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In This Issue of DFQ o o o o o o o o o
Donor Families through the Decades -One life to live Healing Tears - Ask Dr. Lani Comforting the Soul - Expressing suicide grief Memory Quilts warm the boardroom Healing the Spirit highlight - Connect online Creative expressions of grief - Tribute album retreat LifeNet Health Florida -In Celebration & Remembrance LifeNet Health Northwest - A fit tribute to Ben Donate Life float - Give them a rose
Living for the moment, back in 1978, Brent, Jeff, David and Joan Kaiser
Donor Families through the Decades - One life to live - by David and Joan Kaiser Over the next year, in each issue of Donor Family Quarterly, we will profile LifeNet Health donor families from the past four decades, beginning with the 1980s. We hope their stories will inspire. Back in 1987, our son Brent died from an auto accident at age 18. Brent was a handsome, blue-eyed blonde who had more fun and friends than most have in a lifetime. He had a lifelong love of skiing and soccer, both at which he excelled. Brent never talked about the future because he lived for today. One day a female friend complimented Brent on his beautiful blue eyes and his generosity. He casually mentioned that when he died he wanted his heart to be given to another and then another so he would actually live forever. We overheard his comment and it seemed strange at the time, but we never forgot it. Death was imminent for four days after the accident. Remembering Brent's scheme to live forever, we thought of organ donation. We called a friend whose son had received a kidney transplant. We asked him what we should do. Soon after the call, our friend and a LifeNet coordinator arrived at the hospital.
The hospital staff didn't mention donation once during those four days. They seemed to shy away from the subject, thinking the mention of it would be hurtful. What they failed to realize is donation at the time of death was the only positive result of such a tragedy. The healing benefits of organ donation for the donor family are numerous. We've met many people who have lost loved ones. The donor families always seem to heal faster and are more positive. We feel sorry for those who didn't get the opportunity to donate. Always think of your loved one as a gift with no guarantee of the amount of time they will be with you. Appreciate the fact you have had the experience. Brag about the wonderful donation your loved one gave at their death by their loving nature. Be proud you enabled them to pass on health and life. Don't be afraid to speak of your loved one to family and friends. Join a group of similar people such as Compassionate Friends who will be there to listen to your story as you listen to theirs. Make a point to perform a kind act, whether in word or gesture, to everyone you meet. As an example, mention to someone assisting you that they have a nice smile. Simple things can be so meaningful. Be patient as healing takes time. In our situation, we changed houses because walking past his empty bedroom was painful. Immediately after death, there is a great fear that your loved one will be forgotten. That doesn't happen. The first week, the first month and the first year your loved one is constantly on your mind. Although you never forget, time heals. You only have one life to live. You can choose to go forward with happy and loving memories or dwell with grief and make everyone around you miserable. We chose to let the past be the past and to live our lives in a positive way. Mourning for a lifetime is a problem. Live each day to its fullest. Many friendships developed through LifeNet Health and Donor Family Services. Positive attitudes about the death of our son would not have been possible without donation. His last act on earth was giving life to others. We're amazed by the growth of LifeNet Health from two small buildings with a few employees to the magnificent organization it has become. We're proud to be part of the LifeNet Health family.
"Although you never forget, time heals." Donor parents Joan and David Kaiser with a portrait of their son Brent photo courtesy of Jeff Kaiser, M. Photographer, CPP www.kaisercustomimages.com portrait by Virginia based watercolor artist Vonnie Wentworth
Healing Tears by Dr. Lani Leary Dear Dr. Leary, My son died suddenly and unexpectedly. It feels like my world has fallen apart. I thought I would have time to prepare if death came, but now I don't know how to cope. How do I get over this? - Aching Mother
Dear Aching Mother, Sudden, unexpected death catches you off-guard and can challenge all of your coping skills. It is normal to feel as though nothing makes sense and that your world, as you have known it, is foreign
and unsafe. Most of us believe we will have the opportunity to prepare for the death of a loved one, since 80% of all deaths are from illness or age-related circumstances. When you have no advance warning or opportunity to gather resources for understanding and support, grief is even more intense. The shock of the unexpected makes thinking and processing the reality even more difficult. Griefwork requires the brain to be able to accept the reality of the death, but in the shock of the unexpected death, the brain may protect the person by shutting down. Brain studies show that grief has a significant impact on memory, perception, conceptualization, and even heart and digestive health. Taking care of you by giving yourself time off from work and other responsibilities is important. Accepting support for home maintenance, chores, and day-to-day responsibilities can strengthen your bodily reserves necessary to regain a sense of stability. Griefwork also asks us to feel our grief. Intense grief reactions and emotions are strong and unpredictable. What is most helpful is to give yourself the space, time, and permission to feel whatever feelings arise and to be with them in gentle doses. The presence of a loving and understanding support person usually makes a significant impact in our ability to be with difficult emotions. Validation is a key element in being able to fully acknowledge, accept, reconcile, and integrate the death of a loved one. Seek out a support person who can honor and validate your feelings and whom you can trust for on-going support. Feelings of guilt and regret are common reactions after a sudden death. Working with grief becomes a spiritual (not necessarily religious) practice of finding peace and meaning in the unexpected. You might find solace with strategies such as meditation, prayer, or journaling. Or you might benefit by seeking support from clergy or a support group for bereaved parents. The physical, cognitive, emotional and spiritual work of grief usually takes longer than we expect. Griefwork is active, repetitive and painful,
but necessary if we are to go on loving and living well in a new world without your loved one. As you do this work, your grief will soften, and you will find that you do not forget your son, but rather bring his memory into the future with you. Within your griefwork is a choice... the choice to carry him within you, in a new relationship, and to continue loving. The work is not easy, but it will change your experience from powerless to powerful, and from hopeless to hopeful.
Lani Dr. Leary is a psychologist and certified grief therapist who consults with LifeNet Health. Her responses reflect her professional opinion to general questions. Individuals struggling with complicated grief are encouraged to seek the care of a professional. Please submit your questions to Robin Cowherd, LifeNet Health, 1864 Concert Drive, Virginia Beach, VA 23453, or visit Healing Tears at our website.
Comforting the Soul - Expressing suicide grief - by Sarah L. Decker, MA, CIC-CSp The grief associated with suicide may be described by some as different from other types of grieving. It is traumatic grief without question. Grief that is particularly distressing or unsettling has extreme circumstances, or which is prolonged is considered traumatic grief. Those who live as survivors can feel alone, judged, and even shamed by society due to social stigmas that are associated with this type of death. Feelings that create the need for meaning and questioning the loss can also complicate this grief. Dr. Alan Wolfelt says in his book Understanding your Suicide Grief, "...suicide is an act of solitude. We often cannot understand why a person we care so much about would choose death in this way." What can be understood is that grief following suicide can be more painful and difficult than other types of grieving. Healing from this type of loss will be a process and the experienced trauma will be a part of it. If a teenager completes suicide in their own home, the circumstances can become complicated. The parent could have found them and may no longer want to live in the house, or they may feel guilty that they may not have seen it coming. Learn to express your feelings associated with the shock of this loss in ways that are healthy. Some people find that talking to a trusted friend, writing, drawing, or beginning to associate with a group of other suicide survivors allowing you to get
these thoughts out may be helpful. Anger, sadness, guilt, and even numbness are all appropriate reactions. Allow yourself to be aware of these emotions without judgment. Many survivors say that they want to try to understand the reason their loved one had taken their own life, or they will replay the last days in their heads, looking for signs or symptoms. LifeNet Health Donor Family Services wants you to know that we have an outlet to help with the grieving associated with the loss of a loved one to suicide. Our new blog on healingthespirit.org, called Healing from Suicide Grief, reaches out to those of you who want to write about your experiences with this type of grief. A donor family member named Mandy writes the first entry. Reading about her personal journey may allow you the freedom to write about your own. This blog is a place to share knowledge and stories surrounding the loss of a loved one to suicide. Submitting a post to this blog can promote healing. It can show yourself and others that you are not alone.
Memory Quilts warm the boardroom LifeNet Health likes to remind visitors of our mission which begins with the compassionate decision of donors and their families for organ and tissue donation. Two recently installed donor memorial quilts are on display in the boardroom of our newest facility, the Institute for Regenerative Medicine, to depict our mission.
Healing the Spirit Highlight - Connect online -
by Michael Reilly, MA, Donor Family Advocate
After the loss of a loved one, support from others who know and understand the experience of grief is important. Sometimes this support is not available or diminishes over time. LifeNet Health is committed to providing our donor families with support for as long as they desire. One of the best ways to get ongoing support is to connect with other donor families navigating their own path through grief and mourning. LifeNet Health Donor Family Services provides two ways for families to connect in a safe and caring environment on a 24/7 basis. 1. Donor families email support group: for newly bereaved families and those not on Facebook. For more information, or to join, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
2. LifeNet Health donor families Facebook group: for members only to read and post comments. To join, click here or go to healingthespirit.org. Select the Donor Families menu and click Facebook group to complete your request. When we receive your request, we will verify you are a donor family member and add you to the group. If you have any problems, email email@example.com or call 757-609-4412.
Those who have walked a similar path will accept you. You can feel free to express whatever it is you are experiencing-thoughts, feelings, questions-knowing you'll be met with compassion.
Creative Expressions of Grief - Tribute Album Retreat
LifeNet Health hosted a Tribute Album Retreat at Smith Mountain Lake 4-H Center in central Virginia recently. Donor family members, recipients, and volunteers came together to share memories and make new ones. Thank you to all our volunteers and participants for making this retreat truly special! If you're interested in future Creative Expressions of Grief workshops and retreats, email Tina Pierce at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-800-847-7831 ext. 4903.
LifeNet Health Florida to host In Celebration &
Remembrance Ceremonies Each year, organ and tissue donors and their families help others live a better life. In conjunction with National Donor Sabbath, LifeNet Health Florida invites you to join us as we celebrate this precious gift, and honor those who were so compassionate in giving it. Please join us for the 2013 In Celebration & Remembrance ceremonies in the sunshine state: ď‚ˇ ď‚ˇ
Northwest Florida - Sunday, November 3rd at the Pensacola Naval Air Station in Pensacola Northeast Florida - Sunday, November 17th at the St. Frances Barracks Officers' Club in St. Augustine
Check your mailbox for more information on times and directions. All donor families are welcome.
A fit tribute to Ben
LifeNet Health Northwest recently expanded our donor family and community services in Washington, Montana and northern Idaho. Programs include follow-up support for donor families, regional donor tributes, and involvement in community events. We joined in a 5k fun run in Quincy, WA in memory of Benjamin Horning. Ben was an active young man who loved cross-country running. He was a mentor to many local athletes. On May 30, 2012, Ben, 20, died during a long-distance run when a motor vehicle fatally struck him. His family consented to donation. Resulting from this generosity, Ben's gifts of donated tissue will help over 100 individuals lead more active lives. Benjamin Horning
Donate Life Float - Give them a rose
The rose is a symbol of love, loss and renewal. Now you can dedicate a rose to your loved one's memory on the Donate Life Float in the Rose Parade in Pasadena on New Year's Day. Your $30 charitable contribution directly supports Donate Life's inspiring Rose Parade float entry. To dedicate your Donate Life Rose, you may choose from two options:
1. Order online by clicking here or 2. Download the order form and return it to the Donate Life Float Committee by following the instructions.
Visit LifeNet Health's website for more grief and loss support www.healingthespirit.org CC-13-1647