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Carol's Columns

Columns for The Compassionate Friends

I have found great solace volunteering for The Compassionate Friends, a hard-working group that supports families seeking "the positive resolution of grief following the death of a chlld" (www.compassionatefriends.org ). My columns discuss topics of continuing concern in the Marin County CA newsletter.
- Carol

Grief and the Creative Process

Many of us after the death of our child, find words are inadequate when trying to describe our feelings. To say we feel devastated, empty, hollow, hopeless, helpless or desperate still may not get to the core of what we're experiencing. That said, I know several of you were non-poets before the death of your child, yet found words flowing from your heart after. These poems have allowed you to creatively or analogically describe your experience. They have not only helped you to heal, but they have helped others to understand. To reach beyond words, whether we are trying to explain to someone what we're feeling or to help ourselves heal by tapping into the depth of our grief, the creative process can be the answer. ... read moreĽ


Honoring the One Year Anniversary of My Daughter's Death

I thought that I would share an excerpt from my book Sugar Cookies and a Nightmare about the one year anniversary of my daughter Kristen's death. Kristen died in November and for all of us, the day our child was taken from us is a day we'll never forget. There is never an easy way to acknowledge that day. I felt it was important on the one year anniversary to return to the ocean and the spot where Kristen was pulled out to sea. The following is from a letter I wrote to my son who was 10 at the time. We had climbed down some rocks that projected just above the beach at the same time of the day that she drowned. Our plan was to have a quiet, meditative moment where we would each reflect on Krissie in our own way. ... read moreĽ


How Can We Care For Ourselves After The Death of Our Child?

This is a frequently asked question and most important. We all know how lonely we feel after our child's death. For others, life continues on and we can't even figure out what to buy at the grocery store. Our life must go forward as well but how? We may have other children to care for and yet we can hardly get out of bed. Just getting dressed is a struggle. I would like to offer a few suggestions that have helped me and some of my bereaved clients. ... read moreĽ


More On Surviving Siblings

I gained a greater understanding of how powerful guilt can be for surviving siblings observing my son Michel after the death of his sister, Kristen. As parents, it is our role to support, nurture, and protect. This is not the role of siblings, yet it gets twisted into their grief as well. As a result, it is common for brothers and sisters to feel that they failed in some way. ... read moreĽ


Moving Beyond Grief

Recently I went to the wedding of my niece, who was born a few months before Kristen. Most likely, my daughter would have been one of her bridesmaids. Kristen's absence was obvious and felt by many. So many years, yet so many tears, and again those crazy mixed-up emotions emerged all at once. I was so joyous for my radiant niece on the happiest day of her life, and yet so sad. ... read moreĽ


Trapped in Pain

After my last article, "Suicide and Loss," I received this question from a mother whose 19-year-old son, "Paul" (not his name), was killed instantly when his truck rolled over: “I can’t live with the pain of losing Paul, but I feel so caught. His death is the last memory I have. If I lose the pain, will I lose a part of him also?” This is such an important question because so many who are grieving the loss of a child feel the closeness and the constancy of pain. But here are some other things to consider. ... read moreĽ

Suicide and Loss

I was asked the question, “What do you tell parents who have suicidal thoughts after their child dies?” As you all know, the death of a child is one of life’s greatest pains. I think the only pain greater is losing more than one child, and too many of you parents have. ... read moreĽ

GUILT: The Bereaved Parent's Unwelcome Visitor

In my twenty-five years of trauma counseling, I can't remember ever counseling a bereaved parent who didn't, at one stage or another, experience guilt. No matter the age or cause of their child's death, the "could haves, should haves and wish I would haves" seemed to creep in. ... read moreĽ

How to Deal With Friends You Lose After the Death of a Child

True friends don't leave us. Circumstances and miles may separate good friends for years with the only contact being the annual holiday card. However, when finally together, close friends soon find that cozy place of their friendship. ...read columnĽ

How Many Children Do You Say You Have?

What was once an easy question becomes very difficult after the death of a child. This is especially true in the first few years following our child's death. ...read moreĽ

Making the Holidays Meaningful After Your Child's Death

For most of us the holidays are a time for family and close friends. There is no way after our child's death to make these times easy. We can't pretend that everything is the way it once was, yet we can't ignore them. ...read moreĽ

The Dance of Life and Death

I just became a grandmother for the first time. Early Saturday morning our son called to say his wife was in the hospital with labor pains that were five minutes apart...read moreĽ

A Grandmother's Grief

My mother, diagnosed with lymphoma, died just before Mother's Day in 2008. Only two months prior, she had been a high spirited fun-loving woman, the heart of our family who was looking forward to her 90th birthday celebration that fall...read moreĽ

PTSD and the Bereaved Parent

I was once asked by a bereaved parent if the death of a child can cause PTSD (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder). My answer was, "ABSOLUTELY!" The essential feature of this disorder is the development of characteristic symptoms following exposure to an extreme traumatic stressor....read moreĽ

Treatment of PTSD in the Bereaved Parent

In a previous newsletter we looked at the diagnosis of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and the bereaved parent. Briefly, there are four categories of criteria needed to make this diagnosis...read moreĽ

Not So Unusual After All

The Dreams and Unusual Happenings workshop, sponsored by Georgia Alioto and her husband for our local Compassionate Friends chapter, was a great success. We all felt this even before reading the enthusiastic evaluations from workshop participants...read moreĽ

Columns for San Francisco chapter of Parents of Murdered Children

I was a guest speaker and contributed articles to the San Francisco chapter of this remarkable organization (www.pomc.com ). It's not only for parents - the group supports all "survivors of homicide victims, while working to create a world free of murder." These are a few of the articles I wrote for them.
- Carol

Holidays: Memories and Meaning

After the loss of a loved one, the holidays can be a most painful time. They come despite our best efforts to avoid them, but they don't have to be avoided. It is up to us to make them meaningful. ...read moreĽ

Healing While Dreaming

When in a crisis one often dreams more intensely than usual. Freud speaks of dreams as being "the golden highway to the subconscious." They can help us to heal...read moreĽ

Survivor Guilt

Our role as parents is to love, nurture and protect our children. However, when our child dies, this role produces a powerful backlash experienced as guilt. Our children are not supposed to die before us. This is not the natural order. Survival guilt is fostered by this unnaturalness, no matter the age of the child...read moreĽ

This Might Sound Strange, But...

Often in my counseling practice I would hear these words. ... "I know you will think this is strange, Dr. Kearns but..." Then I might hear her say that she wondered if there was a way her loved one knew before his death that he might die. For example...read moreĽ

How Can We Care For Ourselves After the Death of a Child?

This is a frequently asked question and most important. We all know how lonely we feel after our child's death. For others, life continues on and we can't even figure out what to buy at the grocery store. Our life must go forward as well but how?...read moreĽ

Lunch With Michelle

In the many years that I counseled bereaved parents in my private practice and in my work with Compassionate Friends, I had never met another mother with a similar situation to mine. But today I had lunch with Michelle Miller. Michelle's experience was uncannily like my own....read moreĽ

How Can I Handle This Anxious Recurring Situation?

A bereaved parent said, "Memorial Day weekend eight years ago was the 'beginning of the end' for my son who had a terminal illness. Each year, even though this weekend signifies the beginning of summer, I become anxious and depressed without even thinking about the time of year...read moreĽ

Finding Meaning In Our Grief

After the death of a child, when we are in the depths of grief, it is hard to believe we will ever be happy again. We are overwhelmed by what used to be the simplest of tasks, yet we still have to function. Life continues on never missing a beat...read moreĽ