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. by Elizabeth Kupferman. 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,

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.


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.


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