and read and re-read it, it brings back good, happy feelings of my daughter, things buried deep within me that I can now recall whenever I need or want to.

I wish you all good things on your grief journey.