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When Is It Okay?

Editor: Sonya Marvel
Contributors: All Members of My Parents Are Survivors

By Terri

A recently bereaved parent said to me the other night. “I laughed today and I felt guilty.” His son was needlessly murdered just a short six months ago because the cash register his son was responsible for held no more than $20.00

I didn’t know quite how to answer him. My son was murdered just over two years ago and I still occasionally feel guilt when I revel in the joy of being in love, or the beautiful sunset, or laugh with new friends, or chuckle at one of the myriad of jokes my son’s friends and I tell about him.

Because I laugh and joke and tease about what my son may or may not be doing now, others are sometimes appalled at what they perceive as my lack of respect for those no longer with us. I long ago stopped trying to explain that it is not a lack of respect for my son or anyone else. It is rather a stubborn refusal to become defined by death and an acknowledgment that my son would be making the same irreverent jokes about me. Laughter is healthy. Humor is therapy. They are simply another coping mechanism.

Some days I cannot stop crying - not necessarily on birthdays that no longer are or death days that loom.

I have no idea why. Some days I can’t cry - even on those non-birthdays or horrid anniversaries. There is simply no rhyme or reason to it, just as there is no rhyme or reason to why we have to outlive our children.

When is it all right to cry? Whenever we feel like it.

When is it all right to smile and laugh? Whenever we feel like it.

When is it all right to feel guilty because we cry or laugh - never!!!

We cry because we hurt, because we are human, because we love and miss our children. If we start crying in the middle of a grocery store because we see a special on his/her favorite cereal - so what? I don’t know about others, but I am long past caring what strangers think.

We laugh because we can sometimes see through the dark clouds and remember our children’s laughter.

We laugh when we remember the silly things they used to do. We laugh because we can hear their voices saying, “MOMMM, you’re embarrassing me again.” We laugh because our children taught us how and because they would never forgive us if we stopped laughing and enjoying life.

I miss my son terribly. I will always miss my son terribly. I would gladly trade my life for his, if I had that choice. When I laugh, it does not mean I miss him less than others miss their children. When I smile at simple joys like thunderstorms, it does not mean I am “in denial” about my son’s death. When I cry, it does not mean I am no longer coping.

Never be afraid to express your emotions. Never feel guilt over finding humor or joy. After all, losing a child means never again having to say you’re sorry for anything you do.

Terri’s son and only child, Patrick, was murdered in Mexico in May of 1996 at the age of 22.

Terri is also a single parent.

~lovingly lifted from the Alive Alone Web Site
TCF Atlanta Sharing

Please let us know your thoughts on the subject "When Is It Okay?"

I find myself in the unique positions of being both an experienced bereaved parent and a newly bereaved parent. I've lost three children...an 11-month-old daughter, Michelle, in 1968, a 2 1/2 year old son, Jerry, in 1970 and my 29-year-old disabled son, Danny, just one month ago on May 29, 2000.

It had been 29 years since the death of my son in 1970 when Danny passed away. I had reached the stage where I could laugh again, I could think of and speak of my children without falling apart. Now I find that I am right back where I started. I find it difficult to experience joy. In fact, I'm suffering all of the same emotions that I went through with my two other children all over again. Even though I've been through all of this before, experience doesn't seem to make any difference at all. I feel like I don't have the right to be happy right now. Danny went through so much in the last three months of his life...how can I be happy when he suffered so much.

Four days after Danny died, my grandson was born to my son and daughter-in-law, who had been waiting nine years to have a child. I should have been ecstatic about this baby's birth. Yet, when I would look at him in the hospital nursery, I would feel nothing...absolutely nothing. It was just too soon after Danny's death. I couldn't find joy in anything...not even such a blessed event. I felt guilty because I knew that I should be so happy for my son and his wife but there was nothing left inside of me to give. All I felt was emptiness.

I know that it will take a long time to reach where I was before Danny died. It will take much time and many, many tears but I will survive this. I've done it twice before and with the help of God I'll do it again.

Jackie Comeaux
Michelle's, Jerry's, and Danny's Mom

This is a very good subject. My lil angel has been gone almost 24 years. I am the only person in my family who has lost a child so I never had anyone to talk to who understood. I have felt so much guilt over the years relating to this subject about 5 years or so after she left for heaven. I didn't remember her birthday until about 11 that night. I was so upset and spent hours yelling at myself. It took me weeks to finally give myself the credit and understand that I am only human. I am so pleased that there is so much help so that others don't have to go through all this alone.

Love & Peace to All
Virginia aka Slinki

I had two instances that really affected me. The first was eating a meal.

My last day with Jason we had gone shopping for furniture for his apartment. I was cooking a roast in the pressure cooker when he and his girlfriend came to the house for our outing. My first reaction with anger because they were way early and now I would have to stop cooking to 'bother' to go with them to get the furniture. Such a chore to spend time with my child!

We ran our errands, I returned home and finished the meal. After the funeral, his girlfriend and I were cleaning out his apartment and I commented on how much food they had on hand. She said they had just went to the grocery because he commented that "since leaving home I haven't had a really good meal like my mom used to make" and she was going to cook him a roast like I was on that 'last day'.

It was a week before I could eat an entire meal, seriously. Every time I put the fork to my mouth I almost threw up (sorry for that). All I could think about was how angry I was at him that day for RUINING MY MEAL. I threw the pressure cooker away and still have not had a pot roast to this day - four years later.

My second instance WAS the first time I laughed. I stopped in mid-laugh and cried for half an hour. Everyone at work looked at me like I had finally went over the edge (something they had been expecting) and when I explained to them why I was crying, they were astounded that this would affect me this way.

What many do not realize, unless they are under the circumstances that we all are, that losing your child makes your emotions very raw. Laughing does not seem appropriate. It seems disrespectful some how.

Fortunately, I have been able to move on from that experience and often sit at the cemetery and laugh 'with' Jason, recounting tales and experiences that have happened lately.

Thank you for this outlet,
SusiDee

It has been 5 years since my youngest grandson left. I distinctly remember feeling like I was "leaving him out" when the family attended Sunday School; went shopping; enjoyed fireworks or a carnival. I remember the 1st Thanksgiving, Christmas & New Years as the family got together & his little face wasn't there. When is it o.k. to smile? It becomes o.k. To smile when we realize we must go on for the sake of the others. We must go on & go through the motions of every day life whether we really want to or not. After a while it becomes almost automatic. We do the things we have to do without thinking but the heaviness remains inside as if we are going to explode. Others may see a smile on the outside but not be able to see what we are really feeling inside. There will always be days where we don't feel like smiling and the tears freely flow. I discovered the real smiles and laughs when I chose to remember the happy times with our precious angel. I choose to remember the pleasure & love that he provided in such a short time with us. We have 6 remaining grandchildren who will gather on July 26th. To celebrate Trevor Alan's 6th birthday. They will sign and release 12 helium balloons and sing Happy Birthday to their brother & cousin. Strange? Morbid? No, I don't think so because it is a tradition thought of by 6 loving children for one little boy who has gone on before us. These children and Trevor's mother choose to keep his spirit alive and by doing so, we have found reason to smile.

Trevor's Grandma Cindy

Everyone grieves in different ways. What is right for one parent may not be for another. Some people show their emotions, while others hold in all the tears and pain. I feel it is important to respect ALL ways of grieving. Don't condemn a parent (or grandparent) for crying too much or not crying at all! At my granddaughter's viewing...I could NOT shed a tear. I felt so guilty!!!! I guess it was because I was in such a state of shock, and all I could think of was being strong for my son and his wife, and my other granddaughter. I HAD TO BE THEIR STRENGTH! In the months that followed...I have shed millions of tears. I need only to hear or speak her name...and I break into tears. I am NOT ashamed of those tears. I grieve for what might have been....for the dreams I had for...and with her. I grieve for what she has missed in life...though' I know she has passed on to a new dimension...a greater life which we all pray to attain one day.

She left me with SO many gifts. The compassion and caring that I now experience for all my friends and even troubled strangers that I hear about...the sense of reaching out to others in pain...the feeling of peace that surrounds me as I practice my FAITH. All these things were left to me by her. I know she is proud of the person her Gram has become. My poetry has helped so many others who walk this path...and that gift speaks my love for Melissa. When I laugh, it's because I remember the GOOD times and I celebrate her life. When I cry, it's because I loved her so deeply, and want her remembered. Just follow your heart, and let it lead you to peace and understanding... for death is not an ending....but a beginning. Someone asked me...."Would you rather have had Melissa for 16 years or not at all? There is only ONE answer. " Whatever time she spent with us would not have been long enough.... but YES, for I can NOT imagine life without her ever having been in it!!!!" Rejoice in the fact that we have been in the company of ANGELS!

Luv'n prayers,
Cuppy (Melissa's proud and forever grieving Gram)
http://home.ptd.net/~cuppy7/angelstouch.htm

WHEN IS IT OKAY TO SMILE AGAIN?

The day I had to purchase burial clothes for my son was the worst day of my life. The jolt of his death was raging within every pore of my being and I didn't want to bury him. He was so much alive two days ago when we spent the day together. I wondered if there could be a store with a tape measure long enough to measure the depth and width of my pain, and immediately knew there wasn't enough instruments of measure in the whole world long enough to surround what I was feeling. It was larger than anything...larger than the earth....and much larger than our universe. Such pain and emptiness because my boy was gone. Such helplessness because there was nothing I could do to change it. I felt like an empty nothing and I knew I would never again have anything to smile or be happy about.

I went under the care of a doctor because I thought I was dying of a sick heart. I had chest pains so immense I couldn't stay on my job. My doctor ran tests and assured me my heart was okay, and put me on a tranquilizer so I could function. "Function"? I guess that's what I was finally able to do, because I went back to work... but I was still in pain. Pain from the void left in my heart when my son went away. Children are not supposed to die before their parents and there is no built-in brain place for it to be accepted or dealt with. "WHY" was the question ever looming, and a smile never accompanies a painful "WHY" so I spent years unable to consciously reason past the depression my son's absence had draped over me. He was dead and I could NEVER be the same. I have cried oceans and oceans of tears for my loss and I would not be consoled because the emptiness inside me hurt so badly, and it was huge! With so many tears and such a vast gulf...NO, there was no place found for a smile.

John died twenty years ago this next September and I will never forget...but... he has made me able to smile! Just in this past year have I been able to smile without feeling guilty. One day I realized our last day together was a happy time for both of us. He shared his smiles and laughter with me as I did with him. He had a beautiful smile and he would kind of laugh all over...and I realized he wouldn't want me to continue in sadness. I am smiling now as I remember him.

As a reminder, I took a very long white ribbon, which represented the purity of the endless love between us, and strung this white ribbon from one corner of my living room to the opposite corner. Then I took bright blue ribbon, which represented his smiles for me, and tied blue bows all along this white ribbon. Every day I look at a blue bow and I smile back at him, then I take his blue ribbon smile and put it in my pocket, which represents that his smiles will always be with me, and they are! Yes, I smile for him every day now and I don't feel one bit guilty about it because I have finally realized that a smile is not showing disrespect. Getting on with my life and smiling is showing how much I still remember, love and respect him, in spite of how many years he has been gone, how he died, or how much I still miss him. Do I still cry for him? OH YES, I surely do. I've cried all through writing this, and in fact, I've had to take all his smiles down, one at a time and put them in my pocket, giving a smile back through my tears for each one. I'm laughing right now because I'm sure it sounds ridiculous to some who are reading this, and John can see the humor in it too. But I tell you this for sure ~ He wants these smiles for me, and I want and need them for the both of us.

Still smiling for him as I sign.
John's Mom
I AM A SURVIVOR.
I thank my daughter, Robin,
for building an "In Memoriam"
web page for John,
and I thank you, Sonya.

I would not have believed that I could laugh or smile again after the death of my son, but I decided on the anniversary of his death that I needed to go on living. He would be angry with me if I did not enjoy the things that I used to or at least try. It has been 2 1/2 years and I know I will never be the same. I miss him like crazy, but I am able to laugh and smile. I am alive and, for the sake of those I love and for myself, I must go on and live my life with a smile and a laugh. It does not replace or repair the pain and emptiness in the spots that I hold his memories and my love for him.

Linda

I have written a poem on my experiences. I hope you will share this. Thank you. My son's web page is http://www.geocities.com/jasperburns/

Susie Cross

I laughed the night my son Christopher Clause died, about an hour after if my memory is correct. I laughed with his many friends who came to our home both from the hospital and from their homes the night my son died. I was surrounded by his friends and the memories they all shared with me. Things I had never heard before, it made me both laugh and cry but mostly laugh. These were memories from the time Chris was 11 yrs old until he died at 27 from leukemia. I cannot tell you how sharing that night with his friends showed me it was ok to laugh, although from that night until now guilt is not a strong enough word to describe how I feel when I laugh. How can I laugh, he can't. How can I have fun, he can't. I am so mad that I am here and he isn't, its not fair, or right, or anything that all of us can't put into words. I am 57 years old my son died last year on March 18,1999. He was only a baby compared to me. Guilt, I feel it every day, but my laughter is hollow and when I do laugh I remember Chris, because he had such a good sense of humor.

You can find me at zekey@ihugs.com.au for me I have been writing to him for a while he is a little boy from Australia with leukemia. My pc went out for a while and I don't want him to think I forgot about. The last mail I got was June 20th. Can you please help me. I belong to the Moms Survivors Barbara Clause; Christopher Clause 10/20/71 - 3/18/99. Please try to get me the page I first saw him on. I know it had to do with kids with leukemia because I saw his picture and his fathers. The only place I went at that time was either into cancer sites or leukemia sites the @ihug is not a known site. When I try to find a profile his name is Zeke Jefferies or Jeffreys please try to help.

Thanks
Barbara Clause Giordano
Ccause666@aol.com

For a long time after I lost my Becca I did not smile or laugh and mean it. I would put on the "complimentary" smile that every one expected me to have. I had a hard time faking a laugh though. After 6 months my husband and I thought we were pregnant again. 6 months and 3 days after my loss I laughed and cried with joy for the first time since my loss. I found out I was pregnant. I am not saying to get pregnant after 6 months to feel better I am saying that it took a life like hers to make me feel like I could live again. She was a firstborn so without her it was so lonely.

I remember even then I felt guilty about it. It has been 19 months since I lost my daughter to SIDS and still sometimes...I feel guilty for being happy. I feel like I am doing her wrong by being happy without her. But to be honest do out children want us to climb into the grave with them? No and no matter how much we wish we could we cannot do it. I often think of my own mother when I am at my worst and guiltiest moments in this life of grief. I cannot put her through this. I love my daughter but now I feel I have to live for us both since she cannot live herself. So I do what I think she would want me to.

Jean
Becca & Ethan

As a veteran of being a bereaved parent, if I've learned one thing it is, there is no right time or wrong time to grieve. Some of us take longer, some of us can get by on less time.

I lost my son almost 23 years ago, my only child at the time at the age of 5. My life was destroyed. I remember when I felt guilty to even try and imagine laughing again. I felt guilty if I was hungry, thinking he'd never eat food again. I felt guilty to do ANYTHING for weeks. There was no Internet back in the 70's like today, no chat rooms, no one to talk to. We who lost our children many years ago had to more or less go it alone. My family didn't understand. My friends didn't understand. I looked the same on the outside, but they couldn't see the "inside" and the hole in my heart. A hole that seemed to choke me every morning when I opened my eyes. It took time. A lot of time for me. I guess because I felt alone, and no matter how much I tried to explain to people what I FELT in my heart, they still didn't understand me.

I remember the first time I laughed after his death. I was horrified that I laughed. I then cried for being able to laugh. Slowly, I learned that I needed to survive. Hard as it was, I was here on this earth, and I had to find a way to go on. I found it. But it took time. Even today, I still have what I now call my "bad" days. I still cry. I will until the day I die. I wrote a poem titled MEMORIES. It can be read at http://www.angelfire.com/al2/andydunbar/index.html. It is on the second page of my son's site.

Sharon Bryant

Since my son's death is so recent I am still waiting for the phone to ring and he will be on the other end. I live in UT and he lived in NC. He would always sing you are so beautiful to me. I still haven't accepted the reality that he is gone. He was 27 and my oldest child. They negotiated with him for three hours before he put the gun to his head. I guess there. Wasn't much they could do because he had it cocked the whole time.

I flew out as soon as I got the call, he was being life flighted to a hospital in Charlotte. When I got to Cincinnati I called and he was gone. Before I left home I was fortunate enough to convince them to put a phone to his ear. I know he heard what I said. He just couldn't hang on. You know when they tell you he has a heart beat but he is in critical condition, you don't think you will loose him. I planned on spending my days in the hospital with him so I packed things that I knew would comfort him.

When I got to NC they took me straight to my daughter in laws house and I called the funeral home and asked them to call me as soon as they had his body because I needed to see him before they worked on him. They did that for me. I was grateful but I still have this mental block that he will call me just to chat or whatever.

There is more to the story but I am done for now.
Thanks for listening
Irene

Matthew passed away a little over 4 years ago. I really don't remember when I allowed myself to laugh. Yes, allowed myself to laugh. I do remember feeling guilty when that happened. Like, how dare I laugh after I've lost my son? I remember asking friends to leave our home because they had the nerve to "party" in our home after we had lost our son. I remember laughing and then crying all at the same time. But what I remember most is knowing what a great smile Matthew had. I remember what a jokester Matthew was and I remember how many times in my life that I felt down and my Matthew would cheer me up. Why was it okay to smile and laugh? Because that's the way my Matt would have wanted it and when I realized that, then I knew it was okay. To my Matthew, I love you and miss you and think of you always. Thanks for the smiles.

Pruutel@aol.com

When is it okay to smile and enjoy life? As soon as we can. This is my true belief. For some of us it takes a very long time, and for me it didn't come to stay. It comes and goes still, after many long years. I know in my heart that my husband and daughter would both want me to live life to the fullest and enjoy each day.

There's always an emptiness, and always a regret that my daughter is not here to enjoy life with me. I wish she were physically here. I do believe she is with me in spirit. I truly believe that she has encouraged me many times to keep going, and to make the right choices, and do the next right thing in my life, especially when it was a difficult time.

I visualize her being free and happy, and somehow I think that when I am sad I will be making her sad. I think she is happy when I am happy, because we are so much a part of each other, and our love always will exist. Her death didn't change that at all.

When I'm not happy, or not enjoying life, sometimes I use the saying, "Fake it til you make it." and joy will somehow return.

What is joy to me? Joy is not the absence of pain. Rather, joy is the presence of God in my life. When God is "in" my life, and I have surrendered all that I am to Him and His will for the day, then joy is the result. It isn't necessarily laughter and giggles. But, it is an inner knowing and a peace that passes understanding.

God bless us all.
Mary Jane Menke

Yes, very early on, probably within the first year, the guilt was overwhelming when there was occasion to smile or especially to laugh or to experience enjoyment of any kind. As time went on, the guilt was replaced by melancholy... why can't my child be here to enjoy this with me... Finally, as the months turn to years, you rationalize and say, "my child would want me to be happy" even though you fight the feeling due to sadness and a heart that has broken. Then somewhere along the line, you find that the hard, jagged edges of your heart have smoothed a little and the pain isn't as sharp. After many years since my beautiful first-born child, Suzan, has died, I do laugh and I do enjoy life and I do look forward to tomorrow and I do accept that when the time is right, I will see her again. So, "when is it okay" to smile again? It is okay when you can honestly believe that you have taken a small step in the healing process and know that your child WANTS you to be happy and that smiling and enjoying does not diminish your love for them... it most definitely enhances it.

Marsha, Mom to Angel Suzan 3/4/64 - 4/22/88

My name is Justina Herdahl and I am 27 years old. I lost my little Mackenzie in 1996. She was 3 1/2 years old. My boyfriend {at this time} abused her, and then murdered her out of anger, while I was out shopping. The feelings were endless. There was mostly confusion, sadness {I never stopped crying}, and anger. Well, maybe not so much anger. I refused to believe that my boyfriend had done this. I was more mad at God, for taking Mackenzie away, than I was at the man accused! That was the denial in my grieving process. A few days later, the county took my 5 year old girl and placed her at my ex mother in laws house. {because she was a witness, and they just wanted her safe-so they say} Then came more confusion, and sadness. 2 months after all I could handle of grieving, my best friend of 8 years died instantly in a car crash. Where am I supposed to be in my grieving process now? Which one of these events should I be sad for? When I cried, I honestly did not know which loss it was for. I had days where I was ok, and did not cry. There was not very many though. I had all these people telling me I should get on some antidepressants and stuff. To this day I have never had anything. I had all these pictures in my little apartment of Mackenzie, my other daughter, and my best friend. I could not bear to get rid of anything. I had to have all this stuff around. Maybe for security- I'm not sure. I had a very strong, supportive family. My dad would call me every day, and say "I don't know how you do it kid!". I acted pretty sane, but you have to. I figure that after such a loss, I can either sit here, and let my life wither by and hide from everything - {and let the man who murdered my little girl win} or I can learn from this and be a stronger person. Please don't get me wrong...I miss my little Mackenzie more than anything in this world, but she is and always will be in my heart. When all this loss came into my life, I used to ask myself..."if god was here to protect us and everything, then why did he do this to me? My family always said, "God doesn't give us more than we can handle". "Yeah Right!" I'd say. I never believed that until now...4 years later. You know what? They were right! God doesn't give us more than we can handle. I have come this far, and I am still ok. In fact even though I miss Mackenzie and my best friend, I am better than I have ever been! I am the proudest of proud! I am one of the survivors! I made it! This March, 4 years later...I finally got my other daughter back. It was exactly to the date of my little Mackenzie's murder. I am engaged to be married this September to a wonderful, hard to find man that accepts me for who I am, and all that I've been through. I feel better than I ever have, even though I miss the ones I've lost. So I guess now that I've gotten carried away, I'll tell you when grieving is okay... Whenever you feel the need to grieve, whether it is at the grocery store, or the car wash...do it! You have the right to grieve whenever, wherever, and however you need to. There is no certain way the grieving process should go. In your own time, place and order. You may feel sadness and guilt at the same time, and the next minute happiness. You are okay, in time {and no one knows, not even you} you will feel better if you make that choice. If someone tells you should be over it by now, find someone else to talk to! I guess I'll end with that, or I'll be up all night rambling on and on. Thanks for listening {well reading}. Have a fun and safe summer, and God bless.

Anyone can email me for support, or just someone to talk to.
Thanks much! Justina - email address is briden@frontiernet.net
With love, a mommy of an angel.... Tina

This topic I believe is a tough issue for all of us bereaved parents. I lost my little 10-year-old girl over 2 1/2 years ago. I had a difficult time thinking about my daughter and smiling. I thought she would feel I was "O.K." with her death. I just see her beautiful smile in the picture and want her to see me smile back at times instead of the sober grief that is always on my face.

I think now when I laugh, I know that it is some relief from the constant pain and grieving that I do, and she would be happy that I am finding some relief, and not feeling "forgotten."

I have and always will love her with all my heart and soul, and I hope other grieving parents can find comfort in knowing that their child knows that.

I am a survivor! And I would want that for her!

Cheryl

I guess it's okay when it's okay for you. I lost my daughter on November 4, 1990. The day of her funeral her baby brother took his first steps in front of his grandparents who lived across the country and would never have experienced that...very mixed feelings. Due to her illness my daughter never stood let alone walked. It was tears of joy, frustration, grief, anger and everything that drooled down my cheeks that day...but I knew that she had seen him do it. She was in heaven but I knew she had seen her baby brother take those first few steps of his life and I knew she was proud...and that was enough for me.

Jayme, Mother of Stephany Jo Ann Noyce
04-30-87 to 11-04-90

My son passed away at 13 months of age of a genetic disease called Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA). For me, while the death of my son ranks as the most devastating thing that has happened to us, I did not/do not have a problem with the quandary of whether it is okay to smile and laugh or not. At Devon's funeral, this strange woman walked up to me and said, "He looks so natural". Well, he did NOT look natural. He had makeup on and his face was pale and they had lipstick on him. His little 3-year-old cousin nailed it when he was brought up to look at Devon, and he said "his face looks like a lady now" very loudly. I walked over and shared that with my mom, and we both got a smile out of both of the comments amidst our tears. I was holding Devon when he passed, and the peace on his face and the glow on his skin was what I remembered, what I chose to think of as 'him'. He was not in that coffin that day, he was already running and playing like he could never do on earth. I know my loved one would not be pleased if I spent my life miserable and in mourning. To me it felt like a disservice to his memory, to the joy in his life, to spend all my life dwelling on the one bad day-the day of his death-instead of the many wonderful days he had while alive. I want to remember him with love and joy and peace, I want his memory to be one that makes me smile, not one that makes me upset. I smile and laugh because HE smiled and laughed, because he would not want me to die (inside) with him. I laugh and smile because he taught me many wonderful things in the time he was with me, including the simple fact that life is so very precious, and not to be wasted or taken for granted. He will NEVER be forgotten, and will remain one of the most precious gifts of my life. One that I will remember constantly, with joy.

Sincerely,
Laura Stants

I just got back in my office, ran out for a second and it hit me. You never know when or where or what might bring it on. It can even be a smell of something he used to wear. I lost my son two years ago, and the guilty feeling is still there. Why? A million times why. Why me? Why Him? Why didn't I help him? Why didn't I stop by his house? Why would someone that loves him kill him?? WHY WHY WHY? There is no answers or justice. I live this nightmare everyday. I see myself crying and there aren't any tears in my eyes. Have they all dried up? People say I have this sadness. I can't see it. It's just the way I am now. Some days I laugh but it's like it's not even me. I really don't think this ever goes away. A piece of my heart is gone.

Rose Long

I remember when I first found out that I was going to miscarry. It was the most horrible news even though the pregnancy was not planned. That weekend was superbowl weekend and I went out of town to see some friends and ended up laughing and having fun and painting my face including my dog's face. Then I realized that I should have been home crying my eyes out, not answering the phone and moping. My baby would not want me to be upset. She/He is safe with the Lord now and I should be content with that idea.

It still is sometimes hard to go out and have fun when I could be a mamma at home with my baby, but nature had to take its course and I'm happy that the baby is safe and I know that I can go on with my life knowing that this baby will have other brothers and sisters that I will laugh with and be able to tell that I am truly blessed that they made it to my world.

Sherrie Scott/WY

Our only child died 3.5 years ago. He (Danny) took his own life when he was almost 15 years old. When I think about other bereaved parents, I want to tell them there is no timetable. Whatever emotion comes up at the time is okay. Whatever they feel like doing anywhere in the bereavement journey is okay--as long as no one is seriously harmed.

But who wants to hear this from me??!! My own life and bereavement has not exemplified those feelings. I still struggle with each day. I allow myself very little in the way of enjoyment. I blame myself for my son's death, even though no one else seems to. I still cry everyday for my son. There are family and friends who don't seem to understand, maybe even some bereaved parents. I reached what felt like the end of my rope not too long ago. Since then, I think for the first time I said to myself, if I'm not going to die, I should let myself improve my daily life. I don't fully give permission to myself, but I am trying in little ways. Trying to do more around the house, trying to do more things with my husband. I'm still very emotional and cry at the drop of a hat. Some people might understand where I'm at----others don't. My brother thinks I should have gotten on with my life, weeks after Danny died. He doesn't understand I no longer have that life---that I have to rebuild in many ways almost from the beginning. I know people who care about me, don't want me to suffer like this, but I'm saying----this is where I'm at, this is who I am, and THIS IS OKAY.

Sincerely,
Anita Triplett
Dan's Mom

My name is Stephanie and my daughter was stillborn 3.5yrs ago. Christmas Eve '96 due to nurse neglect. I remember just a couple of months after Courtney had died we (my family) were sitting around laughing and having a good time... when out of the blue I just start crying and I remember saying "I don't know why I am sitting here laughing and having fun". Every time I would laugh or something it would just tare me up inside later on. I felt that I shouldn't be laughing my daughter just died.... why should I be happy. I later realized that Courtney wouldn't want me to be like that. She would want me to be a happy person again. That does not mean that I still don't think about her or love her any less.... it just means that you can feel happy. There's nothing wrong with that. I still miss my daughter terribly and I know I always will. She was my first baby...my first daughter. I could still cry everyday just thinking about her, but I have to go on. Our angel babies, children, do not want us to just sit around and mope. I know they aren't up in Heaven just sitting around...they are having a wonderful time. Yes it's hard and it does take awhile to learn how to go along day by day...but we can all do it. I love you my sweet angel baby Courtney.

~Steph~
Mommy to an ^i^ in heaven Courtney Marie 12-24-96

My comment on when Is It Okay is:

I woke up this morning and realized how many things I have been blessed with.

Donna
Kaylee's Gigi

It will be 2 years this August that my son was stillborn and almost three since I lost my two daughters to miscarriage. I remember like it was yesterday, how loosing them felt. I felt like I would never smile, laugh, or enjoy my life ever again. Eventually I smiled. Then I laughed. Then I went one whole day without crying. I do remember how guilty I felt when I realized I was having fun doing things...like I was doing my babies some injustice by living again myself. Now I've reached the point where I can remember my babies' brief lives and smile. Sometimes that bothers me still, almost like I'm wrong for smiling when I think of them and I should still cry. Now I know that's not true. I know in my brain that it's okay to smile when I remember them, but feelings don't always follow logic, you know? But on the same token, some days I'm still filled with longing to hold them in my arms, smell them, smooth their hair. And I might cry. I still think of them every day, though. And I'm sure I always will. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Joscelynne
Mommy to one on Earth, and three in Heaven

It has been 17 months since my beloved son Christopher left us. Still to this day when I find myself laughing and more or less having a decent time I suddenly stop and feel guilty. I reprimand myself like I would a child misbehaving. How can you do that? What is wrong with you? How can you even think to laugh and enjoy yourself when your son is no longer here? How can I be so heartless? Undoubtedly some of the people I am with notice this sudden change in me but nothing is ever said to me. Somehow before I know it in the same time span I am laughing again so I have tried and keep trying to remind myself that when I am laughing and enjoying myself it must mean that Christopher is pushing me to continue to live on. I laugh for him now and eventually hope to laugh for me again. But I sure miss that kid so very very much.

Jessica Loeb
Christopher's Mom 7/17/69-2/18/99

I'm writing regarding this month's grieving within topic, "When is it okay". My loss is still recent - only seven months, but I still feel strongly about this subject. The answer to this question is "Never". It will never be okay that my 2-year old daughter died in a senseless tragedy. It will never be okay that my family and I will grieve for her and for her loss for the rest of our lives. However, out of necessity, we have to continue with our lives. Unfortunately, the loss of a child changes you forever, and it will never be "okay" that you lost your child. But you can survive and carry on for the rest of your family that needs you. Yes, I find myself laughing at the antics of my one-year old, and yes, there are days that are not a nightmare to get through. But let's face it, I rarely laugh just to do so, and have lost much of what little sense of humor that I did possess. I have found it necessary to overburden myself with work, school, and my family to take my mind off of my loss. But I do have hope that my beloved Angel is in a better place, and that God found it necessary to take her back to Himself. I just wish that I knew why.

I hope that this offers a little insight into this thought-provoking question. God Bless to all of you.

Gina

My husband (who was my son's stepfather from the time my son was 4 years old) and I really enjoyed dancing (50's and 60's type stuff). The first time we felt up to going out and trying to have a good time, we went to a lounge with a disc jockey in a local Holiday Inn. And the first time I had to go to the bathroom and crossed the lobby, who is leaning on the desk and talking to the clerk on duty but a State Trooper in uniform -- actually the same State Trooper who had come to the house to tell us that our son, Jamie, had been killed in a motorcycle accident. It has been 13 years, 3 months and 13 days since my son died and there are still times when I see something [a bottle of Louisiana Hot Sauce on a fast food joint's table was the last thing because that was a real favorite of Jamie's and I didn't expect to see it in that chain] and the loss overwhelms me again. Can you imagine the impact of seeing this trooper on that night? Believe me, it took me a lot of reminding myself that they are assigned in certain areas and they have to take breaks sometime and it was probably not the last time I would see him by accident and that I had probably seen him before but not really taken notice of him.

Now I know that no bereaved parent has ever been struck dead by God for going on with their life or with laughing or enjoying something. Then I really thought that he might be giving me a hint. But I have lived on these 13+ years and have edited the local Bereaved Parents chapter newsletter for a number of years and have learned to laugh at all sorts of things, so I know that I am wrong. To all the newly bereaved, trust me, if I survived that, you can survive just being happy or finding humor in something.

Tracy Rhein, mother of Jamie Perry (8/2/1968 to 4/7/1987)

I know my angel Jeremy loves to see us smile and laugh. He was quite the comedian and I'm sure he laughs and smiles with us! I know he is happy and free in God's beautiful world. Never to suffer, like us here on earth. Thank you dear Lord for keeping our babies safe and carefree until we can join them in your heavenly home!

Kim, JT's Mom

I lost my son 31.May1995 at the age of 18 months due to a terrible accident that happened at home. First I denied myself laughing totally. If I did laugh I suddenly found myself crying after the laughter. I felt so bad. My husband says I've lost the joy in me and I must say I hardly laugh at all even today. I just can't. I have 5 other children too of which 2 are severely handicapped.

kristinavee@hotmail.com
http://kristina.takaneva.homepage.com

On the night before Andy's funeral, after we had all returned home for visitation at the funeral home, one of my sister's had heard me mention having videos of Andy.

She had not seen him in almost 10 years, since he was about 10 years old, and here at his death he was 19. She would be leaving the day after the funeral and wanted be sure and have a chance to see something other than still photos of him.

So we got out the tapes, and most of the family members, two sisters, mom, mother-in-law, my stepdaughter and husband, all except my husband wanted to see them. Andy was the clown of our family and we have some wonderful video of him being himself. I am thankful for this. We proceeded to watch and everyone laughed and enjoyed them, including me, and it was like a visit with him. Afterwards, I ended up crying. I felt so GUILTY for laughing and having a moment of enjoyment. My son was lying DEAD in the funeral home; we would never again be able to enjoy his clowning and happiness in any way other than the videos. Christmas was two weeks later. How do you have Christmas at a time like this! My other two grown sons were determined that I have a good Christmas. They bought me several gifts, things they knew I wanted, even with me protesting every time they put something under the tree. They would tell me just to hush and let them do for me. Christmas morning was sad, but also bearable because of them, but once again, GUILT.

For the next year, every time we would do something that was fun and enjoyable, and I would find myself laughing, I would step back and ask myself, "what am I doing having a good time"? It was confusing. I finally told myself that as much as I knew I would always be in pain over his loss, that the hole in my heart would never completely close, that life does go on, I had survived the worst hurt a human can experience. Andy would not want me to spend the rest of my life not having some fun, especially being the fun-loving person that he was. It took a long time, but I have finally been able to go places and do things without the guilty feelings when I enjoy life. And many things I do, I will say, "Andy would really like this".

Rosemarie

It's been a year now and there are still times that I feel guilty for experiencing happiness. Realistically, I know that I cannot exist in a constant state of sadness forever, but the feelings of guilt continue. Thankfully, they are farther apart. I know that Maclaine would want me to laugh and smile and be happy again. Knowing that sometimes makes me even sadder! Just goes to show you that grief is not practical!

Karen--Mommy to Maclaine
(7-3-99 - 7-6-99)

The only way we can show "disrespect" for our child, is if we allow others to put timetables or establish iron clad rules on how we should grieve. Perhaps, if we just went with the flow and let our emotions dictate whether we should laugh or cry, we can slowly evolve and create a softer more bearable way of dealing with our childs untimely demise. Regardless of what we are doing, what emotions we are displaying or where we are, it is a fact that our children are always in our hearts and on our minds. Although we are being scrutinized by the outside world, it is up to us to formulate a balance and devote time to both crying and laughing, crying is the rainfall and laughing is the rainbow, and we owe it to ourselves to devote ample time to each emotion in the grief process, which in reality, never ends.

Sincerely,
Paula Lewis
Mom to Glenn 10/10/81-8/10/96
summer6899@yahoo.com

When my baby girl died of Sids, it was very difficult for me to laugh and have a good time. I found that all I wanted to do was to cry. But my then 6-year-old daughter set me straight one day, when we were visiting her sister's grave. I had just finished cleaning it up and putting flowers there and I knelt down and said a prayer, and began to cry. My little 6-year-old angel came over and put her arm across my shoulder and started to pat my back. Then she said, "Mama, don't cry for Connie, because she is in heaven with Jesus. Besides Mommy you still have me". And it was like a light turned on in my heart and I could see daylight again. I did still have Cecile, and she deserved a happy Mother, not one that spent all her time crying for what couldn't be.

Then four years ago when my 22-year-old son drowned, I was in shock. I had to be strong for my young daughter-in law and my two grand daughters, so I didn't have time to grieve until later. And even then it seemed so surreal. I kept waiting for Steve to come through the door. I can't really say when I recovered from losing him, or if I have recovered. I don't think you ever completely recover, and I don't know if you are supposed to completely recover.

I do know that I can talk about Steve now, and not burst out crying. And I think about him a lot, but now it is good memories of the times we did share. I see the new X-men movie coming out, and think how much he would have loved it, or I am shopping and I see things that I would love to have bought for him. But I know in my heart that he is in a better place, and would not want to return to us here on this sinful earth. So I hold on to my memories and even laugh at things that I know he would laugh at, and look forward to the time when we will be re-united as a family and Steve will be waiting there to show us around.

Gayle Tosh

Recommended Reading

 

After the Darkest Hour the Sun Will Shine Again
A Parent's Guide to Coping With the Loss of a Child
By Elizabeth Mehren and Harold Kushner

Review
This inspiring guide to coping with the loss of a child combines the author's own story with the experiences and wisdom of others who have gone through this tragedy.

 

After the Death of a Child
Living With Loss Through the Years
By Ann K. Finkbeiner

Review
A book that explores our own resilience in the midst of one of the most distressful forms of human suffering, the death of a child. Because children aren't supposed to die, the loss is not only painful but profoundly disorienting. Finkbeiner, whose only child died in 1987, refers to her own experience and the experience of others to show that while bereaved parents can never really let go, they can and do recover, often developing a new appreciation for their own lives. Says one parent: "You just don't treat life as lightly, and if you don't treat things lightly, they do become richer."

 

How to Survive the Loss of a Child
Filling the Emptiness and Rebuilding Your Life
By Catherine Sanders

Review
Parents who suffer the death of a child must endure excruciating grief, and they often need help to reach the final stage of healing and renewal. Writing from personal experience and with professional expertise, Dr. Catherine M. Sanders provides a healing guide for one of life's most devastating experiences. Dr. Sanders explains the grieving process with compassion and insight. She also advises other family members and friends in how to assist the grieving parents and to cope with their own sense of loss.

Copyright/Disclaimer

This has been written by the members of My Parents Are Survivirs to help us to get through the worst time of our lives. Every word of this information and feelings is copy written by the writer. That means that you can NOT use this material in any way, shape or form. Please do not ask, because permission will NOT be given. This has been written from our hearts and will not be duplicated.

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