grief

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Getting to Know My Mother

MomFav     0069_1Some of us get to know our mothers better after they have passed from this life, through writing about them. It can be one of the benefits of writing a memoir, that we gain a unique insight from mining our life experience through a writerly lens.

Writing, by necessity, makes us take notice of the details surrounding an event or a meaningful moment in our lives. Sometimes the writing helps us see the significance in a conversation, or the scar left by a parent’s action or inaction. This was certainly the case as I wrote the chapters for my memoir Replacement Child.… Read more

An old friend of the family brings a new perspective

I just got a call from Donna’s second grade teacher—my sister’s last teacher before she died when the plane crashed into my family’s home. The teacher, also named Florence like my mom, was only 22 years old when the accident happened. Young and impressionable, she never forgot my sister, who she said was the “sweetest girl.” She remembered my mother fondly, too, as “one wonderful lady.”

After the accident, when my mother was still in the hospital along with my surviving sister Linda, this teacher went to visit. My mother had requested that she come, wanting to know more about what Donna was like in the classroom.… Read more

January 22 Marks 61st Anniversary of New Jersey Plane Crash

This coming week, on January 22, marks the 61st anniversary of the plane crash in Elizabeth, New Jersey that killed my sister Donna and gravely injured my other sister, Linda. It is also the central incident of my memoir, Replacement Child, coming out in March from Seal Press.

As you might suspect, it’s a day that weighs heavily on me each year as I think about how the accident changed the lives of my family, and even led to my very existence. But, this year, I’ve been drawn to focus on the many other lives that were changed by this accident.… Read more

Grieving, Subsequent Children, and the Replacement Child, After the Death of a Child

Abigail Brenner, M.D.Guest interview with Abigail Brenner, M.D.

I conducted this interview with Abigail Brenner, M.D., several weeks ago. It now seems to have a new relevance in light of the Newtown tragedy as I asked her the questions I so often hear concerning replacement children.

Dr. Brenner is a psychiatrist in private practice. A board certified psychiatrist in practice for more than 30 years, Dr. Brenner is a Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association. Her work has focused on understanding change and the challenges and opportunities afforded by change in relationship to major life transitions. She is the author of Transitions: How Women Embrace Change and Celebrate Life, SHIFT: How to Deal When Life Changes, and co-author of The Essential Guide to Baby’s First Year (Alpha Books, a member of the Penguin Group).… Read more

A Message of Hope for Newtown Parents

birdMy mother always told me that life was never the same for her after she lost her first-born child. Like the tragedy in Newtown that took 20 precious children, at the hands of a gunman surely struggling with his own demons, there was no sense to be made of my sister’s death. We can rail at gun control laws that are failing us, at a mother who thought she had a need for assault weapons in her home, at a system that may have failed a troubled young man.

But, I want to offer a measure of hope for the families of the lost children.… Read more

Prayers for Newtown

 

ripplewater

It was the image of parents running to see if their children were safe that stayed with me. The father whose anguish was clear as he told of his feelings of helplessness, not being able to protect his child from the gunman who took 28 lives yesterday; 20 of children, in Newtown, Connecticut.

I couldn’t help thinking of my own father running home so many years ago when a plane crashed into that home where he and his wife and two daughters lived. Running on foot, forgetting his car was just a block away. Arriving on the scene of chaos, much like the one we saw on the news yesterday.… Read more

“Flight” Put Me in the Cockpit of 6780

My parents' home just after the plane crashI had a visceral reaction to the beginning of the superb film, Flight, while the pilot (Denzel Washington), struggled to keep his plane in the air after a mechanical failure. I’m sure many moviegoers felt the tension and related to the panic of the passengers, but I believe something else was also at work here for me personally.

Spoiler alert for the rest of this post, in case you haven’t yet seen this terrific movie.

I thought immediately of all the people who would be devastated by the crash, by the deaths of however many people might die in the plane or on the ground.… Read more

Lincoln’s Replacement Children

There is so much to talk about after seeing Lincoln this weekend, but since I have my Replacement Child lenses adjusted, I can’t help but focus on one scene in the film that touched on Lincoln as a husband and father.

In the scene we discover that Abe and Mary lost a child to illness as Abe rails at Mary for her extended grieving, and she in turn admonishes him for putting their oldest son, Robert, in harm’s way by allowing him to join the ranks of the Union soldiers.  When her grieving over the death of their son became too prolonged, in Lincoln’s view, he had apparently threatened Mary with having her committed to an asylum, (using the vernacular of the film). … Read more

"The replacement child–a developmental tragedy"

SpringerLink – Journal Article.

Van Gogh's Fantasies of Replacement: Being a Double and a Twin — Blum 57 6: 1311 — Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association

Van Gogh’s Fantasies of Replacement: Being a Double and a Twin — Blum 57 6: 1311 — Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association.

I love this one!