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

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Can you survive Christmas? Yes you CAN!


It's holiday season.... as we all know. We can try to "skip Christmas" - I have tried this myself but I've had varying success. . In my opinion, what is more effective is trying to sit down and make a plan and figure out how to cope during this extra vulnerable time of the year.
I spent a little time last year writing down suggestions on what has personally helped me in the past. As I have mentioned to many new mamas who joined this club that we didn't ask to join.... Lots of people give you suggestions. Some 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
Www.holeheartedmamas.com
Holeheartedmamas@gmail.com


  • 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. Don't be disappointed in yourself because you maybe just "can't" do what you've done in the past.

  • Go to the craft store and get a kit to make SOMETHING for your living children. Maybe an ornament.... Focus your mental and physical energy on the people that you love that 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.
As I stated before, I look forward to hearing your suggestions to pass along. You WILL make it through November and December... Keep putting your feet on the floor.
Pamela

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The holiday season has arrived-- and so has that big magnifying glass!!

Every holiday season is a mixed bag of emotions.  It is easy for us to be "over sensitive" to life around us. This past week, I encountered an abundance of unusually grumpy people. It is important to remember that that this is a sensitive time of the year for many other people as well. 

I wrote this statement a few years ago and it remains appropriate:  

"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!"

My first Thanksgiving and Christmas without Logan are still so painfully memorable... for someone who was in a fog. Those who know me well know that I grieve many other losses during the holidays. The loss of your child is the "Primary Loss."  In my situation,  it is the "Secondary Losses" that I personally  grieve now.  
In speaking with many of you recently, I have noticed that many are feeling "anger" or overall agitation now. Like I have said before, NONE of these feelings are "Normal",  but all of what we are feeling is "Natural."  When the empty  chair is ignored.... It is hurtful but natural.  I believe that it is common for the BIG invisible elephant in the room to sit in the middle of the activities.

Remember-- 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 tremendous and conflicting emotions.  We are oversensitive to people's actions and words right now. Protect yourself by taking care of YOU and your family. 

But mamas, please remember... 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 do not HAVE to make dozens of cookies.... cut down on the "celebration" part. BREATHE.... relax those shoulders down...

One of my friends who lost a child several years ago - their family 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.  This is a goal of mine one day as well. 

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*)

Just know that this too shall pass....  This is a very important season in our lives. Also, you are not alone.... There are MANY mamas who are silently standing in the shadows supporting you. Please email me if you have questions or need additional resources. You are NOT ALONE.  Hugs and blessings to all...

Pamela. 


Ps--  I'm planning a weekend retreat in January. Message me if you are interested. 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Tuesday Mornings With The Dads

One of the things that I believe is helpful is to write "the story."  The task seems daunting when you think about the amount of additional emotion that it takes to write the story.... Because it is often haunting. Truly--  It is something that you do not want to remember but you also do not want to ever forget. 

The "why's", "the what if's" and other personal survivor self torture is miserable. So, type up the story and email it to yourself--  this allows you to begin to "let go" of some of the details --- so you do not need to focus on them constantly. 

When writing, think about your senses. Our senses hold the key to very powerful memories.  What did the day FEEL like?  What did you smell?  What did you taste?  What noises happened during the story?  Our senses provide a memory that is unique to the experience and can later unexpectedly trigger anxiety.  Also--  write down the thoughts that you cannot really say out loud. In my situation, I had my own personal fight with God --  cursed and said things that were flying through my mind at times. Let it go. 

Years ago, I created a free gmail email to use as my journal and "brain escape".  Whenever I was feeling anxious and those repetitive angry and negative thoughts spun through my head, I wrote them down and emailed them to my email journal.  I sent them to the big computer in the sky. In part, slowly dismissing the irrational portions of my thinking. 

Also-- I made a personal decision to not read these emails for almost a year. When I did read them, I was surprised to see how far I had moved. It seemed like movement occurred in inches, but after reading my private earlier thoughts, I realized that I had made more progress than I had given myself credit.  

Recently, a patient mentioned to me that his son suddenly died in 2009.  As his wife quietly sat next to him, I was surprised to hear HIM talking about it. He spoke of anger and regret and the "if only's".  This surprised me because I notice that the mamas often tend to be more verbal.  He had become very comfortable talking about his sons unexpected death.  I asked this man, "what specifically helped you begin to move forward and heal?"  This man said "Tuesday Mornings with the Dad's."  I thought he was referring to the book "Tuesday mornings with morrie" I was wrong. This was new information for me so I asked him to elaborate. He explained that this book changed his life.  He explained that he later began to meet personally with the Indianapolis based group. 

"Tuesday mornings with the dad's" is a group of men who meet and support each other after they have lost a son or a daughter. 

After a few years of meeting, the group of men decided to put together a book of their stories--  from a fathers perspective. They have the specific purpose of supporting each other-- men and their grief. 

In the foreward of Tuesday Mornings With The Dad's, Tony writes about his own personal interactions with the men who authored this book. 

As many of you know, my son Logan loved the Indianapolis Colts. Three weeks after the death of Logan in 2007, the coach of the colts, Tony Dungy,  called my husbands cell phone.  Tony desired to offer support in his grief-- from one father to another. Tony also sent his new book with a personal note and a scripture written in the front of the book (it later became a best seller).  Most importantly, he left his phone number. He firmly believes that supporting each other--  in his case, one dad to another-- is critical to our healing. I now understand that this was an exceptionally kind action, considering it was only 18 months after losing his own son. 

If you are a man who is enduring the loss of a child, I encourage you to read this book. Why should you read "the stories" of their personal trauma and tragedies?!  This answer is big, so pay attention!  When listening to others who have experienced a similar path, you will often feel a sense of connectivity... This is when the lightbulb moment CAN occur!!!  At this point we can have the actual belief that there really IS hope for a different future. These men have endured trauma and tragedies and are now living their LIVES again.... After redefining normal. 

Just like my patient who lost his son, you should realize that there really CAN be life on the other side of the silence and darkness of grief.  The darkness and pain can be resolved-- only when you do your "grief work".   There truly IS hope for grieving fathers... And mothers... And families. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Can we wrap EVERYTHING in bubble wrap?

As I sit on the aisle seat of this plane, I feel the unsettling trembling of the aircraft as the plane lifts from the stability of the ground and into the sky. I have lost all control of this planes trajectory and my life is literally in the hands of the pilots and this large aircraft. 

Losing control is frightening. Losing control and losing a child will usually bring us to a place of uncertainty and paralyzing fear --- which is intermingled with the physically emotional pain of grief. I have often stated that when Logan died, I felt as if I had been dropped into a dark foreign land. I didn't speak the language and I had no idea what I should do to get out of that living nightmare. I had no idea how to help myself and my family leave that place.  It was frightening to the depths of my core existence. 

As time moved forward and I did my "grief work", I began to grasp control of my life in any way that I could find. I needed consistency. I found that developing patterns of behaviors gave me a sense of control... Of consistency.... Of comfort.    Routines create control. Control creates comfort. I've known people who changed their lives from crazy messy and clothes all over their bedroom-- to extremely organized,  with clothing even categorized by color in their closet. When all control in this life has been ripped from you, these small pieces of control are welcomed. 

As life continues on, we are faced with challenges and additional adversity. This is the nature of life and constant change. When the control of life is once again removed from our grasp and we are faced with the unknown, we can once again be faced with fear and anxiety. Catastrophizing is the term used when our brains look forward at the future and we can only see the possibility of bad things occurring. When this happens--  STOP!  Breathe. Slowly breathe. Close your eyes. Relax.  Recognize that everything in life doesn't end tragically in a life altering way--  as it did on our "bad day."  

Use standardized problem solving methods to rationalize to console yourself when making decisions. 

For example:
When my daughter sought her drivers license, I had great fear. I couldn't possibly lose another child!  

1). Look at the problem. Really ask yourself the problem and put each problems into individual sentences. Problem- I was afraid Callie would be in an automobile wreck.  

2)  Better understand the problem. She needed to drive because she needed independence and to grow into a fictional adult. 

3). List your options on how to move forward and brainstorm with many ideas. Options-- I could teach her how to drive myself. I could then have her take drivers education. I could also have her drive constantly when we needed to go somewhere together. I could also wrap her in bubble wrap and lock her in the basement. 

4) Proceed with your plan of action. I did all of the above plans-  with the exception of the bubble wrap and the basement. See-- I loved her enough to give her this gift of independence with the ability to drive.  It was painful for me-- but this wasn't about me. 

5) How did it go?  Do I need to do something differently?  Ha!  This could be debated by all parties involved. Bottomline--  she hasn't died or become injured in a car wreck. That's huge and was really my goal!

We have suffered enough with our losses. We should not continue to continue to sacrifice more of our lives to this horror than is necessary.  Be aware of when you are most susceptible to catastrophizing. 

In all reality...  We put great efforts into creating grand illusions of control---  but we never really had any to begin with.   

As my plane touches down on the runway, I look forward to the vacation days ahead of me.  I'm thankful to finally be at this peaceful place in my lifelong grief journey.  The uncertainty of the future is no longer paralyzing.  My Logan would be proud that his mama has eventually --  over much time and grief work-- gained enough courage to continue and strive to live.   This makes me smile. 

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Understanding the circus-- especially when this is NEW

This week has produced several new members of this club -- the one that no one has asked to join. Because we have so many new mamas who have popped into our lives, I have decided to pull up a few writings from the past. I'm in the process of sorting through the 62 blog notes and trying up label them in order to create an actual website that allows best access to resources. If you have any desire to help reread through all of this and help, pop me a note!  :). 

The circus that is created after a child dies is overwhelming. The community doesn't know what to do but their true compassion rings through as the family is cushioned with love and gifts of food and flowers. WE don't even know when to do--  I think of the people who guided me in those early days.   Our behaviors are often unexpectedly unusual and often cannot be understood by others. 

These were my thought of the circus almost two years ago--  read and send me your thoughts as well girls. We are a group of people who are seeking to find hope during tragedy.  I feel that it's our responsibility to toss sparks of light to those who are in the middle of darkness. Where you are now, you will not always be. Blessings to each of you....


When a child dies, there is a bit of a circus that occurs. The love and support of friends and the community is very apparent but can also be overwhelming during a funeral. After the funeral when the first few weeks have passed, the support that you feel frequently will change over time. The flowers and plants die and the cards in the mailbox stop and your house becomes oddly and eerily silent. It is very common for most people to not have a clue of what to say! They come to the funeral and send a card and bring a casserole. All of those things are wonderfully supportive actions but you may need more.

Think about it... How would they know what to say? We don't want them to ever understand... really... The only way to know is to live through this nightmare and we wouldn't wish this on anyone. So with that being said, I think it's totally appropriate and important to guide and teach people about grief. Guide them in what you need for them to do.

I was really surprised when I went back to work and walked down the hall and no one LOOKED at me. Suddenly, everyone needed to check the time on their watch to avoid eye contact. The truth is, it HURT them to look at me. Where did the EYES go? I felt alone because no one understood. Also, one physician that I work with was actually honest with me when he said- "You are living my worst nightmare and quite honestly, I've avoided you. Its embarrassing to say this but I don't know what to say." That was refreshing for me to hear because then I began to understand. Few would dare to ask me how I was doing because they were afraid that I would actually answer them or break into sobs. 

Guide people. Teach them. It's ok to do that. Make them look at you. Tell them what you need.

After Logan died I was uncertain of how to respond when people would say - "We want the old Pam back." All I could think of was -- REALLY?! ME TOO!! Ya think I like this?!?! 

You may notice groups of well meaning people who will cluster together and whisper - "So how's she doing?!" Well NOW I know that it is natural (I'll never say normal because it isn't normal to lose your child) but it's NATURAL to have every pore in your body to ooze out thoughts and rememberances and pain of your child who has died. 

Now, quite honestly, when people ask me questions about a mama who I know who is grieving... "How's she doing?" I say - "She's exactly where she is supposed to be. She has been dropped off in a dark foreign land where she doesn't speak the language and doesn't know how to get out. Its frightening. She's absolutely devastated. Devastated but trying to redefine normal."

Additionally to note.... I think it's important to maintain your privacy. I remember being at the grocery store and watching people glance my way and whisper. I felt like my life had become very public. If ANY person wants to know the details of the events that occurred and all of the horror, DO NOT TELL THEM. TRUE friends care about how YOU AND YOUR FAMILY are DOING NOW. Not DETAILS of the horror. It's no ones business what is happening in your private lives unless you desire to tell them. Keep your circle small- especially if there are legal issues regarding your child's death. I will rarely ever ask any details about the death of a child because how the family is functioning is most important. One more personal thought--- I know several mamas who have lost their children and the media has become involved. It is a rare occurrence that the media will get the details correct regarding the death of your child and its my personal opinion- "do not feed the animals." The more you give the media, the more they want. You didn't ask to be in the headlines so DON'T! Be quiet to them and they will leave. 

So to wrap up these "all over the board" thoughts....
Remember that:

1) People are truly innocently ignorant. Well meaning though. You scare them!! 

2) Those that don't really care will fade away and gossipers will be easily identified 

3) Take this opportunity to help them understand and educate. I think facebook can be a perfect medium for this. Pray before you post. Put lots of thought into your written words. 

4) The death of your child isn't pretty and grief is HORRIBLE and invasive and takes over every cell in your body. 

5) You don't need an audience as they watch you and your family suffer. Allow genuinely caring people into your life.

The circus eventually will focus on others, but we still remain as odd remnants of the horrible loss that brought us to this place. Disconnected from everything around us. This is the time to vow to learn how you and your family will redefine normal.   

Hugs to each of you...  

Pamela. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Anniversary year seven and new lessons....

Anniversary year six and anniversary year seven have been vastly different. I've pondered over the reasons for this difference. 

First, I really do not have much new to say In my blog and my life is becoming further emotionally removed from the everyday life of grief and sorrow.  I really don't feel grief daily at all any more. This website is "hope for grieving mothers" and I believe that I truly am example of hope. When I was in total darkness, I sought these types of lights to guide me. I needed hope. 

Second, I've also suffered other great devastating losses. Without detailing my family and the situation, I've been very focused and sorrowful on these other surprising losses. 

Most importantly, I have recently made some decisions to move forward into life and living.  I've been in a holding pattern for several years and I've decided to plant myself here in indianapolis... To actually live here. I have recently bought a new house and I have moved.  In the month of JULY!  I said from the beginning--  God help everyone around me!!!  

During this month of stressful changes, I have realized that anger is a more comfortable emotion for me than sorrow. Who wants to be sad when we can get mad and blame someone else--  example:  the other realtor for making the closing difficult with not having the sellers power of attorney in order.  My cousin Denise finally said to me--  "Pamela. What are you really upset about?"!  I realized that I was upset about everything and I couldn't define it!!  Truthfully--  My neatly arranged ducks were no longer in a row and had been tossed out of order. 

So--anger is easier than sorrow. I don't like change even if it's really positive. And I don't like July.  I can't still dread this anniversary month. When I rediscovered some of his belongings yesterday during the last portion of my move, my energy was zapped. I cried when I saw his notebooks with his handwriting and his school ID card. Items tossed in a box five years ago straight from his room--  and haven't been touched since. Tears are natural and healthy, but I felt weak. Physically and emotionally weak. 


Here is my fb post for the seven year anniversary of my sons death. Thankfully, when I think of him, I usually think of him living, instead of dying. This is a shift I'm grateful for. Please read....


"So much has changed in the world and in our lives since Logan died, seven years ago today. His friends and family have served in the military and have graduated from college and have gotten married and have had babies. He would be over the moon for his aunt Dana's little Zoe and also for being an uncle to Ellyanna. We didn't have smart phones and constant technology at our fingertips... And FaceTime!  He would be all about an iPhone and an iPad-- and shocked with delight that grandma and papaw BOTH even use an iPad!  His entire family has changed in unfathomable ways.  I've thought a lot about the lessons from this July--  the lessons for all of us as I have pondered Logan's life and his death. 
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!  Logan died at home after an outpatient surgery. Do not be the weak link in the chain!!  
2) Sleep apnea WILL shorten your life. At the age of 17, it was later discovered that Logan already had moderate cardiomyopathy (heart problems)  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 AT ALL 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 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." 


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

After the Funeral... Learning to Redefine Normal

Last week, I was informed of four young adults who died suddenly.  My personal opinion is that is DOESN'T matter HOW they died.... and some deaths should just remain private with their family knowing the details.  Because there are so many "new mamas", I have opted to post some information on the "First Steps" after your child has died.  Whether your child is an infant or a middle aged grownup, they are YOUR child. 


I always appreciate any additional suggestions to the following information. For additional resources, please see the resources under the segment "Pages."


My thoughts are deep with all of you, as well as the people who I have never met who read this site.  Please know that my email is always open and I appreciate and value with great confidence any comments, questions, and stories that you share with me. 


Pamela Parker
www.holeheartedmamas.com
holeheartedmamas@gmail.com






Now that the funeral is over...



Grief is exhausting mentally and it is VERY physical. 
Day ONE after the funeral, you have two things to do. 
Task One: You need to get up and take a shower and get dressed. 
Task Two:  You need to get up and make your living children something to eat... even if it is just a bowl of cereal.  Your home has been occupied by lots of people.  Children of all ages seek out reassurance that SOMETHING normal is going to return.  Everything has changed for them.  Show them that YOU will take care of THEM too.
After you do those two tasks, you need to rest. Don't feel guilty. You will now need to learn to begin to conserve your energy. 

S
hock is good --but it wears off--normally around several weeks to 3 months. Be prepared.

Here are suggestions from one child--DO NOT shut the door to their loved ones room or favorite place. Let it be a gathering place to share, cry, sit and stare... whatever. Don't give any of their things
away at first. Don't give anything away before asking the children. Their loved one's room is where they were happy when they were living. Let it still be a happy place or one to remember.

Children have said that it is important for them to be allowed go to the cemetery. Don't keep them away from there and act like it's not a part of life now. Try not to make it always a sad place. Let them set the pace on what they can deal with.

Don't forget to laugh when you can. Remember the funny things. You can laugh and cry your eyes out at the same time. It's not disrespectful to remember them with joy as well as the many tears.
Take a break from grief and rent a dumb movie or try to laugh.  It will not feel like you can laugh but you need to try to take this mini "vacation" from the 24/7 mental and physical stress that you are under. 

Even if you don't journal... write little things down. Little memory joggers or even a sentence or 2 of your memories. You DO forget.

You will have "Teflon Brain." It is common to forget things like paying the electric bill. Write notes to yourself about EVERYTHING.

Don't make your loved one into something they were not. Especially in front of your kids. They will occasionally feel guilty for being the one left here. Try to remember with them about the times when they WERE'NT.

At one point or another (sometimes often .. sometimes not) it is normal (very normal) to think of joining them. One lady said that I can't tell you how many times I would pull into the garage and just think... "all I have to do is pull the door down and this pain will be over." I wasn't suicidal, I just couldn't stand being in that much pain.
Grief is more physical that you can ever imagine. One person said, "It physically hurts your heart. Your everything. I am still amazed at how hard and lightening fast that kick in the gut feeling can overtake me."
You may have been able to tolerate alcohol in the past, but NOW you are at risk, my friends, for problems with this.  You MUST count... to ONE... or TWO on special occasions. 

Make an appointment for everyone to see the doctor.  ANY little health issue that is bubbling under the surface will probably come popping up and cause you problems now.  Having contact with your physician is important.   

Thinking of all of you as you begin the process of grieving. Remember that grief is a PROCESS.... NOT an event! You WILL make it through this and I'm so so so sorry that this happened your family. Please feel free to email me any time.  I have lots of resources which I will be glad to share. 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

I'm leaving on a jet plane....

I feel a sense of freedom when walking onto an airplane. 

Even though it isn't possible to leave your "life" behind when traveling, it is common to think about what is in our near future. In some cases, it's a vacation to explore something new. In other situations, it may be for our career and to participate in work projects in another location.  Regardless, when the plane takes off, a slight sense of vertigo is created as the plane begins to take off and fly away.... Into the future.... Whatever and wherever this may be. 

I often look at the buildings and roads that are below me. Sometimes I'm positioned in such a way that I'm able to see where I live. As the plane flies higher, I am once again reminded of the multitude of houses and people under me and my airplane. Our "real" world becomes tinier visually. Then it disappears all together.  

As I look below I see squares of property and rivers and interesting terrain. My world appears new. Different. Poof!  I am now somewhere else! 

This is very far removed from my "real" life.  Today, as I sit on this plane, I am now on vacation from work and my ordinary life. This plane physically and quickly removed me from all that is "my normal"--  temporarily. Everyone needs a break. I certainly have needed one. 

When we have a horrible grief experience, we often try to permanently leave it and go far far away. I've known families that have moved from their homes very quickly after losing a child. I've known people who have made huge life changes -- such as changing jobs or divorcing-- after suffering a devastating loss. Then there are others who are so paralyzed by fear of change and exhaustion that we stop moving our bodies and our lives all together. This is somewhat the category that I often fall into--  the "safe" category. I often try to not rock the boat and avoid chaos and conflict. 

Whatever grief phase you are in, I challenge you to take a walk outside. Change the scenery in your life. Breathe deeply and fill your lungs with fresh air. Stretch. Take a drive. Go to a state park.  Bring a blanket and lay down in a new place. Watch a funny movie!  Doodle.  Create art. (Side note- Attached you'll see a beautiful piece of art therapy that a friend has recently created....  Butterflies and a heart.)  All of these actions can create emotional vacations that we all deserve and NEED in order to gain fuel for our individual journey.  Do NOT move too fast and run.... Instead, walk slowly and savor the life and beauty that is around you. Notice and receive the tiny gifts that have been given to us.  

As I look out of the airplane window, I feel a sense of freedom. I am acutely aware that soon I will be returning to my pleasant and ordinary life.  Beginning today-- I'm taking a break.  It's a healthy break!  

I look forward to hearing ways in which you take your own break from the world around you!  

Sending thoughts of peace and contentment and healing to all of you. Hugs!!!

Pamela Parker 

Holeheartedmamas@gmail.com
Www.holeheartedmamas.com

PS-- I always enjoy your messages and comments. Pop me an email!  



Tuesday, April 15, 2014

That cruel anniversary month--- years later

Each of us should agree that our grief is very personal and individual. It is important to recognize that there are often similarities to our experiences. 


When my son died, I began to realize that I could often relate to my friend Beth. Although she had not lost a child, she did experience the shocking horror of her first husbands death. Beth introduced to me the term- "post traumatic stress" and how it relates to a shocking death experience. 


Please read Beth's most recent article. It captures the essence of grief during the cruel anniversary month. 


Hugs mama friends--

Pamela 



Nineteen years ago next week my beloved first husband died. It was Good Friday that year, and a bad day all around. My children were tiny. Fortunately, my mother, father, brother and sister-in-law drew close to us, and carried us through that desperate time. There is so much about that year I still cannot remember, about which I must ask. And those times passed.

For years there were times of remembrance that could make me gasp with the pain of it again. For a while those times were frequent, mundane, as the time when we drove around the curve of our street and saw his Jeep, and my son said as always, but before he remembered, “Daddy’s HOME!” Those first few years I continued to think I saw glimpses of him in crowds. I found perfect gifts for his birthday and for Christmas. And those times passed.

As the years continued, spring, summer, fall, winter, spring, summer, fall, winter, I noted occasions when he was most greatly missed: a birthday here, a vacation there, a flat tire, a decision about a new furnace, a small boy who needed someone to wrestle him, a small girl who needed to be carried by a dad who was stronger than me as she grew. And those times passed.

And there were changes, and new joys:  a second husband, a father for my children, a son-in-law for my aging parents, and a brother for my brother. There were new moments of great happiness and new challenges. New ways of being were required of us, new habits of worship and finance, new sleeping arrangements for a combination of five children now, coordination of shower times, surprises all along. “Oh yeah! This is a different husband, marriage, family than before....” Can we change enough, hold on enough and let go enough to move forward into new life? And those times passed.

And the years continued, spring, summer, fall, winter, spring, summer, fall, winter. And the memories were less painful, and I began to worry about forgetting what was most precious. I wrote memories down, and felt that joy and that sorrow again as I did so, but was glad to have recorded the best of times. And my now husband began to know that April was the cruelest month, during which I would be tearful for no immediately known reason, when he would need to say to me, “Let’s go outside, let’s get into the sun, let’s go to this movie, let’s hear this concert, here is your dinner, it’s time for a date.” And the hard times passed.

This year someone asked me, “What rituals do you use in April to help you get through?” And I count my resources: a Sad Songs playlist in iTunes, a Memory Candle, flowers for the table, poems of remembrance, too many journals in which April days are darkest, a longing for my children (now far from me), and the rueful awareness that everyone has a day like this, a saddest day. And every year my resources grow, and I am more nearly comforted. And the hard times pass.

Carrie Newcomer sings a song called “Gathering of Spirits.” She writes “I can’t explain it; I couldn’t if I tried, how the only things we carry are the things we hold inside. Like a day in the open, like the love we won’t forget, like the laughter that we started and it hasn’t died down yet.” Remember the laughter. Always remember the laughter.

A prayer for us: Most Loving Comforter of all of us who mourn, we cry to you from the depths and find ourselves raised from the death that is grief. Strengthen us for this journey from death to life, with the “gathering of spirits and a festival of friends.” Help us laugh again. Amen

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M1WrNisRhDU&feature=em-share_video_user

Beth Newton Watson, M.Div., BCC, director, Spiritual Care and Chaplaincy Services
317.965.9229
bwatson@iuhealth.org

StressLess Web Page:https://pulse.iuhealth.org/portal/intranet/home/content/?defaultXml=/wellness/stressless.xml

 

 

 


Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Chinese Lanterns, Birthdays and Anniversaries.

Just a few minutes ago I lit my first Chinese lantern. I wasn't certain if the 24 degree weather would let it rise.   As I finally watched the lantern rise far into the sky, I privately and personally celebrated the brief life of what would be the second birthday of a beautiful red haired angel baby girl.... And also the anniversary of the loss of my friends grandson. Standing alone in the dark, I personally  felt peace as I remembered where these two infants-- and others-- now reside. It's a real place!!  I have prayed for these families to feel Gods comfort as they seek to continue to grieve forward. These two infants have affected so many people-- in part because of both of their mothers' desires to create change and help others. These are both amazing women. 

Reflections on birthdays-- When a child comes into this world, we celebrate their birth and birthdays. When a child dies, their birthday is still precious. It is the life we celebrate and the memories. The memory of smiles and laughter and silliness are there every day... The whispers of their absence are also felt daily. Birthdays mark time--- the length of time away is getting longer.

Today is a beautiful baby's second birthday. This baby I've never met in life... When an infant's life is cut short, the birthday isn't easily celebrated. It brings up that often asked question- how do we celebrate the birthday of our child when our child has died? 

I will tell you that it has been challenging over the years. With each of my children's birthdays, I reflect on the day that they were born. I remember when my water broke and the labor process. I remember their first cries. I remember this for each individual child. 

When a child dies, sadly, their death overshadows the day that we brought them life... That wonderful joyous day that we captured in photos and videos... And sent birth announcements. This joy can't be felt because of the physical and the emotional pain of their absence. 

The birthday fills us with regrets... My friend who lost her infant daughter during birth to a genetic disorder has thought of what she could have done to prevent this genetic malformation. Regrets and questions. My friend whose daughter died on her five month birthday because of a mitochondrial disorder has these same thoughts as well. Whether you had the knowledge of impending death in the ICU at Riley, or if your child died due to horrific situational reasons, it is still impossible to fully celebrate their life when they didn't have the chance to be here with us for very long. 

I remember browsing the sympathy card aisle at hallmark looking for cards appropriate for an infants death and reading "be thankful for the memories". It seemed that so many cards said this and kinda made me angry. Not at hallmark, but at life. I left there and had a little sad crying session for my friend who didn't have these memories. The whole thing was unjust. It made no sense. Babies and children are not supposed to die. All of this is soooo very true. 

So back to the sweet baby who I only met after her death... I've heard her infectious giggle via a recording and I'm thankful to have it saved on my phone/computer. I've looked at the healthy little cheeks in photos and the smiles that she had with her sister. I've looked at the photos of a family with a mommy and a daddy and a big sister filled with smiles... I honor this family as they have tried so very hard to redefine normal in the midst of this tragedy. Her family has chosen to celebrate her birthday by releasing balloons or Chinese lanterns. This precious life that had far too few memories because of the short time in which she was here-- needs to be remembered. My prayer is that one day the pain of the "what might have beens" will not be so intense. 

"I do not believe that sheer suffering teaches. If suffering alone taught, all the world would be wise, since everyone suffers. To suffering must be added mourning, understanding, patience, love, openness, and the willingness to remain vulnerable." -- Anne Morrow Lindbergh

God bless each and every one of you mamas, daddies, siblings, and families as you continue to put your feet on the floor and redefine normal.... As we DAILY remember our children who have had their earthly lives cut short. Hugs... 

Note: If you have lost a child due to SIDS, you may find comfort in Mason's Cause. Mason is my friends grandson. Www.masonscause.org. 

Hugs to each of you!  

Pamela. 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Doodling....

I'm a doodler from way back.  When I was a teen I doodled and doodled all over everything. 

I recently saw a report on CBS Sunday morning about doodling and doodlers. Apparently research shows that it helps us focus and work through difficult issues. Hmmmm. It engages the mind to allow us to think.

"Think about a mindless drawing as a way to take all of those things that distract you, all of those subjects that you ruminate on, and clearing them away and opening this space where information can get in.  Doodling is the attentional sweet spot."

Well, sign me UP!  Let's clear out my little tee tiny brain!!  I pulled up my Pinterest app and found many cool doodles. I snapped pictures of the most interesting ones that considered replicating. I pulled out my large drawing pad and I glanced back and forth at the photo that I had copied on my phone. I tried to make the exact drawing but I was struggling.  It didn't look the same!  I wanted it to look and be the SAME!   This seemed FORCED.   The more I tried to make the curves and squiggles look like the photograph, the more it looked absurd and the more frustrated I became. 

Then I did something that even surprised me--  I grabbed my big rubber eraser and erased it all!  I thought--  if I'm going to doodle, I'm going to do it my way!  It was impossible to COPY a doodle. The purpose of doodling is to be free flowing, NOT structured. 

So I began drawing independently. Squiggles and curls. Shading smidgens here and there. Eventually I had enough confidence to put pen on to the paper and not use pencil. It began to feel natural and relaxing. It was MINE.... Not a copy.  Is it a masterpiece?  Hardly!!  

I realized that we often try to replicate others grief walk as well. That doesn't work EITHER!  Grief has an individual fingerprint and YOU have your OWN way to the other side of the darkness. I can tell you what has worked for me, but to try to replicate my journey would be impossible for you. Plus-- I want you to avoid the specific pitfalls that I encountered. That's one of the purposes of this blog. :)

Wouldn't it be nice to have an answer to the question that I repetitively  asked EVERYONE in the early years....  "What can we DO to get out of this horrible place?!  How do we go on and relearn how to LIVE again?!"  I needed to do SOMETHING to make it better. 

The answer isn't simple --  and you've heard me state this multiple times. 

You must learn to redefine normal. For you and your family. You will redefine normal.... Whether you purposely do this or not. 

How this occurs is different for each of us. Individual. Just like a doodle. My doodle is NOT perfect. It's off centered and I didn't follow the rules. But it fit my needs when I did it.  We each have our own path...  But there is hope for a future in the darkness. THIS I promise, my dear friends. 

Pamela Parker 
Holeheartedmamas@gmail.com












Sunday, January 19, 2014

Writers block and a treasured discovery

I have had writers block for the past couple of months. I keep thinking-- "is there anything I can republish?!"

In the past few weeks I have been in contact with three new mamas who have joined our club-- the truth is--  what I am currently experiencing isn't what the newly grieving mama is experiencing. Not even close.   I firmly believe in the words I say to other grievers:  "where you are now, you will not always be."

I recently found an obscure email that I sent to a mother who just lost her son. This letter was written only seven months after Logan's death. It was still very EARLY in my grief.  I no longer see and feel that grief is a lifestyle... Although you could never have told me that then!!  This letter is interesting to me --  how much I have changed. Now that I have journeyed to a different place in my life, I'm thankful for days of sunshine.  In the following letter, I reference the book Grieving Forward by Susan Duke.  

Hugs to each person out there in this big old world who feels the pain and emptiness of grief. May you feel comfort. Please know that I welcome and cherish every email. 

Pamela Parker 
Holeheartedmamas@gmail.com. 



I have removed any identifying info from this email. Please read the following:

I am so very sorry to hear about the very tragic loss of your son. So many things in life change when a child dies and it is so hard to keep going. I lost my 17 year old son in July after he had his tonsils removed. The trauma and drama of his death... the process of him dying and telling our children and family... are played in my mind everyday constantly. I only know how our family has felt and how we are trying to stay afloat.
Grief is such a strange thing. It is not quick and it is not an event, but instead I feel, right now, that it is more of a lifestyle... the big pink elephant in the room. It is bizarre to watch how people react in front of the grieving. At first so helpful and consoling and then to become afraid to speak my beloved Logan’s name. When I speak of my dead child, sometimes the room freezes and people do not know what to say. I have a painful longing for my Logan and I sometimes cannot stay focused. We don’t even have a name... at least when a husband or wife loses their partner, they are called "widows" or "widower." Our grief is so close to home for people... everyone’s greatest fear... that society has not even given us a name.
Time has moved so slowly for me. I feel like every work day lasts about 20 hours, especially when we are not busy, and every evening lasts 10 hours. I have been guilty of driving around town to avoid going home. Home is where I have missed my child the most. While at home, we have struggled to know what to talk about any more, even as a parent to talk to our children. What did we talk about "before?" Everything has been marked "before" and "after."
The exhaustion of trying to go forward... going to work.... going to school events.... even getting up and getting dressed deserves a pat on the back. But they don’t know that. We now belong to the club that no one wants to be in. We are living everyone’s greatest fear. It wasn’t until recently, our six month anniversary, that I have realized that more has been lost than just my son... just to name a few - satisfaction in my job, my comfort in my other two children (where they are - I become nervous when they are not with me.) When you sit and ponder, you will probably have your own list of what you have lost.
So after these happy notes, I want to tell you what has helped me. Actually, getting up everyday has helped. Praying. Turning off the TV and playing a family game like cards has helped us reconnect to our daughter. Antidepressants have made it possible for me to see the future. Yoga, not in a class but at home in front of the TV helps to stretch and relax. Sleeping medications have made it possible to get up in the morning and work all day. Going to bed at absurd hours, like 7:30PM some days has made me physically feel better. Reflecting on my many happy memories of my child. I read somewhere to "fake it till you make it" and I believe that has helped. I have my work face... like a game face. Most importantly, I feel great comfort in knowing that Logan is in safe hands in the Kingdom of Heaven. I know that I will see him again one day.
I had someone pull me aside and suggest a truly helpful book that I have sent to you. I connected immediately to the person that wrote the book. Her faith in our God has helped me to realize that God did not create this horrible situation that we have been thrown into. I believe that I have begun to "Grieve Forward." I went through the book and I have highlighted the parts that have touched my heart. What I found was that I could only go as far in the book as I have been in my grief. I was not able to finish the book until recently.
In this book, one of my favorite sayings, at the beginning, is "It’s hard to see God’s perspective when your heart has been plowed by pain. But broken fields are where seeds of hope grow best. As they grow, one day you will realize that your sorrow has not escaped God’s watchful eyes - and that "heart-shattered lives ready for love/ don’t for a moment escape God’s notice." (Pg 43) I know that my heart has been plowed by pain and I am beginning to feel the seeds of hope.
"You are consumed with grief in the early stages, and other people just don’t want to be around it. If they only knew how much is learned on the threshing floor of grief - the place where wheat is crushed in order to separate the insignificant stalks from the treasured grain - they would see that grief takes you to the deep places of your heart, and that all the changes occurring in your life are not bad. In fact they might catch a glimpse of grace in its purest form, and sacred love unveiled. At first, you may not feel comfortable with change, but in time, you’ll realized how much grief has seasoned you." (pg 66) The quiet time that I have, like it or not, has made me have time for reflection. I didn’t want to be seasoned... but I am now feeling more of a sense of peace and purpose. The fog will last for quite sometime, but will begin to lift. Time and going through the grieving process does make the light start to come back into your life again. But as you will notice, grief is like the tide, it will roll in and it will roll out.
Remember that LOVE IS--not was. That your precious child is with you every day and he will always be a part of your present and your future. Love is the one thing we take with us and the one thing we leave behind. It is more powerful than death.
Please know that I am praying for healing for you and your family
 
Pamela