Sunday, September 30, 2012

Guest post: Mary Jane Cronin

Keeping Connection With a Deceased Son

When faced with the death of my son, I grieved inwardly and mourned openly to others that my life was forever changed. Wanting to create a legacy of the beautiful child I would never hug again, I began searching for the proper tribute. The magnitude of options was overwhelming and included plaques at the local zoo and starting a scholarship at a local school in his name.

Jeremy and his brothers used to go to a coffeehouse in a nearby town and talk, sing and of course, drink coffee. My guilt that he was not with me, that I did not protect him, and that ultimately he was murdered, led me to decide to open my own coffeehouse. Floor plans, ideas for decorations, and wondering what would the young people do when they were there filled my hours and fed my sadness. Returning to college to get a degree that would show investors I was serious resulted in not opening the coffeehouse, but deciding it was the wrong way for me to grieve. I wanted to show the world how much I missed my son, but should it be at the expense of his brothers? I would now be gone the hours I “thought” were the most vulnerable and be spending all my time away from them to focus on a memory.

Instead, I invested my time at home with the boys creating a memory photo collage. They selected pictures that showed good times they spent with Jeremy and I selected pictures that showed the serious and funny sides of his personality. Placed over the couch, many conversations were shared with house guests and each time we talked, we healed a little bit more. Friends and strangers who visited got to know my heavenly son through those pictures.

Writing in a journal gave me permission to yell in silence. At first, I was filled with rage that my son was gone. I would write about events he missed and how that felt to me. How we as a family struggled over those first holidays with an empty chair at the table. Over time the rational side of me emerged, and I was able to work towards a sense of acceptance that this was my new normal.

On Jeremy’s birthday the first year after he passed, we had a birthday party with a cake. Sharing our favorite stories produced tears, but also produced a warm feeling that his life was not for nothing. He had left an impression on many of his friends and well as our family.

Planting something living in memory of your loved one can be very healing. After the funeral we had many plants given to us and a few were planted in the yard as a visual remembrance. We also paid the city a fee to “buy” a tree at the local park. A nameplate was positioned at the base of the tree with his date of birth and date of death. A picnic table nearby provided opportunities to enjoy the day and food with the feeling Jeremy was with us.

Jeremy loved to sing and was in chorus most of his school years. Driving in my car, a song he liked plays on the radio and I smile, turn up the volume, and pretend I am singing a duet with Jeremy. I find those songs bring me comfort and I like to think those songs are sent from my son just for me.

About Mary Jane Cronin
I am a bereaved mother, a licensed mental health counselor, writer, consultant, and public speaker. I have been specializing in the area of grief and loss for over ten years. Counseling in the Tampa Bay area of Florida since 2000, I have extensive experience in bereavement counseling of individuals and groups. I’ve lectured on grief and taught bereavement support skills to teenagers, incarcerated women, hospice patients and their families, hospice volunteers, and fellow health care professionals. Being employed by Suncoast Hospice as a bereavement counselor for the past six years has given me the opportunity to learn skills that allow me to continue to help others following a loss. I have presented at The Bereaved Parents of the USA conference in 2009 and The American Business Woman’s dinner earlier this year. Following the death of my son Jeremy, I wrote and published my first book, November Mourning. November Mourning includes letters to my son in Heaven, my journey to find acceptance following his death, and stories about others faced with the loss of a child. Seeing there was a need to help others learn the benefits of journal writing I published my second book, Writing Through Your Grief, earlier this year. You can view
my video and visit my website. My website is devoted to providing support and resources for individuals experiencing loss. (Ordering information for both books may be found on the website as well.)

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