Sunday, May 29, 2016

Resources for the Bereaved

For those looking for specific resources to help with your grief journey, here are eight of many I recommend in my second book, “Creating a New Normal, After the Death of a Child.” If you have the book, you will find general bereavement support groups, specific bereavement support groups, web site support and chat rooms. Call them for more information or google the group.

First Candle: is a non-profit coalition of organizations dedicated to understanding the causes and prevention of stillbirths, including miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies. Their mission is to raise awareness, educate on recommended precautionary practices and facilitate research on the prevention of stillbirth. Phone number is 1-800-221-7437

Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Foundation is for parent support of children who have or who have had any form of cancer. It is worldwide; there are no dues; they do have a monthly newsletter. Their philosophy is that “It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.” Phone number is 301-962-3520

SIDS. The National Sudden Infant Death Foundation helps parents deal with the shock and grief of losing their babies to SIDS and connects those parents. It provides information and counseling services and has a bimonthly free newsletter. Phone number is 301-322-2620

TAPS. Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors offers peer support and assists survivors who have lost a loved on in the line of military duty. They also have a national magazine published during the year with interesting stories of hope and survival. In the summer, they sponsor a “good grief” camp for children who lost a parent or sibling. Phone number is 1-800-959-TAPS

I also recommend web site bereavement support with organizations such as:

Angel Moms that chat daily, sharing tears and laughter. Through their pain, these mothers have bonded together to offer each other love, support and understanding, something we all need.

MISS- Mothers in Support and Sympathy is an organization with the mission of providing a safe haven for parents to share their grief after the death of a child. The emphasis is on support for the entire family.

Virtual Memorials creates memorials that celebrate the lives and personalities of those who have died. It also provides a place where these cherished images and biographies will have a permanent home.

The Grief Warehouse is for parents who are coping with the death of their child. The goal is to be a warehouse of information and personal experiences…a place where you can come, gather ideas, and share what worked for you on your journey of grief.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

A Meaningful Legacy

The same year my daughter died in a car accident, 1994, just a few months later, two brothers also died in a freak car accident. Their mother Nita Aasen put into words what it meant to her to have others mention her children’s names in everyday conversation. I have often used the powerful words she spoke, giving way to tears as I talk to groups of bereaved parents, sharing my story along with hers. Its meaning is clear. We will never forget our children and we hope others won’t either. I share her words with you in memory of her sons, Erik and David Aasen.

 On Thanksgiving Day, 1994, two of my three young adult sons, Erik and David, were killed in a freak car accident. Years after the accident, my husband and I were at David’s college alma mater for a holiday event. I was in the dessert line when a woman came up to me and said, “I saw your name tag—are you David Aasen’s mom?” After doing a double take (it had been some time since I had been asked what used to be a rather common question),, I replied with much appreciation, “Yes, I am!” With those three, almost magical words, this person gave me five gifts.

Her first gift was saying David’s name. Instead of just thinking to herself, Hmmm, I bet that’s David Aasen’s mom, but I better not say anything, she said something. Her second gift was sharing a story with me about how her daughter, a classmate of David’s, still treasurers the friendship she and David shared. Acknowledging that I’m still a mom was her all-important third gift. While my sons’ deaths have resulted in my becoming a bereaved mother, death cannot take away the fact that I am, and always will be, Erik and David’s mom.

The fourth gift was permission to share a bit of my grief journey with her. Since their deaths, I explained, there haven’t been any truly easy, carefree, feeling on-top-of-the-world days, but taking each day as it comes has been the most “doable” way for me to go on. Her questions and manner did not make me feel obligated to cover up my grief and was the fifth gift. I felt valued for my honesty and my integrity remained intact.

The warmth of those five gifts has lingered on in my heart and has comforted me. As I reflect on the experience, I marvel at how just a few simple words had such an impact. I have come to the conclusion that most bereaved parents want nothing more than the opportunity to talk comfortably with others about their children.  Just being able to share stories about our sons and daughters in a safe place, along with the permission to mourn in our own way and for as long as we need, even for a lifetime, is what matters most to us.

The real treasure comes when others introduce our children’s names and stories into an everyday conversation. Knowing our sons and daughters are remembered and live on in the hearts and lives of others is a measure of the meaningful legacy that our sons and daughters have left to us and to the world.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

To Lose a Child

Do you find that others feel they know exactly what is right for you and how you should grieve and how you should feel? Sometimes it makes me angry to hear other’s opinions. If a person has never lost a child, he or she doesn’t understand one bit what it is like or how I feel. There are no words to describe the pain and the suffering I have endured, but I know in my heart that I have a right to feel whatever I am feeling about my loss, even all these years later. 

My grief will never end. I understand I must live with it always, and I can do that, but for someone to say something like, “It’s time to move on” doesn’t sit well with me. I will grieve any time I want, for any reason, and for any amount of time.

There is no right or wrong way to grieve. We are all different and the way we grieve is unique to us. As long as you are emotionally and physically stable, there is no particular way to do it. I believe whatever you decide to do, whether it is inviting your child’s friends over to celebrate the birthday or keeping the clothing in the closet or even wearing the clothes, is okay to do whatever you feel comfortable in doing.

If someone says to me, “Okay, you’ve grieved long enough,” it will anger me. Bereaved parents should understand there is no time limit to your grief. Certainly, others should also. For some parents, it may take a few months before you can move on, for others it could be a year, two or even five! Although your grief will be never-ending, hopefully, as time goes by, it will be a softer grief, one that is easier to deal with. I have found that to be true over the years.

I will never be the same person I was when my child was alive. I accept that. I have found new friends, new love, new goals and new priorities for my life. It took a long while for this to happen, but anyone who has experienced great love and then tragic loss understands that pain and peace can exist together eventually.

I want everyone to never forget my daughter. I will mention her name frequently, whether others want me to or not. She existed; she was real; she was a beautiful, gracious child who started doing wonderful things with her life before it was ended for her. She brought love and friendship to everyone who knew her. I will always carry her memory with me wherever I am or wherever I go, for she was the light of my life. “We Remember Them” from Gates of Prayer, Reform Judaism Prayer Book says it all.

In the rising of the sun and in its going down, we remember them;
In the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter, we remember them;
In the opening of buds and in the warmth of summer, we remember them;
In the rustling of leaves and the beauty of autumn, we remember them;
In the beginning of the year and when it ends, we remember them;
When we are weary and in need of strength, we remember them;
When we are lost and sick at heart, we remember them;
When we have joys we yearn to share, we remember them;

So long as we live, they too shall live, for they are now a part of us as we remember them.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Grief Books Help

As I’ve said many times to many people, reading grief books helped me more than anything else to get me through my loss. Understand that this grief journey is never-ending. Your heart will always hurt and have a lasting hole in it, but learning to live with this grief is the point that we should all hopefully get to.

All these grief books have good ideas for the bereaved. And they are a healthy way through both the good and bad days you will have. Coping is the key to moving on. What better way is it to escape from all your problems than to read what someone else has to say on the subject. You don’t have to agree with everything said. Even if you get one good idea to help, it has been worth your time and effort. If you get 10 ideas, your heart will lift in your chest and if you get 25 ideas, you have gotten more than most people will get in a lifetime. Best of all, you feel less alone, discovering that others feel the exact same way you do. Reading grief books doesn’t have to be depressing. If you can feel what it’s like to laugh again from what someone says in addition to getting advice, the adage “laughter is the best medicine” will be beneficial to you.

The first book I read was “No Time For Goodbyes” by Janice Lord. I was lucky. I immediately could relate to these mothers and fathers. Most of what they said, I also said to myself. For example, Ms Lord says that we will never forget what happened to our loved one, so not to worry about that. She adds that we will be sorry not to share life with him or her, but in time, we’ll remember the happy memories more easily than the painful ones. It was comforting to read this and many of her other thoughts, and I realized that if I kept reading grief books, that would be my salvation.

I never took one drug to help me through the tough times. I believe all that does is hide your problems for a short while. I don’t drink alcohol or smoke, and I didn’t food binge. I now try to lead an active, healthy lifestyle and it has paid off in more ways than one.

As an author myself, I began to gather thoughts, ideas from others, do interviews and realized I was getting enough material to write a book to help others, in fact two books. I often hear from those who have read my books and tell me how much the books have helped them. That, to me, is the best part of being an author, the feedback you get for all the effort you have put into it. Many bereaved parents have turned to writing their story and it has been a good exercise to help them on their grief journey.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Upcoming Summer Events

TAPS is holding their 22nd annual national military survivor seminar May 27-30 in Arlington, Virginia. It is a time of connection, reflection and inspiration as survivors share their grief journeys. They have many events going on. The Good Grief Camp for children is full but a wait list is available. They have launched a mobile app which can be downloaded to your mobil device. Through the app, you can access events, session schedules, seminars and information about off-site activities. For first time attendees, TAPS is hosting four online video chats prior to the seminar. You can register for this by sending an email to and receive a link to attend the chat. Finally, they will be launching an online blog for Memorial Day weekend and invites you to share your story. Send the stories to by May 13. You can also share a photo or short video or a memory or note with them on social media by using the hashtag #GratefulNation. TAPS also has information on new care groups, running with team TAPS racers, and online peer groups. This is a valuable organization for all military survivors.

Bereaved Parents USA’s conference is July 1-3 at the Wyndham Indianapolis West Hotel in Indianapolis, IN. Hotel rate is $105. Mail a photo of your child in advance for a slideshow and candlelight ceremony. Bring more than one photo to make items in memory of your child. Love in Motion, a choir that does sign language to music will be featured. Many workshops for both childless parents and those with surviving children will be held

Compassionate Friends is holding their national conference this year in Scottsdale, AZ at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess Hotel July 8-10. Registration is $90. Events such as workshops, sharing sessions, a butterfly wonderland trip, evening events, and a special visit from Olivia Newton John, Amy Sky and Beth Nielsen Chapman highlight the event. Workshops will be held each day for both childless parents and those with surviving children. Check with the hotel for room rates and availability.

Parents of Murdered Children Conference will hold their 30th national conference July 21-24 at the Sheraton Lake Buena Vista Resort in Orlando, FL. The conference is designed for families and friends of those who have died by violence. It is a weekend of workshops, motivational speakers, sharing and interacting. It is open to all survivors, advocates, criminal justice professionals, legislators, victim service providers, educators and anyone interested in victim justice. Rooms are $99 per night which includes a resort fee of $19.95. Registration includes most meals, conference memorial book and a tote.