Thursday, March 31, 2011

Friday's Faith - Reconstructing Our New Family: Thank Goodness, Other Child-Loss Parents "Get It"

Friday's Faith

Reconstructing Our New Family:

Thank Goodness, Other Child-Loss Parents "Get It"

Child-Loss parents "get it." We "get it" because our world has come to a halt. Our whole beings have been through an assault. An assault has been dumped on us.

This past Tuesday, on Merry Katherine's 5th birthday away from us, hearing what our new friends, (other child-loss parents) said to us was so special ~ We were crying every time somebody said something, We were touched very deeply by what each of you said. We were not traumatized by anything that you said.

(We're more traumatized when somebody doesn't say something, but if they did they wouldn't say it right.)

I had one aunt that called, and she had lost a child. And the one friend Tommy spent some time with on that day, also has been through child-loss.)

We have a new language we speak to each other that no one else understands.

Within the language that we child-loss mothers speak to each other, Tommy noticed, is the "ongoing bond" ~ a continuing relationship with our child even in their absence.

Instead of "moving on," as we are so oft scolded to do, we're spending the much needed time and work of reconstructing our lives and reconstructing the newly emerging bonds with our deceased child, even reconstructing different bonds with our living children. According to the research , this continuing bond with our deceased (but spiritually living) child is key to being able to go on living (in a meaningful and healthy way).

Evidently, we are also reconstructing our include those who love us IN our grief and pain, and who want to get to know and love our children, whether deceased OR living. Thankfully, I did hear from some family members that day, two precious nieces, a nephew, and a sister-in-law. It was so precious and touched each of us so deeply.

Once again, I was surprised and disappointed by the family members from whom I did not hear, adding to my already-deep hurt and pain. The fact that I keep getting "surprised" by their insensitivity tells me I am giving way too much credit to people who say they love me but don't seem to be able to live out that love in the ways I would naturally expect...

Thank you to our beloved brothers-and-sisters-in-grief. Without you, our pathways would be much lonelier and even more unbearable. Why others cannot grieve with those who grieve as our Master lovingly directed, we will not be able to fathom this side of Heaven...

Since your words were so beautiful, I would like to share them with other readers, anonymously of course to protect privacy:

Merry Katherine's Birthday

"Hi Angie,

"I know today will be very hard for you. You are in my thoughts and prayers always but especially on those special days like today, the day your precious daughter was born. I hope you can have happy thoughts of her and will be surrounded by the rest of your family. I love you and am praying for you." ~CWR

"Angie and Tommy, I'm thinking and praying for you on this, your precious angel Merry's birthday. I know the Lord hears our crys and saves our tears and am so thankful for that. Only His peace that passes all understanding sustains us. All my love and prayers." ~KTH

"Happy Birthday to your sweet Merry Catherine. I hope you are surrounded by her love and warm memories of days passed. Sending lots of love and hugs your way. (((())))" ~KKL

"Much love and prayers" ~ms pd

"She is a precious Teen Angel and I am sure having an amazing Birthday!" ~LHP

"Beautiful! Love and miss you ; )" ~MBT

"Thinking of y'all today!" CCB, MSB, and children

"Thoughts & prayers with you, Angie!" ~FB

Angie & Tommy, I am thinking of you both and sending some cyber hugs your way on this most important day...the day your precious daughter Merry Katherine was born and brought such happiness and fulfillment to your lives.

Happy Birthday Merry Katherine! May sweet and loving memories of your beautiful little girl hold the sadness at bay for just a little while. ~DP

"Angie hope the day brings you sweet memories of Merry Katherine and little tears. Hugs from new jersey" ~LM

"Tried my best to avoid this day, but God had too many awesome things to show me today. I'm so blessed by His prescence, you'd think that I would remember that and just jump in with both feet more often!" ~RTP

"Angie, my thoughts and prayers are with you as you go through this difficult day of remembering your sweet baby's birthday. Love and hugs," ~EK

"Dearest Angie and Tommy, I pray the day will be gentle and you will dwell on the happy memories of your precious Merry Katherine. Happy Birthday Merry Katherine!" ~CWR

"Thinking of you and Merry Katherine today and always, Angie...." ~CZS

"Hi Angie ~ happy birthday to beautiful Merry Katherine, and to you her mom. Many blessings and prayers to you today. Hugs from Colorado..." ~MHS

"Happy Birthday Merry Katherine!! My thoughts and prayers are with you Angie and Tommy. To me, (B's) birthday is the second hardest day of the year...only slightly more manageable than the day of her passing. Words can never do justice in explaining the pain we feel when we must face these days each year, and experience the re-breaking of our own hearts. Love and hugs to you both." ~TE

"Angie, You have been in my thoughts and prayers all day. I hope that you felt your precious Merry Katherine close to your heart. I can just see Merry and (ER) meeting at her party up in Heaven and talking about how their mom's are on the same facebook group! How we long to be there with them. Give your hubby a hug and tell him that we are thinking of him, too. Birthdays are so hard, but soon and very soon we are all going to be together again. For now Jesus holds them, until we meet face to face. I love the passage in Thessalonians that says we will first meet up with our loved ones and then together we will meet the Savior in the air at the Second Coming! I always think of it like when you come through an airport and in the crowd you see your loved one peaking through. That will be our girls when we meet them again. ((((Hugs))))" ~TB

"Angie, thinking of you today on Merry's birthday. My candle will be lit here in California in her memory. I hope you feel her arms holding you tight." ~CH

"Thinking of you also today, may you feel her presence all around you." ~LM

"Angie, thinking of you and your precious Merry today on her birthday. One day, we will all have the BIGGEST birthday party ever in Heaven! My prayers are with you. Love and hugs." ~KTH

"‎(((Angie))) I'm remembering Merry with you and sending up "Happy Birthday" wishes to your beautiful daughter. May your treasured memories of Merry bring a smile to your face everyday, and allow you sweet dreams of her each night. I wish you peace. God bless you & your family. Love & Hugs!!" ~MH

"Dear Angie, please know that you are in my thoughts and prayers today on your sweet Merry Katherine's birthday. I hope you can let the wonderful memories comfort you today. Love," ~KHA

"Thinking of you today on Merry's birthday. I hope you feel her arms around you today my friend. My candle will be lit here in California in her memory" ~CH

"Happy 24th Birthday to your baby girl. HUGS." ~SKS

"The poem is just beautiful. Happy Birthday to your sweet baby girl. And blessings to her namesake." ~BRK

"Happy Birthday to your daughter. I do believe that she had everything to do with the little girl on the way~~" ~BL

"Angie, your blog today - "Wednesday's Woe" - was awesome. What a beautiful day you had, even in the midst of the sadness. I know God was with you". ~MHS

We thank you all so much for your incredible sweetness, and I am SURE sweet Merry Katherine is blowing kisses to each of you and to your babies!

Thursday's Therapy - Unpackaging The Princes' 10 Truths about Child-Loss Grief: #1 NO Stages!

Thursday's Therapy

Unpackaging The Princes' 10 Truths about Child-Loss Grief


~Robert A. Neimeyer,

Luis Botella,

Olga Herrero,

Meritxell Pacheco,

Sara Figueras, and

Luis Alberto Werner-Wildner

Today, we will unpackage our first truth:

Truth #1 :

There are NO "stages" of grief.

Bereavement theory has evolved considerably in recent years.

Gone is

  • its unquestioning reliance on presumably universal stage models of recovery,
  • its preemptive focus on emotional responses to loss in isolation from both cognition and action, and
  • its penchant for quantifying grief in terms of psychopathological symptomatology.

~Neimeyer, 1998

In their place is

  • a newfound sensitivity to different patterns of adaptation as a function of age, gender, and ethnicity

~Martin & Doka, 2000

  • concern with the disruption of life assumptions

~Janoff-Bulman, 1989

  • and the quantitative and qualitative study of the transformations of self and world occasioned by loss

~Neimeyer & Hogan, 2001; and

~Tedeschi, Park & Calhoun, 1998

  • and a recent contribution to grief theory--namely, a constructivist and narrative approach-- (that includes the need for) a meaning reconstruction model

~Neimeyer, 2001b

See journaling and poetry that follows as an example of a process a bereaved father walks through via an evocative personal journal and poetic reflections to search for the new meaning he can discover to live daily with his son's absence due to suicide:

Excerpts from a bereaved father (Luis Alberto Werner-Wildner) of a son to suicide:

Suddenly a sort of black cloud imposed itself on that previously peaceful home, as the adolescent son began to change. He looked strange, he would lock himself in his room to cry, he gave up his studies and entered into a profound depression.

He was treated in the country's best centers, improving and starting to become his old self, only to fall into his depression again.

One day he left home and never returned. He was found dead, his car having plunged from a cliff [in the Chilean Andes] under circumstances never explained.

~Luis Alberto Werner-Wildner


...the family faced the fact calmly, keeping their pain to themselves, but questioning absolutely every paradigm that they until then respected. All their constructs, products of years of social and professional successes, were absolutely shattered. What happened? Who was to blame? Was it an accident? All these questions passed again and again through the family members' minds, and especially the father's. Eventually the suicide hypothesis became inescapable, and as a consequence of their personal constructs were absolutely shattered and psychological destruction began to threaten the family group, especially its head.

~Luis Alberto Werner-Wildner


Tu Ausencia: Your Absence

Your laughter was my laughter.

Your tears were my tears.

Your dream was my dream.

You left, and your laughter and your tears left.

Your dreams were cut short, my dreams ended one day in spring.

Today I recall your face and my soul aches and cries.

There is no warmth in my heart or hope in my life

That consoles me for your absence,

And that takes away the anguish of living without your life.

~Luis Alberto Werner-Wildner


Mi Rebeldia: My Rebelliousness

And it was my rebelliousness the one night drove me

To travel through the uncertain world of my mind,

Plotting my stories.

My time is coming to an end, my mind is restless,

Looking for the answer to the disquieting emptiness that life leaves you.

But the more I search, the fewer answers I find,

And time imprisons you with bolts of time.

The fog of years obscures your memories,

And today, more rebellious than before,

I deny the gods and lose myself in myself, without knowing my destiny.

~Luis Alberto Werner-Wildner


Y: And . . .

And . . . that beautiful evening you kissed death

Without noticing that you were leaving a thousand pains in your wake.

You embarked on your journey,

Embracing that bride who subjugated your soul and shadowed your spirit.

What journey did you face that has no return?

Is there meaning in the journey that crossed your destiny?

I shall never find answers to my eternal question.

I shall never know if the road ends with life.

And . . .

~Luis Alberto Werner-Wildner


Tu Busqueda: Your Search

You were looking for a rainbow hidden in the mountain

And, to your encounter, you flew in endless freedom.

Your wings covered you with a blanket of silence

And from the highest summit we get intoxicated with your light.

Your peace makes us stronger, your freedom unites us.

Your flight without return is our pain and our punishment.

But more, that eternal flight that released your soul comforts us;

It is our guide and our hope.

Your never-ending search took you to the mountain

And from there you flew to encounter your destiny.

Today we weep for your absence, we yearn for your hours.

But the same memory comforts us for your departure.

We will again someday, in remote places,

Exchange memories, joys, and pains?

~Luis Alberto Werner-Wildner

Concluding Comments

Our goal has been to describe and illustrate one promise and approach to understanding the breakdown in the assumptive world occasioned by loss, in the form of a constructivist perspective on meaning reconstruction. ...(N)arrative...provides an organizing frame for the human experience that both imparts order to the past and yields anticipations of an intelligible future. Traumatic loss disrupts the continuity of our self narratives, however, and undercuts our associated sense of identity.

Faced with such profound invalidation, we struggle to attribute sense to the tragedy, find something of value in the loss, and reconstruct a new and viable sense of ourselves as protagonists.

Contemporary trends in grief therapy dovetail with this narrative conception and provide a rich interpretive repertoire for understanding grieving as a process of meaning reconstruction.

Applying these concepts to the qualitative analysis of one father's grief journal, we were gratified by the extent to which a narrative approach fit the unique contours of his bereavement. Interestingly, the father himself drew upon not only constructivist ideas in interpreting his son's suicide and his own response to it, but also upon narrative methods---reflective journaling and poetic exploration---to pursue his own healing journey.

As constructivists, psychotherapists, and human beings, we cannot help but experience a profound sense of respect and awe in the face of such spontaneous meaning-making processes which help the author regain a sense of coherence and direction even in the wake of cataclysmic loss. Stories such as this one are a reminder of what led us to become psychotherapists: our faith and celebration of the human capacity to find significance in the experience of suffering and transformation in the midst of tragedy.

~Robert A. Neimeyer, Luis Botella, Olga Herrero, Meritxell Pacheco, Sara Figueras, and Luis Alberto Werner-Wildner

Content from the book:

Loss of the Assumptive World: A Theory of Traumatic Loss, Chapter 2, "The Meaning of Your Absence: Traumatic Loss and Narrative Reconstruction"

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Wednesday's Woe - Missing the Uniqueness of My Baby...

Wednesday's Woe

Missing the Uniqueness of My Baby...

Merry Katherine's Birthday. We went to her grave site today...

I actually woke up happy this morning, and even had good dreams for a change... I was rejoicing that we had Merry Katherine 24 years ago, and how sweet that was to have our baby girl.

But as the day wore on, I had some unfortunate "Non Child-Loss Grief War civilian" downloads dumped in my lap to deal with that came seemingly out of left field - totally unexpected, that stirred me up to the most agitated state I've been in for quite a while... Finally by mid-afternoon, I told Tommy,

"I've got to go to her graveside for awhile."

Since it had been a long time since we had been, I gathered up cleaning tools and fresh silk flowers to take for her to have a clean marker with new pink birthday roses. East Tennessee is like my home state of Georgia in that it has Red Clay, and so at the graveyard, the red clay backs up onto the granite marker, filling in the engraved letters with mud which later dries out into red dirt so that you can barely read the information on our baby's grave. So I took about five old toothbrushes, a large brush, a large roll of paper towels, and the computer air cleaner, "Dust Remover - Compressed-Gas Duster" I think 3M calls it, and put them all in a plastic bag. Thankfully, Tommy decided to go with me. :)

When we got there and walked up to her grave stone, I pulled the cleaners and brushes out of the plastic bag and slid the plastic bag under me to sit down on instead of on the dirty ground, and I set out scrubbing and cleaning her grave stone while Tommy cleaned the mud and old flowers out of the vase. I told Tommy,

"This feels so good to get the agitation out and be doing something constructive for her."

While I was working, a peace came over me that amazingly settled the agitation. Tommy began straightening out his mother's grave site, and his uncle's, whose plots are across from, and next to, her site.

A woman down the way at the end of the row from us was tending a grave marker as well. I waved and she waved back. Later, she walked over and surprised me when she saw which grave marker I was working on and remarked,

"Oh! I know her! Are you her mother?"

She then told us she works at Central Baptist-Bearden Church, and that she knew Merry Katherine from there. (This is where Merry Katherine and her brothers chose to go to the wonderful youth department there when they were all in high school.)

Her name was Faye. She continued ~

"Your daughter was always smiling. She was always happy and full of spunk."

And as I pulled my hair out of my eyes, she lit up and said,

"And she looks just like you. You both are beautiful!"

Tommy laughed and said, "Yes, thank goodness she took after her mother."

And Faye laughed and then said, "Well I bet she had your personality."

I said, "She has his personality to a tee."

We had a sweet and encouraging conversation with Faye who had lost her husband sixteen years ago. It was such an edifying time to meet someone who knew our baby ~ and knew her sweet and fun personality like we did. Faye then left.

I knelt down and patted Merry Katherine's body by patting the ground over her body, and talked to her, crying. It was so good to commune with her and let the tears fall onto the grass over her. Again, a soothing peace fell over me as Merry Katherine reminded me,

"I'm okay Mommy. I'm here." (meaning up here in spirit...)

Later, after we got home, Tommy and I began talking about the agitating issues I had faced earlier in the day, and Tommy remarked,

"If Merry Katherine had been here she would have said things in such a way that would have transformed that situation for you."

We both cried. . .

I miss my baby and all the critically important roles she played in our lives. I miss my baby girl, and yet I am so thankful for the 19 years I got to have with her...

Photo from