Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Bereavement During Illness and Pain

     This season is usually a difficult time of remembrance for me. My son, Chris, died on September 24th followed by the death of my husband, Fred, six weeks later on November 2nd. Then the holidays fast approach. We "should" have feelings of anticipation and joy, not feelings of dread and the loss of someone and something missing. 

     Usually I win the battle of melancholy this time of year by focusing on my blessings and keeping busy on the the people I love who remain. Doing as much as possible for them.

     However, this year has been a challenge due to illness, severe back pain for several months. It seems I have developed a cyst on my upper lumbar spine which is causing pressure, narrowing in the spinal column and a small herniated disc. The pain has been terrible and very inconvenient. It has necessitated three spinal epidural injections and strong pain medication.  Before I could get relief, I got into a very bad depression with some very dark thoughts. I needed counseling and medication.

     I have relied a great deal on prayer to get me through this dark time. Along with prayer I listened to relaxing music, talked to friends, sought professional counseling, stayed persistent with medical intervention and remembered my son and husband. I prayed to them to ask them to get "Mom" through in my moments of worst pain when I thought I couldn't bear it anymore. The pain pills weren't enough. 

     Somehow they did. The spirits of our loved ones are always with us. Watching over us. Taking care of us. I have decisions to make about treatment options. I am sure Chris and Fred will guide me and watch over me there too. 

     To all of you, Be Well! Peace and May You Find Your Own Joy and Blessed Season! 




Thursday, September 24, 2020

Releasing Your Private Pain

     My son, Chris, died 21 years ago on September 24th five days after his 23rd birthday on September 19th.  My grief seemed to hit me particularly hard this year. Maybe it was the effect of the prolonged isolation from COVID-19 and battling another type of infection myself this past week.

     Anyway, it all came to a head when my nephew shared with me some memories he had of Chris. I was so touched that somehow the flood of tears just started to flow. I think of Chris everyday, but I do not cry everyday. That day I did.

     It has been a struggle ever since. Thankfully, my companion/friend understands. He is supportive for which I am very fortunate. He has had loss in his own life, not a child, but he can understand. I am grateful for his love and kindness.

     It is also a relief to be able to write and to put my pain and sorrow into words. Pouring out the words and emotions acts as a release of my private pain. This curbs my desire to run and hide in my closet and go to a dark place alone with my pain. I would be in private with my pain not letting anyone know where I was or how I felt.

     I am sure many of you have had the desire to run and hide. I urge you if you are having a bad time to find someone to talk to or even call your local or National Hotline where you live. In the USA the National Hotline is 1-800-273-TALK. 

     Or do as I am doing. Pour your thoughts out on paper, tablet, phone or computer. Just get them down. You are not being graded on grammar, spelling or punctuation. The important thing is to get your emotions out. Don't be afraid of your tears. They are a necessary release. You can even write a letter to your son or daughter. If you want, you can bury the letter at their grave in the cemetery, place it in his or her room or put it in another safe, private place. 

     Get started doing something. You will feel better taking action rather than doing nothing. May God grant you energy, strength and peace. I am praying for you.  

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Loss of Friendship

     There are many kinds of losses, such as loss of friendship.  Loss of a friendship can be very troubling. Although it is not a death, it can be quite painful and distressing. For the injured party, it raises a lot of questions. Why the end to our friendship? What happened? What did I do?

     I had a dear friend, one of two best friends, who told me in an email after 60 years of friendship that she no longer wished to be my friend. I was devastated. We had shared everything. She was one of the main people who had supported me through the deaths of my son and husband. I pleaded with her to please not do this. To please stay friends with me. 

     However, in her mind I had crossed some sort of social line. I was in a relationship she didn't approve of and therefore, I had to go. End of story.  She explained relationships go through phases and in our case, ours was going in a phase of distancing itself. Distancing after 60 years? Are you kidding me? I was distraught, beside myself. What could I do to fix this?

     Apparently nothing! I wasn't going to end my relationship to please her. And fortunately, I did not as it has worked out very well.  My friendship, though, is still on the ropes. I am hurt beyond words. I miss my friend, spending time with her, her family and being in her home. We used to bake Christmas cookies together every year. She was the baker and I was the assistant. We saw each other every week--lunches, craft shows, designer houses, movies, shopping. Now gone. 

     I won't say over. I know she has a new set of friends. They play bridge and volunteer at her local library. She has a set of friends who pre-dated me. But I don't think any of them had or have the special bond we had. I still have hope she may contact me one day. Who knows. Maybe I will send her an email and see if she responds. If she doesn't, then maybe I will have to acknowledge the loss. Perhaps she has changed and we are indeed no longer friends. Sadly, I will regret that day.

                                           "A friend is one who knows you as you are,
                                             understands you as you have been, accepts
                                             what you have become, and still gently
                                             allows you to grow."
                                                                               William Shakespeare

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Mother's Day Modified

     I started writing this blog in a funk, but ended on a high note. I suppose it is true, "Necessity is the mother of invention," when it comes to creativity. This Mother's Day needed to be modified here to take in feelings of bereavement as well as lockdown regulations.

     For me and for those of you reading this who have lost children, Mother's Day is a difficult holiday. Wishes for a "Happy Mother's Day" though well intentioned kind of cut because for us, how can the day be happy. I feel I should be running to the cemetery instead of getting ready to go out somewhere with family. Well that's the truth.

     However, if you have living children, it is time for a brave face if you can manage it for your children's sakes. I think if you are not newly bereaved, and feel you are able to celebrate within the scope of the lockdown, then do it. No need to feel guilty enjoying yourself. Nowhere is it written you need to feel miserable the rest of your life because you have lost a child. The last one who would want this is the child you lost.

     Your day need not be bitter with thoughts of loss. Here are some suggestions of what to do:
1) Rekindle living memories. Look at photos today to bring back memories for tomorrow; 2) Using Zoom or some other virtual site, have a celebration dinner or cookout at each child's house. Mom can go to one house or house to house. Have a toast to the deceased child; 3) Take a single file walk along a park trail or beach. Each child bring a picture of the deceased child with him or herself and give as a gift to Mom; and 4) Have a parade of cars go by Mom's house with flowers and favorite take-out food, enough for several days. 

     These are just some ideas to brighten your Mother's Day and and include your missing child too. As I have no other children, I think I will spend a quiet day reminiscing with some photos. I will have dinner with my companion and propose a toast to Chris' memory.

     This Mother's Day has released a torrent of emotions for me. Today is the anniversary of my own mother's death 40 years ago. I look upon it with mixed emotions as she was an emotionally abusive mother to me and particularly my sister. I know now she had a borderline personality disorder. I work at forgiving her and pray for her soul. It is not easy to forget many things, but we have to live the life we get. Do I wish things had been different? Yes, but only because I think I might have been a better mother. So it is a double whammy of a weekend for me, but hey the weather is sunny and beautiful. As always, I will come out the other side. Until next week.

     Have the best Mother's Day you can have. God grant you peace and strength.

                                       "Keep your face toward the sunshine----
                                         and the shadows will fall behind you."
                                                                                  Poet Walt Whitman

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Healing Through Hope

     There is some glimmer of hope regarding the corona virus pandemic. Hospital admissions for the virus are starting to decrease around the world and in several epicenters in the United States. This is a small positive break in otherwise what have been steady, daunting statistics. With this break in admissions to the hospital and intensive care units, the numbers of deaths should also start to decrease in two to three weeks as well.

     I am feeling folks breathe a collective sigh of relief worldwide if and when isolation and lockdowns can be lifted. I can imagine church bells ringing in my head because everyone will be overjoyed even if cautiously optimistic. Sunrises will seem more glorious and brighter and sunsets deeper and more beautiful. Children will laugh and play in the streets again. Cars will honk their horns. Basketballs will bounce. Baseballs will crack on bats. Music will blare. The smell of cooking food will permeate the air. Businesses will display open signs. People will happily return to work. Cash drawers will open and close. Traffic will resume. Grocery stores will be well stocked with no waiting lines. Less people will need food banks. Churches, synagogues and mosques will open again.  It may happen gradually, but it will happen.

     We will appreciate these simple things we always took for granted. Maybe that is the message and lesson here. It took a pandemic to make us realize what we can live without. In a sense, the pandemic will be a great equalizer. Do we really need to impress anyone with our things? Do we really need so many things? Do we really need to "see" and "be seen" in so many places or is family time more important? Do we really need the most expensive of everything or is "good enough" good enough? Do we really need to revel in a secular and sexual society for ourselves and our children or would religion and spirituality be more meaningful to our lives. It would indeed be sad to go through such a life altering experience as this pandemic and not come out a changed person for the better.

     Let us all hope and pray for those joyous days signaling our release come sooner than later. Until then, we must remain vigilant so they do in fact come. Keep your mind's eye on those new sunrises and sunsets to come. Listen for those church bells announcing our release from this enemy pandemic. We can do this. Keep the faith and fight on one and all. Keep hope alive. We can heal in many ways.

                             "Just living is not enough...One must have sunshine, freedom
                                                and a little flower."        Hans Christian Andersen

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Help for Corona Virus Grief & Loss

     "I'm sorry," the doctor always says. Today these words are being repeated in staggering, overwhelming numbers to parents, spouses, siblings, children and friends. Add to that families and friends cannot be with their ill loved ones during their illnesses or final moments. Funerals cannot be the same if at all.

     The shocking and devastating news continues for parents who have lost a child, spouses who have lost a soul mate, children who have lost a father or mother, sisters or brothers who have lost one another. It is difficult to comprehend the worldwide numbers let alone the personal and social consequences to come.

     Those of you left behind must be asking yourselves how could this happen to your loved ones? Of all the things that could go wrong in life among the tragedies and diseases, how could a pandemic of this magnitude strike? Who would have this on their list of things that might happen to themselves or a loved one???!!!

     We may never really know how this corona virus actually started or how it originally escaped. That is not something to which I have the answer. But what can you do if you have been affected by the loss of your loved one? I know you are feeling lost, numb and adrift and perhaps angry. It may be difficult to grieve as you may be isolated from those who would be most able to support you. I would recommend the following:

     *Do not be totally alone all the time. If you are not with your spouse, try to be with a trusted family member or friend some of the time.

     *Accept help such as cooked meals, grocery shopping, child care, laundry, dog walking, housekeeping, etc.

     *Eat, exercise, shower, walk, rest and try to keep a schedule

     *Write down your thoughts and feelings just to get them out. Don't worry about grammar and spelling. Do this everyday.

     *Write a letter to your loved one to say good-bye. You can bury it at the cemetery at the grave in the future or not.

     *Cry. Pound the bed pillows. Scream in the shower. Get your feelings out.

     *If you feel a lot of anger or blame, it might be helpful to actually list in writing all individuals or factors in whom you blame then put this aside somewhere private and safe.  When this blame and anger starts swirling in your head, remind yourself you have done this and it is tucked safely away for the time being. 

     *If you know someone else who has lost a loved one through corona virus, stay in touch. It is important to relate to people with similar experiences. If you know more than one person you may even want you try to form a phone or virtual group. Maybe there is a hospital social worker who could help you if several of you were acquainted through the hospital.

     *Reach out for help if you feel the need. You can call your primary care doctor for a referral to a professional counselor or agency. Or reach out to your local county or state mental health departments. Now during this time, many counties and states are advertising crisis phone lines during corona virus briefings. U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-TALK. Do not be afraid or ashamed to ask for help. Grief is not a journey you can make alone.
     *Pray even if you are not any particular faith. This is a time when being spiritual can bring you great comfort. Many religious services are being streamed and taped and are or TV. Now would be a good time to reach out to see if you would find some comfort. 

     My sincere sympathy, condolences and prayers to all individuals and families worldwide affected by this pandemic. May a merciful God be with you to support, strengthen and heal you. May God continue to strengthen and protect all first responders, health care personnel, hospital workers, medical researchers, essential workers and our leaders worldwide. 

                          "There are things we don't want to happen but have to accept,  
                            things we don't want to know but have to learn,
                            and people we can't live without but have to let go."
                                                                                                 Author Unknown


Saturday, March 14, 2020

Final Moments

    I was not with my son, Chris, when he died. Contemplating Chris' final moments was a heart wrenching thing to come to terms with. He was shot. Neither I nor anyone else was physically there to comfort him as he lay dying. I felt terrible guilt and anguish about this for a long time. What kind of mother was I to not be there for my son?

     I can only hope his physical pain was fleeting. That faith brought him comfort in his fear. I wonder if he knew he was dying. Maybe it went so fast, he didn't have time to know. Who finally brought me comfort was Sister Dolores, the pastoral care counselor, in my bereavement support group. Sister Dolores says that no one ever dies alone. That the "spirits" always come to be with the dying person.

     I believe this. My deceased parents loved Chris so much as a child. I am sure they were there to be with him as he lay dying and to accompany his soul to heaven or beyond. This brings me great solace. I often feel my parents presence in my life before times of trouble as if to tell me things will be all right ahead of time. When they come, I know to expect a storm, but that I will weather it. So I know they saved my Chris from being alone.

     I also had a previous experience with this when my mother-in-law died. I was not with her, but had a vision of my father coming down a beautiful staircase surrounded by clouds. I took note of the time. She died later that evening. When my husband described her death, he told me the exact same time when he felt her life or spirit had left her body even though she was not physically dead. It was the same time I had noted when I had envisioned my father.

     Another piece of wisdom from Sister Dolores. The soul often leaves the body before actual physical death so there is no longer physical suffering or torment in the way that we imagine. I hope this can be of comfort to many of you.

     Dying is over for our children. They are at peace from any suffering, evil, injustice, horror or unknown. They are well and happy now and bathed in a beautiful light we can hardly imagine. They are with family. Their ordeal is over. Let your ordeal be over. Scream and let your anger out. Pound pillows and the bed. Let those final moments end in your head.

                     ___________Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.________
                                                                                           Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday, March 6, 2020

Effective Ways to Grieve

     Grieving is a necessary part of healing after losing a child. It is said there is no right or wrong way to grieve as grieving is a very personal issue. I am going to agree with that up a point in that I will say there are ways to grieve that can bring about healing and ways that may not so much.

     What do I mean? Time does help heal wounds, but denial does not. If you sit on the couch and refuse to recognize your own feelings or talk about what has happened because you fear the the flood of tears, this is a sign you need to talk and cry. You are not being strong you are being stoic. The emotion has to come out intense as it may be. If need be, sit with a trusted relative or friend, but let your thoughts and feelings out. Or do it alone. Pound the bed pillows. Cry. Get it all out. Grief is an interactive process. Then rest. Have tea. Take a warm bath. Sleep. Call someone. You have taken a big step in your grief journey. It could happen again, but that's all right. You are getting stronger. You can go on.

     There may be other times you simply, as I call it, "go to a dark place." Don't be afraid and don't fight it. Just go with it. Stay there for a few hours or a day. If you want, call someone to be with you or call someone to talk to. No long explanations. You just need some company or to hear another voice. Or if you prefer and feel safe, stay alone. Try not to stay like this for more than one day. Reach out for help if you are having trouble coming around either to a friend or relative or someone in your support group.

     If you ever have feelings if wanting to harm yourself to join your child, then you must get immediate help. Call your doctor, 911 or go to the nearest hospital emergency room. In the United States, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-TALK. If you are feeling this way you should not be alone. Follow the directions of whomever you call for emergency help. Call a family member, loved one or close friend to be with you. Please do not give up. This is not what your child would want. Please get help. This is not the time for going alone or false pride. You can go on to have a meaningful life, one your child would be proud of.

     The grieving process has to be effective to help you heal, but safe to preserve your life when necessary. Grieving takes hard work and courage. It is something you must decide to do. It doesn't magically happen without effort on your part. That is why support groups and/or professional grief counselors are necessary also. This is not a journey you can make alone. You must be able to relate to other who have experienced the the same loss as you.

     May you find empathy, courage and support on your journey. God bless.


Friday, February 28, 2020

Are You Angry at God

     When your child died as a result of a crime or tragedy, you can be very angry at God for allowing evil and misfortune in the world and for not being there to protect your child. Or if your child died of a serious illness, you can be very angry at God for striking down your child, for not answering your prayers and for the limits of medical science.

     Why you may ask is evil in the world? Why were my prayers not answered? Why my child? Why is there no cure for that disease? Why God? Why? I can only tell you what I concluded long ago. Evil, corruption, disease and lack of knowledge are all part of the human condition here on earth. An earthly condition in which we are not guaranteed perfection during our existence. We live imperfect lives in an imperfect world. If you believe in the Bible, this can be traced back to the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

     So, what to do? You can go on being angry at God for what might be the sins and/or shortcomings of man. Perhaps this deserves some thought. Might you consider offering a prayer for enlightenment to somehow get over this great hump of anger. To see your way clear to some peace of mind. To some sort of forgiveness you can live with. If you feel you are able, I urge you to start here because anger is very debilitating physically and emotionally. Your prayer need not be anything fancy. Just a simple, "I'm here, God. Help me not be angry at You. Amen"

     Man is composed of body, mind and spirit or soul all of which must be nourished. Without God or a Higher Power the soul/spirit cannot be nourished. I believe this lack of nourishment leads to anxiety and depression and a host of other problems as our society becomes increasingly secular and even atheistic.

     Children and teens, in my opinion, are particularly vulnerable to this lack of of nourishment of the spirit. Without prayer and organized religion, children and teens seem to lack faith, hope, caring for one another and a strong conscience. I think this contributes to anxiety, depression, stress and a host of problems starting with bullying.

     I believe evil can flourish where the spirit is not nourished with God or a Higher Power. If you blame God for what happened to your child, look at how much of society has rejected God. Look at the universe. May you find peace and strength and God again if you choose to do so. Amen.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Aftermath of the Worst Loss and Pain

     A conversation with a social worker friend of mine caused me to wonder how much I have changed since my son Chris died suddenly at he age of 23 under mysterious and violent circumstances.

     For lack of something better to call it, I think I definitely suffered from "compassion fatigue" soon after his death. I was in a general bereavement support group where people had lost elderly parents and elderly spouses which they were having difficulty coping with. I would think to myself these are natural losses to be expected. These people were so much better off than me because they still had children and grandchildren. Why weren't they counting their blessings instead of whining here?

     I wanted to scream at them, "Get over it! I lost a child! You want to know what pain is!" At that particular time, I couldn't relate to their pain when I believed I had suffered the worst loss and worst pain imaginable. I think I get no argument there.

     Needless to say, I did not stay in that group. I found another although general bereavement group with a spiritual agenda led by a nun with a degree in pastoral care. In the group were other parents who had lost children so the losses were more evenly dispersed. It is always important in groups to be able to relate to other people who have had similar losses and experiences to yours. If you are looking for a support group for only parents who have lost children, then I suggest Compassionate Friends.

     But I have to say my empathy is still with parents and children, cancer patients, the terminally ill, chronically ill, the plight of too many disabled and homeless military veterans and long-term caregivers. Maybe being actively involved in nursing for 49 years contributed to my fatigue. I have heard so many tragic stories and witnessed so many tragic events especially abused and neglected children. The neurotic and mundane fail to move me.

     You might think after what has happened to me, everything would move me, but it doesn't. Perhaps, I have had to become harder to preserve myself from my own pain. Or now I know as you do, dearest readers, what the worst pain is.

     May the Lord bring you His peace.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Closure and Other Grief Myths

     Closure, a time table for grief and a proper way to grieve are all society's preconceived notions about grief. All of which you discover are very wrong when you lose someone close to you, especially your child. As I quoted William Shakespeare last week, "Everyone can master grief, but he who has it."

     Let's look at our first topic, closure. If your child died as a result of a criminal act, perhaps there can be closure to the crime if the crime is solved and the perpetrator is charged and punished. But closure to his or her death, I do not believe so.

     I believe closure was a concept thought of by a psychologist who had never lost anyone close to them. Any death leaves unwritten chapters of a book, even more so that of a child. You just can't ever close that book and end it. Too many unwritten chapters about developmental milestones, graduations, dating, marriage, career and their own children. Robbed of all this and you as participant in it and witness to it. Closure? I don't think so. It does not exist.

     Now, next a time table for grief. I had a woman ask me after I had lost both my son and husband within six weeks of each other, "Well, it's been a year. You're over all that by now, aren't you?" I think she saw by the the shocked look on my face as I sputtered out, "It's a lot to get over in a year," she had obviously said the wrong thing.

     But one year seems to be society's expectation for you to get over your grief. When actually for a spouse, it is more like seven years and for a child, it is more like never even though you can find ways of coping with your grief. Your grief will not always be with you in the numbing and paralyzing initial way it is when your child first died, but you will always carry some grief in your heart as you will always carry your child in your heart. I am suggesting the following of my previous blogs as ways of suggesting coping with grief:

     My Twelve Steps to Tackle Grief
     Letting Go of Shadows
     A Secret Life
     Getting Through Tough Times

     Finally, society wants to force expectations on ways to grieve as well. A big one is to not talk about your child as it is too "upsetting." For whom? I would say find sympathetic ears where you can share memories or the circumstances of your child's death. You need to vent, possibly in a support group. There are specific support groups as well that deal with death by drugs or suicide or homicide or mental illness.  As well as MADD for death brought about by drunk driving. It is important to connect with people who have had experiences similar to yours so you do not feel isolated. Wherever possible, I would recommend choosing a support group with a professionally trained leader. If groups don't work for you then, consider professional counseling. This is not a journey you can go alone.

     Other expectations revolve around anger and forgiveness. You should or shouldn't be angry. You should or shouldn't forgive. Anger is a normal reaction to the loss of a child. You can experience it in many ways and for several reasons. I deal with this in two previous blogs which you may find helpful to read:

     Anger and Forgiveness
     A Path to Forgiveness

     Also, it is important not to turn to addictions to food, alcohol, drugs or sex. These are not healthy coping mechanisms. While they may help you forget, They will not move you forward or help you heal or maintain other healthy relationships.

     These are three of society's expectations. But what matters is what you expect of yourself. Don't measure yourself by others or by society. Be good to yourself. Don't isolate yourself. Peace and God bless.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Who Missed Chris' Funeral

    Funerals honor the living as well as the dead. I came to this realization clearly today when for some reason I started thinking about my son Chris' funeral. I remembered who was there, but more than that I was hurt as I remembered who was not there.

     This reminded of the words of Sister Dolores, a pastoral care nun, in my bereavement support group long ago. Sister Dolores stated it does not matter how many flowers, cards or memorials you send. What families remember most is your presence. .whether or not you come to services to express you condolences personally. Perhaps you had a similar experience or feelings to mine with your child's funeral.

     I know I don't remember everyone who was at Chris' funeral, but I remember past friends and classmates, former teachers, old neighbors, moms who car pooled, co-workers of mine who did not attend either viewing or the funeral mass. The first viewing was on a Sunday evening.

     Some I knew had to do with work and attending the funeral itself during working hours. Schools wouldn't pay to cover employees for substitutes for personal or funeral time. Others I am left to wonder why. Maybe they, "couldn't handle it." I am glad no one gave this excuse to me as I am not sure what my response would be. Good question maybe for "Dear Abby."

     Funerals are not easy for anyone most especially a parent numb with grief burying a child. After the experience of losing my son and husband, I cannot go to a visitation or funeral service by myself. I need to go with someone else for moral support.

     I recognize though it is necessary to go to acknowledge to the bereaved family their love and respect for their beloved deceased even if I didn't know the person that well or had lost touch. Or if it was someone for whom I had affection, to show my own love and respect along with the family for the dear person who has died. Does it bring back memories? Yes

     I would say if you buried your son or daughter recently, it is probably too soon to go to another funeral unless you absolutely feel you must for a very close family member or friend. Otherwise, use your own judgement to determine the situation and your readiness. Go with someone and keep it of short duration. And by all means, if a professional counselor advises against going, do not go.

     As for me and my feelings of disappointment towards the people I didn't see at Chris' funeral, maybe it is part of the grieving process. I came across an interesting quote just yesterday:

                                  "Everyone can master grief, but he who has it."
                                                                                      William Shakespeare


Saturday, February 1, 2020

Setting Things Straight

     The recent and tragic deaths of beloved basketball legend Kobe Bryant, his lovely daughter and seven other beautiful souls shocked the world. It gives us pause and fills us with awe as we remember the words of the good book, "We know not the day nor the hour."

     For us as parents who have already lost children, it brings back many painful memories. We can relate as two other teenage girls were killed in that terrible accident along with Bryant's daughter--one young lady with her parents and the other sweet girl who was not accompanied by a parent.

     The shock of this tragedy set me to further thinking how since life is so unpredictable and our futures are not guaranteed, we need to examine our relationships. Are they in order or in a state of neglect or worse yet, estranged?

     Can we afford to spend time away from those who would like to support us in our grief? Can we try to maintain some contact and not isolate ourselves in our sorrow and our anger? No big social events. Take a walk around the block. Talk to a neighbor or two. Answer the phone, an email, a text. Go out to lunch if someone asks you. Go to a different church with a friend if going to your own church makes you cry. Do these small things as it is not good to be alone.

     Can we afford to let more sunsets go down on our anger with one or more individuals and let our wounds fester? Can we reach out with an apology to straighten things out before it might be too late. A phone call, a letter, an email--if not reciprocated, at least you know you tried.

     Can we afford to let old friendships and relationships die of neglect only to regret later we hadn't got back in touch to revive old memories and good feelings. We all need love and good times and lasting memories. You never know where you can find a revived friendship and mutual source of support in a difficult world. No harm in reaching out.

     May God guide you in your quest and bring you love and support.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Grief Takes Courage

     There is no right or wrong way to grieve. Everyone's grieving process is different. Nor is there a time table for grief. Sadly though, there is reality and the demands of living that intrude upon the grieving process and jolt you back to numbly performing tasks.

     You have lost a child and are falling apart. Yet you have other relationships---a marriage or significant other, children, a job, a home to be maintained and daily chores. Yes, get as as much help for as long as you can. Eventually, though you will be "expected" to return to "normal" whatever that is after losing a child.

     So begins your double life. Trying to smile on the outside---pretending everything is all right while you have this tremendous hole in your heart. I know from experience you would much rather isolate yourself from the world and be left in peace to mourn your child, to cry, to visit the cemetery and to sit and be alone with your memories. Would that it could be so.

     This is where you have to muster all your courage and it is courage to go on with your life. After My son died, I took as much time as I could from work, but out of necessity had to return. I continued to work for two more years after my son and husband died until I retired.

     I'd like to tell you a story to illustrate my point about courage. I worked for a very large urban school district as a school nurse mainly in high school with high risk teens for 24 years. At my retirement luncheon my principal, a former National Football League player who played for the New England Patriots, remarked that it took courage to play professional ball. He went on to say it took real courage after what I went through to come into work everyday and do it with a smile no less. How much those words touched my heart and remain with me today.

     So I salute you my fellow parents who are managing to do the same and not realizing how truly courageous you are. How proud your children must be of you. You have come a long way

     For you parents whose loss is more recent and still not getting out much or returning to work, you may need to give it more time. It may just be too soon for you. You will sense when the time is right. If it has been several months and you are not able to get out, cope with daily routines, family responsibilities or work and you are not in a support group or receiving professional counseling, I urge you to seek help. This is not a journey to go alone.

     May God grant us all courage and strength.   

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Were You a Good Enough Parent?

     Pediatrician Donald Winnicott has a theory that parents don't have to be perfect and that in fact it is better for the child if they are not. He subscribes to the theory that the "good enough" parent is good enough for the child and far better for their emotional development.

     Expounding on his beliefs, he goes on to say parents natural nurturing of children is what is good rather than the intrusion of substituting professional expertise. Along this line is the fear that children have to be protected from everything negative within you and within the world. Children have to understand that you are human and you have limits and the world has limits.

     Otherwise, Dr. Winnicott says the child would go on to live in a fantasy and not develop emotionally. He calls these limits the "good enough environmental provision." This fits into the recent discussions on self blame and self forgiveness.

     If you think you weren't a good enough parent for your now deceased child when he or she was growing up, maybe you need to re-examine this. If you think you didn't do enough to protect your child, maybe you need to re-examine this. If you think you didn't do enough when you child was ill, maybe you need to re-examine this.

     How high have you set the bar? None of us is perfect or super human. We cannot control the actions of others or be in two places at one time. Ask yourself were you good enough? Is it time to forgive yourself? I believe with all my heart your child understands and God understands.


Friday, January 10, 2020

A Path to Forgiveness

                 "A stone is heavy and sand is weighty, but anger is heavier than them both."
                                                                              Book of Proverbs, Chapter 27

     The loss of your child usually causes feelings of anger towards yourself, others or even your child. So begins the process of forgiveness in order to resolve this anger. Speaking from personal experience, the hardest of all is to forgive yourself. 

      Let me start by going to my favorite resource, Kathleen O'Hara in "A Grief Like no Other," and telling you what forgiveness does not mean. She says what is does not mean is reconciliation with an individual(s) or condoning an action or event or forgetting what happened or pardoning what was done. She goes on to say what forgiveness does mean is finding ways of living with an event so it will not destroy you.

     I can give you some examples. Suppose you feel as I did and Kathleen O'Hara did that she should have been a better parent. Or you feel you should have recognized your child's illness sooner or done a better job of protecting him or her. You can do as I did and write a letter to your child and state your heartfelt feelings. This is what I did and buried the letter at the cemetery along with my feelings in order to forgive myself. Kathleen O'Hara says she went to the cemetery and and spoke to her son and asked his forgiveness and she left it there. Perhaps with some thought, you can come up with a similar way fo making peace and amends with your child even in your child's room or at a memorial for your child.

    Suppose you have a sticky problem of having to forgive your child because your child died doing something you did not approve of which caused you additional heartache and anger. Well, I've got you covered. I had told my son, Chris, not to go back to a certain city far from our home to see a young woman he had broken up with because I felt his life was in danger. He didn't listen. He went back one day while I was at work. I couldn't get in touch with him when I got home that evening. He was killed later that night.

     I admit I was angry at Chris for not listening to me and leaving me. His father died six weeks after Chris died. I was beside myself. It was a full 18 months later when a friend told me about a Catholic radio show. I called in and told the priest what happened and how I was having a hard time forgiving my son for not listening to me. He said he would pray for me and my son. I felt like a great weight had been lifted from me when I publicly acknowledged my burden.  I knew someone finally understood. I knew God understood and someone would be praying for me. I learned later it is called giving public testimony much like 12 step programs or support groups. A solution can be as simple as a sympathetic ear or more sophisticated as in professional counseling. The important thing is to open up.

     Perhaps you are angry at medical personnel, the justice system or a criminal perpetrator. As I alluded to above, the key is to find a solution you can live with and not to stew in silence.  Whether you take private legal action, channel your energies into a cause, find a support group or victim assistance network such as NOVA or Compassionate Friends or MADD.  I know there are support groups through medical examiner's and coroner's offices. Often district attorneys and detectives assigned to criminal cases can put you in touch with support groups. You have to take some action for your child's sake and your sake to find that path to forgiveness and discharge your anger.

     Paths to forgiveness are different lengths and different routes, but nonetheless necessary to travel so we are not destroyed by tears of bitterness. We all came to be here by one common, fateful denominator. One thing I am confident of is that our children want us to go on with some measure of peace in our hearts. May God grant us that one thing.


Saturday, January 4, 2020

Anger and Forgiveness

     I apologize for being out of touch. I was away for receiving an award for Empowered Woman of the Year from the International Association of Top Professionals. As soon as I got back, I got a nasty attack of gout. I have been in very bad pain and not up to writing. So sorry. Feeling much better now and back with you though you have always been in my thoughts and prayers, dear fellow parents.

     During my hiatus, a friend gave me a book, "The Dash: Making a Difference with Your Life" by Linda Ellis and Mac Anderson. It talks about what matters is not your birth and death dates but the Dash in between or what you do with the intervening years of your life.

     It seems appropriate to our discussion here because in a sense we have another big Dash to fill. What will we do with our lives from the time our children die until we die. It may be many intervening years. Or will our lives end with theirs?

     For all of us that fateful day, we felt the life drain out of us. Never to return for some of us. Part way to return for the rest of us to go on. We were all left grasping onto our Dashes as best we can.

     Many things can get in your way. Anger, inability to forgive, loneliness, isolation and lack of support and understanding. If the death of your child in any way involves wrongdoing, blame and anger, your must find a path to forgiveness. No one wants to be around a bitter and angry person.

          "Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future."
                                                                                                                      Paul Boese

     If anger and blame are holding you back, consider forgiveness so you can move forward with your Dash. God grant us all peace and strength in the New Year.