Monday, December 30, 2013

Visiting the Cemetery


    The holidays always bring the question of visiting the cemetery with something special when you may be missing your child the most.   The cemetery has never been easy for me, but the last few years I have come to peace with my visits.  Initially I would be very depressed for days after going. Yet I wanted to go and just prepared myself for feeling bad. Then gradually, I saw it as a time for peace and a quiet place to talk to Chris and my husband, Fred, too.

     If you are wrestling with the decision of whether or when to go or are dreading going, perhaps I can help you with my own experience.
       
      1)  It may be easier to go with another friend or relative.  I usually go alone, but this year, I may ask a good friend to go with me.  I am feeling the need for support this year.  I have been under more stress than usual and not feeling well.  Sit down and think about your needs and who and what would support you the most.

       2)  After going to the cemetery, decide if you want some quiet time, need to go to church or perhaps you would rather be distracted by being with other people.  The choice is yours.  Do not feel or pressured to do something.  If you must attend a social engagement, then schedule the cemetery for a time in which you will not be obligated to do something afterwards if you want quiet.
   
       3)  It is okay not to go to the cemetery if you are dreading going or become ill or very distraught by visiting your child's gravesite.  You can sit in quiet and visit with your child anywhere.  It is NOT necessary to go to the gravesite.  You can buy a special plant, plant a special live commemorative tree, bake a special dessert, have a special toast or a commemorative meal at home or in a restaurant.

     Finally, let me leave you with the words of the poem by Mary Elizabeth Frye:

                    Do not stand by my grave and weep
                    I am not there, I do not sleep
                    I am a thousand winds that blow
                    I am the diamond's gift of snow
                    I am the sunlight on ripened grain
                    I am autumn's gentle rain
                    When you awaken in the morning's hush
                    I am the swift uplifting rush
                    Of quiet birds in circled flight
                    I am the soft stars that shine at night
                    Do not stand at my grave and cry

                          I am not there
                          I did not die.

     Our children's spirits go on and we with them.

Rosemarie

   

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Serenity and Wisdom

     My energy and thinking has been taken up by having to deal with illness in a family member.  I realized, I am really powerless to affect any significant change here.  I had to come to this conclusion as I am seeing my own health adversely affected.  Time for the Serenity Prayer:

               God grant me the power to
                    Accept the things I cannot change,
                    The courage to change the things I can,
                    And the wisdom to know the difference.

     We are often powerless to change events or other people.  The only way to shape events is to control or change yourself.  This would seem to be the beginning of insight and wisdom.

      Have a blessed and peaceful Christmas and holiday.  



Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Handling the Holidays

     December is upon us.  You and I are having to deal with missing our children terribly during the Christmas holiday season.  This is in addition to normal the stress to get things done.  First, depending upon where you are in this grieving process, do not engage in any social activities you do not feel up to.  A simple statement that you are celebrating quietly or privately this year is sufficient.  Be gracious, but firm.  Do not engage in a discussion or explanation.  Excuse yourself from the conversation if you have to.

     If you have other children, of course you have to make a holiday for them as much as your heart may not be in it.  Please enlist the help of family and friends for decorating, shopping, gift wrapping and meal preparation.  People say they want to help.  Now is the chance to take them up on it.  Grief is a journey you cannot make alone.  You have to ask for help no matter how independent and together you have been in the past.

     I know at times, you may feel like screaming at all the merriment and activity around you, "Stop!  What are you doing?  Don't you know I lost a child."  Sometimes or maybe all the time, you and I feel we are no longer part of the real world where other people have not lost children.  It is as if you and I reside in a twilight zone and wait for things to get better. You and I are aware we have been cruelly robbed of part of our beings and futures while the rest of the world celebrates as if nothing is wrong.

     This detachment was brought home to me when a family member recently described her being in the hospital as "hell."  I wanted to shake her and say, "It is the holidays and I buried a child.  That is hell."  Deep breath.  Would that do any good for her or me?  Probably not.

     What I did do was go for a walk and a coffee and and to do a couple of simple errands to clear my head.  I was able to conclude:  You cannot make someone who does not understand your situation, acknowledge and understand it.  Second pointer is you either have to avoid certain people or take them in limited doses with other people as buffers.  Again, you may have to take someone close to you aside and ask for help in dealing with certain individuals.

     Focus on arranging some quiet periods for yourself or for you and your spouse or significant other.    Try to think of your child being alive in eternity.  Recall good memories and talk to your child.  If your partner does not want to do this, do not force the issue or argue.  Ask for some quiet time to pursue this yourself.   There is physical death and lack of an earthly presence, but I believe there is eternal life where our children are well, happy, safe and at peace from the stresses of the natural world.

     One day I will be re-united with my child and I believe so will you with your child.  It is just not time yet.  You have a longer journey here on earth.  Hold on with faith, hope and courage.  Deep breathe, meditate, walk, exercise, write, draw, paint, listen to music.  Buy your child a special present---  a little something for his or her room to mark the holiday and include your child.  Have a toast to his or her memory.

     Yes, this time of year can make day to day living very difficult especially if you are still struggling to find your footing.  Don't neglect your physical, emotional and spiritual needs.  By all means seek help and support.  Set limits for yourself and boundaries for others.  When faced with some hard task, I repeat over and over to myself, "I can do this."  And I rely on prayer.  Try to attend religious services. If you cannot, then watch some on television.  Try to remember the reason for the season.  The Christ child was born to bring hope, re-generation and spiritual growth to the world.

    I wish you peace and the best Christmas possible and good things and hope in the New Year.  God is holding your child in His hands until you meet again.

 Love to you and your families,
 Rosemarie
   

 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Choose Your Battles Well.

     A saying on Facebook brought to mind some factors that can interfere with Taking Back Your Power and Choosing to Live Again.  It said:  "Be selective in your battles.  Sometimes peace is better than being right."     FamilyShare.com
   
     Feeling that you did not achieve the desired outcome for a medical or surgical procedure for your child  or that you did not receive justice from the legal system can cause you as a parent heart wrenching emotions.  As a parent whose child has died you are prepared to go to the mat to fight for what you perceive your child deserves.  In doing do you may be bitterly disappointed in finding you do not have a legal proceeding or will get no more from the medical or legal systems.

     What then?  Do you go on fighting?  Do you seek additional opinions?  Do you do endless research?  How long do you go on fighting?  You may answer as long as it takes to achieve your desired outcome.

     Unfortunately, no opinion, no apology, no financial award and no criminal conviction can bring your child back.  Parents who have had success with the medical and /or legal system can attest it is a hollow victory.  You may very well be right that the medical or legal system did not do right by your child.  But again I ask, how long so you go on fighting?

     Based on my personal experience, my response is you need to stop when the battle is causing your physical, emotional or financial health to suffer or interfering with relationships or your job.  It may be time to consider if your continuing to fight is a way of holding onto your child.  You and I cannot  re-write the story to bring back my child or yours no matter how hard we fight.

     If you find yourself enmeshed it what seems to be an endless battle, perhaps it may be time to step back and re-assess what you are doing.  Ask yourself what it is costing you in your life.  What is your  goal?  Are you seeking revenge?  Does anyone else support you such as your spouse, family member or friend or a grief counselor.  If the answer is no, you may want to pause and consider the answers you were given.

     It is not my place to tell you,  "Yes, drop your battle."  I only want to point out a place from which you may find it very difficult to return and serves to complicate your  grieving process.  I had to come to this awareness about my own son's situation in relation to those involved and the legal system.

     Sadly, I had to conclude there was no way I could get him justice on my own. Not that I have given up hope.  There is always hope of new information or a a person coming forward with something additional to tell.  With the help of a grief counselor,  I was able to see it is not within my power to pull all the strings to control the systems or people involved.  You may come to the same painful, conclusion.

     Please know,  this is all right for me and for you to so.  My child and your child are at peace.  What happens now on earth cannot affect him or her.  I will quote from a very wise and dear friend,  "God sees everything," 

      There is earthly justice and everlasting justice.  I do pray for truth and justice for Chris, but I do not pursue it myself.  I may never see it in my lifetime.  I know if Chris does not get justice on earth, he will get it in eternity.  Those responsible for his death will have to face Divine Justice.  Realizing and accepting this has helped move me along in my grief.  I had to struggle with this for some time as it is a tough concept and harsh reality.  I pray you find courage and guidance if you find yourself in the same place.

   

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Choosing to Live Again

      Knowing how losing a child can put your life on hold for a very long time if not forever, I was struck by a recent TV interview.  Syndicated columnist, New York Times best-selling author and physician, Charles Krauthammer, is quadraplegic (paralyzed from the neck down) from a tragic diving accident while in medical school.  Questioned about the accident which changed his life, Dr. Krauthammer revealed his personal philosophy on meeting his life adversity.
     "You must decide whether you want a good life or a miserable life," Krauthammer advised.  He went on to say if you want a good life then you have to take steps to ensure it.
     You and I have sustained probably the worst blow one can receive in losing a child.  What more could happen?  Why did it happen?  Why me or you?  Unfortunately, there are no good or comforting answers to these questions.  I always tell myself bad things happen as part of the human condition on earth.  I believe you and I are not guaranteed perfection in this life on earth.  Perfection is for everlasting life.
     The key seems to be how you and I handle the loss of our children which determines our life track.  You and I can become frozen in time with grief and depression, become bitter or angry, become physically ill, or accept the death of our children, our fate.
     Dr. Krauthammer explained he knew immediately what had happened.  He realized he had severed his spinal cord.  Yet, he vowed on his first day in the hospital not to let his circumstance alter the course of his life.  One word, acceptance.
     I think working through the grief in losing a child, takes a longer time.  However at some low point you and I are faced with a decision of where to go in our lives.  And realize, to not look at this and not decide is a decision to stay put.  The question before you and me always remains.  How do I move my life beyond the loss of my child?  Only you and I can decide this individually.  Possibilities are as a vehicle for self-actualization,  a means to help or educate others, or a way to commemorate our children's lives.
     The answer will come to you when the time is right--- maybe in the silence of the night, or the dawn of a new day or while meditating.  Remain open to the possibility of having a good life again.  This will help you in moving on and in accepting your child's death.  It will never be the life you had before, but it can be a productive life with many positive elements.  There may always be dark days, but they can become far fewer.      

Friday, October 25, 2013

Taking Back Power

     Transformation as a bereaved parent can be anxiety provoking.  There is a tendency to cling to the familiarity of past or present pain.  It is as if moving forward to another level will cause you to lose the memory of your child or worse dishonor his or her memory. Even take away whatever little peace you may have found.  It is a conflict.  No doubt about it.  One I can relate to.

     When I returned from the peace of visiting Spain. I started to have doubts about moving forward with my writing.  I thought, I'll just write little stories for my own and family and friends' pleasure.  I am going to give up this blogging and publication stuff.  Too stressful.  As you can see, I am back blogging.  I am also exploring additional options for my books.  I had all kinds of excuses to cocoon myself from fatigue to financial.  I started a writing seminar which I was anxious about, but it proved to be the motivation I needed.

     Transformation is another giant step and another decision on the journey of the grief process.  Questions will arise.  Can I really move on with my life?  Do I want to move ahead?  Is it the right  thing to do?  

     Only you can answer these questions for yourself.  Only you can decide your future direction.  But I urge you to consider with faith, thought and courage, what your next steps might be.  It would be very good to take back your own power from the enormity of the tragedy that has loomed over you.  If you and I allow ourselves to become or remain victims of our tragic circumstances, this only compounds our losses.

     Even if you don't feel like it today, you have survived.  This signals you have the ability to be a vital force for the universal good starting today and for tomorrow.  Perhaps your time has come to take back your life.  

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Lemonade from the Lemons of Loss

         I learned today suffering should be transformative.  Suffering has the capacity to make us grow spiritually and cognitively.  It has to be.  There is no point in going through it if you don't come out the other end a stronger and wiser person.
        That leaves the question of what you and I want our lives to be after suffering the loss of our children.  I ask myself and you do you want to find some measure of peace, improve your health, tell your story, help others, or find a way to commemorate your child's life?
         Do you think you and I can make lemonade from these lemons of loss?  This week I challenge myself and you to think about how we can transform our losses to help ourselves or others.  My writing has brought me peace as did traveling to Ibiza.  I felt better physically in Ibiza and found it easier to control my weight.  I would like to plan to return there and write.  Whether my writing would be children's books or something else, I have yet to decide.
          But my intention is to transform my loss and enable healing.  We must all find ways to transform these shadows of grief into strength, wisdom and healing.  It's a personal decision.  It may seem like trying to step over a mountain, but trying to continue life after the death of a child is hard work.

       
         

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Tears Today

  How can the loss of a child not absorb or rule your life even though it is always with you?  Feelings of loss can come up in the most unexpected times and places.  I will give you an example.  

   A picture posted on Facebook moved me to tears today.  I don't know if I am missing my son Chris, my husband Fred, my dog Amber or Ibiza.  Maybe all of the above.  Anyway, someone had been away from his or her dog for five months and then skyped with the dog.  After the disconnection, the dog fell asleep in front of the computer screen with its head resting on the keypad.  How that dog must love that person.  And how great the sense of loss to want to hold onto that connection in any way possible.

    Perhaps in our circumstances, you and I are much the same in missing our children.  Holding on to memories of events, the sound of his or her voice or appearance, not touching anything in your child's room.  Looking at pictures or videos over and over. Wishing for just one more day, conversation or encounter. Or always avoiding doing any of these things-- not even being able to go in your child's bedroom because of the pain caused.

    You and I will forever have an undercurrent of sadness.  I suppose this is what made me cry at this picture of love and loss.  It was just so touching.  I have it posted on my timeline on my Facebook page, Rosemarie Kaupp or go to www.rosemariekaupp.com/  Perhaps I needed to cry as a catharsis.  I feel very mournful, though.  I want to hide in the darkness of my closet and do nothing.

     Yet, you and I must fight our way back.  Fighting tears, numbness, anger and giving up on living.  For me it is a repeated decision to choose not to let loss and tragedy destroy me.  I have made suggestions in these blogs which I hope you have found helpful.  With faith, help, support and therapy it is possible to have a life and go on living.  It will never be the same life as before the loss of your child, but it can be a decent and productive life.  Please work to fight your way back.  It is work and a very tough fight, but together  you and I can go on.

   

 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A New Season

     I am in the airport in Ibiza Island, Spain.  I feel very refreshed for having gotten away during this difficult month.  I truly enjoyed my time here.  I would recommend Ibiza as a vacation for anyone. I experienced great people who are multi-lingual. Wonderful weather, beautiful beaches, great shopping, and fantastic food and drink.  I am hoping for a return trip.  Very hard to leave Ibiza.
     The plane is taking off.  One last look at the island.  I wish all of you some distraction and refreshment. I know the tendency is to feel guilty about having a good time after the death of a child.  It is okay to have a good time again and enjoy yourself when the occasion calls for it.
      I have experienced my own guilt and self-recrimination following the death of my son as I am sure you have too. We want to re-write history for a different outcome.  That is just not possible.
       I believe my child and yours are in the spirit world..  There are no judgements, no recriminations, no grudges  and no second guessing.  There is only love and forgiveness there.  Can you and I not learn from this and find self-forgiveness?  With a new season approaching, it is time for a new beginning.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Anniversary Day..

     Tomorrow is the anniversary of Chris' death.  It does not seem possible that he has been gone fourteen years.  It seems it was only a short time ago.m
     I am doing okay.  I am away in the Balearic Islands in Spain.  On Tuesday, I plan to go to church to mass and to light a candle for Chris and one for all of you and another for your children.  Then I will do a little shopping and go on a short boat cruise to swim and picnic.
     I don't think Chris wants me to spend the day morning as I am tempted to do.  I will tuck my grief safely within me and go on with life. Life is full of very difficult choices.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Honoring Chris

     Thursday, September 19 is my son Chris'  birthday.  He would have been 37 years old had he not been killed.  I don't want to focus on his death, but rather on his life.  From the start he was a very sweet and happy baby and very bright.  He always asked a lot of questions.  I have very happy memories of reading to him as a child.  These memories helped inspire me to write my books.  As I write, I often think Chris would like this or Chris would think this is funny.
     Chris' paternal grandfather was a professional soccer player.  From the age of two years, Chris showed signs of being a very good runner.  At the age of nine he joined an Olympic caliber track club where he did very well in long distances and cross country.  He won many ribbons and team trophies.  He even went to National Junior Olympics three times for cross-country.  His father and I were very proud of his accomplishments.  After middle school years, he played soccer and basketball for the small private school he attended as he wanted to learn more about these sports.
     In high school he also took up the guitar for his own pleasure.  Although he took lessons, he was primarily self taught.  He would spend hours composing one lyrical ballad after the other.
     Chris had some very good friends.  They liked his humor, loyalty and encyclopedic knowledge which  he got from his father as well as his ability to reason with them and act as a peacemaker.  He was an excellent driver and his friends always counted on him as the designated driver as he did not drink because of taking medication for  attention deficit disorder.  He was excellent in math, but because of his ADD had a hard time with the other subjects except history as he had learned so much from his father.
     He was a very big help to me in caring for his father during his illness.  Then he was very good to me when I went through cancer surgery and chemo.  I miss his love, his humor and his companionship.  His father and I loved him very much as did many people who still miss him.
     Rest in peace, dear son.  I know you are with Dad, little Amber and your grandparents.  I hope you have found a guitar, a baseball card collection and some running shoes.  I love you and miss you everyday.
                May God hold you in the palm of  His hand until we meet again.  ----  Irish Blessing
               

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Finding Peace Within

     You hold within your heart all that pains and torments you.  You try to go on with life because you cannot rationalize these pains away.  That is why it is so difficult not to become bitter, angry and hopeless.
     So I am repeating the concept of creating a little room within yourself for this grief and torment.  Write down all your heartaches and visualize moving these ideas or words into your little room with in your conscious mind.  These torments are hard to keep from permeating your entire life.  That is why it is good to pack them all up in one place within you.  If you are having  negative thoughts or a bad day, you can place all these in your interior room with God or your higher power.
     I experimented with making my room comfortable and attractively decorated.  I also put in Chris' guitars, CD collection and running shoes.  Along with the comfortable furniture, I hung paintings done by husband on the walls.
     When I feel like it, I meditate on this room and ask God's help to strengthen me to go on and to find truth and justice for Chris.  I can leave all this in my room and then go on with living.
     I know this may seem strange, but please try it.  You may be surprised how much peace and courage this little room may bring you.  Again, please experiment with this and let me know how it goes.


Sunday, August 25, 2013

A Room Within Yourself

     Is it possible to put your grief in a little room within yourself?  I say it's worth a try.

     Today on EWTN, Pope Francis told the story of St. Catherine of Sienna, a nun and the patron saint of nurses.  The Pope talked about how when her parents destroyed her room for refusing to marry, St. Catherine created a little room within herself where she kept God.  The Holy Father challenged the viewers to do the same with their own spirituality.

     I decided to challenge myself to create my own little room within me.  In it I placed all my grief over the unknowns surrounding Chris' death and my hope for truth and justice.  In my special room, I turned this all over to God for His care.

     I believe with God's power, we are not powerless to control what is within us.  When you are with God, it matters not who and what is against you.  I hope you will try to do this with your own grief.  In this special room, you can visit your grief and tell all your heartaches to God.  Then your grief doesn't have to permeate your whole life.  You can do other things while your grief and issues are under God's protection and care.  I credit my own faith for bringing me this far in the grieving process and for recent blessings.

Peace and love,

Rosemarie

P.S.  Many thanks for your prayers and good wishes.  My book signing was very successful.  RK

     

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Good Things Still Happen

     "... you can vanquish your demons only when you yourself are convinced of your own worth."  ----  Author Adeline Yen Mah in Chinese Cinderella.

     I have a sense of unreality today as things are going well.  I am so blessed with the recent success of my books.  I received a beautiful gift of a framed newspaper article about my life story and my motivation for writing my books in preparation for my Book Signing.  How fortunate I am to have such good friends.  Of course, I wish Chris and Fred were here to share this joy, but I know they are with me in spirit.

    I want to emphasize to everyone reading this that you can have good things happen and joy in your life again.  As I have said before, you are more than a bereaved parent.  You will always have grief over the loss of your child, but you cannot let it define you.  Your grief has to become integrated into your life so it is no longer your sole focus. You deserve to have a life again and to feel pleasure again.

    I am fortunate that I found purpose in my books.  Something creative is often a good outlet to deal with loss particularly if what you do commemorates your child's life.  My outlet is writing, but yours can be drawing, painting, quilting, photography, scrap booking  or gardening.  Maybe something you did a long time ago and can pick up again.  I really urge you to try something.

    There has been no response from the police chief or Crime Tips.  No surprise, but no matter.  I will push on in a positive vein to memorialize Chris' life as I hope and pray for justice.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Action, Fear and Faith

     I mailed my last blog, An Appeal to Law Enforcement, to the police chief in the Pennsylvania township where my son was killed.  I also summarized all the salient facts pointing to evidence his death was not a suicide. I submitted them to the same township's Crime Tips.  I asked for justice finally for Chris and asked that his case be re-examined.  I felt I owed one more try to Chris.
     Trying to deal with the anger I feel over the injustice of Chris' situation was giving me tremendous headaches.  Since doing the above, the headaches have improved.  If I get no response, I am no worse off.  At least I tried.  And in a sense, no response will support my suspicions about the political corruption existing in this town.  I have to admit, I feel somewhat fearful and apprehensive.   I am afraid if the politically connected father of the young woman involved is informed, he will try to retaliate against me.  Meanwhile, I will wait, hope and pray.
     I will pray to accept what is and focus on what is positive in my life.  You have to take steps to protect your health.  You are still allowed to live and enjoy life.  As such, I am trying to bask in the successes my books are having and my upcoming book signing event.  Trying to work on acceptance and integrate this with my present life is proving to be a struggle.  But, one I must get through.  I have faith I can do this and hope one day Chris will get justice.  If you think of it, pray for me.  I will pray for you daily.  God bless.
   

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

An Appeal to Law Enforcement

     "Sometimes the strongest people are the ones who love beyond all faults, cry behind closed doors and fight battles no one knows about."                                                      Author Unknown

     How true for those of us who have lost children.  Especially in cases of a traumatic death when there is no resolution and no one person, product or event is held accountable.  Everyone's circumstances are different, but often there are common threads.

     I would like to make a personal appeal based on my circumstance and to which, I'm sure, many of you can relate.  I am asking law enforcement officers, district attorneys, medical examiners and EMT'S to not casually brush off families' questions and concerns.  Decisions which seem trivial or insignificant, or even knowingly wrong to you, result in a lifetime of anxiety and anger, even mental torment, for a parents who have lost children.

     Let me give you two examples.  The detective investigating my son's death refused to do a gunshot residue test on the young woman who was there with Chris.  He cited their inaccuracy.  More likely her father's political connections influenced this.  And the medical examiner called me the day after Chris died.  I was still in shock and wrestling with the question of how I was going to tell my very ill husband, who was in a nursing home, that our son had died.  He asked me if I wanted Chris' clothes sent home.  All I could think of was these blood saturated garments which was more than I could bear looking at.  He offered to burn them and I stupidly agreed.  Later I found out he had no permission from the police to do this and as such had destroyed evidence.  Again her father's influence.

     What I am saying to all those in the criminal justice system, what seems minor to you, for whatever motivation, can result in a lifetime of unanswered questions and mental torment for parents and families.  I hope this is something which those of you who have this decision making power will be aware.  I don't want one more parent to go through what I have been through.

     

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Focus on Healing

     It is not necessarily so that justice delayed is justice denied.  Look at John Walsh of America's Most Wanted fame.  His son Adam was murdered and it took 28 years to find and bring his killer to justice.  But during that time, Mr. Walsh went on and did a lot of good for many, many families-- especially children.
     And so I have found my self angry and waiting for justice, but finally for the first time tonight able to cry about the unfairness of Chris being denied a proper investigation and truth.  I have also become aware in the last week of a softer more compassionate core to myself.  I always felt this was curiously lacking considering all I had been through.  I learned as the layers of anger get more stripped away I will be able to be more in touch with this gentler inner core.
     Now I realize I will have to put finding justice on the "back burner" for now and not make it the focus of my life.  There are just too many factors that are beyond my control in the situation for me to go on feeling I can fix it.  This does not mean that I cannot still have hope some outside force will  come about to bring the truth to light.  You never know as in the case of Adam Walsh.  It's just that I must give up feeling responsible for making everything right.
     That feeling of aloneness in my responsibility was fueling my anger and frustration.  Then in order not to "implode" I kept eating to stifle my feelings of anger and helplessness.  This made me feel numb, but out of control in a different sense.  Quite a vicious cycle.  Maybe this is something you can relate to, if not with food, another substance.  
     It's just not possible for me to bring about temporal justice at this time.  I have explored many options.  Talked to many experts and gotten many opinions.  It cannot be done by me at this time.
     Of course I have faith in divine justice and I also have faith in divine intervention.  I will continue to pray daily for truth and justice for Chris.  I will also continue to pray that those involved will find God's grace in their hearts to make peace with Him and the law.  This is what I can do.  This must be my focus along with seeing what good I can do and improving my health.


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Are You Angry?

     Anger over the death of a child from any circumstance--- illness, accident, suicide, homicide, overdose or unknown--- is justified.  However, sometimes it can be hard to recognize and even harder to express.  I can say in my own case it has remained like a big dark ball still lingering inside of me.
     Anger after the death of a child can be insidious  and can mask as depression or overwhelming fatigue.  It can also come out in different places, like against other people or in other relationships, social or work situations.  Or if it doesn't come out at all, it can eat away at you and affect your physical and emotional health.
     In my own case, I would rather not feel my anger so I have been binge eating.  I overeat at night to feel pleasure, to feed my anger, rather than express it.  Women, especially, have been conditioned by society that it is not acceptable to express anger.  It is not unusual for bereaved parents to use alcohol, drugs, gambling or even sex to overcome their sorrow and anger.  If this has happened to you, you must get professional counseling to deal with your grief and addiction.  This is not something you can do on your own.
     I have been receiving grief counseling.  As part of that, it has been important to find a way to tap into my anger and express it. I have been taking a racket ball racket and slapping it hard into my bed pillows for about four minutes while thinking about all the things surrounding my son's death that make me angry. Then I listen to a meditation tape to try to clear my mind.  Finally I make some notes on what came up to help me process and understand everything.
     I know this seems like a lot of work, but the grief process takes effort and the courage to do things you think you can't do.  Alternatives may be going for a walk to clear your head or writing down your thoughts.
     I am finding out it is important to get to the core of your anger to find some measure of peace with what has happened to your child and to you as a result.  This may seem like a very foreign concept to you today as you may still feel too sad or too numb.  But it is something that must be worked on eventually for your own well being.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

No Justice Far Too Common

     The public, the media and political figures need to understand a national tragedy about child victims and getting justice.  Far too many parents of all races and from all walks of life (myself included) never get justice for children of all ages killed in situations requiring law enforcement and the criminal justice system.
     My son died of a gunshot wound to the chest.  There was no public outcry, march or protest.  No one cared.  The media was co-opted into keeping the story quiet as it involved a mayor's daughter.  No one cared.  People lied.  No one cared.  People hid and destroyed evidence, even the medical examiner.  No one cared.  The police, medical examiner and county solicitor did not cooperate.  No one cared.  There was no inquest, no grand jury, no arrest and certainly no trial.  No one cared.
     Perhaps similar things happened to you surrounding the death of your child.  And no one cared.  Every parent's child deserves the very best in police investigation and legal representation and advocacy.  This, however, is far from reality.  
 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Accepting What Is

     Being unable to let go of some issues surrounding my son's death is rooted in a deeper problem on which my grief was super-imposed.  I would say I was conditioned from childhood to expect perfection in myself which I apparently carried into adulthood.  So it is very difficult for me to accept the mistakes I may have made with Chris and with law enforcement and the medical examiner.  I want a do-over on these things.  I also want all my unanswered questions answered.  In short, I want the truth to come out and for Chris to have justice.  Unfortunately, I think it is up to me to rectify events and get all the answers.
     The sad fact of the matter is I do not have this power.  Neither I, nor you, have power over the universe.  I cannot change human behavior.  I cannot make people talk.  I cannot control law enforcement.  What I can do is acknowledge that I do not have super powers.  I have to heed the words of my own private investigator.  He told me I could spend the rest of my life and all my resources trying to get to the truth to no avail.  There was lack of official cooperation, missing and destroyed evidence and deceit.  
     Now there are probably some people who think I should not let these things go.  And you know what?  I don't have the power to control what other people think either.  The only power I have is within me to accept what is and what happened.  I am all I can control with God's help.  This is what the Serenity Prayer is all about... wisdom to know the difference between what can and what cannot be changed.
     I can still hope that Chris will one day get truth and justice.  It just cannot be my focus if I am to move forward on this journey.  I have to stop letting things over which I have no control eat me up inside.  To that end, I will continue to use the steps in Kathleen O'Hara's book, A Grief Like No Other.    

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

A Heavy Little Box

     Today I wrote down on little pieces of paper all the unknowns, all my questions and all my regrets and guilt surrounding the death of my son.  I put them in an old floral print notecard box.   I am still mulling over what to do with the box.  I think I may bury it with a plant at Chris' gravesite.
     Although less painful with time, progress in grief and loss seldom move in a continually forward straight line.  Time to time, you will have to go back and confront and re-examine issues.  That is what I am doing now.  I feel I have some unresolved issues regarding acceptance and being able to move on.
     I am re-reading psychologist, Kathleen O'Hara's book, "A Grief like No Other."  I also had the good fortune to meet with her personally.  Kathleen wrote her book to heal herself and help others survive after the sudden and traumatic death of a loved one.  Her own son was murdered in 1999.
     She stresses three principles in her book:  Acceptance; Forgiveness; and Gratitude.  She gives Seven Steps to achieve these goals. Kathleen uses visual imagery exercises to help you get through the steps.  This exercise I did was Step Five: Out in the Deep-- Practicing the Three Principles.
     You are supposed to imagine yourself in the ocean and swimming with a large box.  The box contains all your negative emotions and thoughts, like guilt and anger, which hold you back from achieving the three principles.  You swim along but are aware of the heaviness of the box.  You release it while imaging that you are floating in the water and the box sinks.  Gradually you are able to swim ashore and connect with the firm sand on the beach without your box of fears, etc. holding you back.
     Well I had trouble with this.  I couldn't let go of the box.  I lugged it to shore.  It was much heavier than I thought.  Once on shore, I felt compelled to open the box and examine the contents.  I didn't do so well after that.  This sent me into a night of binge eating.  Plus, I woke up with heart palpitations and a racing pulse.  I made the connection to the unfinished exercise.
     I was determined to get through this.  So I did the exercise a different way, because to tell you the truth, this ocean visualization is hard for me.  I am not such a good swimmer.  So my adaptation worked out better.  My heart rate is better now.  I feel calmer with a sense of relief.  All my negativity is safely away from me in the box.  If negative thoughts and feelings return, I can tell myself they are in the box.  Identifying issues and discarding the box of these issues is key to accepting your circumstances-- what happened and what is-- in order to move along in your journey.
     In my next two blogs, I will take you through my experiences with Step Six: The Coal Reef, Generating Creativity and Step Seven: The New World, Emerging Possibilities.
     I would definitely recommend "A Grief like No Other" for anyone who feels traumatized by the death of a child or loved one.  You may not be in a place to read it today, but someday you might be able to concentrate on the words and do the exercises.  I think it is a worthwhile tool to keep in mind.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

More Than a Bereaved Parent

     Losing a child can have the effect of making you retreat into your loss and seeing yourself only as a person with this tremendous grief.  Recently, I realized I have been seeing myself as a bereaved parent and childless widow.  Reality check.  I am more than that.  I am still me even if I am not as I was before my losses.  I am more than the sum total of my losses as are you, Dear Readers.
     Shifting my personal thinking on this concept is like breaking out of a painful shell in which I have been cocooned for too long.  Is it fear of feeling again and risking the gut wrenching pain of another loss?  Maybe.   Yet, if I am experiencing this, perhaps others of you are also.
     I have made some temporary explorations outside this shell since the deaths of my son and husband.  I connected with old friends, made new ones, bought two cars, bought and sold a home and published the first two books of my children's series.  But, there was kind of a finality to the books because I dedicated one to my son and the other to my husband.  I fear I have retreated back into my shell...  just biding my time until I meet with Chris and Fred once more.
     I think I am in my shell for my day to day activities and even social situations.  I often feel out of place... like someone extra whose friends are kind enough to include her.  This has to change.  Yes, I have had losses which partly, but not totally, define me.  
     I am still a sister, aunt, cousin and good friend.  I am a school nurse who has recently become an author.  I am an independent, professional woman with an active social life and many caring friends and family.  For these reasons, I feel blessed and grateful.  Time to shed the shell.
     My grief, even if not acutely painful, will always be with me.  I must not let it hamper me.  So, Dear Readers, I say to you be aware of being only a bereaved parent in your mind.  It will take effort for me to re-connect with my total identity.  It is  good for me to examine this as a goal.  I will pray for help in achieving it and pray for all of you.
     If you are able to share your experience in feeling this way, too, please comment.  I would appreciate hearing from you.

Peace and love,

Rosemarie

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Too Quickly and Too Soon

     There is no way to prepare for the death of a child.  When a son or daughter dies suddenly, it is earth shattering.  Two images still haunt me:  my son, Chris, lying in the grass and dying alone and my last conversation with him by phone.  It was only an hour before he sustained a gunshot wound to the chest.
     I sensed in our last conversation something was wrong.  Unfortunately, I thought since he said he would return home that night, he would be okay.  Sadly, I didn't listen to my own premonition, nor did my son.  I had told Chris not to return to western Pennsylvania as I felt his life was in danger.
     So many things left unsaid.  So unnatural to bury a child.  A horrendous, numbing and unbelievable shock when the police came and told me.  How was ever going to tell my very ill husband, Fred?  After burying Chris, this was the hardest thing I ever had to do.
     Something which I remember helped me in the first week after Chris' death was writing a long letter to him.  I wrote everything I felt and feared... anything that came to mind, even questions.  I actually took that letter to the cemetery and buried it in the soft soil of his new gravesite.  This letter and gesture were the last good-bye I never got to say.
     I know not everyone feels comfortable writing.  Yet, I encourage trying to write a letter as a way to say good-bye.  No one is there to correct spelling or grammar.  What matters is speaking from the heart.  It will be an effort, not a pain free one, but pain needs expression.  It may prove to be an effort well spent.
     Remember, everyone grieves in their own way.  I believe for my husband, Chris' death was a release as he no longer needed to live to be there for Chris.  Fred asked to go to the cemetery.  He asked where he would be buried.  I showed him his place at the gravesite and sensed at that point after much suffering and hanging on, he was now prepared to die.  And he did... six weeks after Chris.
     When Fred died, I was so numb with grief about Chris, it took me two years before I could internalize Fred's death.  It was a lonely time filled with anger and resentment at them both for leaving me all alone.  Two years later, I was finally able to grieve Fred.  I went back to my support group with a friend who had newly become a widow.
     I mention my feelings of anger and resentment because it is important to be aware of these feelings as well as of jealousy and self-pity.  These feelings can really affect couples who have lost a child.  It is very easy not to understand each other's feelings and make each other the brunt of personal feelings.   That is where support groups and individual grief counseling can be helpful to keep lines of communication open.    
     Let me add, too, starting to feel better doesn't mean feeling guilty also.  Feeling better shows progress, effort and choosing life.  This is what a son or daughter would want.  Moving forward with life takes time, but there is no clock here.  What is important is slow and steady progress.
     

   

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Life's Detours

     When my son died, I took a long and major detour off the path that was my life.  My husband was very ill.  He had been in a nursing home for several years.  As much as one can, I was prepared for his death.  Well, you never know what fate has in store for you.  Instead of my husband dying, our son Chris was killed.
     I had been feeling sorry for myself because I was still dealing with some complications from breast cancer, working everyday and visiting the nursing home daily.  Chris dying plunged me into a spiral of despair, self-doubt and anger.  It was too much for my husband.  He died six weeks later.  I had asked Chris to bring Dad home to end his suffering.  With both gone, now I was alone.
     I lost my way on the detour.  I no longer wanted to live.  Luckily, I had some very close friends who didn't give up on me and a pastor who was there for me.  These factors, along with my faith and counseling,  helped me.  I chose to go on.  I figured if people weren't giving up on me, then I had to respond.  The last thing I wanted was to become bitter and angry and push everyone away.
     One of my friends came every weekend.  They took me places like craft fairs and shopping.  They invited me to dinner.  I did things with them, I couldn't do on my own.  I don't think I could ever re-pay them or thank them enough.
     I learned that isolation was my worst enemy.  I realized I had to be open to some help and friendly gestures even though I didn't feel like it.  It was a small start to getting back on the road to possibly continuing the journey of life.  Notice I said close friends.  I had to be selective about who I associated with and where I went.  I would avoid large gatherings.  When I experienced distress from certain people or situations, I no longer exposed myself to them.  I felt there was no point in bringing unnecessary stress to my self.
     Even though I needed the love and support of others, this did not include all types of activity.  I had to trust my judgement  and be kind to myself.  Once, I had to leave a gathering because I became so upset by someone's conversation.  My friend understood, had her son get my car and I left by the back door.  But, it was okay.  It was a learning experience in feeling my way back to life.
     I hope you can relate, Dear Readers, to some of what I said and be able to get out little by little.
Peace and God bless.

Love,
Rosemarie

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Rock on the Road

     There is nothing more precious than the love between a parent and a child.  Seeing children being re-united with parents after recent tragedies serves as a reminder of this.
      Parents will do anything humanly possible for their baby, child, teen or adult child.  But sometimes, even the most heroic efforts cannot change fate-- an illness, an accident, suicide, a war or a massive tragedy.  My aunt would always say to me, "Does life have to be so hard?"  I don't know if it has to be, but it definitely is.
      Newly elected Pope Francis has said that life is not a highway free of obstructions or challenges.  Losing your child is really a big rock on your road.  After the loss of your child, that road can become permanently obstructed.  It is the ultimate challenge to find the will to go on after your child dies.
       Don't try to go it alone.  Understandably, at first, you do not want to see anyone, talk to anyone or go anywhere.  It's not good to go on like this indefinitely even though everything says to you "give up."  This is the time you have turn inward for the battle of your life.  You have to turn within yourself to find and muster strength and courage to move that rock in your road.
        I know you may think you can't do it.  You don't have the inner resources.  You do.  Pray for strength and courage.  Know that I and everyone reading this blog is praying for you, is there for you.  We are behind your rock.  Together we can move it. You are not by yourself.  We understand.  We can face our struggles on this monumental journey together.  

Monday, May 20, 2013

If Only, If Only

"If only" Chris has listened to me.  "If only" he had never met that girl.  "If only" I hadn't been so busy at work that day.  "If only" I had called him again that night.  It is said grief is a disease of the "If only's."

I'm sure each of you has your own set of "If only's" about what you might have said to or done differently with your son or daughter.  These can swirl around in your head-- on and on relentlessly.  How to silence them?

It's not easy.  They are not always rational.  Therefore, it is hard to reason them away.  "If only's" involve the heart and the mind.  Both the heart and the mind have to reconciled to achieve peace.  In thinking this out, I have concluded reconciling the "If only's" requires talking, meditating, accepting and remembering.  Sounds like a tall order.  Let me break it down.

It is helpful to have someone to bounce off all your fears and doubts.  This can be a good friend, family member, grief counselor, support group or clergy person.

It's necessary to get to the bottom of what is fueling the "If only's."  In addition to reason and analysis, this requires getting in touch with your emotions.  This is painful.  Some quiet time alone taking slow deep breaths to relax or induce calm or even using a meditation recording.  There are some with instructions for relaxing and others just with music, bird sounds, nature sounds or ocean sounds.  Choose what speaks to you.  Use it every day.  Try to match feelings and analysis to come to a better understanding of where you may be stuck on your "If only."  Talk to someone about what you discover.

Reconciling to your son or daughter's death means accepting what happened.  Raising a child involves some luck and some chance.  Things happen as part of our human condition on earth.  I have had to accept the circumstances of my son's death.  This leaves me trying to accept many unknowns.  This is not easy.  I would be lying if I said I accept this everyday and it does not chip away at me.  I know I eat too much to comfort myself.  But I am aware of this, and I work with a grief counselor to find this acceptance.  I can, however, accept what I do know.  I know Chris is at peace and would want me to be at peace.

I can  remember what a great kid he was.  His father and I loved him very much and he loved us.  He was a fine young man who helped his father throughout his illness.  He helped me, too, when I was recuperating from cancer treatment.

Remember, also, the things you did were done with the best of intentions.  Life on earth is fraught with peril and hardship.  It takes much will and strength to play the cards you are dealt.  Think of all that you did for your child.  It may take some time.  It is difficult to get past the memories of tragedy to thinking about the good times.  Yet, it is what must be done.  Remember the good times for a few minutes each day.  The times will get longer and you will get out from under the shadows of grief.

Peace, love and God bless,

Rosemarie    

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Revenge Not Sweet

     In my quiet time on Mother's Day,  I found myself ruminating about the young woman who was involved with my son's shooting and  death.  To this day, I don't know to what extent or in what capacity.  I only know she was there, lied to the police about her relationship with Chris and has strong family political connections.  She and Chris had broken up.  Why he was there seeing her that evening, I don't know.  Without going into all the investigative details, she gave a lot of conflicting information and behaved strangely.
     Anyway, I started to send her a copy of my blog, "Remembering Chris."  I decided against that and wrote her an email instead.  I told her what I thought of her and the situation.  I wanted to ruin her Mother's Day.  In the end, I didn't send either.  I thought, I am bigger than that.  I have worked very hard to get this far.  If I communicated to her with negative motivation and for revenge, then the ball would be in her court.  This is not what I want.
     I don't want to remember her or wait to hear from her.  I don't want to focus on the tragedy.  I want to focus on my son's life and not his death.  To this end, what has brought me the most peace was dedicating my first book to him.  It was a positive way to memorialize him and commemorate his life.
     Life is meant to be lived.  In my book, Chris lives on in spirit in a wonderful way.
     If I had any advice, it would be to commemorate your son or daughter in a positive way, preferably away from the death scene.  A plaque, a bench, a tree at a place of worship, park, school or workplace; a poem or artwork you have framed; a run or a foundation, charity or scholarship if you are able. Your son or daughter's spirit, the good memories and his or her accomplishments can live on.  
     Not sending the blog or email made me feel better than the revenge I had in mind.  I think it is more what Chris would want.  I would appreciate knowing what you think and feel about what I have said.  Please comment, too, if you have found anything you may have done helpful or unhelpful.          

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Coping on Mother's Day

To all mothers approaching this Mother's Day with an aching heart or even dread, I pray for some measure of peace and comfort for you and for myself.  I tried to analyze how would be the best way to handle this day.  I decided on trying to focus on good memories and a celebration of my son's life.  For me, going to the cemetery on Mother's Day would be focusing too much on loss rather than life.

However, each of you should do what feels right and what your heart tells you would get you through the day.  I divided the day into two parts, a private part and a public part.  The private part is doing something by yourself to feel better.  The public part is where you spend time with family and friends.  Where you may feel the need to put on a brave face.

The private time could be devoted to prayer, meditation, scripture reading, the rosary, a cup of tea, a warm bath or listening to music. You might also do journal writing or write a letter to your child about what he or she means to you. Pour out your feelings.  Cry if you feel like it.  Just touch and get out your emotions.

The public part is where you might celebrate your son or daughter's life with family and friends.  It's about including your child in the day's events for yourself. You could share your child's  favorite dessert or pizza with others and tell a story about him or her.  You could consider sharing a favorite prayer or song.  Or read a poem or something inspirational in his or her honor.  If you can't do it, then ask someone else to commemorate your child on this important day.  The idea is to celebrate life and good memories and not mourn loss just for a few hours.

I plan to go to an afternoon buffet with very good friends with whom I spend most of my holidays.  No doubt I will talk about my son, Chris, and try to find a dessert I know he would like and offer a toast.  Privately, I will listen to some guitar music as my son was an avid guitarist.  I can do that now.  For over year after Chris died, I was unable to listen to any music in my home.  A friend gave me a tape of my favorite hymn and I started there.

That's what it takes.  Patience, small steps and small gestures.  God bless.  I hope you all have the best day possible.

Peace and love to all.
Rosemarie

    

Monday, April 29, 2013

Confronting Your Pain

I want to speak to any parents who are feeling lost, helpless or stuck after the death of a son or daughter.  This happens.  You are unique in your loss, but not alone.  Please know I and others are praying for you.  The spirit of your child still loves you.  In order to heal yourself, you have to give the process time and patience as well as put in effort.  You can heal and walk through this painful journey and come out the other side.  You will never be the same, but you can have a life.

I wanted to die after my son, my only child, and husband both died.  I thought I was all alone so what was the point in going on.  I even had someone keep my medications for me and give them to me only in small quantities.  If you feel like giving up, you must get professional help as soon as possible.  Call your doctor for a referral or go to an emergency room for help. I went to a therapist and got help.

If you feel like you can't do anything today,  please, get dressed and go out for a short walk.  When you get back, sit down and write a letter to your son or daughter.  Tell him or her what you saw on your walk, where you went, how much you miss him or her, any family news, and say, "I love you."  Do this everyday.  If you feel like it, you can also keep a journal of your private feelings.  It is good to write them down and get them out as this will help you heal.  Just write what you are thinking.  Don't worry about spelling and grammar. If you are feeling a lot of anger, blame or guilt, a therapist or grief counselor or a priest, minister or rabbi can help sort this out.  There is no shame or weakness in reaching out for help
 
It is painful to confront our thoughts and emotions, but necessary to the process of grieving and healing.  It is less threatening to do nothing.  You have to give this some thought and decide what you want for yourself and for those around you.  I and those around you have faith you can make this journey through the shadows and emptiness of your grief.  Please start with small steps today.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Over Troubled Waters

People who have not lost a son or daughter cannot possibly understand the pain.  Many times they realize this.  The comment I heard most often was, "I can't imagine what you are going through." All of us felt or are still feeling shock, numbness, denial, fear, anxiety, shame, guilt, anger, blame and like your child has been ripped away from inside of you.
A grief counselor can be of help here.  This is not the time to tough it out and just wait for things to get better or to lose all interest in helping yourself.  You must consciously choose life, not destruction.  A bereavement support group can help, too.  The feeling of aloneness and uniqueness in the loss of your child is overwhelming.  That is why you need to connect with someone who has been there and knows and/or understands what you are going through.
What do you do, however if relatives, friends and acquaintances seem to hold back on there sympathy and support?  This can happen all too often.  Unfortunately, society is quick to be critical and judge.  There is a social stigma associated with some forms of death.  If your son or daughter died from suicide, homicide, domestic violence, AIDS, drug overdose, alcohol poisoning or an act of wrecklessness, people may be less than empathetic.  You may sense this and find it hard to talk to people about your child and the cause of death.  This is called disenfranchised grief.
Disenfranchised grief is very confusing and not good because you don't get the support you need.  You need validation of your son or daughter's life and of your loss.  Otherwise, you kind get stuck in a bad place.  You can become very depressed and even have a myriad of physical symptoms like being unable to eat, headaches and anxiety.
I would like to refer you to two websites which discuss this topic more in depth.
http://www.expressivecounseling.com/disenfranchisedgrief-alone-ashamed/ by Elizabeth Kupferman.
http://www.efuneral.com/on-grief-and-grieving-what-no-one-talks-about/ by eFuneral.
Every parent has the right to have his or her grief acknowledged.  Due to the suspicious nature and unclear manner of my son's death, I sense I went through this myself.  As a result, it may have taken me longer to come to terms with Chris' death.  I hope this discussion and these websites will help any of you finding yourselves in this situation.  All of us need a bridge over these troubled waters.  God be with you all.

Peace and love,
Rosemarie    

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Difficult Days

     Finding focus and purpose after losing a child takes time and much internal hard work.  Some days will present more of a challenge than others.  When I was having a dark day, I just went with it and mourned.  I thought I needed time to grieve.  Usually, the next day was better.  As far as responsibilities, I had to give myself permission to do just what had to be done and nothing extra.  I found I had to postpone, order take-out, do just one load of laundry or ask for help at work.  People often want to help, but don't know how unless we tell them.
     Days like yesterday after the Boston Marathon bombing and, of course,  after the Newtown, Connecticut shootings are difficult.  Terrible memories, sometimes buried for a long time, rise to the surface and bring pain and associations.  Connecticut was hard for me as my son died of a gunshot wound.
     What to do?  Well, first on my list is prayer for the victims, especially the children and their parents.  Second, I try to accept there is evil in this world.  I resolve to do whatever I can to make my small piece of the world a kind, loving and peaceful place.  This takes strength to not be bitter and angry.  Trying to live again after losing a child takes all the courage and strength you can find within yourself.    No one wants to be around a bitter, angry person no matter the reason or how justified.  Third, I limit the amount of news coverage of these events I watch.  They only bring more pain.  And last, I find a way to distract myself.  Like now. I am writing to you which helps me.  Someone else may find exercise or getting out and taking a walk helps.  Calling a good friend or another parent or person in a bereavement support group helps too.  One of my best friends now is a woman I met in my bereavement support group.  A few minutes of meditation, scripture reading or listening to music may also be good.
     I would like to hear your thoughts on anything that has helped you.

Monday, April 15, 2013

No Manual for Grief

Thank you to all the people in the USA and other countries who are reading my blog.  I hope what I say can help you on this difficult journey of coming out of the depths of despair after losing a  child.  We are none of us where we wanted to be in life.
Remember on this road that grief is as individual as fingerprints.  There is no right way, timetable or manual.  Sometimes, it is just a matter of following your own heart and doing what you feel is right.  There are situations which are difficult to handle.

Going to Church:   It seems to be common after the death of a child, parents cannot go to church without crying throughout the service.  This happened to me.  To spare myself this embarrassment, I would get up early on Sunday mornings to watch Mass (I am catholic)  on television.  There in privacy, I could pray and mourn.  Also, I could go to other churches, just not my own, with a close friend and be all right.  This went on for many months until I could finally go back to my own church.

Social Gatherings:  So much had happened to me with my cancer and the deaths of both my son and husband, I felt like Mary Lincoln.  Like everyone was staring at me and waiting for me to go mad.  I avoided large gatherings for a year or more.  I only saw family and friends in small groups.

Funerals:  To this day,  I cannot go to funerals alone.  I have to go with someone close to me who understands what I have been through.  I need that support.

Weddings:  They are the same.  I have to go with someone close to me.  Too many thoughts of what might have been.  

These are the things in life we face.  Ordinary things require a decision, worry, planning and forcing ourselves to do something we may not really want to do.  In time, though, it gets easier.  If you have a dark day just go with it and mourn.  This helps and the next day gets better.  If you are continually in dark days and can't seem to do anything, then I would recommend seeing a grief counselor.  I had to see one and I was also in a bereavement support group.  
Peace and God bless.  Pray for me and I will pray for you.

Love,
Rosemarie

Thursday, April 11, 2013

May Your Laughter Live: More Reflections on Letting Go

May Your Laughter Live: More Reflections on Letting Go: Not really knowing the circumstances of Chris' death has really haunted me.  Investigators told me it was not a suicide even though the ...

More Reflections on Letting Go

Not really knowing the circumstances of Chris' death has really haunted me.  Investigators told me it was not a suicide even though the medical examiner insisted on classifying it so.  I think I know in my heart and mind what happened, but there is no one to confirm it.  Two well known psychics who claimed to have contacted Chris said he told them he wanted me to know he did not kill himself.  Please know, I am not endorsing psychics or recommending anyone believe in them.  I am just saying early in my grief, this was something I had to do to quiet the questions swirling in my head.
I have just always believed that in the USA,  people have rights.  And if someone was responsible  for his death, they should be brought to justice.  This has been my daily prayer.  Yet, it may never happen, or at least, not in my lifetime.  Perhaps, it is time to reconcile this quest and begin a new prayer to accept leaving justice in God's hands.
By no means, do I think this will give me "closure."  That was a term and concept developed by someone who never lost anyone close, much less a child.  I feel as a parent I can come to terms with the death of my child, but not the idea of closure.  The death of a child is like an unfinished book with so many chapters yet to be written.  Not only do I mourn the loss of Chris, but I mourn for what his life might have been.   That is the reality I have learned to live with.
Two turning points have brought me to where I am today.  One thing after another had happened.  Within 21 months time, I had unusually radical surgery and chemo for breast cancer, Chris died suddenly, and my husband who had been ill for a very long time, died six weeks later.  I no longer wanted to live.  I continued to pray, got counseling, went to grief support and my pastor supported me immensely.  One morning, I woke up and sat on the side of my bed.  It suddenly dawned on me,  I could either let all this destroy me or go on with my life.  I realized I had to make a conscious decision to get on.  Things weren't going to get better by themselves.  I would have to muster whatever strength I had into living.  Grief is work.  The path was crooked with setbacks and dark days.  Given the choice,  what else was there to do?  I knew I didn't want to be bitter and angry as this would only drive away the people who could support  me when I needed it.
This was good enough for a long time.  Then I read a book,  "A Death Like No Other,"  by Kathleen O'Hara, a mother and psychologist, whose own son was murdered.  This book really helped me accept Chris' death.  I would especially recommend it for any parents whose children's deaths were in any way involved with the justice system.  She outlines seven steps to go through to come to terms with what has happened.  I learned acceptance was key.  I decided that a child being a gift from God, is only on loan to the parents.  That being said,  the person who ended his life,  took his life from God, not me.  Whoever it was needed to answer to God, not to me.   This brought me much farther along in my grieving process.  I was able to publish my first book, The Amberella Tales, dedicated to Chris.
Now, I think I need to do it again with giving up the idea of finally having truth and justice.  Going through a court or even a conviction cannot change what has happened or ever bring Chris back.  Would giving up this long quest put an answer to so many unknowns and finally let Chris rest in peace?  I'm sad, Chris, I miss you terribly and I'll always love you, but I'm okay.  Rest in peace.      

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Letting Go of Shadows

When my son Chris died,  I felt I had truly failed as a mother.  I had committed the greatest offense possible.  I had failed to take care of and protect this child, this gift from God.  I thought I should be wearing a "scarlet letter" on my back, so great was my guilt.
I know I made mistakes with the criminal justice system immediately following his death.  If I hadn't,  would this have made a difference in finding justice for him?  I may never know.
So, I feel I have this shadow following me in addition to Chris' shadow.  But how long is long enough   to feel doubt and guilt and to beat yourself up.  In trying to find this answer, someone asked me, "Is this what your son would want?"
I could debate my errors like a circle going round and round in my head.  However, I don't think Chris blames me in any way.  I know he would want me to have peace of mind.  I have to conclude for now that justice for Chris will have to be left to God to deal with.  My new prayers will be to let go,  to accept God's justice and to ask Chris for forgiveness.
I look forward to there being one less shadow.  Peace.  God bless.

Love,
Rosemarie

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Remembering Chris: Life and Death

My son, Chris, loved our dog Amber.  So you might say I had two inspirations for writing my book which then brought me to this blog.  Chris was a very fine young man.  He was never in trouble.  This makes it all the more difficult to accept the violent way in which he died.  It was not how he lived.  He was kind,  sensitive, considerate and funny, very very funny.  His father and I loved him dearly.  He was greatly affected by his father's long illness.  Chris had spent so much time with him.  School was hard for him because he had ADD.  He was a wonderful runner and went to National Junior Olympics for cross country three times.  He loved to drive and learned both stick and automatic.

What happened?  Chris was shot in the chest under suspicious circumstances.  He died alone far from home, a terrible heartache.  The local police came to my home five hours later to tell me.  I was numb and disbelieving.  I could never accept the official version of what happened.  Too many things about the scene didn't add up.  Two rounds of ammunition were missing from the gun.  No shells were found at the scene even though it was a very small caliber gun.  Plus, Chris had a bump on top of his head and one of his fingers had been broken.  The cause of death was listed as a suicide.  I had a private investigation done.  An ex FBI agent and a retired homicide cop told me it was not suicide.

Despite trying, I couldn't get to the truth or any justice.  One of the individuals involved had a father with strong political connections.  I may never know the whole story, but I pray daily for truth and justice for Chris.  I also pray those involved will someday let God into their hearts, seek forgiveness and do the right thing.  I have faith someone involved or someone who knows what happened will one day come forward.  

My faith has been a great comfort and solace to me.  I don't blame God for what happened.  There is evil in this world, and all too many times, people choose to do evil.  I see tragedy and misfortune as part of the human condition.  We are not guaranteed perfection here on earth

That's my story.  If you would like to share your story,  please comment on this blog.  We are all in this together.  God bless

Love,
Rosemarie

Monday, March 25, 2013

Invitation to Hope for Bereaved Parents

     "May your laughter live forever in my heart"  are the words I used to dedicate my first children's book to my son, Chris.  I am a mother, long-time RN in hospital, public health and schools.  I write kiddie lit and my book is The Amberella Tales.
     I am also a bereaved parent.  Chris died suddenly when he was 23 years old.   It has been a long and hard struggle.  I want to write this blog to reach out to other parents who have lost children.  I want to share my journey with you to encourage you to go on.  Even though you may feel like your life is over, I can tell you it does not have to be that way forever.
     I have reached the point where I see myself as a fragile vase, once broken, but lovingly pieced back together with the help of faith, family and friends.  And now the vase, is no longer broken, but is able to chip or splinter as can we all.  I have a life.  Not the same life, but a life filled with many good things, happiness, laughter and memories.
     Your life can go on in a meaningful way.  It may not seem that way to you today, but I found hope and peace.  I understand the most precious part of you has been ripped away, but you can become nearly whole again.  You will always have a missing piece-- a shadow following you. Yet, it can be this shadow will no longer overwhelm you.
     I want to help you find your voice, your heart and your life once again.  Let us take this journey together.  God bless.