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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
For more information about the 2003 Conference, please visit our web
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
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."
ENCOURAGE LAUGHTER AND REMEMBER THE POWER OF TOUCH. It is healing.
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." -
Graduation Day: A day cherished by the graduate and his or
one of the long-awaited "rites of passage" to the new status called
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.
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
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
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.
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 –
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
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
TCF Atlanta c/o Jayne Newton, 808 Brentway Court, Lilburn, GA
30047. I will make sure the books are given to chapters in need.
Also I want to remind everyone that if you purchase books through our
Amazon.com 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 gifts....one 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 me....as 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 somewhere...somehow....at 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
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.
YOUR HEART'S MUSIC
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
~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 Amazon.com
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
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
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
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
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