Newsletter of The Compassionate Friends 

 Atlanta Area Chapters 
 July - August 2002 

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

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


Adrift At Sea

Oh dear God, please help me!
I'm drifting out to sea,
In a ship that’s full of sorrow,
where I didn't want to be.

Lord, please don't forget me
As horrible as it seems,
My baby is on the shore,
It’s the end of all my dreams.

Oh Lord, I see him there,
As we're pulling out of sight,
It’s the beginning of a nightmare,
in a ceaseless, senseless night.

Oh God, please go and get him,
You know I love him so,
You know I'd never leave him,
but I had no choice but go.

Oh Lord, he is my baby,
my precious flesh and blood,
How could a hope so lovely,
result in tears that flood.

Father I beseech you,
go to my little lamb,
You promised you would keep him,
in the hollow of Your hand.

My Father, please forgive me
for my lack of hope and fear,
For I strongly sense you presence,
and Your Spirit drawing near.

by Beverly Corley, TCF Marietta
 In Memory of Matthew

Rekindling The Spark

Don’t let the chain of love end with you. Clay Walker.

Carl believed in the Big Bang Theory…the bigger the bang, the better the 4th of July celebration. He would orchestrate the whole event…from how to get the biggest bang for the buck, to how to arrange them on the street for the most fantastic show on the block. He had this intuitive knowledge of how to run the whole event. Even his sister Carrie would agree that Carl knew what to buy to make the day special…although she always added her special order to the event! So, as the day approached, the family would hit all the fireworks stands in Visalia. You name them- we bought them! When it came to putting the sparks in a 4th of July celebration, Carl was in his element. For the finale, Carl would grab our ladder and have fireworks on each wrung for one spectacular wrap up. At the end, when all the fireworks were lit and the cleanup was done, the family carried this glow inside our hearts. Oh how I wish those good times would return.

When Carl died, my spark for life was gone also. He gave sparkle to my life. He put fireworks in the fun activities we did as father and son. After his passing, I had no desire to reinvest in life. It was so easy, so painless, at least I thought, to plop myself down in front of the television and vegetate. Zone out!! Way out where pain couldn’t reach me. I could numb myself and not think. But like all solutions of this kind, the hurt would not be denied in such a simple fashion. The hurt was not properly dealt with, only pushed down. When it came back, it always came back with a vengeance.

My wounded spirit needed something to make it come back to life again. Or, if not quite that yet, at least to feel the stirring of life in me. As my wife, daughter, and I shared the early deep struggles of living without Carl, ideas began to form. Our conversations took us to a very unforgettable aspect of Carl’s life, that being how he made an indelible impact on our lives. Carl gave us new dimensions in love as he shared his triumphs and trials after his brain injury. He fleshed out the meaning of charity when he so often gave his own belongings to others, yet he was so needy. His examples sparked some ideas, which will be shared later.

In our TCF meetings we say, grief won’t be denied. Well, grief also needs a place to go. It needs to be dealt with appropriately. Building on Carl’s legacy allows me to deal with my wounded spirit constructively. Part of the healing of my wounds has come in finding meaning in his short life and tragic, unexpected death. If I can find a way to extract the meaning of his life and share it properly, then I can deal more effectively with my wounded spirit. Maybe start kindling a tiny spark. Getting back into the rigors and routines of life has been slow. Achingly slow at times. I am now seeing my recovery from Carl’s passing as a lifelong recovery. Someone once said, “The journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step.” Yep, that’s my journey-one step at a time. I wish I could be all better again and back to my jolly old self. It is not to be off course. A new me is here. Little acts of kindness have created tiny sparks of life. After Carl’s initial accident, I learned to take “someday” out of the family vocabulary. Special family trips, vacations, and celebrations were planned and done. Carl’s last spoken words are etched in my memory forever. They are simple words. “I love you too, Dad.” So conversations with my forever friend Debby and my lovely daughter, Carrie, end with those words.

I would like to now share some ideas for kindling a spark in life. Reinvest in life on your timetable. In the first year after a son or daughter’s passing, much time is needed for dealing with the loss and the overwhelming feelings that come with it. I said the first year. It could be longer than that. At least it was for me. I used to marvel at other who, when their children passed away, accomplished great deeds like starting foundations for missing and murdered children, or MADD groups. My timetable was different. I started with little projects.

Learn to listen to that still small voice. Call it the gut feeling. Grieving family members move on at different times. On the third anniversary of Carl’s death, I heard that still, small voice whisper, “Now.” I vowed to God, and to Carl, that I would start a TCF chapter in Visalia. That still, small voice let me know I was ready to take on the task of forming a TCF chapter.

IN TCF circles, the term stuck is used. It refers to grieving parents who remain stuck at a certain point in grief recovery. They are no longer growing through the grief recovery process, but have stagnated.

Here are suggestions to get unstuck and feel a bit of spark for life again. Find a simple project that is significant of your child. Plant a tree. Give a donation to a charity or church. Work in a soup kitchen or rescue mission.

Find a way to tell your son or daughter’s story. This is so important. This is a very cathartic experience. My healing occurs for me when I write my columns. Debby echoes this sentiment as editor of our newsletters. Don’t leave out the siblings of your child. They enjoy writing memories of their brother/sister. Write that story and submit it. It could even be a poem or a song. Recently, an older member of our chapter wrote about his son, who died at 57. This father worked a fulltime job and then came home to the fulltime job of caring for his disabled son. That story touched several readers. They said, “Wow! That’s our story. That’s how we felt. Tell the writer he has helped us so much!”

Dedicate a newsletter to your child. Our newsletter reaches a wide audience of readers across the country. The feedback is wonderful. People read of our beloved daughters and sons and they are helped in their own recovery. Each time hurting people reach out, they get helped within. Finding that spark in life will not be easy, trust me. It will even be necessary to re-ignite that spark. That’s pretty normal. Each time the spark of life gets re-ignited, recovery is a little easier. Be good to yourselves.  ~Aaron.

For the Both of Us

As long as I can
I will look at this world for both of us.

As long as I can
I will laugh with the birds, 
I will sing with the flowers, 
I will pray to the stars, 
for the both of us.

As long as I can 
I will remember how many things
 on this earth were your joy.

And I will live as well 
as you would want me to live 
As long as I can.

Sascha - from Wintersun

Where is She? 

What ever become of the carefree girl? 
Who built a kingdom out of a make believe world. 
Spinning a future and how it would be 
Never seeing the real, just a fantasy. 

Where did she go, the young girl in bloom? 
Trying on lipstick, and sweet perfume. 
The world was her oyster holding her pearl 
Time moved so slow, for her dreams to unfurl. 

Where is that young bride with dreams of the future 
With her love by her side, their new life to nurture 
Someone to love someone to hold 
Someone who be there as they grew old. 

Where is she now? That young mother of two 
Life was sweet the future had a rosy hue. 
With babes on her lap, in an old rocking chair 
She would spin tales of places in a land so fair. 

Where is this Mother? Her heart broken and bleeding 
As her firstborn lay sick, and death preceding. 
Locked away in the past gone world 
Crying and yearning for that carefree girl. 

Where have I gone? This woman that was me 
Locked away by grief, and never to be free 
I have become a brokenhearted Mother, 
who has lost a sweet child 
With my dreams all shattered, my plans gone wild. 

Where have I gone from who I once was
the child, girl, bride and Mother of two 
My rosy view of life as it was before, 
now tarnished and stained to a much grayer hue. 
The one that you see, is all that remains, 
a Mother all shattered by life's lessons in grief

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

Thank you all for your kind words about the poem I sent in yesterday. But I cannot take all the credit...I am just a pen in the hands of the one who sends me the words, and I thank him for the gift. 

I am going to try a weekly writing called Tuesday's child. Please bare with me as I am new at this. But for this Tuesday.... The Garden of Memories

The Garden of Memories 

Once there was a garden of most beautiful flowers, their sweet scent would drift on the air, and butter-flies would grace the blooms with their gentle wings. People would come from all over to visit this quiet serene garden, and spend time to get to know each other, and the quiet older woman that owned it. She was happy to share her garden with all who came, and would reflect back on her life in stories she would share. 

One day this lovely lady passed away and her house and garden where sold.  The new owner loved the flowers, but she was a very selfish person, she would cut the blooms, and take them inside to display in vases around inside.  This made the people of the town very sad, as the lovely garden slowly disappeared. And all that remained were the memories. 

Are we any different then this new owner?  The old lady knew to really enjoy the garden, was to share it, and not keep it inside for herself. 

Our children we have lost are our gardens, and to fully spread the beauty of their garden we must share them with others.  Let their beauty and fragrance drift free, share them with others, tell a memory, someone is listening. 

Remember the movie Forrest Gump? How he sat on the bench and reflected on his life to all that came by? People would sit letting bus after bus go by just so they could listen. We all have a story to tell and others are waiting for us to share our gardens. 

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

Forget those calls for ‘closure’

This morning there is an editorial in the Atlanta Journal Constitution entitled "As we move on, forget those calls for 'closure'".    With a headline like that, I had to read the article & found I agreed with nearly everything the author, E.R. Shipp, wrote.  I'm not going to include the entire editorial, but I would like to share a few paragraphs:

She starts with "Let's bring closure to "closure"  Events of the past days are tragic reminders that the word is more wish than reality."

In the middle she writes  "In Connecticut, where Michael Skakel is finally on trial in the long-unsolved 1975 murder of Martha Moxley, her mother may be pleased that the prosecution has gotten this far, but even a conviction can never be her balm in Gilead.  Her daughter is, and has been for nearly 27 years, dead, lost to her entirely.  The pain will never subside; the memories will never be erased; the anger will only be tempered.  And yet we talk of "closure". 

She ends with:  "My colleagues in the media should drop the word "closure", which they bandy about almost from the start of any tragedy.  Rather than admit they are seeking ways to move on to something more immediate, they claim that what the rest of us want is "closure".  But we cannot close ourselves off.  We can never stop asking  Why?   Yes, we shall move forward.  But forget "closure".

I just wanted to share this because I know there's been alot of discussion here about closure and moving on.  However, I preferred the author's terminology of "moving forward" which to me seemed very different from "moving on".    I resent when someone tells me they expect me to move on.  As though I could brush my hands of this disaster, put it away in a closet or the corner of the basement, way back to the deepest depths of my mind, and leave it there to "move on" to whatever else life holds.   I can't move on in that manner of speaking, but moving forward, yes, there is little choice about that.   With my son's spiritual presence as much a  part of me as my hands and legs, with the past memories that I talk about  although not nearly as much as the present goings on, with the tragedy of his death always with me,  which has provided me with a new perspective & view of life, with the lessons I've learned from his life & death, moving forward becomes a reality, moving forward and taking tragic events & making triumphant changes, moving forward becomes a way of life.   Moving on vs. moving forward - it may all be just a matter of semantics, but it is the way it is.

Meg Avery, Lawrenceville TCF
In Memory of her son James Avery

The myth of managing grief
By Stephanie Salter

Not long ago, a friend in New York said that she often feels cut off from the rest of the country because Sept. 11 is still so much with most New Yorkers. 

“We’ve all gotten on with our lives, and if you don’t go down to the (World Trade Center) site, there are no visible traces,” she said. “But there’s still so much grief and sadness hanging in the air.” 

People outside of New York can’t really understand, said my friend. 

“You talk with them and, if you didn’t lose someone directly in the twin towers, it’s like their tone says, ‘Hey, shouldn’t you be moving on?’ They don’t get that there’s a collective grief. I actually prefer it when people don’t even ask how it’s going. It’s easier.” 

Our American culture boasts many virtues and several strong suits, but grieving — collectively or individually — isn’t one of them. 

Unlike older societies, we have few formal grieving rituals in place to guide us. So, we try to tackle grief in our typical American way — as if it’s a problem to be solved, an illness to be cured, an unnatural, machine-gumming breakdown that needs to be fixed, ASAP. 

Perhaps more phobic about suffering than any society in history, Americans tend to start the clock ticking early in “managing” grief. While solicitous and caring of the newly bereaved, we encourage heartbroken mates and parents to medicate themselves so they can “keep it together” through the funeral. 

This ignores the fact that wailing and keening and “losing it” are a pretty accurate rendering of what humans inside feel like when someone we love dies or leaves us. But, in our culture, public wailing and keening are considered bad forms; they are seen as unwelcome reminders of pathology among “healthy” people. 

Even the most devastating loss — that of a child by a parent — seems to carry an unwritten statute of limitations on grief, something I learned several years ago when I reported on an international organization called Compassionate Friends. 

Founded in England in the late 1960s, the massive support network’s chapters provide something that bereaved parents and siblings can’t get from the rest of the world: “unconditional love and understanding” (as its informal credo states) with no expiration date. 

As one member told me, she knew that a Compassionate Friends meeting was the one place she could go and never hear the unintentionally accusing question, “How many years ago did you say your child died?” 

Grief is not like an illness, to be fought and cured with medicine or chemotherapy and radiation. Generalizations can be made about human behavioral tendencies, and time lines can be drawn for predicted “healing,” but each person’s grieving process is unique. 

Some people never “get better.” And nobody survives grief unchanged. 

As Stephanie Ericsson wrote in “Companion Through the Darkness,” grief is “a tidal wave that overtakes you, smashes down upon you with unimaginable force, sweeps you up into its darkness, where you tumble and crash against unidentifiable surfaces only to be thrown out on an unknown beach, bruised, reshaped.” 

Or, as a man who lost his 7-year-old son once confided, “I’d always thought of myself as a happy man, but that’s gone now. We have moments of happiness, some of them long and filled with laughter, but the sense of what is lost is never far away.” 

In her book, Stephanie Ericsson also warned: 

“Grief makes what others think of you moot. It shears away the masks of normal life and forces brutal honesty out of your mouth before propriety can stop you. It shoves away friends and scares away so-called friends and rewrites your address book for you.” 

The Death of the Young

People ask: "Why do children or young people die, when they have lived so little?" How do you know that they have lived so little?  This crude measure of yours is time, but life is not measured in time.  This is just the same as to say, "Why is this saying, this poem, this picture, this piece of music so short, who was it broken off and not drawn out to the size of the longest speech or piece of music, the largest picture?"  As the measure of length is inapplicable to the meaning (or greatness) of productions of wisdom or poetry, so - even more evidently - it is inapplicable to life.  How do you know what inner growth this soul accomplished in its short span, and what influence it had on others?

~from Spirtual Life Cannot be Measured by Tolstoy

TCF Atlanta Online Sharing

What to Say to My Childbirth Class

Dear group.... 

I have an odd situation that I don't know how to handle and I sure would appreciate anyone's thoughts or suggestions on this. 

I have just accepted a part-time position teaching a Childbirth Class and these are new mom's and dad's that are expecting their first baby.  One of the requirements we have for teaching this class is to share a little about ourselves and our pregnancy/delivery history.  My problem is that I had a baby that died and when I tell this class how many children I have, I don't want to leave my daughter out by saying that I only have "3" children and not include her, BUT I don't want to scare these new parents by telling them that I had a baby that died.  Quite the predicament, huh? 

The other thing is that Kelsey was one of my triplets and so she has 2 surviving brothers and then I have an older daughter so if they ask how old my children are and I tell them the boys are 3 then they will know that it was a multiple birth. 

Any suggestions from anyone how to handle this with-out scaring these parents but still including Kelsey as one of my children but not letting on that she died? 

Tina - Mommy to 4 angels.....3 with feet, 1 with wings 

Dear Tina 

I don't think it's necessary to hide the fact that your daughter died.  I used to teach childbirth classes, and one of the topics I addressed is the possibility of an unexpected outcome.  This could mean anything from having a c-section when you'd originally planned a homebirth, a child born with some sort of handicap, or the death of a child.  Not all, but many of these couples are young and have never dealt, or even known anyone, who has faced this sort of crisis. 

True, you don't want to scare them, but it's not inappropriate to embrace the face of birth in all it's many facets, including those that are fragile and brief.  I think the fact that you are there in front of them, confident and able, will help to show them that this type of experience can be survivable.  I can't count the number of times I've had someone come back (a friend or student or even an acquaintance, and point out how something that I said or did, that didn't apply to them at the time, came rushing back into their thoughts when they were unexpectedly faced with a similar situation later, and how it helped to know that there were other people out there who had gone through the same crisis.  Or sometimes it was not them personally, but someone they knew who they were able to comfort or support.

I don't know what specific words you'll use, but I'm sure it will add something important to the class for you to include ALL of your experiences. 


“I Remember You”

In the rising of the sun and in it’s going down.
I remember you.

In the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter
I remember you.

In the opening of buds and in the warmth of summer
I remember you.

In the rustling of the leaves and in the beauty of autumn - I remember you

In the beginning of the year and when it ends
I remember you

When I am weary and in need of strength
I remember you

When I am lost and sick in heart
I remember you

So long as I live, you too shall live – 
For you are now a part of me
As I remember you.

In Loving Memory of our daughter and sister
Donna Alicia Harner
8/19/71 – 10/2/92
submitted by Lois, Ray, James, Missy, Harner, Cedartown, GA
“Forever In Our Hearts”


Surviving the death of a child and going through the grief process has often been described as “the grief journey”.   Through every stage of our life, from birth to death, we all travel a journey; some side trips are expected and full of joy, others are totally unexpected and take us by complete surprise and extreme shock.   Yet, we are sturdy travelers; packing what we need for each aspect of the various adventures; tossing out some meaningless trinkets, discarding that which has no value; and treasuring the priceless souvenirs of our memories. 

Sometimes we pack anticipation and excitement, other times we unwillingly pack in guilt and anger, despair and sorrow, we toss out materialistic goods, we treasure and cling to photographs, both captured on film and captured in our memory bank.    We end one side trip & some of us store the luggage away.   We start a new path on the journey, out comes the luggage again, yet the journey continues.   We have beginnings and endings, joys and sorrows, friends we make and friends we lose, yet the journey continues. 

What of that luggage?  Where is it stored?  What do we do with the items that are not visible – how do we handle the souvenirs of the heart that are etched in our memory for all time?   Our life is a journey – we are constantly traveling from one end of the spectrum to another.   Sometimes we feel like lost souls in someone else’s continent; other times we settle in to a new normal in our same environment, yet it’s totally different. 

This is the life of the bereaved parent; a constant traveler.  Sometimes we’re homesick for the life that was left behind when our child died; sometimes we laugh and feel somewhat comfortable in the new territory we’re becoming a part of as survivors.   Sometimes we feel like tourists who wonder how we got here, why we’re here and wish we could just go back home, go back to the way it was. 

Some of us take all our items in our suitcase; arrange them as carefully as museum pieces which must not be touched.  Some of us pack our issues in the suitcase, close it up and put it at the back of the closet, since that path has been traveled, and it’s easier to put it away than deal with the issues as a part of every day life. 

Then there are those of us, like myself, who have the suitcase open every day.   We go through the issues, deal with the intricacies of this new life on the most reluctant stage of our journey ever taken, and continually go through the sorrow, guilt, regrets, longings, anger, hopes, instead of going around them or keeping them safely tucked away.   It is so extremely difficult to be the traveler who keeps the suitcase open.  I get so tired of dealing, coping, managing, struggling and surviving.   Sometimes it seems that those are the only options on my ticket on this journey.   It’s a one-way street sometimes; other times it’s a round trip excursion in which I start out going in one direction and find myself right back where I started from.  Frustrating, yes.  Difficult, yes.   Healing?  Most definitely, yes.  Could I be where I am today if I kept the suitcase in the closet?   What if I decided that James lived, then died, nothing I say or do is going to change that so I might as well close up my suitcase, not confront the issues, not bring out the priceless memories and carry on as though I’m not a well-seasoned traveler?   Grief was not a planned part of my life’s journey; James was supposed to live a long life, definitely outlive me.   But here I am, on the most reluctant leg of my journey ever.   It’s up to me to decide how to travel; what to do with the items in my suitcase, where to put them, and what’s important in my life now.   I can’t do that with a closed suitcase syndrome; I have to keep it open, even though at times it’s unpleasant.   I owe it to James; to the wonderful life he lived, for the many days we had together, the years that were not long enough.  If I close it all up and just move on, then what was the point?   I’ve learned so much from James’ life and death; lessons I wish I could have learned in a much different way; but when James ended his life & when my life as I knew it also ended, I had to make difficult choices also.   James kept his issues inside as he lived his life with zest and imagination, humor and sensitivity, compassion and enthusiasm and his suitcase had issues that we could have dealt with together if he had not only kept them closed up and bottled up.    It is part of his legacy that closing up is not the answer that gives me the courage to keep my suitcase open. 

I continue the journey, by moving forward with my open suitcase, because then struggles will provide opportunities, challenges will present themselves and somehow, this ultimate tragedy can bring forth some triumphant changes.   I won’t ever find a reason why I had to be set forth on this portion of my life’s journey, but I can find a purpose and create moments and memories that are both healing & forgiving, as long as I am aware that my suitcase is open and that it’s okay to trudge through as much guilt, anger, regret, pain, sorrow, and sadness as my suitcase holds, because on the other side of the suitcase is the hope, encouragement, laughter, friendship & love of the people beside me along the way, those who are with me spiritually & those with me physically. 

Meg Avery, TCF Lawrenceville
In Memory of my son James on his birthday:  14 Forever, 19 this July 15th


The Good Old Summertime??

The good old summertime has arrived. The time when we usually plan vacations, family reunions, picnics, etc. There are many activities going on, such as ballgames, golf, swimming, though for some of us a float trip on an Ozark stream is more enticing. Vacation Bible Schools and ice cream socials are held at churches. We usually adopt a more casual lifestyle, cook outdoors, and free ourselves of rigid schedules. Whatever our interests may be, this is the time for family togetherness. When our family is still intact it can be a wonderful time..  if not, it can be a very painful time.

If this is the first summer following the death of your child, you may not have much inclination or energy for the usual activities, although many parents find that doing something physically demanding helps release the tension and anger associated with grief. Some have found a measure of healing and peace working in their yard or garden, or planting a flower garden in memory of their child. Others may feel obligated to attend family activities, and then they find that it does help to get involved.

If you don't feel able to get out and get involved in your usual activities, don't be concerned, just do what you feel like you can do now.

Most of us think going away on a vacation or short trip somewhere will help us get away from the painful reminders of our child's death, and though it may be less painful than it was at home, we soon learn that we take our memories and emotions with us wherever we go. However, a vacation can be an incentive for doing something relaxing and enjoyable, though most of us feel guilty if we enjoy ourselves very soon after our child has died.

When we made vacation plans for the summer following our son's death in February, I was a little apprehensive. We were going to visit our daughter, who had recently moved to Michigan, and invited our daughter-in-law (our son's widow) and her daughters, ages three and five, to accompany us on the vacation. From there, all our group traveled upstate to stay a few days at a lake resort. Our little granddaughters kept the trip upbeat and lively, and we were able to enjoy ourselves for the first time that summer. It was helpful for all of us, even though there were several intense emotional moments. Now we realize that everyone in our family was still grieving, each in their own way, and it would have been helpful to have allowed each one some private time to rest every day.

As newly bereaved parents, we are like pioneers, charting our way through an unknown area to our new destination. We've been told that it is peaceful there, but we can't feel that peace until we arrive. Those who have already made the trip report that life is different, yet good, in that new place. But we find that difficult to believe, because we are still traveling that long, rugged trail, and the end is not yet in sight. "Don't be afraid," we are told, "we made it, and you will make it too. Just take your time, and you will find your way." Those who have made the journey encourage us to believe that we'll make it through the wilderness of grief and find peace.

As one who has found peace at the end of the journey, I'm thankful to those who encouraged me during those dark days when I could not see the way. Their loving support, and my faith, gave me hope that life could be good and meaningful again, and now it truly is.

If you are still struggling along, unable to see a future without pain and confusion, please reach out to those of us who have been there. We are here to take your hand and help you find the way to healing. Be kind to yourself and others, and take time to relax and remember. Your child would want you to try to find some ways to enjoy life once again, without feeling guilty. This summer you may find the road to renewed hope and recovery.

--Lenora Sanders

First Steps
By Scott Mastley, Atlanta TCF

W hen my brother died in a car accident seven years ago, I was reminded of a 17-year-old boy I knew in high school who had lost his father suddenly. I hadn’t known anyone who’d lost a parent before then, and I was curious about how he had acted at the funeral. It made quite an impression on me when I heard that he was calmly speaking with his friends and thanking them for their support. I told myself then, that if I were ever in that situation, I would also be strong.

As I stood in the kitchen seven years ago with He didn’t make it echoing in my head, I remembered the boy whose father had died. I wanted to be brave like him, to be strong for those around me. 1 wanted to show everyone that I was resilient, and I wanted to deliver what everyone was telling me to deliver. All the calls and visits began or ended with someone saying, “Be strong for your parents. They need you to be strong for them now.” There was also a popular song playing on every station with the lyrics “You got to be cool. You got to be calm. You got to stay together….You got to be strong. You got to be wiser.” I made it my mantra. I couldn’t sleep, so I’d silently chant to myself, You‘ve got to be strong. You’ve got to be strong.

At first my parents thanked me for showing strength. They were amazed that I was able to walk around and shake hands and thank people for coming to the wake. I tried to reassure everyone while my parents struggled to respond to the sympathy of friends and family members. They didn’t feel capable of much conversation. I spoke at the funeral while they listened, teary-eyed, in the front pew. I thought I was reaching deep, pulling out powers of resilience that had been dormant in me. I was proud of myself for putting others at ease.

At the same time, there were questions slowly rising to the surface of my consciousness. What about you, Scott? When do you take care of yourself? What do you need? 1 felt guilty worrying about myself when, according to everyone around me, my parents were depending on me. Not that I ever took the time to actually discuss it with them - l just assumed I was supposed to be the unbending oak. I cried every day, but I made sure I didn’t cry in front of them. I left the room if I felt tears building. I tried to push the questions into a dark, distant corner of my

 I’d answer the phone and hear, “It must be hard for them. Please tell your parents that our prayers are with them.” When I hung up, I couldn’t help wondering why the callers didn’t say, “It must be hard on the three of you. Our prayers are with you.”

Then my parents began expressing their concern for me. Sensing my isolation, they began to realize that my grief was being overlooked. They realized that they were getting all the support while I was being told to support them. They said they worried about me. They asked who was supporting me. Their empathy helped me accept and admit to my private concerns. I could only be strong for so long. I didn’t want to be selfish, but I knew that my brother’s death was an extraordinary circumstance. I missed him terribly, and each day I felt more exhausted. Nature was telling me something. I had to stop moving, stop reassuring, stop acting for the sake of others. I had to admit that I didn’t know how to handle grief. 1 had to stop being the steady, reassuring voice in our family and let the sadness come over me. I had to cry and find some time to be alone. I didn’t have to learn to live with the full reality of my loss overnight, but I had to let the grief take me and begin to learn. That’s when my journey, as a surviving sibling, began. 

Scott Mastley lives in Georgia with his wife, Doreen, and 22-month-old daughter, Molly.  His older brother, Christopher Phillips Mastley, died at age 27 on December 5, 1994.  An active member of TCF’s Atlanta Chapter and the Village Writers Group in Decatur, he is the author of Surviving a Sibling:  Discovering Life After Loss.

To order Scott’s book, visit his web site:

Scott Mastley will be guest speaker at the September 3rd TCF Sibling meeting in Marietta. 

For more information contact 
Susan Van Vleck  by email  770-499-9770.

CHARLIE WALTON has earned his living since 1973 as a freelance writer.  Working under the name “The Wordmonger,” Charlie has provided scriptwriting, copywriting, and speechwriting services to business, education and church clients.  He has written for AT&T, BellSouth, Chick-fil-A, Coca-Cola, Christianity Today, Days Inns, Delta Airlines, DuPont, IBM, Kimberly-Clark, Kroger, Texas Instruments, USA Today, and many colleges and universities.  He is an Elder at the Northlake Church of Christ in Atlanta, and Executive Director of PREDISAN, a highly successful medical mission program sponsored for sixteen years by the Northlake Church in the mountains of eastern Honduras. 

As a free-lance writer, Charlie had ghost-written many books for other people, but only became an author under his own name after a wintertime carbon monoxide accident took the lives of two of his three sons, Tim and Don, and Don’s best friend, Bryan.  Two of Charlie’s books, WHEN THERE ARE NO WORDS and PACKING FOR THE BIG TRIP resulted from this sudden life trauma and have been widely used in the aftermath of Columbine, Jonesboro, September 11th, and to help grieving parents through those first weeks and months of numbing grief.  The books have resulted in numerous speaking invitations and have opened up new worlds of service for Charlie and his wife, Kay. 

When There Are No Words : Finding Your Way to Cope With Loss and Grief 
By Charlie Walton 
This book describes that terrible moment when you desperately want to say something to console a friend or loved one and no words seem appropriate. This book is a conversation between a sensitive, articulate victim of sudden, tragic loss, and any person struggling to endure the numbing first hours and weeks of a life catastrophe. The book is helpful in families, friends, counselors, and supporters of the persons retrieving their life and purpose. When There Are No Words helps you find the path through grief and understand that loss is part of life .

REVIEW:  After losing my son to suicide a year ago, I was recently given a copy of Charlie's book. I read it immediately and contacted him by e-mail to let him know that his book was one of the most comforting books I had read. I am in the counseling field and have had opportunities to study death and counsel others, but I was not prepared for the impact that losing my son had on our family and many around us. Charlie has written to me with the same kind of encouragement that he offers in his book. He is real, practical, and also has published in large enough print that grieving people like me don't have to strain to focus. I plan to purchase several copies to have on hand for others who have experienced loss. I wish I had had his book a year ago when I had difficulty reading anything.

April 20th is the 4th anniversary of my son Kemba’s Homegoing. 
Over the past years I am often reminded of a poem my pastor quoted in a sermon. 
It reads:

I walked a mile with Pleasure
She chatted all the way
But left me none the wiser
With all she had to say.

I walked a mile with Sorrow
And not a word said she.
 But OOH!! the things I learned from her
When sorrow walked with me.

I have found this saying to be so true while traveling grief’s road these past four years. 
I am a much wiser person and see the world in a different perspective.

Mellinese Bryant, Southwest Atlanta TCF  (Ben Hill)
In Memory of Kemba
July 5, 1976 – April 20, 1998


Sometimes We Have To Let Go
Written by Hattie Pridgen, TCF Wilmington, NC (Cape Fear Chapter)

How many times did I tell you that you could not die before I did?  Because I could not live if you died.  SO MANY TIMES.  Did I hold you here too long to suffer more than you should?  I could not bear the thought of life without you.  Children should not die before their parents.

How many times has my heart cried "I lied, I lied, I didn't mean it," since that last afternoon when I knew it was time to let you go.  You told me that you loved me more than anything but you wanted to go home to Heaven.  I told you it was Okay, that I wanted you to go and not have to suffer anymore.

I told you that when a child is born the cord that binds a mother and child together is cut, but there is an invisible cord that binds us that can never be broken.  That wherever you go I will always be with you, and no matter where I am you would always be with me.

Because I loved you more than life itself I had to let you go.  But my heart still cries, "I didn't mean it, it was a lie, I didn't want you to die."

But I will always carry you in my heart, and part of my heart and soul went with you that day.  I know that you are waiting for me in Heaven.  ONLY THEN WILL I BE WHOLE AGAIN.



Isn't it strange that things we once took for granted, have changed so much? 

Things like the soft wings of a brilliant colored butterfly, or the radiant colors in the sky at dawn and sunset or perhaps a song we heard in passing or a movie, we once took for granted.  But now, these very same things can bring on tears and leave us feeling a deep sense of longing. Why? Are these not the same as before? What changed? We did.  The things we once took for granted are now viewed with much more than human eyes. We now experience these things through the eyes of a broken heart. 

I believe grief gives us a very different view on things. A heart bruised and broken by loss has a new tenderness and compassion. Just look inside yourself at how your views have changed. I also believe this is our children speaking to us saying...look at the beauty and know that I am still near. 

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


TCF Atlanta Home Page