A New Year's Prayer
God grant us this year a wider
So we see other' faults through
the eyes of You..
Teach us to judge not with
Neither the adult...nor the
Give us patience and grace
And a stronger faith so we
And instead of remembering,
help us forget
The irritations that caused
us to fret
Freely forgiving for some offense
And finding each day a rich
In offering a friendly, helping
And trying in all ways to
That all of us whoever we are
Are trying to reach an unreachable
For the great and small...the
good and bad,
The young and old...the sad
Are asking today, "Is life
And the answer is only in
loving and giving..
For only love can make us
And kindness of heart brings
peace of mind,
And by giving love we can start
To lift the clouds of hate
Author Unknown - shared by
Meg Avery, Sugar Hill, Ga
It’s 2000…Where Are You?
The New Year came in around
the world, quietly in some places, loudly in others, but received by each
person differently. For some it’s a time of beginning again, new promises,
new hopes and goals. For others it’s a time to renew – just as Nature renews
during winter – by laying the foundation for spring growth in their physical,
mental or spiritual lives.
But, for some of us who grieve
the loss of a child, grandchild or sibling, the New Year is another reminder
of what we no longer have, of the joys we no longer experience, of the
one we so desperately miss. We seem to be reminded at every turn of the
hole in our lives and hearts. Who would have thought that a January white
sale could cause a mother pain? Or the ads at year-end advising parents
to get the needed dorm room fixtures at sale prices could make a father
If we make it through January,
we are besieged again when February hits. Here comes Valentine’s Day. The
day for love, the day for remembering loved ones in a special way. And
we can only think of the loss we feel.
If these feelings seem familiar
to you, you’re grieving. If you seem to "plan ahead" for the big days,
like Christmas and Easter (and actually get through them pretty well),
but get "blind-sided" by ordinary days, you’re grieving. If you find that
you can cope with your loss for days, weeks, months on end, and suddenly
you can’t make it through a day without crying, you’re grieving. And you’re
okay. Grieving has no calendar, no timetable, no set-in-concrete rules
of time. And there are no standards of "correct" and "incorrect" behavior
– either for those of us who grieve or for those who try to comfort us.
The important thing is that we do grieve, that we do acknowledge our pain,
and that we do allow ourselves to grieve as we need to, as long as we need
to, and in the way that brings us the most help.
So, it’s 2000. Where are you?
Learning to live again, we hope; learning to love again, we hope; learning
to hurt and survive, we’ll bet.
We wish for the new millenium
that will see you learning…and living.
With our loving wishes to all
of you for peace and understanding in 2000,
Tom & Sondra Wright, TCF
~reprinted from Jan-Feb Linked
Challenge and Change
As I look back over the past
six years since our son died, I realize how much I have changed. When we
talk about grieving, we often forget to mention that we grieve, too for
the person we were before our child died. We might have been energetic
and fun-loving, but now are serious and absorbed.
But shall the angels
call for him much sooner than we've planned,
Our friends and family miss
the old us too, and their comments show it. "Don't you think it's time
to return to normal?" "You don't laugh as much as you used to." They are
grieving for the person who will never be the same again.
Like the caterpillar that shrouds
itself in a cocoon, we shroud ourselves in grief when a child dies. We
wonder, our families wonder- when will we come out of it? Will we make
it through the long sleep? What hues will we show when we emerge? If you've
ever watched a butterfly struggle from the safety of the cocoon, you'll
know that the change is not quick or easy- but worth the effort!
We begin to mark our struggle
from the cocoon of grief when we begin to like the new us. When our priorities
become different and people become more important than things; when we
grasp a hand that reaches and reach in turn to pull another from the cocoon,
when we embrace the change and turn the change into a challenge, then we
can say proudly: "I have survived against overwhelming odds." Even though
my child's death is not worth the change in and of itself, the changes
and the challenges give me hope that I can be happy.
I can feel fulfilled again.
I can love again.
Sherry Mutcher TCF/ Appleton,
We'll brave the bitter
grief that comes and try to understand.
"FEBRUARY: AN ARROW
THROUGH THE HEART"
by Susan Arlen, M.D.
Dr. Arlen is the medical director
of the Hospice at Somerset Medical Center. She is board certified in rehabilitation
medicine, and she is a psychotherapist, specializing in the losses associated
with death, disability and life-changing illness.
In the month of February, we
are still in the firm grip of winter. Bone-chilling winds whip around bleak,
bare trees, gray days alternate with bright, blue skies, but give little
warmth. Having survived January, we have learned to conserve our energy,
and we have grown accustomed to the weather.
Though we may still intensely
dislike the wintertime, we have learned to take pleasure in the bright
sun and the clear, blue sky. The stark landscape may even be appreciated
for its unique beauty. Why does this happen? Why do we accept the bundling
up and the shivering of winter? How is it that we can find pleasure and
beauty in our misery? The answer is a paradox; We have a choice, and we
have no choice. We can continue to wish for balmy air, laden with the scent
of flowers, or we can mumble about the cold and grumble about the necessity
for bundling up to face the chill days. If we focus only on what we don’t
have, or long for the past warmth of summer or the future rebirth of spring,
we tend to lose any ability to notice the aspects of this month that might
engender some pleasure. Try as we might, it is impossible to change the
course of nature. We cannot bring back the summer anymore than we can fast-forward
the seasons. By focusing on what no longer is, we lose the capacity to
find beauty, happiness, or pleasure. If we continue to bang our heads against
unchangeable situations, it only increases our feelings of helplessness
Our alternative is acceptance.
By February, we recognize that hoping, wishing and dreaming will not bring
back the summer’s warmth, so we accept what is. We learn to live with reality
of the situation. It’s not that we don’t remember the various beautiful
times of the summer, it’s not that we don’t yearn at times for them again;
but now, we recognize that has passed. Though our souls may be warmed by
the memories of
summer, summer is gone. Now,
we are free to live in the reality that is today. We enable ourselves to
find beauty and joy in February. The mid-winter landscape has a quieter
and more tranquil beauty. Rarely flamboyant, it does not overwhelm the
senses; and the ability to recognize and appreciate this soft beauty can
give us a sense of peace.
The month of February is similar
to the completion of that long, middle phase of bereavement that results
in acceptance of what has occurred. The memories of precious times will
always be there to warm our hearts, and they will continue to bring tears
and pangs of yearning, but realization of the finality of the loss had
It takes a long time to accept
situations that we do not want as permanent. It takes much time and heartache
to recognize that we cannot change situations. It is a long process during
which evolves a changed concept of ourselves, the world, and our place
in it. It is not that the world has really changed, but with the death
of a loved one, OUR world has changed. Again, we have a choice. That long
and painful middle portion of the bereavement process may remain with us
for a very long time as we struggle to maintain our old ways of being in
spite of the agonizing loss.
If we become fixed or stuck
at this time, there is a double tragedy. Life is lived in the past and
the present is filled with yearning for what should have been and what
has been stolen from the survivor. Certainly, we are not "happy" about
the situation, but slowly we realize that things will never again be the
same and that as survivors, we must go on. After a time, which varies from
situation to situation, we accept the finality of the loss. With this acceptance,
the ability occurs to perceive beauty without feelings of disloyalty.
Though Valentine's Day does
not have the same tradition and resultant dread of Christmas and other
holidays, it can still bring a great deal of pain. The very symbol of this
day, Cupid’s arrow piercing the heart, can feel quite literal for the bereaved
whose hearts feel as if they have been broken. Old, tattered, cherished
cards will be wept over, as well as bits of lace, red satin ribbon, and
the poetry of a spouse, parent or sibling that is especially precious.
Red roses and red valentine
hearts are symbolic of the invisible blood that the bereaved have shed
over their loss. When we feel despondent, isolated or cheated on Valentine’s
Day (or any other day), the pain we are feeling is because of the great
love we had. The experience of that love will never die, the memory of
that love, of that loved one, will live on in our hearts. We must now live
on—for the sake of ourselves and our loved one.
We must give ourselves permission
to enjoy again, even through tears. Let’s remind ourselves of the blessings
that we have had, despite the deprivation, and let’s not deny others their
We should seek things that
will bring us peace. A snow-covered landscape can be beautiful, glistening,
and pure. Any view of a situation takes on the meaning that we assign to
it. If we choose to believe that a scene or a situation is bleak, it will
be bleak. If we focus on one aspect of beauty, we see beauty.
As I look up into the beautiful
I can only ask myself one more
Of course people tell me it
was your time
But they don't know what it's
to pretend to be fine
To live each day with the hurt
From deep inside you don't
know where it came
They don't know how it feels
to have to live
Without the child who had so
much to give
To go on and on and never know
I can't understand no matter
how hard I try
I try to be patient and not
But of course I'll always be
There is such a void and emptiness
You can't imagine how much
And I know if I really knew
why you had to leave
You still wouldn't be here
I'd still be bereaved
(author unknown) ~submitted
by Barbara Sockwell
I May Never See Tomorrow
I may never see tomorrow,
there's no guarantee,
and things that happened yesterday
belong to history.
I can't predict the future,
I can't change the past,
I have just the present memories
to treat as my last.
I must use this moment wisely,
for soon it will pass away,
And be lost forever
as a part of yesterday.
I must exercise compassion,
help the fallen to their feet,
Be a friend unto the friendless,
make their life complete.
The unkind things I do today,
may never be undone,
And friendships that I fail
may never more be won.
I may not have another chance
on bended knees to pray,
And I thank God with a humble
for giving me this day!
I may never see tomorrow,
but this moment is my own.
It's mine to use or cast aside:
the choice is mine, alone.
I have just this precious moment
in the sunlight of today.
Where the dawning of tomorrow
meets the dusk of yesterday.
~written by George L. Nolan
I KNEW I WAS GETTING BETTER
Almost all, if not all, of
you are here because you are seeking ways to get past the pain of losing
somebody you loved better than yourself. Well, that pain will eventually
become a part of who and what you are, and you will learn to live with
it. I haven't found a way to totally make it go away, but it certainly
is nice to know that it does get better, and it doesn't have to consume
a large part of every day. I can't tell you exactly when I reached that
point, but I do know I welcomed it because it allowed me to get on with
In order to get to that place
I had to learn to give up some thoughts that had become a familiar way
of thinking and looking at things. All those feelings had seemed a justification
for all the pain I had been through. It turned out they weren't a justification
at all. They were more like a heavy weight around my neck that held me
in that mindset that didn't allow room for my recovery.
After some time, just a few
simple things helped me to start my life in a different direction. I realized
then that I was getting better when my tears were no longer an all day
affair. Oh, I still shed them all along but I'd move around and risk something
else getting my attention but I no longer sat all day bemoaning all that
I had lost.
I knew I was getting better
when I realized who I had left was just as important as who I had lost.
This realization came to me not too long after my son died. I had invited
a psychiatrist in the Atlanta area to speak at a meeting just before Mother's
Day. He had not lost a child but shared the story of how he and his two
younger siblings had been denied any joy for life from their mother who
had experienced the premature loss of her first two children. He told of
how most of his young life had been spent trying to find ways to make his
mother happy, always trying and always failing, and always feeling that
it was his fault for failing.
I came home that night determined
that my surviving daughter was not, many years down the road, going to
lament the fact that, no matter how hard she had tried, she was unable
to create any joy in my life. I had recognized her importance.
I knew I was getting better
when I realized that the guilt that I felt for the responsibility for
my son's death was not legitimate. I had such foolish thoughts that said
if I hadn't invited him over for dinner that night, he wouldn't have been
where his accident occurred. It was all my fault. It took some time for
me to realize that, if I hadn't invited him over for dinner that night,
he would have had his accident some place else, and I would have felt guilty
for that. It was a no win situation. Feelings of guilt were not legitimate
and I could let go of them.
I knew I was getting better
when I was also able to let go of the anger that had plagued me since
my son's death. You know, anger really does eat the container in which
it is held. My greatest anger was directed toward my two best friends.
When I was able to sit back and think about the relationship with them
both long and hard, I realized that my part of the friendship with one
of them was for me to listen to her problems time and again but, when I
needed her to listen to mine, it was then I knew she didn't have the depth
of character to understand what I was going through.
I knew too, that telling her
would not magically make her aware. It was my decision to let go of her.
The other friend I felt was worth a try, even though I had written her
and told her about my pain and my need for her support to no avail. So,
when she called me one day long distance, she said, "Mary, I think you're
angry with me." I said, "Oh yes. Do you want to talk about it on my nickel
or yours?" She said "Mine." So I told her how miserably she had failed
She cried and said she was
so sorry, that she had no idea how bad it was for me, I told her she still
didn't know, that I had only given her an inkling of how bad it was, but
I didn't ever want her to fail anyone else that she cared for so miserably
again, and I forgave her and let go of the anger for both of them.
I knew I was getting better
when I learned that my misfortune was one of the worst, but it wasn't
the only worst.
I knew I was getting better
when I learned that, because one bad thing has happened, it
doesn't give me an immunity to other bad things, so I'd better appreciate
what's left for me.
I knew I was getting better when I learned that
man is not made so that he can hurt with the intensity of fresh grief forever;
that it will eventually get better, whether you want it or not. Not as
good as it was before, but better than fresh grief.
I knew I was getting better when I learned not
to go to dry wells looking for water. People who don't understand your
needs are like dry holes. They have nothing to offer you in the way of
I knew I was getting better when I learned that
helping others who had been unfortunate enough to lose a child was the
most helpful thing I could do for myself.
When I had learned all of these
things, that was when I knew I was getting better.
Did I say back there that these
changes were simple? Looking back, they weren't simple at all, but certainly
worth striving for, for learning these things are the best and kindest
things you can do for yourself. I assure you that it will be worth the
effort when you too can say "I'm getting better."
~reprinted with permission
of Bereaved Parents USA, A JOURNEY TOGETHER NEWSLETTER
A FRIEND IS A TREASURE
A friend is someone we turn
When our spirits need a lift.
A friend is someone we treasure,
For our friendship is a gift.
A friend is someone who fills
With beauty, joy, and grace.
And makes the world we live
A better and happier place.
Is this the first day
when you can bear to remember
how you smiled together,
that day in spring,
that morning in the rain?
Are you discovering
how many gifts of comfort
he left behind,
this child who died
His life is gone,
but he endows your time
from this day forward,
with all the faithful treasures
~words of Sascha from her
Dedicated with love to our
son, Craig, on his Birthday, January 14th.
Judy and Joel Blumsack, Sandy
you know that…
Twenty of our 42 presidents
and their wives were and are bereaved parents?
-Harriet Deshayes, TCF,
Our second president, John
Adams, lost his son Charles, 20, while he was president.
Thomas Jefferson had
six children and only two lived to maturity. One daughter, Mary, 26, died
while he was
James Monroe lost a
son two years of age.
John Quincy Adams lost
a daughter in infancy; a son died while Adams was president; and another
son died five years later.
William Harrison had
ten children; six died before he became president.
Zachary Taylor had six
children; two died as infants and a daughter died three months after her
Millard Fillmore’s daughter
Abigail died at 22.
Our fourteenth president, Franklin
Pierce, lost two sons in infancy. History records his wife’s grief
so great that he resigned from the Senate. Two months before his inauguration
to the presidency, their only child, Benjamin,
11 years old, was killed in
a railroad accident. Mrs. Pierce collapsed from grief and was unable to
attend the inauguration. She secluded herself in an upstairs bedroom for
nearly half of her husband’s term in office.
Our sixteenth president, Abraham
Lincoln, lost two sons during his lifetime: Edward, four years old,
while President Lincoln was in office; and William, 11 years old. He wrote,
"In this sad world of ours, sorrow comes to all…it comes with bitterest
agony…Perfect relief is not possible except with time. You cannot realize
that you will ever feel better…and yet this is a mistake. You are sure
to be happy again. To know this, which is certainly true, will make you
some less miserable now. I have experienced enough to know what I say."
The president’s wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, unable to cope with the assassination
of her husband and the death of yet another son, Thomas, 18 years old,
was confined to a sanitarium. Although she was released after a few months,
she was never to be well again.
Rutherford B. Hayes
had eight children, three of whom died in infancy.
James Garfield had seven
children; two died while still infants.
Chester Alan Arthur’s
eldest son died in infancy.
Grover Cleveland’s eldest
daughter, Ruth, died at 13 years of age.
Our twenty-fifth president,
McKinley, lost both children: Ida, four months old, and Katherine,
old. His wife became so overwhelmed
with shock and grief that she became an invalid for the remainder of her
son died at 21 years of age.
Calvin Coolidge had
a son, Calvin Jr., who died at 16 while his father was in office. Recorded
in his autobiography, the president said, "When he went, the power and
glory of the presidency went with him."
son, Franklin Jr., died in infancy.
son, Doug Dwight "Icky," three years old, died at Camp Mead, Maryland.
In President Eisenhower’s autobiography written in 1969 (49 years after
Icky died), he stated, "With his death a pall fell over the camp. When
we started the long trip back to Denver for his burial, the entire command
turned out in respect to Icky. We were completely crushed – it was a tragedy
from which we never recovered. I do not know how others have felt when
facing the same situation, but I have never known such a blow. Today when
I think of it, even as I now write of it, the keenness of my loss comes
back to me as fresh and terrible as it was in that long, dark day soon
after Christmas, 1920."
John F. Kennedy’s two-year-old
son, Patrick died while his father was president; Kennedy lost another
infant prior to becoming president.
George Bush and his
wife Barbara lost their daughter Robin to cancer.
There is a wide variation
in time for recovery, just as there is a wide variation in our grief experiences.
How long it will take each of us to reach this point of being comfortable
is impossible to predict, and different for each of us. I think much of
the timing has to do with how effectively we have faced and worked through
our grief. Because I did not grieve in a healthy way for many years after
Arthur was killed, I had to begin to grieve properly six years after to
reach a point where I feel no pain at the thought that Arthur is dead.
My daughter, also a bereaved parent, had the support of TCF and reached
a comfortable point in a much shorter time.
Margaret Gerner TCF, St.
I know that what I have said
is hard to believe. For that reason I would suggest that you accept this
with blind faith for the time being. Then, when the pain becomes more devastating
than usual, think of what I have said. Think of it as a rope hanging "out
there" for you to grab on to. Think of it as a rope of hope. Recovery is
the end of this terrible journey.
Why? Every bereaved parent
I know finds himself or herself using this word much more after their child's
death than they did before. Why my child? Why so young? Why that way? Why
~written by Pat Malone
and read at the Lawrenceville Chapter TCF Candle Lighting
Most of the answers that society
offers us are inadequate at their best and inappropriate at their worst.
Maybe the real answer as to why can be found in the words of a bereaved
father from more than forty years ago.
Earlier this month at the memorial
service for the six firefighters who died in Worcester, Mass, Senator Ted
Kennedy said, "In 1958, my father wrote a friend whose son had died. And
since then that letter read and re-read, has helped our family endure through
the most difficult times. In 1944 my oldest brother, Joe, had been killed
in World War II and my father referred to that when he wrote these words.
"When a loved one goes out
of your life, you think of what he might have done with a few more years
and you wonder what you are going to do with the rest of your years. Then
one day, because there is a world to be lived in, you find yourself part
of it again, trying to accomplish something - something that your son did
not have time enough to do. And, perhaps, That is the reason for it all.
I hope so."
Perhaps that something is working
to prevent another suicide or traffic death. Or becoming an advocate for
organ and tissue donation. Or getting involved in your church or community
work, a faciliator, steering committee member, or chapter leader in TCF.
A big brother or sister, the scouts, a teacher's para-pro.
Or maybe because your grief
is so new, you haven't found that something yet. The timetable is yours
and yours alone. It takes as long as it takes. So whether you've found
your something or are still searching, perhaps ultimately that is the answer
to the question why….I hope so.
Waiting for Answers
Years ago I left my first
meeting of The Compassionate Friends and drove home in tears. My son, Max,
had died a few short weeks before and I had been anxiously awaiting this
evening. These people must have some answers, I thought. With paper and
pen in purse, I was ready to take notes and do as they prescribed. I should
do anything to ease the ache in my soul. But when I walked out into the
spring air later that night, I felt betrayed. I hadn't heard any answers.
Instead of learning how to leave my grief behind, it had been confirmed,
made more real with expression. I knew I would miss Max forever. Now I
wondered if I would grieve forever. Would it always be this way, a flash
of pain aligned with every memory? During the next months and years, I
attended TCF meetings and conferences, read books, raged, kept busy, sometimes
spent the day in bed. I wrote, cried and talked about Max. Slowly, I discovered
the answers I had long feared were true; yes, I will grieve forever, and
yes, my memories will often provoke tears. But something had changed. My
grief was now more forgiving, my tears almost sweet with memory. Max's
life took shape again as the anguish of his death began to recede. If I
would always miss him, I would also always have him with me in so many
ways. I wanted to carry his memory into the future; the joy, the lessons,
and the inevitable pain. How could I do otherwise? As I walked to my car
after the first meeting, the TCF chapter leader caught up with me. "How
can I stop this pain?" I asked. She put her arm on my shoulder. "Just do
what feels right to you," she said "Listen to your heart. And we'll be
here to listen too." Sometimes the best advice is none at all.
Mary Clark, TCF, SugarLand/SW
Who was "Valentine"?
Who was Valentine? This question is not an easy one to answer. Depending
on which book you read you might find one author making the case that there
were two different men named Valentine whose lives were mixed together
to form one legend, and another arguing that two different legends arose
about the same man. Even still another author might say that there were
three men named Valentine.
Here are synopses of several different stories...
Valentine was a Roman priest who was martyred during the persecution
of Claudius the Goth around A.D. 269 or 270 and buried on the Flaminian
Way. Valentine was a bishop of Terni martyred in Rome. Valentine as a young
pagan, though unsaved, helped Christians during a time of persecution.
He was caught and put in jail, became a believer there and was clubbed
to death for this on February 14, 269. While in prison he is said to have
sent messages to friends saying, "Remember your Valentine" and "I love
you." In one story it is said that Valentine was a priest that secretly
married couples, defying the law of Emperor Claudius which temporarily
forbid marriages. Valentine was imprisoned for refusing to worship pagan
gods. Making friends with the jailer’s daughter, he is said to have cured
her through prayer, and on the date of his execution (Feb. 14th) he is
said to have written her a note signed "Your Valentine."
The one thing we can be sure of is that at least one person by the name
of Valentine did live and that he was killed for being a Christian. Beyond
this we are on shaky ground.
The 14th of February was set apart as the special day to remember Saint
Valentine. This was one day before the Roman feast of Lupercalia, a pagan
love festival. In 496 A.D. Pope Gelasius changed Lupercalia from the 15th
to the 14th to try and stop the pagan celebration. The church realized
that there was nothing wrong with celebrating love, only the pagan elements
insulted God. Lupercalia was done away with, but it had left its mark on
Saint Valentine's Day. Valentine had become known as the patron of lovers.
Part of the Roman festival of Lupercalia was the putting of girls names
in a box and letting the boys draw them out. These couples were supposedly
paired off for the whole year. A similar practice was begun in the fourteenth
century. A sweetheart was chosen for a day by lot. This was done to correspond
with the belief that the springtime mating of birds took place on Valentine's
Day. Messages sent between these randomly chosen pairs were a forerunner
of the modern Valentine's Day Card. Specially printed cards for Valentine's
were just becoming common by the 1780's. They were a big hit in Germany
where, they were called Freundschaftkarten, or "friendship cards."
So, should Christians celebrate Valentine's Day? Absolutely. Though
we're not quite sure who Valentine was, we certainly know that God approves
of love, even romantic love. Let's just make sure that Valentine's Day
is an extra special day to display even more love than usual to those around
us, and not our only day to show love this year.
~from an Internet site,
"St. Valentine’s Day Legends"