Saturday, February 9, 2013

A Touchy Subject

I was asked to be a guest on a show called Health Link by a local TV anchor, Benita Zahn.  I had to think on it for a bit before I agreed.  I wasn't sure I was an appropriate guest.  I'm certainly no expert on grief, which was the topic.  I'm fairly new to grieving.  I'd much prefer to be on her show for another reason although I don't know what that topic would be either. I just know I would have preferred to discuss something other than my son's passing.
Benita was very easy to be around.  Her energy was positive, she was genuine and compassionate.  She told us the half an hour show would be the fastest thirty minutes of our lives, it was.  It zipped past so quickly I felt as though I didn't say even the tiniest portion of what was on my mind.  Get me on my soap box about my kids and forget it... I can go on like any other mother!
If you had a chance to see it I think you would have found it informative.  She had three other guests on the show with a collective wealth of information about dealing with death, the grieving process and where to turn for help.  Here's the link to the show in case you haven't seen it and you have a spare 30 minutes.  It will be rebroadcast on channel 17, WMHT, this Sunday at 10:30am.

Regarding grief, I came to realize a few things as I maneuvered my way through Christopher's.  I learned about some things I will and won't do when it comes time for me to reach out to another who suffers a tragedy.

I will deliver soup three or four weeks later like my neighbor did.  It hit the spot on a day when I had no idea what was for dinner and I didn't have the energy to think about it.  Thank you Lorelei and Rick!  My stomach didn't handle much after Chris passed and what I could get down couldn't be a heavy meal.  I ate a lot of toast because it's gentle and filling.  I still do.  I mentioned to a few people that I've never been on such a rapid weight loss program... I don't recommend it. The soup my neighbor brought was considerate and kind and appreciated!  I will remember to do that.

What else will I do?  Bring kleenex, toilet paper, paper plates and bottled water. Why? Well, speaking only for myself... the house was a revolving door for two weeks and the grocery store was not on my agenda.  I ran out of these things and for some reason told myself to remember it if ever I was in a position to help someone else I would bring a gift basket of paper goods.
I won't hand write a condolence card with the word "tragedy", "heartsick" or "devastated" in it.  There's no need for such words when the recipient is already down.  I'll stick with something simple like "I'm sorry" or "I'm here for you".  I have never received a condolence card before and boy did I get stacks!  They showed up by the mailbox full the first two weeks.  I'm grateful, please don't get me wrong, but there were so many that I got a good feel for the ones that I liked (if there is such a thing as "liking" a condolence card?) and the ones I couldn't finish reading.  I didn't need to know the specifics of where you were when you heard the news... at least I didn't need to know it the first week my son died.  
I would like to hear about it now... two months later when I can think a bit more clearly so I'm going to go back and re-read all the cards and notes that were sent.  I know I will appreciate them so much more I just know it. I'm sharing what my first impression was to this new experience.  I hope I don't offend anyone. I feel it's something I wished I knew before Chris passed.  It would have been helpful if a crisis struck and I needed to write a note or reach out to someone.
I'm surprised I felt like I could have talked on and on with Benita.  I wasn't sure I'd have a sentence to say to her.  I guess I do have some thoughts and information to pass along.  I hope to never be considered a professional in that department but I am glad that I was able to share some things that might be beneficial to others down the road. Thanks Benita for the invitation to be on your show.

Thank you for reading.


  1. Great job. I found this program really informative and helpful. I find myself being that person who doesn't know what to say or do. I will from here on out behave differently when someone I know has suffered a loss. I took from this that it's really the simplr things that can often be overlooked that can make all the difference. (I.e., bringing someone soup or toilet paper!) Thanks Regina. P.S. - I care. We've never met in person, but if you ever need anything (ANYTHING! Water! Toilet paper! A hug!) I am here for you. If you want to laugh or cry, be angry or joyful, or all of the above. I'll never judge. xx JM

  2. You did a great job Regina. I so enjoy reading your blog. It inspires me and helps me to keep a positive outlook on matter how hard it seems.

  3. I watched this last night and thought it was done very well. You did great. I loved the opportunity to see you in a live format conversing. It was generous of you to expend your energy in a way that will surely help others understand. I was so glad at the end that you were both clear and honest that of course there are degrees of grief and that nothing is worse than losing a child. I am sure of this.

    Thank you also for guidance of "what works" and what is not helpful. We do need to be taught these things. Though a hug may be instinctive... paper goods and condolence cards may not. Thank you.

    Finally, I wanted to tell you I received my "thank you" card for the scholarship donation this week. I so appreciate having my own picture of Chris to put on our refrigerator along with our other children. I admit though I did feel a bit concerned for you that you felt you had to send out thank you cards to everyone who gave. This is NOT a stress we (I) wanted to add to your list of things to do! I think there are quite some requests for you, things "to do" - events to attend, TV shows, thank you cards, people asking you to "speak out". I pray that you know how to say "no" when you need to. The most important thing you need to do is care for yourself. I think you know that. But I just felt the need to remind you...

    Love and Light to you today.

  4. Good Morning Regina!

    Again I am in awe of your bravery and your grace. You are helping so many and I hope the many are helping you through this time of grief. I will take your advice and practical sense regarding what one may need if they are going though something in life. It's the little things that always make the most sense, aren't they?

    I am glad you mentioned the "me" people in your blog. Those kinds of responses always amazed me. I know the people that make the situation about their "first person" do not mean harm but I believe they need some sort of reality check or perhaps just a filter:)

    I hope you have a good weekend filled with love. May God Bless You and Yours!

  5. This is really eye-opening! I am sorry bc I'm sure I am guilty of using some of those less desirable trigger words in my messages to you, and after reading your words today I see it in a whole new way. Somehow, to a person on the outside "I'm sorry" doesn't seem like enough. But I can understand how it may have been all you needed, everything else was too much, maybe?

    Benita is a such lovely person. Thank you for taking the leap of faith and putting yourself in her hands for the broadcast. We never stop growing and we never stop learning.

    I'm sorry for your loss. And I am here for you, in whatever capacity I'm supposed to be,as a Shen mom and a member of the 518 strong. Thank you for sharing.

  6. I watched it last night. You and Gina P. did a wonderful job addressing a very hard subject.
    Gina said that you both enjoyed your time with Benita. Very proud of you both for going on. Another great gift to take to a family is a box with note cards a postage stamps.
    Praying for you always.

  7. Your honesty is empowering! I love reading your blog. You motivate me to be better. Thank you for sharing and being just who god made you.

  8. Regina-

    I read your posts most everyday. (Usually after I give my baby her morning bottle) but this past week I have not had the chance to read any except yesterday and today. (I feel out of the loop.) I enjoy reading them, you have a lot of good points that you make. Things that I remembered feeling when I lost my best friend 6year ago in March. Your subject today though, hit extremely close to home... as my father has been in the hospital since Monday and prognosis is really bad. I have had friends and family taking shifts with the baby....and I realized today...there is no paper towel and one roll of toilet paper. I am going to have to do that before heading up to the hospital. You are an amazing person. Whatever is in store for my family...I hope I have half as much strength and insight. Thank you.

  9. You and Gina showed viewers a very pragmatic side to grief. It is a lifelong process. Though never a path that anyone would choose deliverately, the journey can be surprising and rewarding in its own way. As they said back in the day, keep on truckin'.

  10. I watched it's last night. You and Gina did a wonderful job. The other 2 guests were very informative. My Chris came downstairs to tell me about a play he made in his video game asked what I was watching and he sat with me and watched too. Grief is a process and you never get over the loss of a loved one you have to move on as best as we can. My mom is another inspiration to me. She has multiple sclerosis was doing pretty well until we lost my step dad. The disease has pretty much disabled her. She is in a wheel chair, has basically lost her hearing and her sight is not the best. She lives alone and wants it's that way. She would have my head if I suggested assisted living or anything else. I do take care of her every available moment I can. I'm sorry I was rambling on. It's took time for her to come to grips and move forward after her loss. I want to thank you for your blog. I want to thank you for sharing your life, feelings and sharing Christopher with the community. I would love to send a HUG your way. God bless.

  11. I read your blog every morning and just watched the show (thanks for the link). So very informative. I am one of those people who never know what to say (or write). I really appreciate you giving your insight on what was helpful to you so that perhaps I can be more helpful to someone else in the future. I've told you before, you are an inspiration. I believe you helped a great deal of people on Health Link!

  12. Hi Regina,

    I watched the Health Link video last night. You looked great and I really liked the Shen shirt. I am one of those people that wasn't sure what to say.

    I have gotten to know Chris through you. Every day I read your blog and every day I cry. I cry for you. I cry for the grief you have to endure and I cry for the loss of such a wonderful young man. I care.

    I did a random act of kindness in Chris' name. I am going to do one for you too. You have been and will continue to be in my thoughts and prayers.

    Hugs, Ann

  13. Regina,

    I watched a bit of the show last night on my computer, but it kept freezing up, so I didn't see it all. You and Gina were both wonderful and so composed and articulate. You looked and sounded wonderful.

    I worked with Benita this summer on Park Playhouse's 1st annual girls night out.I instantly liked her. She is full of energy, no nonsense, and funny. She actually is a regular person...We laughed as she embarrassingly had to throw her dogs poop out at Starbucks...hahahaha...sorry Benita, do you remember that?! I can see where she made you feel comfortable, she is very conscientious that way.She listens to your ideas and gets excited about them with you, she made me at least feel good about my creativity towards the event.She gets the job done, yet is aware of peoples feelings and emotions on the subject. It was very informative also(what I saw)

    Thanks for the tips on helping a friend who has lost a loved one too. Great idea about the paper-product gift basket...I never would have thought of that! I usually bring food 2 weeks later, because I figure people stop bringing then. Sometimes I go over and help them clean too. Nobody wants to worry about tidying up when they are grieving. Mop their floor, clean their bathroom, run their vacuum, do some laundry. That helps too. Or just sit quietly and hold their hand or hold them when they need it.

    You continue to offer sound advice on a subject you have just unfortunately become an unsolicited expert in. You astound and amaze us your readers each day with you wisdom, humor, and hope. You allow us to grow because of your hardship. Thank you for sharing your heart, knowledge and wisdom with us. We do appreciate it!

    God Bless, XO

    PS don't worry about insulting anyone, you did not do that, It is good advice that will help people the next time they have to send that condolence card out.It was good not insulting information! :)

  14. You looked absolutely beautiful and poised when you were on the show. You were absolutely incredible. We've all mentioned your strength before but this completely amazing. Your strength was beyond anything I'd ever seen when you were talking about a subject that we all know is so difficult. I can tell you I never would have been able to do it. I watched because, to be honest, I thought it might be able to help me. It did. You, Gina, and the other two experts that were on had some great things to say. I found myself relating and nodding on and on. It's so true that nobody ever knows what to say when they know you've lost someone so close. If I may add, people really don't know what to say when you yourself are young. Like you were saying, sometimes it feels like you've lost a friend because they won't approach you about it. And don't get me started on the "aren't you over this by now?" It will be 6 months on February 29th that my beautiful Nana passed on, two years on April 17th that my best friend found heaven. I can say with certainty I'm not "over" anything. I never will be.

    Although you can't understand what I'm going through and I can't understand what you're going through, and even though I'm young and we're different, I want you to know that I'm here for you. Although not in the same way, I'm here for you. Remember you're loved, appreciated, an inspiration, and most importantly, human. Laugh and cry, smile, and remember. I'm volunteering at the pancake breakfast tomorrow. Hopefully I can say hi to you there. I'd love to hear how Jeremy is doing back at school and all the other little things!


  15. Hi Regina:

    While you weren’t sure you were an appropriate guest because you don’t feel like you are an expert on grief, Benita sure knew what she was doing by asking you and Gina Peca. I feel embarrassed to say I did not know of Gina and her family, and I will be sure to include them all in my prayers now that I have see this video and been touched by it.

    I know that the greater population of the 518 and outward know about you and the passing of Chris. Those same people are witnesses to the outpouring of what started as 2 schools uniting and rallying together to understand what had happened, and support each other, to now supporting you, your family and the families of Deanna, Bailey and Matt. I know that from the moment I walked onto Shen’s campus and attended the Memorial for Chris and Deanna, I was affected and wanted to find some way to comfort you. To let you know Chris will not be forgotten (as well as thousands of other people), because that was your wish from the day you started your blog.

    I have read your words, now watched you in an interview, and seen pictures of you at the fundraising events held, with a smile on your face. While it tugged at my heartstrings, those moments also moved me to wonder how you had the strength to smile, while I secretly thought I knew how you could. You said it perfectly in the interview, and confirmed my belief that… “Just because I have a heartache, doesn’t mean I don’t have other stuff to do, to talk about and we can be happy.” You said it wasn’t your time to stay in bed, Chris would not want that for you. Knowing now, from what I have read, the passion Chris had for living, he must have gotten that from you. I know you say your strength comes from him, and others lifting you up, but give yourself some credit, you are the one doing it!

    For me, even though I see certain parts of your grief, and read your blogs, I think you were absolutely the appropriate person for Benita to bring on to talk about grief. From the early days of support that started for some of us, by having children involved in school community (by being involved in Shaker Shen United events) has rippled into a much bigger life changing time. Benita clearly has been watching and knew the strength you possess and knew you would be an appropriate guest to talk about the subject she obviously thought is so important to share. I think the interview will give a lot of people who are grieving, the comfort to know they are not alone. There are places to go to get help, there are organizations and many that understand.

    1. wordy again... sorry
      The portion of the interview about children do not grieve like adults, brought me back to your blog about your Dad. I don’t know if the interview stirred up the topic that prompted your blog about your Dad but I did think back and hope you heard what she said about the grieving process of a child, and how they grieve so differently from an adult. I hope it gave you the insight to not feel guilt anymore about how you called yourself selfish when you were so clearly grieving as any child would after you father died, and even when you were a teenager. The comments made in the interview just bounced me back to yesterday’s blog…

      You say you are not an expert, I don’t think anyone really is, as we all grieve differently, and in our own time and pattern and for many different reasons. You aren’t fairly new to grieving as a whole, because you still seem to be working through grieving your father and now Chris. And like yesterday, even co-mingling them now that they are together. It’s just so powerful to sit on the sidelines and be a witness to what you share and feel the overwhelming ness of it all. I loved what Maryanne said about the “length” of the grieving process and how her husband tried to ask her if she was over grieving her father yet. No one ever gets over it, they work through it and coping gets better… There is no timetable, and there are no experts.

      I am glad that I watched this interview (twice actually) and had some of my beliefs and feelings confirmed.

      God bless...

  16. Hi Regina,
    Thank you for doing the interview and for sharing even more insight here. It is very helpful! It is so true that when something first happens so many show up immediately trying to help. For me I found most comfort in spending time with people that really knew my loved one. After a few months people begin to drop off in their support, so I am so happy your neighbors knew what was needed. It's so important for people to realize that life does not just go on 2 months later. Life has been altered and it's a slow process trying to make sense of it all. I love how you said in the interview that you don't spend too much time being down, That Chris wouldn't have wanted that. I love the way you are honoring him by being a strong and positive force in the community!

  17. Regina -

    My son plays hockey and last weekend while a tournament he was kneed in the head and knocked senseless enough to be taken to the ER to ensure he did not have a concussion or any broken bones in his face or neck. I thought of you and Chris often during this time as he was hour and 1/2 away and I was here.

    Today is the first game he has played since then and I have to say I was sick to my stomach I was nervous that something may happen. In the midst of my nerves I saw two individuals today that reminded me of Chris. First on my way to the game there was a young man maybe 10 or 12 helping a woman in Troy shovel her car out. The second came afterwards when I was at the Friendly's in CP for lunch with my son but this time it was an older man. Probably 17 or 18.

    I needed to take a second to realize that these were signs for me to understand that nothing bad will come to my son! That Chris wanted me to know that everything was going to be fine and he will be a successful goalie in hockey.

    Thank you for everything that you do for us and thank you to Chris knowing and understanding how a Mom feels with a son who plays such a rough contact sport.

    Thanks for reading and listening!

  18. Hi Regina,

    Thanks for posting the link of your guest spot on Benita's show. I've watched it once so far but will probably watch it again. It's an important subject for all of us to be informed about.
    I still marvel at your ability to be so articulate and make all of these appearances.. Plus work, run a household, be a wife and mother, write a daily blog, etc etc.. On a good day that would seem like a lot to me.. I hope you don't burn yourself out with doing too much. I'm sure I don't just speak for myself when I say we love to hear from you and see you out and about. But.. Only if its helping you.
    Chris must be so proud of his Mom but must also worry about you too! Be good to yourself.. You and your family are always in my prayers..

  19. Regina!- I just wanted to stop by again and say that your blog has been keeping me motivated through a really stressful time for me. I have a lot of school work and situations going on and it's nice to seemingly have a friend via this blog who understands what it is to be under a lot of stress!!

    I also stopped by the Pancake Breakfast this morning with a friend to support Bailey and Matt. I was that dilapidated kid with the Princeton Hoodie on! My comfort level wasn't at the point where I wanted to stop and say hi. But, I did see you and I did think to myself what a powerful and wonderful person you are. I thought about Chris at that moment and I think he knows... he knows you are okay. And he has the support of an entire community and region, friends and family, strangers and locals alike... You keep doing what you're doing.

    I hope in the future to see you again and introduce myself. Today was awe-inspiring. I know you saw and felt it just as my friend and I did. Thanks for posting!!!

  20. Hi Regina,

    I watched the show and I found it so incredible. I'm going to share it with my Mom's friend who is dealing with the loss of her Daughter, as well as my Mom, who sometimes feels like she should stay away because "well, her light was off when I got there, and I figured she was probably getting that little bit of sleep that she so badly needs". Do you realize how broad of a spectrum of people that this show will help? I'm really glad that you decided to go ahead and do it.

    This brings me to a little story. I often thought how I would react when I saw Mike for the first time upon returning back to work. Would I avoid him if I could? Would I just give him a warm and acknowledging smile? Do I do what I really want to do and hug him until his face turns purple? I just didn't know what the RIGHT thing was to do. And the reason for that, is because I didn't want to be the reason for him feeling sadness in that moment. I am compassionate to a dault sometimes, and I just cannot stand to see someone sad or crying. Well, he returned to work and I waslked right up to him and gave him a big ole hug. He gave me a subtle queue of sorts, to let me know that it was okay. To my surprise, in that moment, I did not feel like I was bringing him sadness at all. I was able to offer a small gesture of comfort, and it felt nice. A couple of weeks later, my Mother in Law gave me a tee shirt that she had purchased from Averill Park High School. They were selling them to raise funds for Chris and Deanna's scholarship funds. I thought "Oh COOL!! I'll wear this on dress down Friday!" Then I thought, "no way! I'm giving this to Mike!!" He was so grateful. He gave me a HUGE hug and chatted with me for a few minutes. When I walked out of the suite, I fell apart. I hate your pain. I hate that this has happened to you. You are contantly in my prayers, and although I do not respond much (it's difficult to do so from my iphone or tablet), I read every single entry, religiously. You amaze me. The difference you have made by handling this situation with such grace and composure is incomprehendable. My thoughts are always with you and your family.

    Ryann (Walters) Alvarez

  21. thanks for the advice in this blog. I will remember these things for reference. I haven't had a moment to watch the video but I will watch it eventually.

    thanks for sharing.