You Smile I Smile

You Smile I Smile
Sonshine: My Journey After the Loss of My Son

Monday, November 28, 2011

Really good advice from The Compassionate Friends...

How Can I Help?

A child has died. Regardless of the child’s age or the circumstances of death, as a person wishing to give support, you feel empty and helpless. What can you say that will ease the pain and help to mend the hurts?

 What Can You Do to Help?

There are no easy answers, no standard approaches that are universally helpful. There are no magic formulas that will make the pain go away. It is natural to feel helpless when the child of a friend or relative dies. Remember that showing your loving concern can be very comforting to a grieving family. Please don’t avoid them because you feel inadequate. Families are more likely to reach a healthy, positive resolution of their grief if they receive continuing support and understanding. The following suggestions may help you provide that support:

 — Don’t try to find magic words that will take away the pain. There aren’t any. A hug, a touch, and a simple, “I’m so sorry,” offer real comfort and support.
— Don’t be afraid to cry. Your tears are a tribute to both child and parents. Yes, the parents may cry with you, but their tears can be a healthy release.
— Avoid saying, “I know how you feel.” It is impossible to comprehend the depth of the loss when a child dies, and to say you do may seem presumptuous to the parents.
— Avoid using “It was God’s will” and other clich├ęs that attempt to minimize or explain the death. Don’t try to find something positive in the child’s death, such as, “At least you have other children.” There are no words that make it all right that their child has died.
— Listen! Let them express the anger, the questions, the pain, the disbelief, and the guilt they may be experiencing. Understand that parents often have a need to talk about their child and the circumstances of the death over and over again. It may be helpful to encourage them to talk by asking a gentle question such as, “Can you tell me about it?”
— Avoid judgments of any kind. “You should . . .” or “You shouldn’t . . .” is not appropriate or helpful. Decisions and behaviors related to displaying or removing photographs, reliving the death, idealizing the child, or expressing anger, depression, or guilt may appear extreme in many cases. These behavior patterns are normal, particularly in the first years (not months) following the child’s death.
— Be aware that, for parents with religious convictions, their child’s death may raise serious questions about God’s role in this event. Do not presume to offer answers. If the parents raise the issue, it would be better to listen and allow them to explore their own feelings. They will need to arrive at an individual philosophy about this.
— Be there. Run errands, help with household chores, provide child care, and help in whatever way is needed. Don’t say, “Call me if there is anything I can do.” That call will probably never come. Be aware of what needs to be done and offer to do specific tasks.
— Give special attention to surviving children. They are hurt, confused, and often ignored. Don’t assume they are not hurting because they do not express their feelings. Many times siblings will suppress their grief to avoid adding to their parents’ pain. Talk to them and acknowledge their loss.
— Mention the name of the child who has died. Don’t fear that talking about the child will cause the parents additional pain. The opposite is usually true. Using the child’s name lets parents know that they are not alone in remembering their child.
— Be patient. Understand that grieving family members respond differently to their pain. Some verbalize, others may seem unable or unwilling to talk, some withdraw, and others strike out angrily.
— Sharing fond memories of the child through statements such as “I remember when she . . .” or “He had a wonderful gift for . . .” can be reassuring to parents and show that you appreciated their child and are aware of their sense of loss. Relate amusing anecdotes about the child. Don’t be afraid of laughter. It helps to heal the hurt.
— Remember the family on important days such as the child’s birthday and death anniversaries. Send a card, call, or visit. Let them know you remember, too.
— Gently encourage a return to outside activities. Suggest a lunch or movie as relief from the isolation of grief. If your invitation is declined, don’t give up! Ask again and again, if necessary. The third or fourth time you call may be just the day that an outing would be welcome if someone took the initiative.
— There is no standard timetable for recovery. Grief usually lasts far longer than anyone expects. Encourage bereaved families to be patient with themselves. They often hear, “Get on with your life; it’s time you got over this!” Those demands are unfair and unrealistic. When parents express concernabout being tired, depressed, angry, tearful, unable to concentrate, or are unwilling to get back into life’s routines, reassure them that grief work takes time and that they may be expecting too much of themselves too soon.
— Be sensitive to the changes a bereaved family experiences. Family members will adopt new behaviors and roles as they learn to live without the child. This is a painful and lengthy process. Don’t expect your friends to be unchanged by this experience.
 — Refer a grieving family to The Compassionate Friends. Many types of support are available, both online (http://www.compassionatefriends.org/) and through the nearly 600 TCF chapters in the United States which are ready to offer friendship, understanding, and hope to bereaved families. Call the TCF National Office toll-free at 877-969-0010 for chapter referral information and to request a no-charge customized bereavement packet.
 — Continue your contact with the family. Grief does not end at the funeral or on the first anniversary. Stay in touch often, and in conversation, as easily as you would mention any other member of the family, don’t forget to mention the name of the child who died.

 On behalf of all families involved in The Compassionate Friends, we thank you for caring enough to want to help. Your loving concern makes YOU a compassionate friend.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thankfulness...

It’s been a dreadful year. The worst I’ll ever have. Yet I am filled with gratitude. Yes!

Of course my greatest gratitude is that I was blessed with 22 years with the best son God ever created. How I got so lucky, I’ll never know.  Thank you, Andy, for the best years of my life. You are the best thing that ever happened to me. You brought a joy to my life that will sustain me for the rest of mine. I didn’t know such love or happiness was possible until you came into my life. I know you will be sitting with us at Thanksgiving dinner, and I will celebrate the wonder of you! And, of course, I will have green bean casserole and cherry pie in your honor.  I love you, Sonshine, and I can’t wait to see you again!

I’m grateful to Kenny for being there every step of the way. The one person who truly understands the enormous loss and with whom I can cry any time and not feel sorry or embarrassed or worried about making him uncomfortable.

I’m grateful to Andy’s darling friends for staying in touch still. Being with them is like having a piece of Andy with me. They are great kids, and I can see why my son loved them so much because I do too.

I’m grateful for the incredible people I work with who showed love, compassion and understanding. I didn’t see how I could even get out of bed in the morning, let alone go to work. But they have stood by me and supported me every step of the way.

I’m grateful for my friends, old and new, who have shared this journey with me with compassion and love. Some I haven’t even met that I’ve connected with online who have also suffered the same unimaginable loss. They gave me support and hope, and soon it will be my turn to help those new to this terrible path.

I’m grateful to my family...Mom, brothers and sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles for loving me, standing by me, and giving me the support only family can give. I love you so much!

Andy, thank you for staying near and letting me know you are there helping me. My loss is immense, but I feel your presence, your love, and your help every step of the way. Thanks for the pennies from heaven--they bring a smile to my face every time.

I have been shown the best in people, and I believe that people are kind, loving, and just trying to do the best they can.  Life is good, and we can all have profound impact on other people’s lives. I know this because so many people have helped me and created huge positive ripples in my life this year. So give thanks and spread the ripples of love!


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Beating the Clock

I still go to the cemetery most every day. I know Andy’s not there, but it’s the last place I left him, and I like being where his body is. I talk to him, tell him about my day, and meditate in the sunshine. It’s so peaceful and full of wildlife. I see birds, butterflies, foxes, and even deer. If it’s raining, I bring an umbrella. It’s a very special, sacred time for me, and much like the mailman, neither sleet nor rain nor heat of day can keep me away.

It hasn’t been a problem getting there…til now. Once Daylight Savings Time goes away, the gates close an hour earlier at 5 PM. I guess I understand why it has to be gated at night. Sadly, things get stolen, bad people do bad things, and kids get into mischief at night, but it makes it really hard for me to get there before they close. And it's not dark by 6:00, so why not stay open til 6:00? If I don’t leave work by 4 PM, I don’t get to go. It’s added stress knowing I have to leave work by a certain time, and there are quite a few days when it’s just not possible. It makes me really sad, and it hurts my heart.

So what do you do? I don’t know…think outside the box, I guess. There is one gate that is not locked, but it’s not big enough to drive my car in. I’ve been thinking I could park outside the gate, walk in after hours, and walk over to Andy’s grave. Good exercise, if nothing else. The thing is, he is on the complete opposite side of the cemetery from the gate, and it’s a very big cemetery. Will I be able to walk that far in snow or ice and be out of there before dark? I don’t know, but that’s the plan for now. I will find a way! You see, I would do anything to spend that special time with my beloved boy. Gosh I can’t wait to see him again!


Sunday, November 6, 2011

Memories of Halloweens Past...

Andy always loved Halloween. He was born October 10, so he celebrated his first Halloween at the tender age of 3 weeks old. We got him a little pumpkin outfit, and he looked absolutely precious. Over the years he dressed up as many things...Superman, Vampire, Zombie, Cat. But the one that really stands out is a Mummy.

We went out and bought yards and yards of rolled-up gauze, and I must pat myself on the back here for the idea. I rolled round and round his body from head to toe. It took forever, but when we were done, he was the best Mummy ever. Andy was always such a skinny little kid, and even with clothes on underneath, he looked like a little beanpole. He was delighted with the result and so was I. The picture I have of him is one of my most cherished possessions. Take my money, my house, my job, but I will die before I let that picture go. Someday I'll scan it in so I can post it.

He was just beside himself with excitement. I can still see the delight and anticipation in his little face. We walked around the neighborhood...sprinted really. Is there any night more exciting to a child than Halloween? He carried his haul of candy from house to house. Everyone commented on his great costume, which please him to no end.

There is one unfortunate incident that night that I will never understand. We went to one house (porch light was on). When the woman answered the door, she said to my excited little boy "We don't celebrate Halloween. We're Christians and Halloween is of the devil." Of course, Andy was completely confused and didn't have a clue what she was talking about. I told her to turn her damn porch light off then. It's almost like she wanted kids to come to the door so she could chastise them and their parents with her holier-than-thou attitude. "Christian" indeed killing the joy and fun of little kids. I have strong thoughts about so-called "Christians" like her, but that's for another time.

Anyway, I told him she was an unhappy lady who didn't know how to behave as well as he did, and he was ok with that. Off for more fun and candy! We came home sometime later and inspected the haul. It was a good one. He was well pleased. We ate a few pieces, ate pumpkin seeds I had toasted, and watched a movie together. Then I tucked him in bed to dream of his exciting night.What a beautiful memory! I'm so blesssed to be able to go back to that memory whenever I want to. This year my baby was an Angel for Halloween, bless his sweet soul. Love you forever, Beautiful Boy!!!

I'll end with my favorite quote about Halloween:

Backward, turn backward,
O Time, in your flight
make me a child again
just for to-night!
~Elizabeth Akers Allen