Newsletter of The Compassionate Friends

Atlanta Area Chapters
March - April 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




The issue, finally distilled to its essence,
is revealed as not so much who you were
as who your example inspired us to be.
Because we walked beside you in life,
we grew strong enough to handle grief,
determined enough to endure emptiness,
wise enough to cry when hurting,
brave enough to start over every day.

We are different people from the ones
who accompanied you on your journey.
We don’t think the same or look the same
and we certainly don’t feel the same.
Every event plowed and furrowed our souls,
shaping us into fields of unconditional love
capable of bearing an inexhaustible harvest
that will always and forever exceed our need. 

Our choices in the new world thrust upon us
are whether we shall limit our experience
to daily memories of grief, pain and sorrow,
or opt for deliberate expansion of heart and mind. 
Whether we shall define your passing as the ending
of all we cherished and sought and dreamed,
or lean into the loss to reveal an opening
we never thought possible or let ourselves see.

An opening that beckons and promises
a transcending, a separation from the grief
everywhere-present like the fine dust of an explosion.
A hidden place where tears give way to freedom,
hearts recover and songs begin to play again.
A shelter where your legacy of victory heals, 
revealing the power of seeking joy in sorrow
and the bliss of finding peace in what is.

Copyright © Harold G. Hopkins, May 2001.  Lawrenceville, GA TCF
In loving memory of Lance Porter Hopkins, July 1975 to November 1999


March 20, 1999, the day that changed our lives forever. The morning started as a usual Saturday but for some reason time seemed to move at a snails pace.  I kept wondering what it was that made this day seem so different.  Little did I know that our precious son Jonathan would be leaving us on his path to heaven.  It was noon and Jonathan went with his friends to a beautiful creek to have lunch in the woods.   They pushed on a dead tree, hoping to make a bridge to cross the creek and the tree snapped from above and crushed Jonathan's head against the base of another tree.  One child stayed with him as the others went to call 911 and ran to get my husband and me.  We ran thinking that he must have twisted his ankle or something minor, never expecting the horror we were about to see.  A large tree branch lay on top of him and he was barely breathing.  We removed the tree and turned him over when I realized that this was not a minor accident.  I told Jonathan how much I loved and appreciated him in my life.  I also told him that if the ANGELS were surrounding him, that he was needed in heaven to do GOD' work. 

I am a health professional and realized that  I needed to perform CPR.  The paramedics arrived and continued the CPR until we arrived at the hospital.  I was met at the ER by the doctor telling me that there was no hope for Jonathan.  I waited until my husband and daughter arrived to talk with them and make the decision to stop the life support.  They weren't able to establish a
heart beat since the accident.  Because of lack of heartbeat, we were only able to donate his heart valves through Lifelink. 

Earlier in the day, Jonathan had told me that he was to be honored at school for a poem he wrote for the Reflections PTA program.  When we arrived home from the hospital, I asked my daughter to go to the computer and find the poem.  We were truly shocked when we read it. 


Suddenly you turn around, 
And you hear an angel sing a lullaby. 
The words are so emotional, 
That you begin to cry. 

The angel cries, Just like you, 
Because the emotion sweeps over, 
And the tenderness too. 

You see many colors, All so bright. 
All so beautiful, On this starry night. 

Pink, orange and blue were the first that you saw.
Then came yellow and green. 
Violet and fawn were next. 
Finally, mauve and cream. 

The angel made these colors, All so very new. 
The angel just flapped her wing, 
And the colors came into view. 

She flew so high, She flew her very best, 
She asked you, Can you take the test? 

White feathers started shooting Out your back. 
They started making wings, 
But there was something that lacked. 

The wings lacked luster, The beauty of life, 
The angel saw this and knew they weren't right. 

The angel said "Fly away, Be free" 
You say " No, I'm scared, Help me." 

The angel said" Do not be frightened, 
Do not fear. I am pure comfort, And I am here." 

You feel truly safe, For once in you life. 
You feel separate, From all the pain and strife. 

You pray for a minute, Not knowing what to say. 
You look at the angel, Then she looks away. 

You build up courage, And start to fly. 
What happens next,  My, oh, my. 

You fall long, On a journey to black. 
Then you figure out, There is no turning back. 

You wake up in your warm bed, Hot and sweaty. 
You need comfort, Reaching for a Teddy. 

When suddenly you turn around, 
And hear an angel sing a lullaby. 
The words are so emotional, That you begin to cry. 

You will remember Comfort, And all of her love. 
Going solo, Is like a black dove. 

JULY 16, 1986 - MARCH 20, 1999

The Angel Who Tends to My Garden

There's an angel who watches the flowers grow
And keeps each leaf in perfect shape.
Oh this Angel watches over my special garden.
And never lets one iota of love escape.

For this garden grows inside of my heart.
My Angel won't let it be torn apart.
The flowers bloom each & every day
for the gardener wouldn't have it any other way.

Oh yes, I have a special garden, my friend.
And I know that somewhere at the end
The Angel who tends to my special garden ...
Will be back in my arms again.

Oh I smell each rose that blooms & think of you.
The Angel who tends to my garden.
You've taken time to make sure
that the water in the garden is pure.
A bucket filled with tears we endure;
And will time & time again.

This Garden is full of beautiful flowers 
always arranged for view by the best.
Oh yes, I know this garden will forever give beauty ...
As long as you are my Angel's honored guest.

~Author~ Kaye Des'Ormeaux
Copyright 2001 Kaye Des'Ormeaux
Dedicated to the Moms & Dads & loved ones who 
just need a hug at this time. November 9, 2001


W- Stands for his "willingness" to help other people
E- Stands for the "encouragement" he gave to others
S- Stands for the "silly" things he did & the "sports"
he played
L- Stands for the "love" in him
E- Stands for the "effort" he put into everything
Y- Stands for the "young" active person he was

By Brooke Carithers, Ellenwood, GA
In Memory of her Brother Wesley Carithers

2002  I Resolve

I resolve to surround myself with beauty,
even when beauty becomes blurry and
I am filled with tears;

Even when I am brought to my knees
in pain and grief and I can't seem to pray;
I resolve to look up.

I resolve to wrap myself up and hold me close and to
let others, who understand, love me-

If others have a difficult time understanding,
I resolve to love them.

I resolve to listen a great deal when I can and
talk a great deal when I need to.

I will share myself.

I will not give myself away.

I will let go of anything that hinders joy.

I will be gracious in the knowledge of letting go.

I will sift and sift and sift some more.

I will know, by sifting that I am choosing life over
Living death, victimization and
unwarranted martyrdom.

I resolve to be fully present to life and
To remember my birthright as
A beloved child of God.

I will be thankful for gifts of the heart;
They are priceless gifts to The soul.

I resolve to remember my
Beloved child with joy and gladness
For his life and to
Live my life with full knowledge
Of Eternity.

---Kerry Marston
Lovingly lifted from Tributes Online Newsletter

By Cathy Seehuetter, TCF St. Paul, MN

It is the end of February, which means we are nearing the end of what has often been a brutal winter. While gazing at the mountains of snow piled high in my front yard and the foot-long icicles hanging from my roof, it is hard to imagine that spring will ever come. We have endured bitter cold winds that have chilled us to the bone and treacherous roads that we have cautiously traveled. The days have been long and dark and often free of sunlight. No matter how long you have been a native of the Upper Midwest, I know we all will be glad when it comes to an end.

However, as I described these thoughts about winter, I felt as if I was describing the days of my early grief. At that point, I did not believe that a day would ever come when I would thaw from the chill that had overtaken my body and mind. The bleakness of my existence during those early months after Nina died is almost frightening to remember; it is so difficult to even conceive of that much pain. I was anesthetized from some of its cruelness by the protective blanket of numbness that blessedly shielded me from the gale force of such overpowering sorrow. How could I ever feel spring in my heart again?

Spring had always been my favorite season. The air had a certain freshness to it that I would drink in. Simply put, it always made me feel happy and light of heart. Spring was our reward for surviving the freezing winter months that preceded it. It brought a smile to my face and a bounce to my step.

However, it was the spring of the year where my heart was irretrievably broken. It was during this exquisite season of warm, lilac-scented breezes and sun-kissed mornings where my sweet daughter Nina's life would end.

I wondered if my thoughts about spring would never be the same. Rather than anticipate with gladness the coming of spring, I dreaded it with the knowledge that it contained the anniversary of her death. The smell of the air and the look to the sky that I once  found exhilarating now brought me back to my darkest day. I know that anyone, who has lost a loved one to death, no matter the season, understands.

Will spring come again to your life? In the almost six years since Nina died, has it come to mine? Looking back at my description of the winter of "my early grief", I know that I have come a long way from that time of desolation. I have found, especially after the first two years, that with each subsequent spring, I have rediscovered some of the pleasure I used to feel. I have learned that just because I have found things to feel joyful about again, it doesn't mean I am dishonoring my daughter's memory. I now take her along with me in my mind and my heart. I try to retrieve memories of the dandelion bouquets she so carefully gathered and presented to me, the rides to the park in the Radio Flyer, our talks while sunning on the deck, and, of course, shopping for spring clothes! Her favorite pastime! I will always feel tenseness, apprehension and sadness as May 11th draws near, but I no longer hold it against spring.

It is a slow, difficult journey, this grief pathway we travel. It is as treacherous as the roads we maneuvered following the winter storms, never knowing when we will hit an icy patch on the road and be thrown into a tailspin. Yet, we must travel it if we are to find any measure of peace and healing.

Please be patient with yourself as you are working hard to survive this winter in your heart. Trust that spring, though a much different one than the one we knew before our beloved child died, will come again.


Go ahead and mention my child
The one that died, You know
Don't worry about hurting me further
The depth of my pain doesn't show.

Don't worry about making me cry
I'm already crying inside
Help me to heal by releasing
The tears that I try to hide.

I'm hurt when you just keep silent
Pretending it doesn't exist
I'd rather you'd mention my child
Knowing that he has been missed.

You asked me how I'm doing.
I say "Pretty good" or "fine"
But healing is something on-going
I feel it will take a lifetime.

By Elizabeth Dent 

Suggestions on Remembrances

My Parents Are Survivors would like to combine our knowledge to bring you a few ideas for acknowledging your angel's birthdays and anniversaries.  The loss of a child sometimes makes us wonder if we are doing the right thing when we want to do something special for them.  Below you will find a some of the ideas our members have tried themselves.

~reprinted with permission from My Parents Are Survivors Online Support Group Web Site

Balloon Releases

Purchase helium balloons (the number to match your angel's age) to release at their graveside on their birthday or heaven date.  Invite your family and friends and/or friends of your child to share their memories about your child with each other. You may also put your child's name on the balloons or place forget-me-not seeds inside of the balloons. When the balloons burst, the seeds will scatter and grow.

One member said she released balloons with Forget-Me-Not flower seeds inside them. (If the balloons burst, hopefully the Forget-Me-Not flowers will soon grow and bloom in her child's memory some where.) That year they also attached little note cards saying in Memory of her daughter with the birth and death dates. She also attached a return address label and asked the person, if found, to please send to the address. A week later she received one of the balloons back. A bank president in a neighboring state found her balloon in his parking space at work. He thought it was trash at first but after picking it up and seeing the note realized it was much more. He took it inside and shared it with his co-workers. He said there was not a dry eye in the house. He wanted to let her know how much she had touched him for he had just recently lost his father. She did the same thing again last year and received one card back from a woman in a neighboring county. She said she was touched by it also. And the member was touched, to see how far her love for her daughter could reach and just how caring some strangers can be. Shared by Kathy Thompson.

Memory Quilt

There are a lot of our children's clothing that we just can not part with. Use your child's clothing to make a memory quilt. One of our past craft projects explains in detail how to make a beautiful memory quilt. Looking at each square of clothing can bring back another memory of the happiest moments in your life. 

Memory Scrap booking

If you have lots of photos of your child, a good way to spend your time is Scrap booking! The memory book is a creative way for you to preserve your child's history using their photos. This is a project the entire family can participate in while at the same time each family member will be able to get their creative juices flowing. Each will have their own special style for their scrapbook page/s/. Materials can be purchased at stores such as Michaels, JoAnn's Fabrics, and other similar places. 
Angel Recipes

A while ago, Jo Ann Taylor submitted a wonderful idea. For those who enjoy cooking, you can create a special recipe for your child and name the recipe in your child's memory. We made a web site to show some of the artistic members how to make special recipe cards to include with gifts. 

Memory Garden

Choose a special area of your yard to create a garden in your child's memory. You may also want to think of a theme garden and plant a special tree for your child. Another theme could include planting a rose bush on every birthday. Place concrete stones with your child's name and birth date. These may lead from your backdoor to the garden. You may also place statues of angels in your memory garden. Place a sign with the name of the garden, such as "John's Garden" or something to that effect. Place a nice bench so that you may relax in your child's garden. Working in your garden can bring serenity and a lasting place of beauty. There are many possibilities. Choose a theme that you enjoy the most.

TCF Atlanta Online Sharing

Many nights I spent alone in thought about the loss of my child and the loss of other parents children. Not only did I or do I cry for the loss of my son (through the years I have learned to live with it) but for the loss of all our children. We are the ones that know the pain from this loss, we pray that not another parent has to feel what we have had to and always will feel from this. My family always says "Valene I do not know how you do it or did it, I could never handle it or live with it" Well my answer was always the same "I did not ask for this it was thrown on me I had no choice. I did not say take my child from me." 

So when someone says to you "I don't know how you do it, I could never handle it.” You tell them “well neither 
could I but I had no choice.” The only choice we have is the choice of going on with our lives as our children would want us to do or give up. Giving up I thought about many times but then I thought of my son and I decided to live, only live in a different way, without one of my son's. I am no pro on how to go on. I do not believe anyone is but I have found my peace and a way to deal with my life now. 

For one thing, I speak of my son all the time as if it has not been 6 years. When people ask how many children I have I say 3, I do not try to hide the fact that I lost a child.  It is now part of my life and I live with it. We talk about him often, as I will always remember him and I want his brothers to always remember him. The brothers speak of him (maybe not as much as I do). So I say to anyone who needs a friend when they are feeling sad or lonely, or whenever they want to talk about their child or just the weather, feel free to send me a note and I will be more than happy to chat with you. It is a good listening ear we need a lot of the time. I have learned so much in the last 6 years but I will save that for another time. May God be with you all and my love as well.....

Walking Alone

Moonlight is shining down, there is a soft wind blowing.
Walking along the beach alone, the sea spray gently caresses my face and I think of you.

Alone as I walk, I feel your presence near me.
Then your hand reaches out and touches mine.
I hear your voice say,
"It's alright mom I'm here with you."
We walk hand in hand talking of happy times,
laughing and smiling.

I turn and hold you, “I love you Chris”.
I no longer feel so alone.
You look into my eyes and
see tears of joy fall down my face.

You wipe away my tears and say
"Mom I am happy, I am safe now
It will be alright, YOU will be alright."

We walk and I feel you let go of my hand,
I turn and you are gone.
My tears again return, but somehow I know you are
always with me and I will always love you.
You will always Be my baby Christopher.

Valene (Christopher's mom) Oak Harbour, WA
September 21, 1981 - June 14, 1996

About Handling Grief – from Wintersun by Sasha

I always wonder whether we should speak about “handling grief”.  Grief is so much like a force of nature, like an avalanche, or an earthquake or a tornado.  Such a force of nature handles US…and we can only react to it.  No matter how much we know and how well we prepare, we are never quite ready for grief.

If we keep in mind that grief is handling us, instead of expecting it to obey our own plans, chances for positive survival are much better.
True, "handling grief" is only a word - yet this concept can inadvertently convey the wrong idea at the worst possible time.  Otherwise, we and our friends could well expect us to follow more traditional good manners in the face of unbearable stress.  That would further drain our severely reduced emotional and mental resources.  By acknowledging that grief handles us, we can retain a better grip on reality.  If we accept the fact that grief is the master here, and a difficult master at that, we can learn to respect grief's power and begin our healing work with a more useful perspective.

Almost Two Years 

On April 3, 2000, we began a journey like no other we have ever undertaken before. It is an experience that only those that have lost a child can even begin to understand.

It is a journey filled with pain, sorrow, and many unknowns. The path is a rocky one complicated by steep hills and treacherous valleys. When you reach the top there is light and warmth, then unexpectedly you are headed down into the depths of another dark valley.

How did we get to this foreign land? How do we go back to the comfort we once had? Then the realization hits: THERE IS NO TURNING BACK. We are banished into this unknown area for the duration! We must learn to adapt and change our lives to suit this new period in our life.

Many things look familiar, and some of our friends and family have come along. Yet we see faces we thought we knew and they don’t recognize us. Have we changed that much??  They speak to us as if strangers. They no longer call or visit with us. Another cross to bear in this unusual journey!

Just over two months into the journey, we are contacted by someone from a group  called The Compassionate Friends. They are experienced in the type of travel we now find ourselves involved in. We meet many having suffered a similar loss.  Knowing this is of a small comfort. We share stories and tears. We hug and whisper our child’s name. We tell of our memories that we cling to and show pictures of better times. There are smiles and nods of acknowledgement. There are tears sharing the thought that there is a future that will not be shared with a loved one.

For us the shock and numbness starts to wear off after six months and reality sets in. Thanksgiving turns into a sad tear filled meal staring at an empty chair. No words are spoken, just a small stream down each cheek flows. Christmas has lost its magic. Then January brings our Jessica’s birthday followed by her mom’s eight days later. The  “Happy” no longer applies.

Going to meet with two chapters of these wonderful TCF folks helps a lot. We get to  meet new people and help others like we had been helped to learn about our new “life”. 

For some reason, the Fourth of July is a “bump in the road” that shakes us up for  about three weeks.

September 11th brings about a great sadness. Many others have joined us in the journey  all because of the cruelty of humans to their fellow beings. We ask WHY??? But there  are no answers.

In October, we go to the trial of the man that killed our daughter.. He denies he did anything wrong. He feels it was an unfortunate occurrence that he couldn’t avoid.  The judge disagrees and sentences him as best as he can for a “MISDEMEANOR”.

We avoid Thanksgiving 2001, not even having the traditional dinner. Christmas is tougher  that year, decorating bringing about much sadness where joy once was abundant. We turn to helping others even more, dedicating our efforts to our Jessica’s memory. Still confusion and sadness is part of our daily routine.

January finds the closeness of patriotism from the September tragedy has worn off.. Our wonderful representatives “of the people” are back to “politics” instead of caring for the people they represent. They turn their attention back to the almighty dollar and 
its affect on the path we as the human race have taken. “Me, Me, Me” instead of “We the People”!

Should we leave our area and try a new path? Will that help or hurt? Will we regret leaving the familiar landmarks with the accompanying memories? What about the new TCF friends we have met? Their support has been a Godsend! We struggle with our plans even as I write this message. We travel the rocky path even as more boulders are strewn in the road and hope for the best. Pray for us and this place called Earth. 

May God have mercy on us weary travelers and grant us peace and the strength to go on.

Dan Bryl
In Memory of my daughter Jessica Lyn Bryl
January 19, 1977 – April 3, 2000

Grant Us Strength and Wisdom

Almost two years now, we miss you very much,
We long to see you, and feel your gentle touch.

Heaven has probably been a busy place, for sure,
That September 11th tragedy, even God can’t cure!

The tears have been plenty, as we watch each day,
How cruel we can be to each other, no words can say.

The Angels have many duties, but can do the task,
With all the good folks joining, help’s easy to just ask.

We have met many parents, of Heaven’s recent gain,
Talking, hugging, meeting, prevents our going insane.

The sharing is so sad, but helps remember our love,
For our children that have left us, to places far above.

Thanks for your help, as I create words and verse,
To aid grieving families, through this ugly curse.

Our lives have been changed forever, this is so true,
We miss the days and moments, spent lovingly with you.

The world keeps changing, and not for the very best,
Praying for peace and harmony,
 a part of our daily quest.

Happiness is knowing, 
that some day you will greet us too,
As we are sure you are doing, as new souls come to you.

Your smile warms us daily, as we wake under your care,
The Angel hug that we feel, lets us know you’re there.

So dear daughter our love for you, 
grows each and every day,
God daily grant us strength and wisdom, 
to carry on we pray.

-Created in Loving Memory of our Jessica Lyn Bryl
Jan 19, 1977 – April 3, 2000
- Dan Bryl



Strolling down your garden path, my heart takes flight 
Dedicated in your memory, a breathtaking sight. 
Blooms of love overflow, delicate petals aware 
Of the love that is planted, with so much loving care. 

A garden of your life story, your memory held near 
Solace to the weary soul, I draw comfort here. 
A quieting of the heart, sadness takes a respite 
Testimony of love enduring, to the senses pure delight. 

My gaze is drawn, to butterflies dancing in air 
Such freedom and abandon, their beauty comes to share 
Surrounding themselves with the nectar of the vines 
Showing once again, the beauty of God’s design. 

Fragrance drifts gently, nature’s sweet sigh 
Gentle reminder, you are always near by 
Love from heaven, wrapped in loving care 
Speaks softly to my heart, quieter than a prayer. 

In the garden of your life’s reflection 
Memories recalled, with each selection 
Symbols of enduring love, and introspection 
Blazing colors of God’s perfection. 

Designing and planting Cory’s garden, was such a comfort to me. It made me feel as if I could still do something for my child. The garden reflects just who he is, his free and easy spirit, nothing formal about this garden…smile. We make new additions every year, and when we have it completed, it will reflect all the things that he held dear in life. We are always searching for new and different items to add, and have even carried it over to be decorated for the different holidays. 

I would suggest to any parent that is newly bereaved, to find a special way of honoring your child, something that was important to him/her in life, it will bring your child joy to be honored, and will bring comfort to you, as you continue to give meaning to your child’s life even though they are no longer physically with you on earth. It will bless their heart and yours.

~Jody Seilheimer
In Memory of her son Cory Michael Griffin
January 4, 1972 ~ August 30, 1999

A Sibling’s Story
~written by Robin Johnston Eggers 
In Memory of her Brother Matt Johnston
March 8, 1967 – October 11, 1993

It has been seven years since my brother Matt’s accident.  Seven years since my dad took that horrendous call.  Little did he know I was listening on the other end.  You know the drill, “we regret to inform you that your son was killed in a car accident tonight at 1:00 AM.  His was the only car involved.  I’m so sorry, is there anything we can do?”  Yeah call somebody else, let somebody else deal with this nightmare.

I was 21 years old at the time and living at home with my parents, Matt was 26.  Matt and my sister Julie are / were twins.  I still stumble with that one.  Are we or were we siblings?  I usually say, when I’m asked, that I have a brother and a sister who are twins.  Why ruin that person’s day.

Once the initial shock wore off I remember thinking what if he died alone.  How horrible was that to think that there in his final moments it was dark, cold, and scary and he was dying.  It was not until later after I read the autopsy report that I found out he was rendered brain dead on impact.  Does anyone else find it odd that I took comfort in that?  The funeral was also a terrible blur although I distinctly remember his hands.  They were cut and bruised.

The months following also ran together.  I flunked out of college that semester, the first time ever, but re-enrolled the following.  I slept a lot.  On the average day I was in bed by 6:00 PM.  You know me I had to get my 14 hours of sleep in a night.  I didn’t pray though.  I think I felt too betrayed by God, by faith, or my lack there of.  I really wasn’t able to talk about it at all, which worried my family quite a bit. I felt like I couldn’t trouble my parents with my problems because it could not possibly be worse than the burden they were forced to bear.  Besides, everyone who did talk about it started crying, and I felt I was much too busy to have a nervous breakdown at the time.  I was amazed at the number of people who tried to give me a quick fix.  Here, read this or write in that.  I had just lost my brother what were they thinking?  Some things just aren’t meant to be fixed.

Everywhere I went and everyone I saw reminded me of Matt.  At Christmas time I found myself shopping for his underwear and Timberland shoes.  When I heard something funny or had news to share I immediately called my sister and then out of habit picked up the phone to call Matt as well.  What a cruel sick joke that was.  Everyone I came in contact with asked about him or asked about how his twin sister was doing.  Oh don’t mind me, “I was his sister too” I felt like saying. 

 (I felt selfish at the time for even thinking that)  The weird thing is I was mad at people for asking because I didn’t want to be reminded and I was mad at people for not asking because I felt they had forgotten him.  No one could do anything right.  So what did I do, I went back to bed of course.

My friends were great initially, but after a while they ran out of things to say and the mood just felt awkward.  I needed an escape and a change of scenery.  So I applied for a job in Yellowstone National Park for the summer.  I had gone away to college for a year and hated it and came home to go to a commuter college.  I think my family thought Yellowstone would also be like college and I would be home in a week.  To everyone’s surprise, including my own, I found my safe haven.  Yellowstone was a place where I could meet people and the great thing was they only knew what I told them.  What a great place!  I was no longer the grieving sister.  I was just one of 2000 other college students working, living and having the time of their life in a three million acre National Park.

After Yellowstone I came home to finish college and continue on with life.  I am often asked for advice by other people on what I did to get through that time and what miracle cure worked for me.  If there is anything I learned it is that grief is very unique and that I can not even pretend to know what another sibling goes through during that time of loss.  What I do wish is that someone had been honest with me and said “you know what the next year or maybe even two years is going to stink.  It is going to be awful, but it can’t stink forever.  Sometime down the road the sun will shine again.”  I don’t recommend that everyone pack their bags and head West.  I suggest they do what ever it takes to keep getting out of bed in the morning and getting through each and every day. 

I read somewhere that “losing a loved one is like walking through the valley of the shadow of death and surviving”.  I found comfort in that.  For some the valley is short and narrow for others it is wide and long.  I think I am through my valley now.  I pray again and I always include Matt in my prayers.  I’m 30 years old now, 4 years older than my big brother and I think I am probably wiser too, which is weirder still.  His 92’ Mazda Protégé seems to be disappearing from the roadways and the smell in his clothes has faded.  My anger and sarcasm have subsided as well, but his sweet memory remains.  I still miss his hands (the way they used to be), he had the best hands.

For the Professionals…..

Death Ended Your Child's Life, but Not His or Her Relationship to the Family by Nancy Hogan, RN, Ph.D

In 1983, I wrote a two part article for the Newsletter called "Commitment to Survival" in which I described parent bereavement as a complex process that includes mothers and fathers maintaining a relationship with their dead child. Specifically, I wrote "Death ended your child's life but not his or her relationship to the family" and "You give up the old person who was physically connected to a now deceased child and make different connections with your child who has died." 

I received many letters describing how bereaved parents had been criticized and even ridiculed by others for expressing their continuing love and connection to their dead child. You told me you copied the articles and sent them to friends, relatives and people at your work place to let them know that it was "normal" to want to talk about your child. You also told me that in your opinion, maintaining a sacred bond to your dead child was vital to your well-being.

From 1983 to the present I have conducted a number of studies with both bereaved parents and siblings. Findings from these studies indicate the ongoing connection you have to your dead child is a catalyst and an enduring energy which sustains one through the most intense time of grief and gives survivors the courage to face losses that bereaved parents and their living children must endure. The deep pain of grief comes with a deep introspective searching for answers to agonizing questions about why your child's death had to be a part of your life and about your shattered dreams.

Research shows that this period of grief is characterized by feelings of hopelessness, profound sadness, aching loneliness and a belief that you will not and cannot ever be happy again. Physical reactions may include fast heartbeats, shortness of breath, and a sense of fear or panic that more bad things will happen to other loved ones. Many bereaved parents expressed feeling angry, blaming yourself and others for your child's death. You spoke of being preoccupied with endless thoughts and feelings about the circumstances surrounding his or her death and the difficulty of coping and adapting to your new, permanently changed lives. 

You said that this was a time of "feeling confusion about who you were, not knowing yourself anymore and  feeling detached from others" and how these thoughts and feelings demanded and used up the little bit of energy you had each morning.

Grief work is infinitely private, painful work. Part of you died with your child and now you must struggle with letting go of your old self as you endure the unknown of who you will become. One newly bereaved parent described this process by saying. "I liked who I was before my child died. I don't like who I am now. I barely know myself." In the beginning of grief you were consumed with the myriad of reminders of you child's life and death. As time passed, you found occasional peaceful respites from grief as the episodes of deep grieving gradually became less frequent and intense. Finally, you described knowing you were having more good days than bad. This marked the beginning of leaving behind some of the suffering and sorrow of intense grief and having the energy available for keeping and cherishing the love and connection you have to your dead child. Surviving the struggle with death and finding life again renews energy and is manifest in your becoming stronger and better able to cope with your loss. You gain a realization of having become more tolerant of yourself and others, feeling more compassion for others and becoming a more forgiving person. Measures of happiness and hope become a part of your life again.

The hardest work of becoming a survivor is learning to live without the physical presence of your dead child while simultaneously learning to live with his or her emotional and spiritual presence. You find that meaning in your life is derived from your relationship to those you love, including your dead child. The legacy your child has left is a love that transcends time and space.

--Nancy Hogan RN, Ph.D is an Associate Professor at the University of Miami School of Nursing where she teaches, conducts research and publishes on the parent and sibling bereavement process. Since the mid 1970's she has worked with TCF parents and sibling bereavement groups. She authored the TCF tape 'Impact of Grief on Marriage' in 1981, and has spoken at many national and international bereavement conferences.


We Are Individuals …

We are individuals.
We are similar, but different.
We each have our own perception of the same scene or situation.
We all view life through the spectacles of our experiences.
We are all grieving our losses.

Does that mean that we all feel the same way?
Does that mean we are suddenly alike?
Is there a book that tells us what to feel?
We travel the same road at different speeds
Our destination unclear

Loss of a child is devastation
It changes us – but how?
If we were compassionate, do we now hate?
If we were closed minded, do we now embrace new ideas?
If we were full of hostility, do we now look out in love?
Who we are has changed . . . but we still retain much of ourselves.

Our bond is our loss …We reach out in pain
Our world, no color but gray

Will we love all those we meet?
No, we are human

Will we hate those we greet?
No, our pain is alike

We are drawn together by our Spirits
We must interact in the flesh
God tells us the Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak
Let your Spirit rule

See her.  Look at him.  Indescribable Pain;  Anguish.
Reach out.  Spirit to Spirit
Put aside our differences
Help each other all along the way.

Thirty days, Thirty years
The loss is still a loss
Do we live, survive?
Differently, yes Differently, yes.

Debbie Chase, Amanda's Mom Always
Cedar Rapids, IA


TCF Atlanta Online Sharing

TCF Atlanta Online Sharing is an online sharing group available to anyone with internet access.  The Online Sharing began in September 1999. I had currently subscribed to "Chicken Soup for the Soul - Online Daily" and this gave me the idea to put together something for bereaved parents and siblings.  Thus it began.  Currently we have 1020 active members and are growing at a rate of 2 per day. 

We have recently added several new features to our Online Sharing….Cyberfriends Database for those new parents and siblings who want to have a cyberfriend to talk with and Birthday/Angel Date Web sites for our Children.  For More Information and all the new additions, please visit our new web site:



Even desolation is a world to be explored.   ~Syliva Townsend Warner

It is a world we do not want to enter, a world for which we have no hunger.  We would turn from it if we could.  Yet we find ourselves in it. And our company is a multitude.

There is a story of a woman who came to the Buddha seeking help after the death of her child and was told that, for healing, she need only find a mustard seed from a household that had never known sorrow.  According to the story, she traveled over all the world in vain, never finding such a household, but found instead - understanding, compassion, friendship, and truth.

The world of desolation is a world that calls many of us.  There is no going around it.  There is only going through it, if we are to find healing and new life.  It is a world worth exploring and it offers to us those same qualities the bereaved mother found - understanding, compassion, friendship, truth.

~Nothing is to be gained by turning away from the truth.  When the circumstances of my life are grim, I will face the grimness, learn what it has to teach me, and walk on through.
~from the book Healing After Loss by Martha Whitmore Hickman


Since we have lost our children, part of what remains of them are pictures from the heart, which are those mental images we hold so dear. For some of us these pictures are memories of what had been, and for others these pictures are dreams of what might have been. And for some of us these pictures are a little of both.  For us, dreams and memories are really the same. It is the dimension where our children now reside.

In a sense, dreams are nothing more than memories of the future, because we remember our children by the dreams we had for them; and memories are nothing more than dreams of the past, because to remember them is certainly to dream of them. I believe it is incorrect to think that someone will not hurt as much because they only had their child for a little while or to think that someone will not hurt as much because their child had the chance to grow up. In these dreams and memories, these pictures from the heart, all of our children are infants and all of our children have grown up. The sadness and pain comes from the broken heart, the memories and the dreams from the pieces that remain.

Kenneth Hensley
TCF, Nashville, TN

By Viktor Frankl  "The Doctor and the Soul" 

That time runs out before one's life's work is completed by no means makes it worthless. The fragmentary quality of life does not detract from its meaning. It is not from the length of its span that we can ever draw conclusions as to life's meaningfulness. We cannot, after all, judge a biography by its length, by the number of pages in it; we must judge bythe richness of its contents. The exuberant life of one who has died young certainly has more content and meaning than the existence of some long-lived dullard. 

Sometimes the "unfinisheds" are among the most beautiful symphonies.

Daisies in Huge Handfuls…by Rich Elder

"Pick more daisies" was the most popular expression in our family. I picked it up from a magazine article about a 94 year old lady in  Kentucky who, when asked what she would do differently if  she had her  life to live over, responded "l would take more chances; I would eat  more ice cream and less beans; I would have more real  troubles but  fewer imaginary ones; I would climb more mountains; I  would swim more rivers, and I would pick more daisies."

Our son, Mark, seized the daisy expression as the theme both for his life and his entrance exam essay at UCLA. It helped him live his brief 18 years his essay helped him get an academic scholarship.  Daisies became our family flower. They marked our attitude about living. And they marked our son's memorial service. After it was over, his friends and fraternity brothers each threw a daisy into the ocean. Daisies still mark his grave every week. It has taken me almost two years to return to really thinking about daisies and what that quote by a 94-year-old lady really means. During that time I made a pretty big mess of things. I did the best I could, but I was often going through the motions outside, but empty inside.

To me, what this quote means is we really do have to pull ourselves together again and go on. Dr. Charles Heuser, a former pastor at our church, notes "going through the steps of grief is like walking through the valley and shadow of death. Keep walking, but don't camp there." 

Our children would not want us to "camp there," but to go pick more daisies-to somehow live an even more meaningful life in their name. As I go on I am truly a different person. I don't suffer fools or superficiality very well any more. As one of my best friends said..."I get tired of beige people." Yet, I will drop everything to help another bereaved parent. I certainly have more "real troubles and fewer imaginary ones." But it's OK-I like myself better that way.

And I am returning to embrace life each day again. But this time I am following my heart instead of my "expected career." I am taking more chances, climbing more unfamiliar mountains, and picking daisies in  huge handfuls. Mark would want it so.



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