Monday, October 30, 2006

Surviving The Death of a Child

Huge apologies to those of you who have been checking for new entries to my blog since September 11th. So sorry to make you wait this long. I'm still here. I've just been caught up meeting other life demands.

As the whirlwind activity resulting from my initial book release last March (and the subsequent travel for media and book signings and HOT, humid summer that was part of it all), finally began to settle down, I found myself a bit spent and needing time to catch up on other life stuff that had been put aside out of publication/promotion necessity.

(Note to would-be authors: You need to know that marketing and promotion before and after publication is a big part of your job, too. Unless you're a celebrity or have already sold millions of books (think Harry Potter), self promotion is a huge piece of the publishing pie. Don't say I didn't warn you)!

My renewed focus on restoring life balance includes spending less time checking my book sales on and more time on my grief work over the death of my son.

(Note to publisher: Rest assured that I will continue to take advantage of every single opportunity to spread the word about my important book, as I have so far in this exciting book-author process!).

Now that Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations has taken its rightful, solid place out in the publishing world, and I have fulfilled a huge promise to my son to see this uplifting resource in print, I feel like I can finally breathe again.

Since Eric's death in 2003 at age 12, my days and nights have been filled with book project demands, leaving little time to mourn, something that eventually catches up with you no matter how hard you try to outrun it or deny it. Grief is a complex, grinch of a subject and not for the faint of heart. It must be honored and respected. Like the confident blond, blue-eyed beauty at the school dance, grief refuses to be ignored. It is powerful stuff.

In the pages of Breakthrough Parenting, I share several emotional, inspiring moments from Eric's life and death, in the hope that these words will help other children and families facing similar challenges lead better lives. But these past few weeks, I have been taking some much-needed time to mourn privately. The healing is slow, unpredictable, unnerving and at times, exhausting. I now understand why parents never really get over the death of their child.

The big challenge is to learn from your loss, grow from it, and then figure out how to reclaim a new life for yourself, one that does not include your child's daily physical presence and demands. The prior demands of special needs, and all that entails, help complicate grief work, magnifying the intensity of your loss.

These are tough issues of loss and reintegration that I continue to explore in my own life as I prepare for what's next?. It is no easy feat to reclaim your heart and soul and life purpose when your world has been ripped apart in such an unsettling and dramatic way. The death of a child cuts deeply and the wound still throbs daily. My best guess is that such a horrific wound never really fully heals. I'm just learning not to pick away too deeply at the fragile scab every day.

As I have traveled on this bittersweet grief journey, I have uncovered some wonderful, healing tools. As promised in the past, when I discover a particularly valuable resource, I will share it with you. That is the case with the book How to Survive the Loss of a Child: Filling the Emptiness and Rebuilding Your Life by Catherine Sanders, Ph.D. (Three Rivers Press-Random House Publishers).

Since my son's death, I have accessed many different books on the subject of grief, many have been of comfort. I have shared several of those in my book in the chapter addressing the death of a child. But no resource about how to face this terrible loss has comforted me more that Catherine Sanders book. While my grief is not as intense as it once was, this is the resource I refer to time and again.

Sanders knows the loss territory well. She, too, lost a child in a dramatic and unexpected fashion. It took her ten years before she was finally ready to address that grief fully. Sanders shares her remarkable wisdom, and her own painful journey, in a way that offers hope, inspiration and solace to others facing the cruelest life loss.

To those who are struggling with the loss of a child, Sanders gentle wisdom and professional expertise on grief proves healing and comforting. She makes a wonderful life guide, and serves as a life-saving buoy in the rough currents of grief.

My hope as you face your own loss is that you will be gentle with yourself and seek out whatever support you need. Such wise, bold actions will help you heal. This is no time to be brave or retreat into isolation or over scheduling that keeps you from your important grief work. I know.

Also be sure to check out Compassionate Friends, a wonderful online resource for those facing the loss of a child. There, you will find much to help you walk this rocky path well.

I wish you peace...