Monthly Archives: September 2014

How long can I grieve

andrew hockey 2It has been a year now. A year since we lost our dear Andrew. A year since our dreams of watching our son grow into a man, watching him get a job, get married, have children, have been cut short. In a tragic second, we went from proud parents of a son about to embark on his senior year in college, to grieving our son forever. We went from a happy life of enjoying music, food, and friends, to spending much of our time crying and talking to each other about Andrew and our love for him.

It has been a year. The longest and hardest year of our lives. We have had some terrible days, and some not so bad days. But never a good day. We now enter our second year, which we hear is harder than the first. And then our third, and forth, and fifth, and on and on. It will never end for us. The grieving, the crying, the missing. We will live with it for the rest of our lives. The form our grieving takes might change. We might change. But we will be grieving in our way.

Some people have asked us if we are okay now. It’s been a year, it has to get easier they say. Pam tells a story about the fact that she is five or six years out, and although her grieving has evolved and has changed, she is still grieving. Her friends find it hard to accept that she is still hurting, still grieving after all these years. The fact is her son is still gone – he is still not with her physically. She still lights candles for him, still talks to him, now more than ever. And probably will forever. But her friends can’t understand – how can they?

Andrew and Mom BMThe fact is we, too, will grieve for a long time, probably our entire lives. When we go to a wedding, of course we will be happy for the bride and groom and for our friends. But we will also cry knowing that Andrew will never get married. He will never have the joy of walking down the aisle and saying I Do, and being introduced as Mr. & Mrs. Andrew Grosser – and that hurts. When our friends have grand-children, we will share in their joy. We will smile with them and hold their grandchild and be happy for them. And again, we will cry. We will cry for the fact that Andrew will never know the pure love of raising a baby and watching that baby grow up. He will never stand there proudly as his son reaches his Bar Mitzvah, reads from the Torah, and becomes a man.

For all these things, and more, we will be there for our friends, and hopefully they will be here for us. But our grieving will not end, we will not, and can not, get over it. We are on a path that very few travel. It is a path of sadness, sorrow, and loneliness. But we will be on that path the rest of our lives.

When a parent is lost, it is the proper order of life. We grieve for our parents, we expect them to pass before us, and we eventually move on. We go back to work, we start to go out again, we have our children and our future. It is the normal cycle of life.

When we lose a spouse, it is harder. They are our present, they are our life partner. We know that one day one of us will pass before the other, and the one left to grieve will do just that – grieve. For a month, a year, a few years. But then again, they will move on. They may meet someone and fall in love again. They will go on with their lives and enjoy old age with someone, and sit on the porch someday not alone, but with someone new. We would want them to. They are not replacing their lost partner, for no one can do that, but they are moving on.

With the loss of a child, you lose your future. And you never get over that.

Some people are surprised that parents grieve for years and years. They expect us to get better, they expect us to move on with our lives. It’s been two, five, ten years – and yet you still light candles and cry? You still visit the cemetery every week? You still invite people over for Andrew’s birthday? Yes we do.

Just a few weeks ago we watched as the names of the victims on 9/11 were read, many of them still have parents alive and where someone’s child. And we watched as their parents grieved and cried on live television, and it was okay. We understand their grief, and have compassion for them and their loss. It has been thirteen years and they still grieve, and people are alright with that, and the public grieves alongside them. Then why is it different for those of us who lost a child not on 9/11? Why are we expected to get over it sooner? Why are we questioned after a year or two or three?

I am of course not comparing our loses to those lost in that tragedy, but the fact is our children are gone as well. The parents of Sandy Hook children will grieve for the rest of their lives as well, as will the parents of the children taken in Norway. Although our children were lost in different ways, we will all grieve for the rest of our lives.

So, do we get over it ever? No. But we learn to deal with it. We learn to deal with the hole in our hearts, we learn to deal with the forever empty bed in our home. We learn to smile again, we learn to enjoy some things in life. We start to put our lives back together.

Some things will also make us cry. For me it is hearing any Beatles music. Andrew loved The Beatles, he understood and appreciated their music. Whenever I hear them, I am just overwhelmed. For Dorothy, it is a young man on a skateboard, for she always sees her Andrew on that skateboard, enjoying life.

CCI08202014_00000So when you see us, any grieving parent, please understand that we are still grieving, and always will be. But out grieving takes different forms over time, it evolves, and we learn to deal with it different. We might light candles, we might have a birthday cake every year, or keep our children’s pictures all over our home. It is our way of connecting and never forgetting. It is our way of grieving.

And to be honest – we don’t ever really want to get over it.


The last picture of Andrew at home, sitting by his new fire pit.I sit outside in Andrew’s garden as the flowers are all dying. I remember planting them just a few short months ago, and watching them grow and flourish, just as I did with my son. I watered them, took care of them, protected them from the elements, and they flourished, just as I did with Andrew. They were beautiful and full for so long, as was he. They gave other peace and comfort when they sat here amongst their beauty.

Now, they are gone. Nothing I could do, nothing I could do to protect them, nothing I could have done to save them. They, like my son are now gone. The flowers, like all grieving parents children, are gone. We took care of them, we nourished them, we guided them to grow, but now they are gone, and we grieve.

We must now face winter. It is cold, dark and barren. As many of our hearts are. Nothing grows, the days are short, the nights are long, almost unbearable.  For we must now face the winter of our lives without our children. And just like winter, we have no idea how cold it will be, or how long it will last.

For us, all of us, this winter will be cold and long. And like grief, we can’t get around it, we can’t climb over it or go under it – we have to face it and deal with it. We will each deal with winter in a different way, as we do with our grief. Some of us hide and cry, and keep interactions to a minimum – we feel we must grieve alone. For others, we reach out, we ask why, we go to support groups. We need to hear from others that we will be okay one day.  Some of us start  foundations. We need to feel we can prevent other parents from suffering the loss we have suffered. We will all do something – and if we even do nothing, that is still our way of doing something.

We all deal with our own winters in our own way. That is what we need to do. But, we will all make it through winter, as we will make it through our grief. One day we will smile again. One day we will plant again and see flowers. One day we will see spring and we will know we made it through this winter, we know we will survive our grief. How long or how cold will winter be? How dark and how long will the nights be? We don’t know, no one knows. But we will make it through, we will see spring one day.


The last picture of Andrew and Todd. The last of hundreds of pictures of them living their lives and growing up together.


The very last picture of Andrew. He was truly happy in Boulder, and fit in there so well.

Top Ten List – From all grieving parents.

To all of our friends, family, relatives, co-workers, peers, distinguished alumni;

We know you mean to say something meaningful, sympathetic and meant to ease our grief and pain. We know you are reaching out to us in our time of need. We know you are trying to be our friend and our comfort.

In our bereavement groups we talk about what our friends and family say to us. And as nicely as I can put this, for all the grieving parents, please think before you speak. Think about what you are really saying. Think about the real meaning of your words. Think about it for a moment before you say it.

This is not a rant, or a bitching session, or letting off steam. This is one of the many topics we discuss in our bereavement parents meetings, and sometimes it hurts. We are strong enough not to respond to these phrases the way we would like to, but weak in that they really do hurt us. We are strong enough to make it past these conversations, but weak because we cry alone.

This is meant for anyone who is the friend of a bereaved parent. Many, many of us want to say what I am writing here, but don’t have the forum to say it – I do. So please, after you read this, and if you relate to it in any way, please share it. Please let others who are much more fortunate than us and have not experienced the grief we carry each day read this as well. You will be doing a great favor to so many people, and maybe sparing a grieving parent the pain of hearing what I am listing below.


Really? Did someone say that?

1. “I know how you feel.”  Are you serious? Do you really know what it is to lose a child? Do you know what it is like to lose the most precious thing  you have ever held in your arms? Maybe you have lost a mother and/or father, even a sibling. But as we all know, that fails in comparison to the loss of a child. We don’t even know how we feel much of the time. Between the grief, between the crying, between the constant struggle to get out of bed every morning, we are at a loss for feelings much of the time. Please, no one really know how we feel but ourselves.

2. “He/She is in a better place now.” Really? Do you feel that our children that have been taken from us are in a better place now? Do you think they are better off there than here next to us? And I quote this from another grieving mother – “then tell me which one of your children would like to go to this better place tomorrow and be with my son.” I know is sounds a little harsh, but if my son is in a better place now, as some people believe, then is there a child of yours that you would want to join them? There is no better place than right here, right next to me, right in my arms, right here sleeping in his bed every night instead of where he is now.

3. “G-d only gives a person what they can handle.”  I am not really sure what this means, or is meant to mean when it is said to someone. Most people can “handle” the loss of their child, as most people can handle just about anything. But to think that one person can handle the death of their child better than another, or that G-d makes a conscious decision that this person is stronger and can handle such a devastating loss is just nuts. We are not “handling” the loss of our children, we are simply living and dealing with it the best we can. When a devastating flood hits a certain region of the country, does G-d do that because those people can “handle” it better? Probably not. And we don’t handle it well. We cry, many of us stop working, most of us stop living our lives – that is not handling it. That is surviving.

4. “At least you have other children.” So the child that was taken from me was of less value, less love than the children I have left? I should be grateful that I still have my daughter and that minimizes the loss of my son? I know grieving parents that lost one of their three or four children, and it hurts just as much as the parent that lost their only child. You cannot put a value on each child, and when one is taken, the value of the remaining children goes up to compensate for the lost child? It does not work that way unfortunately. We love each and every one of our children, as everyone does, equally. We treat them the same, we love them the same, we try to make each of their lives unique. When one is taken it is devastating, and it actually hurts the other children that remain behind more than you can imagine.

5. “Everything happens for a reason.”  Everything happens. Period. Is there a reason why it happens? Probably not. When the father of a family of four dies in a car crash, or the doctor working on a cure for cancer dies, is there a reason? Is the reason that our children died part of some divine plan? How about when someone loses their job and their life is ruined – is there a reason for that? There is no reason my son died – or none that I can accept. It was an accident, and that’s it. For someone to say that there was a reason behind it hurts. How would you feel sitting in the hospital with a broken back and someone comes in and tells you that your fall happened for a reason? How would you feel?

6. “You’re so strong.” No, Not really. We are not that strong. We are surviving. That’s it. We cry every day, usually more than once. We see our children’s rooms and their prized possessions and our knees give out and we lean against the wall for support. We rely on the calls and e-mails and the support of other grieving parents to get us to keep moving forward in our lives. When we smile, we are trying to be happy. When we laugh, which is rare, we are laughing because our children want us to laugh. When we are with others and appear to have a good time with them, we do so because we know our children would want us to have a good time. Then we leave, and cry in the car the whole way home because our children are not here with us.

7. “You make it through the first year – the worst is over.” And your basis for knowing this pearl of wisdom is what? You’ve went through the loss of a child and have some insight that we do not have, or that other grieving parents do not have. As a matter of fact, the second year is worse than the first – or so we hear from so many in our situation. The one year mark is a milestone. We have had the first Thanksgiving without Andrew. We have had the first New Years Eve, a night we have always spent together, without our son by our sides. We have celebrated his birthday last year with our friends and family, but Andrew was not there. And  you know something? We are going to celebrate it this year as well. We are going to toast him on New Years Eve, and we are going to miss him at Passover reading the four questions. All this is in year two, as it was in year one, and it will be just as hard, if not harder. And in year three and four and five. Yea, we made it through the first year, but the worst is yet to be.

8. “Are you better now?”  Actually no. I will never be “better.” I will move ahead with my life, I will work when I can, I will one day go out and have a good time – but I will never be better. I lost my son, how can I ever really be better? I might be good one day, the whole in my heart will be bearable to live with, but it will always be there. I will never be the person I was before I lost Andrew. None of us will ever be better. We have all changed. This goes the same with “are you over your grief now?” No, we are never over our grief. Our children are gone, forever. We will never be over grieving for them.

9. “I didn’t want to bring up your son/daughter because I didn’t want to remind you of him/her.” Please, don’t worry about reminding us of our children. They are on our minds from when we wake in the morning with a tear in our eyes to when we fall asleep crying at night. We think about them when we sit at our desks, when we are at breakfast and when we eat without them at dinnertime. They are always on our minds – more than anything else, ever. What would be nice is if you did talk about our children – if you are comfortable and strong enough to do that, we would like that. It shows us that you care, that you are our friend, that you, too, miss our children. My closest friends talk about Andrew with us all the time, and mostly in the present tense. The help us remember him and remind us that he will never be forgotten by anyone.

10. “I don’t deal well with death.” Neither do we. We hate the fact that we have to deal with the death of our children, but we have to. We deal with it every day. We know there are many people don’t deal well with death. They will come to the funeral, come sit shiva, go to a wake. But then they disappear because they can’t deal with death. Maybe they are afraid that it will effect their children, maybe they are afraid to be uncomfortable during a conversation, I don’t know. Some people who don’t deal well with hospitals and won’t visit friends when they are in the hospital. Maybe because of infections, or  because they can’t look at sick or ill people. That is pretty understandable. . .almost. But not having the ability to overcome your fear of dealing with death to comfort and help a friend who desperately needs it in their time of sorrow? There are still friends of ours who we have not spoken to much, if at all. Now a year later, because we are told that they can’t deal with death. We’re sorry that the death of our child makes you uncomfortable.


“I am sorry for your loss.”
A gentle hug.
That is all we seek.

What other say…

Since Andrew’s passing, I have received dozens and dozens of notes, letters, e-mails, IM’s, from his friends, teammates, and our family. I have kept all of them and when I have the need to hear about my son, I read and re-read them. It brings me to tears every time when I read them, but they are tears of happiness to hear how he was loved by so many and how he helped and changed the lives of so many.

I have put together some of them below to share with you. They are unedited and have come to me over the past year. There are so many more, I will share some time soon.



From A.N.:
Dear Perry – today I had quite the unusual encounter… It started off with GoogleEarth, I was looking at maps and decided to take a “street view” of Rocky Ridge.. and nostalgia started to kick in. In particular, this story came to my mind – I remember one day, Andrew and I were practicing or yo-yo skills, when we realized we sucked. Our goal was to beat Max (the German boy up the street) in a yo-yo “sleeping” competition (where the yo-yo keeps spinning, once all the string is drawn, typically when tricks are preformed) and Andrew had this great idea – why not put WD-40 on the bearings of our yo-yos so that we could beat Max, and sure enough it worked like a charm, and we became the yo-yo king and queen of the block! Max was stupefied because we all had the same model yo-yo!! But I digress.. anyway as my work day was coming to an end, we have to chase the chickens around to put them back in their coop. It’s always a struggle, and we have to walk pretty far into the woods to go find them. And, this one particular chicken, orange/bass in color, looks me dead in the eye, jumps out of the coop and proceeds down into the woods. I followed him quite some ways, nothing out of the ordinary. But then — and I kid you not Perry, I walk in these woods everyday, along with my co-workers, this chicken sits down by a hockey puck in a clearing of tall grass. I’ve never seen the hockey puck, and I walk that path, everyday!!! And oddly enough – my whole day fit together in a strange puzzle of nostalgia. I am so sure that was Andrew somewhere, laughing at our times growing up together…….



Andrew playing shuffleboard with his East Hill Farm family.

From K.N.
Perry, I am so sorry to hear about Andrew. I regret being unable to make it yesterday to the services. He was truly part of my farm family and I have so many fond memories of him.

I remember one year at the farm, when they had those hand sanitizer wipes in the barn, he took a bunch with them for no other reason but to be funny. All week, he kept cracking jokes about them, and with anyone else, those jokes would have gotten old. But with Andrew, it was funny every time.

I remember all the times we went to arts and crafts together. We made lots of bead bracelets and fuse bead crafts. We’d always trade at least one craft every day with each other. And, he would sit there until his was done, even if Todd, Lauren and myself had already finished.

I remember him as someone who got along with everyone. Nothing negative ever seemed to faze him at the farm. He was always so upbeat and positive. Just the way he would enthusiastically get up and say hi to Daisy every single time you walked by with her just showed his true self even more. His sense of humor, his kindness, and light-hearted spirit are qualities I will always remember him for.

I’m so saddened that this kind of tragedy has happened to such an amazing family like yours. You all have touched me with your kindness throughout the years. Andrew will always have a special place in my heart. Sending all my thoughts and love your way. 


From another A.N.
Hi Perry, Hope you, Dorothy and Nicolle are doing okay. My mom was just playing with a rubix cube and it made me think of Andrew…he is the one who showed me the algorithm to complete the cube….of course I couldn’t’ figure it out but he was a good teacher! I just wanted to share that with you. We think about him everyday – he was a good friend. I remember he drove me to school so many times junior year during finals, and senior year before I got a car – he’d see me at the bus stop and tell me to jump in his car. And he would drive barefoot. If you ever need anything from us we’re right down the street. Our thoughts and prayers are with you all


From B.P.
Andrew really was a great person and one of the friendliest people I have ever met. He has inspired me to live my life to the fullest each and every day.

From L.U.
Andrew was such an amazing person. I went to my first ever music festival with him and my older brother Henry. We camped out for The Gathering of the Vibes in Connecticut for 3 days and it changed my life. I saw how carefree, worldly and full of joy Andrew and all of the other concertgoers were. It changed my taste in music completely and opened my eyes to a world I never thought existed. Andrew will always hold a special place in my heart for this and I am so thankful to have met him and created such amazing memories with him and my brother. I miss him so much

From B.G.
Hi Perry, I just now found out about Andrew… Absolutely shocking. I was definitely one of the few people who really got to know him being that we were roommates for the better part of two years. Those years were really special to me; Andrew had a certain aura to him that was truly unique, truly profound. He had such a light that emitted from his smile, such a positive glow that was unmistakable. You could instantly feel the atmosphere of a room brighten whenever he walked in – kid was special.

I spent so many days and nights philosophizing with him about everything from consciousness to politics to the value of being a good person, and everything in between. He always had something new to offer to the conversation that changed my perspective; I learned so much through and with him. Every once in a while, I find myself laughing in reminiscence about things we talked about, the witty comments he would make, the way that he could turn anything into a smile.

I just want you to know that when it comes down to it, Andrew, specifically, has positively influenced my life, and he lives on in my own life in how his presence has affected me. I will always look back fondly on my time spent with Andrew, and how I’ve grown through his being a good person.

He was so smart – everything he came into contact with was left with a residual glow that was simply beautiful. My heart hurts for you and your family, especially because he was all the way out here when it happened. I just want to reassure you that his time spent out here really was a blessing to many people, and that in my experience with him, he made me smile more times than anyone else I’ve met out here. If there is anything I can do to help you or your family to ease this process of transition, please do not even hesitate to ask. I am going to get together with some people from the dorms in his honor- one last hoorah for the beauty that was Andrew’s life.

From A.D.
I didn’t want to send this message too soon so I thought that now would be a better time. I wanted to tell you how sorry I am for your loss. I understand that there is nothing anyone could ever do to make the pain go away but I wanted to tell you how much I loved spending summers at EHF with Andrew and Nicole.


He was always smiling when he played hockey – he loved to be part of the team.


This was pretty typical at our home during hockey season. Nicole would hang out with everyone until they all fell asleep. Daisy would never want to be left out.

The best memory I have of Andrew is when Nicole and I decided to wake up really early on the LAST day you guys were at the farm and DUMP cold water on him. I just remember how after we dumped this water and woke him up he was NOT upset and was just laughing! ( Nicole and I were hysterical ) It’s a memory that is just so simple but stays with you for a long time. Both your kids are outstanding and hilarious and KIND people and I am so happy that I was able to meet Andrew and your family and shared wonderful memories. I am thinking of you during this difficult time, always.

From A.B.
You raised a great kid. I’m thankful everyday i got the chance to meet and be friends with such a wonderful individual. andrew truly touched the hearts of so many people. thank you for doing such a good job with him. he gave nothing but respect since day one.

And finally, from M.J.
I’ll always remember our last conversation. I dropped you off at your house just hours before you left for the airport to fly to Colorado. Although I wish every day that we could talk just one more time, and of all the conversations we had, I know our last conversation was the perfect one because it reminded me of the great, selfless friend that you are. I use the word “are” because the things you told me are still with me and always will be. It has been a sad day, undoubtedly, but it is the happy memories of you that carry us through days like these. Thank you for everything and I love you brother.