Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Dear Santa, why can't I get what I want?

A Christmas market in Clifton Mill, Ohio, Unit...Image via Wikipedia
Last night I dreamt of Ben. He was younger and I was telling him that his cousin Dominic had died. He just went off crying. I don't know what that means. I was confused in the dream because he was older when Dom died and of course he was still alive. Sometimes I still feel like my life is in a state of confusion. I am much better than I was but there are times when I feel myself slipping back into the dark hole of depression. I know it's this time of year. When Ben and Keri were growing up I did everything I could to make Christmas special. I know they always thought it was a magical time. And I enjoyed it so much back then. This year I am just not feeling it. I can't seem to get in the mood and am just going through the motions. Baking cookies is next and I'm not looking forward to it.

Dear Santa, I'm missing Ben and this year I want a big bear hug from him. I didn't hug him enough and now I can't hug him at all. I want him back, I want to see how he is doing. I want to know his life is good and he is teaching college like he wanted. I want to sit and talk with him again and enjoy a glass of wine with him. I want to watch a movie with him. I want him back and I can't have what I want the most this Christmas. Instead, his ashes are in a box in my basement and I can't make a decision about what to do with them. I don't want it to be this way at all, I don't like it. I don't have a choice but I don't have to like it.

As we go through this holiday season, there will be memories, challenges and happiness. I will try to grab on to the happiness and hope it carries me through. Ben's stocking still hangs with the others, Inside are five little boxes. We each have one and every year we are suppose to write a note to him, telling him how we feel. As I look back on previous years I can see that I have progressed and that's good. But I still want him back and I don't like it one bit that he's not with me. I hope he's with my mom and grandma and there is some celebrating going on. I hope he comes around and let's me know he's here. I hope so many things and mostly I hope I can get through this holiday feeling good and OK that I am still here and he's not.

Happy holidays to all. My hope for all of us is that we can start 2011 better than we started 2010, that we can find joy and have good things coming our way, that we can remember our loved ones and know they are at peace.

Love & Peace,

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Hey God, where are you, are you listening?

Trip to Mt TakaoImage by diloz via Flickr
Do you sometime ask God where he is, is he listening? When you lose someone close to you it is very easy to also lose your faith. LIFE IS HARD! Really it is. It's not a picnic for alot of us. I often wonder how some people get so lucky to never have anything challenging happen to them. How does that happen? They go through life and things just seem to fall into place just right. I know everything is not always as it seems but for the most part there are some people out there that have it all together. Life is one big party with good things all around. I guess being through the ringer has it's advantages. Like the fact that not much shocks me anymore. Stuff happens and I just go with the flow. I hardly ever get angry. I accept the things that come my way. Hoping and praying that I can make it through the challenges and have the strength to handle them. Yes, I'm jaded, I'm hardened and I am sometimes untouchable. But I am still human. In spite of  it all I am surviving. A survivor. A warrior in the face of adversity.

I wonder about the survivors of 9/11. I wonder how they go on each day after the horror that they experienced. The loss was so great, so unfair, so sudden. How do they do it? I wonder about our Amish friend whose brother lost three small children last year in a buggy accident. He along with his whole family are having a hard time, and of course that is to be expected.. He and his wife are expecting another child in a few weeks. David, his brother hopes it will help a little. A new child will not make up for the loss of the others but maybe it's God's way of helping them cope with the loss. I wonder about the man who hit the buggy and took the life of three innocent children. How does he get through the day? I can't even imagine what he must go through. 

When you ask God where he is, know that he is everywhere. He is with us daily and that is how we make it through. When bad things happen I always remember "It can always be worse"! And then I say a prayer for others who are going through a tough time. I ask God to watch over anyone in need right now. He knows who they are. I kept my faith through it all and never asked why me? I just kept going. That's what we have to do---just keep going! 

It's up to you who you believe in. I choose to believe in a higher power and call him God. I believe in faith and the power of prayer. I have seen it working in my life more than once. How about you? Has God touched your life lately?  Has your faith helped you through a tough time? Share your thoughts with me in the comments below. And remember, you are not alone. We will get through this together.

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Monday, November 1, 2010


LAUGHTER IS THE BEST MEDICINE!Image by imchaudhry photo via Flickr
Did you go, are you going or are you gonna go to bereavement classes? My daughter Keri and I went. It was good, not great but good. I still use a few of the things we learned. It was interesting to hear others loved ones stories. There were a few funny parts.  Like when we brought mementos of our loved ones to share---pictures, stuffed animals, medals, awards, ashes...yes I did say ashes. It was OK that one person brought her loved ones ashes. They were in a very nice urn. With all the misery we were going through I have to say this made me giggle. Well, Keri would say I downright laughed till I cried but I hate to admit that. After all she was just sharing her memories and her loved one. OK Keri, you know you were laughing too and  I admit it! I did laugh till I cried but you know what? It felt good. I had not laughed like that in a long time. I felt bad it was at the expense of another but it was exactly what I needed at the time.
Have you heard the saying "Laughter is the best medicine"? It's true. It can take a stressful moment and make the stress dissolve. Sadly I have learned to laugh at myself and life only after going through the pain of losing Ben. I look back on all the seriousness in my life and wonder what if---what if I would have reacted differently, what if I would have just laughed, what if I just didn't take myself so seriously. How different would my life be today. I will never know but for now I will be living my life laughing. Laughing at the mistakes I make, laughing at the stupid things I do or say. Laughing all the rest of my days.

In remembering your loved ones take time to laugh at something they said or did or something you recently experienced. Laugh till you cry if that's what it takes. Afterwards you will feel better for a little while. And a little while is better then not at all. Keri and I still talk about that day and remember it as the day we remembered how to laugh again.

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Friday, October 22, 2010


Daydream Farm #1Image by mindgutter via Flickr
You may have recently suffered a loss or it may have been awhile and you are moving through your grief. Either way,
you are grieving and life seems hard. It sucks right now and you don't see it getting better. It will get better, I promise, but for now, for today, for this weekend---SEIZE THE DAY! 


The point is! Get up---Get out---Get going! Today is Friday. Take one day this weekend---
Friday or Saturday or Sunday and LIVE! Fake it if you have to but do it anyway.
Afterwards, let me know what you did. How did you feel? Do you think it helped?

If you have any ideas to add to the list please do so in the comments below.

We are all in this together. And together we will get through the challenges we face.
Peace and love to all---Annette

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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

My loss is bigger than YOUR loss!

Apples & Oranges - They Don't CompareImage by TheBusyBrain via Flickr
Can we compare our loss with someone else's? Some people I talk to seem to discount my loss and make theirs the focus. "How do you think I feel? You don't know what I went through? My life will never be the same!" All of those statements are true but different for each and every one of us. These are some of the things I have heard when speaking to others about losing my son. It saddens me to think that others have to make their loss seem more than mine. No matter what the loss is we all still suffered and there is no way to compare because each of us is different. One person I know made it seem like a popularity contest. She made me feel like she was saying "my loss was bigger than yours, "nananananana". And she did have a traumatic experience, I don't want to discount that, but what makes her think her loss was more than anyone elses'. What the heck is wrong with this picture?

Do we live in such a self absorbed world that we have to compare the tragedies in our lives to feel like we are something or someone? Is it right to make ourselves feel better by discounting another persons loss. Death is non comparable. IT IS a great equalizer. It changes us forever, and makes us different. And sadly, it links us.  To compare one loss to another is a sad way of making yourself feel better. When you are faced with a friend who does this, what do you do? How do you respond. I stopped talking, listened, and then made a mental note to not discuss my son with her again. The thing is, we are all unique, we all matter. And what happens to us is what makes us who we are. We are uncomparable, as is the things we go through, including death.

As I travel this journey of healing, I am becoming more compassionate and understanding. I am learning to listen more and talk less. I am learning to forgive myself and others.  And I will remain uncomparable for the rest of my life. How about you?

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Sunday, October 10, 2010

Life's amazing journeys!

I took last week off from posting to just reflect on my life and the last four years without my son, Ben. It may not seem like it to some but my life has been an amazing journey. I have seen and done many things. I have had my share of challenges, successes and failures. But all in all so far it has been an OK life.

Today I read a story about a family that lost all three of their children. Two to suicide and one to a drug overdose. The story hinted at family problems as the cause and maybe that's true but a mother and father still lost three children. What comes to mind when I read or hear about things like this---It can always be worse! Yes! I have been challenged. Maybe by the greatest challenge a mom will ever face. But, it could always be worse.

My greatest accomplishment in life has been birthing two children. Two small human beings to nurture, teach, protect and let find their wings.  My son always needed reassurance that he would be OK, that he was a good boy, that I loved him. My daughter is strong willed and determined. She just knew all those things from a very young age. I knew she would succeed and I didn't worry as much about her. My son was another story. I worried about him constantly. Two children from the same parents and so different. My two stepson's are the same way. It's a mystery I will never understand and when I speak with other parents they experience the very same thing.

Some days I beat myself over the head wondering if I would just have given Ben more of what he needed would he have been better able to cope with the challenges he faced. He was smart. He had an incredible memory. He was kind and compassionate. And in spite of all these things he was tormented. He lived for 24 years with me as his mother and I feel privileged for such an honor. I will always be his mother and he will always be one of my most amazing accomplishments.

My daughter Keri is smart, beautiful, compassionate and kind. She is a treasure and sometimes I am amazed I am her mother. She has faced her challenges and moved forward choosing to see the glass half full instead of half empty. I see her now choosing happiness and working on living her best life. I could not ask for anything more for her. She is my second greatest accomplishment.

How often do we move through our days grudgingly. Looking at life as a challenge instead of a gift. I felt that way for almost three years while working through the suicide of my son and my own depression. If you are feeling that way just hold on, eventually it will pass. And someday you will be able to look back and see just how amazing your life is too.

If you know someone who would benefit from my blog please share it with them.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Has your faith been tested?

I believe we all are on our own path.
And that God has a plan, but for each of us it is different.
And how we intersect with each other is a part of God's plan.
I believe we all have a purpose.
And that losing our loved ones can bring us to a greater purpose.
And the sorrow, the joy, the pain and the love will lead us to that purpose.
And that God will guide us in finding our new purpose.
I believe...

This video moved me and I wanted to share it with all of you.   
Watch it and then tell me what you believe.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

too busy to notice!

 Autumn leaves in GekÅ«Image via Wikipedia
As the anniversary of Ben's death comes close, I find myself so busy I don't know which way to turn. JB Dollar, my job that pays some of the bills has just introduced two new products and wow is it ever exciting. Hat's need to be sent out to three locations, listed on Etsy and E-bay. Orders for crochet items need to be made. Halloween jewelry and OMG the list goes on and on. I wonder If God is giving me all of this so I can focus on other things. Today on the way home from the craft store (looking for Halloween charms for the jewelry) I started thinking about Ben and how much he loved Halloween. I cried.  It was the one holiday his dad was into and we all enjoyed it together. I loved making his and Keri's costumes. My favorite was the year Keri was Tinker Bell and he was a pirate, AKA Captain Hook. Keri had a store bought costume but we made Ben's and it was cool. Another year he was a the hunchback of Notre Dame. Of course, when he was little he was Batman and Superman. Keri was bat girl one year. Never any clowns. We didn't like clowns. Even as an adult Ben was scared of clowns. Makes me laugh thinking about it but every time I see a clown it reminds me of him. And sometimes I laugh and cry at the same time.

I use to love fall. Now, I dread it's beginning because it reminds
me of that fateful day when we lost Ben. Four years, "doesn't it go by in a blink". That quote is from Anthony Hopkins character in the movie Meet Joe Black. As death is waiting for him at his 65th birthday he is speaking to the guests and closes with this---"65 years, doesn't it go by in a blink". I had watched that movie a few times before but recently when I heard him say that it made me think how precious little time we really do have. Life truly is fleeting.

As the fourth anniversary of Ben's death approaches I reflect on his short life. He touched many people in his 24 years. He was a good friend, son and brother. He would bend over backwards to help you if you were in need. Generous to a fault and loyal. Of course there were problems but this post is not about them. This is about my memories of fall and the fun times we spent planning a favorite celebration. How God is giving me so much to focus on right now that I am not dwelling on October first. And the fact that life is short, so we should remember to live each day to the fullest, become more than we ever thought we could be and love the ones closest to us with reckless abandon. 

Peace and Love,
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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Have you thought of me lately?

In Memory ofImage by evoo73 via Flickr
One of my biggest fears is that I will forget my son! People fade when you don't see them and as we all know our memories are what keep them alive. My family very seldom speaks to me about Ben. I think they are afraid to bring up his name. I don't even know how often they think about him. After four years you would think it would be easier to talk about him but I guess it's not. I love hearing stories from his friends about things they experienced with him. It lets me know he was really here. When I feel him fading away I picture him in a good situation. The last time I saw him we went out to dinner and he was funny and stressed all at the same time. I hate that that is the last time I saw him. He hugged me when we parted and I hated leaving him two hours away from home. I wanted him to be young again and with no worries. I knew he had to grow up and for the time being it was better this way but I still didn't like it. Less than a month later he was gone.

Now the only thing left is the memories. October first is the day Ben died. Every year I think we should do something to remember him on that day but it usually passes as just another day. I would rather remember his birthday, it was a much happier occasion. We still hang his stocking up at Christmas and probably always will. I write notes to him and put them inside. It's a small gesture but it makes me feel a little ok that he isn't there.

How do you remember your loved ones? Do you do special things on their birthdays, Christmas or the day they died? Share with us how you remember your loved ones so maybe we can find a better way to remember ours.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

It's one of those days!

Some days I just don't feel like dealing with real life. Does anyone else ever feel that way? On days like that should we just sit back and let the day happen or push ourselves to get things done?

Being self employed it's sometimes hard to motivate, especially on days like today. It scares me a bit because I think maybe I am slipping back into depression. And I really don't want to go back there.

Anyone out there have any suggestions on how you get through the day when it's one of those days?

All comments and ideas are welcome.


Monday, August 30, 2010

Fear of the Unknown!

Foggy forest of oaks in Cantabria. In the lush...Image via Wikipedia
Like all new things we have a natural fear of the unknown. My stepson Phillip started his freshman year of high school today. Tomorrow his brother Andrew starts his senior year. Both are fearful of what is to come. Phillip because he is at a new larger school and Andrew because this is it, his last year then it is on to the real world as he calls it. But for both boys it is a new beginning. So maybe we should look at death that way. As a new beginning in the spiritual world. I was taught at a very young age that our souls live on. I would like to believe this is true. There are countless experiences of people being contacted by dead relatives. I had an experience with this when my cousin Mary's son Dominic died at the age of 26. We were all very upset by this because he was so young and we didn't even know he was sick. He had flu like symptoms for a few weeks and it turned out he had lymphoma. One day in the hospital and he was gone. The youngest loss ever experienced in our family. That afternoon I was crying and overwhelmed with grief when I sat down on my garage steps, it was around 3 pm. My mind wandered to another place. I saw Dominic peeking his head around a corner, my mom and grandma were there and looked shocked to see him. Then my mom said something like " Dominic! we didn't know it would be you, come on come on". Now you may be thinking "the mind gives us what we think we need". But there is more to this story. Shortly after my vision I called my cousin Debbie and told her about what I had seen. She asked me what time it was when this happened. I told her about 3 pm and she said: "I saw the same thing at the same time". Still gives me chills to this day and that was 11 years ago. Some call it coincidence but it's too real for me to discard that easily. After Ben died he came to my dad in a dream. He was young and had a big grin on his face. Makes me think he is happy wherever he is. It also gives me a sense of peace towards my own death. I know in my heart that he will be there to greet me when it is my time to leave my body behind. Maybe that's part of why I am not afraid of death.

I read a lot of books after Ben died. Many things stood out, but one in particular. I think it was from James Van Praagh, (I read so many it is hard to keep track of who said what). He said something like this: our loved ones spirits are all around us but they can't let us know, because if we knew then we would want to spend all our time with them and it's our job right now to spend our time living.

I would like to know what everyone thinks. Have any of you had similar experiences to mine? Forget the experts, let's share our feelings and experiences. Maybe together we can take some of the fear out of dying and learn to live our best life now.

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Return To Me-Wisdom from Carroll O'Connor

Cover of "Return to Me"Cover of Return to Me
I have always been a fan of sayings and quotes. Many of my favorites are from famous people. But often when watching a movie I find a line that rings true with me. The following quote is from the movie Return to Me:
        "It's the character that's the strongest that God gives the most challenges to".

If you haven't seen this movie I highly recommend it. Yes it is a chick flick but it's a good one and the old timers in it are highly enjoyable. The above quote is from Carroll Connor's character. Who knew Archie Bunker could be so profound. LOL

This quote helped me through many a dark moment after Ben died. Oddly it gave me strength when I needed it most. I repeated it to myself more times than I care to remember. And I was able to make it through the day knowing God was challenging me but he knew I could take it. I still repeat it daily and share it when I can.

Is there something you say or do daily that helps you make it through the day? Do you have a favorite quote or saying that you have above your desk or on your refrigerator? Post your favorite thought or action in the comments and maybe together we can help someone make it through their day.

Peace to all,

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Losing a friend!

Photo of snow on the ground in the mountains o...Image via Wikipedia
Yesterday I lost a lifelong friend. My cousin Frank. Well, we were almost related. He was my cousin's cousin and in an Italian family that means we were cousin's too. So, as we grew up together we always referred to each other as cousins. When he was around seven his mom and dad decided to move out to California. Every summer he came home and stayed with his grandparents. We would spend time together when he was home and the rest of the year we would write about the things going on in our lives. Life got busy and while raising our families we lost touch. But a few years ago we reconnected. He brought his kids out to meet everyone and they spent a few weeks visiting. They stayed with us for a few days and it was just like old times. He was the same old Frank. Funny, loving and I was so happy to be able to spend time with him again.

Frank was the most kind and tolerant person I have ever know and probably will ever know. He was accepting of everyone and there was not one person in this world that he wouldn't help. That was his legacy.

Life isn't easy for most of us but he was gay and grew up in the seventies. He faced quite a few challenges along the way. But I never saw him let the negativity of the times control him. I remember a few instances when I was furious with some of the people around us, he just shrugged his shoulders and let it be. I know he was hurt but he didn't show it. He remained loving and kind and moved above the anger. He taught me about acceptance and tolerance. I will miss his laugh, his smile and his love.

Sometimes it seems that death won't leave us alone. It comes calling in the loss of another person we care about. It is a very real part of life. We may ask---why him, why now, or even why not me? Is it a part of a bigger plan? None of us know the answer. Believing we will all meet again someday is what helps me keep going. For now, for whatever reason, it is my time to live. And I am going to live the rest of my life trying to be more like Frank. To honor his legacy by being more forgiving, more tolerant and kind. For it's true "everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle". 

Think about the legacy of those you have lost. What did they leave behind that you can learn from and use in you life? What made them special? What do you want your legacy to be?

Peace to all,

R.I.P Frank Otello
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Friday, August 6, 2010


Many people were very kind to my son Ben but sometimes I wonder if just that one person was nicer to him would he still be here?

This weekend as you go through the hours remember "Kindness is Free".

Make it a great weekend everybody.


Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Fountain of Time sculpture in Washington Park ...Image via Wikipedia
Webster's describes grief as sadness, sorrow.
No one tells you that grief has no timeline. Understanding grief is not an easy thing unless you have experienced it yourself. It never goes completely away. Three years in and I still feel it on a daily basis. A part of my spark for life is gone and I'll never find it again. That's just how it is.

About a year after Ben died I remember telling my boss that I was starting to feel like myself again. I was getting motivated and feeling things turning around. All he said was "It's about time"!  I hung up the phone thinking---It's about time, It's about time... I was so upset by those three little words. When he said that to me it made me mad. Madder than I had been in a long time. Who did he think he was? What right did he have to say that to me? Did he not know what I was going through? I sat on the couch the rest of the day. Just sat there watching mindless TV until it was time to go to bed. It's funny what words can do to us. He didn't motivate me or make me feel good about feeling better. He just pissed me off and it made me realize that I really wasn't getting better at all. Did he have a clue what I was going through? Of course he didn't, how could he. Life was moving at it's regular pace for him. I was stuck in a time warp. 

Everything is so immediate in our culture. We expect people to just pick themselves up and move forward.
But death gives you a different perspective on life. Things that once mattered are not really important any more. For awhile just surviving is what's important. That's it, just making it to the next day. AA says it best with their phrase "One day at a time". I kept that ever present in my mind. The next time someone said to me "it's about time" I quietly said a prayer for them that they weren't standing in my shoes. And then I repeated to myself  "One day at a time, one day at a time"...

Thanks to all my readers out there for joining me on this journey of healing. I realized this weekend that this is hard but it's good to be able to share with all of you. I'm moving forward. It's a slow process but it's happening. Remembering and feeling and getting it out of my mind and on a printed page is freeing.
Does that make sense to any of you? Has anyone experienced the same thing?

Peace and Luv to all,

Monday, July 19, 2010

Death and the zombie effect

Corvus corax This photo shows a pair of birds ...Image via Wikipedia
A zombie---that's what I became when I was told Ben shot himself. I was in a world of surrealism. I was a zombie going through the motions of life. Shocked, zoned out, so out of it I could not feel anything but the pain of knowing my only son was gone and my daughter was now an only child. Something I knew about was being an only child and I didn't want that for my children. That's why I had two, but now there was one. For some odd reason that was ever present in my mind. My zombie body was doing what was expected. We had a memorial and I stood there afterwards while friends and family told me how sorry they were. Looking back on it now I am extremely appreciative of everyone who came that day and I hope no one will be offended by this but all I wanted to do was curl up into a ball and be left alone. I was going through my zombie motions and didn't want to talk about it, didn't want to have to be nice to people, didn't want to socialize, didn't want to see anyone, I wanted to be anywhere but there. The shock of death does that to you. It puts you in an entirely different zone.

The lesson here is to remember this next time you have to visit a grieving friend or relative. Remember that they are not all there. They have experienced a shock. The worst shock imaginable---The Death of a loved one. The first thing you want to ask is how are you doing. How do you think they are doing? How would you be doing? I wanted to scream at the people who asked me that. Oh I knew they meant well. But really, think about it. Deep down you know how they are doing..

So what should you say. I've given this plenty of thought and I think the best thing you can do is let them know you are there if they need you. I'm here if you need me. That's it, just that. And then be there. Being in zombie mode makes it hard to tell you what we need because basically we don't have a clue, we can't comprehend much of anything. My friends---God bless them---they gave me my space but didn't give up on me. I should clarify that---my good friends gave me my space and didn't give up on me. This is when you find out who your true friends are. When you find out what relatives really care. There were many people at Ben's memorial and I'm not talking about each and every one of them. I'm talking about people who I thought were close to me, people who I thought mattered. Before Ben's memorial my phone just kept ringing and ringing, after---not so much. That alone taught me who cared and I truly value that today. I realized my energy is best spent on the people who matter, the people who cared enough to just check on me, just a phone call or an invite to coffee. I am forever grateful for the ones who stopped what they were doing and took the time to care. So if you are on the other side just make the call, not a daily call, once a week will do. No matter how small the gesture it matters more than you will ever imagine.

The zombie state is temporary and when your friend returns to consciousness he/she will remember and be forever grateful you took the time to care.
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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A little about me finding my New Normal

I don't really remember where I heard the phrase---A New Normal. I just remember thinking how am I ever going to feel normal again. I soon found out, the normal I once experienced would never again be a part of my life.

My life was forever changed on October 1, 2006. That was the day my son shot himself. He was 24 years old. He had been suffering from depression, a depression that started when he was 13, around the time his dad and I were divorced. Through his teens I took him to different doctors and psychologists. They spent time listening to him, put him on various medicines for the depression and said he was coming along. He took the medicine sporadically, told them what they wanted to hear and suffered silently in his mind. Until that fateful day when it all became to much and he found permanent relief the only way he knew how. He lost all hope, all hope that tomorrow would be a better day.

His last note to me was short---"This is my way. I love you mom". Not much more than that.

It was his way to find peace and it plunged me into my own private hell.
I went into my own depression that lasted three years and only recently have I been able to find my New Normal. With this blog I will be sharing more about my journey to find my new normal. 

Can I help you find your New Normal?

If you have been affected by the loss of a loved one, if you have seen your world come to a crashing halt because of death, if you have had a hard time relating to friends that have lost a loved one---then this blog might be what you need. Join me on a journey to a better understanding of grief, death and how you can survive the loss of a loved one.