All posts by MaryMac

MaryMac is a grief and bereavement specialist, host of The Mary Mac Show podcast, award-winning author, speaker, executive grief coach, consultant and founder of The Foundation For Grieving Children, Inc., the first national public charity of its kind which raises funds to assist, counsel, comfort and educate children, teens, young adults and their families after a loved one's death.

I’m Still Here!

“A number of years ago my sister was killed and I’m the only child left in the family. My parents are still grieving and I find myself screaming, ‘But I’m still here’. What’s wrong with this picture?” Tony in New York

Tony, the picture you describe in not only accurate, but common. And while it may be distressful to hear that, I would recommend you take comfort in this one fact – you are not alone.

Many young people, and even not so young people, who have experienced the death of a sibling, seem to feel invisible in their parents’ eyes even years later. It seems as if no one told them they still have a living, breathing, active, loving child or children.

One of the most, if not the most, devastating event that can occur for a parent, is the loss of a child. I can tell you from my experience with my former husband that it will change a person forever.

But it is important that you connect with your parents and let them know how being in their own little world is affecting you.

I know you’d probably want to scream out all the injustices you have felt since your sister was killed, but a better way is to simply send them a note. Don’t blame; chances are they have been oblivious to your needs. Instead, tell them how you feel. Let them know you love them and want to be closer to them. You’d like a way to start talking out loud again about your family situation.

Welcome them to start by writing back. Often times is you write or email, it is less confrontational and, obviously, can’t escalate to blame, name calling, or hurt feelings.

Once you’ve both written out how you feel and how her death has affected you, you can move toward asking for what it is that would correct your feelings of isolation within the family unit.

When Weird Things Happen

“I was standing in the garage and all of a sudden the door to the inside of the house swung open by itself. It freaked me out. Am I the only one who notices these things?” Tim in Oklahoma

Actually Tim, my mind is filled with stories from other people who have had similar experiences after a loved one has died or was killed. I, myself, have had these experiences as well.

Funny thing is…when you tell them to other people who aren’t in the same emotional place you are, they may think you’re a little nuts. But they can be a great source of contentment knowing that the person who died is right there with you.

I remember visiting a friend of ours one Sunday afternoon, whose daughter Maria had been murdered. As we sat in the living room talking, the front door slowly opened. There was no one near the door, nor at the door.

We all looked at her mother Luisa who told us, “Oh, that happens all the time since Maria was killed. I take that as her saying hello, as if she wants to be included.”

Another time, a small music box, which I had displayed in my living room and which I hadn’t wound or played in years, suddenly started playing while we were having dinner.

The first thing I thought was my stepdaughter, Angela was saying hello. And while it may seem like a strange occurrence, it actually was quite comforting at the time.

So when the garage door occasionally and suddenly opens, consider that your loved one is sending you a little sign. A gentle nudge just to say, “I’m with you, I love you, and you’re going to be ok.”

All Souls Day

Catholics around the world commemorate All Souls Day today, November 2nd. When I was a child I would attend service with my class. Later I would attend a lovely ceremony at one of the cemeteries where my loved ones were buried, under a beautiful white tent.

It seems to me today is a special day. A day to reflect not only on the lives who have left this world before us, but what you personally have endured since their deaths.

Good days, bad days, and sheer ugly days. Reaccessing where you’re heading without them. Recovering, if ever so slowly.

Sometimes you have that pity party and blame God for everything. This is natural and normal. I have yet to meet even the most devote person who hasn’t confided in me that they have bargained with Him for their loved one to somehow return, or being fiercely angry at the circumstances of their death or just simply because they aren’t here with them.

Remember, God is almighty. That means he can take you being livid with Him, regardless of what part you believe He played in your loved one’s death.

So on this day let us honor all the Souls who have gone before us and believe, one day, we’ll meet them again.

Serving through the Pain

“Yesterday at church our minister talked about serving the community, but I barely have enough energy for myself at this point in my grieving process. Am I being selfish?” Molly, New York

Hi Molly,

No, not really. When we grieve, it takes a lot of mental and physical energy. We often feel that our energy has been zapped from us. We need to take time for ourselves to rest and reflect as we walk through the grieving process.

But “serving” can be accomplished in a number of ways. You might not be able to help build a home, or fill a local food pantry, but you can give a few dollars to help out the cause. You can give a hug to someone when you see them in distress. You can listen when someone is hurting. You can send a card with comforting words.

What might surprise you is that magic happens when you help someone else even when you are dealing with your own pain. For just a little while you forget about your problems and you focus on someone else. That is the gift to you of giving of yourself.

And as you heal more, you’ll be able to contribute more. And eventually, someone will cross your path who might have the exact same type of grief that you’ve walked through and you will be able to comfort them.