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Posts from the ‘young child death’ Category

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. Read more

Speak His Name, Please

Bart Sumner

Bart Sumner

Bart Sumner is an actor, screenwriter, improvisational comedy teacher and performer, and national presenter on grief. His son, David, died in 2009 from a severe brain injury suffered while playing football. He is the author of the book HEALING IMPROV: A JOURNEY THROUGH GRIEF TO LAUGHTER, writes the blog “My Stories From The Grief Journey” at the Healing Improv website, and has contributed articles to many other grief support sites online. He is the founder and CEO of the nonprofit HEALING IMPROV, which provides no-cost Comedy Improv Grief Workshops to people struggling with finding the road forward after loss. You may contact Bart through his email or Twitter @Healing_Improv. Visit his Facebook page.

The following is a chapter from his book- HEALING IMPROV: A JOURNEY THROUGH GRIEF TO LAUGHTER. Available on Amazon in paperback and on Kindle.

I mean, they say you die twice. One time when you stop breathing and a second time, a bit later on, when somebody says your name for the last time.” ~Bansky

When a person you love dearly dies, one of the hardest things to come to terms with is the reality you will never see them again, you will never hear their laughter, you will never hug them, or feel their touch, or smell them or simply enjoy the presence of them being there beside you watching the idiot box silently from the couch. All interaction is gone. The only place they live on is in your memory. The good things cement themselves in your reminiscences forever and much of the bad or annoying things fade away. The fact that there are no new memories to be made is oft times crippling. Because of this, tears and weeping happen at the drop of a hat. And let’s face it, most people are uncomfortable when someone they are talking to suddenly becomes misty eyed, and their voice begins to tremble. Perhaps this is why most people are afraid to mention the person that died in conversation. The trepidation of bringing the griever pain and heartache keeps people from discussing them at all. Read more

Tommy’s Life: It’s The Legacy That Matters (a story about seizures)

By Mike Ross

tommy-and-seizuresAll of us are going to die, and it doesn’t matter how long you live, but rather the legacy that you leave behind. Quality vs quantity is how you judge it, and my son Tommy changed a lot of people’s views in his five years on Earth.

Tommy was born on July 21, 2004, and I’ll never forget seeing him for the first time. His blond locks of hair, blue eyes that just seemed to sparkle, and his closed fist when he entered this world. He even gave a “thumbs up” on the warming table. To see this eight pound five ounce baby, and to hold him in my arms was an emotional experience. I’m not ashamed to say that I cried tears of joy, and the feeling of being a father was a remarkable, special moment that changed everything. Read more

The Disguised Blessing

by Deborah Anthony

Deb Anthony154X193Once again, it is my pleasure and honor to have been invited by Peggy Sweeney to participate in her undertakings to support bereaved parents. I have been a bereaved Mom since 1984, became a healed bereaved Mom in 2004 and upon successfully completing my own journey, helping others has become a passion for me also.

I would like to share an excerpt from my newest book, Recapturing the Joy “Bridging the Grief Gap”.  I authored and published this one in 2013 and its goal is to close the gap that exists between the bereaved and those wishing to support us.  This excerpt is from the Epilogue of the book and I am trusting it will be of interest to both grievers and non-grievers.  For the purposes of this article, I am calling it ….

“The Disguised Blessing”

I would like to share my thoughts on what I refer to as the disguised blessing.  We all have it and it is my wish that upon reading the following remarks, you each will choose to acknowledge your ownership of it and use it accordingly.  That is my wish for both grievers and non-grievers.

Read more

KNOCK, KNOCK

by Tom Wyatt

knock-knockKnock , Knock,
Who’s there?
Daddymisses.
Daddymisses who?
Daddy misses you .

Knock, Knock use to make me laugh,
They were the jokes he’d tell;
Knock , knock always made me laugh,
When he was here and all was well.

Knock, knock doesn’t make me laugh
it brings a tear to my eye;
Knock, knock doesn’t make me laugh,
why did my little boy die?

KNOCK, KNOCK it’s killing me and tearing
me apart;
KNOCK, KNOCK I’m dying God, dying of a
broken heart.

Knock, knock I need you God to help me through
this mess;
Knock, knock I’m praying God please make
the burden less.

Knock, knocks used to make me laugh and
they will again in time;
Knock, knocks will make me laugh when I
feel his hand in mine.

August, 1991

About the Author: Tom Wyatt earned a M.B.A. from Washington University and began his career as a stock broker then later as a small business owner. Following the death of his four-year old son, Johnny, on March 5, 1991, Tom became very active in Compassionate Friends. He currently writes and shares articles and poems for Bereaved Parents of the USA. After receiving his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology in 2000 from the University of Missouri, Tom has been counseling bereaved parents pro bono. He and his wife, Ruth, have three children; Blake (27), Johnny (4) and Kelsey (20) and two grandchildren.

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Tiven Collin Dailey (a poem)

by Jon Collin Dailey, his Daddy

We little knew that morning; God had called your name.
In life we loved you dearly; in death we do the same.
It broke our hearts to lose you, you did not go alone.
Part of us went with you the day God called you home.
You left us beautiful memories; your love is still our guide,
And though we cannot see you, you’re always by our side.
Our family chain is broken, nothing seems the same,
But as God calls us one by one, the chain will link again…

collin collage

Starting All Over Again (part 1 of 2)

by Mitch Carmody

a chronological view of the bereavement process from the perspective of a bereaved parent

Mitch CarmodyIf you want to go the extremes of grief to try and understand the complexities of the bereavement process one should study the bereaved parent. No other loss is more devastating than the death and physical loss of a child. No other loss leaves your heart as deeply and mortally wounded for life. No other loss is more difficult to accept. Even among bereaved parents there is a plethora of differences that set individual grief journeys apart and in how each bereaved parent processes the loss of a child. However, we are all forced to accept the unacceptable: the physical loss of our child forever.

We have all heard of the five stages of grief that have been accepted and used worldwide for the most part without question: Shock, Anger, Denial, Bargaining and Acceptance. For the person dying, for parents living the nightmare of watching their child die, or the parents hearing of the news of their child’s tragic death these stages may aptly apply in the initial response to the death or imminent death. But with the ensuing months and years that follow I feel the stages do not adequately represent the true reality of the bereavement process following the death of a child.

In accepting that initial reality of their sudden death or imminent demise, the stages are a natural progression of emotions to that loss. But for the bereaved parent in the early months and subsequent years following the loss of a child there is no linear progression of stages of grief that is a ‘one-size fits all’. We find that the societies’ accepted stages of grief do not fit our life as we have come to know it.

If there are true stages in our long term bereavement process, there are only two: shock, and the road to acceptance. Everything else falls in between. Both denial and bargaining are insults to our intelligence, of course we know our child is dead, we buried them. We cannot strike a bargain with God or anyone that can change that fact. We may continue to experience denial the first moment in the morning when we open our eyes and realize it was not a dream, but we are not in clinical denial; we just don’t want to believe it’s true that our child could be dead.

Depression and anger are very real emotions that we will experience, but they are not stages, they are tools of survival and a condition of our new normal. Depression brings us to emotional pain levels that we need to experience as we continue to process the enormity of our loss and also serves to protect us from the assaults of the outside world. Anger channeled constructively can be a powerful force for positive change and be a healing process in and of itself. Anger turned inward or manifested in a negative way is concurrent to healing and can only cause more pain.

Bereaved parents trying to fit themselves into the accepted stages of grief find themselves frustrated if they have not gone ‘through’ the stages as outlined. Very vulnerable, the new bereaved parent–still somewhat in shock—will begin processing the loss of a child as the mores of society dictate. Following three days of bereavement leave from work, its back to your job and start getting on with your life. For surely in a few months you will be over your loss and will quietly blend back into the workplace, as hoped for and expected by most. At first you will be greeted with embarrassed looks by co-workers who almost hurt themselves by either making an unanticipated hallway dodge, or an abrupt u-turn. Others become ad-hoc bulletin board readers or mutterers hiding behind magazines. Those skillful with avoiding eye contact will utilize their skill, while the less creative will employ urgent rest room needs. These and other methods are all ruses to avoid the uncomfortable contact with the bereaved parent.

People practice avoidance to avoid bringing up the subject of your loss which they feel will be sure to acerbate your pain. They also have their own concerns that they might be put into a position to have to say something profound and/or healing when they know there is nothing that can be said or done to take away your pain. From time to time, we ourselves play the artful dodger role when we do not want “to go there”. Sometimes the actions we see in others are reflections of our own projection.

I remember one time seeing a person coming towards me down the hallway at work one morning a fewsunrise_1 months after my son had died. The young man rounded a corner whistling and glancing cheerfully at the headlines of his morning paper, unaware of his overfull coffee mug leaving a trail behind him. Then I notice that he catches site of me in his peripheral vision and he scrunches further into the pages of his paper. He suddenly became more engrossed in the paper as we neared each other in the narrow corridor. I was feeling down with transitional edginess from a few real bad days and did not want to hear any morning weather reports or exchange cheerful drivel, so I dodged to the right just as we neared each other, he then dodged to the same direction, we both reversed several times and at the same moment we both spoke and said, “Care to dance?”

We each laughed loudly in a very natural way and automatically hugged one another without compunction. He whispered in my ear with the compassion of a Mom tending her sick child, “How are you doing, man?” I pulled back from our brief embrace and looked him straight in the eye and responded that up to this moment I was having a very bad day. “Thanks for the dance”. We both laughed as we walked away my heart lighter, his heart brighter. Sometimes we avoid contact with others just as they seemingly do with us. Just under the surface our racing emotions are left unseen and unexpressed. In a spontaneous or forced contact situation with another, our emotions can be released like the welcome eruption of a festering boil. Although it hurts briefly, we sigh with relief that the dam has finally burst.

The first year back to work is a difficult challenge for the bereaved parent, but remember you are still an infant in your new normal, barely a few weeks old. We get lost in a forever wandering mind of our own internal dialogues. We have no attention span for the language of the real world and depend on Post It notes to remember everything. We trip more; spill things more, lose things, and get lost on a simple errand. We develop techniques to get things done, but the color is gone from our life. Those around us appear to be living in full Technicolor while we are relegated to dull, flat, still and dark monotones of the person we once were; we are changed forever.

The loss of a child is terminal bereavement. We start all over again and try to figure this our ‘new normal’. It is a new beginning in all sense of the word and our clocks are reset. We construct new concepts, new ways of looking at life…not from the passage of time but from an amalgamation of events and experiences. In the depths of early grief time seems to stand still, so it is with an infant; time has no meaning, all that matters is that we be comforted. As an infant grows to childhood, time will appear to accelerate just as it will for us and we shall cry less often, get up and walk all by ourselves and become curious about the world around us.

In essence I believe we are born again into a new life that starts the moment our child dies and ends the day we die. We start marking time just as a new born baby does, day by day, year by year in a slow progression of discovery of the person left behind. A slow metamorphosis of the psyche, like the Phoenix we rise from the ashes of our despair and become our new found destiny as surely as the maturing baby keeps trying to walk. We need to go through that progression of life developments and stages of growth that a child goes through in becoming an adult; we need to learn to crawl before we can walk. We need to grieve naturally, not stages of grief but stages of life development that takes years–not months– to progress through.

In support of this theory I offer parallels to similar behaviors as drawn by the famous behaviorist and psychiatrist Erik Erickson in 1956 and his 8 stages of social –emotional development of a child from infant to adult. These stages of development are accepted world wide and used in most institutions of higher learning.

According to Erickson, the socialization process consists of eight phases- the eight stages of man. Each stage is regarded by Erikson as a “psychosocial crisis” which arises and demands resolution before the next stage can be satisfactorily negotiated. Stages that build on each other, each previous stage supporting the next and so on in a structural sense that demands each stage be achieved before moving on to the next. It is I who postulate their relevance and key to understanding the long term grief process that a bereaved parent is suffered to endure. I believe we are vulnerable and needy as a new born child and we grow into our new normal just as a child takes his first steps.

The world you knew is gone; time stops, your brain is in code blue and reality as you know it fades from conscious thought; you are propelled into a world of disbelief. Taken from a world that you knew and understood, a world of warmth and security, you find yourself head first in a cold painful world of the unknown. It’s hard to see, you are shaking, insecure and frightened of what’s ahead. Tears flow from your eyes, you feel cold and lost and just want someone to hold you and tell you it’s just a dream.

Am I describing a baby just being born into this world, or a parent just hearing the news of or witnessing the death of their child? It could be both since both describe being thrust into the unknown and faced with the continuing challenges of survival.

Life without our child; our new normal, our new life. Just as a newborn baby needs to adjust to a new environment, so do we. Just as an infant does that first year we shall cry a lot, sometimes way into the night, sleep for a few hours, only to wake up frightened, cry and then sleep some more. You will find people taking care of your simplest needs for you and without compunction, you offer no resistance. As if in a daze you allow others into your close personal space, finding it feels good to be cared for. You will have accidents, you will be unsure of yourself, you will be scared to venture out, be hesitant with strangers, and testy when you’re tired. And… you’re always tired. You will want to explain what hurts and find you have no words that can express your thoughts. Food will be tasteless and you will eat in a perfunctory fashion, yet coupled with an unabated thirst that cannot be slaked; the scratch that cannot be itched. So we find pacifiers to slake the unquenchable, indefinable thirst that gnaws at our being. Again does this describe an infant or a bereaved parent functioning at the base primal level of 1st year survival?

Continued with part two HERE

About the Author: Mitch lost his father to heart disease when he was 15 years old and his mother died of lung cancer in 2000. At 21 he lost his older brother from progressive degenerative cerebral palsy. At age 29 his twin sister and her two young sons were killed in an automobile accident. Less than a year later his son Kelly was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor and ultimately died in 1987. Since then, Mitch has dedicated his life to serving the bereaved in any way.

BookcoverMitch is the author of Letters To My Son, a journey through grief and the newly released 2nd edition Turning Loss to Legacy. Mitch is currently a staff writer with Living with Loss Magazine and has published many articles for a variety of national grief periodicals, newsletters, and internet sites as well as appearing in many radio and television interviews. He is an accomplished artist and creator of the innovative 20 Faces of Grief, which uses his own incredible creations in pencil of the many components of the grief journey. His ground breaking S.T.A.I.R.S model of grief staging has essentially replaced the Kubler Ross stages of grief with a more realistic modality of the bereavement process. Mitch is also the prognosticator of Proactive Grieving, which he believes is a paradigm shift in grief recovery and frequently addresses this in his keynote presentations.

He is well known for his enduring workshop “Whispers of Love, Signs from our Children” which has been a favorite conference presentation for over 5 years and is usually standing room only. He also performs interpretive sign language to many songs that he calls ”Songs of Sorrow” and weaves them in throughout most of his presentations as well as a workshop titled by the same name.

He and Alan Petersen also collaborate on a full day workshop for all types of loss called “A Day with Mitch and Alan” a day filled with music, mirth and healing for all who attend.

Mitch’ main message is that we CAN survive and even thrive after a significant loss in our lives. He wants to not only help the bereaved, but help to educate society on how best to treat the newly bereaved.

For more information on these and other workshop titles and schedule of upcoming events go to:
Heartlight Studios or write to: heartlightstudios@gmail.com

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Starting All Over Again (Part 2 of 2)

by Mitch Carmody

Read part one of Mitch’s message HERE

A chronological view of the bereavement process from the perspective of a bereaved parent based on the Erik Erikson’s Developmental Stages.

Stage One: Learning Basic Trust Versus Basic Mistrust (hope).
The first year

The world, God, Kismet or the fates of life, have stolen our child from our arms, caused them pain and continues to assault us with more pain and deprivation. How do we ever trust again? Baby steps; we learn all over again. We will try to stand and fall, we will try to walk and stumble, we shall try to explain and cry in frustration, not finding the words that anyone can understand. We are dependant on others for our own survival; we reach out for anyone to pick us up and pat us on the back and make it all right. We want to be comforted on our own terms until we can understand this new world we are forced to accept. Sometimes this comfort comes from perfect strangers

If we are well handled and cared for, we shall develop optimism, a sense of hope and we grieve naturally. If the grieving is delayed, so will the first step towards optimism and the whole bereavement process will be chronologically delayed. Sometimes without help, a bereaved parent can be stuck forever, never finding hope, never building on that next stage of development that we must also go through. That is just the first year following the loss of a child. At the risk of being glib, we then head into the “terrible twos”, our second year of grieving that is more often worse than the first.

Stage Two: Learning Autonomy versus Shame (Will)
Two year to four years

Every morning when you open your eyes you get a mini-jolt that your child’s death was not a dream. On the second year of healing every day’s calendar memory reminds us a year ago on this day our child was dead. Today is real and with it comes another full day of painful memories just waiting to rip your heart apart. The world thinks you are on the mend while you are just beginning to understand its going to take a long time; a very long time. The second year calendar days mark time with memories of the sting of their death and the ensuing life change that followed. It is like starting all over again but without the numbness, and for the most part, the world now expects that you should be over it.sunrise_1

The terrible twos, the second year of healing, when anger, frustration, apathy, anxiety and depression play tag team for control. The loss begins to become real, and separation anxiety kicks into high gear. Extreme concentration becomes necessary in order to accomplish almost any task, and every task seems to deplete you physically. You will have accidents, loose things, and forget appointments, trip, stumble and fall.

You want to feel better, be able to talk normal, care about things again, but yet it’s hard to leave behind that initial, albeit painful but protective cocoon of grief that has protected you for so long. A butterfly cannot turn back into a caterpillar no matter how hard he tries and may be fearful of breaking free of its cocoon. Just as a baby longs for independence, it still clings to and longs for the security and comfort of bottle, crib and someone who cares. We struggle with many mixed emotions during our second year of healing.

We can fly into a rage at a moments notice, cry uncontrollably out of the blue, say NO to everything, don’t eat what is on our plate, we want our nap, we scream out, “Its not Fair”, we pout, we are difficult to be around, we sometimes run around like a chicken with its head cut off and we fall into an exhausted pile and sleep. Begging to be left alone one minute, and then begging for hugs the next. Are these symptoms of our second year and third year of our bereavement process? Or a two-year old learning autonomy? Hard to tell one from the other isn’t it?

Stage Three: Learning Initiative Versus Guilt purpose)
Five to seven Years

We as bereaved parents entering our 5th of year of experiencing life without our child will usually feel we have hit a benchmark, a milestone in recovery from our devastating loss; yet still feel without purpose. If active steps have been taken to integrate our loss into our new life, by this time we are starting to broaden our experiences, reaching out to the world and see how we fit into it. We may go back to school, change careers, start a foundation, lead a recovery group, get involved, and dare I say make plans for the future. Imagine! We can have a life again.

As an inquisitive youth we are discovering the nature of our selves (our new normal) and naturally gravitate toward experiences that can bring interaction with the world. To hunger for knowledge, love, and pleasure, to experience growth and maybe even have fun again. To become involved with support groups, attend meetings, as a leader and/or contributing follower, all show a desire to invest in life again. At this point you may have discovered ways to help process your loss that helps to heal or support others in their pain or grief and found relief yourself in the process of the giving.

Not working on proactive ways to heal from your pain you may become stuck in unresolved anger or apathy and not want to move beyond a previous stage, staying dependant on others for your needs and avoiding interaction with the world that has hurt you so badly; picking up your softball, glove and your bat and slinking back home.

Stage Four: Industry Versus Inferiority (Competence)
Seven to twelve years

Seven to twelve years following the loss of your child you have more than likely have fully integrated back into the work place and the world in general. Your loss to most people is not known or forgotten about and is ancient history. At this point in our journey we may be even be playing catch up with the world that has moved on so quickly while we were absent from it. At this juncture of our bereavement process we are honing the new skills we have learned in our survival of the horrific loss we have to bear. Our social skills improving, once again we hunger for more of what life has to give, experience more love, more joy, to see more of the world. We are willing to take on tasks, become a team player once again and work hard to accomplish goals.

If on our grief journey we have not gone through an earlier developmental stage of our ‘new normal’ we may still be caught in a negative, guilt based position of being defeated and have no thoughts to the future. With most thoughts locked in the past we might be stuck in anger without resolve and used to living life feeling inferior, beaten, with no hope of redemption. Life sucks; I have no friends who understand; I am lonely. I am bitter. I am bogged down in the past and simply do not care!

Stage Five: Learning Identity Versus Identity Diffusion (fidelity)
Thirteen to twenty years

From thirteen years to twenty years in your bereavement process and if you have experienced every previous developmental stage of life progressions in your new normal, you may finally have come to terms with who you are now; the transmogrification of your post child- loss identity almost complete. You have integrated into your new normal and how the loss of your child has changed your life. You accept that change and build on it, even look for growth opportunities that are presented to you in your new life. You have the strength to take on causes and make positive changes. At the same time you may still have feelings of self-doubt and despair. You may still not want to move forward, frightened you may forget. This insecurity in moving forward may cause one to long for the security of the old days of early grief despite its’ extreme pain.

BookcoverBy this time in the process of your bereavement you may have allowed yourself to love again. You may have lost relationships with many friends, some even the closest of friends or relatives as well as other acquaintances lost through attrition. It may be by our choice that we have lost friends or by their choice. Sometimes, it is no-ones choice and bonds just dissolve; lost in the sheer battle to survive our loss. You may experience further loss from divorce in a marriage that could not survive the storm; you may have children in college, married or have simply moved away to experience their life; you could even have possibly suffered more personal loss by death.

Stage Six: Learning intimacy Versus Isolation (Love)
Twenty years and longer

By now in your journey you have learned to value more than ever the relationships that survived and the new ones that were created. New friends, more children and or grandchildren, new marriage, or a new job may already be an integral part of your life and you have felt joy again.

As bereaved parents at this point in our journey we may find our old selves and our new normal selves merging onto the same road. We integrate the wisdom of our former and present self together and we meet the challenges of the life as we now perceive it. This is where we truly get back on the sidewalk and walk neck and neck with the fortunate others with our head held high and meet life’s challenges on an equal and level playing field again…only we have an edge. No one can hurt us anymore than we have been hurt! We can take the risk to be ourselves fully, play no roles, and strive to make a difference where we can without remorse.

If you have not completed these stages in life progressively with or without experiencing a loss in your loss you may be stuck forever in one or another stage and may never find true joy or the meaning to your life. We always have a choice to make efforts to back up a stage or two and start over.

Stage Seven: Learning Generativity Versus Self-Absorption (Care)

In our new normal, the last two stages can give each of us an opportunity to experience phenomenal growth in areas of both creativity and productivity. After all, by this time a parent has not only survived the unnatural experience of the death of a child, but many parents have suffered untold challenges in many other areas of their lives as well and somehow have been able to move forward on the road to a fulfilling life. Some parents may become dependent on prescription medications or alcohol and have to fight their way back to normalcy and sobriety in the midst of their grief work. Having undergone a myriad of other losses in addition to the loss of a child and having survived huge life changes, the typical parent has by this stage become a pillar of strength. Although still pitied by many they have garnered much respect and awe as a survivor of the unthinkable.

At this stage of your ‘natural life’ merging with your ‘bereaved life’, if you have not already done so, you can take your “Mulligan” and start again. After all, you have survived the loss of your child and nothing else in life can be so hard. Grief has forced you to come in contact with your entire range of emotions, grief has taught you how to keep on working when you could not care if you starved and or became homeless; grief taught you how to respond to others around you in socially appropriate ways when you could have cared less; grief forced you to create new innovative ways to jump start your life again. Because of your journey you may have recognized for the first time the music that truly emanates from your heart and your feet long to dance to its tune.

Stage Eight: Integrity Vs Despair (Wisdom)

This last stage that Erickson outlined we reach or do not reach regardless of our grief journey. I feel every one of us goes through, or does not go through, all these stages of human development in the process of experiencing life on this planet. If we experience the first six stages of development fully and sequentially the last two stages will only enhance our lives and the lives of those around us and we will find ourselves making a difference in this world. This last stage is up to us, what we have learned on the journey and how we choose to use that knowledge.

When you experience the loss of a child your life is changed forever and in essence you start all over again in the developmental stages of life. Just as in your own birth experience and its developmental stages of life that you complete or do not complete are so unique, so it is with your bereavement experience for the loss of a child. Everyone’s journey is so different. What is the same although is the lifetime journey to find purpose in our lives. The loss of a child can cripple you forever if you let it. Life can cripple your life forever, if you let it. If we bury our life with our child’s body, then two lives are wasted, joy is non-existent and the world itself diminished.

Your personal journey of development in your new normal chronologically will be varied as we are. Delayed active grieving such as in the case of murder or a negligent accident may propel parents into many years of legal battles and painful memories that continue to bombard their psyche. In cases such as this, processing of grief may be delayed and the journey lengthened. Conversely active grief work, such as taking on a bereavement group leadership role, creating a foundation, volunteerism, all can accelerate the process and one may find that they are moving through the developmental stages more rapidly.

If we create a legacy in our child’s name with our life, we in essence start a new relationship with our child and in the process give them life. When we can continue to be a part of their life and recognize our continual part in it -joy will come into our heart once more. It may take a lifetime or a few years but joy will eventually return. When we feel joy again, our love is validated and the world is enriched.

If we have breath… there is reason to love.
If we have love… there is reason to live.

Mitch CarmodyAbout the Author: Mitch lost his father to heart disease when he was 15 years old and his mother died of lung cancer in 2000. At 21 he lost his older brother from progressive degenerative cerebral palsy. At age 29 his twin sister and her two young sons were killed in an automobile accident. Less than a year later his son Kelly was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor and ultimately died in 1987. Since then, Mitch has dedicated his life to serving the bereaved in any way.

Mitch is the author of Letters To My Son, a journey through grief and the newly released 2nd edition Turning Loss to Legacy. Mitch is currently a staff writer with Living with Loss Magazine and has published many articles for a variety of national grief periodicals, newsletters, and internet sites as well as appearing in many radio and television interviews. He is an accomplished artist and creator of the innovative 20 Faces of Grief, which uses his own incredible creations in pencil of the many components of the grief journey. His ground breaking S.T.A.I.R.S model of grief staging has essentially replaced the Kubler Ross stages of grief with a more realistic modality of the bereavement process. Mitch is also the prognosticator of Proactive Grieving, which he believes is a paradigm shift in grief recovery and frequently addresses this in his keynote presentations.

He is well known for his enduring workshop “Whispers of Love, Signs from our Children” which has been a favorite conference presentation for over 5 years and is usually standing room only. He also performs interpretive sign language to many songs that he calls ”Songs of Sorrow” and weaves them in throughout most of his presentations as well as a workshop titled by the same name.

He and Alan Petersen also collaborate on a full day workshop for all types of loss called “A Day with Mitch and Alan” a day filled with music, mirth and healing for all who attend.

Mitch’ main message is that we CAN survive and even thrive after a significant loss in our lives. He wants to not only help the bereaved, but help to educate society on how best to treat the newly bereaved.

For more information on these and other workshop titles and schedule of upcoming events go to:
Heartlight Studios or write to: heartlightstudios@gmail.com

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Look! Up in the Sky…

by Tom Wyatt

Tom Wyatt_2I won’t presume to speak for every bereaved father, but I’m sure quite a few will concur with me. My grief is directly related to my love for John. Even though I didn’t give birth to him, I loved him with every ounce of my being. No one had a stronger bond to him.

It has been my experience that fathers land on a scale somewhere between sperm donor and completely devoted father. I was, and am still, at the devoted end of the scale.

With my grief I can draw the analogy of a tree. The roots and trunk of the tree represent the intense pain that his death has brought. The amount of love that I have for Johnny was suddenly multiplied infinitely into pain. It was both a physical and emotional pain.

The branches of this grief tree are the by-products of the pain.

Society tells men that we are the great protectors of our families. I myself bought into this “Superman” fantasy. I relished in and loved that look in Johnny’s eyes that said that his dad could do anything.

When I stepped outside and saw my little boy laying some 20 feet away and obviously dead I knew that I had committed the most grievous of sins. I had failed to protect my baby and he was gone forever. I wanted to be able to pick him up, wipe the blood from his face and tell him that daddy would make it all right.

I was forced to admit to and live with the fact that I am only mortal. I began to view myself as a failure and I let it affect me to such a point that it led to my suffering a mild stroke on December 24, 1993.

I was always someone who held his feelings in. When my brother died I showed almost no emotion. It just wasn’t what a man did. When John died I couldn’t hold it in. I cried so much and for so long. I still cry four years later.

It seemed that people around me were willing to give me a grace period for this unmanly behavior, but when they felt it had been long enough, I should “be a man”.

People wouldn’t ask me how I was but they would say, “How’s Ruth, this must be so hard on her.” I guess

Johnny Wyatt

Johnny Wyatt

they thought that it was a walk in the park for me. Fathers, in some eyes, aren’t supposed to hurt. I had no place where it was safe to cry until I found the Compassionate Friends.

Another branch on the tree were the resentments that I felt. I resented my wife because I could not cry around her. I resented her for not being there for me. I resented myself for being so inadequate. All of this resentment almost ruined our marriage.

The grief had distorted everything, and luckily I woke up before it ripped us apart. I realized that I felt that I had not only let Johnny down, I had failed Ruth and Blake also. It was very difficult to look them in the eye.

My grief has made me a more compassionate person. I’m a much easier going person when it comes to the little things.

My grief, at times, has made me a very angry person. My grief also has made me a better father. I cherish every moment that I spend with Blake and Kelsey. The other night my daughter, Kelsey, had a high fever due to an ear infection. I laid with her all night long. I didn’t sleep, I just rocked her and rubbed her neck. There was a time when, because this was a non-life threatening problem, I probably would have felt put upon. Now I held her warm little body next to me, and tried to send as much love into her as I could. I cherished the ability to comfort my little girl. You see, she still thinks I can do everything.

Look! Up in the sky … It’s a bird .. . It’s a plane … No! It’s a father.

Just don’t look too closely or you’ll see the wires. God bless us all, and may we find peace.

This article was originally published in The Compassionate Friends newsletter in 1995.

About the Author: Tom Wyatt earned a M.B.A. from Washington University and began his career as a stock broker then later as a small business owner. Following the death of his four-year old son, Johnny, on March 5, 1991, Tom became very active in Compassionate Friends. He currently writes and shares articles and poems for Bereaved Parents of the USA. After receiving his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology in 2000 from the University of Missouri, Tom has been counseling bereaved parents pro bono. He and his wife, Ruth, have three children; Blake (27), Johnny (4) and Kelsey (20) and two grandchildren.

Tom’s other writings:
It Just Goes to Show
Joy to the World
Seeing Clearly in the Smoke
Play That Funky Music
Déjà Vu
I’ll Take the Beef Chow Mein
Daddy Misses You
Enough Angels

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Pregnancy and Infant Loss: Raising Awareness, Removing the Stigma

by Nneka Hall

NnekacollageNo mother-to-be ever wants to hear the words, “I’m sorry. There’s no heartbeat.” Sadly, on August 26, 2010, those words became my immediate reality. I went in for a routine appointment and found out every dream that I had for my third born would remain a series of dreams. Annaya Marie Edwards entered this world at 39 weeks gestational age during the early morning of August 27, 2010 amidst the tears of the attending medical staff, a Great Aunt and me. August 27th will forever be a bittersweet day as my daughter was born still on my 37th birthday.

I suffered in silence for nearly six months. Then, I began giving back. I gave back by donating time to various organizations and the community which embraced me when others told me to “get over” or “move beyond” my loss. I watched and waited. I watched as each organization and group worked individually on event after event. I waited, as with baby steps, they made progress and continued to welcome newcomers into the fold. It was during this time that I began to wonder what we, as a loss community united, could accomplish. Read more