The Many Paths of Grief: Liz Powell

HEALING THE GRIEVING HEART
The Many Paths of Grief
Host: Dr. Gloria Horsley
With guest: Liz Powell
May 25, 2006

G: Hello. I?m Dr. Gloria Horsley with my co-host Dr. Heidi Horsley. Each week, we welcome you to Healing the Grieving Heart, the show of hope and renewal for those who have suffered the loss of a child. Well, Heidi, welcome to the show today. I know you?ve got a little cold.
H: Yes, I do, I?m sorry.
G: So just to prepare our listeners. You might sound a little nasal there.
H: It was nasal to begin with, and now it?s even worse.
G: So we?re here doing the show today and we wanted to remind you that you can visit our website at www.healingthegrievingheart.org and I wanted to talk to you about it today because Library of Life is on there and if you go to the website and go on to Library of Life, you?ll see a website for Heidi?s brother and our son, Scott. And one of the really exciting things that has happened is that we have just received a response from a girl who knew Scott in school what, 22 years ago, Heid? And she had just been thinking about him and searched the web and found his name and went on to his website and left a message for us there which was just wonderful. And then we also had a candle lit for Scott from one of our listeners. You can do that on the site and I would love to have any of our listeners go on the site and leave a candle for Scott and that listener also put their own child?s name and said something about how their child had died. So if you would like to put something on our site, please feel free to do that. We love it. And also remember when you go to our site, you can download all of our shows and you can also download them through www.thecompassionatefriends.org website and also you can go to www.healingthegrievingheart.org and download to your Ipod, and we also have transcripts of the show for the hearing impaired, so if you?re interested in that, you can drop us a note and tell us what show you want. Also, remember today you can call our toll free number, 1-866-369-3742 for comments regarding the losses in your life. So, today, we have a wonderful topic and a guest and Heidi would you like to introduce them?
H: Sure. Let?s see. Oh, one more question, Gloria, are we going to go on to the email?
G: Oh, I forgot. Sorry, Heid. I?m glad you reminded me. I was thinking what am I missing? Yes, Heidi. We got an email regarding the show that we did with Rick Yotti on May 11 and that show was Parents With No Surviving Children, and Rick Yotti and his wife, Cindy, were parents of Christopher and Matthew. Their sons died of neuromuscular disease each at age 10 in 1983 and 1984. That?s the May 11 show if you want to download it. And, Heidi, would you like to read the email in response to that show.
H: Sure, I?d love to. The email is from Howard and the subject heading is thanks for the May 11 show, and Howard writes:
Dear Gloria and Heidi,
Thanks for doing the show on parents who have lost all of their kids and now must face life alone. For me, it brought to the forefront the fact that there are subcultures of grief each with their own emotional issues and you can?t expect one griever to necessarily understand another. Those with no surviving kids form their own special group. I?m happy that you took on the subject of parents with no surviving children but I found the show extremely sad. Even you who are normally chipper sounded depressed, but how could you not? Heidi made a great observation when she noted that kids bring the world into you. That?s the nub of the problem right there. Without kids, you lose a connection to all the best things that life has to offer. You also lose a certain interest in life since you know you?ll have to face future insults of not being able to enjoy or share life?s milestones with others. Although the show was depressing, I listen to enough of your shows, actually all of them, to find that all of the stories from all of your guests make up a community of survivors whose attitudes, philosophies and situations compliment each other. The overall impression is incredibly positive and life affirming which is a stab to the wound I have as a result of losing my beautiful baby girl. Thanks again for the show.
H: And it?s from Howard. Thank you very much, Howard.
G: Yes, thanks Howard. That was a really moving email that you sent us. I want to say that you say in there that you lose all the best things when you lose children. I?ll have to say that one thing I find from this show is people are able to find ways to re-energize themselves and to live that life that isn?t the life that they planned but is the life that they have and make it meaningful.
H: Right, and we were just saying before the show, my mother and I, we?ve been struck by all the things that people have done, all the creative things they have done to put that energy back into their lives. Some people have chosen to become surrogate parents, which I know is not the same thing, but they?ve invested more energy in their nieces and nephews, they?ve taken on a cause. I know a family where the child died of cancer and they?ve taken on a cause to raise money for pediatric oncology research. So there are creative ways.
G: Yes, there are a lot of different things with art and music and also I find that a lot of people actually start doing things they?ve never done before. And I?m not saying to you folks, if this is your first year, that you?re going to get up and go change the world or something. This is a gradual process, as you all know, and grieving is a difficult process to go through.
H: Absolutely, and they also find new time and energy now that, unfortunately, they don?t have children. This email reminds me so much of what we do on the show and how it was a depressing topic. It was sad like all of our shows are, but we?re always walking a fine line. Gloria and I want to validate and acknowledge and not minimize your losses yet at the same time offer hope.
G: Absolutely, always the hope for renewal in our lives. Well, Heidi, would you like to introduce our topic today and our guest?
H: Sure, I?d love to. Our topic today is The Many Paths of Grief and our guest is Liz Powell. Liz is the Director of Youth and Family Services for Kara in Palo Alto, California. Kara is a non-profit agency providing peer support for bereaved individuals and families. The philosophy of the agency is that each person who mourns a death finds their own way through their loss. Liz says that sometimes we find that what works for someone else in dealing with their grief does not comfort us. At other times, we gain helpful ideas from hearing about the grief journey of another person. Liz will discuss with us the many pathways through grief. Welcome to the show, Liz.
L: Thank you very much.
G: It?s great to have you on the show, Liz. We really appreciate you coming on. It?s a little different for us today because we?ve had a couple of guests who are not bereaved parents or siblings but the vast majority of them are and I think it?s really important, and Heidi and I have talked about it before, that we have people who are experts in the field who may have not had the loss because I think that also you can bring us a little different perspective.
L: Well, I?d be delighted to do that and I can actually respond from several different perspectives. I am a bereaved sibling. My brother died.
G: Oh, you are, I didn?t realize that.
L: Many years ago, though, my brother died by suicide 17 years ago, and then a few years after, my father died. So I went through that, but many years passed and I was looking for ways that I could heal and bring back from the pain of those losses, bring something back to other people and so I began volunteering first for Kara and then I started working here.
G: Now Kara is in Palo Alto, Northern California, by Stanford, not far from where I live in San Francisco. Could you tell us about how did it get the name? What does the name Kara mean?
L: The name Kara is from a gothic root meaning to lament, to grieve, to care, so it refers to what we do with peer support. We have over 90 volunteers who provide peer support. They are people who have been through a loss in their life and have healed from it and gone through our training and want to be there for other people who are going through the dying or the death of someone close to them. So they provide a number of types of support. They provide one-to-one support for individuals who want to meet with someone once a week and talk with them. They facilitate peer support groups for adults, for parents, for teens, and for kids all organized around the type of loss that the person suffered so that not only can the parent, teens, adults, kids be around others who are currently trying to heal and trying to mourn the loss of someone, but they?re also around volunteers whose loss was in the past and who can bring those resources to them.
G: Quite a volunteer group. Say our audience out here is bereaved the first couple of years, what do you find that groups do for people and how would you suggest people do individual or group or what do you find?
L: Well, what we find is that different things work for different people and sometimes people want both or sometimes they have a strong preference. For example, for newly bereaved parents who have been through the death of a child, sometimes what they most want is to be around and to hear from other parents what they?re going through and how they?re coping with it. How they?re getting through each day. At other times, people feel like hearing all of the other stories of other people?s loss will be too painful and they just need one person as a sounding board. For children and for teens, sometimes being around other teens or kids helps them understand they?re not the only one going through this. They can feel quite isolated in school or among their friends who haven?t been through something like this so it?s just validating to be around others.
H: I have a question about the teen groups because especially for teens, they don?t want to be seen as different, and I know that a lot of the research has supported the fact that teens do well in bereavement groups, but we?ve had some problems with the 9/11 teens getting them to go to group, and I just wondered if that was something you had seen.
L: Yes. I?m glad you bring this up because this is right down the alley of what we?re talking about, the many paths of grief. Teens are all over the map and my experience has been particularly some teens and often it?s young teens, are so peer conscious and so want to not be different from other teens that they want their life to return to normal as soon as possible. They want to stay active. They want to be around their friends. So they don?t show their grief in ways that their parents expect them to and it can be scary or alarming for parents sometimes. They think my teen?s not talking about it. Is this okay? Is there something wrong? I?ve had other teens tell me that they find solace just being around their friends and that their friends don?t even necessarily have to be talking about the person who died. Just the fact that their friend knew the same person, knows them, cares about them is enough. Many teens are hesitant to try it and we always offer them the opportunity to come to a couple of groups and see it before they know whether it?s for them. And some will say, oh, that just sounds terrible. I don?t want to be around that and they?ll come and they?ll find that it is supportive to hear others talk about it even if at first they don?t feel like talking about it.
G: Do you reach out to the community or does the community reach out to you? How does it work?
L: Both ways. Actually, another facet our work is community outreach and different organizations ? school, community groups, businesses ? will call us if a member of their community has died or is dying and they?ll ask for us to come on site and provide service, which we do. Then many people hear about us through that, through friends, physicians, other people who?ve come here as clients, through other mental health professionals, and they?ll hear about us that way and come to us and sometimes we go out to them as in the case of the community outreach.
G: Well, we?re coming up on break now.
H: Welcome back to Healing the Grieving Heart. I?m your co-host, Dr. Heidi, with my mom and host, Dr. Gloria. Our topic today is The Many Paths of Grief and our guest is Liz Powell. Liz is a bereaved sibling and the Director of Youth and Family Services for Kara in Palo Alto, California. Kara is a non-profit agency providing peer support for bereaved individuals and families. The philosophy of the agency is that each person who mourns a death finds their own way through their loss. Liz will discuss with us the many pathways through grief. Welcome back to the show, Liz and Gloria.
L: Thanks very much.
G: Yes, it?s great to have you back on the show, Liz. For those who weren?t listening at the very beginning, I said Liz was a person who was not a bereaved sibling or parent and then we find out that Liz is. Your brother died, right?
L: Yes, my older brother, and you know one of the surprises that came from my family was we bumped up against expectations we didn?t even know we had and one of them is that family members are actually going through the same grief or the same loss and sometimes by virtue of your relationship with the person being different, that it?s your sibling, or that it?s your spouse, or that it?s your child, it actually is a different kind of loss and so we go into it thinking we?re in this together. We?re going to experience it the same way. And some people may think we?re going to talk about this or our grief is going to show up in certain specific ways. We?re going to be sad together. And we go through a ripple of shock and even fear or concern when we find that the others are not reacting the same way that we are. Maybe one of them is withdrawn. Another one seems angry. We want to talk about it. We?re sad but someone else seems to want to go to the office and work and we think how can they do this?
H: And on top of that, Liz, losing a sibling is different than losing a child. They are different losses also on top of like you said everybody is grieving differently as well.
L: They are. For me it was someone I looked up to. My brother was a role model in my life and someone I adored and someone I never expected to do this. He was one of the people who you would least expect to suicide.
G: How old was he?
L: He was 45 at the time and beloved by many people, really funny. The last thing we expected so my immediate reaction was actually I didn?t want to talk to anybody. My wedding was to occur a week later and I couldn?t even be around my fianc?. I didn?t want anybody to touch me, and I thought oh, what is wrong with me? Something is really wrong here. But I just couldn?t cope. Meanwhile, my mother needed to be around and talk to other people. My father was just ? he was trembling when I held him. He was trembling inside from the loss and talking about my brother but really not able to even let out all of his pain.
G: Which is a male thing sometimes for some of our more stoic men that feel that they have to be responsible and in charge.
L: Absolutely. He was strong and in charge and yet when I hugged him, I could feel the vibration in his body. My sister really needed to talk to people and none of her friends knew what to say so none of them called her. And that was extremely painful. So we weren?t exactly going through the same loss at all. We were going through something quite different.
G: Right. Different responses and everybody feeling a little crazy. Well, we?ve got a caller on the show today, and it?s Sue and Sue is from San Jose, right, Sue?
S: Yes, that?s right.
G: Welcome to Healing the Grieving Heart.
H: Hi, Sue.
S: Thank you.
G: Thanks so much for calling in today. Did you have a question or a comment or a thought for Liz or Heidi or I?
S: Well, I just wanted to share with you my experience really. I lost a daughter who was five years old almost five years ago. Something that Liz said resonated with me. We all do grieve in a very different way and when we?re actually in it, when you?re close to people around you, it can be very scary because they don?t necessarily present as you would expect them to present. In my case, I had a lot of support from a lot of friends and found myself talking a lot. I had a place to go with my grief. My husband was completely the opposite and just kind of buried himself in his work, and one of the big things that I worried about was that it had to come out somewhere and I almost felt compelled to make him grieve, even. I wanted to see his pain because I wanted to
G: To know he was doing it right or doing it.
S: Yeah, I felt that there was a right way and they say hindsight is 20/20 and I have another daughter who was eight years old at the time and how she handled her grief was completely different, too, for the most part. She appeared to be okay but the days were punctuated by little explosions. She?s like a volcano. Every now and again she would erupt but in between times she would be fine. The biggest point really I want to make is hindsight is 20/20 and I look back on that and I realize that it was okay for my husband to bury himself in his work. He had to because he had to be okay.
H: That?s how he was coping.
S: Yeah, that?s how he was coping, and it did come out. It came out a couple of years later and he was fine. I think it?s important. It?s hard to actually honor somebody?s grieving pattern when you?re in it and you?re involved in it because you can?t see the wood for the trees.
G: Absolutely. Very difficult. And we certainly want to offer people opportunities, though, to express their grief, particularly males, even though we don?t want to say that?s the way you should be, but there is an opportunity if you wanted to join me because I think males do get cut off a bit, would you say, Liz?
L: Gloria, you raise a very good point that if we at least make the opportunity, we check in with one another once in a while and we say, ?What are you needing right now? Here?s what I?m needing.? Then we can find out that someone may be able to say to us, ?I really can?t talk about it right now,? but at least you?ve made the opportunity.
G: Absolutely. Well, thank you so much, Sue, for calling in to the show and keep on going. You?re still, I would say fairly early from my point of view. It?s been 22 years for me.
S: Okay, thank you.
H: To add something from a bereaved sibling perspective. I?ve felt as I?ve heard many siblings say that if I showed my emotions and spoke about my loss and got too emotional, my parents would break down and I didn?t want that to happen. It would have been. I don?t know. It would kind of be amazing if a parent would go up and say, ?You know what, I?m going to take a break from grief right now. I want to be there for you. Let?s talk about your loss.? And just be there with that sibling. Because I know I held back a lot. I didn?t want my parents to break down.
L: Yes. You know that is huge. I?ve seen that a lot with different families and sometimes they?re conscious of it as you were. You said to yourself, my parents can?t handle anything more right now. I don?t want to make them break down. In many cases, it?s completely unconscious. Family members adjust to one another. I?ve seen the parent hold back and not express their grief until they were sure their children were okay. Once their kids were in one of our groups and they could see that the kids were getting their needs met and they went through even a year of watching and making sure that everything was okay, then they could give themselves permission to start to express their feelings and experience them fully. Sometimes it?s the other way around. Sometimes the parent is in a lot of pain at first and the children adjust and defer their grief a little and later you see a parent improve or get to a place where they can really let something out and then the children are able to let their grief go. However, there are times when people are all going through it at exactly the same time and those can be some of the toughest times because when we?re feeling our least able to cope like we can?t handle one more thing, that?s when children, like Sue mentioned, the eight year old?s explosion. They have meltdowns.
G: I think sometimes our children want to snap us out of it. If we can have an argument or if they can get us excited about something, at least we?re not comatose.
H: It can divert our attention, right?
G: Yeah.
H: What?s interesting is what Pat Loder said about she and her husband when they were grieving the death of both their children. She?s the Executive Director of Compassionate Friends, right, mom?
G: And she had her only two children die and then since has had two others.
H: Right and she said my husband finally looked at me and said Pat, you?re expecting me to throw you a life raft when I?m drowning myself, and I thought that was so true.
G: I did. She said she expected him to take care of things which gets us into gender differences. Have you seen gender differences?
L: Yes, and actually sometimes it?s not the way we would expect it to run. I have seen men who wanted to be more active and work or wanted to create some sort of tribute or were much less verbal in their grief and women who were very verbal and I have seen the exact opposite. Sometimes it seems to be impacted by someone?s role so sometimes I?ve seen people in roles like that of a physician where they?re expected to be an authority figure, they?re expected to be there every day and functioning well, and reliable, strong. Same with teachers. So they have to defer their grief either to after hours, as if grief could be managed, and yet somehow they manage to do it.
H: They can compartmentalize.
L: They compartmentalize it until later or even sometimes people compartmentalize it until their children are grown or at a stable point. So it?s very interesting.
G: And we can get involved with them and resolve grief there.
L: We can and also something I?ve learned to recognize is that though we want to make sure that we give ourselves every opportunity early on, there are times when it is so painful that our approach to it can be very slow, and I?ve learned to respect that.
G: Ah, that?s nice. Respecting that. We need to take a break right now and when we come back, Liz, I?d like to talk about how our folks out there would know if they needed to go to group or what would you suggest? How would they get a hold of groups and let?s talk about this. We?re coming up on break and we?re you?re hosts, Dr. Gloria Horsley and Dr. Heidi Horsley, and please stay tuned to hear more from Liz Powell about Kara, the bereavement center in Palo Alto, California. You can join our show today by calling our toll free number 1-866-472-5792. Remember you can email us about this or upcoming shows through our website, www.healingthegrievingheart.org, and also you can download the shows on Ipod and they are archived 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on our site as well as the www.thecompassionatefriends.org website. Please stay tuned for more.
H: Welcome back to Healing the Grieving Heart. I?m your co-host, Dr. Heidi, with my mom and host, Dr. Gloria. Our topic today is The Many Paths of Grief and our guest is Liz Powell. Liz is a bereaved sibling and the Director of Youth and Family Services for Kara in Palo Alto, California. Kara is a non-profit agency providing peer support for bereaved individuals and families. The philosophy of the agency is that each person who mourns a death finds their own way through their loss. Liz will discuss with us the many pathways through grief. Welcome back to the show, Liz and Gloria.
L: Thank you.
G: Thanks, Heid. We?re glad to be back on the show. When we went on break, I said to Liz that we?d like to talk about people thinking that they want to go into groups. How do they find out about groups and during break we were talking about one place that you can go was what, The Dougy Center online to find out about groups, Liz?
L: Yes. The Dougy Center has an excellent list of national agencies that support people after a death and their web address is www.dougy.org. In addition, people can look for local hospice groups. Sometimes churches will sponsor a bereavement support group. So those are three possibilities.
G: Right, and then, of course, our other possibility is The Compassionate Friends for bereaved parents and siblings. There are 600 groups in the United States and you can look for those online through www.thecompassionatefriends.org and find out about a group in your area.
H: I had an email the other day saying somebody lost a friend and she wants to join a group and there?s nothing out there for friends, but I notice that in Kara, they do have a group for friends that have had a death. Isn?t that true?
L: Yes, actually in our group for people who have had a child die, the children and the teens that are there are either mourning a sibling or a friend. Sometimes it?s a close friend that they lost and really felt like a sibling to them. For adults, we provide one-to-one support for people who are going through the loss of a friend.
G: I think it can also help, if I?m not mistaken, for teens to have a friend go with them. I know I?ve run groups for teens that were not bereavement groups, actually family therapy, we found that if we let them have a friend come along, it sometimes is very helpful for them.
L: Yes. You know you asked before the break how someone would know if they needed a group and I want to respond to that. Sometimes we?ve got very supportive friends or family members and we?ve talked about the loss a lot but we reach a point where we feel like they may be getting tired of listening.
G: Their eyes kind of gloss over.
L: Right. They?re being kind to us but we can see that it?s too much.
G: Or they change the topic. I was even at dinner the other night and mentioned Scott and this guy?s eyes glazed over and he said, well, how are you doing on your book project?
L: Or sometimes people are urging them to move on. They?re saying it?s been three months. It really is time for you to get out and start being active again or stop talking about your child or there may be things that you really don?t want to share with family members or friends that you?re experiencing. Just out of consideration like we were talking before. We?re worried that we don?t want to add one more worry to their woes.
G: You can also be pretty angry at them.
H: You could have issues with your family members.
L: Absolutely. You can be angry at family members and you can be angry at the person who died and it can feel almost disrespectful. I was very angry when my brother killed himself. I certainly wasn?t going to share that with my parents.
G: Right. Sometimes people begin to idolize the bereaved person and that can be aggravating for particularly siblings, I think, right, Heidi?
H: Absolutely. In fact, what I hear over and over with siblings is do not idolize your sibling that died. We can?t replace them. And they weren?t perfect. And now that they?re dead, they haven?t done anything wrong. They?re perfect.
L: A big part of our bereavement process is the things about our relationship that did not work well. We have to mourn those as well as the things that were joys in our lives and it?s hard to listen to that sometimes in our family members.
G: Well, we?ve got a couple of people waiting that have called in. One of them is Erin. Erin, are you there?
E: Yes, I?m here, thank you.
G: Where are you from?
E: I?m from Palo Alto.
G: Welcome to Healing the Grieving Heart. And thank you for calling in. Do you have a question or comment for Liz or Heidi or I.
E: I have a comment but it actually was reflective of what you were speaking about before group. My husband and I lost our daughter four years ago.
G: Sorry to hear that. How old was she?
E: She actually was only two hours old. It?s funny four years and I?m getting emotional talking about it again.
G: Oh, my goodness, that?s a drop in the bucket, and we know from talking to people that even though she?s two hours old, in this day and age, you?ve got ultrasound, you?ve got everything, and you?re very bonded with those babies.
E: Yeah, you are. My comment really was about what you were talking about previously about how people grieve very differently. I feel like my husband and I really reflect that and I think there are gender differences that can play into that but I really have thought about how different our personalities are and how that was reflected in our different grief experiences, so after we lost her, I?m much more emotional, as you can hear, but a much more expressive person, much more comfortable expressing my feelings, and I really just ? it wasn?t a choice, it?s just how I survived, but I really immersed myself in it. I emoted, I cried, I had to talk about it non-stop to try and get some sort of cognitive grasp, but I could only be around my husband and my parents. Everybody else, I had to shut out, but I just couldn?t stop going over it. My husband, he cried that first weekend, and then it?s like he just shut off, but yet he was around me, and it was like his role was completely to take care of and nurture and support me, and I would remember asking because I was really worried about where?s his grief and where?s his feelings? And I was also concerned that I was taking all the space, and he would tell me that actually to hear my tears and my words and my thoughts really helped him because he?s somebody who approaches life in general, just everything, much more from an intellectualized perspective and he takes time to think about what he?s feeling before he expresses himself. And so, that actually helped me that we were dialoguing obviously through the process and although we did it so differently and it wasn?t a choice, it was our survival, that it was truly the path we needed to take and what I realized as I started to emerge just a little bit, probably about six months later,
G: It?s so great that you?re giving us these little time frames because the people we?re talking to right now are people that are going through it.
E: Well, I think we also are going through it, aren?t we?
G: Absolutely. That is so true.
E: But after about six months, I would still cry every day, but I was starting to function and be a part of this world again, and my husband just took a nose dive, and we actually had gotten pregnant again and I think that was a huge trigger for him but also the fact that I think he believed that I was going to be okay and I think it almost created space for him to let go a little. But he continues even now, obviously I was emotional and I still get emotional and I miss her, but new things really keep coming up for him as the layers of his grief unfold and I just have learned to really expect that he?s doing exactly what he needs to do and can?t be pushed. He comes to these realizations or he allows himself when he?s ready.
G: Now does he go to any groups or anything?
E: No, he doesn?t, but we talk a ton. I?m more the type of person that participates in groups.
G: And you?ve gotten help through groups, through Kara?
E: I have, actually through Kara.
G: What kind of a group did you go to?
E: Parents who?ve lost children.
G: And how did you find it helpful, just for our audience.
E: To hear other stories. I have to admit, though, in the very beginning, I was not open at all to hearing anyone?s stories, to receiving any kind of help because I felt like nobody could know what I felt like and nobody could feel as much pain so their stories were kind of threatening to me somehow, but then after awhile I also felt I just couldn?t get enough of people?s stories because I needed to know that you could survive and even now I?ve just been very drawn to people. I want to hear their stories. I want to hear how they survived and how they continue to live and how they create space for their child and also how they live.
H: The thing is your baby, really, she died at what two days, you said?
E: No, two hours.
H: Two hours, but really she was nine months. You had bonded with her and had a relationship with her for nine months.
E: Right. I mean the first time it was the most joyous and most devastating moment in my life. I created, I didn?t, but through me came life and it was the most powerful thing I?ve experienced in my life and at the same time as meeting her was having to say good bye so there was the awe and being overwhelmed and feeling so humbled by this perfect human being and at the same time, I had to say good bye, and so it?s very mixed, but you?re a forever changed person. And actually after we had the baby, what the doctor said which I will forever be thankful, the first thing they said because we had a C-section and it knocked me out was congratulations you?re a mom and you have a daughter. That will never be taken away from me even after she passed away. We didn?t have any other children and I was forever a mom.
G: Oh, wonderful. Thank you so much for calling in and thank you for telling us your story and I know that all of our listeners out there are very appreciative for it. Thank you, Erin, and keep up the good work.
E: Thank you so much.
G: We have another caller, Tiffany, but Tiffany, we?re going to hold off on you if you don?t mind until we get back from break because it?s time for us to go on break, and we?re your hosts, Dr. Gloria Horsley and Dr. Heidi Horsley and please stay tuned to hear more from Liz Powell about Kara.
When we went to break, we were talking during break about all these wonderful phone calls we?ve just had, and we just had one from Erin, and we were saying that these are powerful stories that we?re hearing and that that?s one of the things that?s important at Kara and in our work is hearing the stories.
L: Yes, sometimes when the death first happens, we don?t even know how we?re going to get through the next minute, the next hour, or the next day, and so when people come to a group or they come to someone one-to-one to talk about their grief or to hear about other people?s grief, they see people who are a little bit further along or maybe a lot further along in their grief process and they can ask them, was it like this for you? How did you manage when you didn?t even have the energy to get out of bed? How did you manage to care for your other children or go to work or deal with what you had to do?
G: I think one of the things is really basic at the very first meetings is that people are actually up walking around and speaking.
H: Absolutely. I remember people coming up to me at the funeral and hugging me and whispering in my ear, you know, I had a brother die, too, but it was like 15 years ago, and I just held on to them and looked at them and said, wow, they?ve not only survived, they?ve thrived. I?ve known them all for years and I didn?t know that. It was very helpful.
G: We?ve got a caller who was waiting with us very nicely through the break and I know one of the things that Kara does does not just work with people who are bereaved parents and siblings but they also work with people who have other losses and I think Tiffany is a person who has had other losses. Tiffany, are you there?
T: Hi, yes, I?m here.
G: Thank you so much for waiting through the break.
T: No problem.
G: I really appreciate it. Could you tell us something about you and your journey?
T: My story is a little bit different, like you said. My father passed away when I was seven years old and he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer when he was 28. It was a pretty quick illness and subsequent death. It was six months from the time that we heard until the time that he died. I?m an adult now and it has been quite a while since that happened but I think that I have a really good idea of the different paths of grief because my mother and I both dealt with it very very differently and I listened to Erin?s story and I really appreciated her story and I agree a lot with the different personalities and the different maybe gender differences and things like that, but for my mother and I, the main thing I think that was different for us was that we had such totally different expectations of what our relationship with my father was going to be like and what the future of that relationship held for each one of us. Obviously, our different ages and being able to cognitively process what the death meant to me.
G: Are you processing it now? Have you been something with Kara? Are you leading groups? Or what are you doing?
T: I actually am working with Kara as a grief counselor for bereaved children, children who have lost a parent.
G: Well what a wonderful way to ? what would we say, continuing bonds, Heidi? To continue your relationship with your father in a positive way.
H: Absolutely, and I was just wondering for Tiffany, what advice would you have for parents out there in ways to help a seven year old through their loss?
T: One of the things is to not put any labels on what the grief looks like and that it might come out in very very different ways. One child might be extremely angry whereas another would be very sad. One might start acting out and one might really pull in and control and become over-responsible. So I think that just to allow them to process it in whatever way they need to, obviously there are limits that you have to put on behavioral issues and things like that, but to really give them the freedom to express it and to deal with it in their own way and in their own time.
G: Heidi and I did a pre-record with Darrell Scott whose daughter was killed in the Columbine massacre and one of the things he said was that you just have to love on ?em. Didn?t you love that, Heidi?
H: I really liked that.
G: You gotta love on ?em.
H: Give them a lot of love and support and love on ?em.
G: Well, thank you so much, Tiffany, and keep up the good work and it?s great to hear what you?re doing.
T: Okay, thank you.
G: Thank you. And then we have Kama. Welcome to Healing the Grieving Heart. You?re involved with Kara also?
K: Yeah, I am. I actually began as a counselor in the adult program seeing people one-to-one and then eventually I participated as a client in the Survivors of Suicide group. My father died by suicide when I was 14 and it wasn?t until ? gosh, I?m trying to remember exactly how old I was, I was about 30, I think, when I participated in this group.
G: As a participant?
K: Yes.
G: Okay, and what got you there?
K: Well, you know, I was already participating as a volunteer because when I heard about what Kara was doing in the community where I live and knowing what going through an experience like that as a teen
G: Did you get help as a teen?
K: No. No.
G: Okay, what did that mean to you not to get help?
K: Well, for me, I was very angry. I have a brother. I was also listening earlier about the different responses and I know for me the different responses to my father?s death were really apparent in me and my brother who is two years younger than me so he was 12. I became very angry, mostly actually with my mom who, you know, certainly was not to blame, but I at the time felt that somebody needed to be blamed and didn?t feel that blaming my father that was dead was going to work for me so I was very upset with her whereas my brother took on more of a role of trying to really care for her and step in to almost like the husband/father role. But for me, the idea of having other teens around me that were experiencing something similar, I really think it could have made all the difference at that time in my life. I felt completely isolated and the stigma of the death being a suicide on top of just being a teen who?s lost a father was really overwhelming for me.
H: Therefore, you probably got little support because people didn’t know how to approach you or what to say.
K: The teen years are so difficult anyway and I personally think they?re most difficult for girls but, yes, the people around me even those that truly did care for me more often than not had no idea, the teens that were my close friends, had no idea what to say or how to respond to my anger or to the varying levels of emotions that I experienced. So for me I just feel that it?s just so wonderful that programs exist now where peers can sit together and share their experience and realize that (a) they?re not alone, and (b) that they?re not crazy. I really labeled myself as this bad child, as this bad person because I felt so out of control but didn?t feel like I had any resource to rein myself back in so to speak.
G: Well, what a wonderful thing to have you there working with that group and doing this volunteer service and thank you so much for calling in on the show today. We really appreciate it and take care of yourself and keep up the good work.
Liz, we?ve only got a few more minutes so let me ask, is there anything that you would like to cover before we end the show?
L: Well, some things that have been raised in the last few minutes that I think are important are that it is never too late to work on grief that happened earlier in your life, nor is it too early to seek support when you are feeling at sea, you?re completely overwhelmed by your loss. It?s never too early to reach out for help. And also that earlier losses that we have in our life, earlier deaths or other types of loss can compound our current grief and so can cause us to feel even more pain about a death that?s happening right now or a loss that we?re experiencing. Sometimes we wonder where that?s coming from.
G: Well, thank you so much, Liz, and that?s a great thought. And do you have any one last thought for newly bereaved?
L: For newly bereaved folks, my thought is don?t panic when you see the differences between the way your children, your teens, and your partner are reacting and even other family members. Don?t let it scare you that they seem angry or distant or somehow is coming out through uncooperative behavior or meltdowns or things you don?t expect.
G: As we?ve said, there are many paths of grief, right?
L: Right. And there are many ways that are normal and many ways to heal.
G: Great. Thank you so much for being on the show today. We really appreciate it. And I think you can go to the website, www.kara-grief.org to look at Kara?s website and thank you for the wonderful work you?re doing, Liz. Hopefully, I can see you sometime in the Bay Area.
L: Great, and thanks for hosting such a helpful show.
G: Thank you. Please stay tuned again next week when our topic will be A Journey from Loss to Love and our guest will be Sandy Goodman. In July of 1996, 18-year-old Jason Goodman grabbed a high voltage line. When he died three hours later, his mother, Sandy, found herself in a pit of darkness. Sandy is the author of Love Never Dies: A Mother?s Journey From Loss to Love. She is also a chapter leader of the Wind River Chapter of TCF in Central Wyoming. This show is archived on our website, www.healingthegrievingheart.org, as well www.thecompassionatefriends.org website. This is Dr. Gloria Horsley. Please stay tuned again next Thursday, at 9:00 Pacific Standard Time, 12:00 Eastern, for more of Healing the Grieving Heart, a show of hope and renewal and support. Remember others have been there before you and made it. So can you. You need not walk alone. Thanks for listening. I?m your host, Dr. Gloria Horsley and
H: Dr. Heidi Horsley. Until next week.

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