Sunday, April 13, 2014

A New Start for Our Bereavement Group

The bereavement group for Now Childless Parents I started seven years ago is now disbanded. But we have started something in its place.

I have found over the years that most bereaved come for a while and then leave and continue on with their lives. Those like me who have been bereaved for a very long time stay in the group to help others and because we like the people involved.

Most of us have now found we don’t really need to come together once a month to discuss our situations and get advice after seven years. Instead, we have all chosen to make our group more of a social group, getting together 4-5 times a year socially and do fun activities.

As one member said, “I don’t want to lose you guys and have us all go our own way. I feel very close to all of you and want to keep that closeness. We are different and will always feel that way because we lost our only child. I feel we have a closeness that those who haven’t lost a child can identify with.”  Everyone agreed with her sentiments.

We want to have some fun. We don’t want to sit around anymore and talk about topics that may or may not depress us; we know all about our children, their birthdates and death dates, and can acknowledge those if we feel like it; we know our child’s likes/dislikes, what they were good at, and we certainly have talked our heads off and shared special moments. We acknowledge that we love our children and always will, but now it is our time to make the most of our lives.

We always know that if one of us has a serious problem, when we get together, we will all listen and try to help. But now, for our sakes and our children’s, we are trying to move forward as they would want us to and enjoy our lives as much as possible.

And so our first get-together was a Sunday picnic in a beautiful park in the city where we could do whatever we wanted:  play games, eat, ride the swings, walk, play volleyball, feed the ducks, or just sit quietly and talk. We all brought sandwiches and desserts, talked about what we’ve been doing lately and fed the ducks in the pond. We joked with one parent about putting on tattoos (that only last a few weeks) and many did just that for laughs. We reminisced about Darcie Sims life and death recently and how much she helped other bereaved parents.


Then it was time to go, but not before we made plans for a pot luck dinner at one of the lady’s homes a few months from now. We know there are many activities we can plan for the future and look forward to doing some fun, educational and entertaining events. 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

TAPS Seminar and Good Grief Camp

Hope, courage and love is the goal once again for the National Military Survivor Seminar and Good Grief camp that will be held on Memorial Day Weekend, May 23 to 26, 2014 in Washington, D.C. at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington. Special rates of $129 per night are available. All parents, children, siblings and significant others are welcome to attend.
Participants will meet other survivors and share the journey as loved ones who died in service to the country are honored. Learning coping strategies and hearing how others find the strength to live again are stressed.
Workshops, support groups, activities and events are all structured to provide resources and information to help begin the healing process. The culminating event is on Memorial Day with services at Arlington National Cemetery. In the nation’s capitol, we are surrounded by the monuments that honor the service and sacrifice of loved ones and remind everyone that freedom is not free.
The seminar registration fee of $195 includes selected meals, workshop materials, ground transportation to all special events and a TAPS shirt and tote bag. The Good Grief Camp registration fee of $75 per child assists in paying for selected meals, transportation for field trips and events, two shirts, a backpack and other camp materials.
A limited number of scholarships are available if you need financial help. You can call TAPS at 800-959-8277 or email scholarships@taps.org for more information.
This is a powerful time of support, care and hope. A friendly smile, an understanding heart and open arms await you. Join TAPS as they remember the love, celebrate the life, and share the journey together.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Moving and Keeping Possessions


There are bereaved parents who believe the only way they can move towards healing is to leave their home and find a new location to live and to get rid of all their child’s belongings.

“Too many sad memories,” one mother says. “I can’t bear to pass by my son’s bedroom without breaking down,” says a dad. For them, that is the right choice.

On the other hand, another mom says, “I don’t know if I can ever pack up my daughter’s room.” She refuses to move anything, and it’s been five years.

As it is with grieving, you need to take time to make these important decisions. Don’t rush into anything until you are absolutely sure. And don’t let others tell you what you should do. You must decide for yourself what is right only for you!

I chose to stay put for many years, but I did eventually want to clear her room out, except for precious belongings, jewelry, many stuffed animals, some clothing and memorabilia of photos and trophies that has meaning to me. It means a lot to me to be able to go through all of it whenever I feel a need, particularly on an anniversary or birthday.

I remember when I was ready to get rid of my daughter’s clothes, I had a carport sale. As each item sold, I agonized whether it was the right thing to do. Afterwards, I ended up keeping a few dresses and tops, just so I could feel her close to me. When I found a woman who made stuffed animals out of children’s clothing, I choose a blouse I thought would look good as part of a bear, but when the time came to mail it to the woman to make it for me, I couldn’t do it. I had to keep it and 20 years later it is still in my closet, as is some t-shirts and sweat shirts.

As for the furniture in her room, I loaned that to a friend who needed it for her child. She was thrilled to get it, and I was happy that it was still mine to reclaim when she was done using it. I decided I would keep loaning it out until I decide to let it go.

Make decisions about your child’s possessions and whether you believe it is right for you to move, but don’t be hasty in any of those decisions. Emotions could take over and end up causing you to make a wrong decision. Discuss it with family, friends and relatives, see what they think. You might get some good ideas from them also. Good luck!


Sunday, March 23, 2014

Taking a Vacation

When your child dies, it is hard to make plans to go away for a relaxing vacation, even after the initial grieving period. Everything you do will remind you of your loss, particularly if you have been to that location before with him/her. Here are some pointers to think about.

  1. Go someplace new that no one in your family has been to. Those reminders won’t be there and your mind will be free from thinking about your child and how much he/she loved those fun-filled days. You can wonder how much your child would have liked this new place, but at least there won’t be any memories to bring tears to your eyes.
  2. Try not to let your grief disable you. Don’t do too much and tire yourself out. Guaranteed your grief is right there with you all the time. Plan for it and try to deal with it in an appropriate manner.
  3. Besides taking games, if other children are going with you, take along light reading materials. This will keep your mind occupied and may bring a smile or chuckle to your face.
  4. Don’t be negative about where you are going. Don’t think you won’t have a good time on your vacation. Try hard, particularly if you have other children who are with you and are sensitive to your feelings.
  5. Talk about your child with all the family members. Don’t try to pretend your child didn’t exist. Have your other children remember happy memories of their sibling and think about how he/she would have reacted on this vacation.
  6. Know that your child would have wanted you to have a good time and allow yourself to feel good about your decision to go.
  7. When you are ready to go back to your child’s favorite place in the future, plan the trip with the entire family and ask their opinion about the destination, so they feel they have a say in the planning.
  8. Don’t feel guilty that you are having a good time. Also, don’t feel bad if you get emotional. Both are natural emotions that will always be part of you, just like your child will always be part of you.
Most importantly, remember that all bereaved parents need to take some time off. A vacation can be just the thing. And having a good attitude will do wonders for your trip. Allow yourself to enjoy your vacation.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Helping Others In Need

Around the world we grieve:

This past week Malaysia Airlines flight 370 disappeared with 239 passengers and crew members. While the search continues in both the Indian Ocean and the waters between Malaysia and Vietnam, friends and family members from 14 different nationalities are desperately seeking news about love ones aboard the plane: whole families, mothers, fathers and children.

Because of all the death and destruction in Syria, thousands and thousands of adults and children are homeless, hungry and desperately sick. The Ukraine, Egypt and Tunisia have also witnessed the horrors of war and terrorism. In many African countries hundreds of thousands are in refugee camps. Others have no food and shelter and can’t last indefinitely.

Nature’s destructive forces such as earthquakes, freezing weather, tornados and hurricanes have relentlessly killed many men, women and children in its path.

There seems to be no end to all this. We can say a prayer for them. We can show our love and compassion to those in need. We can help out by offering our skills to organizations that bring hope to many.

But to those on Malaysia Airlines, all we can do now is to let friends and family know they will get through this; that the healing process is not quick or painless, that their God, whoever that may be, is there for them in times of sorrow and to comfort.

It helps to understand the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, sadness and acceptance. Not everyone goes through the stages the same way or in the same time frame, but understanding the stages helps the grieving understand their feelings and seek guidance when necessary. Asking why or how when a loved one dies is not helpful in allowing us to move forward. There is no rhyme or reason to life's mysteries. I, personally, do believe everything has a reason for happening, even though you may not know for years or perhaps forever, what that reason is. It took many years for me to understand my personal tragedy, but I believe I now do.

There are many resources, books, clergy, and organizations that these relatives of flight 370 can use to help them move on with their lives. I sincerely hope those involved in these different walks of life will reach out to those with families and friends on this flight and to others around the world in need of help.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

She Made Us Laugh Through Our Grief


Those in the bereavement world were shocked to hear of the death of Darcie Sims, well-known speaker on grief at national conferences of Compassionate Friends, TAPS, Bereaved Parents USA, grief management specialist and bereaved mother herself, this past week.

Her boundless humor and incredible love for life were her trademarks. As TAPS said in a tribute to her, "So many were comforted by her loving care. She nurtured our souls with her compassion and her words. She helped us remember the love we were so richly given. We are stronger for having had Darcie Sims in our lives."  


Here are some of her accomplishments:
Darcie D. Sims, Ph.D., CHT, CT, GMS is a bereaved parent and child, a grief management specialist, a nationally certified thanatologist, a certified pastoral bereavement specialist, and a licensed psychotherapist and hypnotherapist.  She is the author of Why Are the Casseroles Always Tuna?,  Footsteps Through the Valley, Touchstones and If I Could Just See Hope.  She co-authored A Place For Me: A Healing Journey for Grieving Kids, Footsteps Through Grief, The Other Side of Grief and Finding Your Way Through Grief with her daughter, Alicia Sims Franklin.  She co-authored The Crying Handbook, In the Midst of Caregiving, and Exploring the Heart, Soul, and Challenges of Caregiving for Professionals with Dr. Robert Baugher.  She also wrote and produced the videos Handling the Holidays and What Color is Dead: Death From A Child’s View as well as authored numerous chapters in professional books and textbooks.  Darcie is featured in the award-winning video series “Good Grief” produced by Iowa Public Television and has been featured in several other videos as well.  She has written 6 Care Notes for Abbey Press.

She is an internationally recognized speaker and was Coping Editor for Bereavement magazine for 15 years in addition to writing for Grief Digest.  She served on the national board of directors for The Compassionate Friends, the national board of directors for the Association of Death Education and Counseling and the board of trustees for the National Catholic Ministry to the Bereaved.  Darcie received The Compassionate Friends Professional Award in 1999. She co-chaired the 1991,1996 and 2005 World Gathering on Bereavement, and keynoted at all 4 World Gatherings. Darcie is president and co-founder of GRIEF, Inc. a grief consulting business and the Director of the American Grief Academy® in Seattle, Washington.  She is the Director of Training and Certification for the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors®. She is a Board Certified Professional Counselor (APA), a Fellow in the American Psychotherapy Association, a Certified Diplomat in Clinical Hypnotherapy and is listed in Who’s Who in America, The World Who's Who of Women and The International Who's Who of Professional and Business Women.

I did not know Darcie as well as some did, but I was always right there at conferences to listen to her words of wisdom...and there were many. I remember once when I had just finished my first book and couldn't find the right title, suddenly she said something that just clicked with me. She was talking about love and how it never dies. And she had no intention of saying good-bye to her child, ever. That's it, I thought, because I felt the same way, no matter what others said about moving on and forgetting: I Have No Intention of Saying Good-bye, hence my first book title. That was a moment in time I can thank Darcie for.

My thoughts are with her family. Here is one of Darcie's well-known quotes..."No light born in love can ever be extinguished." Her light will continue to shine through all who knew her.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Twenty years later...

Today, it is 20 years ago that my daughter, Marcy, died in a car accident. It is amazing how the triggers: a song, an anniversary, a birthday, nature, can cause both tears and laughter, even to this day so many years later.

I felt like the luckiest person in the world when Marcy was born. She was a beautiful baby, so good, so loving, so kind to everyone as she grew up.

When I walk outside now and see what a beautiful day it is, I am sad that she can not enjoy it with family and friends. When I see nature at its finest: the flowers blooming, the birds singing, the misty rain making everything grow beautifully, I know she would have loved to witness this too. I can just see her running through the open fields when she was younger, skipping through the rain drops as they fell on her long ponytail, picking up a grasshopper to show me and just enjoying life.

Every year she had a birthday party and each time it was different: pizza party, ice-cream party, skating party, etc. She loved them all.

In school she won many awards for speaking, debate and theater. I was always so proud of her. I keep all her awards and trophies on a shelf in my office next to the few that I have also won.

When she married she was the happiest. She was a perfectionist like me; everything had to be just right for the wedding. (She even checked to make sure my table at the wedding dinner, not her father’s, was closest to hers. She had to make changes at the last minute to make that happen, so that I remained in a good mood. She knew me and was right about that.) 

She loved life so much, and there was so much more to do. It was so unfair that an impaired driver cut her life short, just four months after her honeymoon. I never dreamed it could happen to me; that sort of thing happened to others, and I always felt bad when I heard about someone else’s tragedy. But then, you are just blown away when it happens to you.

Friends of hers were kind, telling me many stories of how Marcy was the glue that held them all together, how she was always doing things for others, and how much they miss her. I never knew some of those stories, but was always glad to hear what a fine person she was to all who knew her.

Twenty years…and it seems like just yesterday that I held her in my arms and said good-bye as she flew back to Los Angeles after her best friend’s wedding, thinking I would come visit in a few months. Ironically, she was going home for another funeral. The accident was a week later.

I am on my way now to the cemetery to see her gravestone, clean it and spend some time with her. We, the bereaved, eventually go on, as hard as that may be. We live our lives as best as we can, always keeping our child in our heart and our mind. It is very difficult, but we never forget the best thing that ever happened to us.