Welcome to Hope for Grieving Mothers

If you are new to this club (that no one asked to join- the one where your child has died), it is best to start by going to the BOTTOM RIGHT and look at the "Pages" section. Under this section you will find resources for mothers who are grieving the loss of their child. Resources to help your children deal with grief are also grouped together.

Next, feel free to look at the "Blog Archives." There are many topics that you may have an interest in reading. As you girlies know, we now have Teflon brains and often cannot have the focus power that we have had in the past. Feel free to come here often and hopefully you will FEEL the loving support that me and other mamas are sending. Hopefully you will begin to see sparks of hope for your future...

Hugs... Pamela

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Magnifying Glass

Personally, I have felt great sorrow and pain this holiday season. I haven't felt like writing.  As I looked at some of my previous notes, I found the following email that I wrote last year.  It's good advice and hits the spot for myself as well. As for me--  today is a new day and I'm trying to turn the page. I'm blessed with love around me and I am trying to find the positive in this season.  Here it goes.....


So I have had a lot of thoughts, as always... this is what is most recently on my mind.  


Last year-- the day before Thanksgiving, I wrote this and put it on Facebook.


"The holidays are a big magnifying glass. When you have a "perfect" feeling family, it feels joyous. When you have that crazy aunt or uncle that annoys everyone, this crazy feeling is magnified. When there is a death in the family and that loss is there, that loss is magnified. When there are unmet expectations in life, such as divorce and loneliness, the feelings associated with that event is magnified. Holidays magnify the best in us, such as our charitable side. Holidays also bring out the worst in us, such as when we see life's disappointments.


Humans disappoint us because they are human. Sadly, when life has dealt trauma and drama and permanent separation of normalcy as well as grief, the holidays have a flavor of sorrow.... Reflect on what this holiday magnifying glass shows you personally this year.  Blessings!"


That was last year.


My first Thanksgiving and Christmas without Logan are still so painfully memorable... for someone who was in a fog. Those that know me well know that I grieve many different things during the holidays. The loss of your child is the "Primary Loss." It is the "Secondary Losses" that I grieve now.

In speaking with many of you recently, I have noticed that many are feeling "anger" right now. Like I have said before, NONE of this is "Normal" but all of what we are feeling is "Natural." I think that it is "natural" to feel anger when there is the empty chair at the holiday dinner table and no one will mention our child that isn't here. I think that it is common for the BIG invisible elephant in the room to be in the room.


Often people are fearful of mentioning the absence and loss of our child (every day but especially on a holiday).  This makes many of us angry at times!  Why wouldn't it make us angry?


But... when looking at their side, they don't KNOW what to do or how to support us. If this is your first holiday season without your child, you will probably notice people whispering in the background - "How is she doing?"  If this is NOT your first holiday, everyone is still wondering how to respond.  Before my Logan died, I had no idea how to support people who were enduring the very long process of grief. I THOUGHT that I did, but I failed miserably. When people ask "How are you doing?" Answer them honestly... "Today is hard for me. Thank you for asking."


Know that this is a time of MUCH emotion and that we are oversensitive to people's actions and words right now. Protect yourself by taking care of YOU and your family. But mamas, YOU are the backbone of the family and you must MAKE yourself relax. Carve out time to have a long bubble bath. Maybe go have a massage or a pedicure. Lay down and take a nap. You don't HAVE to make dozens of cookies.... cut down on the "celebration" part if you need to.


BREATHE.... relax those shoulders down...


One of my friends who lost a child several years ago - him and his wife went to the movies on Christmas. "Some things you cannot do again." It was too painful to "go thru the motions" for them... but now that there are grandchildren, they are trying Christmas again.


So to wrap this up...

- You are oversensitive

- You may feel anger... try to not let it get so big that you BLOW up

- Protect yourself

- People do not know what to do to help, so TELL them


One more thing... During the holidays it is especially important to "count" your alcoholic beverages.  In the past you may have been able to handle a few alcoholic beverages, but now you are in danger girlies. Count to one and (at the very most) two on special occasions. Cut yourself off.  Be aware that this is a pitfall that you do NOT want to fall into. Statistically, one year after the death of a child, 40% of parents have a drug or drinking problem. (Compassionate Friends data obtained from the book *Surviving the Loss of a Child*)


As always, I am open hearing your thoughts, suggestions, and writings. If you have something that you would like to share with this growing group of mamas, please email it to me! You made it through Thanksgiving... One down and one to go. You can DO IT! Keep putting those feet on the floor... it will get better. :)

I'll end with a positive note... THIS is what I try to focus on during the holidays. I focus on the incredible gift the birth of Christ was for us... and now that I have a child in Heaven, it means even more to me. This gift was sent to us so we will be able to have an eternity with our children one day (as a reunited family).


Hugs girls....

Pamela Parker 

Holeheartedmamas@gmail.com

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Dateline, JFK, and Thanksgiving Share A Common Thread

Earlier this week I watched Dateline.  What was particularly interesting about this show was the ending.  The mother of the victim said to the accused murderer  - "I refuse to let you take another day of MY life.  I forgive you."  

It is a slow journey to arrive at the place where we stop seeking someone to blame -- or to forgive the person who really is to blame. 

Today is the 50th anniversary of JFK's assassination. At this place in my life I have found it interesting that Jacqueline Kennedy's infant son Patrick had died just three months prior to her trip to Dallas. Patrick was born six weeks early and was rushed to Boston for advanced care. He lived only two days and died without her seeing or holding him again. She was unable to attend his funeral. This woman pushed herself (or was pushed) to assist with the start of the presidential campaign by traveling to Dallas with her husband.  The entire world knows the end of this story...  

This woman suffered two unimaginable losses in a short period of time --- in full view of the world. She did still continue to be a parent to two children who had also suffered these unimaginable losses. 

This week the sole survivor of the family, Caroline, chose to not be in the United States. Now-- let's think about this!  She was a CHILD when grief shattered her family twice. Fifty years later she is all grown up... And chose to be far away from this national reminder of her personal trauma. 

How was Jackie and her children's lives permanently altered? More importantly-- How are YOUR children's lives altered by their grief?

Next week is Thanksgiving.   Again, I remind you of the words from the mother of the Dateline murder victim--
"I refuse to let you take another day of MY life." -- Or my children's lives. 

Be brave girls. Be real but be brave... and be thankful for your blessings of today... For life changes constantly. 

Hugs my friends--
Pamela 

Ps-- Today is National Children's Grief Awareness Day as well!!  





Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Grieving Mother’s Ten Tips for Planning and Surviving Christmas 


It' is holiday season.... as we all know. We can try to "skip Christmas" - I have tried this myself but unsuccessfully. In my opinion, what is more effective is trying to sit down and make a plan and figure out how to cope with this extra vulnerable time of the year.
I spent a little time writing down suggestions on what has personally helped me in the past. As I have mentioned to many new mamas who unwillingly joined this club.... Many people will give you suggestions. Some suggestions will work for you and others will not. After you read this, I would really like to hear feedback on what you are doing or what has worked for you in the past. Helping each other walk through this time in our lives, and the holidays.

Hugs to each one of you.
Pamela
  • Remember that you really must conserve your energy during this time of year. Although you will be tired, select what events that you want to attend. Or attend nothing. Do not be disappointed in yourself because you maybe just "can't" do what you've done in the past.
  • Go to the craft store and purcjaee a kit to make SOMETHING for your living children. Maybe an ornament.... Focus your mental and physical energy on the people that you love who are still living. It will show them that you love THEM too.... Our living children are suffering as well.
  • Purchase a small Christmas tree and spend time searching for the "perfect" ornaments in memory of your child. I used Logan's hat as the tree topper and filled it with a colts ornament, a wrigley field ornament, football ornaments, etc. It gave me purpose and something to DO while Christmas shopping. The small tree was a table top tree that I kept in his room. I actually kept this tree up for several months. 
  • Then, my daughter requested a tree in her room too. She needed this as well.  I bought a white tree and filled it with ornaments to match her room. Children will frequently become jealous of their deceased sibling. This time of the year, they become more acutely aware of the change in their family as well. Do not be "fake" happy but instead, acknowledge the feelings together. You are teaching your children how to grieve... Regardless of their age.
  • Acknowledge that the holidays will forever be changed.... So change your traditions. If you always opened up presents on Christmas Eve, then consider doing it at a different time. Try to take whatever big traditions your family has and shake it up.
  • Everyone is going to try to "make you happy". Be prepared with your words as you teach them to grieve. They will not understand your expectations or feelings unless you tell them... Or unless they are thrown into this situation - and we wouldn't wish that on anyone. Ever! When they ask how you are, do not always feel the need to say "fine." It's acceptable to say, "I'm trying hard but its tiring." Or "I'm getting sick of hearing Christmas music."
  • So the fact that your child will not be there during the holidays is going to be the big elephant in the room that few will talk about. It helped my family on the first year to actually just acknowledge it by carving out time to recognize Logan. I bought a large decorative platter and filled it with tons of white candles of all sizes. One night prior to Christmas, we all met as a family around the coffee table and took turns lighting a candle. Each person told a story about Logan. Funny and stupid and serious stories. I had about 20 candles. Tea lights and bigger candles. Sure, we all cried! BUT that pressure release was good! It decreased the tension that we were all feeling.
  • Do something special quietly in memory of your child. The money that you spent at Christmas on your child, use it to donate $$ for charities (such as when the clerk says "wanna donate a dollar to homeless people?" I say yes.... "In memory of Logan" ). Or.... You can adopt a family at Christmas.
  • I tried to open my eyes and realize that Christmas and Thanksgiving is actually a SAD holiday for many people. I think it may be more sad for more people than it is happy... Look around and see that a LOT of people are in a funk and sad. What can you do to help them? Giving to others, even with kind words, will help you feel better. People are feeling inadequate as they struggle to purchase presents for their children, they may be missing a member of their family too, they may need employment, or they may just feel inadequate and sad as they compare their holidays to the expectations that society holds up for holidays.
  • Most importantly, I focused on the REASON for the season. Heaven is a REAL place. It is where Jesus actually LIVES.... With our children too. I think of the wonderful gift of the Christ child and how he was sent here so all of us can have eternal life in Heaven. This isn't a new thought or concept. We KNOW that's the reason for Christmas. Now that my child is there, I feel deep appreciation and value of this gift like I had never felt previously.
You WILL make it through December... Keep putting your feet on the floor.  The next season is the quiet of winter. It too has a purpose. 


Monday, October 21, 2013

Creative Grieving- Activities to nourish your spirit

Today I visited downtown Asheville North Carolina. I stopped in a local downtown bookstore and found a cool book by a local writer. "Creative Grieving - a hip chicks path from loss to hope." By Elizabeth Berrien. 

I'm just now digging through this book and found a few pearls of helpful things to DO in order to MOVE through your grief towards healing. 

Enjoy girlies!  Try to focus on the beauty in the change of the season and just BREATHE and relax those tight tired muscles. Know that I'm cheering you on from the sidelines.  Tootsies on the floor-- each and every day. :)

Hugs!!
Pamela Parker 
Www.holeheartedmamas.com
Holeheartedmamas@gmail.com



The following contains quotes and summarizations from a small portion of the book.  Please email me if you want additional information on any of these activities. 

Creative Hip Chick Ideas: Activities to nurture your spirit. 

"If you're alive you're creative... We "reduce" and "deflect" our creative selves in many ways. Life is the creative act, not the canvas or the blank page. --Patto Digh

This list of ideas was developed from some of the activities I created and practiced throughout different stages of my own grief journey. You might be thinking, "but I don't have a creative bone in my body!"  Well, the beauty of these activities is that you don't have to be an artist or expert at anything.  

You may find that some of these ideas resonate with you and others don't. You may find you are drawn to do certain activities early in your grief and then gradually feel up to pursuing other ideas later in your journey as your needs shift and your grief is transformed. Although you may initially engage in an activity as a distraction, you may find that you feel uplifted by it and strengthened to try other ones. 

Three categories:
Be Mindful includes writing, music, list making, and self nurturing activities. They are about being gentle with yourself and being mindful of your thoughts and needs while pulling from your creative spirit. 

Getting Physical recommends activities that can help improve your overall well being through movement. Because grief is often held in the body, these activities can help release stress and muscle tension while also providing relaxation for the mind. They can be done at any level of fitness, and they are also a great reason to get up and get going during the day.

Going Visual lists fun art activities that can be done by anyone. They include projects such as making a memory scrapbook, wishing ribbons, or decorating affirmation stones. You don't need to be an artist to be creative!

Do these at your own pace; do them by yourself or with a friend; do them early in the morning or in the middle of the night; do one a day or one every three months. 

Be mindful:
*Keep a journal
*Create a CD that sparks your soul
*Seek a little comfort just for you.
*Eat!
*Write down all the ways you were enriched by your loves ones in your life. 
*Learn to make lists. 
*Spend time around animals. 
*Treat yourself to something you've been wanting. 
*Create a ritual of honor during a holiday, birthday, anniversary, or other celebrations. 
*Learn a new game with your girlfriends. 
*Practice random acts of kindness. 
*Consider writing your own story of loss and hope. 

Getting Physical:
*Visit a massage therapist 
*Travel
*Become a day tripper
*Try a creative movement dance class. 
*Take a yoga class 

Going Visual:
*Create a memory scrapbook
*Take a creative art class
*Create a memory box
*Make a memorial quilt from your loved ones clothing 
*Try your hand at SoulCollage (www.soulcollage.org)
*Decorate stones with affirmation 
*Create wishing ribbons (using a sharpie, write down your hope or wishes and tie the ribbons to a tree in your yard.  Create your own meaning) 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Halloween thoughts...

With Halloween approaching, I feel the need to send another mamas note.  As I flip through the television channels, the programming is filled with Halloween themed movies and horror flicks. 

When Logan died six years ago, I was sickened when my neighbor put up a pretend "graveyard" in their front yard. I remember my exhusband saying, "so we must look at THIS for a month?!"

Remember that seeing graveyards - cemeteries- aren't funny or spooky to us.  They unfortunately have become part of our lives and those ridiculous "RIP" fake headstones can be insulting.

Stop for just a minute... Until your child died, you probably didn't HATE Halloween or the silly haunted houses. Unless they have experienced the loss and tragedy that we've experienced, they will not understand that death isn't funny. Be patient sisters... It's almost over. It's ok to not pass out candy but i challenge you to also remember the joy of the little sweeties that say "trick or treat".

The complexity of our feelings FEW will understand. Certainly we are thankful that everyone does not know the pain of losing a child and visiting cemeteries and becoming so intimately familiar with death and grief.

Hang in there girls.... Halloween is almost over. Focus on the beauty of the colors and beauty of the leaves as autumn demonstrates it's glory. 

Hugs to each and everyone of you....

Pamela Parker 
Www.holeheartedmamas.com
Holeheartedmamas@gmail.com

Sunday, October 6, 2013

You are not a tree--

If you do not like where you are- MOVE!  You are not a tree!  

Metaphorically speaking, this is an important decision for a grieving person. It happens at a snails pace but movement can occur. 

A few years ago I watched a powerful movie.  "We are Marshall" is a movie that was released in 2006. I am often bored by the game of football, as I am by many sports. (Any one who knows me will laugh at that statement!). Read the following description of the movie-

"When a plane crash claims the lives of members of the Marshall University football team and some of its fans, the team's new coach and his surviving players try to keep the football program alive. -- IMDb Plot: We Are Marshall (2006)"

WHY in the world should a grieving person watch this movie?!  Haven't you experienced enough tears and heard enough sad stories?!  Allow me to explain-  
THIS movie is really about moving forward THROUGH grief. HOW do we move forward?  Each one of us is different.  Our time tables are different as well.  I will tell you that my main thought early in grief- "I don't wanna be in THIS place forever."  I embraced the words, "grieving forward."  Only with doing your grief work will you truly move through your grief.... To a new place. 

Movie quote-- "Grief is messy. It makes you do things you regret. Things you'll always regret."  

I know many many mamas now who are in various places in the continuum of grief. I want each of you to examine where you are and what you are doing to work through your grief. I do not want you to be saddled with lifelong regrets. 

YOU didn't ask to be in this place in your life. You DO have choices during grief as to whether you choose to become too comfortable sitting beside the headstone of your dead child frequently...  or whether you are willing to eventually REALLY join life again. There is a time and place for grieving but there is also a time and place to TRY to move forward. 

This website is "hope for grieving mothers."   With this website, I try to show you that there IS hope for your future, but the decision to slowly move towards healing is yours. 

Alternatives- your children WILL resent you and you WILL lose precious connection with your spouse. Plus- you will MISS the precious days of LIFE!!!  The significant opportunities to honor your child. I have many regrets myself...

"We are Marshall" is sad-- but each of us knows sadness-- but MOST importantly, it shows how grieving folks TRY to grieve forward. Please girls...  Please TRY to keep moving forward. 

Please TRY to HONOR your deceased child by choosing to LIVE and by SEEKING joy. True joy. It is possible. This is not quick nor is it easy, but eventually possible.... But only if YOU desire it. 

Consider this thought-- How have you honored your deceased child this weekend with your actions?

Hugs to each of you as you hopefully make the conscious decision to "grieve forward". Be brave enough to NOT be a tree. :)




Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Top Ten Things NOT To Say...

Read this very insightful article written by my teenage friend Alli. Alli's brother Garrett was suddenly ripped from her family's life three years ago. I'm so very proud of her as she has worked very hard to deal with the challenges that were suddenly tossed in front of her. 

Allie has a solid grasp on knowledge that we can ALL use.... The top ten things Not to say!   I honor Alli for who she is and how she has been redefining normal in her life!  

Hugs to Alli and each of you!
Pamela 



Alli writes:

Time heals everything 
Your loved one is in a better place 
I know how you feel
Everything will be okay 
It all happened for the best
It's time to put this behind you 
Be strong
Move on 
At least he or she didn't suffer 
Don't cry

That is my top 10 list of things that I hate to hear. A lot of people do not know what to say when someone close to you dies. It's hard for teenagers to hear these things. My brother past away when I was 13 and he was 17. There are a lot of things people told me that I did not want to hear and it hurt me to have people saying them to me. 

The one thing I heard the most is that time heals everything. I have to say that  time does not heal everything. My brother passed away on June 23, 2010. It's been 3 years since the accident and time does NOT heal everything. The past 3 years have been the hardest years of my life. 
In these last 3 years I have learned more about myself then I ever have before. 

Time does not heal everything but time DOES make things easier. In the last few months I have been learning what my new life looks like without my brother. Redefining a normal life without one your loved one can be really hard and a lot of work, but it is possible. 

When someone tells you,  "It's time to put this behind you," it's hard  to hear. When you are ready to move on then you will. Don't let other people make that decision for you. You will never completely move on, but you will learn how to cope with the loss of your loved one.

I want other teenagers who have lost a loved one to know that they are not alone in this long grieving journey and that no one has the right to tell you what you should be feeling.



Monday, September 2, 2013

Pop tarts and the Grief Dance

The unexpected moments of missing our children will knock us over. I'm visiting my son, daughter in law, and my little grand baby in Tennessee. My son and I popped into a grocery store. As a single gal living alone, my dietary habits are pretty consistent as are my grocery store habits. As I was browsing through the store, I noticed a pop tart display.  When I looked at it closer, I saw that they were Pumpkin Pie Poptarts. My breath was knocked away as I remembered that my Logan LOVED Poptarts and also loved Pumpkin Pie. I gasped out loud and quickly went to another aisle as I felt a wave of nausea.  My son was puzzled as I had gentle tears in my eyes.  

It wasn't the memory of Logan that caught me off guard...  It was the fact that time and the world has continued to move along without him. 

I share these personal stories with you because it's important that you know that these thoughts and feelings and surprises are a commonality that we share. 

As we continue to "grieve forward", its also important to know that "forward" isn't always a linear path. Three steps forward and two steps back....  Try to seek out beauty along this path as we make the forward and backward path. 

I was able to remember the beauty of my personal  "grief dance" and surprise later when I remembered a specific visual memory of Logan eating an entire pumpkin pie. 

Hugs friends....
Pamela Parker 

Saturday, August 24, 2013

A Free Magazine In The Mail- BOOM!!!

Yesterday a sweet mama friend received a copy of Teen Vogue in the mail addressed to her daughter- who died two years ago. What was meant to be a marketing tactic to reap new subscribers to a magazine, brought that volcano of unexpected emotions to my pal.

Isn't it hard at times to conceptualize that the world has moved on without them?  Our world stopped suddenly with our loss. It is another layer of the many layers of our loss and grief. 

After Logan died, I was surprised how many phone calls that I received from military recruiters. It shook me to have a telephone call with a person requesting to speak to Logan. Each time, I caught my breath and told them- "I'm sorry but he died."  I always felt bad for the person on the other end of the phone - who was apologetic and horrified.  Each time this occurred, I politely asked for him to be removed from the list. 

Two years after the death of Logan, I was stunned but puzzled when Logan was selected to appear for jury duty. This was less shocking because i was more concerned that someone had stolen his identity. When I called the courthouse, the woman was very apologetic and stated that she would remove him from "the list."  I thanked her but I really wanted to understand how this happened. She said "did he have a drivers license?"  I replied that he did not. This was actually a painful question because I had lost his birth certificate and I had just received the replacement-- So he had not had the opportunity to apply for his drivers license. Then she asked if he had registered to vote- in which I replied that he died at the age of 17. THEN she asked if he had paid taxes.  Hmmmm. YES!  Logan HAD paid a tiny sum of $100 taxes while he worked at the ice cream store. THEN I had this thought that I blurted out loud... "Let me get this straight.  He had no drivers license and had not registered to vote and was called for jury duty?"  She quietly said "yes." 

I then said "seriously?  A person without a drivers license, who hasn't registered to vote and barely paying taxes could be a jury of MY PEERS?!"

She quietly said "yes."  I started laughing hysterically. That poor gal on the other end of the phone now thinks that I'm crazy. Maybe she's right!  Ha!  

In times of stress, I am now finally able to occasionally use humor to defuse the intensity of my own grief and others reactions. Anyone else do this?  Unless a person knows me, my humor often falls flat.  Ok-- even if they know me it falls flat too!  :)  

There is nothing humorous about losing a child. There is nothing funny about being in the pit of darkness when you cannot see any light. But.... Once you've been shrouded in the heaviness of dark, torturous, and lonely grief... Then when you finally see sparks of light and joy... THAT can make you CRAVE more joy. At least that's what has happened to me. 

Where are you in your journey?  Can you see any sparks of light?  Can you see hope for tomorrow?  My girlie girls....  There is hope. There is life beyond the darkness. Hold tight to these truths. The rest of the world will not understand these eruptions, but the rest of the mamas will empathize. 

Hugs to each of you as you endure these surprising eruptions. Hold on girls.... You can do this. We are in this thing together.... 

Pamela Parker
www.holeheartedmamas.com

Holeheartedmamas@gmail.com


Monday, August 12, 2013

My "Smell Memory"

This weekend I was at a friends house and I was hungry.  As I looked through the freezer, I noticed frozen breakfast pizzas.  This is not a normal item at ALL in my diet, but I was hungry and it sounded good.  As the smells wafted from the microwave, I began to have surprisingly strong but pleasant memories of my Logan. The smell made me smile.  At one point, he was obsessed with these breakfast pizzas and would eat several a day, if I didn't watch him!  This "smell memory" was very powerful.  It was pleasantly nostalgic.  Almost comforting.  I really had forgotten about this little piece of powerful trivia until I experienced this "smell memory."
 
The most powerful memories are associated with our senses.... what we see, hear, taste, feel, and smell.  Negative memories as well as positive memories.  As a person who has experienced great loss, initially I most commonly felt the pangs of the negative memories associated with my child's death.  I refuse to say "time" makes it better - because "time" alone does not create healing.  "Time" plus doing your grief work is what allows true healing to occur.
 
After the passage of July... the anniversary of my child's death... I am once again able to focus on the positive memories of my child.  Of his life.  Not just his death.  The way that he died no longer defines my son.  The way that he LIVED does... FINALLY, again. 
 
We can easily associate a negative memory with each of our senses.  My challenge for you today is to look at each sense and remember a positive memory of your child.  Now you know my "smell" memory! 
 
Girls... please be kind to yourself and remember that grief is a process. It is perfectly acceptable and natural to have our thoughts remain overwhelmingly toward the way that they died for a very long time.  I'll say this again... Grief is a PROCESS!  NOT an EVENT!  Recognize each little milestone along the way as you slowly see light along the journey. 

Pamela
Www.holeheartedmamas.com
Holeheartedmamas@gmail.com
 

The Dash – by Linda Ellis

I read of a man who stood to speak
At the funeral of a friend.
He referred to the dates on her tombstone
From the beginning..to the end.
He noted that first came her date of birth
And spoke the following date with tears, 1964-1994
But he said what mattered most of all
Was the dash between those years.

For that dash represents all the time
That she spent alive on earth..
And now only those who loved her
Know what that little line is worth.
For it matters not, how much we own;
The cars..the house..the cash,
What matters is how we live and love
And how we spend our dash.

So think about this long and hard.
Are there things you”d like to change?
For you never know how much time is left,
That can still be rearranged.
If we could just slow down enough
To consider what”s true and real,
And always try to understand
The way other people feel.

And be less quick to anger,
And show appreciation more
And love the people in our lives
Like we”ve never loved before.
If we treat each other with respect,
And more often wear a smile..
Remembering that this special dash
Might only last a little while.

So, when your eulogy”s being read
With your life”s actions to rehash..
Would you be proud of the things they say
About how you spent your dash?

Monday, July 22, 2013

The dreaded month- Haven't I learned ANYTHING?!

Well, here it goes... My fb post for July 23, 2013.  Why is it important?  This fb post is what has kept my brain occupied this month when I needed to think of Logan and loss. It gave me something to "do."  I'm kind of a doer and sitting and being quiet isn't exactly what I wanted to do. So I would become occupied by thinking and writing. Great plan?!  The best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry....  True that. 

"This is the day that I dread every year. The anniversary of my middle son Logan's death. The day that everything changed- six years ago.  It is not possible to put a positive spin on this day.  His birthday- YES.  The Anniversary of his death- NO.  What do I want the "good" to be on this day?  
1) I invite all of my healthcare provider friends to recommit to the understanding that the negative outcomes often occur during the most mundane and average days...  And often from a series of subtle and innocently appearing events that cumulatively create a trajectory that cannot be reversed. BE AWARE!  
2) Sleep apnea WILL shorten your life. At the age of 17, it was later discovered that Logan already had moderate cardiomyopathy as a result of his sleep apnea.  Please google "sleep apnea" for more information and discuss this with your physician. It brings joy to my heart when people do this.  Sleep apnea really isn't about being too tired.   
3) Reflect.... "What legacy am I personally leaving in this world?"  Do all of these things in honor of Logan. Help create a legacy of safety, awareness, and personal change. Because of the sensitivity regarding the cause of his death, I would really appreciate minimal comments to this post.  Thank you for remembering our Logan today. He is at home and at peace in the kingdom of Heaven... But one day a year it's okay just to be sorrowful or even angry- for we were robbed of so much as he was unintentionally ripped from our lives."

So girls, this years thoughts of the anniversary of logans death have a flavor of frustration and anger. I may not believe in Kubler-Ross' Stages of Grief as a "grief model" but I believe that these are ALL valid emotions. Anger is one of these emotions. 

What is the source of my frustration this year?  I'm a slow learner. It took me a while... 
When July 1 hit the books, I surprisingly began to feel irritable.... Like the Princess with the Pea under her mattress. I couldn't put my finger on it exactly for a while.  Then I realized that I was anxious of the "day."  The trauma of that day is occasionally brought to my mind... That damn horrific helpless feeling with complete loss of control.  You remember that sound that we made when our children died... The WAIL?!  I KNEW what it was and had heard it before but it STILL frightened me!  

Also, I look at the amount of vacation that I'm allotted, and it stinks that I need to take a day off to grieve Logan. (Ok- more than a day because i left early today!)  PLEASE do not think that I believe that my employer owes it to me.  I do NOT!  I DO think that needing to take a vacation day or two for grieving is a CRAPPY waste of vacation days. Purposeful days but STILL unfair!  Haven't we given enough?  Donated enough days to grief?  Haven't we served our time?!   I want LIFE to win, not grief! 

Last month, I made plans to see a dear friend in Texas a week before now for a fun weekend- before the "retreat" weekend.  "Retreat" being code word for the weekend of unpredictable thoughts and sorrow that I would face prior to the big ole anniversary.  This fun weekend was specifically planned for celebrating and friendship. I had no idea that I would have a big case of "crazy brain" that weekend-- as I was on edge and not at all myself. Didn't I make the conscious decision to let LIFE win?  That became one more defining moment -- the lack of control that has lassoed all of our lives. It kinda hacks me off. I "planned" specific time to remember Logan and his loss. Grief didn't follow MY timetable. I even put it in my day planner. Hmmmph!  :)

When it was time for my self designated "retreat" weekend for reflecting about Logan, I decided that I really wanted to sleep on that Saturday. I opted to take Benadryl to snooze the entire first day. Bright idea!?!?  Not!!!!   My thought--- less time to be aware of this crappy weekend!   Plus, I was tired.   THAT REALLY backfired!  Great idea?!?  NO!!!!  I woke up Sunday morning feeling like CRAP.  My entire body ached and hurt. A body is NOT made to be immobile so long!   We are made to move all of the muscles and joints in our body. How much more avoidance could I DO?!

On Sunday, I decided that I physically couldn't take the exhaustion that laying around the house creates. Although I was physically exhausted,  I believed that my BRAIN needed to work--- even though my body was feeling like a 90 year old woman. 

Several weeks ago, I was in the toy section of a store with my grand baby and something caught my eye so I picked it up.  It was a kit to make "paper sun catchers."  That second day of my retreat weekend, I decided I that needed to try to focus on the instructions of making those origami paper sun catchers.  (Yes, I'm officially a ten year old!) By bringing out a tee tiny bit of my creative side, I was able to get an itty bitty surge of energy.  Next, my sweet gal pal texted and encouraged me to meet her for a walk. I sat for several minutes looking at her text.... staring at the phone.  My mind kinda wanted to see her, but my body was still exhausted.   I startled myself when I said "yes."    We met few hours later and I was surprised more than anyone when I eventually relaxed and giggled. 

The journey to July 23 this year has been unpredictable. We have no control over anything in our lives, although we create grand illusions of control. Don't we?!  Reread that sentence.  please. This has been the source of my frustration-- haven't I earned the RIGHT to control this animal called grief that I didn't ask for?!  Ha!  At least I can now laugh at the absurdity of my thoughts.... 
My friend Rick states- "The emotion of grief is a tricky guy...sneaky...comes in a different route each day...you unlock one door and he comes into another. The more u try to control him, the more sneaky he gets..."  Rick-- you wise wise griever, you!  True true true. 
Tonight is the eve of the dreaded anniversary.  I'm at home in my condo on this pleasant summer night.  Relaxed but waiting for the tsunami of emotions that may surprise me and knock me on my feet when I least expect it.... Understanding that my son Logan deserves the "full meal" deal of grief.... Even when we think we have grown past it.  He's still my boy and I'm still his mommy.... And a hundred years of earthly separation will never change this. 
Hugs to each of my mama friends...
Pamela Parker 
Holeheartedmamas@gmail.com
Www.holeheartedmamas.com. 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Having a baby after losing a baby

When a new baby is born after the death of a child, this is called a "Rainbow Baby".  This mom explains to us what challenges she has faced since she has had her new little Rainbow Baby.  Her first daughter died when she was five months old. As a personal note, I've known Courtney since she was in high school. She and my Logan were close friends. She has a special place in my heart as a mommy now.... And has given me sooooo many verbal gifts that have left me speechless. 

I've been asked if having another baby makes the grief less. NO!  It brings new challenges and different heartaches to your grief. 

The lessons in Courtney's words can connect with all of us who have lost a child. Read these words and maybe you'll see yourself and not feel so alone.  Thank you Courtney for sharing these thoughts. 
Pamela


I wish I could tell you that it's so easy to bring your new baby home and everything will be perfect, but I can't. Simply because it isn't.  You're still missing your other child. 

My biggest thing going into bringing my new baby home was not getting to see her older sister's reactions to meeting her new baby sister. It absolutely broke my heart. Pulled at a whole new set of grief heartstrings. I didn't even want to come home from the hospital. I was heartbroken that my kids would never get to play together, grow up together, cut each others hair, kiss each other, and do all of the funny loving things kids do together. 

After five months, the truth is, I still feel this way. I get envious of my friends that have multiple kids and watch them play with their siblings.  My child will only know her sister as being in Heaven. She will look to her for advice but she won't ever see her in the role of big sister. 

It's heartbreaking, but I have found ways to finally see things in a different light.  Such a true blessing LIFE really is.  I never thought about how precious "life" was until it was lost in front of me. 

When my second daughter was born, the first words out of my mouth- when they held her up for me to see- "she looks just like her sister" ... Part of me was so happy! What a blessing it is to see her sister in her! Part of her! Then I was sad too- it reminded me of what I lost every time I looked at her. It's still like that now. My daughter is 5 months now and still looks so so so much like her sister.  Now-- It is usually giving me happiness.  I know they are two seperate people, but it's lovely to see her sister coming out in her.  I do admit it's still hard at times. I am entitled to be the "crazy mom" and I wont let anyone tell me any different. I am the super crazy mom. I never put her down, I am very stingy with her, I follow the book on everything- although I know ultimately every child is given to us by God and they are only ours to watch here on Earth. Still, I am very over protective. I have only let minimal people meet her in five months. Everyone wants to meet her, but I'm just scared I'll miss something that happens.  I know now that time on earth with our children isn't promised, so I never want to leave her right now.  To a mother who hasn't lost a baby this sounds absurd! "You mean you haven't left her yet for a date night, or night out, or whatever?" No. Plain and simple. I am completely entitled to feel this way. After all, this baby is a rainbow baby! (Editorial from Pamela- I AGREE!  100%%%%%. Hold sweet little baby girl tight!  When she's older- if you are still feeling worried about leaving her... We will work through this together.) 

Everyone argues with me and tells me that I need to relax, but I can't.  I get anxiety just being away while I take a shower. Some say its not healthy to be like this, but in my opinion, they grow up so fast.  This one year of my life isn't that long... In a year I may start to relax a little. But it's hard to adjust to life after loss. 

The one thing I can say is my husband has completely blown me away. He is my rock. Right after our daughter passed away the preacher highly advised that we seek counseling as over 80% of couples that lose a baby end in divorce. A year later we were at a wedding and the same preacher approached us and was surprised we were still doing so well. I'm not sure I would still be sane without him. He is equally as crazy as I am and has never made me feel as if I'm too over protective. He's always there to hold me up when I'm falling. On my bad days he makes the day brighter. 

Some couples struggle.  I can totally see why. People grieve in totally different ways and I think in order for you to make a successful relationship, you must work after a loss.  I have realized that there are two main components to grief. 

**One.  Never put a "time frame" on grief. You are always going to grieve. Things may get better, but you'll always have grief. 

**Two. Let them grieve the way they want to. And be there for the other. Encourage positive grief instead of negative. 

As soon as my daughter passed away I took a grief and loss class through my college and this has helped me TREMENDOUSLY!!!  It helped me find ways to cope and listen to my husband.  Through my own grief I wanted to be supportive to him as well. 

To any new mama with a Rainbow baby- Take a deep breath!  Everything will slowly fall into place. It takes time. You will love this baby so much it hurts, literally.... that's why God made mothers. He made us to love our children and to care for them.  God is holding your hand through all of this.  He is turning new pages in your chapter.  Don't be afraid to take the time to study your new gift. 

Hugs to each mama out there!
Courtney 

Monday, June 17, 2013

The winding path of grief... Stages or Tasks? I Vote Tasks!




Before you read the following, I want to explain the previous comments that I have made regarding the Stages of Grief.  I HONOR Elisabeth Kubler-Ross because she was AMAZING in that she REALIZED that grief needed to be addressed.  Like I explained before, she was a medical student in the 1960's who realized that NO ONE had talked about dying with patients... or with survivors.  She was a groundbreaking theorist and she plowed through lots of new territory.  After much reading, I have begun to realize that Kubler-Ross may not be the end and total answer to explain grief... she was just the beginning. 

Thankfully, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross just BEGAN the thinking and research on grief and dying.  Yay!  It is important that we understand more and more and recognize how to help others.  Read the following information that I have found... interesting. 

Wanna know what you are going to go through?  I believe that this is more of a realistic grief model, myself.  The most important thing to realize is that it gets better as you go through the process of grief. 



Quoted (With my editing) from Margaret H. Gerner, MSW 
Website www.bpusastl.org

TASKS OF GRIEF

In the early „80s Elizabeth Kubler-Ross published her book  On Death and Dying. In it she introduced the concept of STAGES of grief. Recently, Dr. William Worden, a renowned thanatologist (a person who studies death and dying... I KNOW!  Crazy, huh?) , introduced the concept of the TASKS of grief. I prefer this concept because it eliminates the implication of a sequence of time limits or stages.

The concept of tasks of grief is oriented towards what one must do in order to reconcile the loss. It imposes no time limits or sequence on accomplishing the work of grief. Worden's four tasks are to:

1. Face the reality that your loved one is dead.

2. Allow yourself to experience the pain of grief.

3. Learn to live without your loved one.

4. Find meaning in your life that does not include your loved one.

Let us discuss these tasks separately with our child‟s death in mind.

TASK ONEFace the reality that your loved one is dead.


Certainly, at the time of the death, you know intellectually that h/she is dead, but before you can grieve the loss you must know this at a deep level. It is a common belief that if a loved one died after a long illness, we have already begun to grieve. However, this is only partly true. During a terminal illness we might have begun to let go of our love and do some of the unfinished practical and emotional work. We might also have grieved for other losses, such as the loss of the person he or she was before the illness or the loss a part of ourselves. However, we cannot grieve the loss of our love until h/she dies. On the other hand, when the death is sudden we have no opportunity to prepare in any way.

Initially, regardless of whether the death was sudden or expected, we react with shock and denial. Shock sustains us throughout the funeral and for some time afterwards. Denial allows us to face the full reality slowly.

In either sudden or unexpected death, the full impact that our child is dead and will never be in our life again, takes weeks and sometimes months to hit.

For weeks we expect him to come in the door. . When the phone rings, we still expect it to be her. For a long time we start to set her place at the table. We continue to do all the things that were an automatic part of life with our child. Protective denial is at work here.

Out of habit we continue certain activities. Only repeated reminders that he isn‟t going to come in the door, call, or be home for dinner, cause us to stop expecting it to happen. It takes four to six months of knife sharp reminders before we fully realize at a deep level that our love is never going to participate in that activity again.

Unconscious denial that the death really happened, and facing the full reality that it did, are both necessary aspects of grief. But, to successfully accomplish this first task of grief, we should allow the normal ebb and flow between the two.

TASK TWOAllow yourself to experience the pain of grief.
To accomplish this task you must allow yourself to hurt, be angry, feel guilty, talk about your child and how you miss him, cry as much as you need to, ask the question "why" over and over, and express any other emotions you may feel.

Unfortunately, well meaning friends and relatives may tell you to be brave and to get on with your life. In a sense they are saying, "don‟t grieve". Actually, this advice is harmful. It causes you to bury your emotions and pretend you‟re "fine", when in reality, you‟re miserable.

If you really look at it, this advice doesn‟t even make good sense. When you lose someone you love and who is very close to you—especially your child, —you will hurt. You can‟t suddenly turn off the love you felt for and from your child and go about the business of living as if h/she never existed. It‟s impossible.

To accomplish this second task, learn about grief. Read some of the many good books on grief that are available. Find someone who will let you cry and listen as you talk out your thoughts and feelings. Attend a bereaved parent support group.

Allow yourself to feel and express your motions. Rethink what you have been told

about grieving. Remember, feelings aren‟t facts. Your feelings may not be logical, and certainly, expressing them won‟t bring your child back, but none-the -less they are there and must be worked through.

TASK THREE: Learn to live without your loved one.
Your pattern of living has been drastically altered. Perhaps now you have no children or only two children instead of three. Eating at the table with that empty chair facing you, doing many of the things that your child was part of isn‟t an easy task, and it can‟t be done overnight

As you have probably been told many times since your child died, life must go on, but now it GOES on differently than when your child was alive. You must now learn a new way.

Just as grieving is a process, so is accomplishing this task. It involves repeating an activity many times until it becomes familiar.

TASK FOUR: Find meaning in your life that does not include your loved one.
Rarely do you think about the meaning of your life before losing your child. As a parent, you didn‟t set aside time to ponder how your child defined you and how your life was molded by your role of mother or father. .

You never consciously examined what your child meant in your world. It just seemed right to go to work, fix meals, save money, decorate your house, or any of the many other things you did as a parent. But, on an unconscious level, beneath your awareness, your child and all the ways she/he was in your life, provided you with most of your reason for living—she or he gave your life meaning.

There are few concrete suggestions for finding new meaning in life because meaning is a deeply personal thing, unique to each of us. We don‟t "decide" to find new meaning. It just happens as we go about living and loving without our child. Rarely are we conscious of accomplishing this task, but subtle changes give us clues that it might be happening. For example, thoughts about what you will do with your life now, or that you have two children to put through college instead of three, suggests that you are beginning the search for new meaning. Usually you recognize that your meaning is changing only when you look back and see how different your life is now. You see accomplishment of this fourth task only in retrospect.

As with the other tasks of grief, this task takes time—probably the longest of all the four tasks, with much moving ahead and pulling back. You may be attracted to the idea of change, but at the same time, fear leaving the familiarity of old ways. You may enjoy newly found interests, but at the same time, feel disloyal to your child.

Old meanings are hard to let go of and new meanings are hard to develop, but, if you are to reconcile your loss and find a new life, you must do both.

In summary, keep in mind that these tasks of grief must be tackled over and over. They are sometimes accomplished separately; at other times they are accomplished simultaneously with other tasks. Remember that the concept of the tasks of grief is not meant to be a blue print for grieving, rather guideposts to help you along the road to healthy recovery.



A note from Pamela -


Hats off to Kubler-Ross for establishing the groundwork.  Hats off to Dr. Worden for helping us see that there is a different kind of path.  There are many more grief theorists.  Read one that you believe to be true?  Email me...   

MOST importantly, know that every person goes through a unique experience and the PROCESS of grief.....  There isn't a simple timeframe or path through the darkness, but your will see more light.  Keep putting your tootsies on the floor.  Everyday.     


Hugs to each and every one of you.

Pamela Parker
holeheartedmamas@gmail.com
 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Fathers perspective. Dale Hubbard.

When putting together this blog, I recognized that I could ONLY speak about grief from a mothers perspective. I'm not a father who has lost a child.   

Several weeks ago I requested that an old hometown friend write about his experience-- from a fathers perspective. 

"I am not going to bore you with a lot of past garbage but in 1965 I was in So.Vietnman sitting on the hill side behind a machine gun on guard. One of the guys brought me a letter - which was the highlight of our day. When I opened the letter and started to read the words, they jumped off of the page at me. HONEY KENNETH DIED DURING BIRTH. 

We were excited that after first having a daughter, we were now expecting a son. Well now we found out that it was not to be. 

I had no idea how to make the pain better.  I got drunk thinking this would ease the pain, but it didnt.   A close friend told me that I needed to give it to GOD. I took about six years for me to realize I was mad at God. 

God never said that life would be easy for us.  He did promise that He would walk with us through it. 

Many years later, everything in our life was great.   We had it made until 11 years ago when the doctor looked at us and said it is a little thing called cancer. I will say it is not such a little thing. Blanche took me by the hand and said God will see us through this. He has -- even though she had to have her right breast removed a year later."

Let me explain further, Dale and Blanche lost their son before WE as a society began to have any clue about "grief theory."  Elisabeth Kubler-Ross is the first researcher to ever study grief. Although her five stages of grief are considered unproven and oversimplified by many now, she was a ground breaking scientist in the late 1960's. She was the chick in medical school who made everyone aware that there IS grief. It is real. How do we help people?  How does it work?

The faith in our loving God and in Heaven as a real PLACE helps many of us come to terms with where our child is and that we will all be reunited again. I WILL say that faith alone does NOT make the pain better. I wondered on a daily basis, in that first year or two, if my faith just wasn't strong enough. I STILL HURT!  So if I pray and I have faith, then WHY does it still hurt?  

Honestly, this is what i consider the danger time period in which many people will become bitter and lose faith in God. This is when well meaning Christian folks unknowling hurt the grieving.  Our society believes in a smoke and mirrors God that believes that its all going to be better with a few prayers. I began to detest those words "Give it to God."  I did blurt out on a few occasions "REALLY?!  Think I haven't DONE that?!"  (FYI- if you have met me in real life, you already know that I say what I think-- not always using my socially acceptable vocabulary-- sometimes to a fault!)

Like Dale stated, God never promised us exemption from suffering, but He promised to be with us through the suffering.  He sits with us in the reality of our losses and makes Himself known to us.  In the darkest night of our souls, when we've lost our way.   He is there.  

Hold on to this promise:  Your season of grief will change.  You will become stronger and you will feel joy in your heart again.  I'm sure there were moments when David, the shepherd, king, and psalmist, thought the song and joy of his heart was lost forever.  As this Scripture reveals, God did not fail him.  He will not fail you either. He hasn't failed me (but I had my season of doubt that the pain would leave)
 
The Lord is my strength and my shield;  My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped;  Therefore my heart exults, And with my song I shall thank Him.  Psalm 28:7 NASB

So DON'T feel like your faith isn't good enough or that you have been abandoned by God during this grieving process. Remember.... We NOW KNOW that It's a process. A long long process. No one could walk Dale and Blanche through  their horror.  Grief wasn't understood.   It was mysterious and frightening (true THAT!!) . On the positive side- there is the promise that the pain will diminish. Not by the magic wand that God waves when we pray the "best" and most "heartfelt" prayers.... But by our loving God silently giving us strength and little gifts -- quiet comforts with the hope of a new day tomorrow. Eternal promises. 

Final statement. God hasn't failed you.  He's there. Close by.... Keep putting those tootsies on the floor every day. Every day. Rhythm. It'll give you comfort and control. Thank you my dear friend Dale for your insight. I honor you and Blanche. Now and always. 

Thoughts?  Love private emails. You gals have proven to me to be private and quiet. Hugs to each one of you. 

Pamela Parker 
Holeheartedmamas@gmail.com.