Sunday, March 27, 2016

My New Reality

Editor’s note: The following commentary I saw in a TCF newsletter sums up what grief teaches us. I thought many could relate to this and that you might like to read it. The author is Adolfo Quesda of TCF Colorado.

My old friend Grief is back. He comes to visit me once in a while to remind me that I am still a broken man.  Surely there has been much healing since my son died six years ago, and surely I have adjusted to a world without him. But the truth is, we never completely heal, we never totally adjust.  Such is the nature of the loss that no matter how much life has been experienced, the heart of the bereaved will never be the same. It’s as though a part of us dies with the person we lose through death.

 And so my old friend Grief drops in to say “Hello.” Sometimes he enters through the door of my memory. I’ll hear a song or smell a fragrance. I’ll look at a picture and I’ll remember how it used to be. Sometimes it brings a smile to my face…sometimes a tear.

One may say that remembrance is unhealthy…that we shouldn’t dwell on thoughts that make us sad. Yet the opposite is true. Grief revisited is Grief acknowledged and Grief confronted is Grief resolved. But if Grief is resolved, why do we feel a sense of loss when we least expect it? Because healing doesn’t mean forgetting and moving on with life doesn’t mean that we don’t take a part of our lost love with us. Of course the intensity of the pain decreases over time if we allow Grief to visit from time to time.

Sometimes my old friend Grief sneaks up on me. It’s as though the one’s we have lost are determined not to be forgotten. My old friend Grief doesn’t get in the way of living. He just wants to come along and chat sometimes.

Grief has taught me a few things about living I wouldn’t have learned on my own. He has taught me that if I try to deny the reality of loss, I end up having to deny life altogether. Old Grief has taught me that I can survive great loss and although my world is different, it’s still my world and I must live in it.

My old friend Grief has taught me that the loss of a loved one doesn’t mean the permanence of death. My friend will be back again and again to remind me to confront my new reality and to gain through loss and pain.

     Grief never ends...but it changes. It's a passage, not a place to stay. Grief is not a sign of 
     weakness, not a lack of faith...It is the price of love.  

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Fighting Mental Illness in Youths

It was little things happening that alerted Nancy that something was very wrong. But, as a mother, she didn’t want to acknowledge something could be wrong with her son. Craig was 21 years old when he put a gun to his head and ended his life.  He was eventually diagnosed as schizophrenic, but by then it was too late. **
Nancy began working for the Mental Health Association in public speaking and education when her son died and is involved in a program called “Options” where she goes into schools and educates teachers and students on symptoms of depression and avoiding suicide. “I do this, she says, “because I won’t be part of the shame attached to mental illness.” She is doing her work to bring attention to mental illness…that it does exist, but at the same time, it is responsive to treatment if a proper diagnosis can be made and the freedom to talk about it is there.
Laurie and Lee Maxwell lost their eighteen year old son Dan when his inner pain became too great for him to bear. Dan was plagued with mental and emotional pain for eighteen months, without a diagnosis, without relief, before he took his life.
Through their experience with physicians, psychiatrist and psychologists, medications, and dietary changes, the Maxwells vowed to turn their tragic journey toward helping other young people who suffer in silence because of the stigma attached to mental illness.
This couple founded DMAX Foundation with two goals. The first goal is to create a community of caring and conversation. Speaking up to combat stigma and negative stereotypes, helping friends and family increase understanding and demonstrate compassion for youth suffering from this pain. The second goal is to reduce the sense of isolation and hopelessness for kids and parents going through tough times by fostering the recognition that mental health issues should not separate “us versus them” and that all of us occupy a place on the continuous spectrum of mental health.
It is a fact that college students are stressed out. This past year it was reported that 20.2 million were stressed out at college. It is estimated that there are 1 in 4 students with diagnosable mental health problems. Almost 40 percent of those students will not seek help. They are too scared to talk about their emotional issues because of the stigma and discrimination.
The DMAX Foundation’s primary initiative is to create DMAX Clubs on college campuses for students to get together and talk about how they are doing, how their friends are doing and how they can help each other. For information about starting a DMAX Club or how it could help a college near you deal with the epidemic of mental illness on campus, reach out to April Matt at
These two parents and many others encourage learning more about depression, mental health challenges and emotional troubles and what to do if you or anyone you know needs help.
**You can read Craig’s story in my first book, “I Have No Intention of Saying Good-bye.”

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Special TCF Performance July 8

It was just announced that a special performance by international superstar Olivia Newton John, singer/songwriter Beth Nielsen Chapman and Canadian singer/songwriter Amy Sky, will highlight Friday night, July 8, at the National TCF Conference, July 8-10 in Scottsdale, Arizona. The songs are designed to aid and comfort those working their way through the maze of grief and loss.

Olivia Newton John said, “This album is designed to uplift hearts burdened by grief while also bringing awareness and understanding that bereavement is universal to all human beings…with the ultimate goal being to bring comfort from the pain and loss.”

Keynote speakers were also announced. They include Alan Pedersen, opening ceremony speaker, who is the executive director of The Compassionate Friends USA; Nivia Vazquez, Saturday evening dinner speaker, and Steve Fugate, closing ceremony speaker.

Alan’s daughter Ashley was killed in August 2001 in a car accident. He is an award winning singer/songwriter and recording artist, writing songs about the experience of love, loss and trying to find life again after the death of a child. Alan has traveled all over the U.S. to more than 1,000 cities sharing his music and story and offering support and hope to others in grief. He has been awarded the TCF Professional Award by The Compassionate Friends and in 2011 he was named the Humanitarian of the Year by the Healing Hearts Foundation.

Nivia is the bereaved mother of Jose Francisco. He died in a car accident in 1993. She helped charter a TCF chapter in San Juan, Puerto Rico. She has also been a chapter leader for 15 years, a professional bilingual legal secretary, translator and a personal/spiritual coach. Nivia serves on the national board.

Steve, bereaved father, will speak at the closing ceremony. He lost his son to suicide at 26 and his daughter died of an accidental drug overdose six years later. He has walked across the U.S. eight times (43,000 miles in 6 years), each time with a message over his head, “LOVE LIFE.”Giving that message has helped to heal him also. "Giving that message has helped to heal me as well as some others."

For additional information on this conference, contact 

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Knot My Baby and First Candle Organizations to Help the Bereaved

Every year in the U.S., there are 26,000 stillbirths and 4,000 infants under one year of age that die unexpectedly. Two resources for parents are Knot My Baby and First Candle. Both organizations want to help bereaved parents and bring down those numbers. 

Knot My Baby was started by Brooke and Colin Smith when their daughter was delivered stillborn and no local support was available. Knot My Baby is a resource of support and education for families who have had perinatal or neonatal losses.

The organization would like to untangle the following:
·             Little to no access to quality prenatal and/or infant care.
·             Lack of comprehensive information on quality prenatal and or infant care.
·             Lack of resources to aid in quality infant care.
·             Legislation.
·             Little to no information on bereavement resources for those impacted by pregnancy and infant loss.
·             Little to no guidance for families and friends on how to aid those impacted by pregnancy and infant       loss.

And how do they want to do this?
·             Bridge the gap between bereaved families and those who are unfamiliar with the impact of          reproductive loss through awareness campaigns.
·             Legislation to give each state in the U.S. an opportunity to distribute more than 26,000 pieces of educational materials and products on safe pregnancy practices and infant care to reduce the risk of loss before and after pregnancy.
·             Improving stillborn research and postpartum care.
·             Baby monitoring grants---Knot My Baby, Inc. donates at least one pregnancy and/or baby monitor a month to newborns and expecting families. The monitors empower families with technology that monitors their contractions or baby’s heart rate and oxygen levels while they sleep. It alerts parents if the baby stops breathing.
·             Offer of grants to organizations that specifically focus on reproductive loss. Their initial goal is to serve at least four families a month with counseling services each year.   
         Bereavement services would be paid directly to the funeral home of at least one family a month each year.
·              Provide memorial items to families that have experienced a pregnancy or infant loss.
·             A memorial grant once a month to companies that provide memorial items to families that have experienced a pregnancy or infant loss and one Cuddle Cots placed in every maternity ward each year starting with the state of New York.

First Candle is trying to reduce our nation’s high rate of infant mortality. The number of babies who die in adult beds and other unsafe sleep environments is on the rise. Statistics show that as many as 80-90 percent are the result of unsafe sleep practices. These are preventable deaths. By implementing more effective safe sleep education campaigns, First Candle believes they can significantly reduce the number of sudden, unexpected infant deaths in the United States. They want to make parents aware of and adopt lifesaving safe sleep practices before leaving the hospital and ensure that every baby has access to a safe crib, especially if the family can’t afford one. Protect your baby from SIDS, suffocation and accidents during sleep. Contact First Candle for additional information to keep your baby safe. 

Both organizations can be found on the internet with additional information.