Newsletter of The Compassionate Friends 

  Atlanta Area Chapters 
April - May 2003

"The mission of The Compassionate Friends is to assist families in the positive resolution of grief 
following the death of a child and to provide information to help others be supportive." 

A Nonprofit Self-Help Organization Offering Friendship and Understanding to Families 
Who are Grieving the Death of a Child 



The Courage to Come Back Again
By Cathy Seehuetter

It will be eight years this May that my daughter Nina died. On the one hand, it often feels like the life-altering spring day of that horrible accident just happened. On the other hand, it sometimes feels like it has been forever that she has been gone; forever since I saw her unforgettable braces-laden smile that could light up any room she walked into; forever since I heard her infectious giggle as she good-naturedly but relentlessly teased her younger brother; forever since her nightly ritual of coming into my home office, hugging me from behind while I sat in my chair and saying, “Good night, Mommy. I love you.” 

Almost all of those eight years I have been attending TCF meetings, as I went to my first meeting three weeks later.  I was kindly told of The Compassionate Friends shortly after Nina’s death.  I will be forever grateful to the director of the funeral home who led me to TCF.  When I heard that there was a support group for bereaved parents in the area that met twice a month I quickly jotted it on my calendar – I couldn’t wait to be with others who truly understood the devastation in my heart and soul, who wouldn’t fear my grief, and who wouldn’t say things like, “I know just how you feel; I once had a dog that died.” (!!!!)

Although my experience at the first meeting I attended was a positive one, I did have questions.  For instance, why were some of these parents laughing? It was impossible to think I would ever hear the sound of my own laughter again. Didn’t they love their child as much as I loved Nina? 

Another quizzicality; why were some still attending meetings ten years after their child died? Did that mean that even after ten years they still felt the same horrific crippling pain that I was feeling then? Did that mean I was never going to “get better”?  A horrifying thought to say the least!

I often wonder if some of the other parents who come to a meeting for the first time and then never return have had the same questions. 

To say attending those first meetings is an easy thing to do would be wrong. In many ways, it can feel like the most difficult thing you have done since your child’s death. Listening to the painful stories of other bereaved parents and sharing their sadness and despair is 

extremely hard.  It is not surprising that many conclude they do not want to subject themselves to any more pain 
than they are already experiencing. However, maybe they were again able to find, in their own time, their long forgotten sense of humor, able to find a slice of joy again in their lives. If they could, then just maybe it would happen to me too – and I can assure you that it has.

It was also frightening to think about the parents who still came to meetings many years after their child’s death.  But after attending several meetings and getting to know these same people, I understood why they were still there.  For one thing, there is a special closeness and bonding that we as bereaved parents have from sharing our innermost feelings and fears. Grief can be an isolating experience, but at a meeting that loneliness evaporates. Moreover, it is the one place we can talk about our child who has died as much as we like without making anyone feel uncomfortable.  Because of this sharing, I feel like I personally know everyone of our TCF group’s children and they know my daughter as well. After all, we have learned about them from those who love them the most! 

However, I think the majority of us “veterans” of TCF will tell you the main reason we still continue to come to meetings is our desire to give back by being there for the newly bereaved parents who walk through our meeting-place doors, just as others were there for us early on in our grief. It has become a part of our life’s purpose and a big step in our healing to return what we so gratefully received from those parents before us. 

If you have found another healthy means of dealing with your grief, we are very thankful. We know that support groups are not for everyone. But, if not, give our meetings another try (or two or three).  You can come to talk about your experiences or say nothing at all and listen to the others – that is entirely up to you. Whatever your needs, we truly believe that in our group you will find understanding, comfort, affirmation, hope, friendship, and caring. We know it takes a lot of courage to come back again, but we want to help – we are your Compassionate Friends. 

With gentle thoughts, 

Cathy Seehuetter, TCF St. Paul, MN

Hannah’s Gift: Lessons from a Life Fully Lived

By Maria Housden

“The truest measure of a life is not its length, but the fullness in which it is lived.”

When you read this book (a must read whether or not you have ever been touched by death), you can't help but come away thinking deeply about the way we all should live our lives through the lessons offered by this extraordinary child. Even in the shadow of her own mortality after a diagnosis of incurable cancer, three year-old Hannah teaches us about courage, grace, and wisdom in a way far beyond her years. You will read how Maria Housden, Hannah's mother and author of this book that will become forever etched in your mind, begins to look at her own life and thus rearranges her priorities. She says, "Honest, funny and fearless in the way she lived her life and embraced her death, Hannah opened me to a deeper wisdom, to a more joyful, less fearful way of living."

Especially powerful was Hannah's astounding spiritual insight about death with questions such as "Mommy, why am I not going to have a birthday after four?" to which she answered herself almost matter-offactly, "Well, I am not going to." Regarding a baby that Housden had miscarried at the same time as Hannah's diagnosis with cancer, Hannah told her not to be sad about the baby that died because "God is already making us a new baby" (unbeknownst to Hannah at the time, Housden was pregnant!). Even more memorable to those of us who have lost a child (or any loved one) and who struggle with our faith, beliefs, and the unanswerable questions of "why?" were the message gifts that Hannah sent to her family after she died. For example, the message delivered through her seven-year-old brother ("Hannah is so excited 'cause now that she's in heaven she's going to grow her hair long, and she doesn't have to wait until 16 to get her ears pierced"); the message delivered through a sister who hadn't even been born while Hannah was alive ("Mommy, look! That's where Hannah and I played in heaven before I was born!" pointing to a house that Hannah had once said she was going to live in when she grew up); and even total strangers, through a quilt and a hug, are especially unforgettable and significantly hopeful.

Furthermore, in the chapters following Hannah's death that focus on Housden's grief journey, there isn't a bereaved parent who won't relate to her "downward death spiral," inability to think clearly, anger at the site of other children Hannah's age, and feelings of failure and loss of control. However, in time Maria began carrying out the "transformative" lessons that Hannah had gifted her with in both life and death.

Marie Housden is a lecturer, author, and passionate advocate for quality of life at the end of life. She has led bereaved support groups and speaks nationally to church and civic organizations, students, and medical professionals.

From the prologue telling of three year-old Hannah's delightful dance in the middle of a shopping mall wearing her beloved red patent leather Mary Janes, eventually joined by others caught up in the spirit of her joyful spontaneity, to her courageous struggle with cancer and its treatments, to her death at home surrounded by those she loved, we are truly shown how to live life to the fullest with grace, openness, and beauty, no matter the length.

It will be an honor to attend the 2003 TCF National Conference in Atlanta where I hope to personally thank opening ceremony speaker Maria Housden for sharing the wisdom and beauty of Hannah's gifts with all of us through this remarkable book. You can't possibly come away unchanged after reading it. It is one of those cherished books that need to be read time and time again.

I know that I will never look at a pair of red shoes again without thinking of this enchanting little girl, whose lessons will be forever remembered with a smile in my heart and a tear in my eye. 

~Reviewed by Cathy Seehuetter (TCF MN Regional Coordinator, chapter co leader and newsletter editor for the St. Paul Chapter of TCF)

Hannah's Gift Web Site

You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.

You are able to say to yourself, 'I have lived through this horror.  I can take the next thing that comes along.'

You must do the thing you think you cannot do.

Eleanor Roosevelt


What I Learned At the Conference This Time

By Nanette Jacobs, TCF Marin County & San Francisco, CA Chapters
~reprinted from St. Paul, MN Newsletter

I just returned from the TCF National Conference in Salt Lake City. This was my 4th conference. I remember a speaker at a past conference refer to TCF as “the club with the highest dues”, and it has stuck in my mind ever since.

Did you ever say to yourself, “I wish I never had to know any of these people?” or “I don’t want to be here at this meeting.”?  I know I have said it myself many times, especially when I tell someone about TCF and they say that they never knew there was such a group. I would say something like, “Well, I wouldn’t have known either, and I wish I didn’t have to know.”  Yep, this is the club that no one wants to join. Yet, when I was at the conference I have to admit that it was nice to see so many others there. Others may think that it is “depressing” that we would choose to go to a conference with 1,000 other bereaved parents, but we don’t go to “wallow” in our grief, but to learn more about our grief so that we become better equipped to deal with it. As you’ve heard over and over again, there is no denying your grief…it will find you no matter what, so why not be empowered?

One of the most interesting and affirming workshops I attended was a workshop titled, “Shadow Grief.” Ronald J. Knapp in his book Beyond Endurance (out of print) defines shadow grief as this: “Shadow grief is a form of ‘chronic’ grief, and can be a burden that parents, mothers especially, sometimes must bear for most of their lives. Shadow grief does not manifest itself overtly; it does not debilitate; no effort is required to cope with it. On the surface, most observers would say that the ‘grief work’ has been accomplished. But this is not the case. Shadow grief reveals itself more in the form of an emotional ‘dullness’, where the person is unable to respond fully and completely to outer stimulation and where normal activity is moderately inhibited. It is characterized as a dull ache in the background of one’s feelings that remains fairly constant and that, under certain circumstances and on certain occasions, comes bubbling to the surface, sometimes in the form of tears, sometimes not, but always accompanied by a feeling of sadness and a mild sense of anxiety.”

BINGO! Isn’t it easier to deal with it when we acknowledge that it exists? Yes, I know that all of you are very much aware of this “shadow grief”, but didn’t know how to describe it. Mr. Knapp did it beautifully. We think that something is wrong with us and others think that we are “stuck” or not getting “over it”, but what I learned in this workshop is the fact that no matter how long ago our child or sibling died, there will always be “shadow grief” and more importantly, it’s normal!! Even though this was my 4th conference after five years without my daughter, I still learned something new about me and my grieving process, and it was comforting and eye-opening. 

So, consider going to a future conference no matter how long it has been. You will be guaranteed to learn something new about this lifelong condition that we live with that is so neatly called “loss”, yet is anything but neat. 

For more information about the 2003 Conference, please visit our web site


A Mother's Day Gift to God 

Lord today is Mother's Day, but our hearts are split in two 
Half is with the child still here, 
the other with the child that is there with you. 
All the lovely presents are a nice surprise 
But the one thing we want most is missing, 
and tears fill our eyes. 

We know when you sent them Lord, 
you didn't promise how long they would stay 
All you said was to love them 
and treasure each and every day. 
But Lord it crushed our hearts, 
when you called for their return 
We feel like half a Mom, as we ache weep and yearn. 

But Lord tell them we love them 
just as much as we did before 
And could you please make a window,
 so they can see through heaven's floor. 
Let them see that they are missed 
and thought of with each breath 
And that a Mother's love begins before life, 
and does not end with death. 

So on this Mother's Day the greatest gift we give to you
For Lord we know you missed them, and you love them too. 

Sending warm embraces and thoughts to all the Mother's and wishing you a warm and peace filled day.

~Sheila Simmons, TCF Atlanta

It’s Happening Again
By Sandy Goodman

It's happening again. Right outside my front door, under an inch of leftover snow, a daffodil is pushing its way up into the sunlight. The bare places in my lawn are thawed and messy, and the steady drip from the roof lulls us to sleep. Yesterday, I strolled the thirty feet to my mailbox without a jacket. Spring has reappeared. 

Spring is a time for optimism. Suddenly, living seems easier, happier, and less stressful.  Depression lifts and a feeling of hope fills the air. We shed our winter blues and replace our frowns and cantankerous attitudes with smiles and loving kindness. We visit with our neighbors over fences, clean up the barbecues, and start leafing through seed catalogues. Life is good . . . but not invariably and not for everyone.

I remember a spring that bore no resemblance to what I have just described. It was the spring of 1997, six years ago, and it was the first spring after my son's death. By the time the first warm day arrived that year, the numbness of Jason's death had disappeared and I had entered what I call the “pit of grief.” Simply typing this paragraph takes me back in time and once again, I am there . . .. . . and it is cold and dark. I am alone, curled up in a corner of this make-believe place where only my pain exists. The sorrow is my only link to him, my only awareness, the only thing that matters. If I allow myself to move away from it, I may lose him again. I cannot do that. I cannot take that chance. And so I hold it. I cradle the pain in my arms, shielding it from those who want to take it from me, and I weep . . .

However, spring arrives without invitations and it calls on everyone. It skips in like a long awaited guest and expects to be welcomed with open arms. I recall what seemed like the entire world growing jovial and lighthearted, which merely pushed me to tunnel further into my corner and the sanctuary of my grief.  I longed for the reappearance of winter because it had kept the "ones who do not know" away from my door. I remember feeling betrayed. How could the earth suddenly wake up and come alive when my son had no opportunity to do so?

It's happening again. Spring is once again knocking on our doors. Each of you know, love, or can befriend someone who is precisely where I was six years ago. Someone who is hurting and building walls around his or her heart to keep you, and the entire world, out. You are unfamiliar with the grief process and are most likely very uncomfortable with just winging it when it comes to the subject of death. Therefore, I am going to give you a few suggestions that should ease your apprehension. If you can coax just one bereaved person out of the pit for a few hours this spring, you will have accomplished more than many people do in a lifetime.

GET HIS ATTENTION. Go to the bakery, grab some doughnuts, then to the garden shop and buy some plants. Ring his doorbell. When he wearily opens the door a couple of inches and peers out, stick your foot in the door really fast. Tell him, "I really need coffee to go with these goodies, and will you show me a good place to plant these flowers for Jim?"

SAY HER NAME. While you're digging and planting those flowers, talk to her about something you remember about the deceased. If you didn't know him, ask questions. Get to know him. Use his name, as often as you can until both of you feel comfortable. 

GIVE HIM THINGS. Take him books that seem inspiring, candles he can light when he needs a connection, photo albums for his loved one's picture, and journals that he can write in at 3:00 a.m.

INVITE HER TO BREAKFAST OR COFFEE. It may be the only reason she has to get out of bed at all.  The bereaved use sleep as a shelter from the world. 

TAKE HIM TO A DOCTOR IF HE IS A DANGER TO HIMSELF OR OTHERS. Grief is depression. If it is severe enough, medication may help alleviate some of the pain until the bereaved person is strong enough to face it head on. Offer to go to a counseling session or a grief support group with him.

CALL HER OFTEN. Don't just call her once a month, call her once a day. Always ask her how she is feeling, what you can do, and then LISTEN.

SEND A CARD ON SPECIAL DAYS. Special days are the deceased's birthday, death date, all holidays, anniversaries, and special family events such as weddings, confirmations, etc.  Always write something like "Thinking of you and knowing that you must be missing John." 


ALLOW HIM TO SHARE HIS SPIRITUAL BELIEFS OR LACK THEREOF. Be open and willing to listen to anything he may be experiencing, feeling, or searching for. Your job is not to judge, but to support. 

Last but not least, HAVE NO EXPECTATIONS for the time she spends grieving. It is individual, nothing is "normal," and if she doesn't feel it now, grief waits. Just go with the flow. Stay with her and walk at her pace.

Once again, spring is fast approaching. You are feeling optimistic and excited about the upcoming season and all of the things you can accomplish as everything comes alive again. The winter has been long and hard; you are ready for a new beginning. I understand. I share your anticipation. Six years ago is not now. My corner of the pit has been occupied by many since my stay there, and I have no intention of revisiting it. But there are many who have just descended and they are burrowing in, seeking solitude. Although I firmly believe that being there is a necessary task in getting to the other side of grief, I also believe that we must come out occasionally for fresh air and sunshine. It is up to you, and to me, to go into his world and reach out for his hand. Once he’s taken hold, his chance of successfully climbing out is greatly increased. So go on, go buy those doughnuts – someone is waiting just for you.

Sandy Goodman is the author of Love Never Dies: A Mother’s Journey from Loss to Love (Jodere Group, 2002), and the founder and chapter leader of the Wind River Chapter of The Compassionate Friends.  In May 2003, Sandy will lead a workshop at the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) Conference in Washington D.C. and will also do a workshop at the Bereaved Parents Conference in St. Louis, June 26-29.


"Compassion is one of the most honored and saintly feelings because it marches up to the front lines of suffering and says, 'take me.' In this giving of oneself there is a direct experience of pain, yet in the giving there is love. Thus compassion has the power to dissolve pain by not avoiding it, but by trusting that love affords the greatest protection."  -   Deepak Chopra

Graduation Day 

Graduation Day: A day cherished by the graduate and his or her parents; 
one of the long-awaited "rites of passage" to the new status called "adulthood." 

Laughter is heard among the students; tears of joy and nostalgia from the parents. The teachers heave sighs of relief and feel a mixture of accomplishment with just a tinge of sadness for the days of laughter and childhood attachments that must be left behind.

Awards are given.
Gifts are received.
 Parties are planned.
 Future plans are discussed.
New goals are dreamed.
There are hurdles to climb. Disappointments are intermingled with successes. All of these things are a part of life for those fortunate enough to have survived the dangers and pitfalls of this complicated society in which we live. There was no prom night at our house. There were no award ceremonies to attend. There was no graduation gift to buy. There was no college to choose. There was no future to plan ....  Jimmy doesn't live here anymore. His home now is a neatly trimmed patch of grass with bright-colored flowers; a tombstone inscribed with love; a small space carefully tended and watched over lovingly by someone who finds it most difficult to cope, to accept, to go on, or to find joy or peace in anything. 

Tears are a way of life now, and spare time is filled with emptiness.

There is sorrow now for a cheerful young boy who will soon be forgotten by all but a few.

Broken dreams.
Unanswered prayers.
 Loss of faith.
And maybe years of endurance of a situation so unacceptable, so intolerable, that from the inner depths, a scream is stifled. With one word my entire being cries out, "WHY?"

--By Ann Ianni Bereavement Magazine; 5125 Union Bl. Suite #4, Colorado Springs, CO 80920
~reprinted with permission 1-888-604-4673

Creating the Future
By Scott Mastley, TCF Atlanta

Missing Chris is as much a part of my life as thinking is a part of my life. I think of him and miss him every day. I keep a book of daily reflections on grief in my desk at work, and the bookmark in it is a photograph of Chris. Sometimes I open the book and just look at Chris's face. I think about his charm, his vulnerability, his sense of adventure and spontaneity, his intelligence, and on and on. Most of all I think about his love for our family. Girls that Chris dated used to pull me aside and tell me how much Chris loved me, how proud he was of me, and how much he said he owed to our parents for what they taught him of love and respect and decency.

I wish I had videos of him and recordings of his voice, but I don't. Missing Chris, missing the life we had together, is part of who I am. I say this because I live a positive life, and I am generally a happy person. I have one hand in happiness, the memories we made together, and one hand in isolation, the world without my brother. I constantly push and pull in an attempt to firmly remember yet triumphantly live a positive life. It is possible to feel the pain, to wish something else had happened, to grieve healthily without giving up on life. Chris and I had conversations about death, and he would say that if he ever died before me that I should still seek out my life and have fun.

The world is a different place. I am a different person. Death prompts an evaluation of priorities. It reminds me of the things I take for granted. It forces me to weigh the values that I assign to things in my life. I look at my jobs, my relationships, my dreams, and myself. 1 contemplate my future and try to store my past. I know that my life will be different.

Chris is gone. Sometimes things don't come with a reason. I can't explain in cosmic terms why Chris
died. I have the choice to live in the whys and what ifs and always be miserable or to acknowledge the positive contribution that my brother made to my life by giving equally of myself and making the world a better place. It's not all about religion or psychology. It's about accepting my grief and adjusting my stance so that I can continue my life while carrying it.

When I was in elementary school Chris had a saying that annoyed me greatly. If I complained or made excuses about something like losing a soccer game, he said, "Life is hard." He said the sooner we accept the fact that life is hard, the better prepared we are for its challenges and opportunities. He would also respond to my gripes with, "Who said life was fair?" He taught me early on that life is not balanced and fair. Life is what I make of it. I'm thankful for my big brother's teaching. Now 1 know the true value of his words.

All who have lost brothers, sisters, children, parents, grandparents, and friends have learned that life is hard. I deal with the question of fairness in moments of despair. Through it all, nothing I ask and nothing I say can change where I am now. And knowing that life can be hard and unfair prepares me for the rest of my life. Where others may be hurt, shocked, and discouraged by setbacks and tragedies, I now understand that these tragedies are a part of my life. I know that I am vulnerable. I know that my world may be flipped inside out at any moment, I may be knocked down, but I continue to get back up. Perhaps I also know the depth of love more completely.

It is easy to think that I always felt the excitement of life when Chris was alive. It is easy to convince myself that, if he were still alive, my life would be completely satisfying. I would have no worries. Some part of me knows that is not true, but most of me also knows that without my brother on it, this world is a lonelier place. My father, my mother, and I agree that the grief is with us every day. There are moments when it seems like too much to handle. We also agree that we are lucky. We had in our lives a person whom we loved and cherished and who loved and cherished us for 27 years. We are lucky to have shared a large part of our lives with such a wonderful person. Our only logical choice now is to do our best to create happiness again. '

Excerpted with permission, from Surviving a Sibling: Discovering Life After Loss by Scott Mostley © 2001

Scott and. his wife, Doreen, live near Atlanta with their two daughters. He is a .frequent speaker on sibling grief to organizations such as Hospice Atlanta, The Compassionate Friends, and area school counselors. If you would like to contact Scott or read mare about his book, please visit his 

Web site      www. survivingasibling. com


Whispers from the Library

I recently had an opportunity to make a list of all the books in our library. In my little list-making world, it seemed like the logical thing to do at the time.  When somebody gives you a collection of things to watch over, you make a list and see what you have. And I found out what I set out to discover. We have over 125 books and pamphlets in our library, including over 100 titles. 

However, I also discovered much more than mere numbers. One would expect a library such as ours to have books on dealing with grief. And we do. Lots of them. We have books by experts, by self-help authors, activists, and grieving parents. We also have very specialized books for those grieving a loss of a child through AIDS, suicide, or miscarriage.

In addition, we have novels, poetry, affirmations and devotions. Some of the books are religious, others could be called "new age." They are not all for everybody, but they are very much like the members of TCF – a diverse
group of individuals bound together by grief.

Please stop by our library before and after any meeting. To check out a book, write your name, phone number and date on the card found in the back of the book. Place the card in the file box. When you return a book, cross out your name, put the card back in the book and place the book on the table.

You may keep a book as long as you need. We have no late fees. However, we do ask that you show consideration for others and not keep a book too long. If you realize that a book is not for you and you set it aside, please remember to return it the next meeting. It may help someone else.

By Lauren Nagel, Chapter Librarian
~reprinted from TCF, Sugar Land – SW Houston

Most Atlanta Area Chapters have their own libraries.  You may also have “grief” books that you would like to donate to your local chapter.  If you do not have a local chapter, you can send books you would like to donate to:
TCF Atlanta c/o Jayne Newton, 808 Brentway Court, Lilburn, GA  30047.  I will make sure the books are given to chapters in need.  770-923-5356

Also I want to remind everyone that if you purchase books through our link on the TCF Atlanta web site, our local TCF Atlanta chapters will receive a small commission to help in our “grief” ministries.


Heart on a String…

I can remember the pain of thinking of "tomorrow" or remembering the "past".  It was horrible.  I could only function in the "present".  In the beginning there was NO future... NO tomorrow.  The past was too painful to recall...not only remembering the horrible incident that took my child but also remembering the beautiful memories.  My heart could not process that.  It was like I had blinders on...two steps forward one step back.  How could you plan for tomorrow?  You were just surviving the moment. Each day brought new pain, new struggles, new obstacles, new thoughts....but somewhere on that journey I have managed to climb to the top of the hill and see sunlight as the clouds begin to break for just a short while.  To see something in the horizon that I want to pursue....I think it is called "life" or "a future". 

I am not sure how I got here...but I am here.  Some of you have been with me...somewhere on this journey.  But the most important person that has continued with me daily on this journey is my son, Chad.  In the beginning I did not realize he was there. Now when I feel a strong pulling at my heart to go in a different direction, I believe it is him.  Friday was my birthday.  Wayne, Lisa, Mike and I celebrated together.  She surprised me with two special was Chad's college diploma framed in a beautiful frame and the other was a Precious Moments figurine "Holy Mackerel"...a fish wearing a halo with the inscription of "Holy Mackerel it's your birthday".  I have never seen this before....and how appropriate "a fish with a halo".   I also found an article in the waiting room of my doctor's office earlier that morning...."Heart on a String".....a story of a surgeon who's passion is fishing.  In the article he refers to the movie "A River Runs Through It" which was one of Chad's favorites.  We rented the movie that night and watched it....thinking of Chad the whole time.  How appropriate a title "Heart on a String".

I share all this with you to say I feel Chad is sending me a message.  I get glimpses of it from the top of the hill but am still a little unclear where these messages will lead me.  I hope to take all the compassion and love and laughter and wisdom and determination my son possessed...and share it where he is leading me.  I am open to the future because I know my son is with well as my daughter. 

My hope for all of you is you find your future when the time is right...and you will know without a doubt that your child is right there with you, guiding you and loving you.  You will be amazed at what you can do when you know your child is there....

For those who are just beginning this journey, I realize you can't understand any of this.  You are caught in the middle of a terrible storm but in time that storm will begin to cease and sometime you will see the sun again.   If I could bundle up a package and send it to each of you, it would be full of "HOPE".  No, our lives will never be the same...but a different kind of joy will return.  Joy knowing our child lives forever within our hearts and through us they will live on. 

~Jayne Newton, TCF Atlanta 
In Memory of my son Chad 5/21/72 – 9/3/96   ><((((º> 


The Robin's Song    by Genesse Bourdeau Gentry

It's spring once again. Our part of the world is turning back towards the sun; trees are leafing out; wildflowers are blooming.  Robins are again singing to one another. And, I believe, also singing to those who are grieving.

Before my daughter Lori died in the summer of 1991, I was under the misperception that only the English robin had a glorious song. That smaller, red-breasted scalawag of a bird delights all who hear it,  and I had felt that we in the United States had been short-changed  when they'd misnamed its larger, boring, American cousin the same  sweet name. All I'd ever heard our robins do was cheep! Then one spring day in the year after Lori died, during one of the darkest times of my grief, my ears and heart flew open with surprise at a  song I heard outside my window. I distinctly heard, in the midst of my pain, a bird singing loudly and clearly, "Cheer up! Cheer up! Cheerio! . . . Cheer up! Cheer up! Cheerio!" I went outside to see what marvelous bird might have been sent to sing to me. I could barely see the bird at the top of the neighbor's poplar tree, so, while hoping this exotic, magical bird wouldn't fly away while I was gone, I went to find our binoculars.

Rushing back, I could hear the bird from each room in the house.  After adjusting the binoculars, I was truly amazed to see one of our "boring" American robins come clearly into view! As he continued singing clear as day, "Cheer up! Cheer up! Cheerio!" I marveled at this special message and wondered if my robin was the only one who sang these words. So I looked it up in my Audubon  Society Field Guide to North American Birds and found that my robin  was not an anomaly, but that robins are considered the true harbinger  of spring, singing "Cheer-up, cheer-up, cheerily."

I stood there that day filled with wonder. I wasn't hearing things; there it was in the bird book: "Cheer-up, cheer-up, cheerily." I thought to myself, "Cheerily . . . No, that isn't what I hear. "We had lived in England for a year and our family, especially Lori, who loved to put on an English accent, often said "Cheerio!" to one another when we meant, "Goodbye" or "See you later!" There was no doubt in my mind as I stood there listening. It WAS cheerio. Lori could have found no more perfect way to try to cheer me up AND say "hello"!

Nine springs have passed since then, and although I will always deeply miss Lori's physical presence in my life, those darkest of times are thankfully now mostly in the past. It is spring once again and as I hear the robin singing so hopefully in the highest branches, it takes me back to that first spring song, and I smile, remembering.  And I think of all those who are now in the darkest depths of their own grief and pray they too will hear this lovely song. 



It was 1994. Daily, the city of Sarajevo was under siege. Mortars and artillery fire instantly transformed once beautiful buildings into rubble. Sarajevo's citizens were frightened, weary and increasingly despondent. Then, one February day, a mortar shell exploded in the market killing 68 civilians. Many more were wounded and maimed from the blast.

A cellist with the Sarajevo symphony could no longer stand the killing. He took his cello to the market, sat down amidst the rubble and played a concert. When he finished, he simply took up his instrument and left.

Every day, for 67 days, he came to the market. Every day he played a concert. It was his gift of love to the city. He did it because he felt his community needed hope.

Hope is music in the heart. It is a gift given to each of us to see us through the night. Once you have lost hope, you have nothing left to lose. Utter hopelessness kills everything it touches. But hope gives us strength to continue, whether it is a marriage that is worth saving, a life that is worth living or a situation that is worth

In the end, hope is a spiritual thing. When all is in chaos and ruin, hope is the knowledge that the music still goes on. In this vast and infinite universe, we are not alone.

During those times when all may seem to be crumbling down around you, can you hear the music in your heart -- the song of hope? Listen carefully. It is there, playing for you.

From RICHES OF THE HEART, by Steve Goodier


.Now I Know What Forever Really Means

Today will be 5 years since Paul’s accident.   He would have been 25 years old.   I feel I have come a long way in these five years.   The early days it took all the strength I had to get up out of  bed in the morning and go to work, when all I wanted to do was pull the covers over my head, go back to sleep and never wake up again.   I cried on my way to work and again on my way home.  I still don’t wear mascara because I never know when some thought or song or whatever may start the tears anew.  I think it took me at least a year before I even cared what I wore to work or how my hair looked and even now it doesn’t really matter.   Those things are not important anymore.   I could hardly function at work.  I kept forgetting to do things or would start something and forget to finish it.  I was constantly writing myself notes and sometimes even that didn’t help!  Thank goodness my boss was very understanding.  She would gently remind me if I had done this or that yet.   Numerous times at home I had put the milk in the cupboard and the cereal or sugar in the refrigerator.  It took a long time to begin to function semi-normally again. 

There is a line in a Cindy Bullen’s song that says something like “now I know what forever really means”.  It was about 2-1/2 years after Paul’s death when I heard that song and I think that was when I realized it was forever.   Up until then I found myself still “looking” for Paul.  I would see him in a young man passing by or in someone dressed in a hat and shirt similar to his or a truck like his passing by and I would find myself straining to see if it was Paul.  I still feel as though someone punched me in the stomach when I see a red Chevy truck.  I rarely drive by the accident scene.  It’s not a road we normally have to go on.  I avoid it if at all possible; it just starts the think process over and over and over.   It takes me a couple of days to readjust.   Remembering those early days has made me realize how very far I have come in these past 5 years.  I have learned to live with this new normal.  I don’t like it, I will never like it, but I will do it “now until then” (which is another Cindy Bullens song). 

~Linda McGrath 
~From TCF Atlanta Sharing….


Chicken Soup for the Grieving Soul

Stories About Life, Death and Overcoming the Loss of a Loved One 
This collection of inspirational stories will undoubtedly provide comfort to readers who have lost someone close to them. Written by authors who have lost loved ones, these stories offer peace and understanding to those currently going through the grieving process. 

A Comforting Serving of Chicken Soup and a Thoughtful Gift for Those Grieving the Loss of a Loved One 

Note:  From Chicken Soup….with each Chicken Soup for the Soul book we publish, we designate one or more charities to receive a portion of the proceeds. A portion of the proceeds from Chicken Soup for the Grieving Soul will be donated to The Compassionate Friends

Reminder:  If you purchase  from and enter through our TCF Atlanta web site, TCF Atlanta will receive a small commission  to help with our outreach ministries. 

Doing Our Part 
by Sandy Goodman, Author of Love Never Dies: 
A Mother's Journey from Loss to Love (Jodere Group, 2002) 

There is a war on the other side of the world. 280,000 service men and women are living what most of us have only seen on film. Seeming superhuman to those of us at home, they carry out their assignments with ease and confidence. It is difficult to remember that they spend every second of their day in the shadow of death. Their illusion of invincibility has been prematurely shattered. They know that they might die . . . today . . . in the next five minutes. 

Here at home, we too have had to adjust our daily routine. We spend more time watching CNN and forming opinions on the validity of the war. We sign petitions, march in protests, hang flags on our front porches, and debate the issues with friends. We complain about the price of gasoline, boycott when it's convenient, and watch the Dow Jones with trepidation. We curse that S.O.B. _________ (fill in the blank with your personal choice) who started this whole mess, worry about the future, pray for peace (or revenge), and bemoan our lack of control. It is totally out of our hands. There is nothing more that we can do . . . 

If three fourths of our deployed troops have living mothers and fathers, a conservative estimate, there are at least 210,000 parents worrying about their child's safety. Add another 140,000 spouses, and 140,000 siblings and we have nearly 490,000 friends, neighbors and co-workers coping with extreme anxiety. Fear wakes them up in the middle of the night and sits with them at dinner. Since patriotism asks that they wear a mask of confidence, many of these individuals are suffering in silence. They are sacrificing nearly as much for our country as those who wear a uniform and they are here next door, in our offices, at the supermarket, and in our churches. This is within reach, there is much that we can do . . . 

First things first. Sit down and make a list of everyone you know with a loved one overseas. Do not assume they are not in turmoil simply because you cannot see it. Place yourself in her shoes for just a few minutes. That should be the end of any assumption. Now call one of them on the phone and invite him to lunch. Go to a place where there is privacy. Once you're ordered, tell him that you've asked him to lunch to show your support for him and his courage. Ask him how he is coping and give him your undivided attention. Listen, do not judge. 

Send another one a "Thinking of You" card and let her know you are available to listen if she needs to talk things over. Offer to take care of her children while she goes shopping or out for a night with her friends. Offer to send a care package to her service person, and maybe even to her service person's friend who never gets any mail. 

If there comes a time when for any number of reasons they are concerned about their loved one's immediate safety, the easiest thing for us to do is act like nothing is wrong. Unfortunately, that is the last thing they need. They need us to offer our utmost attention, ask what we can do to help, and then DO IT. Period. 

I was going to end this article here. Comfortable, timely, and informative, I thought I had covered the basics, until I read it through from start to finish, and felt like I had quit in the last quarter mile of a marathon. No guts, no glory. No pain, no gain. No, I can't leave quite yet. I need to complete this with a brief message on what has to be the least popular subject in our society. I need to talk about the big "D" word, the one no one wants to hear. So here we go. . . Death . . . Dying . . . Died. 

Still with me? Good, because .. . .well, because even though it makes us cringe, we all know that there are going to be casualties in this war. Sons, mommies, sisters, and husbands are going to leave at least one person behind who will grieve their death. And regardless of how difficult it is to imagine, one of those devastated people might be a friend of ours. If we can't even read an article about death, how can we offer support to the bereaved? By sucking it up, changing our attitudes, and educating ourselves. Because I have survived the death of my 18 year old son, I think I can help with the education. I am going to share some tidbits of wisdom with you, based on what I wish I would have said to my friends and family after Jason died. 

I will never be the same person I was before. Don't expect me to be. I will not "get over it" but will change with time and with healing. Learn to like the new me. 

Listen without giving me advice. 

Don't be afraid to say his name, I want to hear it. Over and over and over. 

If I cry when you mention him, it's not because you've made me think of him. He's all I do think about. 

Grief does not follow specific stages in a specific order and a specific time span. Everyone grieves differently. 

Remember my special dates and acknowledge them. His birthday, his death day, our anniversary, the day he left on the plane, our son's first birthday without his daddy, my first Christmas alone. Remember them forever. 

Be tolerant of my memory lapses, my misplaced anger, my guilt trips, and my pity parties. 

Allow me to be in "the pit." If I don't go there now, I will have to do it later. 
Reminisce with me. I need to laugh . . . and cry. 

If I do or say something that you don't understand, ask me about it. I will be glad to share what I am feeling with someone who really wants to know. 

Most importantly, never doubt that I need you. You are my lifeline. Without you to remind me, I may never realize that love is more powerful than death. 

I am going to wrap this up with a plea for compassion. As we watch the breaking news and read the headlines and thank God that we have no children or spouses or close friends "over there," let us remember that there are many who are not so removed. This war is not about oil, or about terrorism, or about Israel, at least not as far as I am concerned. It is about lives . . . and not just American lives, but HUMAN lives. Hundreds of thousands of lives will be impacted by what happens in this conflict. For those of us who are true civilians, it is imperative we do our part. We may not have signed up for the military and a war, but when we joined the human race, we signed up to show compassion and offer support. We must honor that commitment. Our call to duty is upon us. 

Copyright © 2003 Sandy Goodman 
All Rights Reserved 
Sandy Goodman

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