Friday, October 18, 2019

The Flame Within

         It is a beautiful Fall day in Bucks County PA even though it is brisk and windy. I would like to be out walking, but neck and back problems preclude my walking very much these days. Makes me miss my son, Chris, who was always very perceptive. He would no doubt have something philosophic to say to lift my spirits about my situation. And walk the dog if she were still around.

        That being said, I do have something or someone to share with you. After being alone for 17 years, I now have a wonderful gentleman friend in my life who has been a tremendous support to me in many ways, especially emotionally. Like me, he lost his wife of many years after taking care of her for a prolonged illness. He has six children and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren. This relationship is wrapping me in warmth and family again.

        No one can ever replace Chris or Fred or be my own grandchildren. However, I am not isolated. Isolation is the nemesis of grief. You have read this here before. Do NOT isolate yourself. I am not saying get on a dating service and get a significant other. Nor do you need to subject yourself to individuals who are annoying, hurtful or unhelpful. But a supportive system of family and friends is needed. If people offer gestures of help, try to be gracious. Don't push them away even though you really don't feel like being around anyone. 

        In the early phases of your grief, do not refuse to ask for help with the myriad of daily tasks that present themselves like mountains to climb. Everything from just someone sitting with you, to meal preparation, to laundry to walking the dog and grocery shopping. If people hadn't come forward for me and prepared food and gone grocery shopping, I think I would have would not have eaten.

        Once you accept the help of a few people, it builds a network for the future should you need it. I can't emphasize the importance of this enough. Being with people forces us to find inner strength and realize we can carry on. This flame of strength carries on for longer and longer periods of time and gradually you will get stronger. You will still find alone time to grieve, but that is not all you should do, even if that is all you feel like doing. If you are a person of faith, I recommend prayer when alone, even if you have to express anger at God at times. 

         Be not afraid. God or your Higher Power is always with you even though you may feel abandoned. Tell Him how you feel. If you are lonely, despairing, angry, distraught, say so in your prayer.  Family and friends are beside you. They may not know what to say or how to say, but mostly have good intentions. None of us can handle the loss of our child alone. All of had to and still have to reach out for support and guidance. Be not afraid. 



Saturday, October 12, 2019

Nostalgia Brings Tears and Laughter

      I have been away after a long absence of not feeling as if I had anymore to say about grief and parental bereavement. I had to have multiple surgeries for breast cancer. My self-image changed. I was depressed. I didn't feel I could really write and give advice anymore. But friends, family and colleagues have had faith in me so here I am again. I came across this draft and feel it is still relevant as September is always a difficult month for me. It is the month of my son Chris' birthday and 5 days later, the anniversary of his death.
      Looking back, I had had a teary night after a very rough two days.  I had bought a new car and immediately started having problems with it.  Even though the problems had been repaired and resolved,  I still felt very alone one night.  To make matters worse, the following Saturday was the anniversary of my husband Fred's death.  He had been very ill and died six weeks after our son, Chris, died.

     Chris assumed his father's role of keeper of the cars when my husband became ill.  The year after Chris died I cancelled eight appointments to have my state inspection done on my car as it was too painful an association to Chris.  Now, I can look back on this with humor.  I recall how I tearfully explained this to a very young police officer who stopped me for my car being several months out of inspection.  As the officer listened to my story, I could see the anxiety and confusion on his face. He attempted to reassure me with a warning only.  He kept backing away from me to his patrol car.  It is a very vivid memory to me.  He was clearly uncomfortable with my loss and crying.

     As was his colleague, a detective in the same department.  I went to my local police for them to intercede with the police department in the jurisdiction where my son was killed.  I tearfully told my story there too.  The detective did help me, but he didn't want me and my tears sticking around.

     And so it goes.  I really miss them both with nostalgia and an aching heart.  And I miss my dog, Amber, too.  She was with me through everything.  I think I slept with a pillow from Chris' bed and one from Amber that night.

     Sometimes only your memories can sustain you.  I felt very restless that night.  I wished I could have reached out and touched all three.  Had a conversation with them to assure me of their happiness.  I knew they were no longer suffering pain, embarrassment, insecurity or frustration.  They love and are loved by God.

     Through my own fog at times, I can still assure you of this same love surrounding your children.  I believe they are all right as is my Chris.  I miss him terribly but, I do have faith in his immortality. Yes, I did have a brief moment  when I wanted to join Chris, Fred and Amber.  But only briefly, as I know my life and my work are not yet finished on earth.

     This is why, to me, it is important to transform grief into purpose.  This takes time.  Time to accept, forgive and find reasons for gratitude in your life.  All of which, only you can internalize before the pain of grief can be transformed to nostalgic purpose.  It is not a straight, one way line.  You will often go back and forth depending on birthdays, holidays and anniversaries of death.  The important thing, though, is you have more and longer periods of moving forward. Be patient with yourself, your spouse, your kids.

     What helped me to progress, was psychologist and bereaved parent, Kathleen O'Hara's book,  A Grief Like No Other.   If you don't read the whole book or can't read it all, it is still worth getting.  You can page through and just read what you connect with. A key point in the book is acceptance. That is, we as parents must accept what has happened, in order to move forward through any denial, anger, forgiveness and a myriad of emotions. O'Hara goes through the steps and techniques to arrive at acceptance. May God guide you with peace and strength on your journey.