Category Archives: Grieving Children

OK

Holiday Grief: My Story by Jenny Montalbano, Astoria, NY

Jenny and Aunt EllieChristmas is my Mom’s favorite holiday.

She would be at Hallmark the day after Christmas for the half-priced ornaments to add to our already full Christmas Tree for the next year.

She would spend hours putting out her Christmas Village house and arranging cotton wads to look like snow.

She would bake her Mother’s Italian Christmas cookies and fill the house with the smells of holiday comfort and love while she listened to her favorite Christmas music, with Frank Sinatra in high rotation.

Each year, when “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” would play, Mom would re-tell me how it reminded her of the Christmases in the early 1950’s as she and my grandparents would wait for word from their son who was away in the military.

My mother, Ellie, passed in October of 2011. As my first Christmas without her was creeping up, I couldn’t believe how much I was dreading a holiday that I used to love so much.

Every Christmas decoration, commercial and holiday scent made me burst into tears. I wanted to hide from it all.

One night when I was home alone, I played all Mom’s favorite Christmas songs and wept as each song flooded my brain with memories of my incredible Mom.

“I’ll Be Home for Christmas” brought me to my knees and I allowed myself to sob as long and as loud as I needed to. After that, I began to cry a bit less and smile a bit more.

I’ll never stop missing my Mom, especially at Christmas time but allowing myself to be happy and enjoy the holidays feels as though Mom still is enjoying them, too.

Jenny Montalbano is from Astoria, Queens, New York and enjoys her family and friends. Her mother, Eleanor, was a lifelong friend of my Godmother and thus I had the pleasure of enjoying her company at family events. She was an amazing woman. To read the comments on my Facebook invitation, click here.

OK

Review: May He Rest in Peace

menorah-star-15686513There are a lot of sites online dealing with grief; some are written by people who truly have lived through a personal crisis and will share their experiences, and others who just try to teach you in a professorial mode.

When I found www.mayherestinpeace.com, I was so happy to see that here you are welcomed to make a memorial website for your loved one. And I was additionally grateful to know it was created by a man who has experienced grief on several levels.

David Goldshtein began this site about a year ago to help others through the grieving process. His father, Michael, died at the age of 84 after ten years of illness, having struggled with cancer, kidney disease, etc. And although the doctors told him several times he was at the end of his life, he never gave up, instead pressing on. As a holocaust survivor, he understood the meaning of fighting to live.

His mother has been struggling with Alzheimers for the past ten years. At the young age of only 17, her parents were sent to a labor camp in Siberia by the Russian Government, leaving her to learn to survive as the daughter of political prisoners.

David’s family’s journey has made him sensitive to grief and as he moves into his forties, he had a desire to celebrate their lives and the challenges they overcame by building a wonderful website that would not only house his memories of his Dad, but to give all of us a place to honor our loved ones who had died or were killed.

I am delighted, as Hanukkah, the festival of lights, begins for the Jewish people this year, to share May He Rest In Peace, for you to honor your loved ones.

In addition, David shares articles (which I will contribute to), books on grief (he’s graciously added my Understanding Your Grieving Heart After a Loved One’s Death), and several other areas which will help you on your journey.

Take the time this weekend to visit his site and look around. David Goldshtein has developed a lovely place to not only learn about the grieving process, but to share the life of those we’ve lost and loved.

My newest book, Holiday Grief: How to Cope with Stress, Anxiety and Depression After a Loved One’s Death is now available on amazon.com.

OK

Remembering JFK 50 Years Later

John F. Kennedy / Source: White House Historical Association
President John F. Kennedy / Source: White House Historical Association
I had started Kindergarten a few months earlier and I was getting myself acclimated to my new school in New York City. Since both my parents worked and it was my grandmothers who took turns being at the house after I arrived to take care of me and my brothers, I walked to and from school with a babysitter.

On that day, it was after lunch when the principal came on the speaker system and declared that the President had been shot and school would be let out early. I remember my teacher started to cry and myself and my classmates really didn’t know what was going on. It was my first experience with death.

Before I knew it, my babysitter found me and I was walking home with her. What I do remember distinctly and can picture in my minds eye so well is all the people who were out on the streets in the middle of the day running around, gathering children, and the elevator ride when I arrived in our apartment complex.

Since I was so tiny, I was surrounded by very tall adults in that elevator car, both men and woman, all of whom were weeping. But no one said a word. Usually at that hour, the elevator was empty but that day it was filled with mourners who were all in shock just as I was.

My next memory is sitting on the sofa watching the television with my grandmothers and later on with my parents. I didn’t thoroughly understand it all, but I knew at the tender age of 6 that something major had happened.

I remember watching the funeral and thinking that President and Mrs. Kennedy had children the same ages as myself and my brothers. Caroline and I were born the same year and “John John” was my brother’s age. For some strange reason, I tried to feel what it would be to lose a father, as they did, at that young age.

And as I watched them I seemed to emotionally connect with Caroline from that point on and as the years went by, I would often think of her and how difficult it must have been growing up without her Dad, regardless of his position in the world.

That was the first death that truly impacted my life and I found myself glued to the television. I can’t believe it’s been 50 years since his death, but even now, I can still see myself in that elevator looking up at all those tear-stained faces.

What do you remember about the Kennedy assasination? Share your thoughts below.

Mary Mac’s new book Holiday Grief: How To Cope With Anxiety, Stress and Depression is available now. Click here for more information.

OK

Newtown, CT: Holiday Rollercoaster

I sit here looking out to the window. Anticipated bad weather is on the move toward us. My mind is racing in so many directions I don’t know which one I should or could concentrate on.

I’m exhausted.

The happenings of this past week have been something I never thought I would ever have to endure. Not for me or for my husband. We were just going along swimmingly well, raising our daughter until this.

My mind is definitely not wrapped around this yet. I guess I have to expect this, but somehow I wish I could just be in control of something at this point and the thought that I won’t be for a very long time disturbs me immensely.

Since the identification, it has been a whirlwind. Between the family and friends who flocked to us (which we are so grateful for), to picking out a casket, to the services, to the funeral and all the people who attended.

I feel numb.

I feel small.

I feel like I’m just existing.

Mostly I feel fragile.

I’ve never felt like this before and for me, it’s not a good feeling. It’s a when-will-this-end, I-can’t-stand-this-feeling, sort of situation. One I never saw coming, one I never thought I would live.

Well, actually, how could anyone see such a thing coming into your life. No one ever teaches you what you will do, how you will feel, what will happen and how you are supposed to live if your child is murdered.

They just don’t. Maybe because they think it will never happen to you. Maybe because the thought of it is frankly so unthinkable that no one wants to go there.

How does one tell you how to pick out a casket for your child. How does one tell you how to go to memorials for your child. How does one tell you how to bury your only daughter.

It just doesn’t compute. It just doesn’t.

This past week has been unbelievable. I felt like I was just ushered around by the well-meaning people in my life. And, actually, I was.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget moving in slow motion through the funeral home, first to the director’s office to start the planning and then to another room to choose the casket. It was something I hadn’t yet experienced, as both my parents are alive. It was something no one should have to go through.

All the little details seemed overwhelming. I looked at my husband and he wasn’t the only one whose eyes were filled with tears. Somehow we made all the decisions that would bring to a conclusion the life of a child we thought we’d know forever.

From the moment I stepped into the funeral home that day and first saw her in the casket, I felt like I would collapse. How was I going to endure this completely unthinkable pain. How does one look at this little body in this box and think that just a few days ago we were picking out a Christmas tree, just the one she wanted.

I think of all the little things we did together just before this happened. All the sprinkles she decorated on her favorite cookies when they came out of the oven. All the little gifts we bought and wrapped for her friends.

All the presents and cards we picked out for her grandparents, aunts and uncles. As she started to read, she wanted to get the prettiest cards to send to those she loved. I remember helping her read the inscriptions in the card store as her Dad and I patiently went through so many boxes until she chose just the right one.

Will I ever step foot into a card store again and not become sentimental?

I sat in the funeral service and so many people have visited. People I haven’t seen in years and others I see all the time. But the amazing thing is full families have arrived from out of town. Our relatives, friends, old neighbors who spent thousands of dollars to be with us at this time. Hotels, car rentals, food, etc. How are they doing this?

I am grateful. I feel so blessed to know such good people who care so much about my husband and myself.

The viewing days were filled with sitting and looking at her in the casket and being torn between wondering when this would be finished battled by the thought that I’d never want it to be over. Because when it was over, I’d never see or have her again. I didn’t know which was worse as the moments passed.

There were times I wanted everyone to leave so I could have her all to myself. I wasn’t in a sharing mood right now.

I wanted to just jump into the casket with her. I can’t imagine what this life will feel like when she’s not around.

The morning I awoke knowing it would be her funeral, I remember sitting up in bed against the headboard, pillows propped up against my back to realize it was the last day I’d ever see her.

How could I bear this?

How could I get through this day?

How could I endure such pain?

How would I react when it was time to close the casket?

Could I do this?

Could my husband do this?

My thoughts are so isolated. I don’t know how much I’ve shared with him at this point. No much really and he hasn’t either. It’s not good.

We’ve gone through the motions of what needed to be done but at some point the deep, dark, difficult emotions will have to come to the surface, even if only for a little while, and it scares me so to think what we will both say to each other.

That day all I could think about what it was her last day with us. And how I hated that thought because there was absolutely nothing I could do to change it.

The funeral was attended by thousands. I didn’t know that many people could pack into our church at one time.

It was a lovely service, at least what I could remember. I spent too much time looking at her casket trying to remember her little smiling face when she was alive and sitting in the pew between her father and I.

She used to look all around during service in church at the lights and stained-glass windows, as they were her favorites. She just loved the colors of the stained glass in the windows.

I wondered if I would ever be able to set foot in that church again.

The burial was one of the most difficult times for me. When we arrived at the cemetery, the grave was all prepared and there were seats all lined up waiting for us. I had asked for extra seats as I knew how many of our relatives would be with us that day.

The priest did a lovely job at the gravesite but it all seemed so quick to me and I wanted to linger for a long while and even though I had left gravesites more quickly after other funerals, this time I wanted to take the time I needed.

And I did.

I know I made everyone wait on me, but I really didn’t care.

I had to see her buried…completely.

I had to know exactly where she was and that there would never be any doubt in my mind.

So I asked the funeral director to have the workers lower her casket as I watched. My husband thought it would be too much for me, but for some reason, it wasn’t. It was comforting. It was a completion that I felt I would need to do for my daughter, my first born.

The men graciously lowered her down and then started to add the dirt. I asked if I could add some dirt and they let me. Why I needed to do that I will never know. I wanted to be included.

Soon the dirt was smoothed out and we took my and my husband’s roses and placed them at the center of her grave slightly tilted to one side. Two lone roses among the thousands she received at the funeral home.

They looked so appropriate there. I felt good about that. A weird feeling of accomplishment. That I had done everything I could do for her in death as I had in life.

I trust I will see her again one day. But the life I will now need to live without her will never be the life her father and I had planned.

A life that will always feel as though we are missing a piece of our hearts.

A life that will always feel empty and cold since we’ll never know what she would have become.

A life that will always wonder what could have been.

Today we start that new life without her.

I have no idea how I’m going to do this.

OK

Identification of My Murdered Baby

The Connecticut State police has graciously assigned a member of their force to be with us right now.

In a strange way, it’s comforting to keep the media at bay. In another way, I can’t keep from feeling how much more comforted I would have felt had they been at my child’s side when the shooting began.

Do ‘we’ really need protecting now? I guess so. I surely haven’t seen such a huge amount of media in any one place. Well, at least not in person. For some reason it doesn’t look so large on the television.

My husband encourages me to get dressed. He generously brings my tea to my room. I’m numb.

We have waited for the final word from the police. This is not something I want to hear. Because for some reason, right now, I get to fool myself into believing that this is just a dream. That this hasn’t happened and our daughter is really over at her grandparents visiting for the weekend.

I get to fool myself and my mind gets to fool me into thinking she’s at dance class, or with her aunts and uncles and cousin at some outing. I get to fool myself that she’s still playing down the hall with her dolls and laughing at the funny things she sees in books and on television.

And I know these last moments before I move into this very, very real world will be the last of what I considered a secure world for myself and my family. Something inside tells me it will be a very long time, if ever, when I will wake and feel genuine happiness again. A happiness I took for granted and didn’t even know it…until now.

And I don’t ever think it will be the full sense of happiness that I feel now, because nothing in my life or my husband’s life will ever be the same again. And I can’t seem to shake that thought. I can’t seem to shake the thought that for all time, at least on this earth, I will not see my daughter.

I will miss her smiling face. The one which jumped in bed with us on weekend mornings and who we snuggled with in between us.

I can’t get dressed yet. It feels like if I do, all these luscious thoughts as if my world is just the same as it was when I woke up on Friday, before all this happened, will somehow disappear. I may never get them back.

I want to move into the practical things that I know I must be doing. But I can’t. I just want to sit here forever because then maybe it won’t be real.

My husband needs me to be strong right now…for him and for me. I know this in my soul. I can’t find the way to do this. I can’t let him bear all the burden of the police and medical examiner.

“Get up,” I tell myself. “You can do this.”

I go to him, still in my satin robe. I need his embrace. I need his closeness. I myself feel so infantile right now.

He grabs me. He kisses me on the forehead. I can see he’s been crying. I’m not there for him. That hurts me. I need to be there for him too.

He looks in my eyes and tells me he’s identified her from a picture taken at the scene.

My heart sinks.

We sit together at the kitchen table.

We hold hands.

The tears stream down our faces in silence.

What can be said.

The bubble has burst. This is real now. Very real.

I sense there will be many more very real moments ahead and I don’t know if I’m prepared for them both emotionally and simply physically.

I tell myself I will take them one at a time. I have no choice.