About Rebecca Carney - One Woman's Perspective

My name is Becky Carney. My husband, Joe, and I have been married for 42 years. We have two living children, Eric (39) and Jenna (34). We lost a baby in utero at 19 weeks in 1987. In 2002, our middle son, Jason (19), and his best friend, Alina (20), were broadsided by a drunk driver who was going at least twice the speed limit. They both died instantly. This blog is written from my perspective as a bereaved parent. I don't claim to know what it's like to walk in anyone else's shoes. Each situation is different; each person is different. Everyone handles grief differently. But if I can create any degree of understanding of what it's like to be a parent who has lost a child, then I have succeeded in my reason for writing this blog.

Everything I own

Sitting at work today, working away while Pandora plays on my computer, and a song comes on called “Everything I Own” by a group called Bread. There are times when words from a song just hit me right in the heart. Perhaps not all of the words fit, but sometimes it strikes a chord with the longing that I feel in my heart. This song is one of those.

 

Everything I Own

Lyrics (partial)

…And I would give anything I own,
I’d give up my life, my heart, my home
I would give everything I own,
Just to have you back again
Is there someone you know,
Your loving them so,
But taking them all for granted?
You may lose them one day
Someone takes them away,
And they don’t hear the words you long to say
I would give anything I own,
I’d give up my life, my heart, my home
I would give everything I own,
Just to have you back again
Just to touch you once again

 

Jason, oh, how I wish I could have you back again.

~Becky

© 2019 Rebecca R. Carney

Heaven

As a boy I thought of Heaven as a glorious golden city, with nobody in it but angels, and they were all strangers to me. When my little brother died, then I thought of Heaven as that great city, full of angels, with just one little fellow in it. Then my acquaintances began to die, and the number of my friends in Heaven grew larger. But, it was not until one of my own little ones was taken that I began to feel a personal interest in Heaven. Now so many friends and loved ones have gone there, that it seems I know more in Heaven than on earth. Now, when my thoughts turn to Heaven, it is not the gold walls I think of — but the loved ones there. It is not the place so much as the company that makes Heaven seem beautiful.

Author unknown

from Forever Remembered Compiled by Dan Zadra and Marcia Woodard, © 1997 by Compendium, Inc.

Once in a while, I cannot help but long for my heavenly home where Jason, our baby, my parents and grandparents, Alina and so many other friends and family have gone on before. I, too, no longer think of heaven in terms of its promised physical beauty, but in terms of the beautiful loved ones who are waiting there. I look forward to a day when our tears will be wiped away once and for all, where death and sorrow will be no more.

~Becky

© 2019 Rebecca R. Carney

We Remember Them

At the rising of the sun and its going down,

We remember them.

At the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter,

We remember them.

At the opening of the buds and in the rebirth of spring,

We remember them.

At the rustling of the leaves and in the beauty of autumn,

We remember them.

At the beginning of the year and when it ends,

We remember them.

As long as we live, they too will live.

They are a part of us,

We remember them.

~from Gates of Prayer, Judiasm Prayerbook

Jason David Carney

July 29, 1982 – March 3, 2002

My precious boy, I will never forget you. I love you.

~Mom

© 2019 Rebecca R. Carney

Sit with me and be my friend

I was sitting, torn by grief. Someone came and talked to me of God’s dealings, of why it happened, of why my loved one had died, of hope beyond the grave. He talked constantly. He said things I knew were true. I was unmoved, except to wish he’d go away. He finally did.

Another came and sat beside me. He didn’t talk. He didn’t ask me leading questions. He just sat beside me for an hour or more, listening when I said something, answered briefly, prayed simply, left. I was moved. I was comforted. I hated to see him go.

~Joe Bayly

from Forever Remembered Compiled by Dan Zadra and Marcia Woodard, © 1997 by Compendium, Inc.

No longer the same

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I look at this picture of me with my precious boy, and I see a woman so happy she can barely contain her joy. Happy, open. I know that it’s me, but it’s the “before” me. The “after” me no longer looks like this. I smile, I laugh, but not like I used to. And I no longer look like this. I don’t even know who she is any more, that “before” person. The journey I have been on shows on my face and in my eyes. I no longer beam when I smile. My eyes reflect a sadness that runs deep and never goes away.

I miss you, my precious boy, today and every day.

© 2019 Rebecca R. Carney

Book Review: the truth about grief by Ruth Davis Konigsberg

I am in the process of researching and writing a series of blog articles. In my research, I read the truth about grief: The Myth of Its Five Stages and the New Science of Loss by Ruth Davis Konigsberg.

Since my current research is on the five stages posited by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in her book On Death and Dying and the continued impact the “stages” theory has on grievers, I have tried to approach all readings with an open mind. I feel like I did so with this book, too.

Early on my reading, I found myself questioning the negative and sarcastic (sometimes even snarky) attitude demonstrated through the entire book. She slams counselors and others in the “death industry” as money-grabbers trying to make a buck off of people who have lost someone they loved. After giving a list of books, periodicals, grief centers, grief counselors, funeral homes and others who she seems to deem profiting off a focus on death, she writes:

Even if the movement has enriched a few individuals, it is driven more by ideology than money. Grief counselors are, by and large, not a sinister bunch out to make a buck off of other people’s misery, but they do, in the interest of self-preservation, have a stake in convincing us the grief is long, hard, and requires their help (p. 39).

In her chapter entitled “The Grief Counseling Industry,” the author starts with an absurd illustration of grief counselors debating what to do about tissues, whether handing a tissue to to a client who starts to cry will “interrupt their emotions (p. 105).”

“I’ve seen instances where when you hand people a tissue and they’re really in the flow of something that it just stops them…If you’re offering them tissues, then you’re telling them to stop crying that it’s too messy”…Finally, a solution was reached: Don’t move the tissue box next to the client but keep it visible and within their grasp at all times.

What wasn’t being debated, but probably should have been, is whether counseling people through their grief actually works (p. 106).

She goes on later in the chapter to discredit counselors and authors in the field of grief counseling, including Alan Wofelt, Therese Rando, Ann Finkbeiner and others, as if experiencing loss should preempt one from wanting to help others, writing a book on grief or becoming a grief counselor.

Having loss in one’s background could certainly be an asset to a grief counselor, but it also inevitably colors one’s interpretations and recommendations. Not only have many grief counselors experienced traumatic loss but so has almost every prominent grief expert out there…Almost every person who has written a book on grief has experienced the sudden, unexpected, and often violent death of a loved one, so that extraordinarily difficult circumstances have formed the filter through which we have come to understand loss in general…The lack of neutrality among grief professionals wouldn’t necessarily be an insurmountable problem if it were routinely acknowledged and specifically warned against…(p. 120-122).

As I have stated previously, I have found people who have actually walked the walk of this grief journey usually have more insight and helpful things to say than those who don’t. There is only so much insight one can have viewing from the outside.

In her chapter, “The Grief Disease and Resilience,” the author (a strong proponent of George Bonanno’s resilience theory and Holly Prigerson’s efforts in changing “acceptable” length of bereavement in the DSM from two months to two weeks) then takes on the topic of complicated grief.

As practitioners began to speculate about the causes of complicated grief, they focused on the specific details surrounding the death itself…This approach gave rise to several stereotypes. For example, you have probably heard that the death of a child is the hardest loss that one can experience…This certainly sounds true and makes intuitive sense, in that no parent expects to see his or her offspring, for whom their love is almost limitless, die before they do…But [psychology professor] Stanley Murrell…pointed out that as painful as losing a child is, one at least has a spouse to lean on (p. 132-135).

The last statement of this quote, in particular, shows just how little the author truly understands about how the death of a child affects the bereaved parents. As I stated in my article entitled “Marriage following the death of a child,” it is nearly impossible for spouses to comfort and support each other when they are both experiencing an equal grief.

I cannot recommend this book under any circumstances. Although it contains some legitimate history and criticisms of the “stages” model of grieving, there is not enough good information in this book to make it worthwhile reading.

~Becky

© 2019 Rebecca R. Carney

The Truth About Grief: The Myth of Its Five Stages and the New Science of Loss by Ruth Davis Konigsberg. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 2011. 258 pp.

From the publisher: Ruth Davis Konigsberg first heard about Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s five stages in a high school psychology class. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, she began a career in magazine journalism and worked as an editor for New York and Glamour. She has written for numerous publications, often about psychology. Konigsberg lives in Pelham, New York, with her husband and their two children.

For another review on this book (I read this review after formulating my own), please read: Balk DE. Ruth Konigsberg’s Demythologizing Project. Death Studies. 2011;35(7):673-678. doi:10.1080/07481187.2011.579509.

 

 

God’s plans

My sister is retiring at the end of this month after 35 years with the same company. It was not necessarily a planned retirement on her part. The company needed to tighten its budget and offered a retirement incentive package to a bunch of employees who were over the age of 55. If not enough people took the company up on its offer, there would then be mandatory layoffs with a less-beneficial financial farewell. So, she took them up on their offer.

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As she was cleaning some things out of her office this week, she ran across the gift bag she had stored at work. She took it as a sign from God and posted this on Facebook: “I was cleaning out my credenza drawer this week and came across this gift bag. I nearly fell over! This verse has come up in so many unusual ways this past couple months. I do believe that God is saying something powerful and personal to me.”

The whole verse in full reads:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

I see this verse come up once in a while on Facebook and different places, usually posted or quoted when someone is facing a change or uncertainty. It gives them hope in uncertain times. My reaction now is always a bit different than that.

You see, I “gifted” this verse to Jason when he was in high school. I bought a nice picture frame. I typed and printed this verse – typed with a fancy font and printed on fancy paper – and put it in the special frame I had purchased. I gave this gift to Jason as a reminder that his future was in God’s hands and that we believed – as we had from the minute he was born – that God had a special plan for his life. Jason put it on the table right beside his bed, and it was still sitting there the night he died.

So, whenever I see this verse, my quandary since the night Jason died has been: Why didn’t God hear my prayers for Jason’s future, for his protection? My hope, my expectations for Jason and his future are gone. I believed this verse from the bottom of my heart – that God had big plans for Jason, that He would prosper Jason, that God would keep him from harm, that God had future plans for Jason, big plans. We were excited to see what Jason’s future held.

Jason’s future is no more. It ended on March 3rd, 2002 when he was 19 years old. Why didn’t God protect him? Why did Jason’s “plans” end on that night?

I don’t have an answer to these question, even after all this time. I still struggle with my faith. I wish I didn’t, but I do. So many questions. More questions than answers. I wish I believed as strongly and firmly and blindly as I used to. I wish I still strongly believed that God had plans for us, plans to prosper us and not to harm us, plans to give us a hope and future. I’m glad people find hope for the future in verses like this. I wish I still did. But my faith was sorely tested by Jason’s death, and sometimes I just don’t know what to do about that, how to “fix” it. I’m trying, but I’m not there yet.

I miss you, Jason, and love you with my whole heart.

~Becky

© 2019 Rebecca R. Carney