Newsletter of the Atlanta Area Chapters

March - April 2001

"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


From The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran

 "And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, Speak to us of Children.

And he said: Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of
 Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
 For they have their own thoughts.
 You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, 
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, 
but seek not to make them like you.
 For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children 
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with
His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness; 
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable."

~submitted by Susan Larson, Atlanta TCF


I missed you yesterday and looked for you
among the artifacts of your life -
your room with pictures,
the clothes that still carried your scent,
your favorite tools and books, the tapes you loved to hear.

The very walls echoed your vitality
and carried faint memories of riotous laughter.
And so I sat there, comforted for a while,
but forced at last to confess
that although beautiful memories lingered
you were not there, not then and not ever again.

If I could not find you yesterday,
where, then, can I look today?
Who can I talk to, implore, beg to show me the way?
Where are the hidden doorways
to the signs and wonders others claim to see?

My musings bring no answers
so I take a walk to clear my mind.
Ahead, I see children playing,
and their laughter floating on the wind
reminds me of your own carefree approach to life.
Their running mirrors your own abandon
and the way you always found joy in simple things.

Can this be the answer to the riddle of finding you again?
Can it be that I will hear you in every moment of laughter?
That I will see you
in the actions of a mischievous friend,
that I will feel you in every touch of compassion?

I've always heard that if you seek, you will find.
Perhaps the corollary to that is that
you must seek in the right places.
I've been looking in the scrapbook
of all that used to be and found only momentary solace.

So let me look for you anew
in all the wonders and blessings of life
I believe you are reflected
there with every expression of happiness and joy,
in every instance of fearless exploration
and with every act of unconditional love.

In loving memory of Lance Porter Hopkins
July 20, 1975 - November 30, 1999
Harold Hopkins,TCF Lawrenceville, GA
January, 2001

Infant Loss
I would like to talk with you about infant loss in memory of my daughter, Mary Elizabeth Karg.  Mary was born on Sept. 3, 1998 and lived for 36 hours.  While still in the womb, she was diagnosed with a fatal birth defect, called anencephaly. Anencephaly is a condition in which the brain does not form completely.

For those of us who have lost an infant, we are left to wonder what might have been.  We are reminded that we will never see that first tooth, see that first step, hear our baby's first word or see our child attend kindergarten for the first time.

I find comfort in writing letters to Mary Elizabeth.  As I write, the tears always come and they are somehow healing to my heart.  In the letters, I share with her the hopes and dreams that never had the chance to come true.

I started going to a parent grief support group in Conyers even before Mary Elizabeth was born.  Knowing that my baby would die, I needed a group of people who would somehow understand how I felt and I found what I needed there.  I am very thankful for the friends that I have there who
understand better than anyone else.  Thank you for letting me share my daughter with you, and may all of our children's lights shine forever.

Patricia Karg, Conyers, GA
In Loving Memory of
September 3, 1998 - September 4, 1998

(Patricia shared her story of Infant Loss at the Centennial Park Candlelighting)

My Hope Chest

By Barbara Parson, TCF Atlanta

On November 24, 1991, I became a bereaved parent when my 15 year old son, Robert, died by suicide.

We had run out of time for prevention and/or intervention. It was now time to begin grieving. Death by suicide (because it is normally seen as a choice thus the stigma attached to it) typically elicits a more significant amount of anger and guilt. This added dimension often takes longer to work through and the "what if" questions are relentless with no answers. I HOPE to give you some insight into the things that helped me and gave me the courage to grieve and gave me Hope for the future. These are things that I put in what I now call my HOPE CHEST.

Hope comes to us in many ways, people, places, things, in looking back and in looking forward. Many of our "hopes" come to us before we even know what they are and how significant they will be down the road.

Hope is in support groups like Survivors of Suicide and TCF. I learned the language of a bereaved parent and received encouragement, unconditional acceptance, and hope. I learned to work toward changing my anger to forgiveness and my guilt to regret. Two of the hardest hurdles were forgiveness of self that came with the "why" questions and letting go of the guilt, real and imagined. How could my strong, yet sensitive child with a belly laugh that is still music to my ears, make this choice? Leaving these behind brought hope.

Hope is passing on knowledge that you have gained thru your journey and/or circumstances or using it for change.

Hope is in time...we need time to heal and that time frame is different for each of us.

Hope is in the grieving process, you heard that right. Grief opens us up and bares all...showing us our strengths and weaknesses. We foster hope within ourselves when we use our strength to bolster our weaknesses and vulnerable areas, gaining confidence with each step.

Hope is in the memories we have of our children. Hope is in Heaven, knowing that we will one day be reunited with them. The candles we light tonight in memory of our children are to celebrate their lives, to show them, the community, and the world how much we love them and miss them. The candles also represent hope for us, they reflect our courage to stand here tonight, even tho wounded, to show we have taken up the challenge to grieve with as much courage and grace as possible and make our children proud of us.

The Butterfly

You flit about without a care

Searching for food on morning’s air.

Pure icon for a soul set free

Of life, of love and liberty.

Your wings abound with colours true

Of orange, brown, red, green and blue.

Like noble’s shields in days gone past,

Displayed the patterns that were cast

In perpetuity to see;

Now all the world doth envy thee!

Yes, seasons come and seasons go

But I remain, and even though

My child has left this life of pain

To be reborn on high again,

Your life is short lived too, it seems

Like visions of a shattered dream.

So Papillon, can you not see

Why you’re so special now to me?

Of all God’s creatures great and small,

You are, no doubt, the best of all.

My garden is your second home

Free spirit fly, where I may roam

To watch your path on silken wings;

My thoughts then turn to other things.

And so with coloured form and grace

The pride of Lepidoptera’s race,

Is thus now set to symbolise

The changed form up above the skies.

Now I must wait and watch for thee

And long for some serenity.

John Bartlett TCF Queensland. Australia


My heart remembers with gladness
How, when you were small,
You reached out as I held you,
Placed your hand upon my face
And smiled.

I envision you now
Resting in the arms of God,
Reaching out to place
Your hand upon His face
And smiling in peace.

Possessed by this vision,
I feel your presence
Moving softly in my mind,
Floating somewhere beyond the field
Of knowing, and I wonder . . . . .

Is that you moving on the wind,
Soaring with the hawks?
Can you be the gentle ray of light
Painting the ethereal sky
And gilding the falling leaf?

It does not seem possible
That all the world's not lonely,
Or that life continues in such eternal sameness
Without everyone stopping to seek and wonder
And long for you.

As for me, I'll always be listening
And watching for you
In the uncounted sounds and sights of life,
And bless your memory at the briefest glimpse
Or slightest call of love to love.

In loving memory of Lance Porter Hopkins
July 20, 1975 - November 30, 1999
Harold Hopkins, Lawrenceville TCF

December 1999

Book Review

Good Grief: Healing Through the Shadow of Loss

~by Meg Avery, TCF Lawrenceville, GA

I bought this book a couple weeks ago and finally picked it up a few nights ago, and randomly opened it to this page.  These paragraphs really said a lot to me and made me think a lot about the comments some unthinking people tell us bereaved parents about how we have to put our grief behind us and move on.  Like we're supposed to forget about our child and carry on as though everything is fine, yeah, right...   Let them be in our shoes and try moving on.  Like Jayne wrote, we are moving on.  We have changed, grown, reached out, been through hell and back and it has changed our lives, unlike some people who are still rooted in the same spot they were in 4 years ago, but they can tell us to move on.

This chapter was about "losing" and what that term means.  It is from the book "Good Grief - Healing Through the Shadow of Loss" by Deborah Morris

"Healing our grief means continuing to love in the face of loss.  The face of loss - what we see - is that someone or something is gone.  The heart of loss teaches us that nothing - no thing - we have ever known can be lost.  What we have known we have taken into ourselves in such a way that it has become part of the very fabric of our being.  It is part of who we are and as long as we are alive we have the capacity to continue
to love even that which is no longer a part of our daily reality.  This means that we will need to "change our minds" about many notions that we have had about loss:  that what we can no longer "see" is gone. That what
we can no longer touch doesn't continue to live.  That if there is no response, the relationship is over.  Close your eyes and see that which you can no longer touch; that which is gone from your presence.  Reach inside of you to the feeling of touching, hearing, smelling, being with your experience of what you believed was

Remember. We are haunted by societal fears that we should not continue to stay connected with what is gone, what is past, what has been lost.  There is a pitfall here, a caveat, symbolized by Dickens Miss Havisham:  be wary of that part of us that might want to live in the past.  The challenge is to bring the past along with us in such a way that we haven't lost anything.  We don't ignore the challenge because of the pitfall.  Truth
to tell, we could not forget our past if we wanted to.

What we choose to leave in the past, we can.  What we choose to continue loving, we can. We are being asked to give new form to what was contained in an earlier
relationship.  Our grief becomes the container for what we feel we have lost and in the process of grieving we come into some new wholeness.  We create a way to incorporate, literally to take into our bodies, that
which has become formless.  Like the caterpillar, we go into a cocoon to a safe place so that the old self can dissolve and a new self can be created.

Like the art of losing, this metamorphosis is not automatic.  It does not happen simply in the course of time.  Rather, it is a self-conscious act.

Grief can be a path to self-realization because in the process of grieving we acknowledge that which we chose not to lose.  In the art of losing we can choose who we will be.  We break, but we break open so that we can include more of life, more of love.  We get bigger in order to carry with us what we choose to continue loving."

The next chapter begins with this quote:
"If you bring forth what is within you,
what you bring forth will save you.
If you do not bring forth what is within you,
what you do not bring forth will destroy you."

The Courage to Let Life Go On

"Courage is not the absence of fear and pain But the affirmation of life despite fear and pain."

-Earl Grollman

"Life goes on"….I have often heard this sentence, said perhaps to console me, or perhaps as a way to put an end to conversation about loss and death. Of course life goes on, no matter how shattered our lives are by the loss of someone we love so dearly. Life doesn’t ask whether we want to go along. We want the world to stop turning because of our loss. Days turn into nights, again and again, and this is how we arrived at this day. Suddenly another month, another year has gone by, although we all probably asked ourselves how we would be able to go on living. It just happens. We do not die because of the pain. We keep on living and I still wonder how this can be.

I do not want life to go on, but to stop it right here, or better yet, to turn back to the day when I lost my sister and baby niece. I do not want the changes life brings. Each change seems to increase the distance between the life I knew with them and the life I live today. I cannot ask my sister’s opinion about the new things that happen. I cannot share then with her, tell her about them, laugh or cry with her about them, Changes make me aware that in fact life does go on, without her. My birthdays make me sad because they change the difference in sister was always four yours older than I was, and now we are down to three years.

Sometimes I feel guilty that I live on. I smell, breathe,

touch, feel. see and experience life, while my sister and her daughter were ripped away from it.

My sister and I never talked about death or losing each other, but if we had, I am sure that we both would have said that we could not imagine life without one another.

If it had been me, my sister would have been forced to do exactly the same; go on living despite the agony, just because there is no choice.

Before I lost them, I trusted life to be good. I believed in fairness; if we are good, life will spare us tragedies and besides, these tragedies only happen to other people, those I do not know, those I read about in the papers, distant, easy to forget about. I lost this sense of security and trust in life. I now find that living takes courage. Life becomes meaningful through love and friendship, but loving someone is what makes us vulnerable. Daring to invite love into our lives means to increase our vulnerability to the threats that seem to be around every corner. Instead of asking "why us?" I often find myself asking "why not us?" Tragedy hits good and bad people for no reason. It seems the world is just random and unpredictable. Just because I am a good person and I already lost so much does not mean that I will be spared from more pain.

Life goes on and because it does, with all the good and bad things that happen to us, it scares me to live and particularly. to love. What if more happens? The fear IS paralyzing. I pray to God, to my sister and my niece to protect us, although I know they don’t have the power to prevent other bad things from happening. What then can I ask them for? Courage, I guess.

Courage to let life go on, to give myself a chance that new and good things will happen to me that will add JOY to my life.

Britta Nielsen TCF, Manhattan, NY
~lovingly lifted from No. Oklahoma City TCF Newsletter


The Picture

I always see the picture smiling back at me.
I always see the picture with unending sympathy
I always see the picture with Gods willing mercy
I always see the picture as my grief

I always see the picture playing a special part in my life
I always see the picture as the only remaining song in life

I always see the picture as the one memory to proceed
I always see the picture as my little daredevil brother

Dedicated to Ryan Duffner - by little angel brother
~by Erica Duffner, Lawrenceville GA

On Earth: January 8, 1997
In Heaven: March 10, 1999


With the death of my sister came some painful realizations -that life isn't fair or predictable; that sometimes even my best isn't good enough, and that from the day of her death, the happy events in my life would always be tinged with sadness.

Despite the pain and loss, death has also left me with some valuable Lessons and Precious Gifts. As a result of my sister's death - I have a greater appreciation of life and a greater Compassion for those who hurt.

I have learned to be a survivor - to have a successful career and productive life in the face of tremendous grief and loss. I have been gifted with good friends and special people to help me through the rough times. But most of all - I have been given the gift of time - time to heal and time to replace Painful memories of death with Priceless memories of my sister's life.

~by Cathy Schanberger - from This Healing Journey - An Anthology for Bereaved Siblings

Those we love remain with us,
for love itself lives on,
And cherished memories never fade
because a loved one's gone.....

Those we love can never be
more than a thought apart,
For as long as there is memory,
they'll live on in the heart.

In Memory of Melvin Shannon
2/23/56 - 6/30/00

TCF Atlanta Online Sharing…..

Sue Vaughn conducted an 18 hour vigil on the one year anniversary of her daughter's death, at the accident site with a sign asking "teens to please slow down and wear their seat belts". This is what she shared about her experience…

Hello Everyone,

I'm just getting back.  What an amazing day!  God put this day in motion two days ago, and amazing is the only way to describe it.

My heartfelt thanks for giving me the gift of their presence - Stacie - Tiffany's Mom; Robbie - Christopher and Taylor's Mom; Susan - Loren's Mom; Jerri - Tom's Mom; Patti - Stephanie's Mom; Leo and Barbara who lost their son in a car accident, and of course you, Jayne - Chad's Mom.  You shared your presence and lent your support when I needed it most.  Where would I be without my Friends?  Your kindness will never be forgotten.

This idea took on a life of its own - from the friends of Tiffany, to my new Friends, to the people who saw the TV news program and just stopped by to share their tears, to the off-duty police officer who happened on the scene just after it happened.  He was so distraught by what he saw after he found her and held her that he doesn't come down that piece of the road, but tonight, he "just happened to come by".

Compassionate Friends helped me "see the Light".  I dreaded this day for the longest time, saying I just knew it was going to eat me alive.  But it didn't.  Instead, taking the suggestions I so often see on the sharing list, the negative was able to produce a positive.  I honestly believe in my heart, that some young person made it home tonight to his or her Mom because of taking to heart one family's ordeal. I thank God for that!

Patti with the beautiful red hair (any kin to Peppermint Patty?) had the most wonderful thought.  What if, on a certain day, at a certain time, all the Moms stood at the site where their child lost their life either by car accident or homicide or other accident.  If there were enough of us on the sides of the roads, on the way to malls, schools, church, etc., would it be enough for the teenagers to say to themselves, "I never want my Mom to have to do that."  Would it be strong enough statement to make an impact?  I think it would.

God bless you all and I love you with all my heart.  You are my "monkey's fist", (a knot at the end of a rope that they throw out to people who are drowning).  Good night.

Sue Vaughn, TCF Atlanta
In Memory of Tiffany Vaughn

Today I smiled, and caught myself humming along with a song, and laughing and planning an event to look forward to. Hey! wait a minute, this is almost normal....can it be? Am I truly " getting over you ",moving forward with my life?

I sit and think this through....Yes I can smile at times...but if you look close you will see a tear in the corner of my eye,...often what brings on the smile is a memory of you.

Humming...hmmm...let me see, OH YES! ..that is the song that reminds me so much of you....Laughing and planning something?...surely this is a sign I am doing ok?…But if you listen my laugh is hollow...and the looking forward to the event is just something I hang on to, to keep my mind from being filled with memories.

No I am not "over you"...and know deep down inside...the person I am the person who will remain. You are with me every beat of my heart.

I think to myself there is a moving forward going on all the time, and my heart and mind carry you with it. To forget you, to get over you? Yes there will come the day when others can say "Well at last she is over this" and then they can go home and go on with their lives, Because then I will be at home with you.

~Steves~ mom - Sheila Simmons, TCF Atlanta

The Jan-Feb Newsletter on line is incredible! The writings and poems helped me to finally shed the tears that have been under the surface for a good 2 months... really deep sorrow that I had not yet allowed myself to grieve in 16 mos. Thank you, TCF from the bottom of my heart for all you do. How I wish I lived near Atlanta! I am in Boston and have never attended a Compassionate Friends meeting ...but I would very much like to attend this year's Conference.

Love…Christine, Toby's Mom


During Napoleon's invasion of Russia, his troops were battling in the middle of yet another small town in that endless wintry land, when he was accidentally separated from his men. A group of Russian Cossacks spotted him and began chasing him through the twisting streets. Napoleon ran for his life and ducked into a little furrier's shop on a side alley. As Napoleon entered the shop, gasping for breath, he saw the furrier and cried piteously, "Save me, save me! Where can I hide?" The furrier said, "Quick, under this big pile of furs in the corner," and he covered Napoleon up with many furs.

No sooner had he finished than the Russian Cossacks burst in the door shouting, "Where is he? We saw him come in." Despite the furrier's protests, they tore his shop apart trying to find Napoleon. They poked into the pile of furs with their swords but didn't find him. Soon, they gave up and left.

After some time, Napoleon crept out from under the furs, unharmed, just as Napoleon's personal guards came in the door. The furrier turned to Napoleon and said timidly, "Excuse me for asking this question of such a great man, but what was it like to be under those furs, knowing that the next moment would surely be your last?"

Napoleon drew himself up to his full height and said to the furrier indignantly, "How could you ask me, the Emperor Napoleon, such a question? Guards, take this impudent man out, blindfold him and execute him. I, myself, will personally give the command to fire!"

The guards grabbed the furrier, dragged him outside, stood him against a wall and blindfolded him. The furrier could see nothing, but he could hear the guards shuffle into line and prepare their rifles. Then he heard Napoleon clear his throat and call out, "Ready! Aim!" In that moment, a feeling he could not describe welled up within him; tears poured down his cheeks.

Suddenly the blindfold was stripped from his eyes. Although partially blinded by the sunlight he could see Napoleon's eyes looking intently into his own -- eyes that seemed to see every dusty corner of his soul.

Then Napoleon said, "Now you know."
There are some things that simply cannot be described to you. If you haven't experienced them for yourself, you can't begin to know the feeling. If you've never had to bury a daughter before she was old enough to ride a bicycle, you can't begin to know what it feels like.

The list could go on and on.

~from Alan Smith's Thought for the Day

And if I go, while you're still here...
know that I live on,
vibrating to a different measure
behind a thin veil you cannot see through.

You will not see me,
so you must have faith.

I wait for the time when
we can soar together again,
both aware of each other.

Until then, live your life to its fullest
and when you need me,
just whisper my name in your heart,
....I will be there.

Emily Dickinson
~from Forever Remembered

~Life is Like a Mobile…..Someone once told me that when your family changes you need to look at it like a mobile.  It is in this perfect balance until you lose one of the members.  If you yanked off one strand from the mobile it would rock to and fro for some time trying to rebalance itself.  When it finished rocking it would not though be level like when you started.

Over time things shift and it becomes more balanced once again.  I think this is a good word picture of what it is that we experience when we lose a child.  You my friend are in the hard rocking stages where the mobile is trying to right itself and balance out after the piece has been yanked from it.

~shared by Laura, TCF Online Sharing

"Just One More Time"

How many times have I woke on an Easter morning and smiled, knowing that the baskets were all set, the eggs dyed, and new clothes were waiting? How many times have I watched with joy as the little hands reached for chocolate bunnies and jellybeans? The joy of those mornings will forever be etched in memory, sitting, waiting for a time to be brought to remembrance.

The children are grown now, except one, who is forever frozen in time. The egg dye has been put away, the baskets hid in the attic with all the other keepable things from holidays and special events. The children now have children and they go on their way in life, except one, who is forever frozen in time. The new clothes to be worn are now packed away in storage boxes filled with mothballs, hoping to be kept forever, never to be worn by one gone from my sight.

The waking hours of that Easter morn are different now. No longer do I lie in my bed and wait for those sounds of joy and laughter coming down the hall. The children are all grown now, except one, and she is gone from me. She was too old for childish things, stuffed bunnies and jellybeans, yet too young to give it all up. "Just one more year, mama, let me hold on to my youth and enjoy the wonders of that day", she said. Just one more year. Now she is gone, forever frozen in time, and her memory is engraved in my mind. "Just one more time"...

In Memory of Ashley Marie Sockwell 1-31-78/10-22-96

~by Barbara Sockwell, TCF Lawrenceville, GA

The Strength of Butterflies

They didn't want to change. Their lives were full. The caterpillars crawled happily through the green leaves, played and rested in the sun, and ate their fill. Yet, through the darkness and quiet mystery, they did change. Their luminous beauty now lights the skies, their colors are vibrant, their airy flight is delightful.

They didn't want to change. Their lives were full. They laughed and worked and sang and played; our children loved their lives. Yet, through the darkness and quiet mystery, they did change. Beyond our own imaginings they now live in indescribable harmony and perfect joy. Their new lives are a color invisible to us, but it is the color of eternity.

We didn't want to change. Our lives were full. We cared and nurtured and disciplined and laughed and mothered and fathered; we loved their lives and them. Yet, through the darkness and quiet mystery, we have changed. Though fragile in our forever-longing for them, we are gifted with a growing strength of spirit called HOPE. We are a resilient and enduring new color as well, held close to our children by unbreakable threads of love that keep us tethered for awhile yet between earth and heaven.

~Mary Sue Zercher, TCF Marietta, GA


Man is the only animal that laughs and weeps; for he is the only animal that is struck with the differencebetween what things are and what they ought to be.

~submitted by Judy Blumsack, 
TCF Sandy Springs

Difference between Sympathy and Compassion
~lasts' you understand that sympathy and compassion are different.  According to Webster, sympathy is an expression of sorrow for another person's distress or loss.  On the other hand, true compassion is a personal, active involvement that expresses God's merciful heart in  words  and  deeds,  for  as long as is necessary.  It never says "times up." Compassion keeps you from getting 'caught up' in your own needs and  allows  you  to  take care of the needs of those around you, those you love.
~Kim Keller, TCF Lawrenceville, GA

I'll keep finding things
that are important,
and I'll know you put them there.
In life, you made my life complete;
in death, you've left me life's intent.
Your love was wondrously given...
not to be saved, but spent.

by Janet Vaughan, for Denice,
Bereavement Magazine


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