Bridges from a loss
My son Adam took his own life 13 years ago. Adam was a loving, caring soul that always helped whoever he could. Immediately after Adam’s death I did what I could to stay connected to his spirit, his unique caring energy. Although mortally wounded I did what I could to help myself and those around me with the gift of Adam’s essence.
I realized shortly after his passing how people would open up to me about their own experiences with depression, loss and suicide. It became very clear that life is difficult for most and it does help to share our experiences.
In many cases once I shared my pain to other people, they would tell me all sorts of things. I guess they felt if I can share my pain and loss that they were safe to share their own difficulties and tragedies. I never hid the reality of my son’s death with anyone I met. In return many sad stories were told to me. Heartbreaking stories that were difficult to hear, especially since my soul had experienced immense pain and was raw to extreme emotions.
It was important for people to hear about Adam. I wanted to share what an amazing person he was. I also wanted to hear the stories of other people for the sole reason of connecting in the deepest of ways. Perhaps we could help each other.
Two people with open and broken hearts sharing their pain is intense but unites those who allow it. It was challenging for me to cross the emotional bridge to another suffering heart, but I forged ahead with faith.
In that tender, intimate connection is where I found Adam. Yes, Adam’s spirit was with me when I connected to another human in pain. Adam helped people when alive and together in his death we are united in trying to help others.
Just sharing life’s pain connects people but there was more. A way was found to give others hope.
There is a reason to live.
I felt Adam would want me to live a happy meaningful life. I shared this thought with those who suffered in a similar way. “Honor the departed by being happy and productive in their name” is what came out of my heart and mouth.
Through loss I found many bridges to connect one broken heart to another.
When I did, Adam was there. Sometimes we could not be of help, but we tried.
The credo of the bereavement group Compassionate Friends states the following: “We need not walk alone. We are The Compassionate Friends. We reach out to each other with love, with understanding, and with hope”.
These lines are the material my bridges are made of.
After 13 years since Adam’s passing, I realize how through loss I’ve crossed many bridges to connect to people.
With love, understanding and hope a bridge is crossed hopefully bringing comfort to someone in need.
I was never alone on this journey as Adam was with me every step of the way. The experience has transformed me, and I know Adam’s spirit has made me a better person. He does live on in my soul and in everyone who knew him. He was a true blessing beyond measure and led by example.
I wish there were less bridges to cross but if I need to do it again, I will not be alone.
Column and photo courtesy of Rick Jacobs
My mini-me, Elizabeth Raisa Fenton, or Lizzie, as she was affectionately called throughout her childhood, was diagnosed with Stage IV Colorectal Cancer in June of 2015, 6 months after her wedding. She fought valiantly for almost 6 years undergoing several major surgeries, countless rounds of chemotherapy, and radiation . She was a warrior through it all but sadly passed away on April 15, 2021 leaving many broken hearts behind. Throughout her journey Lizzie dealt with her own “grieving” of what was not to be in her life. I want to share a message she sent to a dear friend of hers to describe what she was experiencing. Little did I know what a prophet she would turn out to be finding a perfect way to describe grief.
Her family and friends miss her beyond words can ever convey.
– Marleen Fenton
My Daughter Robin
My beautiful daughter and best friend left us January 11 four years ago! I miss her very much, especially on special occasions.
So March 15 is her birthday! On that day in 1968 I was blessed to become her Mom! (Mommy)
We had a very special relationship as mom and best friends! I was so proud of her throughout her life. She was a wonderful mother, wife, sister, and friend to all that were lucky to know her. She was the Head of Education at a special needs school and that was her calling.
Although she suffered for five years with cancer, she was always strong and worried about her family, and especially me.
I was told about COPE and met other parents who lost a child! We had a wonderful, caring group and our amazing facilitator Marilyn! I am still friends with some of these women and am lucky to have them in my life too.
The pain doesn’t go away from the loss, but I have such a beautiful relationship with my grandkids who I love and adore. She would have been so proud of them. They are amazing!
Happy Birthday my dearest Robin, I love you and miss you so much.
From Sheila Frank
Joshua Quinn Faithfull
On March 26, 2017, Joshua Quinn Faithfull, my soul mate & beloved son had his life tragically cut short from a malignant transformation of his congenital Neurocutaneous Melanosis (NCM). Joshua’s entire life was fraught with painful challenges. From age 2 to 5 years old, he endured many complicated surgeries without complaint. At 16 years old, Josh had his entire large intestine surgically removed & then, underwent brain (shunt) surgery; weeks later, my son found out that he had developed a rare & incurable central nervous system cancer. Despite his intense pain, Josh was always the perfect blend of everything good and right in the world. He loved & accepted everyone unconditionally & brought friendship & light into their lives. Josh’s kindness, sense of humor, courage & wisdom never ceased to astound us. Joshua had aspirations of becoming a doctor.
When Josh asked people how they were doing, he always stopped & actually listened to the answer. He loved making people laugh & always wore a smile. Josh was a peacemaker & modeled for everyone around him, unconditional acceptance. Despite his excruciating pain, Joshua remained his best self. Even though, he had so much taken from him (including his physical independence and dignity), Josh continued to always put others before himself. Joshua was so many things to so many people: lifeguard, swim instructor, varsity badminton player, meditation enthusiast, dedicated student, professional level gamer, loving son, devoted grandson, nephew, cousin & loyal friend.
When Joshua was told that he was going to die, he never mentioned the fact that he would never get his driver’s license, attend prom, graduate from college, or get to experience any of the milestones of adulthood we all look forward to with excitement. With only a very short time between learning of his dire prognosis & his passing, Josh fearlessly reached out to everyone, to let us all know how much we meant to him & even expressed worry over how we would all be, knowing his passing would leave a trail of shattered hearts. In the midst of his own suffering, Josh assured us all that he would always remain by our side; he told us how grateful he was to have lived such “a great life” & thanked us for loving him so much. Josh achieved his life’s goal of leaving this Earth having given more than he took. He fit an entire lifetime into just 16 years and 10 months & managed to fill so many lives with inspiration, generosity, friendship & laughter. Josh’s love, patience, devotion & grace even in the face of death, are beyond comprehension. Thank you, Joshie for the gift of YOU. And, a very heartfelt thank you to COPE for all of the tireless support, kindness, empathy & generosity given to those of us who are bereft of the most precious people in our lives …
From Gabrielle Faithfull
A Special Text to Me
By Esther Bogin
Seven years ago on March 8th, 2015 my heart was ripped into fractured pieces by my son Heath’s passing. There are times since that moment the memories fill me with laughter. There are other times since that moment the memories fill me with darkness and tears.
Lately, I am feeling emptier than usual. I am feeling angry and cheated that my only son is not here for me to touch, hug, call, lean on, share the many special moments his family creates. And then there are the times I feel those special kisses from heaven – those signs. You know, the license plates, the songs, the time 8:04.
And yet, those signs just don’t seem enough. I want more. Why? I am feeling the crack in my heart is spreading and shattering into more pieces.
Then it happened. Today, of all days, I received a text that was just what I needed. It was the V-8 reminder that there is brightness in all this darkness. The text contained a poem written by an anonymous creator whose words seemed to give me the hugs I asked from my son, who I love with all my heart. That text arrived at the right time in the right way with the right touch: a reminder of the eternal love connecting this mother with her son.
Here is THE POEM
By poet “unknown”
As I sit in Heaven
And watch you every day,
I try and let you know with signs,
I never went away.
I hear you when you’re laughing
And I watch you as you sleep,
I even put my arms around you
To calm you as you weep.
I see you wish the days away,
Begging to have me home.
So, I try and send you signs,
So you know you’re not alone.
Don’t feel guilty that you have life,
Life that was denied to me.
Heaven is truly beautiful,
Just you wait and see!
So live your life,
Then I’ll know with each breath you take,
You’ll be taking one for me.
Editor’s Note: In Heaven I Sit by Hazel Birdsall
When I was 18 I preformed my first act as an adult and applied for my first credit card. Shortly after receiving my first credit card bill my mother taught me how to pay the bill, write a check and how to maintain the record of the payment. It was practical and necessary knowledge that my mother passed along to me. I reflect on how little instruction I was given about the things in life that mattered the most. How to be a good husband, how to resolve issues with friends and family, how to love and certainly nothing was said about how to cope with the loss of a loved one. It was all assumed that magically I would come to know what to do in every life situation. I do remember someone telling me don’t go to bed angry regarding marital disputes. It’s a nice concept until the problems return. Much more to marriage then going to bed happy.
With all of the important aspects in life that should have been discussed the topic of losing a loved one is what concerns me the most. Very often people hope if you don’t discuss a problem then maybe it will not arise. Or maybe it just makes them feel uncomfortable. Loss occurs and we will all grieve at some time. Would be meaningful if someone enlightened us on real life issues.
Nothing in life prepared me for the loss of my son Adam’s suicide that thoroughly devastated me. I was immediately enshrouded in a cloud of darkness and despair. How do I navigate these uncharted waters? How will I ever live a decent, happy life? I was clueless and worst of all emotionally paralyzed. My heart totally encased in grief. If only something could have prepared me for this unknown world.
Ironically it was Adam’s death that crushed me, but it was Adam that saved me. As soon as Adam passed I felt connected to him. He was in my heart and together we did whatever was possible to help others also grieving from his death.
Months later I had a realization that Adam would want me to have a happy life. I could hear him saying “Pops” I want you to be happy. Perhaps he was whispering in my ear. It was possible. I listened to his voice and became as proactive as I could to fulfill his wish. I also listened to the voice in my heart that so wanted to be released from a deep, profound depression.
I’ve come to realize that sometimes grief is overwhelming and causes emotional, psychological, and physical paralysis. When that happens shutting down is all that can be done. However, when conditions ease up I take Adam’s advice and embrace what is good and soul nourishing.
Although I was never instructed on how to cope with grief by my parents or in school, I was fortunate to discover something that helped me. My grief lesson came from Adam. “Be happy Pops” is the voice I hear and my guiding light. For the most part I’m living the life Adam wants for me, I believe it makes us both happy.
My precious Eddie.
8/19/78 – 12/11/18
Eddie was an angel, never being angry at anyone for anything. Hit by a car, at 12 years old, labeled special education in New York City. I became his strongest advocate, always pushing assertively for his needs. He had a seizure disorder, tremors in both hands, impulsivity, lack of judgement, Traumatic Brain Injury!
He wanted to be an anesthesiologist. While in elementary school, was an all American jock, gorgeous, 6ft 2 in, very popular in school, was an A student. After that accident, he became a D – F student, always struggling. However, he graduated with a regular diploma, thanks to my mom who studied with him so he could pass the RCT’s, which he did!
His final 16 years were in a nursing home, where we visited, took him out, and the whole staff loved him!!!
Missing my Eddie every single day, and this is why I’m on the path to become a special education teacher and help the many students who have special needs and advocate for them and their families!
Thank you for letting me share part of my Eddie’s story.
My Daughter Robin
My daughter Robin passed away January 11, 2018.
She is missed so much by everyone who knew her and whose life she touched,
She would be so proud of her two children who are both graduating this year.
Olivia from High School and Alec with an MBA in Business from Hofstra.
We miss her so much and we keep her memory alive each time we talk about her!
I am blessed to be close to them, and be a part of their lives .
– Sheila Frank
Alan Ross Jacobs: January 30, 1986 to January 10, 2015
Even though you were taken from us, you live on in my heart.
Memories of your too-short life fill my thoughts.
Pictures of you surround me.
You will always be my baby boy, and I will always yearn for your voice, the twinkle in your eyes, the sound of your guitar, your hugs.
Missing you has become as much a part of me as breathing.
That’s the price I must pay for loving you so dearly.
– Linda Comac
TRIBUTE TO ALEX
ALEX this would have been a special year
You would have been fifty years old
Alas, you are not here with us
But your story will always be told
We’ll never forget how you lived on earth
Many a person would always say
You forged ahead and with your disease
It didn’t get in the way
You traveled, loved your work, and always had many a friend
But most of all you inspired your mom
Our bond will never end.
– Andrea Hanan