HEALING THE GRIEVING HEART
Helping Your Hurting Heart
Host: Dr. Gloria Horsley
With guest: Lauren Littauer Briggs
June 15, 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, a show of hope and renewal for those who have suffered the loss of a child or a sibling. Well, Heidi, today I thought we?d start out by discussing an email and then I thought we ought to go on and talk about this Sunday, which is going to be Father?s Day, which is a biggie for everyone.
H: Yes, it is.
G: So let?s start with this email. This is an email from Grace from Northern California, and by the way, we love getting your emails and you can email us through our website, www.healingthegrievingheart.org. This show is live today so if you want to call us, do that. Our call in number is toll free and it?s 1-866-472-5792, and remember all these shows are archived on www.thecompassionatefriends.org website and they?re also archived on our website www.healingthegrievingheart.org, and you can also download on Ipod and also I want to tell people that we enjoy your emails but we also enjoy people who go in through our website to the Library of Life, which is one of our sponsors, and they go on and they leave us messages about their children and light a little candle for our son, brother, Scott, which you can go into the Library of Life.
H: I really like the fact that not only do they acknowledge our loss, but they talk about their own also. I love that, mom.
G: Yeah, it?s wonderful, and we really love it so please go in and light a candle for our Scott and put your child?s name in there, too. Wonderful. And we also don?t forget, we have a quote of the week, so you can go in and see from all of our wonderful guests on the show. Well, here?s our email and it?s from Grace from Northern California. Grace is a psychologist, I believe. She says:
I?ve spent some time looking at your website, Healing the Grieving Heart. The information is informative and with a touch of heart. I?ve been listening to your shows and I applaud both of you for the work that you?ve done with grieving and trauma, an area also of professional interest. I wish you much energy and support in your future endeavors.
I want to thank Grace. That?s a great email that she sent us.
H: That?s very nice. Thank you very much, Grace.
G: Yes, thank you, and again she?s from Northern California. So when you send us an email, pop in where you?re from because we love to get that since we?re kind of international now on the web. So now Heid we?re going to go on and talk about Father?s Day. All these holidays are a difficult time for people and Father?s Day, Mother?s Day, very difficult. They?re those little holidays, well, big, but they kind of sneak in. Christmas we all know is going to be horrendous, but the other ones kind of sneak in, don?t they.
H: Absolutely. Yeah, Father?s Day is definitely tough.
G: It?s a hard one. And one of the things that we suggest that you do on Father?s Day and our guest may, when we introduce her, have some ideas for us, too, but one of the things we suggest that you do on Father?s Day is again realize, if you?re in your first year, all those first year anniversaries are really rough, aren?t they, Heid?
H: Yes, they really are. The first year is very tough because it brings up so many reminders and things that you used to do you don?t feel often comfortable doing them any more because somebody in your family has now died, especially something like Father?s Day where I know with our 9/11 kids that I work with, their fathers died in the Trade Center and so Father?s Day is probably the toughest holiday of the year for those kids because it brings up so many emotions and your schools are making Father?s Day cards and everybody?s talking about how they?re going to celebrate with their fathers, and those kids, they don?t have fathers.
G: And for the dads out there, you?re not getting those cards from those kids and you?re not having that family event that you?ve had in the past. So what we tell you the first year, you?ve just got to take care of yourself and it?s going to be a tough day. Anticipate it. You may want to have friends around you or you may not. You may want to put just a rose in a little vase to remember. You may want to do something bigger, release balloons, whatever, or however dads take care of themselves. They tend to be maybe a little quieter about it, but there may be something you did with your child that you maybe want to do some little thing like pick up the mitt and go throw a ball back and forth with somebody else in your family or whatever.
H: I know in our family, Father?s Day was really really hard for dad and just brought up a lot of memories of Scott not being there, but my birthday falls on Father?s Day sometimes and it actually does this year, so I remember the first year was very hard. The second year my birthday fell on Father?s Day and I think we celebrated my birthday more than Father?s Day that year, I remember.
G: So the second year is tough but probably the second year we suggest to people that they start planning to do other things and break out a little bit in other activities. And we wish all you dads well on Father?s Day, and you know, you still are fathers of that child, you?ll always be.
H: Absolutely, and remember, as a bereaved sibling I?ve got to say, remember, for those of you that have surviving siblings, we still want to celebrate and honor our fathers, and we still want to celebrate Father?s Day, and I know it?s hard for those dads out there, but as siblings we still need to celebrate that holiday and honor our dads.
G: Absolutely, and what a wonderful thing to say, Heidi, because siblings are the forgotten mourners. Remember dads and mothers out there that there are other siblings and they do want to honor your husband and this is a day to honor dads in any way. Maybe a small card or something like that. Yeah. That?s important that the total focus isn?t on the lost child on this day. Very good. Okay, Heidi, would you like to introduce our guest for us today?
H: Sure, I?d love to. Our topic today is Helping Your Hurting Heart and our guest is Lauren Littauer Briggs. Through her speaking and writing, Lauren encourages people with her heartfelt messages and practical presentations. As a child, Lauren watched two younger brothers struggle with a degenerative neural disease. One brother died at the age of 2. The second brother lived to be 19. Lauren is a founding member and is currently the Chapter Leader of her local Compassionate Friends. Lauren has her B.A. degree in Psychology specializing in child development. She is the author of The Art of Helping ? What to Say and Do When Someone is Hurting. Based on her book, her message is one of awareness for what people need when they are going through difficult times. For more information, please visit her website at www.laurenbriggs.com. Welcome to the show, Lauren.
L: Thank you very much. It?s an honor and a privilege for me to be with you both today.
G: Oh, thanks, it?s great to have you on.
H: Thank you.
G: Well, Heidi and I have been looking over your book. You sent it to us. It?s a wonderful book, The Art of Helping. It has wonderful ideas that we?ll be talking about today. In the beginning of it, you say that James Watt, the former Secretary of Interior, I think he was under President Nixon, right?
G: And he asked you, you were what 33 or something when you met him? How did you happen to meet him?
L: We were both at a bookseller?s convention. He had a book coming out about his experience under the Nixon years and I had a book coming out at that time. It was 1985.
G: It was another book, not The Art of Helping?
G: What was that book?
L: That book was kind of the foundation from which The Art of Helping was birthed. That book was entitled, What to Say When You Don?t Know What to Say: Reaching Out to HurtingFolks. It was kind of the original foundation of this book. That was done, as I say, over fifteen years ago, but we were both at this booksellers convention both introducing our new book and my publicist knew his publicist, introduced us both, and he looked me square in the eye and said, what would a young girl like you know about suffering? And I presume I looked pretty well put together and I think that?s something interesting for the general public to understand, that we can fake it pretty well after we?ve had some experience. We tend to put on a mask of holding ourselves together and being functional and it really is a role we?re playing. It isn?t what our hearts are feeling. But he said to me, what would a young girl like you know about suffering? And I began just quickly to run through my life experiences and before I was even half way through, he literally put his hands in the air and said, stop! That?s enough. I believe you know what it is to hurt.
G: That says something as I read that about how the world responds to loss. They?re only willing to hear so much and then he put his hand up and actually say what a lot of other people ? stop. I don?t want to hear any more about it.
L: Exactly. And I think that?s one of the motivations for why I wrote The Art of Helping is because the world out there does not know how to help us, those of us, who are going through a difficult time, and it?s as if we live in two different worlds, and it?s very important for the support community to have a sense and an understanding of what we, the hurting, are going through, but then conversely, it?s also important for those of us who are walking through terrible loss like we can?t imagine pain to the extent that we feel that pain. We have to realize that that other world out there, they don?t have a clue of what we?re going through. The only way they?d know is to go through what we?re experiencing and we wouldn?t wish that on our worst enemy.
G: Well, also, we don?t want our audience out there to be further hurt by people thinking that people are just rude or ignorant or they don?t like us or they don?t want to be around us. More the understanding that they?re kind of clueless.
H: And like Lauren said, if you physically look good, because we know how to fake it. If you physically look like you?re doing well and you look good, people assume internally you?re doing fine and you?re often not. You?re hurting and they can?t see what?s going on inside of you.
G: And some of the loss gives us a little adrenalin rush sometimes so we look like we?re strong in ways. Our body helps us out a little bit sometimes. I remember wanting to look really competent when I worked at the University of Rochester. I was teaching after two weeks back at everything. You want to look competent. You?re falling apart so you?re really pulling it together trying to not be counted out as somebody who?s not going to make it.
L: Exactly. Well because if other people have a sense and awareness of how much we?re hurting, then that makes us have to face it and certainly early on in our loss experience, we don?t have the emotional stamina, even the physical presence to be able to deal with everything that is being thrust upon us. I believe that those early responses whether they be the shock or the denial, those kinds of responses, I believe those are God-given emotional defenses because if we were to feel the enormity of everything we were going to go through in the next year, two years, five years, ten years, I believe we?d short circuit and wouldn?t be able to do it.
H: That is such a good point. I remember when my brother died. I still remember this. My roommate saying, wow, I miss him more than you and I barely knew him. It?s like you said, we?re protecting ourselves so we?re not completely overwhelmed by our grief.
G: And I think we?ve seen with the 9/11 widows is that the world is saying, wow, look how strong they are. They?ve gotten along, and they look like it, but they?re really hurting and it?s a difficult journey. So, Lauren, could you tell us something about you and your losses. Our audience would like to know something about Lauren.
L: Yes, I am the first-born and I bear that position fairly typically. I was the oldest, the responsible one, the protector, the nurturer, and then to my sister who was four years younger than me, shortly after that
G: You know, what, Lauren, we?ve got to take a break. I?ve been so interested in our conversation here, I think I?m hearing a little break music so when we get through, we?ll hear your story. We?re coming up on break. I?m your host, Dr. Gloria Horsley. Please stay tuned to hear more from our guest, Lauren Briggs, today. You?re on Healing the Grieving Heart. Please join us on our show by calling our toll free number, 1-866-472-5792. If you?d like to email us about this show or upcoming shows, you can reach Heidi and me through our website, www.healingthegrievingheart.org and these shows are also on Ipod and we hope you?ll stay tuned for more.
Lauren, when we went to break, you were just going to tell us your story, but right now, we have a caller, and his name is Dan. Hi, Dan.
D: Good morning, Gloria.
G: Welcome to the show.
D: Good to be here.
G: Heidi and I and Lauren, Heidi and I particularly, were talking about Father?s Day and I asked you to give us a call because you?re a dad and I thought it would be a good thing to have a dad on.
D: Well, thank you.
G: Do you want to talk about your son?
D: Well, I lost my son about five years ago. He took his own life, and we were pretty close. We played a lot of golf together and that?s kind of what we established as our tradition is we used to play golf on Father?s Day.
G: So this is a toughie. What are you doing this Father?s Day?
D: Well, I?m trying to move on and create some time with my daughter who?s six years older than he was, and he was 17 at the time when he passed away, but I?m going to try and set some traditions with her, some new traditions, and move on, so Sunday, she and I are going to attend a baseball game here locally in Sacramento.
G: That?s great. Do you have some advice for those folks out there who are like a year into it for Father?s Day, a year or two?
D: Well, a year or two, that?s still a hard time. It?s really hard. I?m just getting through my own and like you say, everybody is different but you just have to move on and think of, as you mentioned earlier, the siblings and there are the siblings that you have to look after so you have to just keep on with it. It?s hard.
G: Oh, Dan, thank you so much for being on the show. Heid or Lauren, did you have anything you wanted to add or say to Dan?
L: I would just like to add that we as parents when we come upon these very difficult celebrations and days in our lives, we need to be very good to ourselves and have realistic expectations. We need to somehow emotionally prepare ourselves that this is going to be a difficult day. Do some special things just to take care of ourselves, but don?t expect much out of ourselves on those days.
G: How about you, Heid?
H: I definitely agree with what Lauren is saying and what you?ve said, mom. I guess I would just say, hearing Dan and knowing that he?s only been five years out really reconfirms it. It takes a while to establish a new tradition. Like he said, initially it?s very difficult and he golfed and that was what Father?s Day was all about and now he?s starting to think of new things and going to baseball games with his daughter and it takes time to move in those directions.
D: Yeah, and it?s still hard for me as a father to play golf and watch a father-son team play golf. It was very hard the first year or two out and it?s still emotional today.
H: I bet. Last night I saw Tiger Woods on and my heart went so out to him. I just could see pain in his eyes and I just knew where he had been and thinking of him without his dad, it?s very tough.
G: Yeah, his dad died this year of prostate cancer, I believe, right?
G: Well, listen, Dan, thank you so much for being on the show. I know it?s a great help to our listeners to hear somebody who is working on establishing new traditions and your advice of helping people move on and thank you so much and have a great day with your daughter and we all miss Tony.
D: Thanks to you, Dr. Gloria and Heidi, and thanks for having me on.
H: Thanks for calling, Dan. Take care.
G: Well, that was a great call, wasn?t it? It?s so great to have a guy call in and talk about how difficult it is for everybody out there.
L: Excellent, and I think the other thing that all of us need to be sensitive to is that we deal with situations differently and as Dan talked about golfing that that is kind of a trigger point for him, we each may have different trigger points. For me, it was walking down a baby food aisle in the grocery store. We all have different things that are triggers for us that make life more difficult that bring up those emotions and those feelings.
G: Absolutely. I remember Scott put a ping-pong table together right before he died. That ping-pong table just broke my heart every time I went downstairs. So now Lauren, before Dan called in, we were talking about your background and your story. Could you give us your story.
L: Sure. I was about seven years old and the oldest child in the family when I already had a sister, Marita, and then my brother was born. He was my father?s namesake, Frederick Jerome Littauer III, and he was the son my father wanted and all attention was on him, of course, and by the time he was about six months old, he no longer progressed and there was obviously something wrong. He began having convulsions in the middle of the night. His body would go into fits and he would just stiffen like a board at that time ? and now we?re talking back in 1960 in that time frame ? he was diagnosed with severe brain damage. Our doctor told my mom, you might as well put him away, forget about him and have another. In those days, that really was the extent of any coping that was available, and my mom was assured this would never happen again, and my brother was placed in a children?s home.
G: Now how old was he?
L: He was only nine months when he was put in the home.
G: Do you remember that?
L: Well, he just disappeared and this was something that was extraordinarily difficult for me. Even at that time, I was old enough. I was the one who would fix his bottles and my aunt has even confirmed with me that when she would stay at the house, I got to his bedroom before my mom did when he would wake up in the middle of the night, and so I cared for him as if he were my child. Now I was only seven and eight years old, but in my mind, that was the case, and one day he disappeared. Not to put fault onto my parents. You have to turn the clock back to that time. They had no resources to know how to deal with this. No one was helping them, and so I ultimately, where?s Freddie? Where?s Freddie? And they had to then tell me that the doctor said his care was such that we needed to put him in a home, and so then my mother was encouraged to have another child, that this would never happen again.
G: Now did she visit?
L: No. My father, it was his choice to protect my mother and, in fact, the actual timing was as my mother was in the hospital having her second son, now her fourth child, that my father is actually the one who put his namesake, Freddie, into the children?s home, and so when my mom came home with a new baby, Freddie was gone. It?s a very hard way to deal with things, and as a child and then on into an adult, I?ve had to try to deal with this. I can?t really place blame on my parents. They were doing the very, very, very best they knew how to do, and yet it did leave me with enormous pain.
H: And were you able to talk about Freddie ever again or was the topic off limits?
L: Essentially off limits. Essentially off limits and all the focus was put on this new healthy baby that was brought home.
H: And his name wasn?t Freddie, was it?
L: No. His name was Larry, and even more devastating, honestly, his name was Laurence, spelled my way, L-a-u-r-e-n-c-e, and so to me I felt like he was named after me, and at about six months, we began noticing the same symptoms with him.
G: Well, Lauren, we are going to take a break right now, and when we come back, this is such an incredible story, we will go right into the story. So we?re coming up on break. I?m your host, Dr. Gloria Horsley, and please stay tuned for more from Lauren Briggs, author of The Art of Helping. This show is archived on www.thecompassionatefriends.org website as well as our website, www.healingthegrievingheart.org. You can also download this show on Ipod. Please stay tuned for more.
We want to say first of all a quick Happy Father?s Day to fathers. We?ve been talking about the show and hang in and we know it?s a tough transition. Lauren, when we went to break, we were talking about Freddie, the first child, has disappeared. How old was he?
L: He was about nine months old.
G: Nine months. The doctor suggested he be put into a home to take care of, which wasn?t unusual at that time at all. Then your mom had Larry and brought Larry home. I remember my mother-in-law actually had a deformed baby and they told her that it was perfect and the baby died. It had a cord wrapped around its neck but it also had some other deformities, and they told her that it was a perfect baby and they never let her see it, and it was born at term.
H: They wanted to protect her.
G: Yeah. That?s just the way things went.
L: So much was done under the guise to protect someone.
H: When women needed to be protected, it reminds me of your father protecting your mother delivering this baby. He?s taking Freddie out of the home while she?s gone.
G: So when we talk about this story, audience, let?s remember we?re on a time train. We?re back in a different era. Thank goodness Kubler-Ross brought us into this century.
L: Absolutely. Absolutely, because this was forty years ago, and so then my mother had the second boy, Larry. Larry was brought home and people had even suggested that mother had not cared for Freddie well enough and maybe had dropped him on his head. The full range of possible explanations and we hovered over Larry. We watched every breath. I, as a child, aside from when I was at school, I was with him all the time.
G: Now you?re eight, right?
L: I?m now nine.
G: And that?s the time when children love babies.
L: Oh, he was so important to me, but at about six months, the same things started. The convulsions, the stiffening of his body, the doctor said this can?t be happening again, but it is, and he was flown to Johns-Hopkins Metabolic Research Unit in the Baltimore, Maryland, area. He had brain surgery. I can close my eyes and still see the scar on his head because it was a full U as they opened his skull, looked inside to find that there were no convolutions in his brain. It was just an inert mass. They sewed him back up and sent him home. I remember picking my mom and him up at the airport, his head all bandaged and swollen, and then it was only a few months later when I was across the street at my friend?s playing and I looked out her window to see my parents backing out of the driveway. Now I was a pretty clingy child and no wonder for what I had been through already.
G: Absolutely. People disappear.
L: People disappear, and I rushed out the front door to see where my parents were going only to find my brother, Larry, in the car and they had to tell me they are taking him to the same children?s hospital. It was absolutely devastating and that was the only moment of being able to say good-bye I had. Now the piece I hadn?t told you is that in between when my brother, Larry, was turning six months old, one week prior to that, we got word that Freddie died of pneumonia in that children?s hospital. So my mother had about one week when she did not have a dying child until we found out that Larry had the same thing.
G: And your mother didn?t see Freddie at the hospital or anything because that?s what people did then.
L: No. She was advised and my father, as we mentioned, in protecting her, did not want her going up there. And so my brother, Larry, went to the same facility, it?s a small home for children with special needs in Norfolk, Connecticut, and my father on occasion would go by and visit maybe once every other year or so but he never even told me really where they were and we were not allowed to go, and it wasn?t until I was an adult and actually my brother, Larry, lived there until he was 19 years old. I was an adult until I realized, you know, my parents, this was their need. This was their way of dealing with it, but I?m different, and I have emotional needs and I have some questions that I have to get answered. So my brother died at age 19 in that children?s home. He never grew beyond about 36 inches and was deaf and blind and essentially a vegetable. So it was devastating, of course, to all of us and as we?re talking
G: He must have had very good care to live that old.
L: Yes, and at that time, he did have very good care, and they were able to meet his basic needs, but for me, the little girl, I used to play the piano and I would sit at the piano and play the song from Music Man, ?Goodnight, My Someone,? goodnight, my love, true love can be whispered from heart to heart when lovers are parted they say. I would sing that song to my brothers because I didn?t know where they were and I felt we were parted and I wanted them to know that I loved them, and I felt as a child I felt terrible that no one in our family was giving them any care or any attention and that was something that ate away at me.
G: And you weren?t able to talk about them at all.
L: Not at all, and this is the thing.
G: No pictures.
L: Well, there were a few pictures on the walls but that?s it. There was no conversation about it and I remember one day when Larry would have been turning five and my mother was especially grouchy and especially quick and sharp tongued with me, and I remember kind of responding in kind and my father pulled me aside and he said, today is Larry?s fifth birthday and the doctor said he would never live to be five years old and he has, and this is a very difficult day for your mother. So any grieving that went on was always under the frame of ?this is difficult for your mother? and nothing was every focused on how difficult it was for me. So as a child I also grew up with the concept that if you aren?t perfect, you get put away, because a little child can?t understand the extent of the medical care needed and so I spent much of my childhood and early teen years trying to be perfect.
H: You also got the message that you didn?t have the right to your grief. This was about your parents.
L: Exactly, and I can recall when we talk about siblings and what siblings go through when they experience loss. I can remember wanting to waive a flag in my parents? face like, yoo-hoo, I?m still here. You may be hurting and I know you have had two sons with this problem, but you still have me. I?m a normal good girl and you do still have me.
G: So, Lauren, let me ask you something. What would you say to the parents out there who have lost children now early on. What about their siblings? What about the other children?
L: Yes, I think Dan really addressed that talking about spending time with his daughter. No sibling can ever take the place of someone who?s died, however, we must not be ignored. We have to be given that attention and love and I think sometimes it tends to go either one way or the other that parents may tend to hover over, be extremely overprotective of surviving siblings, of their surviving children.
G: Right, they?re afraid at first.
L: They?re very afraid. And then the other way is parents can be so focused on their own grief and dealing with their pain that they overlook and don?t see what their children are going through.
G: But one of the things Heidi and I have found out, too, and Heidi you can speak to this, is kids are also ambivalent. They want attention but they don?t. Right, Heid? They want to be noticed, but they don?t.
H: Right. Absolutely. And you want people to acknowledge your grief but, like you were saying, Lauren, you don?t want them to hover over you and over-protect you too much. You still need a little bit of freedom. You want to be a normal kid, too.
L: I think being a normal kid, and especially for me with two abnormal brothers as it were, and children would tease me that my brothers were retards. In fact, to this day, my children were never allowed to use the word ?retarded? casually. ?Oh, that?s retarded.? I never allowed my children to say those words because that?s what people said to me about my brothers. It hurt me deeply. It was like a knife going through my heart.
G: One of the shows I want to do is a show about missing children. It certainly has that flavor to it, not only the loss of a sibling, but also a missing child which has all sorts of special things connected with it all.
L: Right, the disappearance, the being afraid, that deep concern
H: And Laura, what about being afraid that you might get this disease?
L: Of course. And it, of course, carried on to my adult life whether or not I would be able to have children myself. And the thing that I think we all need to understand about grief is we may have one grief experience and we either deal with it at whatever level we deal with it, and then another crisis or another grief experience comes into our life, and it mounds on top of the previous ones. The unresolved stuff. And I can remember my parents gave away my dog, and it was a very loved dog and yet I guess he had some behavior problems. I don?t know. But they gave him away number one without telling me, number two, without my permission, and number three, without telling me where he went. And I can remember one day, I was old enough to ride my bicycle off by myself and they kind of told me he was in a particular neighborhood and I rode my bicycle to that neighborhood and I went up and down every street calling this dog?s name in hope of being reunited.
G: Wow. What a story. We?re coming up on break again, and I?m your host, Dr. Gloria Horsley, and please stay tuned to hear more from Lauren Briggs about helping your hurting heart. She?s a very compelling woman with a fabulously compelling story. You can also call us. Our toll free number is 1-866-472-5792. If you?d like to email us about this show or upcoming shows, you can reach Heidi and I through www.healingthegrievingheart.org. You can also see our quote of the week and the show can be downloaded on Ipod, and remember, it?s archived on our site and the www.thecompassionatefriends.org website 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Please stay tuned to hear more.
Now, Lauren, I understand that your story is also on your website, and you?re going to have something in the next
L: National magazine for The Compassionate Friends.
G: Great. So you?ll be able to hear more about Lauren?s compelling story. We?ve been talking about the fact that her brother, Freddie, and her brother, Larry, both had a neurological disease.
L: It honestly has never been diagnosed, and that?s a part of the story I haven?t gotten to. My whole childhood and adult life, I have been trying to diagnose what went wrong and to this day we have no answers.
G: And Lauren was telling us about when she was a little kid and her dog disappeared also and she was looking for her dog in the neighborhood and then she wants to talk about what she?s moved on to as an adult and how she?s handled all this, I think. Is that where we?re going, Lauren?
L: Yes, yes, I think so. As I talk about looking for that dog and just driving up and down the street calling my dog?s name, certainly that was a traumatic time for me.
H: And it was such a metaphor. The dog disappeared as your brother disappeared and you were looking for your dog and in a sense, I think, it?s about looking for those that you loved and disappeared.
L: There is that emptiness that rests within us.
G: There?s that yearning and searching, they even have a name for it ? looking, looking, looking.
L: My father was a very powerful presence and I never bucked him in trying to find where my brothers were and it wasn?t until I was an adult and in fact had children of my own. My husband is a genealogist and he was working on genealogy and it was as if one day it dawned on me because he looks at death certificates and marriage certificates. It dawned on me that I don?t know anything about my brothers? death. I don?t know where they are, and I could use some of the same tools my husband is using in his genealogy to find information about my brothers and the search began. I went back to the town of Norfolk, Connecticut. I live in California so this was quite difficult to do but I do still have some relatives in the New England area and so I went to this little town and I got death certificates for both of my brothers. It?s a small town of only 1700. I asked the gal, where was Ann Storck?s Nursery and she pointed me up the street to a particular nursery and I had the opportunity to go in. And I told my husband as we were approaching, I said, you?re going to have to do the talking. My heart was pounding. My hands were shaking. We were greeted at the door by caring and compassionate people, and they asked why we were there.
G: I love that ? Ann Storck ? her name.
L: Yes, Ann Storck?s. Anyway, as we met with people there, I was told that I am not the first sibling to come back trying to get information about someone who was cared for there.
G: Because, again, forty years ago, that?s what we did. They institutionalized people. They put them away. That?s just the way it was.
L: Exactly. And so the nurse there, they got a gal named Petey, and Petey came out. She said I?ve worked here for forty years and by meeting her, I was able to learn the tenderness and the compassion that these very special people have. And she said, I call them my kids. The state says I have to call them clients but I call them my kids.
G: Wow, for your brother to live to 19 in that condition, he?s got to have had tremendously good care.
L: He had to be.
G: Well, to hear more about Lauren?s story, go to her website. I want to talk about her book, The Art of Helping. It?s just a fascinating book. What to Say and Do. It covers a lot of areas. I?m always clueless on cards and things like that. She?s got wonderful suggestions on what to say on cards. She?s got great prayers that you can give. Just wonderful information. She?s even got recipes if you want to think about taking things over to the house. It?s just a really nice book.
H: With holiday ideas. I love the friendship bag. Whoever gets the book, you?ve got to read about the friendship bag. That was one of my favorites.
L: Oh, good. Well, I think the book was born out of my own heart, my own heartache, and feeling that no one understood what I was going through. I went on, as I mentioned earlier, my concern whether or not I would ever have children, and as it turns out, I had a pregnancy loss of an affected child, which was just devastating for me and once again, brings up all the loss from my childhood, all the unresolved grief, and honestly, I think it?s a misnomer. I don?t believe we ever resolve all our grief. I think much of it is left unresolved.
G: Well one of the things that Heidi and I talk about are continuing bonds and figuring out how you do integrate those things into your life rather than not just not facing them, you integrate those situations into your life which is an important thing to do.
L: It?s very important. That pain never goes away.
G: I think Lauren, The Compassionate Friends and shows like this are such a great way, and having people like you on, it helps our listeners out there to know that they can integrate.
L: They can.
G: They can integrate these things into their lives. They will always think of them but the pain, the real gnawing, real hideous pain that you suffer early on. You?re able to move with that into a better spot.
L: Absolutely, and we can move on. In the book, The Art of Helping, I give you a whole bunch of do?s and don?t?s. Don?t do this, do this, and one of the don?t?s is, don?t say ?when will you be your old self? or ?you aren?t over this yet?? And what we as the support community need to understand is that when our lives have been touched by tragedy, we will never be our old self again.
G: I want to say the sibling self, too, because Heidi and I were talking earlier before the show about how everybody?s story is just as important. It doesn?t matter if it was your sibling or a friend or whatever, if it?s your story, that?s the important story.
H: The worst loss you can ever go through is the one that?s happening to you right now.
L: Because my pain is maximum for me. People want to compare losses somehow and think well, so and so?s is worse than so and so?s, but my pain is maximum for me.
G: Absolutely, and everything?s different. One of the things that I?ve learned from a year on this show is that I hear stories that I think I could never go through that. Losing a child for me, somebody else lost a child a different way and I think, wow, I don?t think I could do that, I don?t know how they ever suffered that. So your own pain?s your own pain. Your story?s your story. The important thing is to value and honor your own story whether you?re a sibling or a parent or a grandparent and however they died in honoring your own story.
L: Absolutely, and what we need to be aware, we will never be our old self again but that does not mean that we will live for the next thirty years with this huge black cloud of grief consuming us.
G: And if that?s happening to you, Compassionate Friends group, right? A great place to go or other group to be able to tell your story. Telling your story is a very healing and important thing. And in doing some investigation to enrich your story as you did going to find out where your brother was and talking to someone.
L: And finding out their care and towards the end of this story is that I found out one brother was cremated, one brother was buried. To this day, I do not yet know the exact location of where Larry was buried but I have erected a monument in that cemetery in Norfolk, Connecticut, where I have dedicated the monument to all the people of Norfolk who have cared for these children over the years and my brother is not alone in an unmarked grave at that cemetery and I later found out and now have reclaimed the cremains of my brother, Freddie, for they have sat in a storage cupboard in the funeral home in Norfolk, Connecticut, for forty years waiting for me to reclaim him.
H: Oh, that?s wonderful that you were able to do that.
L: It has been an amazing fulfillment of concern and able to literally put to rest the heartaches and the concerns of that little girl.
G: And, Heidi, what a wonderful story of continuing bonds.
H: Yeah, you?ve come full circle, Lauren.
G: You have. It?s a great story. Well, Lauren Briggs, thank you so much for being on our show.
L: It is my privilege and honestly an honor to share the story and to give hope to possibly be a role model for others who are just in the midst of their pain at this moment.
G: Absolutely. Well, thank you so much. It?s time for our show to close, and I want to thank our guest, Lauren Briggs. Please stay tuned again next week when our topic will be ?How To Open Your Heart After Hurt,? and our guest will be Doris Jeanette. Doris was six when her brother, RW, died. Doris is author of A Natural Process for Opening the Heart?Your Emotional Guide to Self Esteem, which is a tape, and is a pioneer in holistic psychology. Please join us and learn how to open your heart. This show is archived on our website www.healingthegrievingheart.org as well as www.compassionatefriends.org website. This is Dr. Gloria Horsley and Dr. Heidi 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. You can, too. You need not walk alone. Thanks for listening. I?m Dr. Gloria
H: and Dr. Heidi Horsley. Thanks, again, Lauren.