Sunday, February 7, 2016

After Ten Years...

After 10 years and many phases of grief, a few parents explained how they now feel, how they are coping and whether it really ever gets better.

For one father, helping others was his reason to move on. “Rest assured, the pain never goes away. It gets softer and more bearable, but that hole in your heart is always there. Time helps soften the grief but never heals it.”

One mother said, “It feels like it just happened yesterday. And the time factor of when she died becomes important: everything is measured by before or after the child’s death.”

“I am a different person and a better person 10 years later. I found joy again both in my private and professional life. Little things don’t bother me because the worst thing has already happened and I have been able to slowly move on.”

“I found that over the years I lost some friends who couldn’t deal with my grief, but I think that showed me they were never really friends to begin with. And I have made new friends yearly, particularly by being able to share my feelings with other bereaved parents. We try to help each other.”

“In the 10 years since my son’s death, I have gone through various phases of grief. In the beginning, it was very raw, and I found it difficult to go on living. Over time, I have come to spend less time grieving, and the grief is less intense than it was. The process was very gradual.”

“Over the last decade I have worked to move my life forward in a meaningful way, said another mother. I want to honor my daughter in all areas so that she will never be forgotten by others. I have done this through scholarships, a foundation, planting trees and having plaques all over in her memory. This helps me move on with my life and allows me to do things I never even considered before her death.”

There are those who have more trouble than others, and I would advise seeking help through professional means: a grief counselor, a clergy or a psychologist. Don’t forget grief groups like Compassionate Friends with over 600 chapters across the U.S. where you can meet others who have lost children can be very helpful.

We ,who are bereaved, will never forget our children. By honoring their memory, their principles and ideals, they will always be with us, no matter how many years go by.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Crazy Good Grief

A very interesting website will connect you to Paula Stephens, bereaved mom and inspirational speaker. That site is .

Paula has spoken to a variety of groups and conferences and likes to engage and interact with people who desire to live an inspired life after loss. She wants you to feel joy again as she has and has a unique way of doing this. She believes gratitude, letting go, love, humor, adventure and a heaping dose of wellness in heart and soul will begin to shift your ‘new normal’ into a better place.

Paula lost her son Brandon in October, 2010, while he was home on leave from the Army. As all of us understand, her heart was broken. But she wanted to live the rest of her life so that the rest of the world will continue to remember Brandon and honor his life. Out of this grew Crazy Good Grief.

”I never dreamed I would be passionate about learning to thrive after losing a child,” she said. “We didn’t ask for this, no one would, but we do have a choice how we respond to it.”

Read her site, and see all the things she is involved in and does. She can be booked to speak, has a grief retreat in the Rocky Mountains grieving parents can attend, a blog to read, an online market and essential oils for grief kits available.

“I believe we need to live in the sunshine of our loved one’s life, not hide in the shadow of their death,” said Paula.

Note: Paula has a Masters Degree in Exercise Physiology and currently teaches in the Human Performance and Sports Department at Metro State University in Denver. She is a Certified Wellness Coach and Yoga instructor and teaches Yoga for Grief workshops at conferences and other events. Read her bio on her site for additional information.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Broken Heart Syndrome

There is a label for the intense pain and suffering that those who grieve may feel. It is called “Broken Heart Syndrome,” and it is brought on by stressful situations, such as the death of a loved one. It manifests as a temporary disruption of the heart’s normal pumping.

Symptoms can include chest pain and shortness of breath. It affects more women than men. It is attributed to a reaction to a surge of stress hormone, and can occur after the death of a child. The condition may also be called takotsubo cardiomyopathy, apical ballooning syndrome or stress cardiomyopathy by doctors.

It is treatable and the discomfort should abate with time. It is definitely something you should discuss with your physician. Perhaps there is something he can prescribe to help. It can be scary because you feel like you are having a heart attack.

One mother said, “There are times that I hurt so much from losing my child that I could swear that every bone in my body feels as if they are breaking along with my heart.”

In addition to losing a child or any loved one, some potential triggers of broken heart syndrome are

*A frightening medical diagnosis
*Domestic abuse
*Losing a lot of money
*Natural disasters
*Having to perform publicly
*Job loss
*Physical stressors, such as a car accident or major surgery

It’s also possible that some drugs may cause this condition by causing a surge of stress hormones. Again, it is recommended to talk to your doctor.

Keep in mind that heart attacks are generally caused by a complete or near complete blockage of a heart artery due to a blood clot in the wall of the artery. In broken heart syndrome, the heart’s arteries are not blocked, although blood flow in the arteries of the heart may be reduced.

Do not panic if this happens to you. Try to keep your stress level low, even though it may be very difficult at times. This is something you can get through.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

More Info on In Loving Memory Conference

For those with no surviving children, the best thing you can do for yourself is to attend the “In Loving Memory” conference April 7-10, 2016, in Fairfax, Virginia at the Hyatt Fair Lakes in Fairfax.

All workshops, sharing sessions, activities and keynote speakers will address the unique needs of now childless parents. Professionals and friends are welcome to attend and learn how to assist this unique group of bereaved parents. Remember, there are no chapters in each city or state as there are for Compassionate Friends. This conference is associated with Alive Alone, the national organization for childless parents, with a gathering held every few years for these parents. For the three days of this conference, this is a great opportunity for those who fit into this category to get as much information as possible from workshops, sharing sessions and speakers to help you move on with your life. And you will learn more about Alive Alone and how it assists in resolving grief and how to reinvest your life for a positive future through the newsletter, published five times a year.

Registration is $75 until Feb. 27. After that date it is $90. The hotel rate is $89 per night until March 24. Make a reservation by calling 1-800-421-1442. You can register for the conference online or send a request to the email below. There is other valuable information on the registration form.

There will be two keynote speakers; Gam and Becky Greer and John and Rose Stanley. The Greers, from London, KY,  lost four children: Stephen in 1979, John Michael, Todd and Kami in 1995. “Now my job is to try to find my way in a world where my children are not and my grandchildren will never be. It is my desire to honor God and my children and to help other bereaved parents by “showing hope,” said Gam.

The Stanleys became very active in Compassionate Friends on the local and national level after the death of their only child, 16-year-old Susan. They have presented workshops at TCF conferences as well as In Loving Memory Conferences. John has held the positions of pastor, chaplain and Minister-Visitation of the First Presbyterian Church in North Carolina.

Some of the workshop titles include: Creating New Rituals for Special Days, How Counseling Could Help, What Gives Me Purpose Now, Grief and Addiction, Handling My Child's Belongings,Intimacy and Grief, Legal Issues, Loss and Humor, Grief in the Workplace, Struggling to Reclaim My Faith, Suicide, Exercising and Eating Right, Death of a Troubled Child, and more. Informal sharing sessions and other activities will also be held.

I would encourage anyone who is now childless to go to this conference. I did two national conferences for childless parents in 2004 and 2007 in Scottsdale, AZ, and believe there is no better place for you to find what you need to begin or continue the healing process.

For more information on the conference, go to or email: . To learn more about the Alive Alone organization, go to

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Reflections on a New Year

When I read an article that I strongly agree with and can relate to, I like to share it with all of you. Recently I received a newsletter from a TCF chapter who reprinted this article from "We Need Not Walk Alone," the national magazine of The Compassionate Friends. The article is entitled Reflections on a New Year by Paula Staisiunas who wrote it in memory of her daughter Melissa and the daughter’s husband Jeff Schultz who both died in a car accident seven weeks after their marriage in 1999.

We begin a new year, one that many of us enter with reluctance. After all, it means another year away from our child and another year to be lived without the physical presence of the one we have lost. Apprehensive about any new challenges that we may be called upon to face in our broken condition, we call out, “Wait, I’m not ready yet!”

The death of our child changed the course of our life; nothing will be the same again. But it also has shaped us into who we are today. And it will continue to do so as we learn to incorporate this loss into who we are to become.

Have you found that you have already begun to live differently? Compassion toward others is more profound. Trivial things are no longer important. Appreciation for life and those in our lives, is paramount. We’re living the same life—differently.

Tragedies, disappointments, and heartaches combine with beauty, love and joy to fashion our life. These are all a part of life, and our challenge is to incorporate them into our world. The difference that our child’s life has had upon the world continues through us.

So, rather than being fearful of the challenges that lie ahead, perhaps a better question to consider at this time might be: What opportunities will present themselves in the coming year to honor this loss that is already a part of our life? Our child has become more integrally entwined into our being than ever before. We bring him or her to every situation that we encounter. How can we make that situation better because of this bond?

The start of a new calendar year is a good time to remember that we are in the midst of life. It is not perfect. Nor is it one that we might have chosen. But, our struggles do not put life “on hold.” Rather they are a part of life itself! Our life is ours to make the most of, with many gifts that we can share with others. There is no better time than the present to gather up the pieces and recognize the uniqueness that we each call “me”—uniqueness made more wonderful because of our child’s presence in the life we choose to live.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Remembering in the New Year

A new year is upon us and as I do at the beginning of each new year, I open my special closet that contains what I have left of my daughter: four boxes filled with many memories. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but they are the important things I never want to part with. I take one box at a time and look through them, remembering…

There are school honors for organizations she belonged to and did exceptional activities in them. There are some scrapbooks with photos and reminders of happier times. There are the girl scout badges, some of which never got sewn on to the green sash. Not only are there trophies from speech tournaments in high school but also plaques from youth groups representing her accomplishments as a chapter leader. Her artistic achievements in scrap-booking for her youth group were rewarded as were her leadership abilities as president of a variety of organizations. Even after graduating college, she was asked to be president of her college alumni association before her death. I was very proud of her many writings she did as media and publicity director for the L.A. Music Center. For never having taken any writing classes, she was an excellent writer!

My husband had a great idea this year. He said, “Why don’t you take the trophies Marcy won and the trophies you won during high school and college and display them all together on a shelf in your office, where you do all your writing and spend many hours?” What a good idea, I thought! And that has happened this week.

In another box are hundreds of letters sent to me from friends and co-workers expressing their sympathy and talking about Marcy. It warms my heart to read and reread them each year, knowing she was much loved by all.

I keep a box of all the material from the funeral—the guest book, the gifts and contributions in her memory, the plaques and trees planted in a variety of locations with photos of each, and the memorial services held for her, all of which I attended.

In the last box I have a potpourri of items: most important to me are the photos. In my office, my bedroom and the family room, I have at least one photo of Marcy. That way, she is with me always. I smile as I remember the significant event or activity represented in the photo of  her… some with friends, some with family, all of whom are long gone.

This ritual of sorts helps me remember not only her life but also her personality and friendships with many acquaintances and family members. She was so full of life and had many plans for her future. Like all bereaved parents, I want to never forget that she lived and was loved. Going through the things I still have after almost 22 years is my personal way of keeping her memory alive.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Presidental Politics and Parental Grief

The White House has often been home to parents who mourn lost children. Their reactions to their loss and their decisions to not run, may or may not have changed the course of history. Historians are still out on this one.

Most recently, when Vice-president Joseph Biden Jr, announced that he was not running for president in 2016, he cited his son, Beau’s death, and his struggle with his grief as the main reason. Biden, it seems, took his time to decide, since it was well known that he wanted to be president one day. But those of us who have lost a child know how emotionally draining it is to even function day to day. And a president’s responsibility for the entire nation is a huge job and can’t be taken lightly.

We often think of a president as someone who is immune from tragic events, but many of our presidents have lost one or more children, particularly in the early part of the 20th century when as many as three in 10 infants died before their first birthdays. I thought you might like to hear of some of these losses.

Probably, one of the most famous presidents who lost a child was John F. Kennedy, whose son Patrick Kennedy, died just 39 hours after birth. He was pre-mature and had complications. 

The same with Christine Reagan, Ronald Reagan and Jane Wyman’s daughter, who died shortly after her birth in 1947.

Dwight D. Eisenhower and Mamie’s first son, Icky, died of Scarlet Fever at age 3.  From then on, he sent his wife flowers year on his son's birthday. George Bush’s second child, Robin, also died at age 3 from Leukemia.

Another very famous president, Abraham Lincoln, lost the third of his four sons, 11-year-old Willie of Typhoid Fever in 1862. He also lost Edward, his second son at age 3 in 1850. 

William McKinley’s two children, daughters Ida and Katie, died early deaths.

For some presidents, the loss of their child affected them greatly and they suffered setbacks and recover very slowly, if at all. Franklin Pierce witnessed the violent death of his third and only surviving son, Benny, in a train accident two weeks before his inauguration and did not do well afterwards. 

Nor did Calvin Coolidge, whose second son, 16 year old Calvin Jr., died in 1924 of a staph infection acquired after playing tennis without his socks. He did not seek re-election in 1928 because of this death. “The power and the glory of the presidency went with Calvin,” he said. 

Theodore Roosevelt’s son, Quentin, was shot down by a German pilot in 1918. Roosevelt died brokenhearted six months later in 1919.

Many other presidents lost children and one running for president in 2016, Carly Fiorina, lost her 35-year-old stepdaughter, Lori Ann, who died of a drug overdose. She speaks bluntly about her pain, gets it out in the open and doesn’t try to hide her feelings as some do. She and others believe that not hiding their anguish is one of the best ways to deal with their grief.

Most have one thing in common. They recovered and moved on with their lives and experienced what some experts call post-traumatic growth, positive changes after a crisis, including a greater appreciation of life and personal strength. Others suffered depression and other psychiatric conditions and had to seek help.

We all cope differently and there is no right or wrong way to grieve a child’s death. It is and should be an individual's choice as to how he/she deals with it.