Going the Distance

by Benjamin Allen

The death of Benjamin’s wife and two children through an HIV infection became the watershed experience that reshaped his life. Lydia was infected in 1982 at the birth of their first son, Matt. Three months after Bryan’s birth in 1985, the family discovered Lydia and the children’s HIV+ status. Bryan was 8 months old when he died in 1986, Lydia died in 1992 at the age of 38, and Matt was 13 when he died in 1995.

man and seaI wanted to go the distance. At the beginning, it was quite clear what that meant. When he died, distance became different, less clear, a nebulous path of a tenuous life.

Almost three years passed from Lydia’s passing to Matt’s. Bryan died four years before Lydia. From the moment we found out that they were going to die in that thirteen-year span, I wanted to go the distance.

I wanted to walk as closely to each one as I could before death parted us. I wanted to hold all of them with all of me. I wanted to emotional lean into every moment and not turn away. I wanted to place my hand on the flame and not run from the pain. I wanted to be there. Wherever they went I wanted to be there.

Matt and I were very close from the beginning to the end. When the pain of my love reached apex after apex and I wanted to run, I leaned in even further. I needed to go the distance because I knew the distance grows more distant. Continue reading “Going the Distance”

This Star Still Shines

by Lori Earl
This Star Won’t Go Out

Our daughter Esther was born on August 3, 1994 in Beverly, Massachusetts. She was the bridge between two older sisters, Abby and Evangeline, and two younger brothers, Graham and Abraham. In November 2006, Esther was diagnosed with metastasized papillary thyroid cancer in Marseille, France, with extensive tumors already in her lungs. Following a thyroidectomy and seven months of treatment, our family moved back to New England for her continued treatment at Boston Children’s Hospital.

My husband and I had made a commitment early on in our relationship to confront and work through conflicts and problems, and not to run away from them.  We carried this approach into how we raised our children, and into our dealing with Esther’s cancer.  We talked together about the fact that she might die too young.  We encouraged her to speed up high school and work towards her GED. We made a family trip to the cemetery, so that she could pick out her gravesite.  We refused to let the fear of death take away the days we had together.  Through it all, Esther kept on loving her friends and writing in her journals.  She made her last YouTube video just a few days before she died, on August 25, 2010, just a few short weeks after her 16th birthday. Continue reading “This Star Still Shines”

Pain In My Heart

by Paula Osipovitch
Almost Eighteen: A Mother’s Journey Through Grief
Chapter 14

Paua Osipovitch 150X 194PHYSICALLY, it is silent. Emotionally, however, the pain is overwhelming. I dare not shout out my grief, nor do I speak to others who do not have a clue about it. In my heart I cry out your name, frightened someone might hear me.

“Oh, she is still hurting?” They would ask. “After all this time, why is she not ‘over it’ yet? She is dwelling too much.”

My child, in my heart I long for you every moment, whether awake or asleep. Now when I dream of you, I am aware that you are gone and grateful for your presence. Your death has become a new life within me with feelings of being reborn. The person I was does not exist any longer. A piece of me left with you. I want to be with you, but I want to live. I want you back and that would make everything right again. Everyone expects me to get better, but I am not ill, I am just missing you.

Grieving for your child is not a sickness; it is reality, a heart-wrenching reality one must face every day for the rest of one’s life. I heard somewhere that grieving for a child is similar to losing a limb. You will forever long for that missing part, but now you must learn how to live and function without it. Of course there are replacements for a limb, but nothing can replace what or whom you had. Continue reading “Pain In My Heart”

What Do I Do Now, Ian?

by Blair Ackiss

IanGrief is like giving birth except I have no idea when the pain of grief will subside. At least with birth, there is the “baby-is-here” finale where joy and elation take over. Those endorphins are wonderful even after the epidural wears off. I find with grief that there is no shining moment where I am certain that everything will be ok. There seems to be no end to this cycle.

In the first couple of weeks of Ian’s passing, I was in a state of sensory overload. I could see the grass growing. The sounds of the early evening crickets were extremely loud and annoying. Hugs from concerned friends hurt…my skin sensitive to every touch. Everything tasted different or had no taste at all. I can remember telling my mom in the hours after his passing that I just wanted this feeling to go away. I wanted it to be over. Make it stop.

This is not happening.

And in some ways, now, I can see that I had the same thoughts when giving birth to Ian. Make the pain go away. I am scared. This hurts! And everyone kept reminding me to breathe. “Breathe, this feeling will pass and you will be ok. Here, have a sip of water. Better? See, you did it.” Same with grief. I breathe through the pain, take a sip of water and rest before the next round of contracted emotions. I’m birthing something new here.

And when Ian was a newborn, everything made me nervous, even going to the grocery store. What happens if he cries or gets hungry? What am I going to do? Where will I nurse? Will I figure out the car seat? The feelings are quite similar now. What happens if I cry in the grocery store and cannot stop? What happens if I’m trying to talk to a client and I get all weepy? What if, what if, what if?

I figured it out once (crying baby, abandon cart, and go nurse in the car) and I will be able to sort it all out now (crying lady, abandon cart, and go cry in the car). I’m sure I can get this. It will take time and I must remember to be patient with myself. It took a couple of months to get in a routine with Ian. With him gone, I just have to figure out a new routine all by myself.

I used to talk to him so much when he was a baby. There is a loneliness that comes with being a new parent and I spent so much time just telling Ian stuff because I had no other friends with kids. Babies, by the way, are great listeners.blair and ian

I do the same now except that I’m talking to a picture or the air or writing him notes in a journal or on my blog. It’s similar but not the same. There is a loneliness that comes with being a parent that has lost a child. It’s like the first night in the hospital with Ian all to myself, everyone gone, and I’m just looking at him saying, “What the heck do we do now?” Very much the same…except that I am trying to wrap my arms around every single memory I have in order to make some replica of Ian that I can hold. “What the heck do we do now, Ian?” I ask.

The silence that follows is deafening.

About the Author: Blair Ackiss is Ian’s mom. Ian passed away in June 2011 at home in his sleep. His heart skipped a beat and never reset. He was 18. At the suggestion of a very good friend, Blair started a blog, Letters to Ian, a couple of months after his passing in order to sort through feelings of grief and to have some quality “mother/son” time. She continues to write him letters and to share stories in order to keep part of him here in the present.

Blair’s journey has been supported by many friends and family as well as her bereavement counselor at Duke University Unicorn Bereavement Center and her support group of moms who have lost children. She is thankful to all. He has a younger sister referred to as Girl in Blair’s blog. She is 15.

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Almost Eighteen: A Mother’s Journey Through Grief

by Paula Osipovitch

Paula OsipovitchMy name is Paula Osipovitch and I live in Toms River, New Jersey with my husband, George, of 39 years. I have 2 children: George III and my beloved, Trisha, who is now in heaven. I have a wonderful daughter-in-law, Joann, and 3 handsome grandsons, Christopher, Brian and Joseph, who are my reason for living and who keep me focused on enjoying the future.

My goal as a bereaved parent is to one day speak in schools and youth centers to teens about the dangers of driving recklessly. I have facilitated many bereavement groups for parents who have deceased children and have published a book based on my journey through grief entitled Almost 18: A Mother’s Journey Through Grief. In the book, I have chronicled how I have dealt with the death of my daughter and the obstacles that interfered with the grieving process.

Writing has always been a passion of mine ever since I was a child although I now wish I never had the reason for writing this book. I have written because it is based on my life as I knew it then, and my life as I know it now.

I enjoy singing, and have sung for bereavement groups such as The Compassionate Friends which is a worldwide bereavement group for parents who have lost children. I have also written a song entitled My Child of Mine which will soon be available for purchase, it is available to hear on youtube.com.

As parents, our children are a part of us – they give new meaning to the people we once were, the people we are now, and the people we will become in the future. In a certain sense, they are an everyday reminder of the lives we have lived, the choices we have made, the fears we have fought, and the dreams we have embraced. We want nothing more than to see them grow and prosper, to build upon the lives we have given them, and to leave them with a legacy better than that which we ourselves inherited.

And yet, for some parents, those few simple wishes are painfully shattered. For some parents, the unthinkable becomes a cold, previously unimaginable reality.

I am such a parent.

My daughter, Trisha, left this world due to a reckless driver just one month short of her eighteenth birthday. Confusion, rage, anger, and denial became my new world. I felt alone, as if I were free-falling for years. But my words are a sanctuary. My desire is to bring awareness to other parents who have lost children. My message is to convey to bereaved parents that they are not alone on this journey and their feelings are not only acceptable, but also normal.

I hope to provide a forum in which those who suffer as I have can compare their feelings along with mine, can share in the same emotions I have, as we try to learn the best way to continue moving along in a world that for us can never be the same. In truth, there is no formula; there is no step-by-step guide, for each person’s pain is different and unique. What we have in common, however, is the knowledge of how our tragedies have transformed us.

I have tried to offer my take on what I have endured and hope that the stories I recount and the strategies I suggest can offer inspiration to those who find themselves struggling over the same questions as I. Indeed, I’d like to be able to play a part in helping us all discover a smoother road upon which to travel. Thus, this is a compilation of the thoughts, emotions, feelings, and questions that I have taken with me over these past seventeen years. Some are chronicled in the refuge I have sought in journal entries. Others are simply a retelling of a story as I remember it, while others are suggested strategies that have worked for me that I’d like to pass on to others.

Trisha Collage_1

The word “easy” never comes to mind in this scenario. I have endeavored to provide a reference also for those whom have not lost a child, to explain how bereaved parents feel so they, too, are aware of our new personalities. No matter what we have been through, every parent can appreciate the fact that we want to protect our children. That’s what we do! We want to place that band-aid where it hurts, kiss the pain away and make everything better.

Sometimes, it is just “out of our hands” and our backs are against the wall, leaving us to accept that we are not in control and cannot fix what is broken. Here, questions of complicated grief come into play. It is a shock, and torments the lives of parents. A parent never expects to hear the words “She didn’t make it,” or “He’s gone.” You hear these stories on the news, but for some of us it’s a reality: children falling to their deaths, murder, overdoses, suicide, car accidents – as in the case of my beloved daughter, Trisha, who, like many teens, innocently took a ride one day and was tragically killed. I’ve heard stories of parents taking their child to the emergency room with a high fever to be told it is the flu, only to return a day or two later to find their child has passed on. It’s almost impossible to escape the feeling of guilt, the feeling that you didn’t do enough.

It doesn’t matter how old your child was or how they passed. Some were grown, with families and children of their own. Some don’t even reach their first birthday. For some bereaved parents, they must face the loss of their child while mustering the strength to become surrogate parents to their grandchildren. No matter the age and no matter the circumstances, if the tragic event occurs and we are here to bury our child or hold on to his or her ashes, we all cry the same. We all grieve as one. We have gone through the same experience of losing someone we have brought into the world and who we have loved and nurtured.

My husband, George, has written a chapter based on his journey, Grown Men Don’t Cry…or So They Say:book cover A Father’s Perspective.

Men tend to hold their feelings in because that’s what they were told at a young age by their fathers: “Be strong, not weak. Only babies cry.” His chapter is a retelling of a story from childhood. He writes about how he was forced to overcome challenges, trying to be functional in work and obligations to his family after the tragic loss of his beloved daughter.

I have written to express my inner most feelings after my beloved daughter was killed. I have written because it is a misery that no one should bear, but it is a pain that can touch anyone. The emotions I’ve faced for the past eighteen years are expressed story after story. While words can never suffice, my words are my therapy; feeling comfort in the stories I have written about my Princess. The journey on this coaster ride is the toughest road you will ever be on. This is the road no one dares to think about or travel, but are forced to in order to survive.

I pray this book in some way will help other bereaved parents. I pray this book in some way will be an eye opener for others who have NOT lost a child as I explain how a bereaved parent feels. I pray … and that’s what I do!

Paula’s book, Almost 18: A Mother’s Journey Through Grief, is available through lulu.com, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other on-line sources.

Read Paula’s latest article in the April issue of the Bereaved Parents Newsletter

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