Newsletter of The Compassionate Friends, Inc.

Atlanta Area Chapters

January - February - March 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 for Families Who Have Experienced the Death of a Child

Green Broke
by Kaye Des'Ormeaux 

If you know anything about training horses,
you know they first need a gentle stroke.
For if a horse has no knowledge of what to do ...
We refer to him as being 'green broke.'
It's a process that sometimes takes a while.
A new way of life he must learn.
And ensuring the least amount of pain to him ...
Should always be the main concern.

For if you show kindness and tenderness,
that same horse can be a best friend.
If he allows you to ride high in the saddle,
you'll feel as if you're riding the wind.
Well, I have read many stories about parents
who could also be considered 'green broke.'
They suddenly face a new life without their child ...
And every day they need a gentle stroke.

They need to know that they are not alone.
For other mothers and dads are nearby.
And just like a horse that doesn't know what to do ...
These parents need help understanding why.
From the first day when they have lost their child,
they face a new world feeling lost & forsaken.
As time passes, they find their life is a nightmare ...
A nightmare that forbids them to awaken.

But I've seen those who find the courage to survive.
Comfort comes to them from deep within.
Oh they find themselves riding high in that saddle ...
While their child guides them through the wind.
Cause if you know anything about bereaved parents,
you know they always need a gentle stroke.
And even though you show them love and compassion ...
They rarely pass the stage of being green broke.

Dedicated to all parents who have lost a child.

Precious Valentine Memories  By Darcie Sims

The lace has grown yellow with age. The edges are tattered and the glue that held the pieces together has long dried up, leaving only a slight stain on the faded red paper. It is much smaller than I remembered. Perhaps time has caused it to shrink. It seems so fragile, resting here in my palm. The words have nearly faded and even the heavy crayon marks have lost their luster over the years. There's a smudge of unknown origin on the back, near where the paper was rubbed dangerously thin by the uncounted erasure marks. The name is barely legible, the pencil lines so weak that only the mind can read the letters. . I found it the other day, while doing one of those winter chores: cleaning closets. It's nearly 25 degrees below zero outside and it seemed like a good idea to clear away some of the trappings of a thousand years. 

February is a middle-of-winter month and most of us have fewer choices in this month than in any other. For those of us here in the Great North, it is either shovel the walk or clean the closets, and it's warmer in the closet (although not by much!) So, armed with a dust rag, trash bag and the radio, I opened the door and slipped in...not really about what I might find. I thought I was just going to clean the closet. 

But, that first box sent me spinning. I found things I hadn't even remembered I'd lost! I finally found the holiday gift bought for my sister last year and then so carefully had hid away. I found snow boots and sand pails, a beach towel, three old paperbacks, a pile of magazines (all saved because I wanted to clip something "important"). 

I found shoelaces for shoes no longer "alive" and several other things that had once been alive. I found a half a chocolate-covered cherry and part of a deck of cards. It was quite a treasure box, filled with junk that once had had some meaning to someone, maybe even me. 

I sorted though the coats and clothes, painfully aware that "someday" would probably not arrive in my life-time. The too short hemline and the too-small waist would not be mine again. I packed those things away, mindless of the hours and the drifting snow outside the windows. 

When I found the box of scrapbooks, I sat down, now that the closet had some actual floor space. I touched the bindings, not quite sure I possessed the courage required to open the pages. The phone rang and forced me away from that decision. I left the closet and did not return until now. 
That's when I found the old paper Valentine, tucked away between the pages of a life lived long ago. As I held that once sticky, but now only stained, piece of construction paper, I felt a connection with other valentines, in other lifetimes. I heard a whisper of another voice: my own mother’s exclamation over my offered gift. It blended with my voice, speaking across the generations of children bringing home paper messages of love. OH! I had forgotten had become lost in the pain of losing you. 

It was a peaceful hour in that closet, listening to the sounds of my life, lived long ago and now remembered through the pages of the scrapbooks. I found my own laughter and that of my friend, joining the laughter of my own children, seeking the laughter of tomorrow's bearers of paper hearts. Time does pass on. Generations of hearts have been delivered and received. Generations of love have been shared just as generations of hurt have been endured. It felt timeless in the if when I opened the door, the give of this Valentine would still be waiting! 

Perhaps that is exactly what is happening, perhaps the engineers of all of our hurts and happiness are still waiting - waiting for us to claim that love and bring their light back into being. There were so many years when I could not bear this exchanging of paper hearts! There were so many years when I counted FIRST what was missing, never realizing that in the measuring of my losses, I was truly losing what I did have. 

The snow had drifted deep across the yard: only the tips of my flamingos' knit-capped, covered heads are visible in the white. But my vision has been cleared somewhat this after-noon by a visit in the closet where I found a memory that no length of time could fade. The lace is faded, the edges tattered, but the heart always remembers and through the tears, the sounds of love given and received echo back to me. 

So now, this little paper message from both my past and my future sits on my dresser, reminding me each morning to make room for the happy memories as well as the hard ones. 

I had "lost" that Valentine form so long ago, but the bearer of that most precious gift of love has NOT been lost to me. Our loved ones die, but the love we share between us can NEVER BE DESTROYED. Love continues past all change and becomes the memory trace that guides the human spirit. Love isn't enough, but without it, the world grows cold and frozen, and the sidewalks never get shoveled and the closets never get cleaned, and the memories get lost in the confusion of pain not healing. 

Go find a Valentine, clean a closet, rummage through a drawer, search for some tangible evidence that, indeed, your love DID LIVE - and what a sweet treat that will be! 

"Where there is love, there is life"

From First To Sixth
By Meg Avery, Sugar Hill, GA

In the world of sports, going from first to sixth is not something to brag about nor be proud of.  A sports team doesn’t start off in first place anyway – the norm is to start at the bottom and gradually work upwards – with lots of hard work, determination, effort and teamwork.   It’s truly an achievement deserving high recognition when a team can get to first place. 

But on an individual level, I’ve gone from first to sixth and it’s a mark that has been achieved with just as much determination, pain and courage as an entire team puts forth.   For the bereaved parent, the holiday season represents constant reminders of our child who is no longer able to physically celebrate with us.  The songs on the radio and in the stores, seeing other children’s excitement and anticipation, not being able to shop for our child or see Christmas through their eyes all adds up to an ache that is indefinable and filled with sorrow.    Only a bereaved parent would understand this journey – I’ve moved from getting through that first Christmas to recently surviving my sixth Christmas without James. 

I can well remember the numbness, pain and shock of having to face that first holiday season back in Dec. ’97 when James had only been gone for three months.   It was unimaginable to stay home and “celebrate” the holiday.   My husband & I spent that first Christmas in a cabin with our two dogs in the north Georgia mountains.   It was very quiet, very different and we survived a Christmas without James.   However, I can look back and remember poignant moments from that first Christmas; we spent quite a bit of time outdoors, which we’d never done on Christmas day.   Instead of staying inside, opening many presents, cooking, cleaning and visiting relatives, we had the experience of being a part of nature as we hiked to waterfalls and spent time at a state park.   My parents visited us on Christmas Day and we had lunch together at the state park lodge and then went to the waterfalls together.   James loved the outdoors and in the environment of the serenity of the sound of the water, birds and being away from a hectic busy “normal” holiday, we discovered a peace that was unknown previously.  Still being in shock and still being numb from the realization that James was gone created a little bit of an insulation from harsh reality.   Of course, we missed James terribly but we did feel his spiritual presence all around us.    We were relieved when the holiday season was finally over and we could put that behind us.

Now Christmas is made up of memories, a gentle sadness instead of a piercing pain, a special candle, a small 3’ tree with very special decorations, and still, the need to get out of town. Christmas still represents a monumental effort of coping, surviving, handling and dealing with pain, loss, and heartache.   I remember each Christmas without James with the clarity of a cold, clear winter day.  The second was again spent in north Georgia and we had a quiet holiday time, yet managing to enjoy the outdoors once again.   Our third Christmas we stayed home and invited all the relatives here and managed to enjoy the day with 22 family members & friends with a mix of old and new traditions, even some laughter, and a few tears when reading a poem dedicated to my son, my brother and all our loved ones gone too soon.   Our fourth Christmas we were in Tybee Island in a rented condo with our German exchange student, and our fifth Christmas was spent at our own townhouse with a new exchange student on the beach at Cape San Blas.   We spent this sixth Christmas again at the Cape, remote, scenic and peaceful. .  My parents spent the week with my husband and I and we allowed the beauty of nature by the beach to be the focus of our holiday, met new friends and shared their traditional Christmas dinner.   We had beautiful sunsets, painted by God and the angels, clouds that drifted and breezes that sang of the whispers of the angels above.   Dolphins, known as “angels of the sea” danced and played in the Gulf of Mexico.  More than ever, we missed James but could feel that he was with us 

Yet as my husband & I walked on the beach later Christmas afternoon, my thoughts kept drifting as I wondered, where is Christmas these days?  I wanted to wish James a merry Christmas, I wanted to be able to talk to him, hug him, shower him with gifts; but instead it was he who gave us special gifts.     Being on a remote beach and being blessed to view such spectacular sunsets made me feel closer to heaven than ever before.   I did write “Merry Christmas James” in the sand.   In my heart, I know he realized how much I missed him that day more so than any other day and I know he got my message in the sand, just like I got his messages in the sky’s sunset.      I now realize it will never ever be the same.  No longer is there the 7’ Christmas tree in the living room for father & son to assemble and put the lights on, or for mom and son to decorate with special ornaments gathered through the years.  No longer are there dozens of brightly wrapped gifts under a tall tree decorated with lights, ornaments and garland.   There’s no hectic shopping to find the perfect presents for my son to open.  There’s no decision to make as to what Christmas play to see or tree lighting ceremony to attend.  There’s no scent of Christmas baking in the kitchen, no one to help decorate cookies with mom or grandma.  How I dearly miss all the beloved traditions that made up our holiday season.

 We constantly strive each year to create the best of what’s left, to include James in our Christmas card, to light candles in his memory, remember his life with others on National Children’s Memorial Day, bring his memory to life on the TCF Tree of Memories, and to join with others at candlelighting ceremonies to remember all our children, precious and loved, gone too soon.   Each Christmas will continue to be different.   I believe I will constantly seek a new meaning each Christmas, strive to find Christmas in my heart and soul each year as we share another holiday season without our son’s laughter, without his hugs but with his spiritual presence casting a magical glow on that Christmas day letting us know he is still with us and we still love him, miss him and remember him as we live each day, as we reinvest our lives, not only on Christmas, but every day, not only in his memory, but to create and strengthen our own sources of peace and hope. 

Meg Avery, TCF Lawrenceville GA
In Memory of James Avery 7/15/83  ~  9/22/97

Some Quiet Valentines

While watching an evening sunset
Fade in the western skies,
We know that when tomorrow dawns,
From the east the sun will rise.

Although it may be hidden
By veils hanging low,
We’re sure it will appear again
And we’ll feel its warming glow.

And so it is with life,
When seen through misty eyes,
When our world is suddenly dimmed
And we plead and ask those whys.

It is then we learn, ‘no man is an island,’
As someone wisely said,
As we travel life’s uncharted course
And by an unknown hand seem led.

To walk that path of sorrow,
Enduring life’s great loss,
But by chance or fate that someone’s
Path we are guided to cross.

That someone through kindness
In his or her way does impart,
A warmth and a tenderness
That so lifts a sad heart.

For it’s the depth of their smile
That lifts this sorrow of mine,
And by far they are best suited
To be our Valentine.

We may be someone’s Valentine
And never be aware,
In these caring, still-grieving hearts,
Our children’s love is there.

We’ve no choice but to continue
On life’s uncharted way,
And be thankful for those quiet friends
Who brighten up each day.

-From TCF Newsletter , Cleveland, OH


By Scott Mastley, Duluth, GA

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 frequently 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’ 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.  I 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. 

Over time my body adjusts.  Muscles develop and mental attitudes improve.  I strengthen and grow.  After daily practice over a period of time determined by me, I can carry it well.  The point is not to dwell on the past but to appreciate it and make the most of the present from what I learned in the past.

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, Chris 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 I 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 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—that there are days when we don’t want to go to work.  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 twenty-seven 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.

Question:  What are some suggestions for including my brother Chad in my upcoming wedding?  Lisa

• Add a note to the wedding ceremony program about Chad.
• Put a candle on each table at the reception with a note explaining that the candles are burning in    honor of Chad.
• Have a photograph of him at the entrance to the church. 
• I've also heard of people who put the candles out without an explanation and then talked about it  during the reception over the microphone
Scott Mastley, TCF Atlanta

Visit Scott's web site "Surviving a Sibling"

Valentine Memories

The talk about Valentine Day memories in today's online sharing really hit home for me. This morning I tackled an activity I've kept putting off since our son, Lance, died in November 1999 - I decided to pack all the odds and ends in Lance's room into boxes.  As I handled all the things that had been important to him, I found it so emotional and the memories (and the tears) just overpowered me.  I picked up one of his favorite books, one I'd read to him a jillion times and saw something sticking out at the top like a bookmark.  I turned it over and it was a photograph that just clutched at my heart and reminded me again of all the joy Lance brought to us and others in his short life. 

Lance was born with cerebral palsy and it affected his entire body.  But the glorious thing is that it never hampered his spirit or the happiness and joy with which he moved through the world.  The picture I found was taken the year Lance was selected as Valentine King at his school.  My wife, Beverly, and I went to the Valentine Ball that evening.  Lance was in a wheelchair and could not stand or walk.  But, oh how he wanted to dance like the others.  Finally, Bev and I took him out of his chair and held him under the arms as he "danced"  with the Valentine Queen.  The look on his face was one I'll never forget - pure joy, pure delight, blazing with energy.  Lance stomped his feet up and down with the music, moved his arms back and forth and filled that room with laughter.  Of course, he didn't want to  stop and we danced ruts in the floor before it was all over.  Beverly and I were worn out, but he was still raring to go with every song.  That evening is still one of my fondest memories among all those I treasure about Lance. 

I'm so glad we were willing to go through all that physical exertion to make it possible for him to dance.  I believe that if I could open a window to heaven right now, he'd still be dancing.   Thanks for letting me share. 

Harold Hopkins, Lawrenceville, GA 
Remembering Lance Porter Hopkins,
Jul 20, 1975 - Nov 30, 1999 
~reprinted from TCF Atlanta Online Sharing - Valentine Memories


New Year, Old Memories

Sun going down in the western sky
A lonely feeling of dread inside.
On this eve of the old year, the new waiting to be
I reflect on days past,
 and ponder the new ones I wait to see.
What will they bring, will they be like the old?
I wait and wonder for them it unfold.
Another year gone, one more mark on time
Yes another year gone, but you remain on my mind.
I gather the memories of all the days past
For I know in this new year they will still last.
Into this new year I timidly step
Along with the love so preciously kept.
New Days will come, old ones will pass.
But my love for you will forever last.

(alternate verse)

A New Year is rung in with glad shouts of cheer
Parades and parties welcome the new year.
Another holiday season behind us, a new year to face
New days for the memories time can't erase.
Gone are the pressures of holiday cheer
As we march on in this journey of this up coming year.
The mark of the calendar separates us in time
But the love still flows in heartstrings of yours and mine.
May your memories be gentle, and a comfort to you
May the love you feel carry you through.
Time is an essence, a mark to make
Taking us closer to the ones for whom our hearts ache

by Sheila Simmons, TCF Atlanta
In Memory of my son Steven 

A Love Song

The mention of my child’s name
May bring tears to my eyes,
But it never fails to bring
Music to my ears.
If you are really my friend,
Please, don’t keep me
From hearing the beautiful music.
It soothes my broken heart
And fills my soul with love.

~Nancy Williams, TCF NJ

A Solitary Journey
By Helen Steiner Rice

Grief is a solitary journey.  No one but you know the gaping hole left in your life when someone you know has died.  And no one but you can mourn the silence that was once filled with laughter and song.  It is the nature of love and of death to touch every person in a totally unique way.  Comfort comes from knowing that people have made the same journey.  And solace comes from understanding how others have learned to sing again.

An Angel’s Kiss

We go through life so often,
not stopping to enjoy the day.
And we take each one for granted,
As we travel on our way.

For in your pain and sorrow,
An Angel's Kiss will help you through,
This kiss is very private,
For it is meant for only you.

We never stop to measure,
Anything we just might miss.
But if the wind should blow by softly,
You'll feel an Angel's Kiss.

A kiss that is sent from heaven,
A kiss from up above.
A kiss that is very special,
From someone that you love.

So when, your hearts are heavy,
And filled with tears and pain,
And no one can console you,
Remember once again...

About the ones you grieve for,
Because you sadly miss.
And the gentle breeze you took for granted,
Was just an Angel's Kiss.
By Peggy Bouse


Heart hath its own memory, like the mind. 
And in it are enshrined the precious keepsakes, 
into which is wrought the giver's loving thought. 
~H.W. Longfellow 

Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, Love leaves a memory no one can steal.

I would like to share a poem that I wrote for my daughter, Marissa.  Marissa's birthday is Valentine's Day.  This birthday is most significant because this birthday is her seventh and Marissa lived just three and half years.  She is now gone from me as long as she was here.  I am finding this hurdle to be most difficult.  My heart, which I thought was as broken as could possibly be, is shattered once again.  Another difficult part of this time is that I feel the world has forgotten my child.  I was actually told that I "make myself feel this way."  It hurts.  Please allow me to share this poem in Marissa's memory.  Thank you for giving me this avenue to feel safe in remembering my daughter.  I miss you, Marissa! 

Marissa Gabrielle Myers
February 14, 1995 - August 6, 1998

My Eternal Valentine 

Today is your birthday, my sweet Valentine 
In my heart you now live, my soul you entwine 
For you came into my life and gave so much love 
Then you were beckoned to join all the Angels above 
I know that He called you, He called you by name 
"Marissa, come my child," as His Angels came 
They encircled you into their wings and cradled you near 
Your Eternal journey was begun, 
there was nothing to fear 
I know that Jesus himself greeted you
 as your spirit soared 
I know that you knew Him as your Savior, our Lord 
He gently welcomed you into His Heavenly Home 
A place for you He prepared, no need to roam 
I am certain that he calmed you, 
for I know you wanted to stay 
But the Lord, His Plan fulfilled, it was your Heaven's Day 
Though I ache for you here with me,
 My Darling Baby Girl 
I am consoled that you are mine not only of this world 
You are mine and mine alone, Eternally 
What greater Gift, my Lord give to me? 
Your birthday, I remember, though it brings tears 
Tears of Joy, Happiness, and Memories so dear 
I will never ever forget you, my precious Twinkle Star 
I need only look into my heart, my soul, for there you are 
And there you will Live on through my life 
and in the hereafter 
Marissa, your Love lives in me, 
you are my heart's laughter 
Happy Heavenly Birthday, sweet baby of mine 
You are mine forever, My Eternal Valentine 

 By Laurie Myers


Winter Dreaming 
by Sheila Simmons, TCF Atlanta

Winter sun slants down, no warmth in it's rays
Warm spring is sleeping, under the snow she lays.
Barren tree branches dance in time to the cold winds song
Nights are dark and oh so long.
But your memories are my blanket of warmth
And I pull them close to me, waiting for spring to come forth.
A time of warm breeze, to chase away the cold
But now in the winter, warm memories I hold.


    When Bad Things Happen to Good People

    With all the submissions to the Sharing Line regarding faith, I remember especially my early grief. When someone told me that it was "God's will", "He needed another beautiful flower for his garden", "It was her time to go," (my blood still boils at that one).  I remember numbly nodding my head, too shocked to really think about what was being said to me. As I started to thaw some from my numbness and thought back on those statements, I became so angry at God I couldn't believe it. How dare He take my precious child! How dare He bless me with her and then point His finger at 15 1/2 years as if to say, "Time is up and I am calling in the loan. I am taking her back with me."  I loved and cared for her with all my heart and soul and then she was taken away in an instant, as if a hand reached down from heaven and plucked her out of my arms. My anger and hatred toward the drunk driver was replaced with my intense anger at God; after all, according to everyone else, He made the decision to take her away from me. 

    Then I read When Bad Things Happen to Good People.  I know from talking to others that there were many different responses to that book, not all favorable. But for me I found in those pages what I was looking for. I think it helped that the author, Rabbi Harold Kushner was also a bereaved parent. The part that spoke to me was where he wrote that it is not God who sits up in Heaven making the choice whether someone will live or someone will die. What God did do was give man free will to make their own choices and decisions. That, in my instance,  the drunk driver responsible for the accident that took my Nina decided to have too many drinks at a bar and then he decided to get into a car and drive and through his negligence caused the death of my daughter. Rabbi Kushner says that God was aggrieved as well to see the pain and hurt that her death caused all of us who loved her, and that He stood along side us and cried with us, there to comfort us in our sorrow. 

    I am sure there are many other interpretations that others got when reading that book, but that is the one that I needed. Obviously, we don't all get the same out of something we read and have our own opinions especially on matters of faith. But this was what spoke to me and it has helped me when I have my times of anger and loss of faith. This interpretation fit with the loving God that I was brought up to believe in. This is the one that I needed to put aside my anger at God. 

    On another note, has anyone felt a stab in the heart when you listened to someone talk about, for example, what happened to me the other day, "So-and-so's daughter was playing at the beach and they couldn't find her. Luckily, someone spotted her under the water and rescued her just in time. Obviously, her guardian angel was watching out for her and it wasn't her time." Ouch!  When I hear things like that said, I start to say to myself, "Where was Nina's guardian angel?"  I don't have an answer for that one yet, but it happens often enough that I hear someone mentions that so-and-so had a close brush with death and when it didn't happen that some superior being or guardian angel was watching over them and spared them, as if they were worthy and my daughter wasn't. Does anyone have these same feelings and if you do, what do you think? Any suggestions would really be appreciated to help when I wrestle with this. 

     Cathy Seehuetter, Nina's forever mom, TCF St. Paul, MN

    ~reprinted from TCF Atlanta Online Sharing

    Special Online Addition

    The "New Normal"

    In a matter of days, it will be the end of another year. Most everyone is talking about what they will do in the new year and what resolutions they will make (and, in my case, soon break). Maybe they will resolve to lose some weight, begin exercise program, take up a new hobby or sign up for some educational refresher courses. After all, they now have a shiny new year to begin new and rid themselves of those extra pounds or maybe shake the cobwebs out of their stagnant brains.

    However, for who have had the title 'bereaved parent' sorrowfully thrust upon them, the above seems inconsequential. For them, everything has changed since the death of their child, especially their priorities. What was once so important is now comparatively trivial. What once gave them pleasure now feels somehow significant. Rather than make plans for a 'new, year', there are many who must learn to live with what has now become for them the 'new normal.'

    Oftentimes when someone comes to a TCF meeting for the first time, they will mention something that they haw been thinking or doing and are worried that they haw 'lost their mind' and that everyone else in the group will think they are 'crazy.' For example, before Nina died I wouldn't venture into a cemetery even if it were broad daylight. I wouldn't even look in the direction of one. In short, the idea of just being at a cemetery frightened me. But after Nina died, I often made midnighttreks to the cemetery alone. I spent time there decorating the site of her grave with balloons and windsocks indicating the season or an upcoming holiday while playing her favorite CD's. I remember the heartbreaking paradox of those first holidays and birthdays when I should haw been shopping for her gifts, instead walking through the stores looking for just the perfect item to add to the grave: site 'decor'. Surely I
    was going totally insane! I was almost afraid to mention this to the other bereaved parents in my TCF group. But these same
    parents reassured me that if I felt the need to go to the cemetery, for whatever reason and whatever time, day or night, or wanted to decorate Nina's burial place (sadly, one of the only ways I could continue to be a parent to my daughter), that while maybe not the norm for those untouched by grief, for me and other bereaved parents it was.

    We would never haw imagined this way of thinking would become a normal way of life for us. That each major family celebration or event would be marred by sadness that our child wasn't there to share in it. That we would speak of funerals, memorial services, cremation, accident reports and death certificates just as if they were commonplace things that everyone spoke of, and when we stepped back and really thought about it, were horrified by the way it sounds - horrified that for us this had become 'normal.' For those with surviving children, when they were late from somewhere, counting the seconds and feeling sick to our stomachs upon hearing the wail of an ambulance... again, for many of us, the new normal.

    Just recently a dear friend, who is also a bereaved parent, and I were standing in the parking lot talking about how we hoped that
    the ground at the cemetery wouldn't be frozen yet so we could still pound in the metal stakes from the latest wind chimes we
    had purchased for our child's grave. We then spoke of the ways we knew of how to get around that if it was (such as, put hot
    water in a thermos to bring to the grave site in order to thaw the ground). We then shook our heads and forlornly chuckled at
    what we had just spoken of, knowing how absurd anyone but another bereaved parent would find our conversation.

    I don't believe there has ever been a meeting that a newly bereaved parent has attended where a measure of confidence in their sanity wasn't restored upon learning from others that what they were feeling was natural for someone who has experienced the death of a child. When they mention how they continually lose their keys or can't remember where they put an item five seconds after they set it down, or how just merely walking down the cereal aisle at the grocery store and seeing their child's favorite brand made them leave everything in their shopping cart and flee the store, or how they swear they saw their child's face in a passing car or in a crowd of people, they can look around the circle of our TCF group meetings and watch as we rod our heads in acknowledgment, for we haw experienced the same. Even though our stories are different and we cant know excatly what each other is feeling, we, more than anyone, come closest, and can validate each others so-called 'crazy thoughts' with the reassurance that what is felt and experienced is, for us, the 'new normal.'

    Attending those first few meetings were difficult, but I am so glad that I found my TCF friends. I believe that it truly has been my salvation. Though I wish I could have the old normal back, I am eternally grateful to the others at our TCF meetings who have helped me learn to live with and adjust to this unwanted role of bereaved parent. If you have never attended one or it has been a while since you have, I hope that you will come to a meeting. There are many of us who want to give back and to help by assisting you in your passage through the 'new normal.'

    With gentle thoughts,

    Cathy L. Seehuetter
    TCF/St. Paul, MN

    ~reprinted from St. Paul, MN TCF Chapter



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