Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Remembering the Families Who Have Lost a Loved One, in the Longterm

An empty kitchen can feel very empty indeed when people stop calling, and stop coming by.

     For today I'd like to discuss how we treat those who have lost a loved one, particularly a child, in the long run.  Most people who lose a child or a loved one suddenly and deluged with casseroles, relatives staying in their house, both welcome, and not, and a host of neighbors and friends from a local church or two.  This is fine, and to be expected. People need to try to help those who are grieving, just as much sometimes, as we need fellowship, companionship and support ourselves in such a circumstance.   Those who have had a child disappear for some reason, experience a similar course.  At first, churches, local groups, the local police, everyone descend and in a way help to give hope some additional buoyancy.
              However, today I would like to remind you that when a family loses a child to illness, accident, or any manner of unexpected passing that  most people go back to the lives they were living fairly quickly. Most never mention the child who has passed, no matter how much the family who has lost him, would like to hear their recollections of their child. Many people are fearful of mentioning the child who has passed, fearing that they will open old wounds. Most families however, would love to hear how their child made a difference in the world while he or she were here.  Today I want to remind you to be brave enough to mention the loved ones by name to their families. Most of the time they want to mention them. For the few who cannot just now, you will know quickly enough, and then move on in the conversation.
              The second group I wish to mention are those who have had a child abducted, child or young adult or not, and have never heard anything afterward.   This group definitely wants to hear that you too think of their child and wait for his return One family with whom I am in touch told me that no one ever mentions their son, and they were wondering if he ever existed, if anyone other than they, knew him.   I know it can seem like that sometimes.  Be brave my friends, all of you.  Be brave enough to mention the missing, as well as those we know have passed.
            I was thinking a fair bit about this, this week. A six year old drowned in a freak accident while fishing with her grandfather in waters which were more turbulent below than was expected for the area. Several people tried to rescue her, but were unable to, due to powerful underwater currents.  For a time, people will surround the family.  Her school will talk of a memorial for her.  Counselors will come to her school.......and then eventually............nothing.   Let's make sure that we remember this family and those families who have lost a loved one, through sudden death, through disappearance, through kidnapping, or by service to our country.  Remember that a loss of a child for any reason, to their family, is a potent and palpable loss for ever, and ever while they reside on this Earth,  regardless of the faith they may hold.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Carving the Time to Just Be


   Once again, we have reached this time of year.  The time after Daniel's birthday in early May, was spent finishing up homeschooling, and readying the farm for Summer, when perhaps the heat and blinding humidity would make it harder to do some things as the year moved on.  In my memories we spent so much time running, and doing.  I spent less time just being, than perhaps I should have.  We always needed to be doing something at break neck speed.  Looking back I don't think this was true of Daniel. More than anyone else I have ever known, I think he really did carve out time for things he wanted to do, and sometimes, just to be.  He loved our animals, and he was good about visiting even when they didn't need anything, just to give them a kind word.
         Daniel, I feel you with me as an important part of my life here. I miss your physical presence here on Earth, but I know that God must call those for whom Heaven must pinch hit, while they are gone.  I send all my love.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

They are Still Missing


    Please remember that as I start a new Spring without Daniel here, that there are still families who do not know the whereabouts of their beloved young adult child.

                Jonny Dorey,   Ian Burnett,  and Lauren Spierer  remain simply missing without a trace.

Please pray for their families and call the contact numbers in the links below should you know anything about

any of these cases, or have seen one of these people.

Lauren Spierer:

Ian Burnett:

In general:     (Blog discusses more than one of these young adults being missing) 

Jonny Dorey:

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Happy Mother's Day

           I must admit that I did not contemplate Mother's Day a great deal before losing a child.   I didn't need flowers, a dinner, or anything terribly special. I used to enjoy receiving a drawing and a handmade card from my kids, and I still treasure these.  I am pretty happy being treated well year round, and so I didn't really feel the need for a fuss on a particular day. After all, I have my birthday.
           However, after the loss of a child, Mother's Day becomes much more significant, much for painful, and a day to endure.  I can't even watch television without hearing about Shari's Berries, and how Mother's Day would be incomplete without them.   Mother's Day is incomplete.  It is incomplete because I am the Mother Duck in the song Daniel used to sing and shed a tear to, where one of the little ducks doesn't come back.  Of course, in the last verse, all the little ducks come back.   Sometimes our lifetimes seem very long before our little duck comes back.  Sometimes the days, and the days leading up to them, can be very hard. Today is one of those days.
           The little card above was found on the SUDC website.   It's a reminder that Mother's Day might be a happy day for many families, but for many of us, who have lost a child in this lifetime, it is a bittersweet day.
I send love, best wishes, and whatever wishes of happy memories I can to my sisters in grief this week.
Take good care of yourselves and of the children you have remaining on this Earth.

A great song for Mother's Day:   This Amazing Love

And Daniel, I am not sorrowful this Mother's Day.   I carry the joy of the memories of having raised as fantastic a young son as you !    I am so grateful for your having made the trip to Earth to be an important part of this family.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Daniel's Seventeenth Birthday

 Cake by: Sweet Treats by Susan: Happy Birthday Cake

This was another cake for another Daniel.  I think this would be my pick for my birthday !

   Rather than celebrating your birthday in your absence, on the actual day of your birth, I have taken to celebrating your birthday on your birth week.   I am aware that it makes others who have not lost a son or a daughter in this life, a little uncomfortable.  This is not about them. It is not up to us, or to anyone who is grieving to arrange our lives in a manner which is more palatable to the masses.  The loss of a child is a lifelong grief, and a deeply personal we must adapt as we must.  We have to find the procedures and rituals which comfort ourselves and our families.  We don't really need to please anyone else.
    I realize and accept that Daniel's sudden departure is one of the things which makes me who I am, with both good and bad. I also realize that in some way, constructive or otherwise, I will be grieving his passing from Earth before mine, for the rest of my life here.  Of course it will seem to center on his birthdays which are in the Spring, and the date of his passing, which is in Autumn, and the entire thing will be exposed raw at Christmas, but this is how it is.
    Daniel, I cope by knowing that God had a plan and sent you to Earth to achieve certain things and to understand certain joys while you were here.  All parents hope that their child will enjoy the "entire package" of life, and I was no exception.  I did not understand that you were to be called home, with no notice, that beautiful backlit morning.   I still can't completely believe that this is what happened.
     I look at the week in which your seventeenth birthday is occurring.  How could this be ?  You left Earth at 12 1/2, and on Earth you would have been seventeen.  I try hard to imagine what you would look like now. I know that you would have grown and matured, but I also know that your loving heart and commentaries would not have changed.  I knew who you were, not only at 12, but I knew your soul and it is ageless.
     It never ceases to amaze me how many "Happy Birthday Daniel" cake photographs can be found on the internet, especially at this time of year.   Please know that your family on Earth loves you, and never forgets any of our experiences here with you, and we wish you joy and happiness there, this day and always.

 A Happy Energetic Song "Amen" By Sarah Slean

Happy Birthday Daniel

Thursday, May 2, 2013

How to Move Ahead After the Loss of a Child

               I  pay very close attention to the googled phrases which bring readers to this particular blog. Some people want information for school reports on the causes of sudden cardiac death in children and in teens. Others are looking for specific information on some of the people we have profiled periodically who have passed from either Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood, or from a sudden cardiac death of discernible cause on autopsy.  The most fragile of the people who come to this blog are those who have lost a child, often recently. They are lost in the world in those moments and are looking for just a hint of how they can possibly go on. I take helping them, if even in a very small way, as a very important task and as a sacred obligation. This is one of the reasons that I run this blog differently than my other blogs. I am not about snaring lots of members to this blog. It is about sharing thoughts, and comforts to those who desperately need this when they log in here. I know that it is a help to many parents, and that this help is very much a living legacy to Daniel.

          Now I will get to answering your very good question. How do you move ahead following the loss of a child ? First off, as you already know that at the moment of your child's departure from Earth that your life, your spouses life, and that child's sibling's lives changed forever, in a total and in an inexplicable way. Things will never return to exactly as they were before the pivotal passing of a child.  The child is not just missing from the present, but the entire linear progression to his future, and to yours is gone. It can be hard to feel anything but bewilderment.   Secondly, the circumstances surrounding the death of a child will impact the character of the grief you feel, and the length of time it will take to navigate the tallest and rockiest cliffs of that early grief. At first, all parents have guilt mixed with their grief. Sometimes, they believe there is a reason for such guilt, but often there is not. There is just the overlay in your feelings that this child who was given to you, was yours to protect, and if she has died, then somehow you dropped the ball. Of course, we can't stand as the body guard to our children (without turning them into some very strange and paranoid people !) We must let them live their lives and make their way in the world as is age appropriate.  The world, and even within their own bodies may not always be a safe place.  We do our best to protect and to love our children and we all wish for our children to live long lives here, long after we ourselves leave the Earth, but sadly, some of our, no many of our children, here on Earth move ahead to the next life, ahead of us.

        For many of us, the guilt comes first.  Anger is often easier for us to wallow in, than grief and sorrow, and some of us become absorbed with anger or rage, sometimes directed to someone who is, in some way responsible for part or all of what happened to our child.  More often than not, we may blame someone who is in some way related or associated with the passing of our child, but not responsible.  Many parents whose children die blame their child's doctor.  I was fortunate in that I have very clear recollections of Daniel's last physical, and it was quite detailed.  However, neither his physician or I, saw or heard anything worthy of additional exploration.  Sometimes, anger is inappropriate, and we have anger for the death of our child, and no one tangible in order to deliver that anger to.   When anger passes, many of us descend into an abyss of sorrow which I would not wish on anyone on Earth.   ( I would like to say on "my worst enemy" but I don't have one of those.)    The abyss is mind and mood altering and leaves us wondering why we did not evaporate along with our child.   I would imagine that this is the place that most of you dwell when you are up at night, google one of the subjects I have written about here in the last nearly four years, and then log on.   There is no magical prescribed series of activities which lifts this storm.

         Grief is an arduous journey, and it's a lot of work.  There is no specific prescribed path, and the journey and the activities are different for each of us.   In my personal journey, I first needed to make sure that the sudden arrhythmic disorder which had taken Daniel from Earth without a hint, didn't  also afflict one of my other three biological children.  Following a funeral where we didn't know what the cause of death had been, we moved on to an autopsy, which has continued in multiple cities.  Parts of Daniel's body in death have traveled far more than he did in life, an irony which simply leaves me sad.   After the electrophysiologic evaluations of my three other terrified children, came the decision that at least one of them would have a cardiac ablation.  His other medical issues made that eventuality especially frightening.  I was called on to be courageous in the time of life in which I had almost none.
           For a long time, I held it together very well for my husband, for my children and for my friends.  My friends were devastated enough.  How could I make it worse for them, and for Daniel's friends by showing how lost and sorrowful I really was ?   I didn't.   I developed two basic ways to cope, one of them functional, and one, not so much.    In one, I booked myself to be incredibly busy all the time, and always doing something.  I don't think I sat calmly enough to as much as drink a cup of tea for three years.  I was a flurry of activity. I was a wheel that had to continue to spin.   The second way in which I maladapted somewhat was that I realize that I felt that eating properly, or at least attempting to do so, hadn't kept Daniel alive, and so what was the value in it ?   I found myself eating not only whatever I wanted, but for some foods, in the portion not only for me, but in the portion for Daniel as well.   I realize now that I did not adjust the amount of groceries we bought when he passed.  I just ate his portion.  In a sense, he was still here.  Fortunately, for a long time the hyperactivity of my grief compensated for the poor choices.  Eventually though, I gained weight sufficiently to have to diet.
             Other things I did to sustain the activity level that my grief brought to me was

1. Collecting all the pictures ever taken of Daniel, and categorizing them, for a large series of scrapbooks.
2. Going through everything that was in his room. Rather than giving away or donating the items, we designed and built the teenager finished basement bedroom on the same level as his brothers, as he always had wanted.  His siblings painted realistic clouds on the ceiling which seem to drift as genuine clouds do.
3. I collected all the DVDs and movies he had ever watched, and especially those he loved.  This was easier than it sounds as many of them were very reasonable on   Our family spends time in Daniel's room watching his videos and remembering the times we spent together.
4. I started this blog. It was a place in which it is socially acceptable to talk about Daniel and my feelings, whereas in much of the rest of the world, he passed almost four years ago, and people are uncomfortable when I speak of him.
5. I wrote a book about our experience called What I Learned from Daniel.
6. I started an additional blog in order to bring disaster preparedness to people around the world.
7. I wrote an additional book on disaster preparedness, called Rational Preparedness.
8. My normally frugal self bought a small house by a beach out of the country as I was determined to provide a place for my children to go out of the country, as I felt I had failed in taking Daniel to see all the great sights on this Earth while he was here.
9. I had barns and kennels built for Daniel's animals, as a way of honoring all the animals he had loved so much while he was here.
10. I bought two horses, one a Shetland pony very similar to the one Daniel rode on at the Celtic Festivals we used to attend annually, and another who I realize now, looks a lot like the boy on a horse (Daniel) on the weathervane on top of the cupola on one of those barns.  Daniel would have loved the horses.
11. I left my job as a college instructor, and I don't know if I will ever be back.
12. We adopted a young teen boy to honor the memory of Daniel and provide a home to a boy who would not have had one. (Daniel had always wanted us to do this.)

    And the list continues and is not in order

For each of you, you must find what gives your life and the life of your child meaning.  For some of you it may be activities for fundraising for the illness which took your child from you.  For others it may be grief work, helping others to deal with whatever personal blueprint for grief exists for them. For others it may be working within the community to try to defuse the type of violence which ended your child's life.  Finding our way through our grief is a mammoth personalized journey which each of us must make.  There will be days when the tears must fall, and there will be no avoiding them.  There will be days when the sweetest of your recollections of your child crystallize into perfect memories !  I remember so much about Daniel now, almost four years after his passing.  For almost a year after his passing, I was so grief stricken that I could not access all of our memories together.

        As smarter people than I have said.  Grief is a journey. We cannot avoid it, got around it, above it, or below it. We must go through it.  I chose to be as busy as a one-armed paper hanger to go through the most painful and most acute phases of mine.  There is no magical path, no shortcut.  I can promise you though that as you move through the storm that is grief, that you become better at navigating this storm in time.  For most of us, we began to better function and to begin to derive joy in our lives once again, around the year mark. Until then, it's best not to make any major life decisions, or even to change residences if you can avoid this.
         Personal faith in God and in the hereafter helps a great deal in navigating grief. However, we must accept and admit that regardless of how strong our faith in God is, and our faith that we will be reunited with our child at the end of this life, we are still left with a life in which we will not see our child's facial expressions to our words. We will not see his college graduation, his wedding, his children on this Earth.  Cultivate your faith however you can. Many of us live with this every day.  Know that I pray for you, and your family also.

The Glory- Royal Wood by maplemusicrecordings

(Yes, singing background vocals in this video, is Sarah Slean, who is married to Royal Wood.)