Little Valentine

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The look of wonder on your child’s face when for the first time he or she: Receives puppy kisses Plays with the faucet on the kitchen sink Takes his first steps Sees presents Christmas morning under the tree Holds his newborn baby brother or sister Steps into the ocean Gets big boy underpants Realizes he can run around sprinklers Turns on the TV control and works the video Rides without the training wheels And finally the look of wonder on his tiny face when you are putting him to bed and he looks you in the eye as if for the first time and recognizes the intense, never ending love you have for him. He slides his little starfish hand down the back of your shirt for security, where it rests, warm and surprisingly powerfully attached to you, as if he was the gas station man filling you up with love. These things we won’t forget…

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Guilt

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In the beginning guilt seems to become a new family member, showing up as a stand-in for our lost child. Why is that? With the loss of a child comes a sense of “Why didn’t I see that coming?” “What could I have done better?” “Why was I working so much and not at home?” And my favorite, “Why didn’t God take me instead of my beautiful child who had a full life ahead of him?” We play that constant video over and over in our heads. We go over and over the last days and hours of their lives and what we could have done to alter the outcome, but we are missing the point of all of our journeys. Entrenched in guilt we can’t lift up our heads let alone our spirits to see the truth of our child-parent connections. It takes time, meditation and prayer to open to the possibilities of spirit and the idea that we were, and are a gift to each other. I would never deny that I yearn…

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The Art of Grocery Shopping and Other Things

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The other day a “Dear Abby” letter caught my eye. The woman wrote in to say her in-laws never said a word to her about the recent death of her father. She mentioned that she saw them a few times and even though she had talked with her husband about the issue, nothing happened. I must admit these were strange relatives, but it brought up an interesting point. I experienced something similar once at a barbeque. The woman in question came up to me and didn’t utter a word about my son who had died only a few months before. She just went on and on about nothing. If it was of any interest, I didn’t hear her as I kept waiting to hear the words, “I was so sorry to hear about your loss.”   The whole time I’m wondering; does she care? does she know? Of course she knows. Everyone knew in our town. Nothing happened that night and I let it go. Many people are afraid to bring up the loss as they…

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NOW

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Even though the calendar reads mid-January the days are getting longer. Someone said that at this time of year the daylight increases by 3 minutes each twenty-four hours; that comforts me, even though it was 10 degrees this morning. That soft evening light that stretches over the river and trees by my house gives me a quiet settling as if I was taking that first deep breath of a meditation. Grief is strange, as you know. One minute you want to hold on to the past dwelling on every little minutia of your lost loved one, and then as the different seasons approach you wish they would speed up so that the time would pass and some of the acute pain would vanish. But just like the tulips that need the cold of winter, we need hibernation to work everything out. You can’t jump ahead into the future putting distance between you and your loss. When the winter passes we need to be somewhat ready to start anew with a lighter, wiser, well-traveled heart. The…

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A Boy, A Man

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It’s cold this morning in the mountains, really cold. While I was preparing to post my blog for the week something was gnawing at me, a sad incident that wouldn’t leave me alone. Yesterday a local boy was found in the snow after 2 days of searching. The first of these nights was 17 below zero when he decided to leave a note on facebook, “I love you all.” And walked out of the house taking a gun. Suicide leaves us with so many “what ifs”, and a weight of failure and blame on some level, that is added to the death itself. There will be no finger pointing; as this incident was too close to the bone for our small town. But, there will be the usual rehashing of the story at the local coffee shops. The talk is a verbal touchstone to feel our family safe. We try to understand this tragedy, and as a parent on some level believe that by verbalizing the story and milling it around our heads as we lay in bed…

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Holiday Blues

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In today’s crazy world the holidays are more difficult than ever. Getting the right gift for that distant relative, or for the niece who has more piercings than a needle point pillow pattern.  So, take a deep breath, center yourself, and know that it will pass. There will be no pressure to shop for gifts, family and friends will understand. If you have young children waiting for Santa have a friend shop for you. Part of your grieving is helping someone else learn to be more thoughtful and giving. Children in the house make it hard to ignore Christmas. I remember looking at the tree skirt I had just unfolded and having a strong desire to lie down, close my eyes, pull the blanket up over my head and have someone put me in an induced coma until I had to bring the Easter bunnies out. Try to get a small tree. I was neurotic about doing Christmas decorations just like all the other years, I should have downsized and asked for help. But you know…

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Elizabeth Edwards

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There was a study in Denmark that said people who lost children were 18% more likely to get cancer. They think it is the stress of loss. I was one of those people. Friends were shocked to hear I had breast cancer. “That poor woman, first she loses a son and now she has breast cancer.” The fact that I wasn’t upset baffled them. Once you lose a child nothing upsets you and nothing is too monumental to overcome. This is what’s true for me…every experience in life occurs, as it should. There are no mistakes or accidents. Losing a child changes you in a profound way. You have the choice to be bitter and plummet to the dark depths or rise above as Elizabeth Edwards did. You will trip and fall many times on that bumpy road called grief but there will always be someone there to give you a hand. Many times that strength will come from the grace of your own sweet child. Funny how the littlest things in life became meaningful…

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Relationships

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They say that eighty percent of marriages don’t make it through the death of a child, and I can see why.  No one grieves the same way.  If you are having a fairly good day and come home to a crying spouse, it brings you down. Something inside of you wants them to be strong for you.  If you are having a bad day and they are up (something you wanted the day before) you get angry, as if to say, “How can you think of being happy?  Our child has died. It is a no-win situation. The only connection my husband and I had was the bond of deep grief. We were unable to comfort each other; there was no holding each other in bed at night, no kisses or embraces. When Steve and I got into our bed we would lie on our backs knowing the other was awake but we were unable to break the thick silence between us. What was there to say? After awhile we would turn away from each other trying not to…

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Preparing children to face death

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Do you remember when people would say children should be seen and not heard? Did those same people realize that children could hear when they were not seen? I know from childhood experiences that I would hear adults talking when they thought I was playing and it was frightening at times to hear whispers about death or tragedy and having no capabilities to express my feelings or ask questions. That is a heavy burden for a child. Children get it and in times of trouble and important decision-making need to be addressed on a level that is age appropriate. Years ago on a cold Idaho night I received a phone call. My father had died. I wanted my husband and boys to go back for the funeral. Friends said the boys who were eight and five were too young, but I didn’t agree. Death comes so much harder to people who have been steered away from it. They didn’t see my dad very often because of the distance so I thought that separation would be…

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Connecting with Spirit

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“Trust that you can learn from each challenge, regardless of how disturbing or painful. That is a God-given right inside of you. Invoke your right to learn from everything.” – John Morton Everyone asks what’s it like to lose a child. Disbelief. How could it be? This only happens to people you don’t know who are on the 6 o’clock news at night, in some town you have never heard of, “What a shame, how tragic,” you sincerely say to yourself as you reach for your magazine or get up to start dinner wondering if you should make a salad. In your wildest dreams you could never imagine your child being taken away so suddenly. Anger and Guilt We finally got it right.  Why us?  And this is hard to admit: why not someone else’s child, one who wasn’t so handsome and smart, who didn’t have such a tough childhood as Rocky with his severe asthma?  Why didn’t he come home from the hospital that night?  Why was it different that time?  What could we have done…

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