June 7, 2017



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.



“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.



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

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


Bittersweet Memories

September 18, 2011

The following is an article that I wrote for the Compassionate Friends newsletter, We Need Not Walk Alone, Winter/Spring 2010-2011.  

One of the most precious things to a parent that has lost a child is the memories. Without them, it would be as if their child never was. With them, it is so bittersweet that it can make a parent laugh and cry, rejoice and anguish, touch the sweetness to the lips and taste the salt from the tears.

Memories keep the heart from crushing under the weight of sorrow. They give a parent the chance to be with their child again. They can walk through their memories like they were a movie. When the memories are so vivid, you can almost feel them, touch them, hug them, and kiss them. It is so bittersweet when the reality comes and you realize it is just a memory, a thought, and you are reminded of what you have lost.

If you asked a parent if they would give up the memories so they did not have to feel the pain of knowing their child is gone, they would tell you no. As painful as it may be, not having the memories or feeling their presence, is just as unbearable as loosing them.

There is no happy place to go to but there is a place to be with your child. You know before you step into that realm that it will be painful but you also know that it will be joyful too.

So as we let the memories take us to a time that our child was safe with us, just rest a while until it is time to go and the next time try not to think of what is gone but what is still in your heart and will always be.