A Lesson of Death

Different Is Not Less

Tony and his daughter, Katie, who was 23 at the time of Jonny’s death, share their journey through the liminal space in this book, told from the two very different perspectives of Tony and Katie.


Tony Rose, the co-author of Beautiful Grief, shares a lesson he learned upon the death of his 28-year-old son.

Jonny was a month and a day shy of his twenty-ninth birthday when my wife, Chris, found him dead in our pool house. This was four years ago, and it began my experience with vast differentness.

“Jonny is dead,” she told me over the phone. I was in Oregon golfing with my friend when she called.

Chris’s phone call—and Jonny’s death—began a journey through what I came to know as the “liminal space.” The word liminal comes from the Latin word limen, meaning “a threshold.” The liminal space is the place wherein you have left one phase—one set of rituals or traditions—but have not yet established new rituals. You no longer hold your pre-ritual status, but you have not yet begun to transition to a new status of rites and rituals.

During the liminal space, you are standing on the threshold between your previous way and what will become your new way.

When someone you love dies, it is as if a tsunami has hit. The world as you know ceases to exist, so the word “different” feels like an understatement. When you enter the liminal space because of grief, you begin the process of being something new. The liminal space can seem permanent, and certainly so when grief accompanies it. This loss of a person or a relationship or an extreme shift in conditions—this differentness—changes the dynamic and balance of your life in such a profound way that the circumstances of joy that persisted before the liminal space cannot be recaptured.

This loss can seem enduring. After all, how can you be okay when the joy you once had can never again be realized?

Jonny’s death created a different world for me. My life is not the same as it was before he died. He does not sit in his seat at the table during holidays. I will not attend his wedding. Never will his laugh fill my ears again.

When he died, this difference felt, at first, staggering. It was as though my boat had crashed, and the ocean was tossing me around.

But as the months and years passed, I began to realize that the differences in my life were not differences of a lesser quality. They were differences of a different quality. I have more sadness than I had before Jonny died, but my joy is deeper. I notice moments that I would not have noticed before Jonny died, and I notice that my feelings are becoming purer and more accessible.

Here is just one example: I was recently honored to be a guest at the wedding of an employee, Carmen. To be honest, before Carmen’s wedding, her fiancé, Fernando, was an acquaintance. He and I had met a handful of times prior to the wedding. We had exchanged small talk and pleasantries. I liked Fernando, but had Jonny not died, I am certain that his wedding with Carmen would never have been as extraordinary as it ended up being. Absent the differences in me that occurred due to Jonny’s death, Fernando would still be a person I think of as an acquaintance.

Yet, I can say without a doubt that I will never forget watching Fernando dance with his mother on his wedding day. I found myself crying, watching a mother so tenderly celebrate the love and happiness she felt for her adult son, mixed with the bittersweet emotion of seeing her baby turn into a man.

I watched them dancing, aware that I will never have a memory of Jonny dancing with his own mother but sure that had Jonny not died, I would never have recognized the beauty and the quiet confluence of melancholy and joy that existed in that moment.

It was—even as I think about it now—a moment that will always move me.

There’s no question in my mind that it was almost as consequential as Jonny’s birth itself. I will remember Fernando dancing with his mother until my dying day.

I can, at this very instant, see a picture of them dancing in my mind.

As I watched them, it occurred to me that those empty places that I thought would never be filled can be filled if I let them. They will be filled with something different, but not something less.

Watching Fernando dance with his own mother did not have to be a reminder of what I did not have: It was better as a great substitute, a beautiful replacement, a differentness, for a hole that would otherwise be vacant—a small, surprising moment I could treasure in my mind as its own memory.

This is the closest I have come to being grateful for the context given to me by Jonny’s death. It was the first time I really articulated that there would be many glorious moments to come. They will be different than I would have imagined four years ago, but they need not be less.

Tony and his daughter, Katie.

I began to realize that the moments did not have to come from my wife, Chris, or from my daughter, Katie, or from me, or even from someone in my immediate circle—they could come from an acquaintance. I could share in a moment with my employee’s fiancé and his mother—a moment that he will never forget, but equally, a moment that I will never forget.

I could have thought, Jonny will never dance with his mom, and I would have missed the moment between Fernando and his mother. I would have equated different with less.

Instead, I was able to share in a beautiful moment between Fernando, Carmen, and their families. Absent the context of Jonny’s death, I would have been an attendee at Fernando and Carmen’s wedding. Given the context of Jonny’s death, I was a participant.

The world, and all of the moments that unfolded at that wedding, seemed so much richer, with more depth of color, than I could have otherwise seen them.

Would I trade this to spend time in the company of my son? Of course I would. But I do also hold that my memories of Jonny, and the new memories I have made since his death, are not of a lesser quality.

I think this is important to remember because differences happen. We change jobs or move to new cities. We become parents, and then we become empty nesters. We divorce. People we love die.

What I observe of people who are grieving is that they sometimes choose to dwell on the fact that their life is different, and they stop there. Instead of saying, “Oh, this is different. I am going to experience life in a different way,” they say, “Oh, this is less. My life is less. I will never be okay because my life is so different than it was before.”

My experience is that when you decide that different and less are synonymous, you fail to see the moments. You cannot see joy and beauty when you have already decided that your life is less-than.

For me, the ocean has settled. As I look around, the view is new. It is also beautiful, rich with colors I have never before seen.

Complete Article HERE!

Getting Back to Sex After Pregnancy Loss

Though your body might be ready to return to sex after a miscarriage, are you?

By Jessica Zucker

How soon can you have sex after experiencing a pregnancy loss? It’s a common question among women of childbearing age, considering that up to 20 percent of pregnancies result in miscarriage and approximately 1 in 100 in stillbirth. There’s not a standard — or straightforward — answer. Generally, physicians counsel patients to wait until they feel ready. But readiness for a woman and her partner can depend on a number of physical, and emotional, factors.

“From a medical and practical perspective, the primary thing is to ensure that the pregnancy has passed completely, the cervix has closed, and that there isn’t an increased risk of causing infection in the uterus,” explained Zev Williams, M.D., Ph.D., chief of the division of reproductive endocrinology and infertility and an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University Irving Medical Center. “The timing for this depends on how far along the pregnancy was at the time of the loss and how quickly the woman’s body recovers.”

A couple’s romantic readiness is another question altogether.

Emotional roadblocks are a big factor: Women may feel reluctant to engage in sexual intimacy while still grieving their loss. Miscarriage can also change a woman’s relationship with her body, and what sex represents to a couple might shift. If this seems hard to understand, it is: I am a psychologist specializing in women’s reproductive and maternal mental health, and I didn’t fully comprehend how complex returning to sex could be until I experienced a second trimester miscarriage firsthand. Then I understood all too well: There’s no one-size-fits-all answer.

“There are no guidelines with regard to telling patients what to expect about returning to sex after miscarriage. Routinely, we don’t discuss sex after loss unless patients bring it up,” said Jessica Schneider, M.D., an ob-gyn at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. “There’s research about how safe it is to get pregnant again after a loss, but not about sexual function or satisfaction.” And the fact is, sexual function and satisfaction can, and do, change.

I talked to several women about their experiences around sex after pregnancy loss to find out how they approached returning to intimacy. (The women preferred their last names not be used due to privacy concerns.)

Some women, like Ash, 36, felt ready to have sex right away. After experiencing a stillbirth, she turned to sex for healing. “It was a way to feel powerful in my body,” she said. “I felt like my body had failed me, and sex was a way to get that back.” There was one caveat though: She didn’t want to risk another pregnancy. “It felt better to engage in sexual acts that couldn’t result in one.”

Trying to get pregnant again is a sensitive topic medically and emotionally. The World Health Organization’s official stance is to wait six months before attempting another pregnancy. Recent research, however, suggests that having sex sooner doesn’t have a negative effect on future pregnancies and could actually help success rates.

“The doctor told us to wait until we were comfortable,” said Maria, 26, who has had four miscarriages. “It was nerve-wracking to return to sex. I think because I was terrified of getting pregnant again and losing it or not getting pregnant again. It was challenging mentally.”

It’s understandable to feel conflicted, but the odds of future success are good: Up to 85 percent of women who experience a pregnancy loss, and 75 percent of women who have had multiple losses, go on to have a healthy pregnancy.

Shame and self-blame can enter the bedroom after pregnancy loss and create trouble where there previously was none. Hanan, 27, thought she was ready to have sex again immediately after a stillbirth, though her doctor told her to wait six weeks. She said she felt arousal and the desire to have sex, and engaged with her husband in everything other than penetrative sex, while waiting for medical clearance. But the first time they had intercourse, she wasn’t prepared for her emotional reaction. “I cried so much after the first time. I felt very guilty,” she said. “My body wanted to, but my brain didn’t. It felt selfish and immoral — like I should have been celibate while grieving.”

These thoughts are especially challenging for women who are actively trying to conceive again. “I did not want to initiate sex after my loss, but at the same time, I did want to get pregnant again,” said Maggie, 32. “My vagina became a constant reminder of the loss.”

Some women said they resented their bodies for a perceived failure. “After my miscarriage, I couldn’t be with anyone for over a year,” Zachi, 27, told me. “The fact that my body failed impacted the way I felt sexually afterward. I carried the baby emotionally, long after physically.”

While a 2015 survey found that 47 percent of respondents who had experienced a miscarriage reported feeling guilty about it — and nearly three-quarters thought their actions may have caused it — the reality is that chromosomal abnormalities are the explanation in about 60 percent of miscarriages. Pregnancy loss cannot be prevented.

If you’ve been trying to conceive for a long time, sex following a pregnancy loss can become especially fraught — even unappealing.

“After my first miscarriage, we only had sex to conceive. It started to feel like a task,” said Gina, 30, who has experienced infant loss and two miscarriages. “That mentality compounded after my second miscarriage and killed all sexual desire for me.”

Sonali, 33, who has lost four pregnancies, had difficulty returning to the very place she got pregnant. “Sex with your other half in the bed where you conceived the babies you lost is so triggering,” she said.

“Sometimes, I’m thinking about where I’d be in my pregnancy now; how I wouldn’t be able to have sex in this position,” Maria said. “It makes me feel guilty to feel great, when I should be seven months pregnant and uncomfortable.”

Pregnancy loss can have unintended positive impacts on a woman’s sexuality, too. Zachi said that she is more assertive in her sex life because of her miscarriage. “I have to listen to my body now,” she said. “It becomes painful not to. I am a lot more sure in what I want.” A miscarriage ultimately brought Maggie and her husband closer together, she said. “During the loss, I felt like I was on an island,” she remembered. “The first time my husband and I had penetrative sex, I cried from relief, because I felt so re-connected to him.”

Having and enjoying sex again is really about one thing — personal readiness — which is what I tell my patients. It’s O.K. to feel grief and sexual desire simultaneously. “Moving on” is not a prerequisite for pleasure.

Complete Article HERE!

7 Touching Books to Help Kids Understand Death and Grief

Use these titles to help you better explain difficult topics such as death, illness, and grief to your child.

By Christie Burnett

This is the book list parents hope they will never need, but it’s an important one nonetheless. These books are valuable resources for talking to children about love, illness, death, and the stages of grief — all of which are abstract concepts that can be difficult for children, especially young ones, to grasp.

The seven titles on this list can also offer support and comfort to children experiencing the overwhelming emotions of losing someone in their own life.

1. In his signature simple style, Todd Parr explores the range of emotions and responses when we experience loss in The Goodbye Book. Parr guides young readers through the feelings most commonly felt when struggling with a goodbye, with the reassurance that with time things will get better, and a reminder that they are always loved.

2. Wherever You Are My Love Will Find You by Nancy Tillman is a beautiful, heartfelt exploration of the unconditional love that a parent has for a child, even when they cannot be together. While death is not explicitly mentioned, this book is a lovely resource for offering reassurance to children who have experienced the loss of a parent.

3. I’ll Always Love You by Hans Wilhelm explores the love between humans and their pets through the story shared by a young narrator about his dog, Elfie, and their life together. The book shows the boy caring for Elfie as she ages and his family’s grief when she dies of old age. The boy is sad that Elfie is gone but consoles himself that his dog always knew how much she was loved.

4. The Invisible String by Patrice Karst is a comforting story about two siblings who learn that everyone has an invisible string connecting them to everyone they love — anywhere, anytime — through separation, anger, and even death. “Even though you can’t see it with your eyes, you can feel it deep in your heart, and know that you are always connected to the ones you love.”

5. Nana Upstairs & Nana Downstairs by Tomie dePaola shares a tender story of love and care for an elderly relative through the eyes of a young boy named Tommy. We see Tommy helping his grandmother care for his 94-year-old great-grandmother, and the close bond he shares with both women. When his great-grandmother (and later his grandmother) dies, the story shows Tommy’s reactions to the deaths of these beloved family members.

6. Ida, Always by Caron Levis shares the beautiful story of two city zoo polar bears, Gus and Ida, and their feelings when Ida becomes sick with an illness that cannot be healed and later dies. It beautifully explores the turbulent range of emotions felt when a loved one becomes terminally ill, with a focus on making the most of the time we have left with sick loved ones. This is one of the most poignant books about love and loss I have read.

7. I Miss You: A First Look at Death by Pat Thomas explains what we know about death and grief in a simple, factual manner. It outlines reasons why people die, introduces what a funeral is, and explores the difficult feelings and emotions of saying goodbye and missing someone very much.

I am such a huge fan of using books to open or continue discussion with kids about difficult topics. Given how overwhelming and confusing the experience of death can be for a child, each of these thoughtfully composed books deserves a place on our home bookshelves.

Complete Article HERE!

BONUS: Longfellow And The Deep Hidden Woods. Longfellow, the bravest and noblest wiener dog in the world.
As our story begins, Longfellow is a puppy learning how to be a good friend to his human companions, old Henry and Henry’s nurse Miss O’weeza Tuffy. By the end, Longfellow has grown old himself, but he is still ready for one final adventure.
What happens in between is an unforgettable and heartwarming tale that throws a tender light on the difficult truths of loss and longing as well as on our greatest hopes.