Friday, December 31, 2010

Resolutions for the New Year ahead

A New Year is dawning – and some say it’s a time for resolutions. For those of us who are grieving the death of our child, resolutions can be different from those of our friends and families. We hope these resolutions might help you to find peace and joy throughout the new year ahead…
  • I will try not to imagine the future and take one day at a time.
  • I will allow myself to cry, both alone and with my loved ones.
  • I will not shut out family and friends from my thoughts and feelings.
  • I will take care of my health. A sick body will only compound my troubles. I will drink a lot of water, take multivitamins, rest (even if I don’t sleep) and exercise moderately. I will help heal my body as well as my mind.
  • I will keep a journal to see my progress through grief.
  • I will be patient with myself
  • I will learn to accept that the journey through grief does not meet a specific timetable
  • I will share my feelings with friends and let them share with me. I realize I am coming out of my shell when I care about the pain of others.
  • I will try not to expect so much understanding from those who have not walked the same path.
  • I will learn to accept the help and kindness of others.
  • I will be kind to myself, and appreciate my health, appearance, and time alone.
  • I will try to be more considerate of my spouse and children; I know that they are also grieving and deserve my help.
  • I will try to concentrate on my blessings, instead of my losses.
  • In memory of my child, I will do something to help someone else. This way, my child can live on through me.
  • I will celebrate my child, instead of focusing on the circumstances of their death.
  • I will remember that I owe it to myself and to my child to enjoy life.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Beyond Surviving: Jack Cain's Story “Living in the NOW”

After our son Bobby took his own life a little more than 15 months ago on Sept. 19, 2009, a friend sent me this article hoping that it would help bring me peace.

I have read this article countless times; first to remind myself that I am not alone, also that it can be worse - and it certianly can be.  But most importantly I read it to remind myself that life will and should go on; and that how my life goes on is a choice that only I can and must make.  Despite the tragedy of that day Bobby died, I want Bobby's life to be remembered for all the wonderful 13,165 days of his young life - not that one day when he choose to go home to heaven.  Bobby loved life and lived it to the fullest - he always saw the cup as half full - and the best in all situations, or so we thought - but that is what I choose to remember and I want that sense of positive optimism to be instilled in his 2 little boys and each and every member of our family.  That to me is Bobby's legacy and until we meet again I hope I can and will live life to the fullest and enjoy all the joy there is to behold.  We are so blessed with a wonderful family, 8 beautiful healthy grandchildren and another on the way in January - We have so much to be thankful and joyous for...  And Jack Cains story helps remind me of that each time I read it..  I hope you will find it healing, despite the way in which your child died - the lessons are the same..   Cherie Houston

~ by Jack Cain

"As horrible as the experience of suicide was, it taught us to appreciate our life in the moment and not to live our lives in the past and certainly not to fear the future." Hello. My name is Jack Cain. Ten years ago, I lost my son to suicide. In the following year, I lost my wife to ovarian cancer and my 34 year-old daughter to congestive heart failure.

My son Adam was 27 years old. He had a very long history of emotional problems, and used both drugs and alcohol. He had been hospitalized for depression for months before he died. He seemed to be getting better, but killed himself just two weeks after being released.

One night, after my wife and I had gone to bed, Adam went into the garage, and with the overhead door closed, turned on the car while he was sitting in it. I found his body the next morning. Our family did its best to cope. Unfortunately, this came at a very difficult time because my wife was battling ovarian cancer. I became convinced that some part of Adam’s decision to kill himself was that he knew my wife was going to die, and chose not to be there.

Our immediate response after his suicide was questioning what we might have done differently to prevent this from happening. We did not dwell too long on the subject because we knew in our hearts that we had always done what was best for him. Today, when I look back, I believe that grief is necessary, but guilt and regrets are totally counterproductive.

At some point, perhaps because my wife was so ill, an idea evolved. My wife and I were living our remaining time together, in pain that came from dealing in the past. Any happiness was crowded out by thoughts of Adam’s suicide. We were living in the past instead of the present. Little by little we learned to replace the past by doing what we called “Living in the NOW”. We learned to appreciate each day and its beauty, instead of allowing the past to consume us. I eventually wrote down these thoughts on the process of NOW and I practice them every day, sometimes a number of times a day.

After my wife died, I was alone in my grief. It came to me in waves; as years went by, the pain decreased a bit, and the waves became further and further apart. I was eventually able to control the grief, so that it came only when it was invited, but this took years to accomplish.

My perspective on life at the moment is very positive. I regard myself as a very lucky person. I now live with my daughter, her husband, and my two grandchildren, and our lives together are marvelous. In the past year, my Significant Other, Anne, and I were fortunate to find each other, filling the voids in each other’s lives. I am heavily into photography of homeless people; I sell their portraits to raise money for Fotokids, an organization that teaches photography to kids who live in a garbage dump in Guatemala.

I could have chosen to dwell on the past and all the misfortune it contained. Instead, I have chosen to move forward in my life and to absorb the possibilities that are in front of me. You, too, can have this choice. It won’t happen soon after you experience the crushing grief of loss by suicide, but it will happen. Time needs to go by coupled with a positive attitude that it will happen. If you let it.

February 2008, published again November 2009-Editor's Note: Jack published his first book Overcoming Crushing Grief and remarried in the spring of 2009.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Something positive and meaningful from the tragedy of our child’s death

I’m lovingly copying and posting segments of an article written by a mom about the sudden death of her 20 year old son that was murdered… The link for the entire article is noted below and I hope you will read it - but what I found so special about her article was what she learned on her journey from mourning to joy - her insight.  So, as we all prepare for the new year ahead I hope we can all learn something from her journey..  She has taken this horrific tragedy and in the processing of learning to go on without her son, she sees things differently ~ nit negatively as you might think, but instead some very positive ways...  I hope this will help each of us find peace as we move along our journey, not only for our own sake, but for those around us whom we love and to honor the memory of our beloved children… No matter the age of our child or how they died – I hope you will find her insights  as inspiring as I do each time I read this… Cherie Houston

~ by Stella Wichman (May 2010)
  • I now make time for and prioritize my family and friends differently.
  • I do not put things off or wait to say important things to those I care about like I may have in the past.
  • I do not want to have unfinished business with anyone important to me because I now know that no one is guaranteed a tomorrow.
  • I now tend to live in the moment more relishing the small things I used to overlook in my hurry to get things done.
  • I choose my battles better and don’t get caught up in stupid matters that are trivial now realizing that my energies can better be applied to things that truly are worthy of my time and energy.
  • I appreciate life more now that I have experienced such a traumatic thing.  
I did not chose this to happen, but what I did find was that I could choose to pull something positive and meaningful out of such a tragedy.

Peace & Light, Stella Wichman

To read the entire article here is the link…

Sunday, December 26, 2010

My First Christmas in Heaven

My First Christmas in Heaven
~ by Unknown

I've had my first Christmas in Heaven,
a glorious, wonderful day!
I stood with the saints of the ages,
who found Christ, the truth and the Way.

I sang with the Heavenly choir,
just think! I who loved to sing!
And, Oh! What celestial music
we brought to our Savior and King!

We sang the glad songs of redemption
how Jesus to Bethlehem came,
And how they had called His name Jesus,
that all might be saved through His name.

We sang once with the angels,
the song that they spoke that blest morn
When shepherds first heard the glad story,
that Jesus, the Savior, was born

O dear ones, I wish you had been here.
No Christmas on earth could compare
With all the rapture and glory,
we witnessed in Heaven so fair.

You know how I always loved Christmas
it seemed such a wonderful day,
With all of my loved ones around me,
the children so happy and gay.

Yes, now I can see why I loved it
and Oh, what a joy it will be
When you and my loved ones are with me,
to share in the glories I see.

So, dear ones on earth, here’s my greeting,
look up till the day dawn appears,
And Oh, what a Christmas awaits us,
beyond our parting tears.

So smile for me now and be happy
and enjoy what's ahead - do not weep
Know I'm here waiting for you,
when we'll enjoy a glorious Christmas together again..

Love you forever more.....

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Somone is Missing at Christmas

May your hearts be filled with peace today as you remember your child or children..  
Somone is Missing at Christmas
~ ~Author Unknown

Let this be a loving reminder
That someone is missing today.
Someone our hearts hold on to
As we travel along life’s way.

Someone who made life so special
For each of us here.
Someone who won’t be forgotten,
But cherished from year to year.

And now as we celebrate Christmas,
Let us fondly recall
How deeply each of us loved them.
And oh… how they loved us all.

Friday, December 24, 2010

I Will Be There Mom..Tomorrow, Christmas Day

by Sharon J. Bryant

Mom, tomorrow I will be there
Though you may not see
I'll smile and remember
The last Christmas, with you and me

Don't be sad mom
I'm never far away
Your heart has hidden sight
My memory will always stay

I watched as you touched the ornaments
Sometimes a tear was shed as you did
I touched you gently on your shoulder
And on tiptoes I proudly stood

I'm only gone for a little while mom
I'm waiting for the day to be
When God calls out your name mom
We'll be together, just you wait and see

But until that time comes
Carry on as you did when I was there
I tell the angels how much I love you
There are angels here everywhere!

I stand behind you some days
When I know that you are sad
I want you to be happy mom
It would make my heart so glad

So on this Christmas Eve, Mom
Think of me as I will be thinking of you
And touch that special ornament
That I once made for you

I love you mom and dad, also
I know you know I do
And I'll be waiting here for you
When your earthly life is through

Love, Your child in Heaven

You can read Sharon's notes on the holiday on her website:

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Magic & Miracles of the Holidays

~ Excert from Susan Apollon’s book, Touched by the Extraordinary, Book Two: Healing Stories of Love, Loss & Hope

"The holidays will never be the same again," she says. "That is true. But life is change, by its very nature. Little by little you will form a new identity and learn to connect with your lost loved one in a different way. You'll form new memories and new traditions. Grieving well can lead to spiritual growth, which means that life itself can become richer and fuller after a profound loss. You'll never forget the person you lost, but you will find joy—even holiday joy—again."

Realize that miracles really do happen at the holidays. Here's the thing about the holidays, says Apollon. They really are magic. You knew this as a child but may have forgotten it. But spiritual occasions like holidays allow us to step outside the box we live in most of the time and let miracles in.

"Paradoxical as it sounds, grief and holidays are a lot alike," she reflects. "They both help us detach from trivial things and focus on what's important, what's real. Open your mind and heart this year and see what happens. Maybe you'll feel a sense of connection with your loved one who passed on, or maybe you'll feel joy for the first time since your loss. Either one might qualify as a miracle."

"It's healthier to feel the sadness and loss than to detach yourself from it," she says. "It's right and normal to grieve; just don't make it the dominant part of who you are."

Remember, says Apollon, the holidays won't always be such a struggle. If you work through your grief instead of repressing it, you'll find joy again.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

It is better to have loved and lost.....

“It is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.”  This phrase is more than a cliche.. it's true!

I don’t know who penned those words but they are words to live by. The bond we all share with those we love is never broken ~ not even by death. Some people feel that if they are happy – if they laugh or smile – they are somehow betraying their loved one – I believe the best way to honor those we love who have gone before us, is to live a good life – to laugh, to love, and to do whatever possible to make the world a better place.

Of course we will all have difficult days, and no doubt wish that things could have been different? But they aren’t and life isn’t fair… So we all must move thru the pain so that we will not stay stuck in it. Tomorrow will always be better. If we stuff or deny our feelings, they may subside for a time – but they will return with a vengeance on another day at another time

The pain and heartbreak we feel with the loss of our child is inevitable and often overwhelming, but suffering is optional – it’s a choice we make.. As we continue on this journey and move thru and out of the darkness, we can see the light of joy and happiness and learn to smile often and enjoy life.

No doubt, if we had the chance to speak to our children and ask for their advice, they would tell us for sure that they are happier and more at peace than they’ve ever been before. I would also trust that they would encourage us to be happy ~ to enjoy our precious time here and to try not to waste time suffering in sorrow…

Our greatest gift to our children and ourselves is to find peace and happiness during this holiday season and to continue living a good life as the new year arrives and in the years ahead...  Don't you belive that if the tables were reversed, and we were in heaven, that finding peace, joy and happiness now and in the future is what we would want and hope that our children would do ~ so know that is their wish for us also and it helps to honor them......

God Bless and Find Peace this holiday season and the year ahead...

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Angels in Heaven

~ by Tammy L. Tobac 1993 witten for the Compassionate Friends Holiday Candlelighting Ceremony 

We have angels in heaven
Who look down on us here
while the world all around us says
"Be of good cheer!"

Everyone else is bustling about
We simply watch it go by,
yet we just want to shout~

Don't you know it's not merry
at this time of year,
when our lives feel so empty
and our eyes fill with tears.

We can't bear the thought of another holiday
without our precious loved one
who was taken away.

But your child's spirit does live on,
though their physical being may be gone.
Look around and you will see
their soul lives on in your memory.
You'll see your child's eyes so bright
In every twinkling Christmas light.

There are angels in heaven
Who look down on us here
And they are trying to tell us,
Don't worry we're near!

We love you and miss you,
we'll never be far...
Just look to the sky
and the bright Christmas star.

Take a special moment
throughout these blessed days
to remember me in the kindest of ways...

Give my smile to a person,
who needs it like you,
and my spirit will live on
through the things that you do.

Monday, December 20, 2010


~ by Brigitte Synesael

When you have lost someone very dear to you, the most difficult obstacle to cross is getting through the holidays. Surviving the days where everyone around you is celebrating and spreading good cheer, while your mind is filled with memories and your heart is heavy with loneliness. It’s difficult just making it through what used to be the happiest days that were once shared with our child or loved one, and today carries only emptiness. The greatest challenge is to remain in the company of others who love you, when you really want to be alone with your sadness.

It makes no difference whether the loss took place last week, several months ago, or even last year. The holidays always send those deep emotions flooding right to the surface.

Just as how you deal with grief is personal and individual, so is the way you handle the holidays. Remember to be true to yourself, and don’t take on too much responsibility. Let people know that your plans may be subject to change, and you can’t make long term commitments just yet. Be honest with yourself and with your friends and family about how you’re feeling.

Some people find it best to start new traditions, because the past ones hold memories too difficult to deal with. Talk with your family about setting expectations. Plan together any modifications you will all make to the “normal” holiday festivities. You may want to have a church service dedicated to the memory of your loved one. Or make an annual donation in his/her name. Perhaps join the Hospice Tree Lighting ceremony. Bring joy to another child by purchasing a special toy for the Angel Tree in memory of your child.

Be honest about how you’re feeling, but when ever possible, try to include a positive twist into your thoughts. Instead of : “I miss my ….. so much, there is no Christmas without him/her.” TRY “I do miss my ……. Christmas will be different this year, but I will try to enjoy it.” Instead of: “I HATE this time of year. I can’t wait until it’s over.” TRY “This is a difficult time of year for me. But it does give me an opportunity to become closer to my family and friends.”

Some people heal best by helping others. Try volunteering at an organization who help people with a greater need than yours. i.e. A soup kitchen, a homeless shelter, orphanages, etc. Often the best therapy is helping others. Aside from the obvious benefits of keeping your mind occupied and seeing that there are others in worse situations than yourself, charity work gives you a tremendous feeling of fulfillment. It can give you a renewed sense of purpose, so important during times of sadness.

Above all else, give yourself permission to enjoy yourself, to laugh, and to find peace. Each of these things are part of healing. Your life will never be the same, but it will go on, and it can still be good. Close your eyes for just a moment ~ bring into the room with you the clearest image of the person that you have lost. Now say “I love you and I miss you. You will always be in my heart. I need to know... is it okay for me to be happy again?”

Now, imagine the answer that you receive. If you remember your loved one in their true light, I’m confident the answer will be YES. Find peace over the holidays, and be good to you.

About the Author: Brigitte Synesael is recognized as an authority on Alternative Medicine Information. A published author, one of her latest releases is "You've Got Nothing To Lose But POUNDS!"

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Holiday Family Gatherings

Families gather for both sad and happy occasions. Happy times and sad times often bring families closer together - but after the death of a child, these gatherings can be difficult and painful, unless we prepare ourselves for them...

During the Holidays, just like weddings, graduations families gather to celebrate. During these times, everyone is expected to be happy. Relatives and friends want you to join in as you have in the past. But now, without your child being happy and joining in seems too painful..

Understand that during these gatherings, having family around is healing - it helps to have their support, bu then moments later the same gathering can become overwhelmingly painful reminders of our child that is not present and will never be.  Knowing in advance that these feelings are normal can help prepare you - you aren't going crazy, you are grieving..

Yes, family and friends usually provide the most comfort and listen as we try to cope with the loss of our child. But understand, that even our closest of relatives and friends cannot completely understand the hurt we feel.  Families and friends who love us, want to...

to take our pain away ... to offer us HOPE for better times ... to see us "back to normal again" ... to help us "forget about what happened." - but if we know and accept these things ahead of time, knowing that they nor we can do any of this, then it is easier not to judge them for not understanding...

So if you realize and accept, before these gatherings, that..... no one can take your pain away ... there will be better times, but they will be different without your child ... your life does not feel like it will ever be "normal" again ... you will never forget your child.

Then, with time, we will find our own "new normal", we will cherish and smile at the memories of our child and build new memories, and that in time as we continue on this journey, we will again rejoice that we were blessed to have had our child and we will find hope, joy and peace in our hearts once again.

Friday, December 17, 2010

When my child has died, please....

~ Although anonymous, the original writer of this was a woman.

When we say that our children have died, please remember that our “child” can be of any age – it means that we as parent’s have outlived our children – so whether ”our child” was unborn or an older adult in their 60’s, Our love for and hopes for our children start long before they are actually born, so when someone miscarries they have many of the sensations of an eighty year old who has just lost their adult child, as parents  it is expected, that in the ‘natural’ order of things, we will die before our sons or daughters and when that natural order is disrupted, it is devastating to say the least.

When my child has died, please...

Don’t ignore me because you are uncomfortable with the subject of death. It makes me wonder if what happened means nothing to you.

Acknowledge my pain, even if you think it shouldn’t be as great as it is... (because I’ve ‘only’ lost a baby or one of four!)
Losing a child is one of the most difficult experiences to face and the depth of my grief will shock even me as it returns in waves. A tremendous number of emotional and physical hurts will come my way – please don’t minimize them.

Please be aware that holidays and anniversaries will be particularly difficult times - whether our child died this year or many years ago.

If you invite me for lunch (or bring a meal around (and please do) in the midst of my grief, please expect to talk about my loss. It’s all I’m thinking about and I need to talk it out; small talk neither interests nor helps just now.

Please don’t change the subject if I start to cry. Tears and talking about it are the healthiest way for me to release my intense emotions.

Telling me that So-and-so’s situation must have been much worse won’t make mine easier. It only makes me feel you don’t understand or can’t acknowledge the extent of my pain.

Don’t expect that because my child is in heaven or ‘with God’ I shouldn’t be hurting. Even the most fervent believer in God would rather have their child with them. My arms ache to hold my child and I miss him or her so much. And God might not be finding favor with me right now.

Now is not the time to tell me about your own childbirth or child’s experiences... It reminds me in the most painful way of what I’m missing.

Don’t remind me that I’m so lucky to have other children. I am and I know it. But my pain is excruciating for this child; the others don’t take that pain away. Indeed, they can add to it because I’ve got to comfort them as well.

No matter how bad I look, please don’t say “You look terrible”. I feel like a total failure right now and I don’t need to hear that I look awful too.

Don’t devalue my experience or my child – the feelings of deprivation are so intense. A child who has never breathed is nonetheless missed so if I’ve ‘only’ miscarried or my child was stillborn don’t forget that “my child” was a very special, unique person.

Please don’t suggest my child can be replaced by my having more. Would you say “Don’t worry, there are plenty more fish in the sea,” to someone who had just lost their husband?

When you ask my husband how I’m doing – please don’t forget to ask him how he’s doing too. He has also lost his child. If you ignore his hurt it suggests that his pain doesn’t exist or doesn’t matter.

I pray that you will never know or experience this pain and heartache...

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

"Twas the Night Before Christmas" for Bereaved Parents

~ By Faye McCord - TCF, Jackson, MS  ((the following poem was in loving memory of her son, Lane McCord (/26/65 - 9/13/98) and dedicated to all bereaved parents)

"Twas the Night Before Christmas"
~ For Bereaved Parents ~

'Twas the month before Christmas and I dreaded the days,
That I knew I was facing - the holiday craze.
The stores were all filled with holiday lights,
In hopes of drawing customers by day and by night.

As others were making their holiday plans,
My heart was breaking - I couldn't understand.
I had lost my dear child a few years before,
And I knew what my holiday had in store.

When out of nowhere, there arose such a sound,
I sprang to my feet and was looking around,
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash

The sight that I saw took my breath away,
And my tears turned to smiles in the light of the day.
When what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a cluster of butterflies fluttering near.

With beauty and grace they performed a dance,
I knew in a moment this wasn't by chance.
The hope that they gave me was a sign from above,
That my child was still near me and that I was loved.

The message they brought was my holiday gift,
And I cried when I saw them in spite of myself.
As I knelt closer to get a better view,
One allowed me to pet it - as if it knew -
That I needed the touch of its fragile wings,
To help me get through the holiday scene.

In the days that followed I carried the thought,
Of the message the butterflies left in my heart -
That no matter what happens or what days lie ahead,
Our children are with us - they're not really dead.

Yes, the message of the butterflies still rings in my ears,
A message of hope - a message so dear.
And I imagined they sang as they flew out of sight,
"To all bereaved parents - We love you tonight!"

Monday, December 13, 2010


The death of our children is the most difficult event and pain we will survive.  But when that death is of your only child - the pain in unspeakable...finding peace and joy again takes time as this moms recounts...

Rosemary’s son, Arthur, 9, was hit by a car while waiting on his bicycle to cross the street at the end of the driveway on Dec. 7, 1986. The first few days I went through the motions of preparing for Arthur’s funeral. Then I went through the phase of not sleeping and eating. I would wake up at night and think, “ Maybe he’s alive.”
I went to a therapist but he didn’t know what to do with me because he had not experienced the death of his child. He finally suggested Compassionate Friends where I met people who could help me with the grief process. I had a “screaming-meemees” crying fit about four months after Arthur died. I think if any of the neighbors had heard me they would have called the police to have me committed. Then I remembered someone saying at the support group that they had this experience and when it happens you should just go with it. It really did release the pressure.

All the big days became a source of renewed pain - Christmas, Easter, Halloween, the first day of school, birthdays, death dates and to this day I go away on Mother’s Day.

I began to hate going to the supermarket. If I went down the cereal aisle, I would encounter the Cheerios Arthur used to eat, and in the cookie aisle it would be the Oreos he dunked in his milk at night.

After taking a fall my doctor said, “Ro, do you understand you might have permanent paralysis.” I replied, “I’ve been through the worst, nothing else can happen to me.”

By spring I was angry. Daffodils were emerging and Arthur always brought me my first daffodil of spring. I wanted to stomp on the daffodils! But this time I dug up the daffodils and took them to Arthur at the cemetery.
Whatever the season or stage of grief the support group was there, a place to talk about your feelings, how one can break down in tears for no apparent reason, and how to respond to questions about your child.

We really have a need to talk about our children who died. My biggest fear is that people will forget my child. I really appreciate getting cards and/or phone calls near Arthur’s birth and death days.

I recommend belonging to a support group as the bereaved parents become your extended family. You make a lot of friendships there with people who are sensitive to your feelings. You learn that crying is OK.

I also recommend that newly bereaved parents try to do a project in the name of your child. I bought a bookcase for the library of the middle school where Arthur would have attended and had his name put on it. Each year at Christmas or on his death anniversary I ask relatives and friends to purchase books and make donations to his library.

You may want to plant a garden in memory of your child. Do something positive in memory of your child.

From:  - a support group for bereaved parents who have lost their only children…

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Lights of Love

Written by TCF Member Jacqueline Brown ~ Peace Valley TCF, New Britain PA, For a December-National Children's Memorial Day

Can you see our candles
Burning in the night?
Lights of love we send you
Rays of purest white

Children we remember
Though missing from our sight
In honor and remembrance
We light candles in the night

All across the big blue marble
Spinning out in space
Can you see the candles burning
From this human place?

Oh, angels gone before us
Who taught us perfect love
This night the world lights candles
That you may see them from above

Tonight the globe is lit by love
Of those who know great sorrow,
But as we remember our yesterdays
Let's light one candle for tomorrow

We will not forget,
And every year in deep
December On Earth we will light candles
As................we remember

Saturday, December 11, 2010


~ Maria Delgadillo, California SIDS Program- San Diego Guild for Infant Survival from When the Bough Breaks

Surviving the holiday season can be an exhausting experience at just about any year within one’s lifetime. This is especially true, we believe, after one has suffered the loss of a dear, innocent child. We all know that it’s not only the death of our baby that we face, but also the death of our hopes and dreams and the birth of intense pain and longing.

Tis the season to be jolly” the music in the malls reminds us. If we have trouble sleeping we’re to “count our blessings instead of sheep.” Impossible it seems especially in the first year. There is so much anger and sadness—everywhere—and constant reminders. Coupons for baby toys come in the mail, photographers call hoping to schedule appointments. You see so many little ones sitting on Santa’s lap, such wonderment shining in their eyes. And the emptiness grows deeper.

Socializing (“celebrating” seems too strong of a word) with family members and co-workers is not always easy either. You may find that they don’t verbally acknowledge your baby’s memory in or¬der to protect you from “more pain” and themselves from discomfort. Of course, we all know in our minds that they have not forgotten our sweet children. But in our hearts it still hurts. A lot. And the emptiness grows even deeper.

So, what are we able to do in order to help ourselves and loved ones through this lonely time? First of all, be aware that there will be at least a touch of sadness, even if there are other children in your home who will awaken you at six in the morning to see what Santa has left. Realize that “unex¬plained tears” and pangs of sadness are very normal and natural, even years after your baby has died.

Secondly, do spend time with your family and friends but do not over-extend yourself. Make sure that you and your spouse have time alone to share feelings and memories, the ones that only the two of you are able to fully appreciate. Do something nice and relaxing for yourself, whether it is a bubble bath or game of golf.

And finally, do something special to honor the memory of your child. Some parents light a candle at the church, others decorate their child's grave site with poinsettias and garland, while others always keep an extra place set at the Christmas dinner table. Many parents give financial gifts to a charity in loving memory of the baby. Some families donate a toy or two which they feel their child would enjoy if they were still within the family. Some make sure that others in the family receive a gift, given in love, from the brother or sister they hardly/never knew. One mother shared that she crocheted snowflake Christmas decorations and glued a picture of their son into the middle. She then gave one to family members and close friends.
The important thing to remember is to do something that you find helpful and meaningful.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Farewell to a sister in grief - Elizabeth Edwards

~ by Elizabeth Edwards

Among the wonderful "words of wisdom" this courageous mom shared with the world after the death of her beloved son Wade in 1996 (which by the way is when she retired from being a lawyer) - this is one of my favorite quotes from her...Cherie Houston
"If you know someone who has lost a child, and you're afraid to mention their child because you think you might make them sad by reminding them that they died -- you're not reminding them. They didn't forget they died. What you're reminding them of is that you remembered that they lived, and that is a great gift. "
How blessed she is to have had her son waiting for her - I'm sure their reunion just a few days ago on December 7th was just as wonderful as she'd always imagined....

Thursday, December 9, 2010

An Angel's Christmas Wish

~written by Sandy Siewers, written in memory of Cassandra Radke and lovingly lifted from TCF Wabash Valley Chapter Newsletter - 1998


I looked through the clouds and what did I see,
The face of my mother, and her thoughts were of me.

Her eyes filled with tears and her face looked so sad,
My wings fluttered softly and I felt so bad;
For I could do nothing to change how she felt,
Nor could I alter the hand fate had dealt.

My tears fell like raindrops, my heart felt so tight,
I lifted my face to heaven and told God of my plight,
For I can never be free just to fly,
As long as there's one lonely tear in your eye.

My years on earth were spent to please you,
And though what has happened was not my own choice,
The plan, my mother dear, came from a much higher voice.

As the birthday of our Savior and Lord draws so near,
I have a small plea I would like you to hear,
Remember me, Mom, with happiness and smiles,
And know when you do my soul will soar miles.

My wings will be light, and my heart will be free,
In the brightest sunshine is where you'.. see me.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


~ By Andrea Gambill

Here it comes again — the Holiday Army — in its annual march against us. Some of its generals are called "Thanksgiving," "Christmas," "Hanukah," "New Year’s Eve" and "New Year’s Day." They are no respecters of the heartbroken and emotionally wounded, and their troops are merciless. They take no prisoners! They demand that we participate in their joy and nostalgia or they will mow us down with their militant tanks of holiday spirit.

Actually, we wish them well. All we really want is for them to leave us alone and let us mourn in peace and quiet. We prefer our “Silent Nights” to their “Deck the Halls” and Jingle Bells.” We don’t intentionally spoil their fun, it’s just that our pain makes them uncomfortable. They’ve been conditioned to believe that “The Holiday Season” should have no blemish of suffering or lack of frivolity. We must not only bandage our wounds while in their presence, but cover them with taffeta and sequins besides. They are convinced that all we need is to “put on a happy face” and all our sorrows will magically evaporate.

In their mad pursuit of happiness, they shoot us with the bullets of shopping, piped-in music, special holiday foods and fragrances, gift wrapping, decorations (especially the angels!), joyous children with happy smiles, cards, invitations, parties and gift exchanges. Any other time of the year, snow is considered a nuisance to shovel and plow through. At the holiday season, though, it is touted as romantic and is linked to sleighs and starry nights in front of fireplaces, snuggled close to those we love.

The most devastating bombs they drop into our lives are the images of reunion — times of greeting and hugging folks who are much loved and sometimes not often seen for awhile. They may only be separated by geography; our absent loved ones cannot cross the chasm of loss that looms before our tear-filled eyes. They remind us of things we should be thankful for (and we are more thankful for many of those things than they can ever imagine). They prod us with their spears of delightful togetherness, never realizing that what they celebrate is what we cannot now enjoy. We would not dream of attacking them in these battles for holiday survival. With our noses pressed against the glass that divides us, we actually long to be able to be part of their happiness. We remember the times we joined in their fun and we, too, were part of their army of nostalgia and joy.

Our broken hearts and bleeding wounds do not excuse us from being gracious, however. While grief does not give us permission to be rude and selfish, and we take no overt action against their aggression, we are not without defenses in these battles. We can shield ourselves with the armor of dignity with kind but direct and simple explanations: “We understand your need for celebration, but this year we prefer quiet and private reflection and meditation.” “Right now it’s hard for us to function in large groups and to appreciate laughter and high spirits.” “Our energy is so limited; we’d appreciate some quiet one-on-one time with you in a more spiritual atmosphere.”

We can gently remind them of how important it is for us to remember those we love who are gone. These are statements that clarify our position without judging or criticizing them for theirs. In kind and non-threatening ways, we need to tell them what’s good for us, because they won’t think of it on their own, and they can use the education.

We also can exercise the muscles of our sense of humor. It will take some effort on our part, but so does anything that is worthwhile and good for us. We can teach ourselves not to fall into the trap of thinking that our grief makes us the center of the universe. We can limit our demands that others treat us in “special” and “deferential” ways because of our pain. We can cut them a little slack and remember that once upon a time, we were just like they are now. It’s good and healthy for us to review our perspectives now and then and decide if we’re being fair and reasonable.

We can express our love in simple and unhurried ways without all the frenetic, expensive and often hysterical hype that the holidays can generate. And we must exercise the expression of our love. Grief does not rob us of our ability to love; it reminds us ever more dramatically of our need to both give and receive love while we are here.

Whenever we can take some control in our situations, we empower ourselves, and then we feel less like victims in what seems like a war of “peace on earth, goodwill toward men.” Anytime we can educate and inform with mercy and compassion, we have given a truly spiritual holiday gift of love that will keep on giving forever.

May your season be filled with genuine blessings of peace.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Getting thru the holidays - one day at a time

Our son Bobby died a little more than a year ago on September 19, 2009.  Looking back, last year during our first holiday season without Bobby, most of it is a total blur, although I do remember dreading them and wishing I could blink and have them over.  Christmas for our family, has always been the most wonderful time of year with countless traditions.  But even now, a year later, despite wonderful memories, thoughts of the impending christmas holidays bring overwhelming saddness and a flood of tears...

I was recently looking at some of the cards we received and found a note from a student and dear friend, remdining me that it was OK to feel as though I wanted to just sleep through the holidays and yes, she knew and understood that the memories of happier holidays past would probably cause what felt like overwhelming grief - and she was right.

She was also kind enough to send me a few suggestions she though might help me survive the next few holidays seasons.  I want to share them with you... because whether or not you lost your child in the last few months of last few decades, my dear friend was right - the impending holidays and memories of holidays past can be painful and stressful, as well as joyful....

So as this Hanukkah and Christmas holiday season begins, I hope these tips will help ease your saddness... Cherie Houston
Yes, it's normal and often helps to:
  • Expect to have some pain. When the feelings come, let them.
  • Accept a few invitations to be with close family or friends. Choose the ones that sound most appealing at the time and avoid the ones that feel more like obligation
  • Talk about your feelings - It's alright and helps to let people know if you're having a tough day
  • Incorporate your child into the holidays - maybe share favorite stories over dinner or make a toast or light a candle in remembrance, maybe make a donation in their name - some families find it helpful to write them a note, christmas letter or poem
  • Find a way to help someone else - consider making a meal for someone who is homebound or out of work, consider volunteering to help in a shelter or soup kitchen, consider "adopting" a family or child to buy presents or food for.
  • Modify or make new traditions if that's what feels right. Just remember to include others who are grieving, especially your childs siblings or children, in the decision
  • If the idea of holiday shopping overwhelms you, buy gifts online or through catalogs
  • Replace negative thoughts with positive ones. Try to remind yourself that "In spite of loss, I will try to enjoy this season."
  • Prepare yourself for January. Sometimes the aftermath of the holidays can bring more sadness than the holidays themselves.  The thought of a new year that your child will never be alive for can be overwhelming 
Try not to...
  • Hide your feelings from children in an effort to be strong for them or protect them. You'll only be teaching them to deny their own feelings.
  • Isolate yourself from family and friends. Although you may not feel much like celebrating, accept a few invitations
  • Don't go overboard trying to accept every invitation or throw yourself into work in an effort to keep busy. It may only add more stress
  • Expect to go through defined stages of grief - there is no set pattern - we are each different and our relationships and how we will deal with our giref will be very unique
  • Act as if your loved one never lived - don't avoid talking about them, they are a very important part of your life
  • Not to cry and pretend that everything is just FINE!!  It's not and remember that "Crying is like the valve on a pressure cooker. It lets the steam out" 
May you find peace in your heart and smiles and joy in your memories...

Monday, December 6, 2010


~ by Charlotte Anselmo

When you feel a gentle breeze, caress you when you sigh
It's a hug sent from Heaven, From a loved one way up high.
If a soft and tender raindrop, lands upon your nose
They've added a small kiss, As fragile as a rose.

If a song you hear fills you with a feeling of sweet love
It's a hug sent from Heaven, from someone special up above.
If you awaken in the morning, to a bluebird's chirping song
It's music sent from Heaven, to cheer you all day long.

If tiny little snowflakes, land upon your face
It's a hug sent from Heaven, trimmed with Angel lace.
So keep the joy in your heart, if you're lonely my dear friend
Hugs that are sent from Heaven, a broken heart will mend.

Sunday, December 5, 2010


~ Shirley C. Ottman, Bereaved Mother, BP/Denton, Texas

After the first few holiday seasons after my daughter’s death, I thought I had licked the holiday doldrums. After all, two, three, four years had passed. I was unprepared for the dull ache I battled throughout the holidays in 1993; however, it didn’t dawn on me until the middle of January why.

December 1993 was the first time since 1989 that both my surviving sons and their families, my step-daughter and her family had been all together during the holidays. I had been looking forward to having them all home at the same time once again. The cousins (all my grandchildren) would be able to renew acquaintances, and I could watch their interaction with interest and glee.

Yet all during the season, I was plagued with a longing, an all too familiar ache. I missed my daughter’s presence. Her widowed husband had remarried in May that year, and he and his new wife were also included in our family gathering. I liked his new wife very much. But I suppose subconsciously, I was reminded even more of my daughter’s absence. As I wrote my Christmas letter to my daughter Teri and put it into her Christmas stocking, unbidden tears chased themselves down my cheeks. I pushed my thoughts away from sadness; I reminded myself how lucky we were to have known and loved her, and to know and love her still.

Later I realized what should have been obvious to me during the holidays. Although our family was altogether, it wasn’t the same as it used to be. Teri was missing from the scene. It’s one thing to hold her spirit in our hearts and minds, and quite another to have her sitting in her usual place at the table or leading us in Christmas carols.

We all missed her, even after nearly eight years; and we talked about her often. We had a wonderful holiday together that I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. I hope we will have many more such reunions. Next time, though, I’ll be wiser. I’ll know why the ache is there, why the joy is tempered slightly and why as long as I live my life and our family’s life together, will be forever altered. The difference will always be noticeable, I imagine. But then, the difference Teri has made in each of our lives is and always will be obvious too.

Printed from “Where Are All The Butterflies” with permission.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Surviving the holidays after the loss of your baby

The holidays are incredibly difficult after the death of a child, but especially for young moms after the death of their precious infants – no matter how or when their babies died - before birth or during the first year or two .. Each and every child is precious and having other children doesn't make it easier, but for those mom's who have lost their only child - the holidays can be especailly painful.  For each of you, I hope this article from a young mom, will help you find peace this holiday season…


All my life I have dearly loved all holidays. I enjoyed the planning, decorating, family gatherings, and presents. By the time my eldest daughter, Danielle, was about two years old she was a full-fledged holiday lover, too.

In the Spring of 1990 I found out that I was pregnant with my second child and that the baby was due on Christmas Day. Since we had been trying to get pregnant for quite a while, I was ecstatic with the news. The additional bonus of having a Christmas baby only added to my joy. Particularly in the last few weeks of my pregnancy I enjoyed going to church and listening to the familiar Christmas stories full of reminders that a very special baby was about to be born. It was very special to me to rehear the historical accounts of the anticipation of Jesus’ birth at a time when my mind was so full of thoughts about the impending arrival of my own baby. Maegan was born just four days before Christmas. Her one and only Christmas was a beautiful, peaceful day for all of us.

After Maegan died of SIDS at the age of four months, I found myself dreading all holidays. Every special occasion was a sorrowful reminder of the beloved child that was no longer with us. Since Maegan’s first birthday and our first Christmas without her came all at once, this was an especially painful time.

For the sake of my sanity, and to keep the wondrous joy of the holiday season alive in Danielle, who was then five, I sought advice from friends who had suffered similar losses and I read articles on the subject. The following is a summary of the information that I found to be the most helpful:

Be easy on yourself. The holidays will most likely be difficult for you—don’t be alarmed if you find yourself crying without warning. If you can accept these facts, it may help you relax a little bit. Do attend whatever gatherings you most want to go to but don’t force yourself to accept every invitation. Trying to cope with the loss of your child takes enough energy without burdening yourself with a lot of social obligations.

Prioritize your holiday rituals. This may be a good time for you to take stock of the activities you do each year and weed out those that you no longer feel inclined to do. For example, if holiday baking is something you dread, look for a place to buy your holiday goodies or consider swapping with friends. Or, just because you don’t have the energy for an elaborate list of Christmas cards this year doesn’t mean that you can’t resume sending holiday cards next year if you feel more able.

Find a new place to celebrate the holidays. I am so thankful that a friend suggested that we break from tradition and spend our first Christmas after Maegan’s death away from home. We rented a cabin in the mountains for Maegan’s birthday until the day after Christmas. Being in neutral surroundings allowed us to focus on our immediate family, away from the pressures of our well-meaning family and friends. The mountain setting was so peaceful and beautiful that it helped to remind us of the joys of life.

Do something special to commemorate your beloved baby. Many people find that it makes them feel better to make a financial contribution to a charity in loving memory of their baby. You might want to suggest to family members that they take the money they would have spent on a gift for your child and make a charitable contribution. Some people like to buy a toy or clothing that they feel their own child would have enjoyed and donate it to a childrens’ charity. Among other traditions in our home, Santa always leaves a special present for Maegan’s family and we provide the altar flowers for our church on the Sunday when the children’s Christmas pageant is presented.

Do keep an open line of communication with friends and family about how you are feeling. These times can be very awkward for those around us. Many people avoid mentioning your loss, for fear it will make you feel worse. It will most likely be easier for everyone if you bring up the subject and discuss your feelings openly. I think that this is particularly important on the days that are unique to you and your baby such as their birthday and the anniversary of their death. Over and over, I have heard people say that they were thinking of us on these special days but they were afraid to call or to bring up the subject.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Reclaiming our Joy

~ Linda L. Flatt ~ November 1998

A Basic Plan for Surviving the Holidays After The Loss Of A Loved One

Shortly after my son's suicide in 1993, a wise counselor told me not to let that death take away my joy.

At the time, those words fell on deaf ears. But, as the days passed and healing began, his guidance became my mission - to somehow reclaim my joy after experiencing the incomprehensible suicide death of my child. The powerful and overwhelming emotions that embody the grieving process tend to be magnified during the holidays - a time when memories of our missing loved ones are especially painful. Family gatherings are wearying reminders of the stark reality of our loss.

Here are some steps that we can take together to endeavor to recover our God-given joy during a difficult holiday season.

Decide to Prepare
Plan ahead for the pitfalls of holiday bereavement. Educate yourself in the fine art of surviving the holidays and equip yourself for the season. Beware of the expectations of others and choose to get through the holidays YOUR WAY!

Determine to Feel
Give yourself permission to grieve during the holidays instead of "stuffing" or denying your emotions. Resist the urge to "shut down" emotionally until next year. Trust me, the feelings will still be on that shelf on January 1st, and they will, more than likely, be even more powerful and destructive than they were in December.

Commit to Connect
Choose to be around safe, supportive people during the holidays - people who will let you have your grief. Make a conscious decision to stay connected to God and His people at a time when you may want to isolate to ease your pain. We serve a loving, comforting God and there is great healing in His community. Reach out and take the light and love that others offer during the holidays - and, in turn, give whatever you can to those who reach out to you.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Grandparents Grieving at the Holidays

~ Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D.

"When a grandchild dies, grandparents grieve twice. They mourn the loss of the child and they feel the pain of their own child's suffering. Sometimes we forget about the grandparents when a child dies. You can help by not forgetting, by offering the grandparents your love, support and presence in the weeks, months and years to come."

All of the “year end holidays” – Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa (and other significant days-such as the child’s birthday and anniversary of their death) can be very difficult for grandparents.

These holidays and events emphasize again the memories and pain of the grandchild's absence. This pain and sense of loss are natural extensions of the grief process. It can be even more painful when no one seems to “remember” but them.

Grandparents - don’t hesitate to speak of your grandchild.  Others may not want to make you sad or upset you, they may feel it is better not to mention the child's name.  When you speak of your grandchild, it allows them the opportunity to remember with you…

If you know of a grandparent who has suffered this most horrific loss, remember that grandparents and parents alike enjoy hearing the child’s name and appreciate when others remember their child - Your visits, notes or even a quick phone call from someone who “remembers the child” is so comforting, appreciated and offers healing for their broken heart.. It’s wonderful to use the name of the child who died in your personal note and in talking to the grandparent. Hearing that name can be comforting, and it confirms that you have not forgotten this important child whom the grandparent loved and misses so much.

When a grandchild dies, the grandparent often mourns the death on many levels. The grandparent probably loved the child dearly and may have been very close to him or her. The death has created a hole in the grandparent's life that cannot be filled by anyone else.

Grieving grandparents are also faced with witnessing their child-the parent of the child who died-mourn the death. A parent's love for a child is perhaps the strongest of all human bonds. For the parents of the child who died, the pain of grief may seem intolerable. For the grandparents, watching their own child suffer so and feeling powerless to take away the hurt can feel almost as intolerable.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Finding peace and joy during this season

~ Cherie Houston

For so many of us after the death of our children, it seems inconceivable that we can or will ever find joy again of any type, but during the holiday season, when so many happy and wonderful memories fill our hearts, it seems inconceivable. What do we have to be joyous about? Our child is gone! How can we be joyous???

When my 36 year old son Bobby died last September 19th, 2009, my heart was broken and I truly couldn’t imagine that I would ever find joy again – but that was my heart – my heartbroken heart - speaking.

In time however, even that first Christmas - just a few weeks after he died, as I watched his children and all 8 of our grandchildren, the logical voice inside me reminded me it was okay not to be joyous right now, but that it was not only possible but probable, that I and all of our family – including Bobby’s wife and two little boys and brothers whose hearts were still so raw and shattered, that we would all find joy again.

Thanksgiving thru New Years, and especially Christmas, have always been my favorite holiday season since I was a child. And through the years I did my best to impart that same joy to my children, 3 wonderful sons, Ric, Bob and my youngest Sean. In the early 70’s, almost 40 years prior to Bobby’s death, I had been privileged to have two beautiful little girls: Randee was born in March 16, 1971 and died the following day; and 9 months later Robin was born December 29th of the same year and she died the following summer of 1972. No one could have convinced me I’d ever find joy again, but in time, despite the overwhelming pain and heartaches of the girls deaths, I learned from my 3 sons and others around me to be happy again and to enjoy not only the holidays, but all of life’s special occasions and blessings.

Yes I did find great joy, but that isn’t to say that when special events happened throughout the years – birthdays, especially those of my son Ric, because Ric is Randee’s twin brother, graduations, proms, first communions, confirmations, weddings and then the births of our grandchildren – despite the joy of those events there were always moments of sadness reminding me of how much I missed the girls, often feeling as though I’d just lost them weeks or months before.

The death of our children changes us forever and no matter what you've read or been told, I believe that our grieving for them will last until we join them. But life does go on, with or without us, and for those left behind ~ our other children and family members, and ourselves ~ it would be even sadder for us not to find joy again.

It's okay and normal to feel as we do as we grieve (and we all know the way we feel changes in a blink of any eye on this journey from mourning to joy), but between those moments of overwhelming sadness, keep a watchful eye out for that little flicker of peace and joy, that if you welcome and allow it, it will continue to grow.  I wish you can find a little peace this holiday season and know and believe that joy is possible again, how could it not be.

We were blessed and given the wonderful privilege of having these children in our lives – be it for the months we carried them or the all too few years until their deaths; what incredible gifts we received from them.

So from one grieving heart to another, and in memory and celebration of our children who are no longer with us, my holiday wish and prayer is that we might each find peace, joy and happiness again in all that surrounds us and our families, this holiday season/  God Bless you and your families ~ Cherie Houston