Child

Parental Grief

Perhaps the most difficult loss to suffer is that of your child, it stands out as the most dreadful of all.  No two people grieve in the exact same manner.  This is especially true in the loss of a child.  Societal mores dictate a unique set of standards for each of the sexes and this follows true through bereavement.  Men are assigned the role of strength while women are allowed to openly express sorrow. 

In addition to being a funeral practitioner, I am a portrait artist.  In my capacity as an artist, I was working in a large retail store and noticed a young couple checking out at the registers.  The husband was attentive to his wife as she paid for their selected items, and assisted her with amazing tenderness and love.  She was a stunning beauty and he was strong and handsome.  As they walked closer to where I sat, I could see there was something else.  I could not remove my gaze from them and to my surprise; they walked right up and sat down at my table.  The beautiful woman sat directly across from me.  I looked deep into her eyes and was overcome with compassion.  It was a very confusing experience.  She was perfect in every way, yet there was a vulnerability that tenderly drew you to her.  Her gaze was almost yearning and her mind seemed far away.  Then her husband spoke.  My eyes remained focused on his lovely wife, and then I knew.  She sat there, so straight and brave, and without a sound or gasp, a tear streamed down her perfectly formed cheek.  As her tear reached her jaw line, I realized that I was looking into the depth of a broken soul.  The faraway look that had been so confusing to me was now clear as day.  This stunningly beautiful woman had suffered the overwhelming loss of her first-born and only child, just two weeks earlier.  Her sweet son had been a vibrant, playful, and beautiful toddler.  Their neighbor accidentally ran over him as he retrieved a ball while playing catch with his daddy in the front yard.  In an effort to save his son, this strong father sustained dangerous injuries himself and was within 18 inches of reaching his son when the vehicle crushed him beneath its weight.  This young mother sat there, not moving, still, and quiet.  Her husband recounted the tragic details of their son’s death and asked if I could paint his portrait from a cell phone snap that he had taken just days before their loss.  I painted their son’s portrait.  It was beautiful.

This was the first couple I had ever worked with that had suffered the loss of their child, and perhaps that is why it remains with me.  I learned a lot from these parents.  The daddy was strong, tall, and outgoing; the mother was beautiful, feminine, and withdrawn.  Through the years, the daddy has remained strong and outgoing.  In fact, as time has passed, I have often worried about his never wavering strength.  Conversely, I have witnessed the mother rise and fall as the days have passed.  She has displayed her sadness and demonstrated her journey to recovery openly.

For several years now, I have kept in contact with this family.  They have since enjoyed the birth of a new child.  A girl, as lovely as her mother.  Their impact on my funeral practice remains ever strong.  They taught me so much about the tragedy of losing a child.  They also taught me that two people mourning the same death grieve differently.  Each parent had enjoyed unique experiences with their son and each parent grieved in a way that they were able to recover from his tragic death and live as a family again.  Their road was so hard, and I am sure it remains so.  They are strong and vibrant, yet I observe in quiet moments that they drift back in time and remember how precious and wonderful their son was to them.  I learned that society is not necessarily fair, especially to dads when they lose their children.  However, most importantly, I learned that if a mom and a dad love and tenderly support each other, each taking care of the other in moments of despair, they will eventually arrive at a place where they can bear the pain.  Moreover, although life has forever changed, they can exist together with peace and harmony anew.

My name is Tracy Renee Lee.  I am a funeral director and writer.  It is my life's work to comfort the bereaved and help them live on. 

Please visit my website for additional encouragement and information at www.QueenCityFuneralHome.com .


Miscarriage

A miscarriage is the death of a baby in the womb.  It is tragic for the couple losing their child, for the immediate family and their closely extended family.  Outside of this small family circle, however, the loss is barely recognized.  Unfortunately, society fails to recognize this loss of life as a death of any significance.  The life of the unborn is whittled down in value as a non-loss.  Other losses falling into this category of non-loss are socially unspeakable losses.  Examples would be suicidal loss, death caused by embarrassing activities, or deaths of secret liaisons.  Under these circumstances, the grief experience is disenfranchised because the death situation is neither socially sanctioned nor significant.
If a mother loses her baby prior to birth, others will not experience the reality of the child’s existence.  Her grief and that of her husband will not be acknowledged beyond the close inner circles of their family.  In this situation, the mother and father are expected to carry on with life as though nothing grievous has happened.  Reality, however is very different for the parents of the lost pregnancy.  They have experienced the woes and joys of pregnancy, the anticipation of the expansion of their family, and most likely have made changes to their home in anticipation of the sweet arrival.  Their life has changed with the expectation of their child being born.  The spontaneous or induced loss of a child creates a void that fills with heartache and grief.
Re-enfranchisement of grief is critical for the parents.  Helpful intervention would include assisting the couple in talking about, and exploring their thoughts and feelings over their loss.  They must be able to express and experience the fact that death has occurred, and the ensuing sorrow of grief.  Oft times, if this is the first child for a young couple, their life's experiences have not prepared them for such a tragedy.  This can complicate the grief experience even more.  These parents need extra attention and direction through this uncharted experience upon which they are tragically embarking.
Losing a child to miscarriage is tragic.  Statistics average that one-fourth of pregnancies end in miscarriage.  To help a young couple recover from such a loss, one should offer recognition for their loss of life, and encourage open expression of grief.
My name is Tracy Renee Lee.  I am a funeral director, author and freelance writer.  I write books, weekly bereavement articles, and mid-week grief briefs related to understanding and coping with grief.  It is my life's work to comfort the bereaved and help them live on.

Please follow my blog at http://pushin-up-daisies.blogspot.com/and Twitter account  @PushnUpDaisies,  visit my websitewww.QueenCityFuneralHome.com or read my book “Pushin’ Up Daisies” for additional encouragement and information.


Miscarriage Recovery

Generally, when a mother has miscarried, the first and immediate concern is her health.  It is only later that others begin to realize that a life has been lost.  The mother and father have immediate concern for future pregnancies, as well.  Their grief may be postponed, relying on the possibility of a future pregnancy.  If this is not the first born, the parents have the additional painful experience of helping their other children grieve the loss of their miscarried sibling.
Self-blame is another major issue for the parents of a miscarried pregnancy.  The mother may blame herself for some activity, or her husband for his absence in protecting the integrity of the pregnancy.  Generally, the father feels powerless through this tragedy.  His confusion and helplessness may be misinterpreted by those around him as aloofness.  While it is true that both mother and father grieve the loss of an unborn child, the longer the pregnancy, the more intense the grief, especially for the father.
Miscarriages involve the loss of a child’s life.  It is, therefore, paramount that parents experience and successfully accomplish grief work.  Established rituals in our society to help parents experiencing the loss of an unborn child are virtually non-existent.  There are, however, things one can do to help the grieving couple through their tragedy. 
Naming the baby is of great value.  A name gives the baby a tangible spot in the line of births within this family.  It recognizes that there is another member of the family and reserves the sanctity for the child to be remembered and loved. 
A memorial service offers an event for commemoration and solidifies the reality of the loss.  This realism offers an opportunity for the parents and others to begin the grieving process.  It marks a day for tradition, and gives dignity to the child that once existed within the mother’s womb and in the family’s wished-for future.
Planting a tree in the child’s honor also helps with the healing process.  As the years progress, the tree will grow.  The parallel symbolism helps the parents and any siblings of the child cope with the passing years.
Some families find a journal helps with grief.  A journal for all members of the family to write special moments and wishes for the miscarried child, helps to solidify the structure of the family, and the child’s place within the family.
Some parents choose to bury their child.  Burying the child gives the family a place to visit and includes the child as a legitimate member of their family.  This is especially helpful to younger children.  It helps them to understand that their sibling had value, that he or she was loved, and gives them confidence that they are loved and valued, as well.
The miscarriage of a child is tragic.  However, with the love of family and friends, grief recovery is possible for the devastated mother, father and siblings if any.
My name is Tracy Renee Lee.  I am a funeral director, author and freelance writer.  I write books, weekly bereavement articles, and mid-week grief briefs related to understanding and coping with grief.  It is my life's work to comfort the bereaved and help them live on.

Please follow my blog at http://pushin-up-daisies.blogspot.com/and Twitter account  @PushnUpDaisies,  visit my websitewww.QueenCityFuneralHome.com or read my book “Pushin’ Up Daisies” for additional encouragement and information.


Kitty

Before I became a funeral director, I had a dear friend who lost her adult son to cancer.  I had been out of town working for quite some time, and when I returned to the intermountain west, in the dead of winter, I met with her at a restaurant for hot cocoa.  My friend was a highly respected and accomplished woman.  She had been the state president of a nationwide political organization and worked for very important men.  She was strong and very intelligent.  I had worked beside my friend for many years and was very sad to learn that during my absence, she had lost her son.

Once we were seated, we ordered our cocoa and my dear friend began telling me about the death of her son.  Her son resided in a coastal state and had returned home to live with his parents, as he passed through the final year of his life.  As she began telling me about his journey to death, she would naturally cry.  When she came to a particularly difficult moment, she would pause and look at me.  I was just crying away without regard to other patrons in the restaurant.  During one pause, she reached out and took my hand in hers.  After looking deep into my soul, she said something to me. 

At the time, I thought it was a very important statement.  It struck me deeply, and I pondered it for a long time.  As a funeral director, I have often reflected back on this experience with my friend, and I have realized that she shared something profound with me.  Throughout my days as a funeral director, I have shared this “Pearl of Wisdom” with many of my clients. 

Her enlightening words were these.  “Thank you for letting me tell you the story of my son’s death.  It seems that each time I tell someone about his death, it erases some of my sadness.”

We sat at the restaurant and cried together as she finished telling the story of her son’s death.  I left with tear stained cheeks, and my friend left a little less devastated.
You see, that is what death does.  It devastates us.  When we experience the death of someone we love, we are devastated.  If you learn only one thing from this article, if you cannot bear one more moment of the overwhelming sadness that accompanies significant loss, listen and learn from the profound words of my dear friend.  

Tell your story.  Share it with everyone who will listen.  Telling your story helps take your sadness away.  It helps you to realize and accept the death of your loved one.  Once you have accomplished this necessary realization, you are free to recover, and you will learn how to live life without your loved one with you.

This is the greatest thing you can do for your grief recovery.

My name is Tracy Renee Lee.  I am a funeral director, author and freelance writer.  I write books, weekly articles and brief tips on understanding and coping with grief.  It is my life's work to comfort the bereaved and help them live on. 

Please follow my blog at http://pushin-up-daisies.blogspot.com/, follow me on Twitter @PushnUpDaisies and visit my website for additional encouragement and information at www.QueenCityFuneralHome.com.


Life after Death

Recently I had a mother visit me at my funeral home.  We had buried her young son just two years earlier.  Experiencing the death of your child is a horrific experience.  My client, now my friend, had also lost her husband just three months prior to the loss of her son.  One can only imagine the pain and anguish through which she has lived. 
Her question, “Is there life after death?” surprised me.  We had discussed on multiple occasions her belief in an afterlife.  As she continued, I realized her question was about her own life.  My friend was asking if there would ever come a time when she would experience life as she had before, with joy, love, and security.
Her question is insightful.  The experience of loss can become so overwhelming that we forget how to recognize joy and perhaps become fearful of its experience.  We may feel uncomfortable in social situations and withdraw from societal encounters.  We may feel afraid to experience love again and barricade ourselves from its rapture.  These are normal fears and emotions.
Life will never be the same for someone who has lost their child, their life’s companion, or anyone of significant value.  Such a love loss will never be forgotten nor overcome.  Life has changed and eventually you will be able to make adjustments to cope with it.
My friend’s experience was tragic, but most likely, she will one day be strong enough to allow love and joy to re-enter her life.  She might be a little more guarded, a little more cautious and a little slower to trust, but if she takes care of herself emotionally and spiritually, things will get better.  I already see it happening.
Through such an experience, we wonder if there will ever be an end to our sorrow.  We may feel there is no hope.  My dear friend, there is hope.
So, is there life after death?  For the living, indeed there is. 
My name is Tracy Renee Lee.  I am a funeral director, author and freelance writer.  It is my life's work to comfort the bereaved and help them live on. 
Please follow me on Twitter @PushnUpDaisies and visit my website for additional encouragement and information at www.QueenCityFuneralHome.com.


Choose Recovery

I visited with a mother last week, who had suffered financially and emotionally at the hands of her recently deceased son.  She vocalized her anger toward her son and her disappointment in herself for these feelings.  Upon further discussion, I discovered that her son had suffered a severe drug addiction and had involved himself in activities that were quite dangerous.  His exploitation of his mother has left her nearly destitute, and she is suffering financial consequences as well as the intense grief that follows the loss of a child (even when the child is an adult at death).
Where does she go from here?  Her grief is overwhelming.  Her son is now deceased.  She feels as though her sacrifices for him were for naught.  The financial crisis in which she now finds herself only acerbates her grief.  What then is she to do, to rectify this situation and move forward in her grief recovery?  Her goal is to be able to mourn the loss of her son with fond memories and love, rather than pain and resentment.  She is in a tough situation indeed.  The financial pressure of making ends meet is interfering with her ability to move from resentment into grief recovery.  Unfortunately, her son committed suicide shortly after a realistic conversation between the two of them, addressing the severe consequences of his situation.  This conversation and his self-infliction of death compound her sadness, regret and confusion.
How then do we help this heartbroken mother recover from this tragic situation?  How do we help her mend her feelings of guilt, resentment, anger, panic and embarrassment?  Fortunately, she is willing to discuss her feelings.  This indicates that she is desirous of resolution.  She is hopeful yet lost; confused on what to do or where to go for help in her recovery journey.
The first step toward recovery is to choose to recover.  She has made that decision.  The second step is to move forward with recovery.  How does one accomplish this?  The easiest way to recover from a tragedy is to have someone support you and help keep you focused.  This mother has a second adult child, who is mourning the loss of her sibling, yet is willing and actively involved in supporting her mother through this journey.  After meeting with the both of them, I am confident that they are moving toward resolution and that together, although their road will be bumpy and filled with potholes of despair, they will eventually arrive at their destination of peace.
The mother will suffer through the financial stress of debt recovery, but she will realize that her sacrifices were out of unconditional love for her son.  Although she will have internal regrets that her financial support may have enabled him to continue his destructive behavior and eventual fatal demise,  she will realize that her funds were merely a way of keeping him close, allowing her to affect his choices in a more positive direction.  She will eventually understand that her last conversation with him was not abandonment; it was encouragement to reach his potential by letting go of a life that was filled with danger and evil.
I visited with a mother last week, who had suffered greatly at the hands of her deceased son.  I discovered that she was a great mother who loved her son deeply, a mother who had sacrificed all that she had to save her son, and now was left with the unimaginable sorrow of losing her son to drug induced suicide.  A desperate and tragic situation at best.  More importantly though, I discovered that this tragic loss was serving to bring a mother and daughter closer together.  I witnessed two women in tragedy bond together.  Each helping the other overcome the great sorrows that come with extreme tragedy.  I saw them choose to embark on recovery rather than tragedy.

I saw the moment their recovery began.

My name is Tracy Renee Lee.  I am a funeral director, author and freelance writer.  I write books, weekly articles and brief tips on understanding and coping with grief.  It is my life's work to comfort the bereaved and help them live on.

Please follow my blog at http://pushin-up-daisies.blogspot.com/, follow me on Twitter @PushnUpDaisies and visit my website for additional encouragement and information at www.QueenCityFuneralHome.com.



The Arrangement Conference

As I was ordering lunch at a local fast food restaurant, my cell phone rang.  I stepped to the side and answered the call.  It was my three o’clock appointment.  He said that he had come by early and was sitting in front of my funeral home with his mother.  I canceled my order and returned to my office.

As I parked my car, I saw his mother first.  She was a beautiful woman, tall with striking silver hair.  She was dressed in purple, and it suited her.  As we greeted, I looked deep into her eyes, from the depth of her soul, she radiated gentleness and kindheartedness. 

Her son was exiting their car.  As I turned my attention toward him, I noticed that although he was young, his movements were measured with caution.  As he rose, I could see that he, as his mother, stood tall.  He matched her beauty, both inwardly and outwardly.  He was remarkably handsome and radiated a tranquility one does not often witness in young adult men.

They were both friendly, and I invited them into my funeral home.  As we walked the first twenty feet or so, I could see the young man’s strength waiver.  He immediately sought out a couch and sat down.  His mother and I spoke for another few moments, and then I invited them into my arrangement room.  I immediately offered each of them a General Price Sheet and began narrowing their needs.

The handsome young man asked about various funeral options, and as he began to make choices, a tear or two would spill out of the corner of his eye.  He would immediately brush it away, perhaps pause for a moment, regain his composure and continue with his arrangements.  For a brief moment, he excused himself from the room.  I could hear him in the hallway.  He was very ill.  I was overcome with respect and love for this young man and his mother.  I looked at her.  She sat there silent and still, listening to her son, as he struggled to catch his breath and regain his strength.  I could see the worry and fear in her countenance.  A tear or two spilled out of the corner of her eye as she struggled to maintain her composure.  Her eyes met mine; they were wide and fearful.  She excused herself and went into the hall to shore up her son. 

As I listened to her encourage him, she emptied her heart with tenderness.  Her expressions were the deepest love of a mother, witnessing the premature and painful death of her young adult child.  I was overwhelmed with heartache for them.  The reverence and pain of the moment was a heavy burden to witness.

I do not know what disease he suffers, only that it will take his life in the near future.  A handsome young man in the prime of his life is losing his life, before his loving mother’s eyes.  For those few brief moments that I shared with them, I witnessed the unconditional love and excruciating heartache of a mother for her dying child.  I could see in her eyes, and witness in her soul, that she would take his burden and trade his suffering for her health.  If it were possible, she would gladly die in his place.

We completed his arrangements.  He wanted it all written down and signed.  His final act of strength was to lift this burden from his mother on the day she will suffer the most tremendous heartache known to mothers, the day of her beloved son’s death, his death.
My name is Tracy Renee Lee.  I am a funeral director, author and freelance writer.  I write books, weekly articles and brief tips on understanding and coping with grief.  It is my life's work to comfort the bereaved and help them live on. 

Please follow my blog at http://pushin-up-daisies.blogspot.com/, follow me on Twitter @PushnUpDaisies and visit my website for additional encouragement and information at www.QueenCityFuneralHome.com.