Monday, December 22, 2014

Holiday Time

     Greetings to one and all during this holiday season.  I wish you Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and Joyous Kwanza.  This is a difficult time for me and you.  We must celebrate however feels best in our hearts.  We cannot force ourselves to be merry if we are not.  Or to be social if we long for solitude.  Even when there are other children to make a holiday for, ask for help for those things you simply feel you cannot do.  I find it helpful to do something-- a little gift for my son or in memory of my son-- to bring him into the celebration in some way.  This helps me to celebrate as well. 

     Saying a prayer, making a toast or serving a favorite dish of your lost child can help also.  If you celebrate his or her life, it makes for less guilt if you want to celebrate your holiday. I find it so for myself.  Again, it is not an easy time.  If you do not want to celebrate or are not ready to be with people, that is okay too.  There will always be holidays in the coming years.  Do whatever you can and what is best for you.  Tell friends and family of your intentions calmly and firmly. Do not be drawn into long discussions and explanations.

     So sorry you have not heard form me in a while.  As I have mentioned in previous blogs, I have not been well.  I will have to have surgery in early January.  You may not hear from me for several weeks after that.  I ask for your prayers and positive energy for a good outcome to my surgery and a speedy recovery.

     May you find some peace over the holidays and in the upcoming weeks.


Thursday, September 25, 2014

A Secret Life

     I often think I live two lives-- a public "I have everything together" life and then my private life with my secret pain.  I put on a brave front.  I smile and laugh, but little does anyone know the pain of the loss of my child that is always within me.  I often feel my smile doesn't reach my eyes and heart.  I wonder how people don't notice.

     This phenomenon became clear just a few days ago.  The 15th anniversary of my son, Chris', death was September 24th.  I spent a quiet day at home since I did not feel the energy to go out.  I wanted to crawl in bed and pull the covers over my head for the day.  Instead, I prayed. I watched re-runs of old TV series, did laundry and packed for a weekend writing retreat at the Jersey shore.   It seemed a good way to pass the day as I could distract myself without taxing myself.

     I also sent out an email to my closest family and friends reminding them of the anniversary of Chris' passing.  Clearly, I was reaching out for support and to validate my pain.  It was gratifying to get responses back from almost everyone telling of their support, love, prayers and memories.  Perhaps I should do this more often and bring my pain out of the shadows.  But would this make friends and family uncomfortable and push them away?  Or worse, would it prompt them to tell me not to dwell on the loss of my child and get interested in other activities to distract myself.  How many times have you heard this?

     This does bring up the issue of how to walk the fine line between being overly "needy" or overly "brave. This is hard.  I often find when I tell someone how I am feeling they start going through a checklist of their own problems and needs.  It's discouraging.  I wind up listening to them rather than getting support for myself.  A brave front again.  I feel my head will burst like a damn and all this pain will come pouring out.  Everyone will ask, "What happened?" as they see my life fracture before them.

     I suppose the point is to not let my frustration build up to this.  I may need to avoid those individuals too needy to be of any support if they have no other redeeming features.  Sometimes I have to take a step back and consider their love and affection for me in the balance.  Of course, I have others who are better listeners and are able to give support.  They are the ones I should go to when I need to reveal the secret pain in my heart.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Riots vs. Justice

     I am very angry and upset by recent riots, looting and stealing in the face of what demonstrators, (many not even from the mid-western community), believe was a young man unjustly shot by a policeman.  I am angry because, perhaps, like many of you, my son's killing was never solved.  I further believe that there was police and medical examiner misconduct involved.  This is something that has greatly interfered with my healing and produced much inner turmoil.

     I certainly haven't gone out and burned and looted the town where he was shot, not that I wouldn't like to.  I became even more upset when I looked up some statistics.  Every year in the U.S. around 6000 (SIX THOUSAND) murders become cold cases.  Someone who is somebody's minor or adult child was killed and justice, in effect, was denied.

     Six thousand victims of murder who got no justice, no demonstrators, no riots, no national media attention, no national organization or national political attention and certainly no organizations to pay for high priced lawyers and forensic experts.   In Ferguson, Missouri outside demonstrators admit they have no jobs.  Yet, they have flown in from New York and California and need housing and food once they arrive in Missouri.  I wonder who is paying their expenses.

      I express my sympathy to the parents and loved ones of the young man who was shot.  They should be allowed to grieve in peace.  But outsiders have descended upon their town and the lawyers and the media have gotten carried away further inflaming the situation.

     The demonstrators have expressed:  No Justice  No Peace.  How much more rioting, looting, burning, rock and molotov cocktail throwing will there be if the police officer is exonerated?  Have we become a nation of anarchy?  I would have liked some individuals fired for how they handled my son's investigation and the mayor of the nearby town criminally charged for his undue, corrupt influence over the police and medical examiner and obstructing a police investigation.  Of course, this didn't happen.

     What if each of these 6000 victims' families decided to start a riot to express their dissatisfaction with the failure of police to solve their loved ones' cases.  Imagine how fast they would be arrested without political advocacy and financed demonstrators and experts. When I went to talk to police about what happened to my son, I disagreed vehemently with their findings.  There was no transparency that I could see.

     I had to pay for a private investigation into my son's death which did not agree with the police investigation.  The private investigator, a retired FBI agent, told me I could spend all my time, energy, and resources to convict my son's killer.  He was of the opinion since evidence was tampered with and missing and the chief witness was lying and well connected politically, I would never be successful.  I had no money to pay for internationally known forensic experts to do further investigations.

     I believe my son's murder will be solved one day because someone out there knows something.   He or she will eventually talk out of guilt or to get themselves off in another crime.  My son was a victim, but I have refused to become another victim.   I pray everyday for truth and justice for Chris.  I have tried to go on with my life and honor Chris' memory and life with my children's books.  I dedicated the first one to Chris and he is in both books.

     The point I am making is the criminal justice system fails to serve far too many of us.  No matter our discontent or despair, we did not break the law or sew the seeds for others to do so.  We haven't gotten national attention or political advocacy and intervention even though our children are no less deserving.  Their deaths were just as heart wrenching.

      I believe God sees everything.  I would not want to be any one of those persons involved in my son's death and subsequent cover-up and then face God on judgement day.  Some six thousand killers a year face the same fate.  Divine justice shall be their retribution.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

A Glimmer of a Whisper

     I am convinced within me and you is a tiny glimmer of life or light no matter how bad we feel.  One of my favorite sayings is, The Voice of Life is soft, so we must listen hard."  I could not find the author, yet is very appropriate to you and me--- we who have been surrounded with death and the loss of our children.

     But if you and I are to journey through grief,  we must search for that whisper of a voice or glimmer of a spark of life within us.  Maybe you are feeling dead or numb inside, but if you are reading this, a spark has glimmered within in you or a whisper has spoken to you no matter how briefly.  Perhaps it is the voice of my child or your child trying to speak to me and you to give us courage to go on.  To go on with life and in so doing honor him or her.

     Of course, you and I wish our lives were different.  One thing I have learned, so far on my grief journey, is you cannot reverse life's events.  I know I can only live presently with who or what I still have.  I am trying to move forward with a different life with writing and traveling and being with extended family and friends.

     Will my life or yours ever be the same as before?  No.  Can life again be meaningful and positive?  Yes.  Will there always be pangs of wanting the old life with our children and doubts filled with what if's and if only's?  Yes.  Then this is is the time to search for that whisper or spark of your child's spirit and go on.   Ask him or her to help you.  

Monday, July 28, 2014

Your Dog Grieves with You

     Recently, social media pictured a German Shepherd canine officer placing his paw on the casket of his human policeman partner at the partner's funeral.  I have read dogs can smell and interpret life and death instinctively.  Wanting to know where you have been and what you were doing is supposedly why they sniff you all over when you return home.  By sniffing they find out what went on with you while you were out.

     Also, it is apparent dogs can be tuned into your emotions.  So it would seem when you are sad and grieve, your dog picks up on it.  Dogs, too, surely miss the family member who has died and grieve in their own way.  I would say this is especially true in the death of a child who they have always protected.

     In my own case, my dog, Amber, grieved for the loss of my son, Chris.  Amber always slept with me on the bottom left hand corner of the bed where she could see the neighborhood  through three windows.  After Chris died, she moved to the bottom right hand corner of the bed where she could see the top of the stairs and Chris' bedroom door.  She seemed to be waiting for him to re-appear.  How much you and I pine for our children to return.  And so Amber seemed to be pining.

     One night, a good friend of Chris' visited me.  After he was gone, Amber laid down on the edge of the family room carpet where she could see the front door.  I believe she felt if Chris' friend appeared, he would not be far behind.  She apparently remembered this friend being with Chris.

     Amber made a big, happy yawn when Chris or Chris and I together would give her attention.  After Chris died, she never did this again.  It was if her life was forever changed as was mine.  I believe if you have a dog you have a creature who understands loss.  You can grieve together and get through the tremendous change together.  Hold onto and love your dog.  I know from experience, it can help you both.

     As a final comment, I would say watch your dog carefully as there are those people who believe dogs can see spirits of the deceased.  Like children, they supposedly can see spirits because they have no human adult inhibitions. I remember one time, Amber was standing on Chris' bed and I was sitting on the floor.  There was a rocking chair beside the bed.  Amber's gaze was fixed on the rocker and she was wagging her tail.  I was convinced she could see the spirit of Chris sitting in the chair.  I could not, but there were other similar incidents.

     I took comfort in knowing, through Amber,  Chris was visiting and had not forgotten us.  

Friday, July 11, 2014

Touching Your Spirit

     It is good to cry, tap into your pain and pray in solitude to hear the Father's voice.  I did this a few days ago.  My prayer was, "Father, speak to me in the darkness."  You can only stuff down your pain for so long before you have to acknowledge it, face it, and try to walk through it.  Not to end it because that will not happen, but to dull it and learn to walk along beside it.

     For me to do this, I have to take a spiritual approach.  Recently, I visited Fatima, Portugal.  Fatima is where Catholics believe the Blessed Mother Mary appeared to three peasant children around the time of World War I.  Miracles of cures and healing have been attributed to Mary at Fatima so people visit there for all types of healing.

     I went there to place my needs and intentions in Mary's hands.  I found it such a place of peace, that one day I broke down and cried and could not stop.  I needed to talk to the priest who accompanied our group on our tour.  I realized how much I missed my son, Chris, and husband, Fred.  Like I said, you can dull the pain, but not eliminate it entirely.  Father recommended I read the books of Joyce Rupp, a Catholic nun, who writes inspirational books on pain, loss and darkness in one's life.

     In Rupp's book, Praying Our Goodbyes, I read the chapter on the loss of a child.  Very moving.  Her words cover a lot of emotion with great understanding and very succinctly unlike a lot of other books.  I was able to read it in a short time and get something out of it.  I was moved to tears by the words of her prayer:  "He (she) can never be replaced.  We search for inner peace, and strain for the acceptance of this reality.... We hurt with the heartache of our loss.  Help us to believe the sorrow will lessen as the days go on..."

     You may feel too angry at God to pray.  I understand this.  I, too at times, have felt anger.  And I have felt too tired, too distraught and too hopeless to pray.  I have found when I tell God how I feel and have a frank discussion with Him, I can move past the emotion to prayer.

     I will pray and hope you find your way to touching some spiritual comfort.  Even if you only say, "God, take this pain away," or "God, help me get through this."  That is enough of a prayer.  Even if you have never prayed, you can pray now with just one sentence telling God what you need.

     My prayer for you is "May you find some comfort today."

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Thoughts on Father's Day

     I want to take a moment on Father's Day  to acknowledge all fathers who have lost children.  Society has so many mythical preconceptions or expectations, especially surrounding grief.  Fathers are expected to be strong, stoic and supportive in the face of tragedy-- there for your kids, spouse and parents.  A very tall order.  Is it even possible?

     What of your own personal feelings and needs when you lose a child?   Someone needs to be there for any parent-- mother or father-- when a child dies.  I am not sure that always happens for fathers.  I am not sure how well many men are able to talk about their feelings or express vulnerabilities in the face of grief.  I think there is tremendous societal pressure to support the mother, but not as much for you, the father.

     I read recently that women cope better after the death of a spouse than do men.  Can the same be true for fathers?  If that is so, perhaps, men have been done a disservice or even overlooked in the grieving process.  Men see themselves as protectors.  If a child dies, do fathers see themselves as having failed to protect that child?  That might seem to be the case.  As I have said in previous blogs, regardless of the circumstances of your child's death, you are powerless to control most things.  You are also human, and as such, you have your limits and imperfections.   It is always there to blame yourself for misjudging a situation or having made a mistake.  You think you  have failed your child who lost his or her life.

     I believe your child is at peace and bathed in love and any mistakes or misjudgments are of no matter to him or her.  Of course, you would rather have your son or daughter with you, but it cannot be.  Acceptance of what has happened is key.  Acceptance takes a long time and your own time when you may feel numb, lost, bereft, hopeless, guilty, angry.  As a first step, I encourage you to acknowledge your own feelings and express them and share them with someone.  Either your spouse, clergyman, therapist.  It is not a sign of weakness to do so, but one of strength in trying to make it through this journey and playing the curved ball you have been dealt.

     You can take many routes.  You can give up.  You can resort to drugs, alcohol, sex, work or fighting with your spouse.  You can try to go it alone.   Or you can shed any stereotypes, and decide to get through your grief by accepting yourself and reaching out for help.  Is it harder for a man to do this than a woman?  I think so.  But if you want to move forward, you have to be introspective and ask yourself how you can get through this loss and who can help you.

     You have the choice not to get through the loss of your child.  It is a pivotal moment and decision.  It is a long journey in which things can improve and in which it is possible to feel emotion again.  But, you have to be willing to embark on that journey.   Will all go forward smoothly?  No.  There will always be steps ahead and steps backward.  Gradually though the pain will soften and you will be able to enter life again.   The one thing it is not possible to do is to hold tightly onto your pain and experience living again.

     Readiness is key.  Take stock of your situation. Ask yourself do you want to improve things or let the death of your child destroy you.  I can't answer this for you, but only for myself.  Maybe you feel you have no reason to live.  I did for a while.  Then I realized all the people who were counting on me to pull through, so I got help.

     God speed you on your journey.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Another School Shooting

     Today in the U.S. we had the 74th school shooting since Newtown, CT in November 2012.  It occurred in Portland, OR.  The shooter died of apparent self-inflicted wounds, another student was killed and a teacher wounded.  What can we as parents do to prevent such tragedies from happening over and over?

     I think we have reached the point where two things must be done.  First, metal detectors need to be put in all senior high schools throughout the country.  There should be only one school door where it is possible to enter the building.  All students, parents and other visitors must enter through this door and pass through the detector to  enter the building.  When students are entering the building in the morning before school, an armed police officer should be present in the event any weapons are found.  All students must show a student ID to enter as well as parents and visitors having a photo ID to enter.

     Second, it is apparent the there must be on site community mental health services in the middle and senior high schools.  Troubled kids must be identified and interventions done.  There needs to be parent conferences with parents of those students identified as at risk for any reason.  A mental health evaluation and treatment must be made mandatory for any troubled student to continue to attend school.    Often, it is the school who identifies troubled kids before the parents intervene.  So schools need to help get kids into treatment.  Then other times, the parents are crying for help and can't get it.  If services are available at the school, the school can act as a support for parents and students.

     I think it is fair to say we have reached crisis proportions with these school shootings.  The time is past due for no action.  Where necessary, legislation may have to be changed for the greater good and protection of society.  I base my opinions on my 24 years experience as a school nurse in one of the largest urban school districts in the U.S.  Twenty-three years were spent in high risk senior high schools where there were metal detectors.  Students bringing weapons and drugs to school were suspended or expelled and arrested on the spot.  This prevented in school shootings and stabbbings.

     Haven't we as parents had enough terror and heartache with school violence and the loss of life?  It effects all school age children and their parents with unbelievable fear and trauma.  It must stop. I implore anyone reading this to demand change from their school boards and legislators.  This is a call to action and change.  

Monday, May 26, 2014

Honoring Our Military Vetarans

     Today I want to take a moment to acknowledge those parents whose sons and daughters made the ultimate sacrifice in giving their lives in military service to the USA.  May God give you strength and  support to weather your difficult storm.  Please know that we appreciate your children's service and have not forgotten you or your children on this Memorial Day.  I believe it takes special and brave people to serve our country and special families who love, sacrifice and support. God bless you and keep you.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Meeting Challenging Times

     As you read this, you may be wondering how you will survive the death of your child or how you have managed to survive so far.  Difficult questions to answer.  I suppose they have come to my mind as a week ago was what would have been my 41st wedding anniversary.  My husband, Fred, died in 1999 six weeks after our son, Chris, died.  I suppose I am feeling particularly vulnerable because I have been unwell for two months with mild Gullain Barre Syndrome.  Now I am in terrible pain from an old cervical fusion and cervical disc degeneration.

     With my inactivity and pain, my mind has been working over-time.  I have been wondering how I survived so far and if there is comfort or wisdom in my survival for anyone else.  How have I come to be able to write this blog and two children's books and starting a third?

     First I believe my faith in God and devotion to the Blessed Mother brought me through the worst of times.  I still rely on them both with daily prayer and regular church attendance. (If going to church makes you cry, go with someone to a different church or watch a church service on TV instead.)

     Next I made two decisions:  1) Not to let these tragedies destroy me, but to go on with my life;  2) Not to become a bitter, angry person who would push away the very people who could love and support me.  I think both these realizations brought me through my darkest days. My survival became a matter of choice.  Of course, friends, family and neighbors stood by me.  There is no way I could have gone on without them.  I can never repay them.  All I could do was not to give up on myself as they were not giving up on me.

     I also wrote and wrote.  I started with a letter to my son which I buried at his gravesite.  Then, I wrote and wrote and wrote my feelings, my memories, my thoughts which filled several large notebooks. This got all my emotions, worries and frustrations out.  I went out with friends and family when invited as I did not think isolation would be good. I retired from work when a favorable package was made available and took a religious tour to Italy with my church.  I returned to work part-time six months later as I missed it.

     I began to make jewelry and penned two children's books, the first dedicated to my son and the second to my husband.  It gave me great peace to memorialize them both.  For me, doing something creative was very healing.  I also went for counseling and to a support group run by a nun trained in pastoral care.  Was any of this easy?  No, but I felt it all necessary to move through my pain.

     Besides my faith, the one constant in my life was my dog, Amber, who I had gotten for Chris on his thirteenth birthday.  She was always there with love, devotion, companionship, protection and healing.  I based my children's book series on her.

     This has been my journey so far.  There is not an end to this journey, only constant evolution.  I know there will always be dark days popping up with anger and non-acceptance  That is just the way of it even as grief gets less intense.

     I cannot tell you how to make your journey through your grief.  If something here speaks to you, I say try it for yourself.  One thing I can tell you is whatever you decide or try, it will take courage.  More courage and determination than you have ever had to use before in your life. I have learned bravery is needed in the face of life's choices for survival.    


Saturday, May 10, 2014

My Thoughts on Mother's Day

     These thoughts are a reply written this past week to a blog, I Fall to Pieces.  The concern was raised that if you lose an only child, are you still a mother.  The following is my response.
      I believe we are and will always be Moms even though we have lost our only children.  Our children will always live in our hearts and memories.  Although our sons (and daughters) do not exist physically, they exist in another dimension spiritually.  As we continue to love them, they continue to love us as well and watch over us.
      Grief is multi-faceted with so many things to sort out especially in early days.  I lost my husband and son within six weeks of each other.  I regret that I did not spend more time with Chris instead of so much time with his father in the nursing home.  I can't go back and change that.  I have to take limited comfort in thinking I did what I thought was best at the time.  I knew my husband's time was limited.  Little did I know Chris' time was as well.  None of us can see into the future.  We are human and by nature imperfect beings.
      I have learned what circles round and round in our heads matters very little to our children once they have passed over.  They are bathed in peace and in God's love and continued love for us.  Of course, we would rather have them with us, but it cannot be.  One day when it is our time, we will be re-united.  I try to hold onto this and try ways to honor Chris' life.
      It takes much work and soul searching and time to get through this.  It is the hardest battle of our lives.  It does things to our heads and hearts.  There will always be challenges.  Recently, I had some health issue and concerns my cancer had returned.  I honestly had to question myself if I would seek treatment or refuse it so I could re-join Chris and Fred.  I still have not been able to answer that.  I am not really sure what is actually wrong with me or if there is a right or wrong thing to do for me and for those who care about me.  Grief messes with your head.
      You can move through this journey, and as I saw on Facebook, the pain gets softer, but never goes away entirely.  For me, it has helped to work with a grief counselor, memorialize Chris in my own way and to try to interface with other parents.  We can pull each other along.
      It has been 14 years though it seems like yesterday.  I still have times of anger and non-acceptance, but I am able to function and find some satisfaction in life.  I have supportive family and friends with whom I share many memories and the love of Chris and Fred.  Maybe this is as good as it will get and I can live with that.  As we have learned, life does not turn out as we planned.
      My thoughts and prayers are with you on Mother's Day.  I will be with friends who have become my surrogate children and grandchildren.  I think we should spend the day doing what WE want and not fulfilling someone else's expectations. I pray for peace, wisdom and strength for all of us.   

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Death and Gun Violence

     Because of the number of deaths and the grief it causes parents and other family members and friends, I want to present my thoughts on guns and the problems people with guns cause.  Let me say at the outset, my son died of a gunshot wound of the chest.  It may have been a homicide or manslaughter or an accident.  To this day, I do not know.  I do know that too many of us have lost our children to gun violence that should not have happened.  Another week has gone by and still more shootings, one in a workplace and one in a hospital.  Lives are lost and the survivors' lives irrevocably changed forever.  I wonder what it would be like in the U.S. if guns were not so readily available especially to criminals, dangerously mentally ill people and juveniles.

    Obtaining a gun permit is not an easy process with a lengthy application and a background check for criminal records and supposedly for a history of serious mental illness.  Yet, somehow there is a proliferation of guns that wind up in the wrong hands with disastrous consequences.  Some gun owners  do not secure their weapons properly so they wind up in the hands of children of all ages for accidents or purposeful killing.  Others eligible for gun ownership buy many guns at gun shows or online where there are no background checks or limit on purchases.  These can be resold on the street to people who should not have them.  Big problem and the source of most gun crimes.

     What can or should be done to prevent gun deaths?  On one hand we have the proponents of gun ownership because of the Second Amendment to our U.S. Constitution which guarantees citizens the right to bear arms.  It is my own opinion this amendment was intended for militias to protect the country and to protect citizens against a tyrranical government, not widespread gun availability and gun ownership for personal use.  Many may strongly disagree with my point of view, but cannot there be some middle ground?

     There seems to be too many flaws in the permit process, especially as regards seriously and dangerously mentally individuals, gun show purchases and online purchases.  I would say all these areas need to be tightened up to protect the public and the rights of legitimate gun owners.  What is not the answer is more widespread gun ownership for protection against the "bad guys."  That is just too dangerous and reminds me of a wild west mentality.  I also see no reason why any citizen should be allowed to obtain an assault rifle.   They can do a lot of damage in a short period of time and are too dangerous to defend against.  Assault weapons should be limited to law enforcement and the military.

     Because of my experience working in a large urban school district, I am also in favor of metal detectors for all students and visitors to high schools and middle schools where most school gun violence has occurred.  These schools should also have school police officers and/or an assigned law enforcement officer.

     These are my personal thoughts and opinions.  I would like to know if you agree or disagree or have any further ideas.  I think, though, we can all agree steps must be taken to stem gun violence.  

Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Taking of Life

     I have had it with what I see as society disintegrating all around us.  Everyday there is news of another mass shooting or stabbing, many in schools.  And just yesterday in a U.S. high school, a girl was stabbed to death because she refused to be a young man's prom date.  She already had a date.  For those of us who have lost children, especially in a violent way, these stories become more and more painful as we truly understand the heartache incurred with these losses of lives.

     I ask myself is it evil or mental illness or social media or violence in the pop culture or all of the above which contribute to these tragedies.  Are weapons too readily available?  Do schools need better security procedures?  Is care for mental illness inadequate and too difficult to obtain?  Are we bombarded with violence in books, movies, video games, music, and TV.  Has social media contributed to mass depersonalization of the individual?  Can we no longer think, relate or communicate on a personal and empathetic level? Has drug addiction overrun our society so people no longer feel or know what they are doing?  Has family life totally dissolved? And finally, have we turned too far away from God, prayer and organized religion in our modern and very secularized culture?  Have we simply forgotten there is a moral right and a wrong?

     What makes any one person think he has the right to take the life of another?  I think of a recent case where three teenagers were "bored" and decided to kill someone for something to do.  They piled in a car, and drive-by style, shot a promising college athlete thereby ending a bright future.  How detached is that kind of behavior or is it just plain evil?  These young men can express all the apologies and regrets they want, but that can never match the pain of the parents, family and friends of this murdered young man.  Even their punishment, cannot take away the pain of loved ones.

     I my humble opinion, we need to first strengthen and re-integrate the nuclear family unit.  It is better for children to have two parents and to be born in a loving stable home and not to a teenage mother.  Marriage needs to become important again.  Now, things are backwards.  Couples have children, buy a house, then "think" about getting married.  We have lost sight of the fact that it should be the reverse. Or, worse yet, there is no wedding at all.  Just rolling from one relationship to another with children as movable chess pieces in a game of life.

     This return to stability and morality in the family should bring us back to God and regular attendance in a place of worship.  I truly believe we need recognize there is a higher power to whom we have to give an accounting for our lives.  We seem to have lost sight of that and children are not being taught this spiritual accountability.

     Next, the mental health system in the U.S. needs to be re-structured.  There needs to be more care available, hospitalizations easier to access, more inpatient beds for the severely mentally ill, and better identification and intervention for high risks individuals in our schools and work places.

     Finally the scourge of drug addiction must be addressed.  In many cases, outpatient treatment or 28 days of inpatient treatment is just not adequate for someone who has adopted that lifestyle and has reached rock bottom in addiction.  It is my belief that in most cases, addiction is an outer symptom of an inner pain which must be addressed to cure the addiction.  The amount of coverage allowed by insurance is simply just not sufficient to address all the issues.  Until this is recognized and willing to be dealt with, addiction will retain it's hold on far too many people at an even greater cost to our society than treating it adequately.  Treating addiction takes far longer than just detox.

     These are my ideas.  Perhaps you have others or you don't agree.  I would like to hear what you think.  You may ask, "What can I do?"  I would start by looking in the mirror and asking where you stand with your family and your God.  Maybe you can't do this right now because of the pain of your grief, but, your family wants and needs you.  And God loves you, believes in you and is there to heal you.


Sunday, April 20, 2014

Peace at this Holy Time

I wish all of you peace at Easter and Passover.  May you be able to spend time with family and friends for the love and support of each other.

I am sorry you have not heard from me recently.  I have been sick with a serious respiratory infection followed by a mild form of Gullain Barre Syndrome.  I am thankful I am not more seriously ill and still able to get around.  Mainly I have been extremely fatigued and feeling very weak.  I seem to have improved a little in the last few days.  I am looking forward to feeling better in a couple of weeks and getting back to writing.

You have been in my thoughts and prayers.  May God keep you in his care.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Find Your Rose

                                                       Just remember in the winter
                                                       Far beneath the bitter snows
                                                       Lies the seed, that with the suns love
                                                       In the spring becomes the rose

                                                                                            Janis Joplin, The Rose

     I have had enough of winter, literally and figuratively.  Grief definitely feels like the winter of your life.  Endless, joyless, dreary days with little or nothing to look forward to.

     I am feeling, lately, like not doing much.  I know it is related to needing to reach deep down within myself to renew the spark of forgiveness for those involved in the death of my son.  In times of stress, things have a way of re-surfacing even when you have worked hard on dealing with them.  The inclement weather, with its forced isolation of being housebound, has not been good.

     I am in an angry mood, but when I acknowledge it, I eat less.  I need to start punching pillows again and pray for healing.  Recently my priest at mass spoke about forgiveness.  He mentioned a quote he found on Facebook about holding onto anger and grudges.  The quote likened this to, Drinking rat poison and waiting for the rat to die.  So who gets hurt with anger and other negative emotions?

     True, you and I can feel justified for being angry at the factors and individuals involved with the deaths of our children.  So it becomes a question of which seed to feed, anger or forgiveness.  At some point you and I have to make this choice.  And probably more than once or even daily.

     I know I am not dead inside.  Neither are you because you are reading this.   You are seeking a way to bring some peace and healing into your life.  You and I do have the spark of life that can light the way to the seed of personal growth, our roses.  The rose may be covered with the tears of the bitter snows of loss, but it can bloom again.  A new spring is possible.

     I am proposing an exercise to deal with anger and negative emotions.  If you have no physical limitations to doing so, find something you can punch--- a pillow, sofa, or punching bag, or something you will not injure yourself on.  Now, name your emotion and all the factors or persons you feel negatively about and punch them one by one.  When you feel tired or spent, stop.  Take some deep breaths, cry, laugh, whatever.

    Now, stand and take three deep breaths.  Hold your hands up, palms out.  Start making counter-clock wise motions with your hands.  Each time your hands move away from your body, exhale and blow out all negativity.  Do that five times.  Next, make clock-wise motions with your hands.  Each time you bring your hands close to your body,  breathe in and bring peace and healing to your body. Repeat five times.  Then hold your hands over your head and stretch and deep breathe.  Try to hold onto that feeling of peace.

     Final step, do something to nurture yourself.  It can be a cup of tea, a bath, reading a favorite passage from the bible, listening to music, prayer or meditation or get a massage.  You need this to get through this journey.  It is necessity, not a reason for a guilt trip.

     Practice feeding the seed of hope and love, not negativity.  That seed, with care and love, can bloom into your rose of renewed life.



Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Changing Focus

     My mental outlook has improved from my last blog.  I think, maybe, I was feeling some post-holiday blues and some Valentine's Day dread.  Anyway,  I decided I had to shift gears.  I had to focus on what I have in my life.  Not what I have lost.

     How did I do that?  I used an anger release technique by punching my bed pillows vigorously and repeatedly for several minutes.  One by one, I visualized punching each person I believed had harmed my son, Chris, and each person who denied him justice.  It was very helpful in releasing my emotions.

     I woke up the next morning and realized it takes energy to stay in an angry and negative place.  It seemed better to remember the good things in my life.  My separation from my son and husband, unfair as it seems to me, is temporary.  I believe, someday, we will be re-united in eternity.  Just not yet.

     With prayer, I came to understand how wonderful loving, kind and supportive friends and family have been to me.  It was very good to celebrate Super Bowl Sunday and a little birthday dinner with my husband's family.    I did have to take some deep breaths and put my game face on in more ways than one.  I struggled to go from the negative place to the positive place.

     Before going out, I prayed for inner peace.  I prayed, too, my smile would reach my heart and eyes.  I know in my heart my son, Chris, and husband, Fred, had looked down on our celebration.  I love my husband's family dearly.  They have not forgotten me, Chris or Fred.  For this, I am very grateful and blessed.  Also, my best friend and her family called me to check up on me as I know they were concerned about me because of the previous blog.  I felt very appreciative and touched.

     I reminded myself I am not alone.  I am grateful I can talk about Fred and Chris to friends and family.  At first, they were uncomfortable, but I persisted.  Eventually they came to enjoy my memories and interject their own.  We do indeed have many happy memories and are forging ahead to make new ones.

     We are all fragile in our bereavement, but that does not mean we do not possess inner strength.  Some days, it may be hard to tap into this strength or recognize it at all.  If you are reading this after the death of your child, you do indeed have inner strength.  Please take a moment to validate yourself.

     It may help to sit in a comfortable chair, deep breathe, relax and clear your head.  Concentrate and say to yourself over and over, "I am strong.  I can get through this."  I did this exercise before going out to the party.  If you do this, have courage and explore any thoughts that come up.  These thoughts are something you may want to discuss with a grief counselor  or your support group.  If you don't have either, I strongly urge you to get connected to one and/or the other.  Grief is a journey very difficult to go alone.

     It takes energy and work, as well, to be positive.  But to me, this is energy well spent rather than flailing around in a pit of negativity endlessly.  

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Waiting: Life on Hold after Loss

    I wait for answers, for change, for what I don't know.  The concept of  waiting struck really close to home for me with a Hallmark TV Channel movie this evening.  It was about a woman in World War II who said goodbye to her husband on Valentine's Day, their  wedding anniversary.  He never returned from the war.  MIA.  Every year on Valentine's Day she would return to the train station and wait.  She had gone on with her life, but yet she waited.  As do we all in a way, maybe not consciously.  But, we wait.

     I wish I had a place to wait.  To wait for my son, Chris, to return.  To hear, "Hey Mom," again.  To wake up from a nightmare.  To come out of this parallel universe where parents have lost kids to the regular world of regular parents.  To wait for our time to re-join our children in eternity.  To wait to come out of jumping over the chasm of our world of loss to everyday life.  To wait not to be fragile, but to be a tower of strength.

     It is very hard, each day or some days.  But very hard.  A struggle.  Days or times of grief can come out of the blue.  I sobbed at the beginning of this movie.  I realized how much I miss my Chris.  How hard life is without him and his father.  I know I fill up my pain with food.  Things are made much worse as I have so many regrets about the circumstances surrounding Chris' death.  I came home to find Chris gone.  A note was on the kitchen table saying he had fed the dog.  Nothing else.

     He died alone in a small town by himself in the back yard of the young woman I believe shot him.  He was six hours away from home.  In what I regard as a rotten wasteland of a place in western Pennsylvania.  At times, I am tortured by thoughts and images of what his final moments must have been like.  Did he choke or gasp for air or cry out in pain?  Instead of comforting him this young woman along with someone else cleaned up the shooting scene so a proper investigation could not be done.  She was not mentally ill, but evil.  The product of an evil, corrupt politician father.

     Why do I wait and he was spared?  Why does it seem evil triumphs over good so many times.  Especially in backwater places with inept, inexperienced and corrupt police officials and medical examiners who have forgotten they were sworn to uphold the law.

     Now I am alone to wait for my life to feel better.  The young woman teaches elementary school for her local school system.  A job no doubt arranged by her father who kept all her actions quiet, especially after the state fired her for her conduct.  I wouldn't want her teaching my young child or grandchild.      

     There was never any phone call from the hospital, no call from the local township police, no call from her or her parents.  My local police called the medical examiner who told me not to blame myself and do my best to get over it.  Really.  I wonder if that is what he would do or her father if one of their children got shot and killed.

     Tonight I feel no acceptance or forgiveness.  Only anger and hatred.  God is supposed to see everything.  Perhaps what goes around comes around.  Yes, at this moment, I hate this young woman, her parents, those police and that medical examiner.  I hate the availability of guns.

     With almost daily school shootings, how many more parents will go through what I have been through?  I feel no compassion for this young woman or her parents tonight.  Only for you who have lost your children.

     Yet I know I have to pull it together and wait for a better day tomorrow.  I better pound some pillows and wait for exhaustion to overtake me and anger and hatred to leave me.  More waiting.  

Monday, January 27, 2014

Small Steps Yield Big Gains

     We are now almost at the end of January 2014.  I would like to propose thinking about what the year may hold for you.

     I have set some goals for myself mostly related to my health.  This is important for you, also.  How have you been doing?  Do you eat regularly and try for balance in your food choices?  Do you go to bed at night or stay up and watch TV all night?  Are you sleeping all day?  Maybe checking in with your doctor wouldn't hurt.  You might not have the energy to get there, but go.  I did.  My doctor told me after I had lost both my son and husband, he didn't care how I had to drag myself there, he wanted me in grief counseling every week.  He was right.  I needed it and I went.  I had to.  I had lost my will to live.

     I have joined a weight management support group because my recent weight gain and eating patterns are of great concern to me.  I am not suggesting you try to lose weight now, but try to have a regular meal patterns and eat healthier.  I know I need comfort food, but am trying to avoid junk food bingeing.

     I hope to take a religious tour in September 2014 to Fatima and Lourdes.  I am looking to find more peace-- to put to rest any anger, guilt, resentments or hatred.  If there is somewhere that brings you peace, then I urge you to do what you have to do to get there.

     Writing The Amberella Tales has been very beneficial to me because of including my son in the first and second books and dedicating the first book to him.  I would like to continue the series and possibly publish my third book this year.  But I have to push myself.

     I want you to think how you can move forward even just inches in 2014.  Depending on where you are in your grief journey, the smallest task may seem like climbing a mountain.  And it's okay to feel that way.  But try with something very simple to begin re-claiming your life.  Shower & get dressed everyday, or make your bed or take a walk around the block.  Clean up the house for 15 minutes or do one load of laundry each day.  Anything which gives you some small sense of accomplishment.

     In the two years after Chris died,  I had piles and piles of laundry.  I even went out and bought an extra hamper.  I filled that, too, then piled more laundry on top of it.  I'm not even sure what it all was.  Finally, I had to splurge to get a laundry service to pick it all up, wash it and deliver it back.  I was able to manage to sort it and put it away once the task wasn't so overwhelming.  This was in addition to dishes stacking up in the sink and stuff all over the family room floor.  I know what it can be like when you are trying to survive, but not really living.

     I also had to go back to work and for a short time visit my husband daily in the nursing home.  And you have your obligations, too.  There is work, children, maybe elderly parents.  I know it all makes you collapse and cry.  You have to ask for help or get a cleaning and even laundry service, and order groceries online and have them delivered.  Otherwise, you will feel stressed, guilty and overwhelmed at not being able to get everything done.  The REALITY is you are GRIEVING and CANNOT EXPECT to get it all done.  If you are tending to your personal hygiene, getting to work, caring for other children or grandchildren and getting something to eat together, you are doing super.   If you are at home, pick one thing that bothers you the most and get it done everyday.  You can do it.  It's not easy, but you can do it.

     If you are able to take small steps to start this grieving journey, you will begin to feel better.  Be patient with and good to yourself.  When you start to feel better, you may want to consider something creative that might commemorate you child or something to incorporate your memories.  Some time may have to pass before you are able to do this.

    You can keep a journal which lets you get your feelings out and can help you see your progress.  There is painting, scrapbooking, gardening, quilting and needlework.  Be bold.  Resurrect a dormant skill or try new ones.  Any project in which you memorialize your child will bring you peace.   If you are able, you can volunteer for a cause related to your child's death or establish a fund-raising event for a scholarship or a charity.

     Start with tiny, daily steps.  You can move forward from there to re-claim your life.  It will not be the same, but you can move on from just surviving.  Feel free to comment and let me know how you are doing and what works for you.