Monday, November 19, 2018

Holidays and Empty Chairs

This piece by John Pavlovitz really spoke to me, so I thought I'd share it with you. I've been thinking of so many people who will face an empty chair these holidays, through death or estrangement. And, with the devastating fires in CA, many, many people won't even have a home, or a chair this year. How traumatic and disorienting that must be. If you are struggling to be grateful or to "make merry" please be gentle on yourself.

Undated Hand Turkey From Jack:
Dear Mom and Dad
Thank you for:

            Being great parents,
              Taking care of me, 

            Loving me forever.

Monday, November 5, 2018

A Hug from Heaven Release Day!

November is Children's Grief Awareness Month, so it seemed like a most appropriate time to release my children's book A Hug from Heaven.

If you preordered the book, it should arrive any day now! If you haven't ordered it yet, keep your eyes, ears, and hearts open for any grieving children in your midst who might be comforted by the book.

People often ask me where they should buy my books. This is a great question, especially since I chose self-publishing this time around. What I usually suggest is that people who know me (family, blog readers like you) order directly from the publisher. This helps me earn back my investment.

I direct other people to Amazon because it's so simple. This helps me get reviews, which then introduces the book to people who are unfamiliar with me and might find themselves wading through many books in the middle of the night, not sure what would be a good choice. I make very little money through sales on Amazon, but it is good exposure for the book.

Either way, my hope is that the book will get "out there" and touch lives!

Speaking of reviews, if you have read the book, please consider leaving an honest review on Amazon, whether or not you purchased a book there. I wouldn't buy a can opener without reading reviews first, let alone a book for grieving children.

Well, that's about all for now. Andrew is sick again with the croup, so it could be another long day and night. Thank you, again, for your continued support. It means the world to me!

And remember: If you are local to Northern Virginia, please come to my book party at Caffe Amouri in Vienna, VA on Nov 7 at 7 pm. We'll have coffee, tea, wine, and goodies to eat. I'll be selling and signing books. 

P.S. If you didn't see it on Facebook yet, Andrew was a scary monster for Halloween. Here he is with his grandma:

Monday, October 29, 2018

When it Comes to Supporting Grieving Children, Parents Need all the Help They Can Get

When our son Jack died in an accident, our daughter Margaret, had just turned ten. I was not sure how to help her navigate her grief as I dealt with my own. Some things felt instinctual: helping her feel safe, staying close to home, and being as stable as possible even though the world seemed upside down and terrifying. I chose not to drink alcohol for several months so I could be fully present, and my husband and I tucked her little frame between us each night even though we had not been a bed sharing family before. 

Our loss left us reeling, and beyond the basics of eating, sleeping, and working, we had little energy left to figure out how to best support our daughter. Bereaved parents in our community reached out share about support meetings and books that helped them when their own devastation was fresh, but few had resources specifically for our daughter. Well-meaning friends asked us whether we were getting her therapy. We were, but it was an epic struggle, and we questioned each step we took— was this the right therapist? Should we persist when Margaret pushed back? What kind of support would be best for her?  

It never seemed fair to me that when someone is newly-diagnosed with cancer or another disease, family members and the patient himself must quickly become experts in subjects that were foreign to them just moments before diagnosis. Understanding the science, protocols, and the mysteries of insurance policies seemed to rest upon already-weary shoulders. Likewise, we found ourselves on a crash course in grief in our most depleted state. The loved ones who became our primary support after Jack’s death were grieving as well, so it was difficult for them to connect us to help.

In the years since Jack’s death, my work as a writer and speaker has introduced me to many resources available for grieving children and families. Camps like Comfort Zone Camp and Camp Erin, support groups, retreat centers and numerous grief organizations such as The National Alliance for Grieving Children do amazing work to cultivate resilience in young grievers. Often, what they do stems from needs they encountered while mourning a death in their own families.

My new children’s book, A Hug from Heaven, is something I wish we’d had for Margaret when Jack died. It’s a book for a child who has experienced the death of ANY loved one. It shows that a range of emotions is appropriate, it models healthy grieving, and it encourages memorializing and celebrating the loved one who died. What makes it unique is that it encourages kids (and adults) to look for “hugs from heaven” -- signs from their loved ones that show that even if a person dies, their LOVE does not

Your child may not be grieving, but I’m guessing you know a child who is. After all, 1 out of 5 children will experience the death of a close loved one by age 18.Perhaps you could be that person who sees a need and steps in with specific resources when it seems too overwhelming for immediate family members to figure out. Buy a book, give a ride, connect them to a local grief center, find the name of a great therapist for them—and maybe even make the call to set up the first appointment. Not everyone can do everything for a grieving child, but whatever you do will show that you care and help make a devastating time more bearable. 

To order A Hug from Heaven ($14.95), please email or purchase through Mascot Books or Amazon.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Pain: Royal, Growing, and Otherwise

When Meghan Markle and Prince Harry announced their pregnancy on Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day, it struck some as quite insensitive. I get that, I do. Social media can be a mine-field when you are grieving, and seeing such happy news all over the place when you are feeling the pain of your own loss can be devastating. I have felt that many times.

It reminded me that even in our depleted state, grievers are often the ones who must educate others about being aware and sensitive. People don't know what they don't know. Those who shared their pain about this topic helped spark important conversations and encourage future understanding for not just the royals, but for society in general.

It sure would have been helpful for a trusted advisor to have suggested the royal couple wait a few days to announce the pregnancy, but on their own, Harry and Meghan did not know enough to know better. In fact, I would hate for them to know better, because if they did, perhaps that would mean they are one of the many, many couples who have found out the hard way what so few talk about-- that miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant loss happen. A lot.

But what about me?

I can't give myself a similar pass. I was so excited about Meghan and Harry's news that I posted it right away on my An Inch of Gray Facebook page. About a minute later, upon realizing the date, I took it down. I didn't want to cause grieving parents more pain on my page, a page that I hope is a safe place. In the same way, I understand if some bereaved parents have had to step away from my Facebook page because of frequent Andrew pictures, something I didn't "get" before Jack died.

My wish is that NO ONE would know the pain of child loss. But since I DO KNOW, it is my responsibility to do better. To be more sensitive. To acknowledge. And to help educate those who just don't know.

Children's Book Update:

A Hug from Heaven is available NOW from Mascot Books and for Preorder on Amazon! It is a wonderful gift for a child grieving the loss of any special person.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Things I'd Rather do than "Play Cars"

Yes, he's a miracle.

Of course, he's adorable.

No, I don't want to play cars 12 hours a day with a toddler who has his bossy-boots on.

Things I'd Rather do than Play Cars: 

1) Receive a dental cleaning after not flossing for 6 months
2) Hand-wash a sink full of dishes, lasagne pan included
3) Fill out camp forms and physicals
4) Attend Traffic court
5) Go to the gyno, pap smear optional
6) Watch an Adam Sandler movie
7) Do laundry
8) Whip up a Greek God costume
9) Sort my sock and underwear drawer
10) Order a yearbook online

Friday, September 28, 2018

Sneak Peek at A Hug from Heaven!

Hi Dears!

The new children's book is READY! I have held it in my hands, and it is big and beautiful. It even smells good!

Mascot Books is already taking preorders on their site.

If you would like a SNEAK PEEK of the entire book TODAY, I have set something up on my author website just for you. You just enter your first name and email HERE, then I immediately send you an email with the PDF of the book! I hope that you will agree to be an Advance Reviewer and leave an honest review of the book on Amazon on Nov 6, RELEASE DAY! I know a PDF doesn't take the place of a big, beautiful hardcover book, but I hope it will give you an idea of what the book is like and help you start thinking of kids you know who will benefit from it.

It is my prayer that this book will comfort many children who are grieving the loss of a loved one, and with your help, we can get the word out!

Friday, September 7, 2018

Seven Years

Tomorrow, September 8th, it will be 7 years since Jack's accident.

Sometimes it feels like a thousand years, and other times a blink of an eye. If you are newly bereaved, I know the thought of someone writing about child loss SEVEN YEARS LATER may seem frightening and distressing. It's too much and too scary to think too far ahead, to let the collateral losses of what is to come pile up on the acute loss you are feeling right now. It's hard to imagine enough strength for the journey of weeks, months and even years ahead.

Today is the one day you need to get through.
To breathe through.
To drink enough water to rehydrate after your tears have run dry.
Today only.

It seems like I don't write much about my own grief here or on Facebook these days, preferring to share what others who are deep in the muck capture with such naked eloquence. There is so much wisdom out there. One of the reasons I wrote Rare Bird so early on, was to capture raw, early grief in real time. I wanted to capture it, but I didn't want to stay there, and I wasn't sure if I'd want to revisit it again and again. I didn't know if I could ever say, or if I even wanted to say, that I was healed, especially if that entailed leaving Jack behind, but I knew that I wanted to be able to say,  even early on, that "I'm healing." In those early days, as I wrestled and wrangled and poured out my heart on this keyboard, you showed up day after day to bear witness to my pain. Thank you.

Now, I feel more like a coach, an ear, or even a light-- illuminating a path up ahead that while almost too scary for the newly bereaved to contemplate, provides more than a degree of hope.

Shortly after the accident, a wonderful fellow blogger sent me this painting one of her friends made for me. It captured the closeness of our family, with a big nod to the numerous signs of comfort we received related to birds.  Jack is reaching out to the sky, to the future, his future. I see this small painting every day and I love it.

Now that our family is no longer in the cloud of grief, I consider this painting anew.

While I used to think it represented our family: Margaret, Tim, Anna and Jack-- with the bird bringing us comfort from above, I now wonder if it now represents Margaret, Tim, Anna, and little Andrew, with the bird being our rare bird, Jack, who continues to comfort us, guide us, and cheer us on, even after all of these years.

For those of you who look at grief as a LIFE SENTENCE-- a life sentence of sadness and pain-- I'd like to suggest reframing it as a LOVE SENTENCE. Your love for the one who died, and his for you, will never diminish. It will stay real and vibrant all the days of your life and beyond, and eventually you will be able to think of him with a love that is no longer tainted by the LACK that feels so strong right now.

That is my experience most days at 7 years in, and it is my hope for you, for me, for all of us.