Category Archives: Helping other bereaved parents

“I see dead people – they don’t know they’re dead”

During the past few years of attending group meetings, and many one-on-one meetings with other bereaved parents, I have heard a lot of parents say that they want to be reunited with their lost children. The sooner the better, regardless of anything, they just want to be with their lost child again. I hear this and it hurts. It truly causes such an emotional conflict within myself that I can’t forget it. Of course I want to be with Andrew again (and for those who do not believe in the afterlife, the concept of heaven, please forgive this part); I want to hold him, I want to talk to him, I want to tell him that I still and have always loved him. I want to tell him so many things that I will never be able to. It hurts me to my soul to not be with him and not have him to hold.

Who knew he would change my life so much, both when he arrived, and when we lost him.

We have all heard of parents who have died of a broken heart and are now with their lost children. We have heard this within our own groups, within our extended friends, and in the recent news. There are also parents who have chosen to not take care of themselves medically or emotionally after their children have passed on, in the hopes of meeting an early demise. Very upsetting and disturbing.

These parents have stopped living their lives. For all intents and purposes, they are no longer alive. They are already dead – they just don’t know it.

I have thought about this a lot lately. Partially because of the news that surrounds us, as well as experiencing this phenomenon with a couple of close bereaved parents. Where do my thoughts lead me? My determination? I have concluded that I must live. That I want to live. No matter what we have experienced with the loss of our children, no matter how bad we feel, no matter how much life might suck in this moment, I know that my dear beloved Andrew wants me to live. He wants me to be with our family, he wants me to enjoy my life and experience the things that he never will. He wants me to be there for Nicole, to enjoy her life with her and watch her grow. He wants me to be here with Dorothy, to love and protect her for as long as I can. He wants me to be here for me, knowing I have more to give. He knows, as do I, that he will be there for me one day when I get to wherever he is, no matter how long it takes me to get there. But not now.

Although Andrew’s time with us is over and his work here on earth has been completed, my work here on earth is not done yet. And my point is, neither is yours – my readers, my friends, and mostly, other bereaved parents. I am publishing my book soon, and I know that my writings have helped many other bereaved parents and families. Maybe that is my cause, my work that has not yet been completed. Maybe that is what Andrew’s death has driven me to do, to speak for others who cannot express themselves, to help other people understand what we are going through, to be a voice in the ear of other parents. They are working hard; to stop drug addiction, to make the streets safer, or to raise thousands of dollars for targeted medical research. These are the missions of our lives now. It is not what we planned for, not what we wanted, and not what we had hoped for, but it is the direct result of our children being taken from us. Hopefully our actions and dedication can prevent other parents from feeling the pain we do every day.

For those of you who miss your children, and I know we all do; for those who are lost without them, and we all are; for those who want to be reunited so much and hold them again … think about your life. Think about what your son or daughter would want you to do. They don’t want us to suffer. They don’t want us to be in pain or be among the living dead while here on earth.

They want our lives to have meaning. They want their memories to drive us to do something significant. No matter how hard that might be, to live, it is what they want for us. Even if the most significant thing we can do right now is to get out of bed every day and breathe – that is better than not getting out of bed.

I wish you peace, and hope you find that inner path that is waiting for you. It is the path your child has laid out for you, that we must find it in our hearts and souls.

Life started over

New Years Day, a new, insignificant, but much touted starting point of time for most. Everyone changes calendars, starts their annual spending accounts over, hangs out with their families, and the new year begins. We all measure time; for good or bad, we do.  We all measure our lives based on some random (or maybe scientific) timeline that started thousands of years ago. We have days, weeks, months, years – and for some, decades. In the beginning we use hours and days, we move on to months and years at some point, and then decades as we approach some point in our lives.

Ask someone how old they are, that measurement from the day they were born until their last birthday, and everyone knows it. How long have you been married? How long have you worked there? How long ago did  you graduate? And everyone knows the answers to these questions. They all know so many dates, and how long it’s been. Everyone measures their lives against some, or several, events. For the most part, happy points on that long line of life.

But with us, as with many other, it is different.

As Cynthia said a few weeks ago – life started over when she lost her son. It is the only important day, the only date that really matters anymore.  There are plenty of other dates, but this one changed everything. Everything is measured from that day on – and will be from now on, for the rest of her life, as well as for the rest of our lives.

Our timeline has a new starting point now. We no longer measure how old we are or how long we have been married – time frames that we were so proud of before. When we graduated school or how long we have worked at our current job just don’t have that sense of importance anymore. We really only keep track of one important date – when we lost our child. Everything is still measured, time keeps moving on, but we just don’t seem to care about those dates anymore. there is really only one date now.

Ask any bereaved parent “how long has it been?” Before you can even finish the sentence they have blurted out sixteen months, or three years, or seven years, or six weeks. We don’t have to think about it, we don’t have to calculate it, it is just there, all the time, on the tips of our tongues and in the forefront of our minds.

it is such a tragic day, such a tragic thing that has happened, that nothing else is as important to us – life started over on that day. Something that we loved beyond belief, someone that came from us, someone who was part of our being – was taken away.

For those of us who are lucky enough to have one or two or even three other children, or blessed with several grandchildren, we of course know their birthdays, and their special dates. But, more importantly, we know exactly how old they were when we lost our child. You could hear us say “Jack was fifteen when he lost his brother, he is now, uh…twenty one.” We know how old they were, but have to think about how old they are now.

Life also started over because we are such different people than we were before. Such a drastic change in our lives, such a shift in who we have become, this warrants a new start date. The path that we are on now, the path that fate has put us on, has a mile marker 0 where we our new journey began. Every day, every week, every year, we go further down that path, but we are never far from that mile marker 0. It is always fresh in our minds and in our hearts, and never further than a teardrop away.

Yes, we go on. Yes we get older. Yes, we remember all the good times before that date, and cherish them. But for us, especially us, our lives started over when someone was taken from us.


As time goes on, you forget us…

I was at the funeral of a friend and client of mine several months ago; he passed in his mid-fifties, suddenly and unexpectedly.  During the eulogies, one of his siblings spoke about his wife and their love for each other. He spoke about the family and the friends that Ray had during his lifetime and how they meant to him, and how close they were. This was pretty much expected. Then he went off on a tangent and spoke of something unexpected.

After telling us how much Ray’s friends and family meant to him, and all that they had done together, he asked us, all of us, not to forget his wife – his widow that he left behind. He said that of course we will all be there for her in the upcoming days and weeks and months. But as time goes on, we will move on, forget about contacting her, and make other friends. He asked that we each take a personal vow to stay in touch with her, to take her to lunch some time, to not forget about the friendship in the upcoming year, or two or five. Everyone in the room, everyone at the funeral, was an important part of their life and he implored us not to forget her as time goes on. As a widow with her children grown that have moved out of the house and have their own lives, she is all alone now. All she has is her friends – us – and we had to be there for her.

We all agreed and we all understood.

“I don’t hear from my friends anymore”
“My friends are not comfortable around me anymore”
“I don’t have anyone to go out to lunch with”

I hear that all the time in my bereavement groups. It’s not just from those who lost children. It’s from widows and widowers. Children who lost their parents. And people who lost a close friend.

I saw it first hand when my father passed away when I was sixteen. My parents had a lot of close friends. They went out every weekend with friends. They belonged to groups and clubs. They were very active. But that all stopped when my mom lost her life-partner. Yes, of course some of her friends stayed in her life, and they are there now. But more than not , most of them disappeared over a rather short period of time from her life. She made new friends, she met new people, and she moved on. But I know it hurt her, and it hurt us, the so-called friends who disappeared soon after sitting Shiva. This is an all to common scenario.

I know it is hard to stay in touch with someone who you no longer have much in common with. Or someone who it hurts for you to have lunch with because of the memories. Or the spouse of a dear friend who you were never really close with to start with. Or an in-law that the bonds of the family no longer exist. I have been there as well.

But think of it from the other side. Ray’s wife is now alone. She can use the occasional phone call or e-mail. She could use the occasional lunch or dinner date. She could use the shoulder to cry on, or the friend to recall the happier times. She needs friends – her old friends.

The same is try for the bereaved parent. You don’t know how much it means to us to receive a text or an e-mail that just asks us how we are doing. The short phone call to say your thinking about us, or that Andrew was on your mind. It doesn’t take long, and it means so much.  Now I am not writing this for ourselves. Dorothy, Nicole and I have a lot of friends and family that keep in touch with us – and we really appreciate it so much. It has helped us get through this whole tragedy and kept us talking about Andrew and kept us alive. Dorothy’s still goes out with her cousins ever few months, and she needs and appreciates that. They are as much a part of her life now as they were before. It’s not about us. It is about so many others that we know, so many others that we speak to and hear from, so many others that don’t have that tight network of family and friends that we do.

We know parents who have lost their only child, and their friends just disappeared from their life. Fortunately, we do keep in touch with several of Andrew’s friends, so I know how great that feels. We know husbands who have passed and their office mates just moved on. While others stay in the widows life and help her to move on.

We have been to a few funerals in the past year or so, too many really. We hear all the time from the visitors that they are going to stay in touch, that they will call, that if the grieving needs anything, they should reach out to the visitors.  Well it doesn’t work that way. They are not going to reach out to you. They are not going to call you and ask you to take them out to lunch. They are not going to send you an e-mail and say that they are doing okay, or that they really need someone to talk to. It just isn’t the way it works. They are the one with the loss, it is way too hard for them to reach out.

It’s up to you to reach out to them. Let me say that again. It is up to you to reach out to them.

I am sure that most of us have been to a funeral a year or two ago of someone we cared for. Someone who meant a lot to us. Maybe, as in Ray’s case, someone who was a friend and a mentor to me. Or someone who lost a parent they were close with? Did you tell them you would be in touch? Did you let them know you were there for them? Did you promise to be their friend? And then, did you turn around and walk away and leave them?

I’m just saying…

Do you think it is time to reach back out to them? Do you think he/she deserves that helping hand and that soft shoulder? I know that the initial call would be hard to make after all this time. But how hard is it on your friend not to receive that call? Not to be consoled and to not feel forgotten. It’s harder on them to be left alone, and it hurts much more, than it would be for you to swallow your pride, pick up the phone, send an e-mail, send a text, and make someone feel loved and comforted.


Andrew was very proud of his little sister's preschool graduation. He was, and still is, very proud of everything she accomplishes in her life. He was so proud when she got accepted to play college hockey. He, sadly, never got to see her dreams realized though.

Andrew was very proud of his little sister’s preschool graduation. He was, and still is, very proud of everything she accomplishes in her life. He was so proud when she got accepted to play college hockey. He, sadly, never got to see her dreams realized though.



Nicole and Greg on my roof. The back story: We went apple picking, and to make it easier, but probably not that safe, all of the kids got to stand on the roof of my car as we drove from tree to tree to make it easier to get to the apples. No one was seriously injured so we had a very fun day.

Nicole and Greg on my roof. The back story: We went apple picking, and to make it easier, but probably not that safe, all of the kids got to stand on the roof of my car as we drove from tree to tree to make it easier to get to the apples. No one was seriously injured so we had a very fun day.





I really don't know. Maybe he is doing some Vulcan mind thing on her? or some Pokemon mind game?

I really don’t know. Maybe he is doing some Vulcan mind thing on her? or some Pokemon mind game?

Dorothy, Nicole and Andrew at a Yankees game. Although he didn't enjoy the game, he loved to spend time with mommy and Nicole. Much happier times for everyone.

Dorothy, Nicole and Andrew at a Yankees game. Although he didn’t enjoy the game, he loved to spend time with mommy and Nicole. Much happier times for everyone.

What can I say? There are no words.

A very close friend of mine’s elderly father is very close to the end of his time.  Maybe days, maybe weeks or months.  He has been in and out of the hospital and hospice, and every time someone sees him, it might be there last.  But that is not the point of this post.  I talk to my friend and I am at a loss as to what I can say about what he is going through.  The words just are not there.

My father passed away when I was young, sixteen, suddenly, without warning, and while he was away from home.  I talk to my friend and I listen to what he is going through, and although I listen and understand and feel for him, I just can not emotionally relate to it and can not empathize with him.  I don’t have the mutual experience and have never gone through the pain and agony of a parent slowly drawn to death.  I know, or think I know, that it is very difficult, emotionally draining, and almost all consuming of life.  But – I have no reference point to truly empathize with him, although as his friend I can sympathize with him.  I never went through it, I never had the experience of those emotions.  Although we talk, and I listen to him, and I give him words of encouragement and try to ease his pain, I am at a loss to really know what to say.  It is a horrible feeling to be with someone and not to be able to ease their pain.

What is the point of this you ask?  Well, almost all of you, my friends, relatives, and colleagues, are in the same situation I am in, but with Dorothy and I.  You want to help, you want to comfort us, and you want to help us heal, but you don’t know what to say.  You are at a loss for words.  You look at us and the words just fail to come out.  We can not count how many times people look at us and have said that they feel bad because they don’t know what to say.   Some people have actually avoided us because they are at a loss for words, or they can’t deal with our loss.  Trust me, what happened to us not contagious.

We understand.  We really do.  We are thankful that you are blessed and do not share our pain, that you have not experienced the devastating loss we have and that we live with each and every day, and that you go home at night and kiss your children goodnight.  We are truly happy for you.

What I know is that anything that you say to us or do with us helps.  Sometimes is it not words.  Sometimes just a hug means so much to us.  Yea, we might cry, but we need to.  And if you cry with us, that is fine as well.  Andrew touched so many lives that people have to cry to remember and grieve him.  A short e-mail or letter saying you are thinking about us makes all the difference in our day.  We thank those of you who have spent time with us to talk about life, make us smile, make us laugh a bit, and bring some joy to our lives.  We are happy to get a letter in the mail telling us you are thinking about us, or share a story about Andrew with us that we have never heard.  A hug. A hello. Something to read about him, or tell us what is going on in your life – everything helps.

What can I say?  There are no words.  There are no words that will make us feel better.  There are no words that will bring our son home.  There are no words that will make us stop our grieving.  So don’t feel bad when you can not find the words to say to us when you see us or talk to us.  There are no words.

There are no words.