Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Our children's best friends

(First let me say that I previewed this blog and for some reason beyond my computer skills it is cramming it all together-no breaks for paragraphs or anything and I can't fix it) I am getting ready to speak at The Compassionate Friend's Regional Conference. I have been getting my thoughts organized for the event and discovered that there are two ways that we the bereaved parents deal with our children's friends/best friends- 1. We can no longer have them around us. It reminds us too much of our children not being present with us. Having DJ's friends around me and my husband is just too painful. When I have seen them skateboarding or riding their bikes I think that DJ should be there. When I watch them grow into the tall men that they now are I wish so much that I could see how tall DJ was going to be. When I hear they are dating, driving, having other milestones it just reminds me so much more that DJ is unable to have those things here on earth. It also breaks my heart though that I am no longer friends with them myself. I loved DJ's friends and I take in all my kids friends as my own. When DJ died the friendships of those children also died with him. I did of course lose DJ but I also lost those children as well. I had planned to see them married, see them pass those milestones and enjoy them too. So much died with our children. Many people I have interviewed just cannot go to the weddings of the children's friends. People expect them to be happy for the couple but most bereaced parents end up crying because they know they will not have that opportunity with their own child. It is unfair for others to expect us to be happy sometimes. I have interviewed families that have such a hard time hearing that the other children now have "new" best friends. We almost feel betrayed somehow that our child is forgotten. They have gone on with life without their best friend, they have moved onto new friends and that is so hard to deal with. We know in reality that these kids will never forget our children but from the outside it feels like they have abandoned their memories. 2. Parent's love to have their children's friends around. They enjoy seeing their milestones and watching them move forward. No one has said it to me but I wonder if the parents get to see their children live vicariously through their friends. This is not something anyone would want to admit and I am absolutely not judging here. I wish I could see DJ's friends and watch them grow but I can't. All this said, the biggest realization is that everyone grieves differently and truly no way is wrong as long as you aren't harming yourself or others. Seeing the friends, not seeing the friends that is your choice and neither one is wrong. My book is available at a local bookstore now-Parables if you are in the Omaha area. You can order it online at

Sunday, March 13, 2011


Almost every year since DJ passed away I have had a DJ's day in honor of his birthday. His passion in life was skateboarding, he wanted to become a professional skateboarder and as many of you know, skateboarding cost him is life. Every year around his birthday in May I have had the opportunity to give away skateboard helmets to the community for free. We have a band, free t-shirts with DJ's logo on it, free chocolate cupcakes ( he loved chocolate-even hid it in his sock drawer from his sister), free water bottles and skate stickers. I have been very fortunate through donations to give away over 1200 helmets to local skateboarders.

All this said, DJ's birthday is coming up. It may seem like I am thinking about if awfully soon if you haven't lost a child. We the bereaved tend to think about things like this far ahead of time and over the years I have realized that the anticipation of the birthday is usually worse than the actual day.

I decided last year that I would not do a DJ's day again this year. Last year and every year it is emotionally, physically and mentally difficult. There is a lot of joy seeing the skateboarders, giving kids the shirts for free, watching the community come together to celebrate DJ's birthday...But it is also exhausting trying to get donations (usually around $5000 worth for everything). It's painful telling DJ's story over and over, and telling little children and especially the parents to make sure their children wear the helmets I am giving them. It is a little stressful wondering if the 888 helmets are going to end up on Craig's list, a closet or in a garage sale instead of on some one's head.

Parents I have spoke with have many different things that they do as well for their child's birthday. Some have family and friends over for a dinner to remember their child. Some have cake, some do not. Many release balloons or light fireworks to honor their child. Some go to the grave site and decorate it for the day. A few I know take the day off of work and stay home to cry in private. One woman I know read her son's autopsy that day--she later stated she didn't think that was such a good idea afterwards--she doesn't recommend doing it for anyone. There are some parents that do a huge event, like a bike ride to raise money for a children's hospitals. Some have river cruise rides to raise funds for scholarships and some have golf outings to raise money for life saving machines in honor of their child.

My advice to anyone that has lost a child and the birthday is coming up--do what feels right to you. There are so many things we can do to honor our child's birthday and life. There are huge things but there are also smaller, private things that mean just as much. There are some days that I think the mere fact of getting out of bed and standing against the day is honoring enough. If you can, include the rest of your family in remembrance of your child. Remember your child in a positive way for I am sure that is how they would want you to remember them. Celebrate their life on this day, make it a day to celebrate the living your child did instead of grieving their death. We have plenty of days to grieve our child, perhaps their birthday is the one time of year that we have the world's permission and a bit of understanding to celebrate them. To speak openly about them without people thinking we are "still talking about it".

You will find that the anticipation of the event is way worse than the actual day and that there is an invisible line of relief that is crossed after the day is over. You will get through the day because there is no other option, 24 hours come and 24 hours go. But try to get through it by remembering the good, the love you have for your child, the happy memories, not just the death--our children are so much more than that!!

In honor of DJ's birthday this year I am planning on having a book signing at Parable's Book Store in Omaha Nebraska in May. I haven't confirmed the date yet but will let you all know. Thanks for reading and listening to my rambles-- Lisa-forever DJ's Mom

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Church life after death

I had a friend who bought my book tell me something she learned after reading it. She was so surprised that all (but one family) of the families had a very difficult time going to church after their child died.

This woman had a family at her church that had lost a child and they didn't return for almost three years and she never understood why. She wondered too if her pastor understood it either. She assumed, like many, that the family would find solace at the church. That their friends were there and that they could find refuge and peace in the body of Christ.

This is a tricky situation that so many don't understand.

After we lose our child there are so many reasons that we cannot go to church...

We picture our child in the casket at the church.

I can tell you exactly where we sat during DJ's service. Jake fell asleep during the service right next to me. I know the exact placement where the casket was, where the musicians were, where the pastor stood during the funeral. I know what I was wearing along with my husband. I can see DJ's photo on the large screen. I can still hear the music that was played. This alone makes church difficult.

One woman I interviewed quit going to the church she attended and found a new one that did not hold so many memories.

Our family is no longer whole

The first time my family went to church after DJ's death the usher asked me "How many?" ugh, what a horrible question and even worse answer. The week before we were five and then we were four. Seeing other families with their children intact, sitting where DJ should have been was a constant reminder of my loss.

The Holy Spirit

The Spirit of God can be so strong at church that it can just be too overwhelming. I often wondered at very first if I started to cry at church if I would ever be able to stop. It became just too difficult to battle emotionally that eventually we quit going to church. It took us almost four years to get back on a mild consistent basis.

We can be mad at God

No one I interviewed was angry at or turned away from God after they lost their child. We didn't either but I know there are families out there that have and I understand. Why would He take the most important thing in our life? We would God allow such tragedy and pain to overcome us? These are all things and so many more that I asked God but I was never angry at Him but I so get it if that is you.

Please don't misunderstand those families out there that my be struggling with attending church. Everything in my life and theirs is now different and this surprisingly enough is one of those different things.

My book Flowers on a Child's Grave, Now What? is available in ebook or paperback at I am working at getting it into local book stores and also on Amazon this week but till then you can contact me directly at or go to me website. My cooking blog is also there along with my families book line of Captain Tag--check it all out if you like.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

A house had a fire...

I know of a family that lived in a very nice home. It wasn't too big, it wasn't too little. It was just the right size just like the Three Bear's home. The walls of the home were lined with pictures of memories. Toys were scattered about, little hands had their smell on them. Rooms were full of love and joy. The home was full of life and energy. Wonderful stories were told in the home, great memories were made in the house. The home smelled of baking, smelled of children, smelled of memories.

One day a tragedy occured. The home was ablazed in fire. There was no way the family could stop the fire, it came and took away everything they owned. All the memories, all the pictures, all the wonderful things that made the house a home were gone. It took only moments, there was no time to beg or try to make the fire stop. The fire chief told them it was hopeless and there was nothing he could do to save the home. The husband pleaded, the wife prayed, the children cried but nothing could be done in the end. A fire takes everything.

It took almost four years for the house to be rebuilt. Things had to be figured out, like where would the children's rooms be. Where would the location be. What type of roof, what type of walls, what the lay out would be. So many decisions that the family had taken for granted had to be remade, even where the toilet roll would attach to the wall. Everything, every small detail had to be decided upon, rethought and rethought again. Eventually the family moved back into the home but it wasn't the same. Copies of photos were on the wall, fresh paint was on the walls, new carpet, new memories were being made but it just wasn't the same. The family eventually assimulated into the new home, into their new world but they always missed the old home. The old memories were the ones they missed and though the new house was fresh and clean it just wasn't the same. In the end they accepted what happened to their old home and lived in the new one, the new world that was created after the fire.

Do you know who this family was? It was me, it was the neighbor you know that lost a child. Their life before their child's death was just right, not too big, not too little. They were happiest there. Fast forward and the doctor has told them there is no hope, no chance of survival and their lives have been charred and changed forever. This new life they now have is like that new house, the footings are the same, the 2by4's are there but it is not the same. Our life is now so different, everything can look almost right, almost new and perfect but our lives, their lives are never going to be the same. A fire, a death takes everything away-it takes our creativity. Death takes away our decision making process, our mind has to reteach, reevaluate almost all decisions, even the smallest ones.

A house fire and the death of a child are both horrible, both are devasting to a family. The house can be rebuilt, a child cannot. Memories can be added to but never, ever will they be complete. Please remember those near you that have lost children--give them an extra hug today. Their life has forever been changed and no time, no brick and mortar can ever make it complete again!!

Friday, March 4, 2011


I realized last night that when I was young I had expectations-expectations that seemed realistic, but expectations none the least. I thought that I would get married to someone I loved. I would of course have children, two, three, maybe more. My husband and I would raise them, they would graduate with honors from school (just wanted some humor inserted). After sometime they would have children and I would be a grandparent. I expected someday I would die and my children would bury me. They would cry, pick out a headstone and place some nice sentiment on my headstone. This is the cycle of life that I expected to receive. I never doubted that this was how it would be...

I was naive, I was young and stupid. I was unaware that pain could come to me in truckloads. When DJ went flying down that steep hill on his skateboard my expectations went crashing as well. When DJ passed away on October 8, 2006 my expectations died with him.

I try not to expect much anymore. This is not a victim attitude, it is a realistic attitude. I have had my life completely turned upside down and shattered into a million pieces. I do not have the expectation that life will ever be what I think it may be.

I expected to get married--check
I expected to have children--check
I expected them to finish school--check
I expected DJ to grow up--uncheck
I expected DJ to have grandchildren--uncheck
I expected to die before my children--uncheck
I expected that I would never bury a child--uncheck
I expected to live a life without major trauma--uncheck
I expected to have control over my life--uncheck
I expected to survive life with all my children intact--uncheck
I expected my life to go the way I wanted it do--uncheck

What are your expectations? Have they changed since your child died? Mine certainly have...

I expect that life will be hard--check
I expect that I will have more trauma in life--check
I expect that I have no control over my life--check
I expect that people will forget my son--check
I expect that DJ's death will affect my family forever--check
I expect that there will be days still that grief will take over--check

There are so many things that I don't know are coming. There is a future ahead of me that is unsure, unaware, and unassuming. There is a future that may have more trauma, more grief, more pain.

There is however something else that could happen--There is also a future that will have joy and pleasure. There may be some wonderful things coming my way and that of my family in the future. There still may be grandchildren, there still may be that cycle of life that I can expect.

There is a life out there still--check
There are opportunities to take yet--check
There is still hope in this life--check
There are still dreams to come true--check
There is joy to find yet--check
There is an uncertain future--check
There are thrills and wonders to find--check

I don't expect things like I used to. I am thankful for every wonderful thing that comes my family's way. My expectations are gone. When good happens I am thankful for every little piece of it! When joy finds it's way into my family's life I am thrilled. No more expectations for me--they are gone yet a world of wonder is still in front of me.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Masks-we all wear them

Someone I interviewed for my book said that she wore a mask to work. On the outside she looks like the woman they all knew before her child's death. She has the same hair, same smile, same eyes and same face.

But that mask is still a mask.

Why does she wear a mask? Why do any of us wear a mask? Mainly it is because so many people just want the old person back. The person before our life was shredded into pieces and thrown all over the place. We wear a mask for other people, so they are comfortable with us. We wear this mask so they don't have to see the pain that they absolutely do not want to see!

If people look deep enough though they can see beyond the mask. Sometimes our mask isn't strong enough to keep the emotion and pain away from the surface. Somedays people can see through it. What do these people do when they see our mask falling away? A few will stand by us when the mask is off but many will turn their eyes and look away.

Oddly enough I remember while I was at the hospital cafeteria after DJ's accident that the staff wore masks as well. I was getting food for my youngest son Jake to eat and the staff could see my pain but they wore their masks very strongly. There was no knowing what they were thinking when they saw me walking toward them. They wore their masks like professional actors.

My realization is that anyone dealing with grief, loss, pain, trauma, tragedy and death must wear a mask at some time. We the grieving parents have a mask we take on and off depending on the situation. Those people that work in the medical field wear masks too.

Life is tough, we all wear masks don't we? What is your mask hiding? My mask is hiding my pain from you. I don't think our world is strong enough for us to all take off our masks. There is too much pain in the world, I think our masks must stay on.

My book Flowers on A Child's Grave, Now What? is available online at in ebook and paperback form--you can read about this woman's mask and that of many others.