Milestones

30 Sep

I breathe a sigh of relief … today is the last day of September.  I love the September weather and the move to Fall.  But it is a month full of emotions — good and painful.  September 2013 was remarkedly so.

Liz would have turned the big 30 on September 12th.  What haunts me the most is that I so long to know what would her life look like at 30?  What career would she have?  Would she have found someone to share her life with?  Would I be a Grandmother?

In my mind, Liz will always be this rebellious 20-year old daughter — whom I love more than my own life — but who was not an easy teenager to deal with.  I wish I could forget about that and concentrate on a more positive outlook.  It’s easy to assume that everything would be rosy — she would have a fab job, a wonderful partner and maybe a special daughter or son.  I sure would like to believe that.  But part of me can’t help but wonder if it would have gone the other way.  Would she have continued to struggle and make poor life decisions?  Would she be in and out of rehab?  Would she have “seen the light” and turned things around?  The simple truth is that I just don’t know.

But the other truth is, that it really doesn’t matter either way.  Because none of it happened — the good or the bad.  It is what it is and I choose to make the best of that.  I have known every night for the last ten years where she is and I know that she is safe and she is at peace.  Therefore, so am I.  I no longer have those sleepless nights of wondering about her.  I know where she is and we still have a relationship.  It’s certainly not what I had hoped for on that day 30 years ago when I first saw that beautiful baby girl with the wild shock of hair and big blue eyes.

But I am at peace about her, and I love her more than ever … and she knows that.  That’s all I can ask for at this point, and that’s OK it is enough.

We chose to celebrate the 20 years that Liz was physically with us on September 20th.  Our house was filled to the brim with family and Liz’s closest high school friends.  It felt so good to have everyone together — much the same as we had been ten years before — but most of the pain and shock of her sudden departure has worn thinner.

We shared memories and laughter over the crazy antics of this amazing, daughter, sister, niece, cousin and friend.

And I know she was there with us in spirit — thankful that we had gathered to laugh, to love and to remember.

Carry on Liz … til we meet again in spirit.

Love always,

Mom

butterfly

Meet Toffee Roger Wencl

2 May

ToffeeandAnnaMeet the newest member of our family — Toffee Roger Wencl!  He became an official  Wencl this past Sunday and the transition thus far has been a smooth one both for Toffee and for us!

Toffee loves to play and he loves to walk — and he’s a wonderful leash walker — always by my side and never pulling or bounding ahead – something the Legendary Murphy ALWAYS did whenever we attempted to take him on a walk!

As I sit at my computer, Toffee is never far away — three dog toys lay scattered on the floor nearby and he hovers on either side of me waiting for a scratch, a pet, or just an affirmation of what a good boy he is.

Night times are seamless as Roger goes to bed, Toffee kennels up without a peep.  Each morning he waits silently, but eagerly, for the day to begin.  Sometimes I wonder if he ever sleeps!

The most astounding piece of this new puzzle, however, are the resounding signs from above that Toffee was meant for us — picked especially for us by Elizabeth & Murphy.  Toffee’s foster Mom was named Beth; and the lady who did our final interview and deemed us to be a good adoptive home  was named Liz.  Liz-Beth!  Toffee made his first visit to our home on the 20th of the month — Liz died on the 20th; and we received confirmation that Toffee was ours on the 21st — exactly one month to the day that Murphy died.

Our family will be forever connected no matter where we are!  Love is always in the air!

 

The Love of a Good Dog

2 Apr Murphy Roger Wencl

It’s been eleven days now since the pitter patter of little feet in our house stopped.  Our Murphy — our 14-1/2 year old Cairn Terrier, passed away on Thursday, March 21st, AT HOME AND WITHOUT PAIN - ALLELUIA!    He has been a member of our family for 14 years and he is dearly missed.  He was there as my girls grew up — through all of the good times and the difficult as well.

We are starting to get use to the fact that he isn’t here … but every once in a while I catch myself thinking he’s going to be laying on our bed as I walk by the bedroom door, or I’ll look out the kitchen window and expect to see him exploring out in the yard.  Every day it gets just a little easier — even though we miss him dearly.

A strange thing happened though — I have always said that when Murphy was gone, there would be no more Wencl dogs.  No other dog could ever compete with the legendary Murphy.  And, while that may very well be true, it hasn’t taken Roger and I  long to realize that we want and need another dog to be a part of our family.  I am very surprised at myself that I’ve come to that conclusion so quickly.  And it’s not that we would be replacing Murphy — no dog could ever do that — it’s more that we have the perfect scenario at our house to give another dog a good home.  I’m home every day, our back yard is completely fenced in, and both Roger and I want to love another dog again.

So, we’ve been searching the net to find another Cairn — an older Cairn.  I don’t want to be chasing another dog down the street after he’s somehow escaped our backyard — I’m too old and out of shape for that!  We found the Colonel Potter Cairn Rescue site and on Sunday after the Easter celebration ended, I filled out our application to adopt.

I was a bit concerned about what daughter Anna would say – and thankfully she was completely on board as well.  Now we wait and see what happens … I long to hear the pitter of Cairn feet on my kitchen floor again and the bark at the door that says I want to go out!  Hopefully, it will happen soon!

So long Murphy Roger Wencl — I know you are smiling down and wagging your tail from above!Murphy Roger Wencl

Baldwins on the Beach

9 Jan

BaldwinsontheBeach

I have been noticably absent from the blogosphere for the past … well almost six weeks.  But there was a very good reason!  Last  year my family decided to do something completely different for Christmas 2012.  No shopping, baking, or Christmas card writing! Instead we would all go to Florida and spend the holidays on the beach.  We were all on board immediately and it didn’t take long before we found the perfect beach house to rent.  Thanks to VRBO we found The Gazebo Cottage  http://www.islandvacationproperties.com/rental/house.html?ID=503&Avail=&Stay=

Since it rented by the month and my parents didn’t want to fly, we made the decision that I would accompany them and help make the drive down.  I was thrilled beyond words … never in my wildest imagination did I think I would ever have the opportunity to spend 30 days on the beach!  The beach was awesome … but the real gem in this equation was spending 30 days with my parents.  It was a wonderful experience, and the best gift I could have ever been given.  We relaxed, we drove around and visited all the places that my parents had been over the 40 plus years that they had been traveling to Florida.  We even visited every golf course that my Dad had played on.  It was a trip through time and revisited fond memories.

We got fresh grapefruit right off a tree in our yard, we got fresh oranges from a Mom & Pop orange grove, we bought fresh sea food from roadside stands and ocean fish markets.

We read books, we sat on the beach and watched dolphins and stingrays swim by.  We watched birds dive bomb into the ocean for food.  We enjoyed the gift of time.

We eagerly awaited the arrival of the rest of our family so we could all enjoy the beauty that was Anna Maria Island.  But all too soon our time was up.  We spared Mom & Dad the long drive home and got them a flight back home.  My Dad called me excitedly to tell me that he had upgraded so that they could travel first class on what may be the last plane ride they make.  It seemed a fitting end to a wonderful month.

My nephew Thomas turned 19 on December 28th so we all went out to a seafood restaurant and celebrated his big day.

Roger and I celebrated our 33rd wedding anniversary on December 29th.  The “young ones” of our family were cooking that night so instead of going off on our own, we elected to stay home and enjoy home-made pizza and play games.

Roger and I spent the first night of our drive home in Smyrna, Georgia … we got to spend quality time with Roger’s Uncle Kenny, sharing a meal and getting the tour of town, including a visit to his home.  Another priceless first on this grand adventure of ours.

The final night, which was also New Years Eve, was spent in Urbana, Illinois.  We were exhausted after driving for 12 hours so we celebrated with supper at Perkins, a hot shower, and a very comfortable bed.

The next day we arrived back in Minnesota and HOME!  As much as I love to travel, I also really love my home.  There really is “no place like home.”  I had never been away from home for this length of time before and it felt like a long awaited reunion with a favorite old friend.

My dog, Murphy, however, had other ideas.  As ecstatic as I was to see him, he was mad at me for being gone for so long — a first in a 13-1/2 year history with him.  But I couldn’t say I blamed him.  How do you explain to a dog that you are going to be gone for so long, but you WILL be coming back?  I’m sure in his mind he didn’t think I would ever return.

I am happy to say though, after being home for a week, all has been forgiven and Murphy and I have seemlessly slipped back into our daily routines.

2013 is a new year full of hope and promise.  One thing is sure though — things will not stay the same.  Time marches on — even though sometimes we don’t want it to.

Wishing you and your family the hope and promise that this new year brings!

I Am So Grateful ….

1 Nov

Here is my latest piece on Gratitude,  written for THE EDGE magazine  ….

There are many things I am grateful for but what I want to focus on here is the gratitude that I have for my oldest daughter Elizabeth.  Our relationship has weathered so many emotional experiences for both of us – from total elation on the day of her birth, complete awe and exhilaration during her growing up years, to anxiousness and outright fear and complete despair during her teenage years, to absolute shock and total sadness at her sudden departure, and finally the learning and growth we have both experienced as we sought to establish and maintain our present relationship on both sides of the veil.  I often wonder which one of us has learned the most through our experiences of the last 29 years.

 

I have come to believe that Elizabeth and I made a soul contract before we both came into this lifetime.  We each agreed upon the scenario that was put before us, always with the understanding that we were each free to exercise our own free will to change the agreed upon learning scenarios that we had set up in Spirit.

 

What also brings me to my knees many times over is my deep gratitude and appreciation for the role that The Divine has played in our lives.  Spirit truly has been the third person behind the scenes in so many ways.  God opened the doors for both of us and presented us with many opportunities to learn, grow and love.  What more can one ask for on a return visit to this earth plane? It has always been our own choice as to whether we would accept the challenge put before us, or to decide that no, this is something I’m not willing to do.  And saying no is never right nor is it wrong– it is merely a different choice.

 

The times when I doubted myself, doubted Liz and even doubted the Divine were all learning experiences.  When I said, “Yes, I’m in” and I prepared in earnest and was able to complete the divine task given me, I was rewarded by a complete sense of love, validation and confirmation that what I see and feel is real.  The feeling that you have pleased The Divine is a feeling of exhilaration like no other; it is as close to pure joy as one can achieve on this earth …. I can scarcely comprehend how wonderful this feeling must be in Spirit.

 

Gratitude appears in many forms.  Once a task has been completed, I anxiously await my next assignment.  However, my next assignment may not present itself for some time.  Continuous communication through prayer and meditation with The Divine is reward in itself when it becomes a daily practice.  You no longer feel alone – but you are guided every minute of every day by a force more powerful than any other – Love.  When you learn to live in love, view the world and everyone in it in love, life becomes a joyous adventure.

 

To check out more from THE EDGE – click this link:  http://edgemagazine.net/2012/11/i-am-so-grateful-2/

The Blessed Gift of Liz’s Presence

1 Oct

I have been very blessed during 2012 to have the opportunity to write several articles for Minnesota’s leading Holistic/Metaphysical Magazine called THE EDGE.  Here is my latest piece … The Blessed Gift of Liz’s Presence.

** ** ** ** ** **

Many extraordinary experiences have come my way since my daughter’s sudden and tragic death nine years ago. Very early on, when I needed it most, I was shown unequivocally that Elizabeth was alive in spirit and living a new life filled with joy and happiness. These signs and experiences brought me the peace and validation I so desperately needed in order to go on with life again.

However, there came a point when I no longer needed any validation that Liz was still very much a part of my life and always would be. Gone were the days when I would wake up each morning and ask for a sign that day. It was no longer necessary. Liz didn’t need to prove her continued existence to me — she had done so many times over, and I was confident in that reality.

I also worried that I might somehow hold her back if I continued to need constant affirmation of our connection. It took time, but eventually I was ready to completely let her go. We were both in good places…we were always aware of the strong bond of love that would always unite us. We knew where to find each other if we really needed to. So, one morning as I meditated, I took a deep breath and told Elizabeth that I was setting her free. I no longer wanted her to cling so closely to me. She was free to go and do whatever heavenly tasks awaited her.

Life went on and each day brought new joys. Family has always played a very important role in my life. As the oldest of four children and living only one block from my parents for the past thirty years, life has always been about family — celebrating our triumphs, achievements and milestones and supporting each other in our failures, disappointments and losses.

My father’s 80th birthday was just a few months away and I planned a gathering of our family at a local restaurant. I secretly hoped we’d have a private room, but after a couple of calls, it didn’t look very promising. I was disappointed, but I knew the party would still be special — but I sure was hoping for our own room!

The day of the party dawned and we all headed to the restaurant. As the waitress led us to our table, I was pleasantly surprised when we were directed into this large, beautiful room set with a beautiful table and a roaring fireplace. We had our own space after all! I was overjoyed, and it wasn’t until much later that I really began to wonder just how that had come to be.

My cousin, also named Elizabeth, joined us, and she brought along her camera. In addition to working for a photographer, Beth is also an avid picture taker on her own. She took many candid shots during dinner. As the celebration came to an end, we all gathered around the fireplace for one last group photo.

The next day, I received an urgent email from Beth. “You have to see this picture” she told me. “You are not going to believe it!” I opened the photos and perused them all. They were wonderful and really captured the joy we all had as we helped Dad celebrate his special day.

“There’s just one more you need to see,” Beth wrote. I opened the last photo and there was the group picture we had taken in front of the fireplace, just before we left. I slowly scanned the page and was happy to see that we all looked really good! But my eyes stopped abruptly and my breath caught in my throat — and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

Just above my head, next to my husband, was a huge orb. It literally took my breath away as the realization of what it meant hit me. Beth realized it, too.

“Liz was with us, too,” she told me, and I absolutely knew that was true. It was Liz’s sister, Anna, who reminded me that if Liz had been physically with us, she probably would have been standing right where the orb had been.

“Can you believe it, Mom?” Anna excitedly asked me.

“Yes, Anna, I can believe it.”

Even though I had vowed to let Liz go, she still chose to join us for this special time. As I showed the photo to my father, tears filled his eyes.

“This is the best birthday gift I could ever have been given,” he told me, as he hugged me tight.

As I thought about everything that happened that day, so many things came together. My cousin Elizabeth joined us. If she hadn’t been there, no pictures would have been taken. The private room — how had we mysteriously ended up with it? How could this have happened? We each now have a reprint of this picture in our homes, and as I look at that beautiful picture each day, I smile — because I know the answer — it is love.

Copyright © 2012 Kim Wencl. All Rights Reserved.

http://edgemagazine.net/2012/10

The New Me is Someone I Never Expected!

5 Sep

My latest article written for THE EDGE  http://edgemagazine.net/2012/09/the-new-me-is-someone-i-never-expected/

In a few weeks  my 40th high school class reunion will take place.  Those who haven’t seen me in 40 years will be shocked and a bit surprised when they meet “the new me.”

In high school I was extremely shy and a complete introvert.  I felt awkward and didn’t feel like I fit in anywhere.  Of course, looking back now, I know that wasn’t true – but at that point in my young life it was definitely my perception.

Very early on I made some decisions that were in my book, non-negotiable.  Public speaking was at the very top of my list.  I can remember giving speeches in high school and my knees would shake and my hands would quiver, and I was so nervous I couldn’t even think straight.

Things have changed dramatically for me through the years.  I am more outgoing now and open to meeting new people and creating new experiences; which is what time and living life bring about.

There is a saying that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks … and sometimes I guess that is true.  But what I’ve come to realize is that if the old dog is willing … anything is possible.

Never in a million years could I ever have imagined that I would bury my 20-year old daughter.  It was not the right order of things, and it still isn’t.   It was non-negotiable … but it happened and suddenly I had to incorporate it into my life, make peace with it, and work through all of the painful emotions to find joy again and a life worth living.

Once I accepted the reality of my daughter’s death, it was easier for other things that I had once considered non-negotiable to be held up for change.   Because of the strong connection that I still shared with Elizabeth I had an extreme sense of gratitude to God and The Universe at large.  I was no longer a stiff board of do’s and do not’s.  My life became malleable and I was molded into something far greater than I could have ever imagined.  There is a saying that God can dream a dream bigger than you can ever dream for yourself.   I can see this so clearly in my life since that fateful day in September, 2003.

Public speaking has now become something that I do at every opportunity.  And my topic is always the same – the most painful experience of my life – the death of my daughter, my journey through it and coming out the other side and back to embracing and loving life again.

The first time I spoke I had practiced for months and questioned my sanity daily.  How can I possibly speak in front of strangers about the most painful time of my life?  In truth, I didn’t know.  All l knew was that my story was important and sharing it could be the catalyst for others to view their own life situations in a different way.  I also was confident that if I did everything I could to prepare, The Divine would step in to help me.

This certainly was the case.  In fact, when I finished that first talk, I felt the strongest sense of accomplishment I have ever felt … it was a complete sense of euphoria.  Spirit had asked me to step up and I had done so.  Not without some fear and trepidation — but with the knowing that I would receive help whenever I needed it.  The strong presence of my daughter permeates my very being whenever I share our story.  In a sense we have become a team and we work together from both sides of the veil to help others.  For me, there is no greater calling.

What will the next 40 years bring?  I don’t know, but I look forward to whatever adventures Spirit sends my way!  Life is JOYOUS!

My struggle with fear … being true

14 Aug

This is my most recent article written for THE EDGE magazine.  Many of the monthly topics they have chosen for this year of 2012 resonate with my soul … http://edgemagazine.net/2012/08/my-struggle-with-fear/

 

After the sudden death of my 20-year old daughter in 2003 amazing experiences of signs and messages from her were all around me.  I was led to an amazing medium and teacher and I began to wonder if these experiences were common –  did this happen to everyone?  I didn’t think so, but I was clueless as to why they were happening to me.  I loved them – they brought me much needed peace and consolation – but why? Please keep them coming I would ask continuously, but again, why?  Eventually I quit asking why and instead my question became what?  “Dear Universe, please show me what you want me to do with these experiences!”

 

I became quite fearful and guarded.  I knew that not everyone would embrace my experiences the way I did and would hardly see them as “Godly.”  In fact, I knew there were some who would say my experiences were most likely “of the devil” – even though the bible was filled with stories of angels and visions and prophesies.

 

The journey to come to terms with my experiences of signs and messages from the dead, working with mediums and harnessing my own intuition was a rocky one.

 

I was so fearful that I would be ostracized for sharing my experiences that it was several years before I could even begin to share them with most my family – most importantly my parents.  I was quite certain they would think that their oldest daughter was delusional and most probably had “gone off the deep end.”

 

I would secretly quiz those I came in contact with to see if I felt they were open to hearing my story.  At times, it was a very lonely and frustrating exercise in futility.

I was at a crossroads.  I knew my experiences were meant to be shared with the world, but how would that happen when I couldn’t even muster the courage to share them with most of my immediate family?

 

I had no answers.  I only knew that The Universe was in charge and when the time was right it would happen.  Of this, I was completely certain.

 

Eventually, my story became “known” and I knew that it was only a matter of time before word reached my parents.  After all, we live in the same town only a block away from each other.  I knew I needed to be the one to share it with them – not some acquaintance out on the street.

 

My experiences had even become part of a book, True Stories of Messages From Beyond, and still my parents were in the dark.

 

It all came to a head at a family reunion.  Several of my cousins and an Aunt and Uncle or two had read my story.  We had no more than exited the car when they approached me and began to share how much they had enjoyed reading my story and how amazing my signs and messages had been.

I would quickly thank them and then pull them aside and whisper that this was all fine and dandy but hey, my folks don’t know anything about this – so don’t mention it to them okay?

 

By the end of the day I knew how absolutely ridiculous the situation had become.

It was clear the time had come to share my secrets.  I dropped Mom and Dad off at their home and returned to mine.  I went into my office and pulled a copy of my book off the shelf.

 

I returned to my childhood home, finding my Mom busy in the kitchen and my Dad enjoying an afternoon nap. “Mom, I said, I have something to tell you and you need to sit down.  “I don’t think you are ready for this, but I wanted you to find out from me and not someone else.”  I laid the book in front of her and she read the cover.  She opened up the pages and saw my story of Elizabeth.

 

Much to my complete shock, she proceeded to tell me that she wasn’t surprised.  She had googled my name a while back and knew all about it!

 

I returned home and no more than an hour later my phone rang – it was Mom – she had already finished reading my story and she told me through her tears how proud and happy she was.

I look back on that time now and all I can do is laugh.  I was so sure that my experiences would be discounted that I didn’t give my family a chance.  I have now come “out of the spiritual closet” and have only encountered a smattering of souls who did not approve of my experiences, and that’s just fine with me … after all everyone is entitled to their own beliefs.  I would never force my personal beliefs on anyone.  All I can continue to do is to share my journey in the hope that perhaps it will help someone else along the way … always with God leading the way.

 

I’ll Never Forget the Day My Life Was Changed

5 Jul

September 20, 2003, was a defining day in my life. In the early morning hours of that Saturday, my daughter Elizabeth and two of her six roommates died of smoke inhalation in their duplex, just blocks from the U of M where they were all beginning their sophomore year.

That day my life was forever changed. One door was slammed shut in my face and I kicked and screamed and begged God to open it again. And he did…not in the same way of course, but in a way that brought me to re-connection and a new way of embracing and viewing the world and a return to JOY.

Those first days were fraught with pain and disbelief…but they also brought me overwhelming clues that all was not lost, that Liz and I would find each other again, in new and amazing ways.

It has been said that when the student is ready, the teacher will follow. This was certainly true in my case. Within two months of my daughter’s passing, I learned of the work of Kathryn Harwig. Kathryn helped Liz and me to forge a new connection. She helped to facilitate a peace and return to joy, along with the absolute knowing that my daughter was indeed safe and happy on the other side of the veil.

My journey, however, had just begun. I slowly realized that the Universe had a bigger plan in place. It took time and patience, but I began to write about my experiences with my daughter – both while she was here and after she left the physical world. Not only did writing aid in my grief healing, but it also brought me to the realization that my journey was meant to be shared with others.

I had absolutely no idea how this would happen; all I knew was that my task was to write. And write I did. I poured out my heart and soul for a solid month. And when I finished, it felt as if a huge burden had been lifted from my shoulders.

Two years later, my story was published in True Stories of Messages From Beyond by Julie Aydlott & Friends. As I held that book in my hands for the first time, it was crystal clear that the Universe had been the author – I had been merely a willing participant.

I began to realize that the lessons I learned were important and I needed to do more than write about them. I needed to speak them. You must know, however, that I have gone through the majority of my life saying that there were certain things I would never do – and public speaking was at the top of my list.

I also felt an intense sense of gratitude to the Universe for giving me the experiences of the past several years – so much so that I was open to putting my fears on the back burner and stepping out in faith to share my story. Once again, I had absolutely no idea how this would happen, but I was confident that, if this was my destiny, the Universe would take care of the details.

On April 20, 2007, my opportunity was at hand. I was the speaker at the monthly Intuitive Forum sponsored by Kathryn Harwig. I had practiced for months, and there were many times when I would question my sanity. How can I possibly speak, not only in public, but speak about the most painful experiences of my life? Could I speak with emotion, but without becoming emotional? In truth, I didn’t know. All l knew was that I had prepared myself the best I could and now I needed to let the Universe take over.

I followed my gut and it went off without a hitch. It truly felt like an out-of-body experience, and it brought about a huge sense of complete euphoria. I had accomplished the task I had been given and it felt so good! In a strange way, I had even enjoyed it!

I have learned so much about myself and the world around me since that painful, life-changing September day. The Universe has a plan for each of us. It can take us into uncharted, scary waters. But we are never alone. All we have to do is pay attention and follow — work hard, and offer yourself up in service to others. You will receive gifts you could never have imagined.

It has been almost nine years since that fateful day, and life for me is joyous! I continue to write, speak, and share my journey with anyone who will listen.

When the Universe opens your door, do not be afraid. Step forth boldly and you will go on a journey that you never could have imagined.

Copyright © 2012 Kim Wencl. All Rights Reserved.  This article was published in the July 2012 edition of THE EDGE.  http://edgemagazine.net/2012/07/ill-never-forget/

Life Lessons

2 May

Please welcome guest blogger, Dave Roberts!

I don’t know if I can point to the one most important lesson that I have learned in my life, thus far. Since my daughter Jeannine died on 3/1/03 at the age of 18 of a rare and aggressive form of cancer, many teachings /lessons have made themselves known to me. All of these lessons/teachings have helped me progress from the raw pain of my early grief to adjusting to a world without the physical presence of my daughter. These teachings have redefined me and in the process allowed me to develop a relationship with Jeannine based on pure, unconditional love. I have also been blessed with a supportive group of family and friends who have supported the expression of my experience as I see fit. They don’t view it as good or bad and neither do I. One of the lessons that I have learned in my journey following Jeannine’s death is that labeling an experience prevents us from appreciating fully the lessons inherent in that experience. Labeling someone’s grief experience as good or bad does not allow us to fully appreciate and learn from the challenges that they have encountered along the way.
I have been an addiction professional for 27 years and have also observed the impact of diagnostic labels on how we view clients/patients that we encounter. If we buy into the stigmas associated with labeling, our resulting biases will never allow us to get a complete picture of how the client sees the world and the inherent strengths that they bring to therapy.

Here are some other lessons that I have learned in the years since Jeannine’s death

Doing what we perceive to be the right thing does not guarantee a life that is pain free: Before Jeannine’s illness and death, I always thought that if I worked hard and did the right thing, that God would protect me and my family from harm. However, as God and my experience as a bereaved parent has taught me there are no guarantees in life. Life isn’t about being fair and unfair; it is about learning to negotiate the many challenges that are presented along the way. If we can successfully negotiate these challenges, we develop resiliency and a renewed sense of purpose. We learn to get stronger at the broken places.

There is a difference between entitlement and gratitude: In the early part of my grief journey, I regularly questioned God as to why He chose me and my family to bear the burden of burying one of our family members at such a young age. After all, we had always done the right thing in our lives; because of that we were entitled not to bear this burden of grief. I soon discovered that there were many more parents whose children predeceased them. Connecting with them helped me learn gratitude for having them in my life and gratitude for the present moment.
There is spirit in everything and in everything there is spirit: Many parents that I know have been graced with signs from their children (as have I). Let the signs that you experience not only validate that our children are with us in a different from of energy, but allow you to see yourself as a truly spiritual being. If we can commit to this way of life, it allows us to see life and death differently. We can change our perspective on life and death, if we choose to do so.

All of these lessons have changed how I view the world. I am not the person I was before Jeannine’s death and frankly I don’t know if I could identify with that person. I have become a more loving, spiritual and centered individual as a result of the struggle with Jeannine’s death. Does it mean that I miss her physical presence any less or that I have achieved closure (a process that doesn’t apply to our journeys after the death of our children)? Absolutely not! My journey as a parent who has experienced the death of a child will be life long. I know that I can revisit the emotional pain of Jeannine’s death at anytime. Today, I don’t have the same dread about re-experiencing it. I am, however, more conscious of it and try to discover what my pain is trying to teach me. We can learn from everything, if we are open to it.

David J. Roberts, LMSW, CASAC, became a bereaved parent after his daughter Jeannine died of cancer on 3/1/03 at the age of 18. He has been employed in the addictions field for 27 years and is also an adjunct professor in the psychology and psychology-child life departments at Utica College, Utica, New York. Mr. Roberts also developed a topics course on Parental Bereavement issues, and teaches a Death, Dying and Bereavement course for Utica College. He is a volunteer for Hospice and Palliative Care, Inc, in New Hartford, New York and a member of the All Inclusive Care for Children Coalition.

Be sure to check out Dave’s website: http://bootsyandangel.blogspot.com/

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