Honoring Bereaved Parents Month

Thank you, Donna McGrew Anderson, administrator of the Facebook group TCF* - Loss to Suicide and fellow bereaved parent, for posting this in honor of Bereaved Parents Month. "Even as I rocked on my knees, howling, I detected soft breathing behind the roaring. I leaned in, listened. It was the murmuring of ten million mothers, backward and forward in time and right now, who had lost children. They were lifting me, holding me. They had woven a net of their broken hearts, and they were keeping me safe there. I realized that one day I would take my rightful place as a link in this web, and I would hold my sister-mothers when their children died. For now my only task was to grieve and be cradled in their love." excerpt from CARAVAN OF NO DESPAIR released by Sounds True. "Although this piece speaks of Mothers, it applies to all parents who have lost their children. They have an overwhelming need to hold another grieving parent. To hug them, sit with them in the darkness, to say you … [Read more...]

Turning grief into art

This past Saturday afternoon I read poetry about the death of my son and its aftermath at Beyond Baroque, a literary arts center in Venice California. Two women, Chanel Brenner, and Alexis Rhone Fancher, who also experienced the death of their sons joined me. We were pleased to read before a packed standing-room-only crowd. We each started our poetry reading with our views about writing as healing. Here's mine. How Writing Helped Me Heal by Madeline Sharples My son Paul died by suicide on September 23, 1999. He was twenty-seven years old. Poems just started coming out during a writing workshop shortly after his death. Poetry seemed to be the only way I could really express my emotions. Writing allows me put my pain on the page. Instead of carrying it with me every moment of the day and night, I found a place where I could have a little relief. There was so much I couldn't say out loud to anyone. And since there was so much anger and grief in me, I needed a place to put i … [Read more...]

You’re invited

On December 12 at 4 pm I'll be reading poems with two of my fellow poets, Chanel Brenner and Alexis Rhone Fancher. Our topic is Writing Healing Poetry  Turning Grief into Art.  Each of us write about the deaths of our sons. We'll be at Beyond Baroque, a literary arts center in Venice CA that offers public poetry readings, free workshops, and a bookstore. It's website states: "Beyond Baroque is one of the United States' leading independent Literary | Arts Centers and public spaces dedicated to expanding the public's knowledge of poetry, literature and art through cultural events and community interaction. Founded in 1968, Beyond Baroque is based out of the original City Hall building in Venice, California. The Center offers a diverse variety of literary and arts programming including readings, workshops, new music and education." This will not be my first time reading there. When I attended writing workshops with Jack Grapes, the last class in a series was always held at Beyond Bar … [Read more...]

Please join me in welcoming Eleanor Vincent back to Choices

It's wonderful to have Eleanor Vincent back on Choices on the last day of her WOW Women on Writing blog tour. I'm delighted to share about her memoir, Swimming with Maya: A Mother's Story with you. (See my review at Goodreads.) Eleanor's work hugely inspired me to write my memoir Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother's Memoir of Living with Her Son's Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide. Swimming with Maya had been released a few years before, and I felt if she can do it so can I as hard as writing about the death of a child is. As soon as we met in December 1999 I felt we were soul mates the deaths of our eldest children bound us together, and we have been friends and writing buddies ever since. Just last weekend my husband and I visited with her in northern California. It was such a treat to meet her two grandchildren for the first time. I wrote a blog piece about how we met earlier this year you can find it here. About Swimming With Maya; A Mother's S … [Read more...]

Forty-three years

My husband Bob and I are married forty-three years today. I'd say it is a miracle considering all the nay sayers at the time we said, "I do." My parents were openly hostile to our getting married since my husband was not our same religion. Don't I look a little up tight at the scene - a judges chamber? Since we had both been married before, we had a tiny wedding - about ten witnesses at the ceremony and for dinner at a local restaurant afterward. But that didn't matter to us. We were confident about what we were doing. And that has never changed even though we experienced the greatest loss any mother and father can have - the death of a child. Yet now we still can laugh out loud at all those folks who predicted our marriage would never last. I wrote the following poem after forty years. It's included in my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On.   Forty Years (now forty-three)   He folds her in his arms and looks down at her with his deep blue eyes and a small, … [Read more...]

Please welcome Eleanor Vincent, author of Swimming with Maya

I first met Eleanor Vincent, memoirist, essayist, and award winning author, in a writing workshop at Esalen in Big Sur California. It was in December 1999, four months after my son Paul took his life. While I was just getting my writing fingers moving again. Eleanor was already writing the first parts of her wonderful memoir, Swimming with Maya: A Mother's Story. We have been friends ever since. And I am so pleased that Swimming with Maya was just re-released in paperback and eBook by my publisher, Dream of Things, this past February. Join me in welcoming Eleanor Vincent to Choices as she discusses her life since Maya died, the writing of Swimming with Maya, her writing work now, and some of her favorite books, authors, and things to do on a Sunday afternoon. MS: You have experienced one of life's greatest tragedies. How can people who have experienced a personal tragedy find peace and meaning in daily life? EV: I think it's different for everyone, but in general the … [Read more...]

Thirteen years

Yesterday it was thirteen years since Paul died. I have a lot of trouble getting my arms around that. We've indeed moved on and learned to live without him, but that day when we found his dead body still seems like yesterday. I remember every detail. But, then, how could I forget? A last photo As usual, we went to the cemetery. Grass had grown over his gravestone, so we tore it away to have room to place the little smooth stones each of us brought. But yesterday it was so hot, and the sun so bright, I couldn't stay long. As has been happening with my sun allergy lately, my back began itching so badly I had to leave. I wrote this little piece yesterday at my writing group meeting. I decided to attend even though this was a day of remembrance. I find I do better with a place to go or something to do. It helps. But, then of course I wrote about Paul and visiting his gravesite. The prompt was: Heat We stood over Paul's gravestone this morning and left smooth black stones to … [Read more...]

Thoughts about Casey Anthony

Casey Anthony I didn't follow the trial. I hardly knew any details until the verdicts came in yesterday, so I can't and won't comment about whether I think she is innocent or guilty. Who am I to have an opinion about that? Besides that's been decided already. What I do know is that Casey Anthony ended up with a dead child. I know what that feels like because I also had a child who died. It is a parent's worst nightmare. What I've seen in the news since the verdict is not one bit of sympathy for Casey Anthony because of that. I find that curious and cruel. This woman has lost everything and probably herself as well. This woman hasn't even had a chance to grieve for this child. Isn't it about time we let her alone to do that? The media must stop trying cases outside the courtroom and get a little compassion. … [Read more...]

WOW blog tour stop No. 6

Today I'm the guest of Linda Neas and her blog: Words from the Heart Linda says, Words from the Heart are powerful. Words, when connected to Spirit, heal, bring hope, connect us to the world. Words nurture dreams into a reality. Words from the Heart bring Peace. And these are my sentiments exactly. Please read my post How to Survive the Death of A Child   at: http://contemplativeed.blogspot.com/2011/06/how-to-survive-death-of-child.html About Linda M. Rhinehart Neas, M.Ed: Member: National Writers' Union (NWU) Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) National Association of Multicultural Educators (NAME) Latest book: Gogo's Dream: Swaziland Discovered Please help the orphans of HIV/AIDS in Swaziland... All profits from book sales go to Possible Dreams International Also see my memoir featured on bookhashtags.com today! … [Read more...]

My Jazzman

A young man whom Paul roomed with on Suffolk Street in downtown Manhattan contacted me today. And though his email is most welcome, it made me think of My Jazzman even more. My jazzman beat it out on the mighty eighty-eights, played those riffs, tapped his feet bent his head down to the keys, felt those sounds on his fingertips. Yeah, he was a hot man on those eighty-eights. But all too soon his bag grew dark. He went down, deep down. My jazzman played the blues, lost that spark, closed the lid. And, yeah, you got it right, quit the scene. laid himself down in that bone yard for the big sleep. Yeah, for the really big sleep. … [Read more...]

Don’t go there. You don’t need to imagine it.

When people want to know the details about my son's death, I try to avoid specifics; not to protect myself, I already know all the gory details. No, I want to protect the asker, especially if he or she has children. I want to protect imaginations from going to a place where they have no reason or need to be. People can't help asking these questions. They feel their interest is comforting to me, but I find it more of a burden. The tables get turned, and I feel the need to comfort them. It's happened over and over. When they say they just can't imagine losing a child, let alone losing one the way I lost mine, I say, Don't go there. You don't need to imagine it. I love Anne Lamott's books. And she's a great public speaker as well. That's why I decided to use a quote from her book, Operating Instructions (Anchor Books, 1995), to start off my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On http://www.LuckyPress.com/madelinesharples.html. The death of a child is a parent's worst nightmare, and she put … [Read more...]

The Dreaded Question

This morning The Compassionate Friends, the wonderful organization that supports parents of children who have died, posed the question about what we say when asked how many children we have. That question is a tough one. Right after our son died I would get so emotional when that question came up that I almost couldn't respond. I would do anything to avoid the question so I wouldn't have to answer it. Saying I had a son who died just made it more real. Now, it's easier. I just tell it like it is. Here is the poem I wrote about that dreaded question about two years after he died. It happens again like so many times before. I'm at my sister's house, talking to her neighbor someone I've just met and she asks me the dreaded question one that I'm avoiding by talking about what a great day this has been in Portland and isn't my sister's garden just beautiful and what do you do for a living and where are you from. And there it is, after I've tossed the salad greens put … [Read more...]

September – the dreaded month

because it was the month that Paul died. Bob and I were listening to Paul's music last night, and Bob started to cry. It became so intense I had to ask him to turn the music off. Sometimes I can listen and sometimes not. Not is probably right for this month. I'll be posting more about Paul this month. I've been thinking about what he's missed -- mostly in technology toys. He was a computer geek as well as a composer and musician. I think he would have liked an iPhone. He probably would have been a champ at texting. Not like Dana Perry who called her son's death, "Boy Interrupted," I call Paul's death, "Life Interrupted." … [Read more...]

"Boy Interrupted"

Dana Perry produced a documentary called Boy Interrupted that appeared on HBO. I didn't see it from the start last night, but I saw enough over an hour to get the gist. Her son, Evan, was depressed from the time he was a small child and actually talked about death and suicide from the age of five. He became so disruptive at school he threatened to jump from the roof - that first he was hospitalized and then put into a special school for children with problems. There they finally diagnosed him as bipolar and put him on lithium, and he responded well to it. Eventually he returned to a mainstream school, made friends, and received top grades. He was well liked, very handsome, and had a lot of girlsfriends. However, by the time he was 15 he and his mother discussed his going off his medication, and with the advice of his doctor to go off gradually, he did. And as he did he became increasingly depressed again. His last night alive he was agitated, didn't want to do his homework and he … [Read more...]

September 23, 2008 — nine years!

So, you might ask, what did I do today? The answer is: I went to the gym as usual, but while I was there, I listened to some of Paul's favorite music -- Cat Stevens, the guy he loved when he was little, and John Lennon, the guy he wanted to emulate. I went to work, wearing a purple t-shirt, Paul's favorite color -- really it's better to go to work than be sad alone at home. And, then Bob and I went to the cemetery at noontime and each of us left a smooth stone on his grave marker -- now dim and old and it's hard to see all the lettering, and one of these days I'm going to have it replaced. Then we went to lunch and ironically the music playing in the restaurant was jazz -- John Coltrane playing sweet jazz on the piano -- somethig I usually avoid if I can because hearing jazz after Paul died was just too painful. And, then back to work, able to concentrate on nothing, and I'm home now. And, I'm sitting at my computer wondering what all this means and whatever I do to remember Paul, … [Read more...]


After Paul's death some people just left my life. And, I won't try to guess the reasons why. However, on the plus side, through these last nine years I've made some wonderful new friends and have become closer to those who remained. This poem, one of the first I wrote after Paul died, was published in "The Compassionate Friends" newsletter to accompany an article called, "I'm Not Contagious," written by one of my long-time Esalen buddies who really understands all the trappings of loss. Aftermath They came in droves at first out of concern, out of curiosity. They sent flowers, cards and sweet notes saying call anytime anytime at all. Now it is quiet. A few friends invite us out, or come by. The rest have moved on glad to have done their duty. Don't they know I'm not contagious? My son's death will not rub off. I'm the same person I was before. A sadder person, perhaps but needing my friends just the same. … [Read more...]