A Remembrance To My Friend

by Sandy Fox

Sandy Fox
Sandy Fox

You always think your story of your child’s death is the worst…until you read about the next child or children who died for whatever reason, whatever age. You hear about them through the Internet, through the TV and through books. Whether it is an accident, an illness or some other cause of death, there is always a story, unparalleled in its riveting emotions.

One story recently on the news shocked me. Only when I read the family name in the newspaper did I realize it was my personal friend’s family. I was shocked and saddened to learn the details, none of which are important to this blog. What is important is that any loss in a family, no matter who, how many or under what circumstances is devastating. I dedicate my column today to my friend and her husband and hope that words of comfort from other friends and relatives will aid in the healing process. Continue reading A Remembrance To My Friend

Motherless Daughter – A Tribute to My Best Friend

by Martha King
Guiding Hearts with Hope

Martha King
Martha King

I was in South America in my senior year, preparing for finals and heading to college to be a surgeon. My mother was 37, and I was seventeen. My father was a pharmacist at the time, but working on a plan for all of us to visit North America after I graduated. My mother was very devastated with the idea. She questioned my father, “How can I be in two places at once (the North and the South)?” God had a plan from the beginning. She was pregnant at that time, and the baby was not due for another month. All the paperwork was completed a year in advance for our trip.

Saturday, May 28, 1977, 9:00AM. My mother gave birth to a healthy girl, her 6th child at home. There was a lot of excitement and happiness, but that was about to change. The private midwife said, “We have trouble!” My mother developed a headache right after the labor and started going into convulsions, her body became toxic, and she went into a coma. I remember very clearly, a few minutes before, the way she reached for my hand and said to my father, “I am scared, please don’t let me die”. We called for an ambulance and they took her, it was the last time I saw my mother alive. Each of her children, ranging in age from 17 to one day old, and my father, were left with little idea of how to manage the grief. Continue reading Motherless Daughter – A Tribute to My Best Friend

Alive on Canvas®–A New Way to Share the Memory of Your Loved One

by Gina Klawitter
Fine Artist Specialized in Serving Bereavement

Gina KlawitterWhat should families do with a deceased loved one’s personal belongings? This situation is hard to contemplate. Meaningful, memorable possessions usually end up stored in a basement or drawer, or displayed in a lifeless shadow box.

Now, there’s a poignant way for families to share and enjoy such cherished items. Artist Gina Klawitter creates life-like, celebratory keepsake portraits featuring her subjects’ personal clothing and belongings. From christening gowns to sports uniforms and play outfits, Gina artfully forms clothing and other items into custom collage paintings. She calls her unique collage art, Alive on Canvas®. Gina also offers a how-to book, Commemorate, Celebrate! for those who want to create their piece as a means of hands-on healing. (No art or craft skills required.) Continue reading Alive on Canvas®–A New Way to Share the Memory of Your Loved One

Sudden Versus Anticipated Death

by Peggy Sweeney

Peggy Sweeney
Peggy Sweeney

No matter how our loved one died, we grieve. However, the manner in which the death happens will influence our grieving process. For instance, a heart attack, stroke, or a motor vehicle accident are examples of sudden death. Shock and disbelieve are often our first reactions. When I received a phone call from a family friend that my dad had a heart attack and was dead, I immediately hung up the phone and dialed my parents’ home because I knew the person who had called must have been mistaken. Sadly, they were not.

When death occurs as the result of a long-term illness or injury, the levels of shock and disbelief may be less intense than they are with a sudden death, because we have known for some time of the imminent death. Nevertheless, when someone we love is slowly dying because of cancer, heart disease, a brain injury, or Alzheimer’s disease, we may find ourselves surprised when his or her death occurs. This is not an abnormal response, but rather a belief that as long as there is life there is hope. Continue reading Sudden Versus Anticipated Death

Fighting the Devil Within

by Don Prince

Don Prince
Don Prince

None of us ever wants to admit defeat. It is not in our nature.  What makes it even more difficult for people like us is what we do.  We are the ones going in, giving aid, support, sacrifices and sometimes even our lives in order to save others.  We are supposed to be the invincible ones and for the most part we are. But ultimately we are all human; we act and react differently to situations both in and out of the “job”.

Pressure, stress and pain are pretty much unavoidable in all forms: both physical and mental or a combination of any of them.   How each one of us deals with these stresses; such as self-medicating and isolating, is what separates us from our families, loved ones and careers. Continue reading Fighting the Devil Within

wife has cancerYour Wife Has Cancer, Now What?: What to Expect When the Unexpected Happens
by Carson Boss

When your wife is diagnosed with cancer, there is a lot of information to read and review. You get overwhelmed with pamphlets, books, and binders that discuss her type of cancer. There are support groups, hotlines and other organizations to assist her. But what about you? Written from the experienced perspective of someone who went through his wife’s cancer Your Wife Has Cancer, Now What? provides a practical overview of what you, as husband and best friend, need to know. Your Wife Has Cancer, Now What? includes information on how to overcome the shock and fear of diagnosis, how to talk to your family, choosing the right doctors, where and how to give support, the transition of normal household duties and how to manage those, the real costs of cancer both financial and emotional, how to continue and nurture your romance, how to manage your full-time job and other long-term issues that are critical to know and navigate.

chemo therapistChemo-Therapist: How Cancer Cured a Marriage
by Mary Potter Kenyon

When Mary Potter Kenyon’s husband David was diagnosed with cancer in the summer of 2006 she searched libraries and bookstores for books on cancer and the caregiving experience. What she discovered was a plethora of technical and medically-oriented books or those written by a caregiver whose loved one had died, a scenario she refused to contemplate. While serving as David’s companion during Wednesday chemotherapy treatments, Mary began journaling about their experience as a couple and parents of young children as they navigated the labyrinth of cancer. It soon dawned on her that she was writing the very book she had searched for upon David’s diagnosis: one that goes beyond the cancer experience to give hope and inspiration to the reader. Chemo-Therapist: How Cancer Cured a Marriage is a moving testimonial of a relationship renewed by the shared experience of a life threatening illness.” Initially, after David’s diagnosis, I would cringe when I read books or articles by cancer survivors who stated that cancer had been a gift in their lives. How could all that David endured be viewed as a gift? The invasive surgery, the weeks of chemotherapy and radiation: a gift? Yet, after the cancer, David would often reach for my hand and say, “If it is cancer that is responsible for our new relationship, then it was all worth it.” And I’d reluctantly agree that cancer had been a gift in our lives. We’d both seen the other alternative: patients and survivors who had become bitter and angry, and neither one of us wanted to become that.

refined by fireRefined By Fire: A Journey of Grief and Grace
by Mary Potter Kenyon

“Where is the handbook for widows?” Mary Kenyon lamented as she planned a funeral for the beloved husband whose triumph over cancer she chronicled in Chemo-Therapist: How Cancer Cured a Marriage. During the ensuing weeks, as she attempted to make sense of his untimely death, she filled two journals, blogged, and read the inspirational writings of others who had gone down the road of grief before her–authors like C.S. Lewis and Madeleine L’Engle. She eventually found herself studying grief and bereavement in her quest to unearth answers to alleviating the pain associated with profound loss. In the process, she discovered a strength and emotional reserve she didn’t know she had, along with an evolving faith that helped her face the impending loss of an eight-year-old grandson.

“In the midst of the darkness of loss, I found light. Admittedly, in those first weeks, it might have been but a single small spark I sensed deep inside of me, but that spark guided me in the twisted, dark journey of grief. As I stumbled over the roots of hopelessness and despair, that light grew to illuminate my path, a path I sometimes felt very alone on. At some point in the journey I’d turned around, and there was God. That is grace.”

life happensLife Happens: How to Maintain Family Strength and Unity in the Face of Adversity
by Teresa Clark and Taralyn Clark

It happens to every family. Things are humming along smoothly when suddenly they realize that life is not just a bowl of cherries. An unlooked for event, crisis, or trial threatens to upset the balance of all they consider normal. How will they ever survive and how will they ever get things to return to normal? Is it even possible? What if constant change and adaptation is what “normal” really looks like? In Life Happens Taralyn and Teresa Clark explore life realities and provide much-needed information gained from decades of experience to survive and ultimately thrive in spite of life challenges.

Does It Get Better? (a child’s suicide)

by Sue Endsley

Ryan Mitchell Endsley

It has been almost 14 years since my youngest of three sons, Ryan, took his life at Niagara Falls. I definitely remember those first days, weeks, months, the first year. Three years after Ryan’s death I started a support group for suicide survivors. When people new to the grief of losing a child attend the support group their first questions are does it get better? Will I survive this? Helping others survive and get beyond those first years is what also helped me in my healing and moving forward. So the answer is yes, it does get better.

But it does take a while and you do have to want to move forward. Most important of all is that moving forward does not mean leaving the memory of your child behind. I have moved ahead and keep Ryan’s memory with me always. And I do still get knocked over by a wave of emotion now and then, but it is much less often than at first. Continue reading Does It Get Better? (a child’s suicide)

The FealGood Foundation

by John Feal
Founder and President
FealGood Foundation
Director of the Zadroga Bill (HR 847)

John Feal
John Feal

In slightly more than an hour eleven years ago, nearly three thousand lives were tragically cut far too short. More than three thousand families were instantly re-directed; mourning the loss of their loved ones while wondering how they would navigate their futures without them.

The reaches of September 11th went well past the East and Hudson Rivers. The same terribly historic hour also propelled our nation’s armed forces into battle in two separate countries, causing the loss of hundreds more of this country’s youth and future leaders. Today’s eighteen-year-old servicemen were merely seven-years-old when the fate of their service was determined.

During that same summer hour, thousands of firefighters, police officers, emergency medical technicians, correction officers and emergency personnel converged onto the World Trade Center site in order to save their fellow Americans, hoping their skills and training could save the life of even one person. Soon after, the Twin Towers collapsed. First Responders realized that they would not save their peers, but that their skills would be needed in an entirely different mission, recovery. They would be joined in this mission during the hours, days, weeks and months following the attacks by tens-of-thousands of their brothers and sisters in the construction trades, communication industry and volunteers. The goal of recovery was not limited to the recovery of the personal effects of those lost, but the recovery of this country from one of its darkest moments. Over the next year, the combined efforts of First Responders enabled families to find closure in the burials of their loved ones. They removed the debris from the World Trade Center Site and provided these services with an unmatched dignity, professionalism and heroism. Continue reading The FealGood Foundation

Grieving One of Our Own

by Nancy Miller

July 5, 2014
I spend my time with guilt, horrible grief, regret, missing her.  I know you know these feelings, too.  I know I’m not the only one that has lost a child and feels this way….but I still feel like I’m all alone on an island somewhere.

elkinsRhonda Sellers Elkins was my friend. I had not known her long, but she had written to me after her daughter, Kaitlyn, died last year. Rhonda took her own life on August 29, 2014, sixteen months after her daughter committed suicide. The excerpt above came from an e-mail she sent me just a few weeks ago. She wrote to me often in the past few months, desperately grasping at life, sometimes hanging on by her fingernails. Like all of us have.

July 12, 2014
Nancy, when I think of the people that have gone 10, 20 or 30 years and more, still feeling this loss, it brings me to my knees.  I know it may soften, but even a fraction of this pain is too much to bear, and it’s hard to know I have to live like that until I die one day…who knows when.

Even though she went to support group meetings, tried seeing various therapists, wrote a memoir describing her personal journey, Rhonda was despondent beyond anything she could have imagined. Her grief was a dark room without any door handles, any way of escape. It was suffocating, it slowly squeezed the very breath out of her. She tried for a time, I think, to resist this onslaught of anguish…it overwhelmed her, moment by moment. Continue reading Grieving One of Our Own