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.