Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Mom 2 Mom

After experiencing a personal loss, everyone has to find their own way of getting back into the game.  Sometimes it's not pretty.

The piece below is from  You may not agree with how this woman felt but she is courageous in stepping out from the pack to tell how it really felt.  Please give it a read.

The One Where I Lie To My Friends

Posted On November 8, 2011 @ 8:51 am;  Featured in Parents, Hello Grief


[1]The truth about grief and loss is that they do not always come with pretty, neatly packaged feelings.  Many of us have had thoughts that we may be afraid to share with others, for fear of what they may think of us, for fear that they may see how broken our loss has truly left us.

One brave and honest guest author living in Europe shares her feelings with us, and helps us to see the many faces of grief.  She helps us to understand that any person’s grief can be ugly and raw at times, and that we must learn how to accept and live through those feelings as we move toward healing.

I have a confession to make: a friend is moving back to the US and even though I pretend to be sad about it, I am actually happy she’s going.

I feel terrible for feeling this way, but I can’t help myself. It’s amazingly selfish and if any of my friends in real life knew they would be very upset with me. They would be horrified that I could think such a horrible thing about someone I call my friend. It would probably change their view of me completely. So I hide it. I keep it to myself and pray that no one discovers my dark secret.

So what is this friend’s crime? What has she done to make me so happy that she’s moving so far away?

Three words


Yes, it’s a simple as that. We were pregnant at the same time. Our due dates were a month apart. We had all these plans about our babies being friends. She was having a girl and I was having a boy and we joked about them being boyfriend and girlfriend. We were going to join the same playgroup. We were on the same path.

Until that horrible day.

“There’s no heartbeat.”

Those words uttered at my 36 week growth scan changed everything for the hubby and me.

But not for her. Her baby girl lived, and is here.  On this earth.  In her arms. While my son looks down on me from heaven.  I can only hold him in my heart.

This friend and her daughter are walking reminders of what I have lost. In fact, in the 9 months since my son died (yes, it’s been 9 months now) I have yet to meet her daughter. I can’t meet her daughter. In fact, we had a near miss a few weeks ago and it nearly sent me into a crying frenzy.

So I pretend…

That I will miss her.

That I’m sad to see her go.

That our group of friends will never be the same without her.

When really, I can’t wait for her to be gone. So that I don’t have to see the awkward looks on people’s faces when they are in the same room with the two of us. Knowing the struggle they are going through:
  • Dying to ask her about her baby, but not wanting to hurt my feelings.
  • Wanting to invite people over but knowing she may not have a babysitter and knowing that I can’t be in the same room as her daughter.
  • Feeling like they somehow have to make a choice whether to see me or her based on her childcare situation.
  • Feeling like they are stuck in the middle of this horribly awkward situation. Where her baby lived and mine died.
  • Trying to be good friends to each of us while not hurting the feelings of the other.
I don’t envy their situation. I try to put myself in their shoes, but I’m too close. I am unable to think objectively. So as much as I like this friend (and believe it or not, I really do) her move is a huge relief. Because I get to keep the other friends.

And I really need them right now.

As horrible as it is to say this, I need them more than she does. So I’m lying to everyone. Saying how much I will miss her and how sad I am to see her go. When really I’m just counting down the days.

So I’m a liar, and it makes me feel like a horrible person. Even though all I’m really trying to do is survive.

The author of Finding My New Normal [2] blogs about her life, and her husband’s life, after the death of their son in the 36th week of pregnancy.  Having recently moved from the US to London, she shares her journey openly, including her plans to have another child.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Friends With Benefits

I hope the day will be a lighter highway
For friends are found on every road
Can you ever think of any better way
For the lost and weary travellers to go
Making friends for the world to see
Let the people know you got what you need
With a friend at hand you will see the light
If your friends are there then everything's all right
It seems to me a crime that we should age
These fragile times should never slip us by
A time you never can or shall erase
As friends together watch their childhood fly

Music By: Elton John     Lyrics By: Bernie Taupin

Having a network of good and true friends is invaluable when you are trying to develop resilience to life's traumas.  Your friends may not have experienced the loss of a spouse, a child, or a near and dear loved one and it might be hard for them to understand the depth of your grief.  But, more importantly, your friends are probably sticking to your side whether they get it or not.  That says a lot about them and it says a lot about you.  To be fair, sometimes it's hard even for you to know the depth of your grief and how you are going to feel from one minute to the next.  Don't toss your friends under the bus because they can't read your mind.

Life will slowly get better because close connections with other people relieves stress and boosts your immunity.  There is a direct health benefit to having friends, says Blair Justice, PhD, professor of psychology at the University of Texas in Houston.  You are a happier person when you have friends.  People who live isolated lives -- without hugs, handshakes or other physical contact -- are just as likely to develop heart disease as those people who smoke, eat high-fat diets and don't exercise, according to Justice.

Just being with people who love us and care about us sends a message that we are still connected to a community of  friendships, a community of humanity.  I am sure your friends are trying their best to be sympathetic and support you even if it doesn't seem they know what to do or say.  For sure they know that their friend is hurting and they want to make it better for you.  Hang in there. 

To manage your grief, it's important to regularly discuss what's going on in your life with your friends or family members.  It's not always going to make sense to them but it's important to acknowledge that it's not logical; it's just how you feel right now.  The give and take of trying to problem solve with others will help you feel stronger and may allow you to give your mind a rest from constantly thinking about the future.

So pick up the phone today and call or text a friend.  Your heart will thank you!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Hanging Out in the 'Hood

I saved a lot of money today.  I didn't do any shopping.  Even though today was Black Friday, I didn't walk into one store or visit any websites to shop or buy anything.  I just wasn't up for being sucking into the great vortex of shopping madness that now occurs on the day after Thanksgiving.  To me it's just a marketing ploy.  There may be 42-inch flat screen televisions that cost $199 but there's probably only four of them in the store and standing in line or camping out in a tent to take advantage of that price just isn't worth it.  I will do my bit for the economy.  It just didn't happen today.

Instead, I raked leaves with my son.  Besides working off the extra Thanksgiving calories I consumed yesterday, I got to spend time with my son and as he gets older those moments are to be grabbed and cherished.  It was a beautiful day and raking and cleaning the yard turned into a simple moment of talking about nothing at first but then more about life and how things are going for him in his senior year at Fordham.  He also had met up earlier in the day with a friend's son who is a junior in high school who wanted to chat with him about what college is like and how he should navigate the process of applying.  I told him that it was very nice of him to talk to this friend's son and he said he wanted to do it and enjoyed it.  But he was also surprised by how the conversation made him feel.

"It was weird in a way," he said.  "I've known this guy since he was in elementary school and now he's talking to me about applying to college and at the same time my friends and I are now looking for jobs for after graduation.  I don't know... I feel kindof, I don't know...old."  I was laughing hysterically.  "Oh yeah," I said.  "At the ripe old age of 21, you are really pushing it.  You have no idea what old feels like."

And then my son got to the crux of why today was so special.  "I don't want it to go so fast,"  he said.  "I think I need life to slow down a little bit."

Amen to that.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Mucho Thanks!!

Happy Thanksgiving!!

The classy and world famous Rockettes

Are you watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade yet?  To me, it's not truly Thanksgiving until I watch The Rockettes perform their incredibly precise dance numbers and their infamous kickline.  Then, of course, there are the numerous marching bands, celebrities lip synching popular tunes and the huge balloon animals.  Maybe you're peeling potatoes or putting the turkey in the oven.  Whatever you are doing and wherever you are, I hope your day is full of great food, family and friends!

Today I want to send a big thank you to all of my wonderful readers who have supported me and given me invaluable feedback.  I feel very lucky -- and amazed -- that others have connected with my blog and read my posts on a regular basis.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Macy's Parade in New York City

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Jamie Lee Curtis

Hello faithful readers!  Remember in 2002 when Jaime Lee Curtis revealed in a national magazine what she really looked like without help from make-up and hair assistants and more importantly, air brushing?  Maybe you don't, but I do and I thought it was one huge courageous move for women.  Besides her acting and writing talents, I applaud Jaime Lee Curtis for her honesty and independence. 

Jaime Lee Curtis' other bold move:  quitting alcohol and pain pills in 1999.  Since we're all in this together, one person's experience may help another person who is trying to rebuild their life.  Here's Jaime Lee Curtis' recent down-to-earth interview with

Jamie Lee Curtis - Actress, Author, Activist & Mother

1. What are your three words to live by? Why do these words guide your life?

Sobriety - Without it, I have nothing.
Love - My favorite quote from No Great Mischief by Alistair MacLeod is: "All of us are better when we're loved."

Humor - In Joni Mitchell's song, People's Parties, she wrote: "Laughing and crying you know it's the same release."

2. What does being an Architect of Change mean to you?

I think it means being brave and not being calcified in our family patterns.

3. Who do you consider to be an Architect of Change in your life?

Every sober woman I know.

4. What's the most important lesson you've learned in life?

That I am not in control.

5.  What is one thing you are working on right now that you feel especially passionate about?

My family.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Owen Danoff -- New Cover Song/Lonely Boy by the Black Keys

Please check out the latest recording from the very talented Owen Danoff who is on his way to being recognized as a major singer/songwriter.  The below YouTube video Lonely Boy by the Black Keys is covered by Owen Danoff.

Love his energy and his voice!!!!  Click below and enjoy:

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Month of Thanks

A Bowl of Hot Smashed Spuds...YUMMMM

As we get ready for that time of year when we traditionally pause and give thanks, this year may be hard for some to find a reason to be thankful.

If you have recently lost a loved one, a holiday celebration can exacerbate all the jumbled up feelings you are experiencing and trying to understand.

Thanksgiving was the first holiday that happened to me and my son after my husband's death.  Our son was thirteen at the time and he and I decided to stick to our usual Thanksgiving routine of having dinner at my parent's house with some of my siblings and their children. Basically, we thought it would be best if we stayed with what was familiar.  I know some people go the opposite route and mark the holiday in a completely new way after a loved one has died.  I understand that thinking and I would have loved to have traveled to a place where I didn't know anyone but I didn't think that would be good for my son.

I think I knew that Thanksgiving day would feel very different without my husband but I didn't really understand how different it would be until the day was set in motion.

On one level, you pretend that it's a day like any other day and your loved one just isn't around.  I didn't really consciously think about why he wasn't there with me; he just wasn't there.  I think I thought that if I kept moving forward through the day, the concept of his death wouldn't catch up to me.  I was fine until I actually arrived at my parents house and I saw the table set and everyone busy preparing food as though it were any other Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving.

NOT!  It sounds so silly but the full impact of that day didn't actually hit me until then.  I quickly looked around the room and realized I was there without my husband and that my husband wasn't there because he just died.  My son was with me but as soon as he saw his cousins he went off and played with them which was perfectly normal.  I was glad for him and I wished that I had some friends to go and play with so I wouldn't have to deal with reality.

The only way I can describe how I felt that day is that as I looked around the room and I felt very lost and I thought to myself, "How can everyone act like nothing has happened?  I feel awful!"  I ended up crying and going for a ride in the car with my Dad.  We talked for a long time and I gathered myself together and we went back for dinner.  It's wasn't great but I got through it.  That year I was just thankful to get through the day.

Thanksgiving was the first of many times that I GOT THROUGH IT.  After about a million times of getting through things, I slowly began to notice a shift in my emotions: I didn't always feel so close to tears and I didn't always feel outside of myself.

This year before I dig into my mashed potatoes (notice I put those first), stuffing, cranberries and turkey, I'm going to pause and give thanks for the gift of perseverance and the major blessings in my life: my son, my family, my friends and my health.  If you know someone who just lost a spouse, a child, a relative or a friend, please ask them if they have plans for Thanksgiving.  They might turn down the invitation and then again they might accept the invitation.  Including someone who is having a rough time of it might change the atmosphere of your holiday celebration, but I would hope that it could be different in a good way.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Changing Up Thanksgiving?

A Thanksgiving Cookout?

Most people don't want to try something new for Thanksgiving dinner.  They usually want the same food that has been served to them at every Thanksgiving dinner since they were a child because it's comforting and to them, it defines Thanksgiving dinner.  It's all about tradition.

And there's nothing wrong with tradition.  But life can also be about surprises and choices.  Maybe you have some Thanksgiving or other holiday ritual you'd like to eliminate or introduce.  That's why I like the following column....

Make Your Own Thanksgiving
Is it time to make your own Thanksgiving traditions?

by Michele Woodward
Published on November 24, 2010
This week I've been thinking about money.
And how so many people get all weird and wobbly when it comes to talking about it. Asking for it. Having it at all.
And it's interesting that they way our parents and grandparents handled money probably affects the way we handle money. I think about the woman whose immigrant parents struggled and sacrificed and lived in poverty. And now, even though she makes a million dollars a year, she hoards paper towels and soup... just in case.
Or the guy whose dad was a dreamer and a schemer. When they had money, they spent it - lavish dinners, fancy trips, stylish clothes. And when they had no money, they fantasized about how they'd spend it once it came back. Today, this guy has no savings and wonders what happens to his cash.
Last year I wrote When Gifts Become Junk - just because someone gives you a gift, like a legacy around money, you don't have to take it.
It's kind of like Thanksgiving.
I remember the first time I had to cook Thanksgiving on my own. I planned to carefully replicate the traditional family menu, but then ran into a little blip. Where my family had bread-and-oyster dressing, heavy on the sage, his family had cornbread dressing with plenty of celery and onion. My family was mashed potatoes, his was rice. Ours was brown gravy. His had hard-boiled eggs floating in a yellow gravy.

We each had our own idea of What Thanksgiving Is and What One Must Consume So It Is Truly Thanksgiving. Compromise felt like loss.
Oh, I come by the feeling of What It Should Be quite naturally - another family legacy. I remember my mother preparing Thanksgiving when I was a child. She looked at our loaded table and would always say, "You know, my grandmother would have chicken and dumplings, ham, turkey, fried chicken, and four different kinds of pie...this just doesn't seem like Thanksgiving to me." The fact that we had ham and turkey and three pies - never lived up to what Thanksgiving Should Be.
What a struggle. It's the tension between fantasy and reality, really. It's the tightrope of being present right here and now, and living in a storied and maybe flawed recollection of a "better time." It's an oppressive and unrealistic burden because the past you're trying to match was probably not as wonderful as you recall. It probably wasn't any more happy than you can make today.
So to be firmly here in the present, and living a happy life, there comes a point when you simply choose to make your own Thanksgiving.
Take a look at the heritage of your forebears and decide what you want to consciously take forward with you in your own life. It is absolutely OK - hey, it's more than OK, it's imperative - to decide whether you want to continue with the tiny marshmallows on the top of the super sweet potatoes, or go a bit healthier and replace that traditional dish with, oh, steamed broccoli.
You create your own traditions, not because what your parents and grandparents did was wrong. It may have been really right. For them. At that time. But now, it's your life. You can create your own way of being in the world, darling, because you are you - not them.
Look at the legacies gifted to you by your parents and grandparents - around money, around relationships, around body image, around holidays - and decide: "Is this what I want for myself? Does this make me happy, or give me stress?"
If a tradition works for you, and makes you very, very happy - then keep it. If a tradition feels like a heavy obligation, and makes you very, very stressed - then it's time to lovingly let that relic go.
Feel free to make your own menu, and it will be your own Thanksgiving. Every single celebratory day.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Bridge of Love

Photograph by Philippe Garavel

In Paris, lovers fasten padlocks to the railings of the Pont des Arts bridge.  The couple then tosses
 the keys into the Seine river below, symbolizing their eternal love.

Happy Friday everyone! 

The following quote is from the last paragraph of the novel The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thorton Wilder.  I'm sharing it because I think it captures the essence of what we all strive to do while rebuilding our lives after the loss of a person near and dear to us:

"We ourselves shall be loved for a while and forgotten. 

But the love will have been enough; all those impulses of love return to the love that made them.  Even memory is not necessary for love.

There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning."

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Day To Remember

My niece is getting married this Saturday and everyone in my large boisterous family is looking forward to getting together and celebrating this wonderful occasion.  Months and months of preparation have gone into planning this special day and I think my sister will absolutely have a fit if it doesn't all go off perfectly!

No matter what happens, I know it will be a beautiful day, a day filled with great memories.  For me, it will be another reason why Nov. 12 stands out on the calendar.  My niece's wedding will also be sharing the date of the day my husband died.  This year will mark the eighth anniversary of his death.  My husband loved my niece very much and when she was about 3 years old we took care of her for a weekend in our 2-bedroom apartment while her parents were away.  She was the kind of child you could take anywhere and she ate anything you gave her.  He would be so happy for her and her big day and I know he would like the guy she is marrying.

Both my sister and my niece talked to me when it became apparent that the wedding date would probably end up being Nov. 12.  They had fallen in love with a particular place for the reception and it was available on Nov. 12.  They were both so excited and I was genuinely happy for them.  Never in a million years would I have told my niece that she couldn't get married on that day.

It's a hard fact to embrace, but life does go on.  In the beginning, you can't imagine that it will, but it does.  It's sort of stunning when it hits you and you arrive at the realization that you can't fence the day off and say nothing else can ever happen on this date.  From the first anniversary until this year's anniversary, I have always made sure I am out and about on that date.  I'm not saying that I don't get teary or that it doesn't hurt.  It did and it does.  A lot.

But throughout all of those anniversaries I reminded myself that I needed to raise my fantastic son, rebuild my life and stay involved.  In fact, about four years ago another one of my nieces needed me to participate in her Confirmation ceremony and it was scheduled for the day after the anniversary date.  I am her godmother too and she needed me.  Life continues to happen for those that we love and I was happy to be there to support her and sponsor her as she received this important sacrament.  Yes, the date reminds me of the sadness of losing him but I can't control that life happens.  I can only control my reaction to it.

I will be thinking of my husband during the wedding ceremony itself and how it felt to say those words to him and to hear him say them to me.  I will also be reminding myself that I was very lucky to have fallen in love with someone who also fell in love with me.  Not everyone finds love in their lifetime and I know that I did.

My husband would want me to have a good time at the reception and I know I will.  Of course, I wish he could be there but I can't spend the day replaying the slide show of our life together in my head.  We always spent a lot of time out on the dance floor and I intend to boogie with the best of them.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Step By Step

When life deals you a blow, your first reaction is to withdraw and protect yourself.  You want to crawl under the covers, lock the doors and wait for the bad stuff to go away.  But guess what?  In the long run, that doesn't work.  Denial usually makes a situation a whole helluva lot worse.

There are lots of theories about why things get worse when they are ignored, but I think it happens because when you don't pay attention to your thoughts and feelings they build up like a pressure cooker.  At some point, the pot is going to explode.

You are in a terribly painful place when you lose someone who made you feel that your life was full of possibilities.  It can be one of life's lowest places.  You feel alone and numb.  You are in uncharted territory because the intensity of your new grief is unlike any thing you have ever experienced.  You are temporarily stunned and there was no way for you to prepare for it.

Yet, even as your world is being turned totally upside down, there is an unspoken expectation that you will handle everything and carry on as though you knew this was coming.  Hopefully, those who know you best will give you some time and space to work through your grief emotions.  I imagine that dealing with your grief in public may be slightly similiar to being a cancer patient.  Most people would rather not discuss cancer or death and most of the time you (the patient) end up trying to make other people feel comfortable while you are barely coping yourself.

I have found that taking baby steps can be a better way to go.  Working through your grief in little ways makes it less overwhelming and easier to handle.  When you find that processing your grief starts to become too much for you, then stop.  Come back to it later; your conflicting grief feelings and thoughts will still be there and maybe taking a break will allow you to approach it from a different point of view.

Pretty much all that you see and feel is your loss and how awful you feel.  You don't know how long this pain is going to last, if the pain is going to get worse, and if so, when it will get worse or how long you are going to feel this way.  That's where taking things in small increments is helpful.

It's ironic.  We have become a society where information about everything seems to be easily accessible and in your face.  People don't seem to care what they say while talking on their cellphones in public and will make anything their business while standing in line at the grocery store.  Yet grief is still in a category by itself.  It's almost as though the general public considers grief to be some kind of a disease or bad luck that they might catch if they spend too much time around you.

We know this isn't true, so ignore the reaction of others.  What's most important is to face your adversity in a positive manner because you can play more of a role than you may realize in steering your future and turning it towards the direction you want.  Whether it's prayer, exercise, talking to yourself or listening to tapes, there are lots of resources out there for you to choose.

All you have to do is start.  Today is a day that's never happened before.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Workshop For Grieving Teens -- Friday, Nov. 14

One in nine Americans has experienced the death of a parent before the age of 20, according to the Wendt Center for Loss and Healing in Washington, DC.

The first time I read that statistic, it made me pause.  That's a lot of children having their worlds turned upside down at a time when they need lots of love and stability.  Being a teenager is tumultuous enough.  Imagine the range of conflicting emotions the death of a parent, relative or close friend brings.  It's a chaotic time and children need to be dealt with gently but honestly when a parent or any other member of their family dies.  Telling them a "story" about  the person's death in order to protect the child or spare them pain will usually cause more emotional problems down the road because they will eventually discover the truth and then the reality of their situation may be even more traumatic.

Always answers teen's and children's questions honestly and directly.  If you don't know the answer, say that you don't have the answer for their question right now and you will try to find the answer for them.

As much as we might like it, there is no quick fix to feeling better.  The grieving process takes time and every child needs the space to grieve in their own way.

In response to the growing need for teens to explore the intense emotions that occur when they lose a loved one, the Wendt Center For Loss and Healing is sponsoring "Write It Out", a workshop for teens dealing with grief.

"Write It Out" uses poetry and the spoken word as a way to process grief.  Lead by spoken word artist and MSW Candidate, Laurie Blair, participants will be guided through a series of prompts to inspire poetry and prose as a means of exploring and expressing one's grief journey.  Participants will be invited to share their creations and explore the meanings and memories generated therein.

Pre-registration is required.  Please call the Wendt Center Intake Department at 202-204-5021.  The workshop will be held at Wendt Center's Northwest Office, 4201 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 300, Washington, DC. 

When:            Friday, November 14, 2011

Time:              6-8 pm

Cost:              $20 (Scholarships are available.)