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In This Issue of DFQ Creative Expressions of Grief - Share your creativity In Celebration & Remembrance Ceremonies - View photos Comforting the Soul - Sibling loss is disenfranchised Healing Tears - I missed my spouse's funeral to be with my child Interested in becoming a Grief Companion®? - Enroll now Creative Expressions of Grief "The process of making art is as valuable as the art itself. Experiencing sadness and anger can make you feel more creative, and by being creative, you can get beyond your pain or negativity."
-- Yoko Ono, wife of John Lennon, killed in 1980
LifeNet Health has always encouraged grieving family members to be creative in dealing with their grief, if that seems to be a helpful outlet. Each grief experience is unique so it is fitting that any creative expression of this grief would also be very unique.
"Here's an obvious observation: doing art - whether music, painting, writing, dance, whatever - can contribute immeasurably to psychological well-being," says Michael Friedman, a mental health professional and writer. A well known example of works of art that memorialize a loved one is Eric Clapton's writing of the song Tears in Heaven for his son Conner, who died some years ago. Art tends to engage one or more of our five senses - sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell. Memorial artwork may come in many forms, from songs and dances to a favorite casserole or a garden honoring a beloved. Over the years, LifeNet Health has offered workshops and retreats offering face-to-face opportunities for donor family members to come together and be collectively creative. Donor family members have created many unique and personal memorial projects. From wood-working projects, photography collages, books and articles, to bookmarks, gardens, journals, poetry or songs, each project has the potential to help mourners begin to reconcile with their grief.
Through projects like Forever Memories on our website, we offer instructions on how to create various memorial projects to honor loved ones.
Call-for-Entries We're expanding our website to include a new section: Creative Expressions of Grief. If you've created something special in honor of your loved one, please consider sharing your personal artwork. We aim to create a collection of these works along with brief stories. Please tell us about your loved one and how creating your special project may have been healing for you. To contribute to the Creative Expressions of Grief public collection, please email Tina Pierce, Donor Family Advocate, or call 1-800847-7831 ext 4903.
In Celebration & Remembrance Ceremonies
Hundreds of donor family members and transplant recipients gathered across Virginia for the annual In Celebration & Remembrance Ceremonies. The lives of organ and tissue donors were honored and celebrated, along with those whose lives have been saved or restored through the gifts of organs and tissue.
Cathy Vanlear, mother of Angela Faith Kania, was an inspirational guest speaker at the Western Virginia "In Celebration & Remembrance" ceremony at Vinton War Memorial in Roanoke.
Paul Harris' parents, Chuck and Cindy, were courageous guest speakers at the In Celebration & Remebrance ceremony at the Sheraton Oceanfront Hotel in Virginia Beach. Tribute tables were a powerful part of the events.
Comforting the Soul: Sibling Loss Mother's Day is a beautiful day full of flowers and family dinners to recognize our mothers. On Father's Day, children gift charmingly hideous ties, and grills are fired up in backyards across America. Then there's Sibling's Day...oh wait...there is no holiday for siblings? Sibling relationships are complex and expected to last past the lives of our parents. For some, a sibling is truly their other half before spouses came along. This person is the one you used to tip-toe down the stairs with to take sneak peaks at Christmas trees, and is the only one who can share inside jokes about Mom's quirks. The death of a sibling is considered a disenfranchised loss, or a loss that is less publicly acknowledged than that of a child, parent, or spouse. It can create a complicated grief journey for those who have lost a brother or a sister. In fact, feelings of disenfranchisement may start complicating a journey around the time of the funeral. A person experiencing this type of loss may feel they had to care for their parents when deep down guilt feelings were being stirred up by a heart that was hoping for parents to care for their own deep sadness. To comfort your soul on this journey of surviving the loss of a sibling, here are some suggestions: Do you ever "search" for you sibling? This is normal. Find solace in the feeling that your loved one feels close to you. Be okay with how your other family members have grieved, or are grieving. Take the time to really explore your own journey as a sibling. Do you have other siblings? Perhaps this is a time to establish stronger bonds. You can start by simply sending a card. Who knows, maybe you'll establish your own Sibling Day!
By Dr. Lani Leary
Dear Dr. Leary, How does one grieve when you lose your spouse in an auto accident, and you will not leave the bedside of your child that was also injured and passed away days later from the accident? You do not attend your spouse's visitation or funeral out of fear that something may happen to your child if you leave. The child passed and was an organ donor. How do you deal with all of this?
Dear Lanee, You ask how to deal with all of this? You begin by holding yourself with compassion, understanding, and acceptance. You stepped up to the most demanding role and responsibility in the moment, which was to watch over and be with your precious child. How could a mother have left? You begin by accepting, gently, the difficult reality that you could not be in two places at the same time. You begin by understanding that you made the best choice with the best information and resources that you had in the moment. You begin, by feeling and accepting all of your feelings and their intensity whatever they may be. You have already begun to deal with all of this. You were not able to attend the formal visitation or funeral of your husband. It doesn't mean that you can't hold your own equally meaningful and personal service that will validate your relationship and the meaning he holds for you in your life.
Funerals are ways for community to come together to honor the deceased and to support the survivors. You can have that if you can open yourself to receiving in a different way and timetable than what is usually expected. As at the funeral, you can receive condolences, hear stories of how he mattered to others, and be companioned in your grief. This change in expectation may also provide for multiple services with multiple groups of family and friends, so that you can have more exchange and intimacy. I encourage you to allow others the gift of supporting you; they are waiting to hear from you what would be most helpful.
Such profound losses under such unexpected circumstances demand special care and consideration. I don't know what emotional support you have around you, but I believe being with others who are grieving under similar circumstances will help you to feel validated and "normal". Try to locate (or ask a friend to locate for you) a support group for young widows and/or a support group for parents who have lost a child. Friends who do not understand your grief may urge you to "get back to life" or have less time to companion you later in your grief but the support group will be a lifeline of emotional support, routine, and information that will help you in your grief work. This is how you begin to deal, one measure of support at a time, one day at a time. Please "deal with all of this" in your own unique way, with your own individual understandings and meanings, and in your own time. Your grief is your own, and no one else's to direct or judge. No one
can do this work for you, but the love, support, and acceptance of others can make a difference. Lanee, you have begun to deal with this by reaching out. My heart goes out to you, Blessings,
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
Interested in becoming a Grief Companion ® ?
Many of our donor family members have told us that talking with another understanding donor family member who has experienced a similar loss can help fill a vital need for support and encouragement. The LifeNet Health Grief Companion® Program is a response to that need. As a certified LifeNet Health Grief Companion volunteer, usually at least two years out from your loss, you will support newly bereaved
donor family members on their grief journey. Use the valuable experience of your own journey and the knowledge and skills you will learn from the rigorous Grief Companion training course. Many of our Companions tell us they appreciate the opportunity to give back in some way for the support they have received. For more information about the Grief Companion Program, click here. If you would like to enroll for the next course, and are able to attend a one-day workshop on Saturday, October 27th in the LifeNet Health Richmond office, please email Donor Family Advocate Michael Reilly or call 1-800-847-7831 ext. 4412. EX 12-062 Visit LifeNet Health's website for more grief and loss support www.healingthespirit.org