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Sandy Hook, Newtown, CT: One Year Later

The first anniversary of the Sandy Hook school shooting in Newtown, CT holds difficult emotions for the families, friends and school staff, as well as its community. Dealing with the pain of loss for the first full year is never easy.

When we approach an anniversary, we relive all the little moments before the tragedy and try to trick ourselves into thinking that person is still with us. On the days leading up to the anniversary, we, at least, get to think “the week before we were baking Christmas cookies” or “the day before we were decorating the tree.”

But once the actual first anniversary occurs, we don’t get to have that luxury any longer and we can’t fool ourselves. We can no longer say, at this time last year we were doing this or that. And that reality bring sorrow.

The first anniversary is never an easy day to live through but sometimes the anticipation is much more stressful than the actual happenings of the day itself.

I’ve known so many families (and I’ve had this experience, too) tell me they made the experiences of the day so much greater in their head than they turned out to be.

They thought they’d be devastated, but somehow it turned out to be a lot lighter than they thought it would be. It became a day of remembering the person, than how they died.

It became a day of thinking of all the fun times they spent together and being grateful for those times instead of allowing themselves to succumb to the events of that day.

So my thoughts are with the families of this small Connecticut town today and do hope that they can look for the happiness they held in the relationship they shared with their loved one and not the way they died.

Yes, it can be hard, but moving toward gratitude for those happy years spent together, will always outweigh a moment in time that can never be changed.

To read my blogs from last year when this tragedy occurred, go here. As a stepmother of an 11 year old who was murdered, I wrote them from the perspective of a grieving mother of a murdered victim.

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Holiday Grief: How to Remember Your Loved One

holiday_grief_hi_res JPG Cover FINALHoliday Grief – Tip # 1

One of the most asked questions is “How do I remember my loved one at Christmas and the holidays?” And the answer is…in so many ways.

Just your thoughts of them honor their memory, but there are practical ways, too.

Visiting their resting place and leaving flowers, balloons and even tucking cards and notes in the soil expressing how you feel and how much you miss them.

Having a placesetting at your holiday table with a rose across their dish.

Leaving their stocking on the mantel and extending an invitation to your children and loved ones to leave a note or small symbolic gift in it.

If a child has died, perhaps the toys that would have been given to your children from you and others in your family can be given to a grieving children’s support group after the holidays.

While at dinner, you can suggest that each dinner guest share their favorite story about the loved one who has died or was killed, in an effort to keep their memory alive while bringing laughter and joy to everyone. Even if there are tears, it’s perfectly ok…someone will come up with a funny story that will lighten the mood.

Make a contribution in their name to a wonderful organization that he or she felt strongly about.

Wear some piece of their clothing or jewelry.

Holidays are also a good time to share some of their belongings with your surviving family members. If grandpa had a favorite watch, perhaps it’s meant for your teenage son who loved him so dearly. Having that watch can bring comfort knowing he now can remember the wonderful times he saw his grandfather wear that watch when they were together.

You can also take a bunch of balloons, write messages on them in felt pen and let them float into the heavens either in your backyard, at the cemetery, or another memorable place.

These ideas should help you think of others which would make you feel better.

My book Holiday Grief: How To Cope with Stress, Anxiety and Depression After a Loved One’s Death is available now by clicking here.

Let us know how you’ve remembered your loved one during the holiday season by commenting below.

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When Valentine’s Day Isn’t The Same

Valentine’s Day symbolizes love and hope for the future. But sometimes, after we’ve lost someone special, it can be difficult to enjoy this day. And this is thoroughly understandable.

If you’re thinking of someone who is no longer with you today, try to remember the special Valentine’s Days you did get to share together. Try to remember the happier moments instead of dwelling on their absence.

Try to dig in and think of all the little things that you made special with them. The funny notes, the chocolates, maybe the gifts, the laughter.

Yes, today may not be like other Valentine’s Days you had in the past, yet you can try to do something special for yourself now. Could it be a lovely bubble bath, a round of golf, a special meal, a new pair of soft slippers, hot cocoa and a funny movie to move your mind toward hopefully things you wish to experience and create?

Being good to yourself when you’re hurting is key to moving forward. Don’t neglect your emotional needs and health.

And if you don’t hear it today from anyone else, let me say you are loved. You are loved by me and many others. I’m sure if you considered all the people you have helped in your life, there are many people who love you.

So do enjoy this day. Just because you feel the pain of loss does not mean you cannot also feel the joy of living.

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Veterans Day 2011 – 11/11/11

On Veterans Day I have the great honor of remembering all the wonderful people in my life who have served in the United States Military both here and abroad.

I think of my Dad, who served in the Army in France during the Korean War, my one Uncle who was a Marine in the Pacific during World War II and witnessed great horrors, my other Uncle who was in the Marines and was an honor guard at Arlington National Cemetery in DC.

I also think of all my friends who lost brothers during Vietnam. I was in high school when their older brothers were coming home in caskets. Those thoughts don’t leave you.

Now I admire those close friends who have voluntarily given of themselves in either active duty or in the reserves here at home.

A college friend whose husband is a Lt. Commander in the Navy, flying helicopters off aircraft carriers and she a Naval Surgeon. A Captain in the Army National Guard in NY, who I became friends with after her sister was murdered in Virginia. Another very close college buddy who served multiple tours in Bosnia and Iraq as a high ranking officer in the Army. And lately, a newer friend, who spent 23 years in the Marine Reserves as an MP.

I admire their courage, their sacrifice, their sense of duty to our citizens. Only honorable men and woman would dare step up for the benefit of their citizens.

They do this willingly with humility. They do so with integrity and faithfulness, devotion and great care. They live their lives with a sense of service to others, even when they leave active duty.

I guess that’s what I find so amazing…because a person with such high character is rare. And I am so grateful to call them my friends.

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Why Murder Never Goes Away

I can’t help but think about all the families affected today by the media reports that the Libya’s dictator, Moammar Gadhafi is dead.

All the families around the world whose lives were irreparably damaged by the commands and actions of this man will once again be thrown into the past revisiting horrific memories of sorrow and loss.

The closest to me, as fellow memories of survivors of homicide groups at the time, were the families of the Syracuse University students who were simply returning a few days before Christmas on Pan Am 103 in December, 1988. These young people had enjoyed a wonderful semester abroad and were coming home for the holiday season through New York’s JFK airport. But they never made it.

It took decades for these 270 victims’ families to get the cooperation of our own government to press for those responsible for the downing of this aircraft and it all led back to Gadhafi. And little justice was ever achieved.

Only months ago, the man supposedly responsible was released from prison because he was terminally ill. After all, we must be compassionate, now shouldn’t we?

As the news of Gadhafi’s death starts to move onto the airwaves, it will only be a few hours until the famous picture of the nose of Pan Am 103 will be up in all forms of media, thus bringing back the sad memories for these families.

I remember specifically one mother whose son was killed on Pan Am 103 and also a student at Syracuse University in upstate New York, telling me how every time she saw that picture of the plane’s nose, it pierced her heart. It brought all the pain and memories back again. It just never seemed to go away.

Well it’s been nearly 23 years since she and the other families both in the United States and those killed on the ground in Lockerbie, Scotland have memorialized their loved ones.

Today, all that pain, all those memories will rush back in.

But I’d like to believe that instead, these US families and families all around the world who were affected by the orders of this ruthless killer, will finally feel some sense of justice, relief and satisfaction today, with the death of this vicious man.