On an ordinary September day, twelve-year-old Jack is swept away in a freak neighborhood flood. His parents and younger sister are left to wrestle with the awful questions: How could God let this happen? And, Can we ever be happy again? They each fall into the abyss of grief in different ways. And in the days and months to come, they each find their faltering way toward peace. In Rare Bird: A Memoir of Loss and Love, Anna Whiston-Donaldson unfolds a mother’s story of loss that leads, in time, to enduring hope. Visit her blog, An Inch of Gray
by John Feal
Founder and President
Director of the Zadroga Bill (HR 847)
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. (more…)
by Sydney Vickers
When I think of Peyton, I see his dancing blue eyes and dimples. I see him doing what he loved most – helping others be their best. I see him wearing his University of Miami football shirt and celebrating a win. I see us walking hand-in-hand exploring a new city. I see him on the golf course. I see him at the grill and reading his paper on the patio. I see him at my side, always at my side.
When I think of Peyton I try not to see the cancer that took him in 24 months. I try not to remember hearing the diagnosis of esophageal cancer and the subsequent rounds of chemo, radiation and brutal surgery. I try not to remember a stranger telling me that the cancer had spread to his bones and that he had six months to live. I try not to remember Peyton’s face when I told him the news. I try not to remember when we were told to call Hospice.
When I think of Peyton I want to always be grateful for his worry over me and the way he wrote lists of things for me to do after his death. I want to thank him for his little book called the AP Book (After Peyton) with names and phone numbers of plumbers, electricians – anyone I might need to help with the house, finances or life in general. I want Peyton to know how much I appreciate how hard he fought for life, celebrating our 28th anniversary just a week before he died. (more…)
“Out of the Ashes: Healing in the Afterloss” by Benjamin Allen is a chronicle of the author’s journey through the loss of his wife and two sons to the same devastating illness. Over the course of 13 years, his family died one by one, leaving Benjamin alone in The Afterloss. The world of pain and grief left him reeling, but he did find his footing. His journey to peace is told in raw, vulnerable words that will help others heal as well. ∞
by Maurice Turmel, PhD
1) You will feel better knowing you are not alone with this experience of grief as a result of losing a loved one. Many individuals have traveled this path successfully and, those of us who study these processes, have been hard at work creating the tools and strategies necessary to help you safely negotiate the recovery experience.
2) You will feel better as you become aware of how manageable the healing experience can be while you grow accustomed to using tools that will help you get in touch with your feelings. Once aware of what you are feeling, you will be encouraged you to express those feelings and see for yourself how your stress level will begin to recede. Strategies of denial, anger, withdrawal and repression will be abandoned as they should because you are now aware of what’s necessary to safely manage your recovery experience. (more…)
The Sweeney Alliance is proud to announce our newest educational experience for emergency responders and law enforcement professionals: FIRST STEP HOPE: Not All Wounds Are Visible. Peggy Sweeney, editor of the Grieving Behind the Badge Blog and Mr. Shannon Pennington, founder of North American Fire Fighter Veteran Network, present a very unique, interactive dialogue addressing grief and traumatic loss, PTSD and suicide intervention.
by Doctor Joel Brende
Editor’s Note: It has been stated many times that first responders have a kinship with Vietnam Veterans. Why? Because, like these Vets, they are asking – no, demanding! – help in coping with the horrific images, nightmares, and the other mental and emotional casualties of their professions. Lewis Epright, Sr., a Vietnam Veteran and firefighter, has asked me to share these twelve steps that he and others have found invaluable in coping with their traumas. Thank you, Lewis, for your service and your friendship.
Step One (Power)
Our first step is to accept the fact that we have become powerless to live meaningful lives. Even though we had the power to survive against the worst combat conditions, we must admit we have become powerless to win the battle against a new enemy—our memories, flashbacks, and combat instincts. Some of us have become powerless over the continuing wish to gain revenge over those sudden impulses to hurt those who cross us or unsuspectingly annoy us. We even hurt those who try to love us, making it impossible to love and care for our friends and family. So we isolate ourselves and cause others to avoid, dislike, or even hate us. Our attempts to live meaningful lives and fight this psychological and emotional hell which imprisons us seems to be in vain. We now find ourselves powerless to change it. (more…)
Memorial Pet Portraits from your Photos
by Emma Kaufmann
When you lose a pet you can feel overwhelmed with emptiness. There is that aching feeling at the center of your days. Something is missing - some essential part of you. For a long time you feel that loss. Sometimes it is hard for your friends to understand that a pet you loved so much is gone and that is why you feel lost without your pet companion.
I have talked to those who have lost a pet and know that they feel very alone with their grief. I tell them they need to reach out to friends and family – people who understand and will listen to them in their time of crisis.
I also tell people to surround themselves with laughter. Yes, this might seem odd to you if you have just lost a pet, but finding ways to laugh at yourself and to surround yourself with positive, funny people is one way to move forward from your loss. Laughter is the best medicine. (more…)
Addiction and Post Traumatic Stress: Avoiding a Crisis in Your Home, Workplace and Community
Presenter: Peggy Sweeney, The Sweeney Alliance
Depression, addiction, and post traumatic stress are today’s hot topics. National, state and local leaders scramble to find a “fix” for these problems, but are coming up short on results. Budgets are being stretched, medical costs are increasing, and family cohesiveness is being strained. The numbers of those most in need are growing at an astounding rate. Sadly, too many waiting for help are turning to suicide to cope. This workshop addresses these issues and provides valuable resources available to every person, including our community first responders – law enforcement officers, 911 dispatchers, firefighters, and emergency medical service personnel.
Editor’s Note: I will be presenting a workshops entitled: Addiction and Post Traumatic Stress: Avoiding Crisis in Your Home, Workplace and Community. Open to everyone, but target audience is firefighters/EMS/Corrections/law enforcement/dispatchers. Peggy Sweeney
Recovery is possible and that people recover. Whether you are an individual in recovery, a family member, a friend, a professional in the field, a co-worker or an employer of a person in recovery , we need YOU there. Our message is simple: Recovery Works!
September 2014 marks the 25th Anniversary of the observance of National Recovery Month—a time to reflect on the impact of disease of addiction and mental health, the lessons learned, the lives saved, lives lost and that RECOVERY is possible. Each day of the year is a call to action to continue to build upon our efforts to teach, educate, support and encourage RECOVERY. We are energized because we truly feel that someday we will change how society sees the illness of addiction and the beautiful gift of recovery, so the time is NOW! TOGETHER, we can and must do whatever it takes to ignite the NEW RECOVERY MOVEMENT!
by Peggy Sweeney
The Sweeney Alliance
Grief is overwhelming. We confront grief whenever we experience a loss or a traumatic event. Divorce, loss of a job, a missing child, catastrophic illness, disabling injury, addiction, abuse, the aftermath of a fire or flood, post traumatic stress, caring for a loved one at the end of their life, and, of course, the death of a family member or friend are some examples of grief. Healing our grief is a life-altering and very personal experience. No two people will work through their grief experiences in the same way.
Because grief affects each one of us differently, I have included some resources here that may be of interest to you, especially in the early days, weeks, and months that you are in mourning. Be sure to search for articles on this blog under the heading Healthy Grieving for specific articles on this topic.
This is just a short list of recommended reading. For additional titles, you can view our current list of books in the Good Grief Books section. If you would like to recommend a book(s) you found helpful, please let me know. Include a brief synopsis and why it was beneficial for you. If possible, I will invite the author to share an article for one of our newsletters. firstname.lastname@example.org. (more…)