wonder why I keep writing these posts.I have over 2200 hits and not one single response, question or comment.
hard it was to get up each day
hard it was to get things done I needed to do
constant pain, the bursting into tears, running to hide where I could so know
one woud seethe
numbness that pervaded everything
anguish to join in life and appear normal
sense of futility and pointlessness
notion of joy seemed as far away as the moon
all consuming need to stop hurting and be OK again
Over time I
began to see an image. It was of a very high seawall that I couldn’t see over
but could hear people splashing, crying, keening, wailing-asking for help.All I could do in this image is keep
throwing life preservers over the wall and hope someone would be able to grab
on and at least stay afloat for a while.
I remember how
hard it is to share that terrible place that no one can really touch.
So, here I am,
again throwing life preservers over the wall.I hope a few of you grab on.
only reason to keep writing these posts.
Mother’s Day was a big deal for my kids as they were growing up.They were so excited to make me
something wonderful that showed how much they cared.Sharon especially worked hard at making me beautiful
things.I still have most of them
and often get them out at this time of the year.As she got older the Mother’s Day cards got more beautiful
and elaborate, I still have most of those also.It is probably a bit strange that I have this private ritual
of touching all her gifts and rereading all her cards.I suppose it still an important
connection that I cannot let go of.This is totally a private thing that no one else knows about (until
now), a quiet time of remembering her sweet ways and still missing her.Years later I realized how fiercely she
loved me.That truth echoes in my
soul and helps sustain me on these dark days.
The other direction is the loss of
my own mother.Here
I am in the world, in the universe all-alone on that lineage line, no one to
follow or turn to and she no longer follows me or turns to me.It is very hard to write about as I get
all fuzzy headed and the words don’t come.This whole grieving thing is very messy.It seems to come so randomly and what
triggers it usually catches me off-guard and by surprise.The smell of cinnamon rolls baking,
like mom used to make, has sent me sobbing from the room.I always picture my mother at the old
Singer Sewing Machine making something for one of us.I even remember the treadle machines.Those are happy memories and I miss her
My mother had Alzheimer’s, which
took her by inches long before it actually took her body.One of the hardest days of my life was
when she no longer knew who I was.
Either direction has its own
pain, and yet, the process is the same.All the stages have to be worked through, over and over again, all the
connections cauterized as the rebuilding, healing continues..
the choice to grieve—and it’s one you must make again and again for the rest of
your life—because that choice expands your capacity for joy and brings new
richness to relationships,” . “If nothing else sustains you this holiday
season. Hold on to this. Life will never be the same, but it will be good
last point is the hardest to believe, but it’s true. You’ll think, ‘I’ll never be happy again.’ You will.Maybe not this Mother’s Day, maybe not
next year, but eventually, you will.
Here it is again
April 13 and I am so very weary of this pain that bubbles up from time to time,
like this anniversary day or a song or just still missing her. I keep writing
these posts hoping that that they will begin to draw people together that
continue to face this year after year alone. It is such a lonely journey and perhaps that is just the way
it has to be, it is hard to share such a deep wound.
you can do is offer a hand in the dark, so I am offering my hand in the dark to
all that have lost a beloved person and walk this path.
Over the years, the requirements of my grieving have waxed and waned, but there
is always some demand to acknowledge several important dates. The honoring no
longer has to be long or dramatic; it just has to be addressed. The relationship
I have developed with my daughter over the long haul feels peaceful and
bittersweet. I keep the grief in my pocket and take it out from time to time,
but it no longer rules my life. It has been a gradual process of choices that
have built up over time, like a coral reef. Each individual animal—or choice,
in my case—is small and insignificant, but the sum total is breathtaking,
though invisible on the surface. By now there is little drama left, and less
and less to say. All the building and changes are under the surface. A reef and
the human spirit are both easy to shatter, but both are also resilient and tend
to rebuild in changed forms. Many other losses have occurred along the way,
each with its own pain and recovery. Nothing comes close to the upside-down,
inside-out world that the death of my child wrought. What is breathtaking is
never forget April 13, 1978: it was the day I walked into my house and
discovered that my fifteen-year-old daughter, Sharon, had died of a drug
overdose. Yes, I know that is a difficult sentence to read. And even though I
have done so numerous times, it’s also difficult to write. Almost 35 years
later, I still can’t look at that particular arrangement of letters and numbers
without being mentally transported back to that horrific day.
If you’re a parent, you’ve probably considered what it might be like to lose a
child. (Chances are you quickly pushed the thought away, as it’s too
dreadful to contemplate for long. I understand.) Almost certainly, you
suspect that the death of a child is the worst thing that could happen to a parent.
How could anyone get over such a loss and resume living a normal life?
answer is, you can’t. There is no “getting over” the fact that your beloved child
has taken her last breath. But the longer answer is, there is life after
a child’s death. Not a life that’s identical to the one you led before—you
cross an invisible line and there is no way back—but one that is worthwhile and
that contains fulfillment…and sometimes even joy.
There’s a prerequisite, though: to move forward, you must first make the choice
That’s right—to a larger extent than many people think, grieving is a choice. Consciously
or unconsciously, you can decide to ignore grief when it presents itself: mentally
squelching it, postponing it through frenetic activity, and neutralizing it
with drugs or alcohol.
the irony. Not grieving is, in the long run, more painful than the pain you’re
seeking to avoid. It’s widely
believed that repressed grief can lead to illnesses like upper respiratory
infections, digestive problems and even cardiovascular disease. This makes sense: the stress and
anxiety that come from exerting that much control over your thoughts, emotions,
and body are profound. And of course, the potentially dire consequences of
self-medication are obvious.
It’s also possible to “shut down” and become stuck in one of the phases of
grief. Even though others may
think you seem all right on the surface, the truth is, you have actually “agreed”
to stop growing, loving, daring, and moving on in exchange for not feeling any
more pain and loss. Frankly, this is not living. It’s merely existing.
healed—and continue to heal daily—after losing Sharon, but only because I have made the choice to grieve. Over the years, I
have screamed, cried, vented my rage, and submerged myself in intense waves of
grief whenever they washed over me. Over time (and initially to my surprise) I discovered
that I was able to enjoy my life once more. I have even found that my appreciation
for life, my joy in small delights, and the richness of my relationships have
surprise you. It surprised me. But
it’s undeniable: grieving my lost child has opened my eyes to everything lovely
and wonderful about our world. I see, act, and react more authentically. My
compassion and gratitude for others has grown, and I stop to smell the roses
more often—I call it ‘living from the gut.’ I see this as the “reward” for
choosing grief: Once you have descended to the lowest of lows, you are also able
to experience new highs, That’s because your soul and psyche are much like a
balloon that stretches in all directions.
Be aware, however that grieving is not a linear, predictable
process. Its progression and manifestations differ from person to person. You
certainly never “finish” grieving. Rather, you must make the choice to grieve
over and over again as the years pass.
If you are facing the loss of a child, please, choose to grieve. Yes, there
will be darkness, but I promise, you will also come to see the “silver lining”
this truth resonate in your heart: the new life you’re creating would not
possible without the love you felt—and still feel—for your child.
It is her final gift to you. And accepting it graciously is your final gift to her.
The death of my child was like
an 8.0 earthquake on the ocean shelf and the upheaval that followed was the
tsunami that destroyed everything I had known, built and counted on. As the shore cannot contain the ocean
waves, neither can the enormity of my grief, or of a spouse’s or of a child’s.
I found myself puzzled,
frantic and overwhelmed by my inability to regain control, or get back “to the
way things were” I found myself suddenly sobbing and breaking down without my permission
and, usually, with little warning, it is hideous. I found myself judging myself
as crazy, weird and all manner of negative self-judgments. All of my inexperience in managing
feelings and constant implosions add to the horror of what I face.
Most of all I did not know
who or what I am anymore. Those
around me try to help, but cannot because no one can see, touch hear, or smell
the destruction. It is invisible
intangible and worst of all, immeasurable. It is a hole in my soul.
I had very little experience
in dealing with such powerful, pervasive, uncontrollable feelings.
The most common statements I
hear from bereaved folk and asked myself, is, “What’s wrong with me?” Or “Why can’t I seem to stop crying all
the time?” This is often followed by the
statement. “I hate it, I just hate it! Please make it stop hurting.”
At the end of the day, after
all is said and done and all the help has gone home, the black hole of my grief
cannot be contained, only expressed.
As I listen and read to people’s suggestions as to what to
do with Sandy Hook School, all the ideas seem sound and intellectually
acceptable. And, yet…and yet, my
gut keeps saying turn Sandy Hook into a Grief Center.
What does that mean exactly? It means, leave everything as it is and let the parents and
their families go there when they need to , choose to, or not. The gut behind the move is that
if this were my child that had been murdered, I would be drawn to the last
place my child was alive like a magnet.
Never mind the blood and whatever else, that would be MY child’s blood
and the place that child last lay.
It is all I would have left and that would be precious to me.
Most people want to clean it up and, perhaps turn it into a
shrine or memorial. I feel it
deserves a more living response then the usual antiseptic nonsense
A place to go and shake my fist at the forces that permitted
this, and then scream, cry, get up and go on, as life demands. The greatest gift to me during the
beginning of my journey was the place and permission to keen and wail. The nice thing about turning the school
into a grief center is that no one would need to monitor the parents need to
Grief is one of those words that puts fear in the
hearts of grown men. Women can cry, but they struggle with grieving, which has
to do with the injunctions females hear about selfishness and upsetting others.
It is forbidden for males to cry. Years ago I had about seven men in my
practice who all sounded alike in their struggles and fears—so much so that it
was eerie. I thought they would benefit from a group. They all agreed and we
started to work that way. About six weeks into the group, each man took me aside
and, in his own way, said, “I will do anything you ask, just don’t make me
The restrictions against grieving are numerous and powerful, and start very
early in the socialization of children. I think that those taboos are there
because the art of grieving changes a person, from one state of existence to
another, like boiling water into steam. But steam can be condensed back into
water; the change in people is irreversible and permanent. I am awed by the
powerful taboos against grieving. I know about this from my work with people
and my own struggles to grieve openly.
People have often expressed a deep, abiding fear that if they start grieving
they will never stop—or worse, just be stuck in a funk. I have never worked
with a person who didn’t continue with his or her life as usual while going
through this healing process. I have deep respect for those who make that
choice. I see how much strength and courage it takes to be that vulnerable and
What I would like to see happen with this book is the creation of safe places
for people to grieve without being interrupted or scolded. The only partially
safe place is a cemetery. It would be nice to bring back the notion of the
ancient wailing wall. The only thing I have ever experienced that even comes
close to what I would hope for is the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in D.C.
Loved ones are permitted to bring little memorials and at least weep quietly. I
would wish for every bereaved person a safe place for deep, healing grief and
reflection, in the daunting work of rebuilding a life.