Newsletter of The Compassionate Friends, Inc.

Atlanta Area Chapters

September - October 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


(Quote from Leo Buscalia)

"To laugh is to risk appearing the fool
To weep is to risk appearing sentimental
To reach out for another is to risk involvement
To expose feelings is to risk exposing your true self
To place your ideas, your dreams before 
the crowd is to risk their loss
To love is to risk not being loved in return
To live is to risk dying
To hope is to risk despair
To try is to risk failure

But risks must be taken because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing. The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing and is nothing. They may avoid suffering and sorrow, but they cannot learn, feel, change, grow, love, live.

Chained by their certitudes, they are a slave, they have forfeited their freedom.

Only a person who risks is free."

A friend just recently sent me this poem.  It reminded me of Evan first, as this is how he lived his life.  I want to thank my friend for sending it to me as it has helped me live this poem at a time when I needed to feel "free" from the grief of the approaching anniversary.  Thank you for sharing this risk with me. 

 ~Kim Keller (Evan's Mom), Lawrenceville, TCF

The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, know suffering, know struggle, know loss, and have found their way out of the depths.  These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern.  Beautiful people do not just happen.  ~Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

Moving On Doesn't Mean You Forget

I have been touched by an angel.
And still feel his touch today.
Such a frail little body full of love,
and a disease that took him away.

Twelve year old little boys 
have other things to do.
Not spend time in and out of hospitals ...
Oh, I couldn't take the pain from you.

So you closed your beautiful eyes,
and drew your final breath.
When you left us behind that winter day ...
We felt that burning sting of death.

You've been in Heaven for over three years now.
With the light of Jesus on your cheeks.
He replaced your pain with strength & courage.
And now, that strength is what I seek.

I think of your glorious spirit.
It was obvious to those you met.
Oh I know I need to go on, my child,
but that doesn't mean forget.

Missing you and sharing your life
is what has helped me survive.
Oh I think of the many hearts you touched
every day that you were alive.

Oh, I think about what others would tell me.
That you were such a joy to be around.
That smile and laughter you were blessed with ...
Let others see you on higher ground.

I heard that you just took it all in.
Never once did you complain.
It made no difference what test they did ....
You never once let them know your pain.

Now, I want you to always be remembered.
For your life gave purpose to mine.
I may move on with my life here on earth,
but I'll never leave your memory behind.

It seems that some others don't know
how I am supposed to react.
I just want to share your life & love.
It's a simple & courageous fact.

My precious little Angel in Heaven
just recently turned sixteen.
Oh, I wish I could have held you ...
Those listening to me know what I mean.

You shall never be forgotten, my child.
You just can never get that far.
Moving on doesn't mean you forget ...
For I know exactly where you are!

~Author~ Kaye Des'Ormeaux
Copyright 2001 Kaye Des'Ormeaux
Dedicated to Susan Kidd
In Memory of her son Adam Kevin
Feb. 19, 1998 - June 16, 2001

More Poems by Kaye Des'Ormeaux

Re-entering School after the Death of a Sibling

Going back to school after the death of your brother or sister is a hard thing to go through. At first, there are three groups of people to deal with: people who give you a lot of support, people who don't know what to say, and those who give you weird looks and stay away from you. This lasts for a little while. 

After a short time, changes with each group occur. Those who didn't know what to say start to speak or begin to talk. The group who kept away stops ignoring you. The people who gave you a lot of support slowly return to their own affairs. After about a month and a half, everything goes back to normal and is over to everyone except you. This is very difficult and makes you feel all the more alone. 

After a long while the shock for you goes away and it is then when you need the support from your friends, peers and teachers. This month is the first anniversary of the death of my brother. Most people will have forgotten and everything is right with the world. But it is not! Certainly not to my mother and me. 

Jordan Ely

Making Dreams Reality when a Piece is Missing

“You need to move on and carry on with your life”.   Those are the two phrases we as bereaved parents hear so often.  That’s what everyone wants us to do as soon as possible after our child has died.   The active parents want to see us getting back to the land of the living; they want to be able to see us normal again; they don’t know how to deal with us when we are full of sorrow; when we have a bad day, no matter if it’s a year later or five years later.  We are told again and again, it’s time to move on with your life, it’s more than enough time to carry on and get back to normal.  We, as bereaved parents, know that we do move on every single day and every moment without our child.   We don’t have a choice.   Every day we get out of bed and make it through the day at work is a day that we are moving on.  Every holiday we survive with the spiritual image of our child, in the midst of the physical presence of everyone else’s whole family, we are carrying on.   We do what we have to do just because we have to.    We eat, live, even laugh once in a while, find ways to reinvest our lives in memory of our child and to most people, we look and act normal once again.   However only a bereaved parent, when connecting with another bereaved parent, knows to what extent and how much courage it takes to breathe, survive and deal with life again when a part of us is gone forever.   Yet, everyone else, the clueless others, tell us we need to move on.

We manage to do the things we absolutely have to do with some semblance of normalcy.  Yes, some of us go to work or volunteer or speak out on various causes that have a connection with our child’s death, or some of us just manage to get by and are grateful for a good day, maybe one without tears or without hearing that special song.    The little things that indicate we are moving on and carrying on become a matter of survival techniques.   We just do these things because we just have to.   We can’t simply lie back and let life pass us by.  Many days most of us would prefer to do just that, and in spite of what the clueless think, it’s ok to wallow in sorrow once in a while.  After all, this is a tragedy and it is sad and we should be allowed to actively grieve whenever and however we need to, without others telling us to get over it & move on.

Before James died, I had envisioned a future that involved the typical teenage troubled, yet sometimes happy, high school years.  I would teach James how to drive, be nervous when he had his first date, and be proud at both high school & college graduations.   I wanted him to have the kind of marriage and family that would bring him as much joy as I’ve had with my husband and child.   I envisioned him being a loving husband and a great daddy.   I had so many plans for what I would do with and how much I would love and enjoy my grandchildren.  All those dreams died when James’ life ended and life took a totally different direction.   Those were our parental dreams and as a couple, we still had our personal dreams; ones we couldn’t think about when all we could manage was making it through today, never mind tomorrow and certainly not years ahead.

This journey that has taken our future toward a totally new horizon is one that I take with great reluctance and deep sorrow.   How do we, as bereaved parents, deal with “the future” when the time comes to make a decision regarding the future?   This was a tough lesson I learned this summer when we realized our dream of owning a house on the beach.   We never would have been purchasing this house this year if James were alive.  When we had the opportunity to realize our dream we took the chance and made it reality.   However, when it came to the actual closing date, July 5th, just ten days before James’ birthday (which would have been his 18th) we didn’t know how to celebrate.  It’s hard to be happy and excited about making a commitment for the future when our child is not a part of that future.    We own this beach house now and although it’s a dream come true, the part of enjoying it with our son, possibly his wife and maybe our grandchildren will never become reality.   Instead we take what life gives us and make the most of it.  We’ll go to the beach house, walk the shores of the Gulf of Mexico with James in our heart and bring his spiritual presence and memories with us there.

Now, when we go to our beach house in Cape San Blas, FL, we will have a special place to reminisce, a place to relax and unwind from the constant “moving on and carrying on” that we deal with in our daily lives.  We’ll watch the dolphins swim by, we’ll fall asleep to the sound of crashing waves and we’ll recapture some pockets of happiness and joy that have not been a part of today.  We’ll look toward our tomorrows in a much different way;  a new perspective that has taught us that life is precious, simple blessings are a treasure; life is too short; and each day is a gift ~  we simply have to have the courage to open it.  I hope each day to have this courage to continue moving on and carrying on; not just for me but for all bereaved parents.

Meg Avery - Lawrenceville, GA TCF
In Memory of my son, James, 7/15/83 – 9/22/97, Forever Loved & Missed

One More Day…..

Last night I had a crazy dream
A wish was granted just for me -
It could be for anything.
I didn’t ask for money
Or a mansion in Malibu
I simply wished for one more day with you. 
One more day, one more time
One more sunset, maybe I’d be satisfied -
But then again, I know what it would do -
Leave me wishing still for one more day with you.

- Diamond Rio

This song reminds me so much of my son. I lost him when he was eighteen to a car wreck. That was four years ago. Of course, I got the usual comments if that were my child, someone would just have to shoot me and I don’t know how you can live. One painful breath at a time, that’s how. No one could imagine surviving losing a child until they have to. And when you have to you do. 

Four years after the fact, I would still love to see Stephen, would do anything for a wish to be granted and let me have one more day with him. But, at the same time, I am so very grateful to wake up beside my husband every morning, to know that I do have one more day with him. It would be a shame to take him for granted and then someday find myself standing outside a mausoleum wall, telling him I wished I had one more day with him, the way I do Stephen now.

The phone rings and it’s my daughter, Stephanie, Stephen’s older sister, and she’s laughing about some-thing her twin girls just did. And I am thankful to have one more day with her and one more day with those wonderful twins of hers. One more day with my stepson who is now older than Stephen was when he died, one more day with my 13 year old stepdaughter. One more day with my brother and my two sisters, my nieces, nephews and parents. I know I’ll see Stephen again. You see, he’s fine where he is and he’s waiting for me. And we’ll have an eternity together, not just one more day. 

In memory of Stephen Beam
July 17, 1978 - April 13, 1997
submitted by his mom, Marcia Carter 

author of Stephen's Moon
Marietta Chapter TCF


Memories of School Starting

The time has come to send my 14 yr. old son, Kevin, off to high school.  To most parents this would be done with a few tears and an understanding that this is another letting go phase on the road to adulthood.  To me, however, it has been a week filled with "lots" of tears, anxiety, worry, fear...... well, you get the picture.  The memories of sending another son off to high school 10 years ago only to have him die by suicide 3 months into the school year have been overwhelming and I was completely caught off guard from the onslaught.    My sensitive, yet strong son, Robert, lover of the ocean, was overwhelmed 10 years ago and completely caught off guard also at this major life change....well, you get the picture here too. 

 My consolation and comfort is that Kevin is strong both emotionally and spiritually and very ready for this next step in his life.    I cannot let Robert's experience influence the success I feel awaits his brother.  Kevin and I are both "well seasoned" by life experiences that have grown us both and hopefully equipped us both for the journeys ahead.   For those parents who are experiencing the anticipation of school starting back, whether it's memories of past school years or sending one off to school, my prayers are with you. 

My son Robert, loved the ocean and had the opportunity to swim in both the Atlantic and Pacific and shores in between.  His ashes were scattered off the coast of NC, his favorite beach and I visit often bringing him flowers.  I too love the ocean and thank God for creating such a vast body of water that represents both our anger and our peace and every emotion in between. 

Barbara Parsons 
Mom to Robert Parsons 
11/7/76-11/24/91 and to 
Kevin Parsons, most precious gifts 
Lawrenceville, GA TCF

Realize that getting better does not mean that you didn't love your loved one enough. Nor does it mean that you will forget him or her. When and how you begin recovery, and what your recovery is like, are up to you.


A Bit Richer…..

I’ve heard it said that what you get out of a book depends not on what the book brings to you, but on what you bring to the book. 

It’s hard to fathom—much less accept— that we can gain anything by losing child. Once the black hole has been created, we can’t imagine that any light will ever enter it. But, in time, tender mercies start to trickle in. If we keep our eyes and hearts open, we do gain a more insightful view of life. We see and feel things at a deeper level than others can even imagine.

I find as a speaker and writer, when I quote books and use examples from movies to help illustrate or clarify my feelings about bereaved parenthood—or more often, life in general—people will say, “I don’t remember reading that” “I didn’t get that out of it.” “I never made that connection.

Little Women, Pay It Forward, Gladiator, Lost in Yonkers, and yes, the classic Gone with the Wind are just a few of the books and movies that portray the depths of life as WE know it while others merely read words or watch actors on a screen.

I don’t like being where I am. I certainly would never choose to be here. But as I go back to favorite books and movies, I find comfort not only in the familiar, but also in the farther-reaching themes that I didn’t see before.

Revisiting books and movies will never make up for the loss of my son, but it can make my life a bit richer. And long as I’m still alive, I’m going to grab whatever I can get. 

Susan Larson - Loren's Mom - Atlanta TCF

You Never Can Tell 

You never can tell when you send a word like an arrow shot from a bow, 
by an archer blind, be it cruel or kind, just where it may chance to go.
It may pierce the breast of your dearest friend, tipped with its poison or balm. 
To a stranger's heart in life's great art, it may carry its pain or its calm.

-Ella Wheeler Wilcox fm TCF Seacoast NH Chapter


You were here the other night,
So alive and well it seems.
 But I awoke and then I knew,
You were only in my dreams.

 The tears then came so quickly,
 For the time with you was brief.
You were alive and talking,
 If only in my grief.

 I heard your voice and touched you,
As if you were with me,
But I awoke and realized,
 This was not reality.

 So I'll take my dreams, whenever they come,
 And keep them close to my heart,
 Cause in my dreams you are alive,
And we are never really apart!

Joy Curnutt (Jason's mom)
11-26-74 / 4-11-99

The Ship

I am standing upon the seashore. 
A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the ocean. 
She is an object of beauty and strength. 
I stand and watch her until at length she hangs like a speck of white cloud 
just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.

Then someone at my side says: “There, she is gone!”

“Gone where?”

Gone from my sight. That is all.

Her diminished size is in me, not in her. 
And just at the moment when someone at my side says: 
“There, she is gone!” there are other eyes watching her coming, 
and other voices ready to take up the glad shout:

“Here she comes!” And that is dying.

~Henry Scott Holland



In Loving Memory of Our Children~ 
Susan Van Vleck, Marietta TCF Chapter

It was nine years ago on July 18, 1992 that two police officers came to our door with news that no parent expects or wants to hear.  “We are sorry to inform you that your son was killed by a suspected drunk driver tonight.” 

SHOCK~ My first reaction was disbelief.  How could Marc be dead?  He has his whole life ahead of him.  He was driving a friend home and I was waiting up for him.  No, this can’t be!  But it was the harsh reality that I could not fathom at that moment that caused me to slip into the nice protective overcoat named “SHOCK.”  Thank goodness for the ‘shock’ factor because that is what allowed me to make the necessary arrangements for the days that were to follow.

ANGER~ From the minute I was told that Marc had died I was angry with God.    I talked, screamed and wrote in my journal about being so mad that God did not protect us under His umbrella that I thought was in place for our family.  No, I do not believe that God planned for Marc to die at age nineteen or even that it was God’s will.  It has taken me years to understand that we, all of us have ‘free will’ and one 42-year-old man used his ‘free will’ to drink and drive that fateful night that killed our son within one mile of our home.

BARGAINING~The funeral was held here and a week later we drove home to Topeka, Kansas where we had a Memorial Service for friends and family.  We drove back to Georgia arriving late one night after the 14-hour drive.  I unpacked a few things in the kitchen while my husband was upstairs taking a shower.  When I had finished I tried to climb the stairs, but I froze and then fell grasping at the carpet on the stairs sobbing loudly in the entryway.  I cried out to God asking, “why didn’t He take me instead?”  I told him he could make the change right here, right now and no one would ever know the difference.

PAIN~As the shock began to wear off, I felt the intense excruciating pain.  It was so deep and cut like a knife.  I thought that the pain was going to kill me it hurt so bad.  It felt like someone had ripped my heart out.  I felt gutted and empty inside.  I was surprised to
learn that grief is not just about feeling sad.  When you experience grief, there is a real physical pain and mine was in my chest that hurt for many months every waking moment.  I remember I wanted to die.  More importantly I wanted to be with Marc. 

TEARS~ I did not know there were so many different ways to cry or different sounds one could make while crying.  I would be sitting in my chair and begin to cry and invariably I would end up on the floor, face down in the carpet crying my eyes out.  At other times, I rocked back and forth sobbing so hard and speaking gibberish that even I could not understand what I was saying.  Our older son told me that I even cried in my sleep because he had heard me one night. 

DEPRESSION~ I kept the drapes drawn that first year and withdrew from the world.  I was like a frightened animal huddled in a corner.  My first thought upon waking each morning was that Marc was dead.  I would curl up in a fetal position and cry.  I had trouble concentrating, remembering things and making decisions.  My mind would wander constantly.  I had no energy—none—zip!  I remember being so proud of myself the time that I completed mopping my kitchen floor that had taken me three days to do.

RECONCILIATION~ I am nine years into my grief journey.  For me, it has been about ‘leaning into my pain’ and stumbling around in the dark searching and trying different ways to cope since the death of our son, Marc.  I read grief books, I journal, I attend bereavement seminars, I visit the cemetery and most importantly, I cry. 

“DO NOT GO GENTLE INTO THAT GOOD NIGHT”—but stand toe to toe with the beast called grief!  Do not be afraid of your thoughts, feelings, and pain.  They are ALL normal reactions to the death of your dear child.  Instead I ask you to wrestle grief down to the ground, screaming, kicking and crying until you have made grief your equal and more manageable. 

I heard a speaker say, “we did not expect to outlive our child, but we can make a choice as to whether we will become bitter or better with the time we have left.”  Let’s begin to take control of our life, picking up the pieces and make the choice to be a better person.  If not for ourselves, let’s do it for our children.

TCF Atlanta Online Sharing

Dear TCF Online Family: 

Reading all the letters that come through this site, I almost feel that we are indeed a family. I can feel the love and concern others have shown here and I cannot tell you how much this means to me. It would be so easy to just stay locked in your own corner of grief, spending your time wondering WHY ME! But instead you reach out to others and give them hope. Indeed not one of us chose this road we are on, but how we walk this road is a decision we all must make. And so I thank you all for doing all you do, you have made a difference to many. Here is a poem I wrote for us all. 

The road is rough and rocky, although it is paved 
worn smooth by footsteps of others 
who have travelled grief's highway. 

The light is very dim there, full of black and gray 
but reach out and take my hand, 
together we'll find the way. 

The trail is often wet, by the many tears shed 
and by the wounded hearts, 
that have been broken, and have bled. 

And through this dark journey, 
if we hold each other tight 
together we will journey,
 until we see some light. 

For we are wounded parents, grieving our children gone 
but together we can make it, 
if we just reach out and hold on. 

And when we reach the path where
our pain has softened some then we can help others who's journey has just begun. 

So come and take my hand, and I will walk with you and together we will journey, 
together we'll get through. 

God Bless each of you 
Sheila Simmons - Steven's Mom
Dallas, GA - TCF Atlanta Online

Thoughts on Grief ….

Your note is heartbreaking. Whether what you are exper-iencing is "normal," I don't know as I'm still new at this grief business myself. My son Troy died last October. Since then I've visited his grave several times. The first few trips were very hard, seeing the fresh turned earth made me feel as if I'd been ripped open with a hay hook. But I kept returning, if for no other reason than to face reality: He wouldn't be calling anymore, writing letters, visiting (he lived in Kansas; I in Georgia). He wouldn't be. . .doing anything here on earth. That he's having a great family reunion in heaven gives some comfort, and I pray, that as time passes, I'll focus more on his peace rather than my loss.

The day of my last visit the sun was blazing as I settled on the ground, my back against the stone in front of Troy's. I wrote him a long letter (something I do frequently here at home) just telling him what was going on in this world and letting him know how much he's missed. After I'd tucked the letter in a basket of flowers, I leaned back against the stone and thought about how much he loved days when the sun blazed and the southwest wind blew across the plains. I remembered the little boy who would have been on one foot and then another, filled above the brim with swimming pool fever; and I remembered the man who loved to ride his Harley into the wind. Yes, the tears ran, but my heart also felt full and not nearly so cold.

We all respond to death differently, so I don't know if this telling will help you at all. I guess, perhaps, I'm wondering that if you don't bring your son home, then you could go to him, tend his grave as a beloved garden, hang out with him there. Whatever happens, I wish you peace deep deep inside.

Pam Troy - Troy's Mom -Atlanta, GA

Dear Friends,

I can't begin to tell you how humbled and also encouraged I was to read this e-mail sent to the coordinator/webmaster of TCF Atlanta Online regarding our July newsletter article about the butterfly.  Words can't describe how pleasantly surprised I was. This showed me again how powerful our words can be to others, whether they are verbal or written.  Thank you, so much, Elma, for love, and encouragement to other bereaved parents.

Faye McCord - Newsletter Editor, TCF - Jackson, MS Chapter

What Do I Do With My Child's Room?

I guess I put this off as long as I could. I am one of those bereaved parents who has never touched their child's room after they died. I have added things, but never subtracted. Basically, everything is in its place as she left it 6+ years ago. Everything that a normal 15-year-old would possess: posters and pictures of friends held to the wall by thumb tacks, playbills from the school musical she was in, dried corsages from school dances, stuffed animals won at the fair thrown haphazardly on her bed, teen magazines and CD's scattered here and remaining links to the past, flashbacks before the loss of our innocence. One that really hurt was the note that she had left to herself that said, "Work at Perkins. May 14th from 7 - 3." Rather than my Nina excitedly, yet apprehensive-ly going off to the second day of her first "real" job, my family and I were at the funeral home making the final arrangements for her funeral. Surreal and so sad... 

I can remember the first year or two when I would peer into her room and look at all the glorious clutter of her active life. I swore I would never touch a thing, never throw anything would be left intact forever. The times I did spend in her room were usually spent wrapped in her afghan on top of her bed, practically curled in the fetal position with a box of Kleenex, and sobbing my heart out. "I will never change this room, never!" was my mindset back then. 

But things have changed. Due to some family issues, we have to make room for more people residing in our house. The time had come to face it...I had no choice. It is a long involved process. My sweet Nina was a pack rat, to say the least! She saved everything! I have sifted through page after page of her school work. I have squelched the urge to look through the shoebox that says on the outside, "Notes from Friends, 8th grade", instead choosing to not invade her privacy, even after death. I have gone through her closet, and studied her clothing, remembering what she looked like in each outfit. She was so tiny! Size 3-4 jeans and the teeniest little shirts you can ever imagine. It reminded me why we always said she was "Petite but powerful!"..though tiny she was a giant of a human being...loving, considerate, and so full of good ideas. 

I have had my moments of intense sadness, such as when I have come across her, "Book about Me" that she made in school, the part that asks who is the most important person in your life, to which she answers in her grade school handwriting, "My Mommy, of course."   I cry for the loss of that love and our close relationship, even something that carried over into her teens, what are suppose to be the "rebellious years."  Even in her confirmation book she wrote the same identical thing when asked who was the most important in her life. God, I miss her so. 

What I have been pleasantly surprised about, though, is that maybe the fact that I waited so long has made this an easier ( for lack of a better word...there is nothing "easy" about any of this!) task. Bittersweet, I guess would describe it. I have found myself laughing more at these pictures and reminders of the past, and crying less. And the most amazing thing has happened. The past three nights I have slept in her bed. I am the first one to have slept there since Nina died over six years ago. After I turn off the lights and crawl into her bed, the glow-in-the-dark stars that she put into perfectly placed constellations, gleam and is the only thing that you can see. I feel like I am lying in her bed, protectively wrapped in her arms, and seeing a piece of heaven just as she does now, and what she used to see from her bed when she was alive. The closeness I feel to her at that moment is indescribable! I haven't slept as peacefully since Nina died as I have these past three nights! 

I wanted to share this with you in case there are others out there like me...who haven't taken on the task of clearing out their child's room and wondered if they ever would be able to. And, also for those who have heard the comments, "You haven't cleaned out her/his room YET!?!?!" I know it isn't the right choice for everyone; as we all know, the ways we handle our grief and our ways of dealing with our child's possessions are all different, just as they should be. But for those who have waited, I want to reassure you that it has turned out to be a much more positive experience than I imagined. All part of seeing that you really ARE making progress and finding a little hope along the way...that there is light at the end of the tunnel. 

Love and peace to all, 

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

The Space ....

The following poem was sent to a friend of mine after she lost her mother.   My friend sent it to me, hoping it would be of comfort after the loss of a child.  I find that I need the space or the gap, that it helps me to hold on to my daughter.  Many have written about not wanting the pain to go away, as the pain is a tangible reminder and connection to the child who died.  It's been almost 4 years for me.  The pain has decreased a little bit, but the gap, the emptiness, the space is there.  I believe it always will be.  It is what we all feel, whether it's been 4 months or 24 years.  I hope sharing this will provide some comfort for others. 

The Space
by Dietrich Bonhoeffer 

Nothing can make up for the absence 
of someone whom we love, 
and it would be wrong to try 
to find a substitute. 

We must simply hold out 
and see it through. 
That sounds very hard at first, 
but at the same time, 
it is a great consolation. 

The gap, 
as long as it remains unfulfilled, 
preserves the bond between us. 
It is nonsense to say 
that God fills the gap. 

He does not fill it, 
but on the contrary, 
He keeps it empty 
and so helps us to keep alive 
our former communication with each other. 

Even at the cost of pain. 

Submitted by Barb, mom to Angel Beth and her sisters, Stephanie, Caitlin & Meghan
TCF Atlanta Online Sharing



Your life was an embodiment of joy
expressing itself to the world
in countless moments of lightness,
despite all the indicators
of your brief existence
that pointed toward a logic 
of despair and frustration.

I’ve often wondered
about the source of the light
that poured from your eyes 
and danced merrily upon your lips.
Your focus was obviously not on limitations,
for your spirit surged from every opening
into a bright world of possibilities.

Barriers were no more to you than doors
and you understood you could close
any not fitting the world in your mind
and open others that thrilled and delighted.
Yours was a state of transcending choices
that never allowed transitory disappointments
to exercise control over who you really were.

You were a constant wonder,
one of the creator’s finest works;
a perfect blend of joy and passion,
coalesced into a towering, wondrous spirit
 that, despite the condition of your earthly body,
soared and looped and danced on air,
and personified the overcoming power of love.

Saying you changed us is classically inadequate
to the truth of your moments in our midst.
No one who knew you within your life’s boundaries 
will ever be the same; could ever possibly be the same.
We were touched and changed at a fundamental level,
dared by love to search for beginnings in every apparent end and see that existence is more, so much more, than it seems.

In loving memory of Lance Porter Hopkins
July 20, 1975 to November 30, 1999
Copyright © Harold Hopkins, May 2001.
Lawrenceville, GA TCF 
All rights reserved.

More Poems by Harold Hopkins

Companion Through the Darkness: 
Inner Dialogues on Grief by 
Stephanie Ericsson - Excerpts

Abandonment: The sudden state I am forced into. I no longer belong to you. I no longer belong to anyone.

Who expects life to change suddenly? Little pocket calendars map out everyday life. Pick up the kids. Drop off the proposal. Finish the laundry tonight.  Send Mother a birthday card. Life--listed on pages--predictable,  orderly, pre-planned. The priorities of daily existence are made according to our needs, and the needs of those we care about or to whom we have 

Then one day, a bomb is dropped. Yesterday, there was a house--with walls, a roof, and the smells of life steaming up the windows. Today, only the rubble of disaster. Shards of broken confidence and the dust of dreams litter a cracked foundation. The calendars are forgotten. Priorities reorder themselves with "surviving" first on the list. What was eminently important yesterday is indisputably trivial today.

Like the victims of war and natural disasters, the sudden loss of someone so important plunges us into a realm where we have no control. The lives we planned will never be as we planned.

The rubble has to be swept up. But it looms like a mountain. How does one move a mountain? How do you piece together something that may someday resemble a life again? Not without many hours, days, months, even years. Not without blisters, cuts, bruises, and tears. And the only place to begin is in the shadow of the mountain.

A paralysis that starts in my soul and quickly attacks my body.

In Alcoholics Anonymous, there is a tradition of remembering as clearly as possible the last days or months of drunkenness. Not for maudlin reasons or self-flagellation, but because it is the lucid moment of hitting these "bottoms" that propels recovery forward. To forget is to risk the delusion that drinking again is a possibility. So it is with death. I will try very hard to remember what the moment was  like when I heard he was dead. I will try very hard to remember what the feelings were when the months afterward crawled by. These, like the last days before sobriety, are the down payment for a new life, and new eyes.

Ironically, a love of life springs from the memories of these days.  Partially because I am no longer there. But mostly because I survived. Death is my friend now, my constant companion who makes me look for the precious every moment I am conscious. And inside, I hear the words, "Be still. This won't kill you."

The Agony of Grief
The act of accepting forced change; a constant state of my existence, in varying degrees from white hot to disgruntle-ment a sign that I am truly alive.

What is there to say about grief? 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.

Grief means not being able to read more than two sentences at a time. It is walking into rooms with intention that suddenly vanishes.  Grief is three-o'clock-in-the-morning sweats that won't stop. It is dreadful Sundays, and Mondays that are no better. It makes you look for a face in a crowd, knowing full well the face we want cannot be found in that crowd.

Grief is utter aloneness that razes the rational mind and makes room for the phantasmagoric. It makes you suddenly get up and leave in the middle of a meeting, without saying a word.

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, scares away so-called friends, and rewrites your address book for you.

Grief makes you laugh at people who cry over spilled milk, right to their faces. It tells the world that you are untouchable at the very moment when touch is the only contact that might reach you. It makes lepers out of upstanding citizens.

24th Annual National TCF Conference – Arlington, VA/Washington, D.C.

Approximately 1500 bereaved parents, siblings and grandparents attended The Compassionate Friends Conference held July 5-8, 2001. 

My husband and I were so excited to attend our first “national” conference.  It was awesome!  We arrived the morning of the 4th of July.  The Hyatt had a courtesy van for the trip from the airport to the hotel.  Upon boarding the van, I recognized two ladies I had met in May at the Chapter Leadership Training Program and we picked up our conversation like we had seen each other yesterday.  It was so easy because we speak the same language.  We share a bond through pain and hope.  It was like that the entire weekend as we talked with old friends and made new friends. 

We immediately checked our masks at the door; you know the ones that we wear out in public for the benefit of our friends and family.  This was a safe and compassionate environment where we could be ourselves, talk about our children with no one rolling their eyes or afraid that we might cry. 

We took the elevator up to our room and unpacked then decided to go to the Mall.  We met our two new friends in the lobby and took the Metro together for the festivities and fireworks that evening.  There were many people enjoying the live music and wares that were being sold on the lawn.  Later that afternoon there was a thunderstorm.  Everyone was instructed to go inside and seek shelter from the lightening.  The closest building to us was The Smithsonian Museum.  We spent several hours looking at the exhibits waiting for the rain to stop.  It never did so we purchased these ‘stylish’ blue ponchos with white lettering that read “Smithsonian” all over them.  We stood in the rain not wanting to leave and miss the opportunity to see the fireworks celebrating our nation’s independence in the Capital.  Miraculously at 9 o’clock there was a small patch of blue sky that opened up and allowed the fireworks to go as planned.  Words cannot describe the beauty of the colors and the shadows that fell on the many monuments surrounding the Mall that memorable evening.

The following day I attended the TCF Professional Seminar planned for funeral directors, therapist, police officers and others who work in the field of grief while my husband went sightseeing.  It was a powerful day looking at the perspective of those “helping the bereaved” versus being the person “doing the grief work.”  The highlight that day was the Luncheon Speaker, Darcie Sims.  She has a gift that can make you laugh and cry. 

The first formal day of the TCF National Conference began Friday morning with Atlanta’s own, Iris Bolton as the Opening Keynote Speaker.  Then we were on our own with the difficult task of narrowing our choices of workshops that we wanted to attend because ninety workshops were offered.

Some of the titles were:
The First Two Years of Bereavement
Grief in the Aftermath of Suicide: A Sharing in Healing and Hope
Riding the Roller Coaster of Pain—Let Me Off!
Dealing with Family and Friends
How Grief Turns You Inside Out!
Finding Joy Again
The Marital Tango

Friday and Saturday evenings there were banquets with a different keynote speaker each night.  The banquet also offered live music performed by Cindy Bullens and Jeanine Higgins.  Cindy and Jeanine are bereaved mothers and sang their own lyrics that they had written expressing their pain and grief journey since the death of their children. 

Each night following the banquet there were optional sharing groups divided by topics; sudden death, terminal illness, multiple loss, suicide, adult siblings and more. 

There was a Butterfly Boutique, Bookstore, Reflection Room and a Hospitality Room.  On Sunday morning (despite the light rain shower) there was a two-mile Memorial Walk and on our t-shirts read “You Need Not Walk Alone.”

It was a GREAT weekend for making new friends, working on grief issues, talking about our child and being supported in a loving way.  Next year’s conference will be in Salt Lake City July 5-7, 2002.  We hope to see you there! 
Susan Van Vleck, Marietta TCF Chapter

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 750 active members and are growing at a rate of 2 per day. 

To Join go to the following link:


You defined through your attitude
the bright world you saw beckoning.
As our guide, you steadfastly refused
to go on or leave us lagging behind
and led us, tho’ unknowing and blind,
into a new and wondrous territory.

How we miss your exuberant spirit now,
your shining in the deepest darkness,
and how we miss your helpless laughter
that lifted and would never permit
sadness to gain the barest toehold
or keep us from the ecstasy of hope.

Hope pulled us through the tough times,
buoyed our spirits and lifted our hearts.
With your help, we thumbed our noses at fate
and ignored all the ‘should-have-beens’.
We marched on, never looking back or ahead
and stumbled upon an oasis in the desert.

If we could do all that while you were here,
surely we can keep the flame burning
in the oppressive stillness of your absence.
Surely we can hope again and trust again,
turn back the persistent encroachment of night
and laugh out loud at the illusion of separation.

You are here with us, we feel it
with every ounce of intellect and soul,
a faint image on the periphery of knowing.
And someday, when we focus with all our hearts
and lay down the limits of what we think we know,
you will emerge, exultant, from the mist.

“Love is forever,” you’ll cry out,
and we’ll believe because our hearts agree
that nothing could possibly sever
the bond of love and hope we share.
Love heals and reaches across the universe
to fashion unity wherever we may be.

In loving memory of Lance Porter Hopkins,
 Jul 20, 1975 – November 30, 1999
Lawrenceville, GA TCF
Copyright © Harold G. Hopkins, April, 2001. 
All Rights Reserved.

Taking On Wings -SHARE Atlanta
Invites Everyone in TCF to join them for the Angel of Hope Dedication
With "Angel's" Memorial Brick Path

October 21, 2001 - 3:00 PM

In Memory of all children whose brief presence touched the hearts and lives of their parents, families and friends.

Richard Paul Evans, author of The Christmas Box, will join SHARE Atlanta, a pregnancy and newborn loss grief support group, on Oct. 21st to dedicate the Angel of Hope statue and memorial located in Arlington Memorial Park in Sandy Springs, GA.   A dedication ceremony will first take place at Sandy Springs Methodist Church followed by a dedication in Arlington Memorial Park.  The angel monument was first introduced to the world in Evans’ international best-selling book in 1993.  In the book, Mary mourns the loss of her child at the base of an angel monument.  Today, the book and the angel have become a symbol of hope and healing for grieving parents everywhere.

With the dedication of the first angel monument in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1994, Atlanta becomes the 24th site for the angel monument.   SHARE Atlanta is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to providing grief support for families who have experienced ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage, stillbirth and newborn loss.

The Oct. 21st dedication will be emceed by Wes Sarginson news anchor from 11-Alive and will feature remarks from Richard Paul Evans, storytelling by internationally-known Milbre Burch, performances by the Young Singers of Callanwolde and the St. Luke’s Presbyterian Handbell Choir.  The dedication event is open to the public and begins at 3:00 p.m. 

For more information, call (770) 928-5606 or log on to the web site at

At the end of the ceremony, we will lay flowers by the Angel in Memory of Our Children.  Please bring you favorite flowers.

"Angel's" Memorial Brick Path

SHARE Atlanta and TCF have always worked very closely with one another.  We are very fortunate in Atlanta to have both support groups, plus more.  The Members of SHARE would like to extend the opportunity to any one in TCF who would like to purchase a "memory brick" for their "Angel's" Memorial Brick Path.  The path is being built around the Angel of Hope which is located in Arlington Cemetery - Babyland Section - Sandy Springs. 

If you are interested in purchasing a "memorial brick" for your angel, the information is listed below:

Order form for Memorial Brick:

Fourteen characters per line-do not count spaces.
Please print clearly.
Line 1
Line 2
Line 3

Icons -  Heart__Star__Star of David_ Cross_ None__ 

Pathway Brick $25.__   Keepsake Brick $20.__

An effort will be made to install as many bricks as possible for the dedication. Installation will then be based on our yearly installation schedule which is determined by the number of brick orders. 

Schedule: late Oct., Dec. and May

Use separate sheet for multiple orders. 
Include your name, address and phone number on all requests.  Mail with check payable to "SHARE Atlanta" to mailing address listed below.   Thanks!

SHARE Atlanta
PMB 212
9925 Haynes Bridge Road, Suite 200-212
Alpharetta, GA 30022

*SHARE is currently checking on a butterfly icon.

Visit our web site for  more information.   Angel of Hope


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