Yesterday, I wrote about an inspirational evening celebrating the work of an amazing organization, The Doe Fund. I wrote about the men being helped by the program and even about the money raised to further the organization’s efforts. What I didn’t write about was my mom, who got up on the stage in front of more than 500 people and talked about my brother, Jonathan, who died ten years ago today of a heroin overdose. She talked about how a program like this might have helped him and how all the men in the program are now her “symbolic sons.”
My mother grieves my brother’s loss every second of every day. How could she not? How could anyone not grieve the loss of a loved one? I told my brother’s story in A Very Personal WARRIOR WEDNESDAY because it’s part of my grieving process. The process is never ending. There are the five stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. When you experience a loss, you go through these stages, but it certainly doesn’t mean the process ends. We continue to go through them forever, just in smaller bits and definitely much faster through the stages as time goes on, hopefully spending longer periods in the Acceptance stage. My mother will always grieve, as will I, as will you, if you have lost someone close to you. Today, on the anniversary of Jonathan’s death, I will go through the stages, more than once, because I need to, because I can’t stop it, because it helps me heal. Some people aren’t able to recognize or handle their grief in emotionally healthy and productive ways and that’s why there are places like Imagine in New Jersey. Imagine is a not for profit “center for coping with loss” and Totem Tamers had the incredible experience of seeing this facility firsthand.
This is a picture of the “Memory Tree” that had me on the verge of tears just trying to take the shot. There are “leaves” hanging from the tree with messages from children to their parents that have passed away, to siblings that are gone, wishing them love and missing them. It’s heartbreaking to see, but you can sense the healing in the act of hanging your “leaf.” Imagine is a year round support center where children and adults can learn coping skills so that they can lead “meaningful and productive lives” after suffering a loss. Imagine also trains adults and teens to use the skills they learn so they can help others, whether at the center or in their communities. While touring the center, I thought a lot about my father who passed away when I was pretty young, and I tried to think about how I grieved for him. I realize now that I acted out in unhealthy ways, and was depressed for many years because I wasn’t allowing myself to grieve and frankly because I didn’t know how to grieve. It dawned on me that my brother was likely experiencing the same reaction, but sadly it set him on a path that he was unable to recover from, which has me here, grieving for him now as well. Sets of Totem Tamers sit in the orientation room at Imagine, and there’s further healing in that for me and hopefully for everyone who comes through the center looking for help. Visit ImagineNJ.org to find out how you can help and for further resources if you or someone you know needs support.
To learn more about Totem Tamers or to donate Totem Sets to Imagine, please visit our site at www.totemtamers.com and mention Imagine in the Address 2 line of your order.