HOLIDAYS AND SEASONS

June 7, 2017

 

EXCERPTS FROM THE EDITOR’S MESSAGE
BREVARD TCF NEWSLETTERS
HOLIDAYS AND SEASONS
2014
BY
VICKIE VAN ANTWERP

Memorial Day

Memorial Day is coming soon and we will honor those lost in the many wars our nation has fought. If you grew up during the Vietnam War you may know someone that fell during that long war. In order not to forget, small towns all over the country will conduct parades and services for our fallen heroes.

In our world, as bereaved parents, Memorial Day does not come once a year but every day as we remember and honor our children. Our services may be of the heart but they are just as real and important to us as any large scale celebration could ever be.

As the years pass our daily services might change, but they remain grounded in the love we have for our sons and daughters. They remain a “parent’s tribute” to the one that could light up our life with joy and make us smile in the darkest times.

We celebrate their lives every time we mention their name, help another in honor of them, light a candle to show their light still shines, arrange their picture on the wall or hold something dear that was dear to them, close to our heart.

We will always try to keep our child’s memory alive. It is a vital part of our grief journey. It satisfies that innate need to finish out the life our child never got to live.

 

Independence Day

Another holiday is approaching and for a grieving parent it is usually full of dread. July 4th is full of family activities and you might find yourself wanting to go and hide somewhere until it is over. It is supposed to be a celebration of freedom, but you might not feel very free from your grief.

Like most holidays the anticipation is usually worse than the day itself. The thought of facing another holiday without your child is just too heavy a burden to carry. Something you need to know is; you don’t have to celebrate the holiday if you don’t want to. You don’t have to make preparations, get together with family and friends and force yourself to join in the festivities. If you do not feel up to a big celebration than do something else. Yes, do something totally different, but do not stay home alone.

Go on a day trip that will be full of sights and sounds. Hit ever ice cream parlor between here and Hickory or if your passion is chocolate make it candy stores and indulge. Go hiking, horse-back riding, or visit a zoo. Take in movies all-day-long.

You decide what will bring you some pleasure and don’t let guilt creep in and steal it away. You need to take care of yourself and finding a diversion from your grief for one day, can be a good thing. Go, enjoy the 4th of July.

 

New Season

Another season is approaching which has proven to be another grief trigger for most. It is a sign of moving forward into another season that is full of clean fresh scents and sights sparked by the beauty of nature. It is also a reminder that we move into a new season without our child, and we may wonder if it will ever be different. Will we ever heal from trauma that left us shattered and torn?

We are told by the experts and those who have never experienced our loss that time will heal our pain. They fail to mention that the memoires we carry with us will always bring our grief to the surface. That is why the things we call triggers; birthdays, death dates, holidays, special vacations, graduations, etc. take us back to when our child lived, reminding us that they are not here.

So how can time heal when our memories will forever follow us into the future? We will always see our child yesterday, today and tomorrow.

I came across an article online that seems to open the door to the acceptance that time is not a healer, it helps us to grieve our way, in our time and unapologetic. Here is a sample:

“To say that time does not heal allows a person to reconcile herself to the longevity of the grieving process. It relieves her from the burden of having to observe any arbitrary deadlines for the aching.”   Impatient With Grief, Today’s Christian Woman by Jean Polluck Michel.

 

 Thanksgiving

“May your today be better than your yesterday.” That quote could have been written by a bereaved parent. We often wonder if our tomorrow will ever be better than today.

Thanksgiving is less then a month away and for some, it will be one of those “firsts”. For those who are new to this grief journey, know that the anticipation is worse than the actual holiday.

Some of us are not feeling very thankful for anything, the pain is too harsh, too disabling, too distracting from anything good.

If we look deep enough in our hearts we can draw out the memories that our child left behind and find that we are thankful for something. We find good wholesome memories tucked away that cause our hearts to swell with love and admiration for our child. I guess we do have something to be thankful for. Our child lived and that brought endless memories because as long as we live-they live.

Share your Thanksgiving with someone if you can and you will find a blessing in giving that will soften your sorrow.

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YOU CAN’T SEE HEAVEN FROM HERE

May 7, 2016

It has been nine years since my husband and I lost our youngest child. Nine years and soon it will be ten. I remember thinking years ago, “I don’t know where he is.” The thought pierced through my brain over and over again reflective of the agony my soul was feeling. The pain and sorrow was so great that my mind was just fog, floating freely where my logical thoughts used to be. Hearing those words repeating in my head just added to my torment.

I knew in my heart that my son was saved. I knew the word said that to be absent from the body was to be present with the Lord. I knew Craig had given his life to the Lord and yet, I could not see where he was. I could not see heaven from where I stood.

For a newly bereaved parent you can’t go through a day without wondering where your child is and what he is doing? If you are a believer you imagine your child happy and fulfilled, surrounded by the loving arms of the Lord. You can see it- in your imagination. Sometimes that is not good enough. Sometimes, you need assurance that what you imagine, what you believe, is true. You are placed at a point in your life when your faith is tested beyond breaking. Believe and stand by it or doubt and suffer from it.

It does not seem fair that when you are at your lowest point in your life, your faith is tested so greatly. You are weak, you can barely get up in the morning, you want to be with your child and for many parents, you want to die. How in the world are you going to face this test when you have no strength?

I kept telling myself, “He is fine, he is with the Lord and He is the happiest he has ever been.” It helped to repeat those words, but I still could not see Heaven from here. I needed to experience that with my five senses. I needed to know beyond a doubt. I needed the Lord to show me.

I am not alone in my feelings. I have meant many Christians that have experienced the same wonder, the same agony. It does not mean we are not strong Christians. It does not mean that our faith is less than it should be. It means we are suffering, we still love the Lord and still believe in His promises, and our faith is being tested beyond our wildest dreams. Many people will experience loss but few will truly know the sting of death and the victory. It is not a place that any parent wants to go. It is not a place you can ever imagine until you are there.

There comes a time when pain is so overwhelming that you can no longer feel. Imagine a physical pain in one part of your body. It overcomes your whole countenance. You struggle with the agony of the pain and don’t realize that in the midst of your pain, your other body parts are numb; they don’t exist because the pain is too intense to allow any affection for the rest of your body. This is how your spirit feels when it lies in agony. You don’t feel the sun on your cheek or a gentle hand on your shoulder. You can’t receive the words of encouragement from loved ones or the soft voice of God in your heart. Oh, He is there and so are you, but pain has taken over and all you can do is cry out, My God, My God Why hast thou forsaken me. I don’t say that with any disrespect toward my Lord. No one has ever suffered as greatly as Him. We can’t embrace His suffering but what we find in our lives is that it sometimes feels like abandonment, and we just can’t see Heaven from here.

 

(c) 2016


Grief Like No Other

July 21, 2014

There will come a time in everyone’s life that they will loose someone they love. It is the cycle of life, uncontrollable and probably the hardest thing that most people will ever experience. Grief is not talked about in society because it makes people feel bad. It is something that happens but society does not want to acknowledge its lasting affect. The terms, “move-on, get-over-it” are echoed from friends, family and employers. It is even being addressed by the psychiatric community in some cases as “mental illness”.

Why does society view grief as if it does not exist? Is it because it occurs every day? Something that happens that often must not be so bad, or in the least can be resolved in a short period of time. Perhaps, that is the problem. Society does not want to recognize that which can have a life long affect on the emotions and being of a person. The best way to deal with sorrow is to push it aside and pretend it does not exist. Put on your happy face and go about your business each day and you can even convince yourself that grief can be put to sleep.

There are different types of grief. We can be prepared for the death of a loved one through a long term illness or an elderly parent or grandparent. We can feel that death is a relief to the sufferer and “let them go”. No matter how we accept the death of a loved one, nothing prepares us for a life without them.

Website boards are full of memorials left for loved ones. Poems are written every day in memory of someone dear. The perspective that a person can quench their grief by ignoring it has been proven wrong many times over. The shelves are full of self-help books on releasing grief.

There are circumstances that can complicate grief. Sudden death and even the manner of death can cause extraordinary pain. Murder in particular has elements associated with it that most people never have to deal with such as, an arrest and trial that can take many months and even years to be settled. Hearing gruesome details of a loved ones demise can ring forever in a persons’ head. Nightmares of horrible crime scenes are a reality for victim’s families.

Grief like no other comes by way of loosing a child. It does not even need to be mentioned that the loss of child is beyond any comprehension for a parent. No one wants to think or talk about it, but that is not realistic.
According to the National MCH Child Death Review the mortality rate in 2006 for children under the age of 19 was over 530,000. In addition, most people under the age of 50 that die leave a parent behind. Does it matter how old a child is? Ask a grieving parent that lost their child at any age and the answer is no.

There is a shearing pain that rips through the heart when a parent is given the news about the death of their child. The soul just screams a blatant NO, and from that moment that parent is never the same person.

No program, no medicine, no therapy can cure a grieving parent. They are forever bereaved parents. People like to fix things. Family members and friends might think they need to do something that will cheer-up a grieving parent. Part of it is because they too grieve and they do not want to see their loved one so hurt. Time changes that in many cases and intolerance sets in. Complaints are heard from those closest to the situation like; “Grieving parents talk about their child too much, They have too many pictures displayed in their home, and They never got rid of things and erected a shrine.”

The question is when is the right time to put away a beloved child? When is it right for a parent to move on and remove all signs that their child ever lived? When should a parent stop talking about their child because it makes other people uncomfortable?

Try asking these questions instead; why does a grieving parent keep their child’s things where they can see them? Why does a parent talk about their child so much? Why did that grieving parent create a memorial garden for their child? The answer is simple-love.
For a grieving parent their child’s life continues in their heart. As long as that child remains there, he is still alive. It brings great joy to a parent to hear their child’s name spoken. Why? It means that they are not forgotten. The greatest fear is that their child will be forgotten by family and friends. Monuments are built to great men- that is ok. Monuments are built to honor people-that is ok. Monuments are built to remember-that is ok, but let a grieving parent build the same for their child, and something is wrong with them.

Describing the loss of a child is an impossible task because there are no words for it. The pain will be with a parent the rest of their life. They have lost a part of their life and living even one more day is a challenge. Everything becomes before and after their child. When they look at a picture they date it before or after. Moving into a new year is another year without them. Many thoughts in their daily lives bring them back to their child. It can not be avoided. It is not something that try to do, it just happens. It may become less as years roll away, but it never goes away. Professionals treat grieving parents for depression and post traumatic stress syndrome. It may be adequate to label the symptoms of grief in such a way, but it does not cure it.

The best thing someone can do for a grieving parent is to let them know they remember their child. Call them on the holidays; call them on birthdays and yes, the death anniversary. Give them pictures and relate memories that you have of their child. Donate to a charity in their child’s name. Most important, hug them, love them and cry with them.

Self help organizations have proven to be beneficial for grieving parents. One organization is the Compassionate Friends. It is a worldwide organization that started in the 1960s in England when a chaplain introduced two grieving families. It has since grown to include 50 chapters in the world and over 600 chapters in the United States. Other organizations are Healing Hearts for Bereaved Parents, Share Organization and Miss Foundation.

It is hard enough for a parent to loose a child, but when family and friends avoid them because they do not know how to handle the grief, it adds another loss to their already broken heart.

Grief Watch: Support Croup Listing
http://www.griefwatch.com/support_groups.htm

The Compassionate Friends
http://www.tcfofbrevardnc.org/tcf/home.htm

The National MCH Center for Child Death Review
http://www.childdeathreview.org/nationalchildmortalitydata.htm

(c) 2014 Vickie Van Antwerp


My Dragon Slayer

July 2, 2014

Will you be my dragon slayer Lord
Take this grief and make it a servant instead
Cause my heart to lean on you and not be afraid
Carry my spirit above the clouds with you
And never let me doubt your loving arms around me

You can be my dragon slayer Lord
Keeping the grief in a place where it belongs
Never forgetting where it is, but at your side
I can stand in the face of the dragon
And know that my Lord goes before me

You are my dragon slayer Lord
Cradling me in your arms of comfort and mercy
Lifting me up from the ground and placing me by your side
Where I find peace and warmth in your light
You are my dragon slayer Lord

(c) March 2012 Vickie Van Antwerp


Remembering Elvis Pressley and Joy

August 18, 2013

HPIM0834This past week, a celebration took place at Graceland to honor the life of Elvis Pressley who died 36 years ago on August 16, 1977. Thousands attended the event that has been a tradition every year since Elvis passed away. People from all over the world make a special pilgrimage to honor the man known as the King of Rock n Roll.

People of all ages listen to Elvis Pressley’s music as it continues to be played by DJs all over the country. The fan base of this legend is faithful to keep his memory alive. Their faithfulness has transformed Graceland from his home to his shrine.

It is not unusual for shrines to be built to honor special people. We have the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Memorial, 911 Memorial, and Holocaust Museums. These places are visited by millions every year and what they take away from their visit is a sense of knowing the person or people of whom they just honored.

Not much hoopla is given to everyone. Ordinary people leave this earth without being noticed by the press but broken hearts are still left behind. Parents that loose children anguish over their deaths and sometimes become desperate to keep their child’s memory alive. Some will create memorial funds, foundations and gardens. If you see a sign on a road in your neighborhood with a name on it that says Adopt a Highway, it is most likely the name of someone’s child that does not want him forgotten.

A problem faced by most bereaved parents is that people can understand the creation of memorials and foundations because most of the events surrounding those efforts are conducted once a year, but what becomes unacceptable is a daily mention of the deceased child’s name. It is at this point that parents experience the backlash from well meaning people that their continued mention of their child is just proof that they have not moved on and need to just let it go.

Why is it that we can run to Tennessee to see a mansion owned by a rock star on the anniversary of his death but not mention our child’s name without repercussions?
Why is it that we can honor those who died on 911 and build memorials, but to talk about our children is off limits? There are cases where workers complained about parents who talked about their deceased children and were fired for disrupting the workplace. Complaints have been levied against bereaved parents because they had their deceased child’s picture on their work desk and it just “freaked” people out. Work place incidents of insensitivity toward bereaved parents are an everyday occurrence causing some to quit their jobs.

A group of women were sitting around during their lunch break talking about their children. One lady mentioned that her daughter just started dance classes. Another mother chimed in and said, “My daughter Joy took dance too. She was so good at it.” The other mother continued on to say how her daughter loved the color purple and she just re-decorated her bedroom in purple. Others began to discuss their children and their favorite colors. Finally, Joy’s mother said, “I remember Joy dancing at her first recital. She smiled the whole time through her routine.’ The other mother’s looked at each other until one of them said, “You know Mindy, maybe it’s time you move on. You should see a counselor to help you get past your daughter’s death. Talking about her all the time will not bring her back.” Needless to say Mindy left the room in tears.

Think about what took place and ask yourself these questions; if you lose a child, do they cease to be your child? Why is it wrong to talk about them? If you think that every parent should “move-on”, what is the time frame; two months, six months, one year, more? How long would it take you to stop talking about one of your children if you lost them? How long before you could put away your memories and not celebrate your child’s life? How long before you think the pain and anguish of losing one of your children would cease?

Bereaved parents were once you. They are parents that never thought they would have to bury their child. They don’t ask for your pity, just understanding that you recognize their need to breathe their child’s name, and have someone listen to the stories that are now tucked away in their hearts as memories.

Every person’s child is worth remembering just as much as rock stars, politicians, or victims of mass tragedy. If it is ok to talk about them, it is ok to talk about Joy.

(c)2013 Vickie Van Antwerp
Supplement:

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Forgotten Pain

February 13, 2012

A prose for the bereaved mother.

 

Remember childbirth? The sheer pain and agony of bringing another human being into this world can only be described as anguish. It gave new meaning to the word , “pain”.

Soon after you looked upon your child; your gorgeous little cherub, and all the pain, all the travailing was gone with one glance. The pain was forgotten.

A day came and a new pain emerged, but this pain was in your heart. It came so fiercely, so violent, that it took your breath away. Anguish, I think they call it. A bereaved parent knows it as the worse pain you can ever imagine. This one gives new meaning to the word, “pain”, for sure.

In the depths of your anguish you can rest assured because just as your birth pains are forgotten, so will this pain be forgotten in the blink of an eye, when you see your child once again.
(C) 2012 Vickie Van Antwerp
 


It’s like it just happened yesterday.

February 8, 2012

I remember when my cousin suddenly lost her son. She lived over 400 miles away and I did not know her very well. She was 18 years my elder and I had not seen her in at least 15 years. My mother called to tell me the news. She said, “Margie has lost Danny. He died in his sleep.” Danny was not much younger than me. Being a mother I could only imagine what my cousin was going through. I felt so helpless but I wanted to help in some way. I sent her a book on grief and a card with my condolences. From that day I felt a special bond. I spoke to her occasionally on the phone. I did not bring up the subject of Danny because I did not want to upset her. We just talked about small things.

Many years later, Margie lost another son, this time to cancer. She had three boys, two were now gone. We spoke more often this time. Before she lost her second son Glen, I asked her how she coped with the loss of Danny. Little did we know at the time she would relive the nightmare again. She said to me, “Its like is just happened yesterday.” Her sorrow was fresh every day. It did not loose its grip.

A few months after Glen died, I told her I was attending a candle lighting service and that I would light a candle in memory of Danny and Glen. She was pleased.

The night of the service I spoke with a man from the church my husband and I attended. He had lost his daughter 20 years before. He was there to light a candle for her. He said, “It’s like it just happened yesterday.”  Twenty years and his sorrow was still present. He told me that his daughter’s room remained the same as she left it. To a person that has not lost a child, it would appear that he was stuck in grief out of choice. For parents that have experienced the same loss, it is a story of love and honor.

 

I stood beside my husband on a December night and we lit three candles, one for Danny, one for Glen and one for our son Craig. It was no wonder to me now why I felt a bond with my cousin. Maybe my spirit knew then what was to come, maybe not. Craig was found in his apartment by a close friend. He had been there for days. He was 33 years old and his father and I were over 600 miles away. The nightmare began in 2006 and it has not ended.

I was on the other side at one time, trying to comfort my cousin, not knowing what to say. I know now, and wish I didn’t. I did not want to join this group of people that have to learn how to live without their child. I found that it is not about moving on with your life. It is not about leaving things behind. It is not about letting go. When you loose a child, those things don’t happen. Grieving a child leaves you empty.  There are no words, there are no poems, no songs, and no books that will make you feel better. The pain is so intense that you think it will kill you.

I have moments when I can see my child so clear in my head. I can touch him and kiss him and talk to him. Maybe someday, those moments will not hurt like they do now but for now, when they come, every time they come, it’s like it just happened yesterday.

(c) 2012 Vickie VanAntwerp