Sunday, May 29, 2011

Telling the Real Story...

Faceless by Naomi Labuscagne

I waited a long time to watch the film The Rabbit Hole. It was intentional. There was too much media frenzy around the film, and I wanted to allow that to settle, wanted to be clear and present with the film in an unadulterated way.

The film didn't really move me. I shed some tears but there was an emotional lacking for me, an inauthenticity in Kidman's character with which I simply could not relate. But of course. How could a Hollywood actor possibly capture a mother's grief? It reminds me of a myth I'd heard long ago about Michelangelo's Pieta; he was hesitant to sculpt Mary's face for fear he could not possibly carve, with requisite honesty, the pain of a grieving mother.

After the film, I contemplated the many movies I've watched since my induction into bereaved parenthood in 1994. Many depicted traumatic death, and some even child death. Yet, none of the Hollywood enactments resonated any degree of substantive authenticity.

So, what is my real story, one I've been hearing from other parents since starting this work in 1996- the one I wish Hollywood would tell- so the non-bereaved could really experience some of the more authentic aspects of grief many families report after the death of a child?

- I wish they would tell the story of how every single cell in our body hurts. Literally, it hurts from the tips of our toes to the ends of our hair. The pain is indescribably physical and merciless.

- I wish they would tell how difficult even basic bodily functions are: drinking becomes work as our throat is constantly tight and closes off to water, or food, or oxygen, or sustenance. Or how we are unable to carry groceries or the mail or the sadness in our arms as they ache with the phantom weight of our children. Or how we cannot breathe because of the concrete slabs on our chest, heavy and dense and gray. Or how our legs buckle and we cannot bear to see other children, especially the ones who are their age and with their names walking gleefully with their parents; parents who may or may not take a moment or two for granted but who will tuck them into bed tonight as we lay sobbing, our salty tears saturating the shag carpeting, in our dead child's room.

- I wish they would tell the story of early grief and how, on the rare occasion when we do sleep, we awaken in the morning, wishing we hadn't.

- I wish they would tell the story of how we look in the mirror at our unrecognizable self and wonder at the stranger we see. And how every relationship in our lives changes, even our conflicted relationship to the imposter-self. And how all the others- family, friends, colleagues- want us to be the person we were previously, but we know that person is irretrievably lost.

- I wish they would tell the story of how the primal mourning is most often done alone and that the supernatural sound of this mourning frightens us, like an wild animal being killed and eaten or like the flogging of human flesh or like the torturing of a prisoner or like Satan being cast from G*d's presence.

- I wish they would tell the story of grief's incessant state of craze: pacing the hallways late at night, the inability to focus, the intolerance of music, or laughing, or expressions of joy, sensitivity to lights and other benign stimuli, racing video tapes that replay in our heads as we wish-for-changed outcomes, the constant self-accusations of blame and responsibility, the unconscious roulette of risk with Death as our challenger.

- I wish they would tell the story of how we are terrorized by insidious ruminations of our other children dying, and we may over-protect to maintain illusory control or under-love to maintain illusory protection from recurrent grief. And how trauma stays in the body and, even if we have processed the acute agony, returns the minute we feel concern for one of our other children because there is something in us that reminds us of our vulnerability. This something whispers, "you are not exempt".

- I wish they would tell the story of the dark and ugly thoughts about other people and their happy and naive lives. Or how we become fierce imaginary protectors of children who are neglected, or unloved, or scolded, or abused by their "parents".

- I wish they would tell the story of how a mere turn of a corner in the grocery store that confronts us with baby food, or car magazines, or cereals can unhinge us to the point of utter helplessness and madness, frantically abandoning $200 worth of unpurchased frozen foods for an exit sign .

- I wish they would tell the story of how this brings us to our wounded knees. On the floor. Face in the dirt. How we may beg and plead for a different life, willing to do anything, anything to turn time back and go through another door. Or how we fantasize about time machines and contemplate self-institutionalization.

- I wish they would tell the story of a pain so deep and so wide that no word in the English language can begin to express it. That no subsequent child, no new job or house, no distraction- no pill- no drug - no joy- no self-induced suffering is sufficient to fill the chasm of the loss.

- I wish they would tell the story of how we pray, even in the absence of a belief in a Creator- we pray, that the suffering would end, by any means.

-I wish they would tell the story of how well-meaning others cause us to recoil with their platitudes, meant to comfort but coming from outside our hearts often do not, and mindless remarks about G*d's will and His garden, the one which needs tending, and something idiotic about making lemonade. And how others may treat us as if we are lepers, turn the other way when we walk in a room, pretend that our child did not exist.

-I wish they would tell how even religious people may have two lenses through which they view the world.  Yes, even if we have a belief in the afterlife and our spirituality eases some of the angst, it often doesn't ease all of it. For most of us, there is no "better place" for our child than our own arms.

- I wish they would tell the story of how life goes on, and we can feel content and happy again, but that everything has changed, and that we have died in a sense, and must choose to be reborn when we are ready. And that the things that help us along- when we are ready- are unique to us but that we need nonjudgmental support and unrushed compassion, as oxygen and nourishment, along the way.

- Mostly, I wish that they would tell the story of a bittersweet survival that does not include a fallacious or contrived "end" to the grief after a prescribed six months. This is not reality for most of us.

Tonight, I watched a movie called The Greatest for a second time. The first time I watched it, I found it to be one of the most sincere portrayals of parental grief and, though it still felt inadequate, I noticed that some memories unearthed during the second watching. Memories of the real story which had fallen victim to an ad hoc amnesiac state, but which were rapidly resurrected. These memories evoked powerful emotions tonight.

I wish that somehow they could tell the true story of the anguish of loss without a contrived happy ending into the sunset. Not that we, at some point, aren't capable of pure love and joy, in fact, sometimes more than we could have ever imagined. Having really "looked into the eyes of such sorrow" is the only way to such pure joy, as Gibran says. But there is no bypassing the tortures of child death, it's effects perennial and relentless for much longer than the unsuspecting world believes.

And there is so much more I wish they would tell.

I wish they would tell the story because I wish others knew. Certainly, if the others knew, they would have to be kinder, more compassionate, more loving to bereaved parents. Wouldn't they?

Wouldn't they? And wouldn't they appreciate, more fully, all they have, every moment?

Yet, I find even my own words fall woefully short of the real story.

As the Michelangelo-myth goes, some things cannot be expressed in sculpture or form or film or with words. The real story is one we can never truly tell.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Worldwide Rapture of Kindness Day!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Contact: Dr. Joanne Cacciatore Phone: 928.554.4394 Web:


Imagine this: You go to the cafe counter and discover your coffee has already been paid for by someone else. Instead of a receipt, the clerk hands you a MISS Foundation Kindness Card saying, "This random act of kindness was done in memory of our beautiful child Peter." How will you pass the kindness forward? How does this simple Kindness Project act change your day? July 27th of every year is the MISS Foundation's International Kindness Project Day, and you are invited to to participate with us. Free Kindness Cards are available when you send an SASE to the MISS Foundation’s office, and free PDF templates of cards for DIY printing will be posted online in English and Spanish from July 20 to July 27 to encourage people to commit acts of kindness all day on July 27th.

Dr. Joanne Cacciatore started the Kindness Project in 1996 as a way for families to cope with the tragedy of a child's death. Since then, more than one million kindnesses have been committed around the globe in memory of children and other loved ones, gone too soon.

One father anonymously pays for others’ meals in restaurants. A 14-year-old bereaved sibling does yard work anonymously for an elderly neighbor when she leaves for the day. A woman leaves flowers at random strangers’ doors in honor of her partner who died. A man who lost his wife in a car crash tells of how he leaves a $100 random tip in a restaurant every year on the anniversary of his wife’s death. A bereaved grandpa brings homebaked treats to a local nursing home in memory of his grandson. One mother who lost her nine-month old daughter in a tragic accident pays for others children’s birthday cakes, the ones who are the same age as her daughter, in her local bakery. Still, another bereaved mother, the “fast food bandit,” tells of how she buys meals for the people behind her in drive through restaurants. All these acts of kindness are accompanied by a Kindness Project card so that the recipient will know it was done in honor of a special person.

“Both the mourners and the recipients benefit in so many ways,” says Cacciatore. “Imagine a gift like this, to remind us how fleeting life is… I wonder how many of us would immediately call our child or our partner or our parent and tell them how much we love them if we got a card like this?” And in this way, “these loved ones live through our kindness to another.” Around the world, from the U.S. to Romania to New Zealand to Paraguay, mourners will unite on this one day to make a difference.

The site hosts an entire page of Kindness Project ideas if you need a little spark of inspiration, and the MISS Foundation wants to hear all your Kindness Project stories during this year's events. With permissions, stories will then be shared forward in our newsletters and on our Facebook pages to keep inspiring others worldwide throughout the year. For more information, please contact

# # # # #

Here is what you do:

JULY 20-27th, 2011 -


There are two types of Kindness Project cards that will be available:

1. "in memory of our beautiful child"
2. "in memory of"

That way, anyone can participate in memory of anyone!

Here's what you do:

1. Visit the MISS Foundation's website ( or our Kindness Project page (link at the bottom) between the dates of July 20-27, 2011.

Don't worry- if you RSVP here, we'll send a reminder and a link to the cards starting on the 20th of July!

-as an alternative, send a SASE and we'll send you several cards!

2. Start thinking about acts of kindness - especially anonymous ones as those are the most powerful - you can commit in your neighborhood and community!

3. Print your Kindness Project cards in English or Spanish.

4. Share this event with others!

5. Then- drum roll please- on July 27, 2011, go out into this world and help to change it memory of your beloved!

6. Finally, come back here and tell us your stories of secret kindnesses and human connection!

We hope everyone will join us in this amazing experience! Don't worry- you can commit a Kindness Project act that costs nothing (mow someone's yard, offer a homemade gift, bring cookies to a nursing home), only your time and devotion to another!

Or, you can have fun buying Starbucks for the person in line behind you... or you can leave flowers on a strangers' door... or you can buy someone's meal at a restaurant anonymously, or you can leave a $10 bill on the ground where someone can find it wrapped around a Kindness Project card... the list is endless!

Imagine this: All around the world, on this one day of the year, mourners will be transforming their grief into a powerful message of love, hope, peace, and kindness!
The MISS Foundation's Cacciatore started the Kindness Project in 1996 as a way for families to cope with the tragedy of a child's death. Since then, more than 1,000,000 kindnesses have been committed around the globe in memory of children, gone too soon. TO ACCESS PRESS RELEASE VISIT HERE:

We invite you to post your ideas and your miracles at the Kindness Project Facebook page below:


In memory of all those who died too soon, we remember and honor them!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Pink crocs

I awoke on Mother's Day at 4:00 a.m. to attend the Empty Strollers/Empty Shoes walk for the MISS Foundation. I wasn't feeling too well that day, but I didn't want to MISS this inaugural event.

The photos truly do speak for themselves. But what was the most astonishing for me was that, during a moment of solitude and silence, I looked around at the hundreds and hundreds of mothers and fathers and children and grandparents and aunts, uncles, cousins, friends- and I realized that this was hallowed ground.

On this day, we would set aside our political, social, economic, ethnic, regional, and spiritual differences. On this day, we would walk together in solidarity, in communion, from Arizona to Iowa to Romania, with one another. On this day, we would recognize our true self- the one of both suffering and mattering - in a stranger. On this day, we would reach out to comfort another.

On this day, families would bring their strollers and their shoes, children in absentia, though present in our hearts, and walk together to honor and remember. Thanks to hundreds and families and the efforts of a very special little girl, Kit Blouin, we would donate more than 620 pair of shoes to others who needed them as part of the Kindness Project. Together, our children would walk on in this world through our love for them. A love that is bigger and brighter and more enduring than others could imagine.

On this day, and perhaps each day, we realize that what we have in common as far more meaningful than any differences.

Because what we do share is the quintessential beauty of our existence and our identity: Love.


The soul still sings in the darkness telling of the beauty she found there; and daring us not to think that because she passed through such tortures of anguish, doubt, dread, and horror, as has been said, she ran any the more danger of being lost in the night. Nay, in the darkness did she, rather, find herself.

--St. John, Dark Night of the Soul

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