Sunday, June 26, 2016

Keeping notes and letters about Marcy

When my daughter died, I received so many cards and letters of support in the mail. It was suggested to me that I keep them all and make a folio of them to look back on. I thought it a good idea and set to work diligently to make it happen. I am the type of person once I get something in my mind to do and I like the idea, it’s a done deal! Perhaps doing something like this would work for you and be something nice to look back on.

I felt most of the notes and letters were very powerful, telling a story of Marcy that even I didn’t know…how she was the one who held people together, how she was the one who helped those in need, how she was the one who lent a hand of kindness to all who were close to her, how she was a great leader and organizer, how she was like a sister to all and had a big heart and constant smile…

One friend remembers the spaghetti face kid, sitting in her high chair, covered with spaghetti, as was the entire kitchen. She was so proud of what she had done. Her little face displayed pride and humor. Even at that young age, she knew what she was doing. She did it well, she did it with humor and she did it with excellence, perfection and character. 

Another friend told a funny story about her engagement ring. “I just made him take me to Tiffany’s first and then every place else seemed so reasonable!” A parent of one of her friends had to tell me that on the day of the L.A. earthquake in ’94, Marcy called the mother to tell her not to worry, her daughter was on the east coast. The mother thought that was so sweet of her to do when she should have been worried about her own safety.

A couple of other examples of letters received included some people who celebrated Marcy’s life by going out to her favorite places, lighting candles at the accident site, and bringing flowers. Others said how much they learned from her about living life to the fullest and enjoying every minute of it. One friend said she liked to think that Marcy’s supreme logic will continue to guide her through life and that, as she writes this note, she knows Marcy is in a wonderful place—probably finding a fourth for tennis.

Some people sent photos of themselves with Marcy at parties, on trips and at work. Her energy kept everyone going at work, writes another and she was never afraid to try anything new. Her enthusiastic ways, leadership qualities, positive attitude and generosity of spirit were admired by all.

All these notes and letters were at first a comfort, and a realization I had a great kid. They inspired me to write my first book on surviving grief. I used a few of the comments to emphasize her personality and all her goodness. I now know that her life had great meaning, that she had many friends and that in death she would always be remembered. Her boss from where she worked said it best, “If you were a friend of Marcy’s, you were a friend for life.”

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Orlando Thoughts

As I watched another tragedy unfold, this time in Orlando, FL, I feel for the families of the victims. I know what it’s like to lose a child; in my case, it was a car accident. Like a murder, it’s sudden, it’s unthinkable, it’s unbearable, like any tragic death. I watch the news everyday and my heart goes out to the families and friends of the victims, as it does in any sudden death.

 I remember saying to my loved ones when Marcy died, “What a waste of a beautiful life. What a waste.” I remember repeating that over and over for the first few months as I dealt with the trauma and then year after year as I move on with my life, never forgetting what happened, how a split second could have made all the difference. Why was this driver going 70 mph and swerving through a residential area with no thought of the consequences? Why my daughter? She died instantly; at least she didn’t suffer. I doubt we can say that about most of the Orlando shootings.

As each day of the reports of identifying the dead and injured goes by, many are recovering. Others are not so lucky. I know exactly what these parents are facing now and for the rest of their lives. It will never be over. They will never forget what happened to their loved one, nor will they ever forget their child. It all becomes part of their being that they will learn to live with year after year.

Learning about those at the nightclub (most of them between 20-35 years old) is important to me. I want to know who they were, where they came from, how they lived their lives. I want to put a face to each story. As a former newspaper reporter, I have always been curious about people, always wanting to understand others, so that I can help them wherever possible.

Some families and relatives will need the help of specialists and counselors to get through this, and I hope they get the help they will need. Some things they can do for themselves include: seeking out a grief support group, try online support at, talk with friends, family or clergy about how this has affected them, exercise daily, and eat three meals a day for strength and good health.

I grieve for all of Orlando involved in this shooting. Know that there is hope after loss and each person will eventually find theirs.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

My Gratitude list

Most of us are grateful for many things in our life. Here are 20 of mine right off the top of my head. I'm sure you can think of many more as you consider the meaning of your life and how all these things helped you to heal from your grief.

I’m grateful for my life and that I have lived for many more years than I ever dreamed I would.

I’m grateful for giving birth to my daughter Marcy. Even though she is no longer here, I can’t imagine what my life would have been like without her.

I’m grateful that Marcy taught me to be more patient, more understanding and more loving.

I’m grateful I learned how to move on from my loss to make everyday meaningful.

I’m grateful I learned how precious life can be for everyone.

I’m grateful for a loving husband who understands my needs and tries hard to fulfill them.

I’m grateful so many people understand my loss and don’t tell me “to get over it.” They say that they can’t imagine such a loss. They are right. It is incomprehensible to lose a child.

I’m grateful that I have so many wonderful memories of both my daughter and my life in general.

I’m grateful for having so many friends to share thoughts with.

I’m grateful for my step-grandson and my three godchildren.

I’m grateful to live in a beautiful city with wonderful weather year round to enjoy.

I’m grateful for good health.

I’m grateful I can dance, love music and can play the piano.

I’m grateful for people’s sense of humor during rough times.

I’m grateful that I can help others through their loss by my books and speaking engagements.

I’m grateful that I can write and express myself on different levels.

I’m grateful that I can afford to travel and see the world.

I’m grateful that I have learned of different cultures and ways of life of so many.

I’m grateful that I live in a land that allows me the freedom to be myself.

I’m so grateful that my blog resonates with you and so many others.

Keep your list going and add new entries for your gratitude list day after day.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

A Grandmother's Grief

Editor’s Note: I have rarely written of the emotional aspect of a grandparent’s loss. This article was in the TCF chapter of Livonia, Michigan’s newsletter and written by Margaret Gerner.

I am powerless. I am helpless. I am frustrated. I sit here and cry with her. She cries for her daughter and I cry for mine. I can’t help her. I can’t reach inside her and take her broken heart. I must watch her suffer day after day.

I listen to her tell me over and over how she misses Emily, how she wants her back. I can’t bring Emily back for her. I can’t buy her an even better Emily than she had, like I could buy her an even better toy when she was a child. I can’t kiss the hurt and make it go away. There’s no band aid large enough to cover her bleeding heart.

Can I tell her it’ll be okay in one or two years when I know it will never be okay, that she will carry this pain of “What might have been” in her deepest heart for the rest of her life?

I see this young woman, my child, who was once carefree and fun-loving and bubbling with life, slumped in a chair with her eyes full of agony. Where is my power now? Where is my mother’s bag of tricks that will make it all better.

Why can’t I join her in the aloneness of her grief? As tight as my arms wrap around her, I can’t reach that aloneness.

What can I give her to make her better? A cold, wet cloth will ease the swelling of her crying eyes, but it won’t stop the reason for her tears. What treat will bring joy back to her? What prize will bring that happy child smile back? Where are the magic words to give her comfort? What chapter in Dr. Spock tells me how to do this? He has told me everything else I’ve needed to know. Where are the answers?

I should have them. I’m the mother.

I know that someday she’ll find happiness again, that her life will have meaning again. I can hold out hope for her someday, but what about now? This minute? This hour? This day?

I can give her my love and my prayers and my care and my concern. I could give her my life. But even that won’t help.

I wrote this piece out of deep feelings of powerlessness. It seemed that no matter what I did, I could not take away my daughter’s pain at the death of her 3 year-old daughter, Emily. Were that not enough, I was devastated by my own grief at the loss of my precious granddaughter.

I could relate to my daughter’s pain. I, too, had lost a child. In 1971 my 6-year-old son, Arthur, was killed by an automobile. At that time there were no support groups. I didn’t know how to grieve or that what I was feeling was normal. I thought I was losing my mind. The psychiatrist I saw after Arthur’s death reinforced my belief by giving me drugs for my depression.

I tried to do what people told me to do; count my blessings and be strong. That meant not talking about Arthur, not crying, and not expressing any other emotions I felt. The result was five years of distorted, prolonged grief which eventually had to be resolved with the help of a professional who had training in bereavement.

I was shattered by Emily’s death, but my grief lessened sooner than Dorothy’s. Since Emily was not my child, I recovered many months ahead of my daughter. What didn’t lessen was seeing Dorothy’s pain. That continues, at times, even today.

As a parent of a grieving child, you have a unique opportunity to cement a deep and lasting relationship with your child. You have the opportunity to walk with your child through the most difficult life experience they will endure. You have the opportunity to help your child in a very special way and the bond that forms will never be broken.

It will not be easy, and the process is long and hard. You will feel powerless, frustrated and helpless many times. But you CAN help!