Sunday, May 1, 2016

Upcoming Summer Events

TAPS is holding their 22nd annual national military survivor seminar May 27-30 in Arlington, Virginia. It is a time of connection, reflection and inspiration as survivors share their grief journeys. They have many events going on. The Good Grief Camp for children is full but a wait list is available. They have launched a mobile app which can be downloaded to your mobil device. Through the app, you can access events, session schedules, seminars and information about off-site activities. For first time attendees, TAPS is hosting four online video chats prior to the seminar. You can register for this by sending an email to kellie@taps.org and receive a link to attend the chat. Finally, they will be launching an online blog for Memorial Day weekend and invites you to share your story. Send the stories to chelsea@taps.org by May 13. You can also share a photo or short video or a memory or note with them on social media by using the hashtag #GratefulNation. TAPS also has information on new care groups, running with team TAPS racers, and online peer groups. This is a valuable organization for all military survivors.

Bereaved Parents USA’s conference is July 1-3 at the Wyndham Indianapolis West Hotel in Indianapolis, IN. Hotel rate is $105. Mail a photo of your child in advance for a slideshow and candlelight ceremony. Bring more than one photo to make items in memory of your child. Love in Motion, a choir that does sign language to music will be featured. Many workshops for both childless parents and those with surviving children will be held

Compassionate Friends is holding their national conference this year in Scottsdale, AZ at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess Hotel July 8-10. Registration is $90. Events such as workshops, sharing sessions, a butterfly wonderland trip, evening events, and a special visit from Olivia Newton John, Amy Sky and Beth Nielsen Chapman highlight the event. Workshops will be held each day for both childless parents and those with surviving children. Check with the hotel for room rates and availability.


Parents of Murdered Children Conference will hold their 30th national conference July 21-24 at the Sheraton Lake Buena Vista Resort in Orlando, FL. The conference is designed for families and friends of those who have died by violence. It is a weekend of workshops, motivational speakers, sharing and interacting. It is open to all survivors, advocates, criminal justice professionals, legislators, victim service providers, educators and anyone interested in victim justice. Rooms are $99 per night which includes a resort fee of $19.95. Registration includes most meals, conference memorial book and a tote.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Memories of Our Loved Ones

We all have memories of our loved ones who are alive and especially those who have died. At first, after the death, you won’t be able to concentrate enough to remember much of anything. It will take time to get through the first few steps of your grief journey. You need to get through the anger, shock and bitterness that this has happened to you.

Once you feel comfortable with that, think about memories of your loved one. They can be funny stories, sad events, something that made you so proud, some achievement or some award won. Ask relatives to relate to you something they may remember that you can write down and come back to when the time is right. Ask friends if your child did anything for that friend that they thought was very nice, a holiday related story, an activity or a school event. And in particular, ask her friends what they remember the most about her/him. You’d be surprised how many different responses you’ll get.

Write it all down, until you get about 50 or more memories that contribute to the overall feeling of warmth within you when you think of your child. Keep all these memories so you can look back at them and not forget everything your child did, not only for you or your family, but for others as well and how much they were appreciated and loved.

A few memories come to mind about my daughter, Marcy. She never bragged about them. They were just a natural part of her being and she did them, as she did everything, with love and grace.

I remember a few weeks before she died, California, and specifically the Sherman Oaks area where she lived, had a severe earthquake in January 1994. She called me at 6:30 a.m. to let me know she was under the kitchen table and everything was all right. I laughed since I was asleep and didn’t even know there had been an earthquake. At her funeral, the mother of one of her friend came up to me and said, “I wanted you to know that you had a very special daughter. She found my phone number in Tucson and called me within an hour of the earthquake to let me know that my daughter was safe and sound on the East Coast where she had gone for a short trip. She didn’t want me to worry about not hearing from her after the earthquake. I thanked her profusely, since indeed, I would have worried. She was a very considerate, special person.” Tears came to my eyes. Oh yes, that was something my daughter would have done for a friend without the friend even telling her to do it! I treasure that memory.

In another incident, this one when she was in high school, my daughter was the champion of the lonely, of the new student no one wanted to talk to, and of the underdog in any situation. One day when I came home, she was entertaining someone I had never met before (and I knew all her friends). She introduced us; I could see the girl was very shy and I could hear Marcy telling her what to expect during the year, how others might treat her, but not to worry. She would eventually fit in, and sure enough, by the time she became a senior, this new student was Homecoming Queen. I’m sure my daughter was a big part of helping her achieve that.

Finally, when my daughter and her roommate went to buy a lamp for their living room in Los Angeles, her friend offered to repay Marcy’s kindness of letting her stay with her for many months before moving in permanently, by taking out her credit card first and offering it to the cashier. VISA was having a contest and the long and short of what happened was that the roommate’s purchase won her $1 million. When I heard the story, I said, “Aren’t you jealous that it wasn’t your VISA card that purchased the lamp?” “Oh, no,” Marcy said. “I’m happy for her. She needed the money much more than I did.” Such a non-selfish answer, I thought. Would I have felt the same way? Somehow, I doubt it.

These are the types of memories that keep me going in my darkest hours, even after all these years. I’m sure your memories can do the same for you. Start writing and who knows, you may find your heart warming, the sadness lifting and your smile coming back as you remember your child.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Please Let Me Mourn

I’ve never lost a child before, and I don’t understand all these emotions I am feeling. Will you try to understand and help me?

Please let me mourn. I may act and appear together, but I am not. Often times it hurts so much I can hardly bear it.

Please let me mourn. Don’t expect too much from me. I will try to help you know what I can and cannot handle. Sometimes I am not always sure.

Please let me mourn. Let me talk about my child. I need to talk. It’s part of the healing. Don’t pretend nothing has happened. It hurts terribly when you do. I love my child bery much, and my memories are all I have now. They are very precious to me.

Please let me mourn. Sometimes I cry and act differently, but it is all part of the grieving. My tears are necessary and needed and should not be held back. It even helps when you cry with me. Please don’t fear my tears.

Please let me mourn. What I need most is your friendship, your sympathy, your prayers, your support and your understanding love. I am not the same person I was before my child died, and I never will be. Hopefully, we can all grow from this shared tragedy.

Please let me mourn. God gives me strength to face each day and the hope that I will survive with His help and yours. Time will heal some of the pain, but there will always be an empty place in my heart.

Please let me mourn. Please let me mourn and thank you for helpling me through the most difficult time of my life.

by Lonnie Forland, TCF, Northwood, IA. Found in the Livonia, Michigan Newsletter

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Write Your Heart Out During Grief

For many years I have told the bereaved to sit down and write your heart out. You’ll feel better if you do. And sure enough, people have come back to me and said that it felt good to get their feelings on paper and look back at them. Some are surprised at how much they wrote, thinking they didn’t have much to say. Others felt it helped get them through the worst part of their grief. They jotted notes and recollections of a life well-lived, giving as much detail as possible. Many published what they wrote.

I remember after my daughter died, I also wrote a lot about my feelings at the time. As time passed, I realized going back and looking at it, that I would never have remembered all the anger, the devastation, and the hurt I experienced. But having it in front of me, it all came back.

I kept notes, typed them up, expanded on my thoughts, and by then had enough for the beginnings of a book. Author Martha Whitmore Hackman, said in her book “Healing After Loss,” “The important thing for most of us is not that we have made something of artistic value, but that we have taken a grief that lies like a lump against our hearts, and moved it away from us.”

I desperately wanted to know how others dealt with the death of a child and began an interviewing schedule that took two years before I had enough to compile into a book. I interviewed bereaved parents who had lost a child of any age, any background and for any reason. They told their story and how they have moved on with their lives. I then did an observation of each one and wrote a little more about some aspect of their loss. For example, if a child died of an illness and the parents decided to donate his/ her organs, I wrote about how people can get involved in organ donations.
I
 had no idea how to put this all together, so I went to the Maui Writer’s Conference, interviewed with agents there and got some wonderful ideas to improve what I had. There are many different conferences throughout the year that one can go to. I was told at the one I attended that a child’s death was not a topic that would appeal to enough people for a big publishing house (even though I knew the statistic that 20 percent of parents lose a child- a large statistic!).

I ended up rewriting many times, copyreading it to perfection and sent it to an online publisher, who did a great job with the art work cover and within six weeks, I had my first book on surviving grief in the market for purchase. (I wrote a second book 10 years later after finding a need for individual coping techniques in order for some to survive.)

You can do this too. Just start remembering, whether they are sad, funny or just wonderful memories, jot them down in great detail, find a direction for your thoughts, and go from there. Whether it becomes a book or just a journal to look back on is up to you.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Online Memorials

If you are interested in creating an online memorial for your loved one, read the following and then go to www.BMDnotices.com and decide for yourself whether this or another site is something that interests you.

Losing a loved one is an incredibly difficult experience, and often leaves you feeling lost and hopeless. Mental health professionals around the globe stress the benefits of expressing your grief rather than holding it in. During the bereavement process you might feel the need to record and share the memories of your loved ones, and online memorials might be just what you need to help yourself and others. You could be the one who provides the connection point for others to mourn and remember the deceased with you. This cannot be achieved in a newspaper or social media. You need a dedicated space for it and online memorials provide just that.

Why spend time writing an online memorial?
1.      Help yourself and others by expressing your feelings
Online Memorials provide space for you to put together your thoughts, memories, pictures, poems and quotes about your deceased loved one. This is a healing process where your thoughts and emotions stop wandering around but get focused in the attempt of creating a lovely memorial for everybody to see.
2.      It is not there just for a day
In Memoriam notices in newspapers and social media posts last just for a day and nobody talks about them or remembers them for long. Often newspapers ask for a subscription in order for others to get access to the notices you create. Online memorials however, are virtual gravestones / tombstones; they last for a long time and are designed with dignity. Who would want to be remembered in a post on Facebook or in a newspaper between a holiday advert, sports and local news?
3.      Online Memorials are easily accessible
Online Memorials can be accessed online anytime. They provide an extra space for others to share their own messages, thoughts and tributes, leave flowers or just remember. Grieving is often a long term process and it is good to have this space in hand to share your thoughts and read what others have written to comfort you. You can check it while on the phone or your tablet even when you are away from home.
4.      They will be there for future generations to see
Do you worry that your grandchildren and grand grandchildren will not remember you, your husband / wife / partner or your parents? Online Memorials will leave a digital footprint in the internet and other generations will be able to access it and learn from it. Online Memorials are available for other people to learn about your loved one so that his/her life will not fall into oblivion.
5.      They are easily shareable
There are people who would like to pay their tribute but they don’t know how and where. Online Memorial can be shared with others by emailing a link to it. Once your friends and family get the link, they will be able to add their own memories and you will give them space to help with their own grief. You can also put a QR code on the actual grave so that anyone who visits it, gets a chance to read more about your loved one just by scanning the code with their phones.
6.      They make it easier for others to help you
There are people there who would like to comfort you but are afraid to call as they do not wish to bring back the memories of your loss. Writing their words in front of a computer makes it easier for them to reach out to you and gives them space to share their own feelings too.
7.      Online Memorials are safe
Depending on the website, many online memorials, such as www.BMDnotices.com provide an excellent customer service to let you make changes to the page or remove information you no longer want, and the Team will help with your amends or modifications. Administrators check all content prior to publishing to ensure it is appropriate.

Online Memorials are getting more and more recognition in families. They bring together people spread around the world and let them stay in the moment, remembering their loved one together. They bring comfort in the bereavement process and help dealing with your grief. They allow you to connect with others and ensure that the lives of your loved ones do not get forgotten.


Sunday, March 27, 2016

My New Reality

Editor’s note: The following commentary I saw in a TCF newsletter sums up what grief teaches us. I thought many could relate to this and that you might like to read it. The author is Adolfo Quesda of TCF Colorado.

My old friend Grief is back. He comes to visit me once in a while to remind me that I am still a broken man.  Surely there has been much healing since my son died six years ago, and surely I have adjusted to a world without him. But the truth is, we never completely heal, we never totally adjust.  Such is the nature of the loss that no matter how much life has been experienced, the heart of the bereaved will never be the same. It’s as though a part of us dies with the person we lose through death.

 And so my old friend Grief drops in to say “Hello.” Sometimes he enters through the door of my memory. I’ll hear a song or smell a fragrance. I’ll look at a picture and I’ll remember how it used to be. Sometimes it brings a smile to my face…sometimes a tear.

One may say that remembrance is unhealthy…that we shouldn’t dwell on thoughts that make us sad. Yet the opposite is true. Grief revisited is Grief acknowledged and Grief confronted is Grief resolved. But if Grief is resolved, why do we feel a sense of loss when we least expect it? Because healing doesn’t mean forgetting and moving on with life doesn’t mean that we don’t take a part of our lost love with us. Of course the intensity of the pain decreases over time if we allow Grief to visit from time to time.

Sometimes my old friend Grief sneaks up on me. It’s as though the one’s we have lost are determined not to be forgotten. My old friend Grief doesn’t get in the way of living. He just wants to come along and chat sometimes.

Grief has taught me a few things about living I wouldn’t have learned on my own. He has taught me that if I try to deny the reality of loss, I end up having to deny life altogether. Old Grief has taught me that I can survive great loss and although my world is different, it’s still my world and I must live in it.

My old friend Grief has taught me that the loss of a loved one doesn’t mean the permanence of death. My friend will be back again and again to remind me to confront my new reality and to gain through loss and pain.

     Grief never ends...but it changes. It's a passage, not a place to stay. Grief is not a sign of 
     weakness, not a lack of faith...It is the price of love.  
                                                                                            Anonymous 

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Fighting Mental Illness in Youths

It was little things happening that alerted Nancy that something was very wrong. But, as a mother, she didn’t want to acknowledge something could be wrong with her son. Craig was 21 years old when he put a gun to his head and ended his life.  He was eventually diagnosed as schizophrenic, but by then it was too late. **
Nancy began working for the Mental Health Association in public speaking and education when her son died and is involved in a program called “Options” where she goes into schools and educates teachers and students on symptoms of depression and avoiding suicide. “I do this, she says, “because I won’t be part of the shame attached to mental illness.” She is doing her work to bring attention to mental illness…that it does exist, but at the same time, it is responsive to treatment if a proper diagnosis can be made and the freedom to talk about it is there.
         ·         
Laurie and Lee Maxwell lost their eighteen year old son Dan when his inner pain became too great for him to bear. Dan was plagued with mental and emotional pain for eighteen months, without a diagnosis, without relief, before he took his life.
Through their experience with physicians, psychiatrist and psychologists, medications, and dietary changes, the Maxwells vowed to turn their tragic journey toward helping other young people who suffer in silence because of the stigma attached to mental illness.
This couple founded DMAX Foundation with two goals. The first goal is to create a community of caring and conversation. Speaking up to combat stigma and negative stereotypes, helping friends and family increase understanding and demonstrate compassion for youth suffering from this pain. The second goal is to reduce the sense of isolation and hopelessness for kids and parents going through tough times by fostering the recognition that mental health issues should not separate “us versus them” and that all of us occupy a place on the continuous spectrum of mental health.
It is a fact that college students are stressed out. This past year it was reported that 20.2 million were stressed out at college. It is estimated that there are 1 in 4 students with diagnosable mental health problems. Almost 40 percent of those students will not seek help. They are too scared to talk about their emotional issues because of the stigma and discrimination.
The DMAX Foundation’s primary initiative is to create DMAX Clubs on college campuses for students to get together and talk about how they are doing, how their friends are doing and how they can help each other. For information about starting a DMAX Club or how it could help a college near you deal with the epidemic of mental illness on campus, reach out to April Matt at april@dmaxfoundation.org
These two parents and many others encourage learning more about depression, mental health challenges and emotional troubles and what to do if you or anyone you know needs help.
**You can read Craig’s story in my first book, “I Have No Intention of Saying Good-bye.”