Scholarship Winner To TCF Conference Announced!

We are pleased to announce that Jean Puglia from Fairfield, CT has submitted the winning essay  and will be joining hundreds of bereaved parents, grandparents and siblings July 5-7th in Boston, MA for a weekend of hope and education.  We thank everyone who sent in an essay.  Jean shared her story of  faith, grief and her son Derick in her heartfelt essay below.  I have met Jean and she is a kind and caring soul.  She also is on the steering committee of her local Compassionate Friends Chapter.  I am honored to be able to share this part of my journey with Jean and am very confident that she will use the knowledge from the conference to enrich the lives of other bereaved parents, grandparents and siblings.  You can visit Derick’s Memorial Website to read about his life which was cut short at the young age of 23 in 2008.

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My Journey of Faith through Grief

By Jean Springer-Puglia

In Loving Honor of Derick James Springer

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Let me begin by saying that my Faith Journey and my grief journey though they are intertwined, started and evolved at different times. I found my faith at a young age when I was still just a child. I feel blessed that my parents gave me a foundation from which I could choose to believe in or not believe in. After all, God gave us free will to choose as well. And we are all blessed to live in a wonderful country that gives us the freedom to practice our individual religions and styles of worship. So as I stated I found my faith and chose to be baptized as a Christian when I was 14 years old. My Faith Journey drifted in and out through my teenage and young adult years, but thankfully my God was always faithful. I wished I had been more faith centered when my boys were growing up, but I did give them a foundation. Both of my son’s believe in God the trinity and in eternal life. So it is in Gods hands now.

My Grief Journey began the day before Mothers Day 2008 at seven o’clock in the morning. I was twelve hundred miles from home visiting with my brother and parents; we were there under the rouse of celebrating my father’s birthday and Mother’s Day when our real purpose was to scope out places to hold a reception for my parent surprise fiftieth wedding anniversary. I was sleeping in the guest room and the phone rang next to the bed and I picked it up because I recognized the caller ID as my home phone. I’m not quite sure but I think my Dad must have picked the phone up at the same time. I vagly remember his voice say “Aww no, no. no when my husband who was on the other end began crying into the phone “He’s gone…I’m so, so sorry…Derick is gone” “he is dead; our boy was killed in a car crash this morning”. I know I screamed something on the phone before dropping the receiver all together; the next several hours, days, weeks and months I only remember pieces of each day.

I do remember sitting in the middle of the floor and crying out to God “take me too, please take me too” I must have sat there doing that for quite some time as my brother and parents ran around the house arranging a flight back home, packing and getting their dog to the kennel. And I remember calling my dearest friend in the world telling her that my son was killed and that yes please come to be with me. This friend lived 3,000 miles away and she was there at my house the very next day. Later she told me she had are hard time understanding me through my sobbing but what she remembered the most was the “blood curdling scream” which I don’t remember at all. Over the next several days, weeks, and months in the first year after losing my beautiful son Derick I really clung to my God for what ever peace I could find and was grateful that He gives us this internal “Shock” mechanism in that first year as I don’t think anyone could survive the full impact of losing a child all at once. We would certainly die too without it. But never the less it is as all grieving parent know completely chattering and more painful than anyone can imagine. I remember one particular day early on in my grief I lay in my son’s bed losing complete control with physically painful, stomach grinding, chest pounding sobs for what felt like hours. I was alone that day and I just couldn’t stop. I actually thought I would die from this uncontrollable grieving. Then I just said “Oh God please help me, I will never understand why, but please give me peace” and in that next moment He did. I felt completely embraced in warmth and comfort, the peace I needed to stop the physical pain and crying.

Then came the second year, after going through all of the firsts (holidays, birthdays ect…) and the shock of what happened had worn away I found myself left with this black hole of emptiness and pain. Full of questions, so full of doubts, and anger. Yes lots of anger. I had so much to be angry about it seemed. By then not only was I robbed of my son, but my Father’s health had begun to deteriorate. I couldn’t understand why God took my health son so quickly and was allowing my Dad to suffer so long. I couldn’t understand why God who proved himself to me over and over on a personal level, by physically saving my life on one occasion and physically healing me on another did not do the same for my son. Now both my grief journey and my faith journey where on a roller coaster for the next several years. I stopped going to church and I stopped praying too. Not because I don’t think God listens but because I didn’t want to talk to God. For that matter I also withdrew from people too.

Fortunately, The Compassionate Friends helped fill some of this void, bringing new people into my life that also had similar belief systems that were going through some of the same things. All of us are struggling with the loss of a child and struggling with faith too. Through them I began to realize that I was hurting myself and not allowing for Gods peace. Eventually when my Dad passed away 3 years later I felt a shift in my grief process and I yearning to turn back to my faith again. I am so glad that even though I am not faithful, my God is. And once I let go of my anger it was then that I began to know that my son is still near me.

Up Until I was able to find my faith again, the people at The Compassionate Friends had become my only resource for help. I still struggle in the day to day living of life though as I am only human. I still feel very isolated to this day as it seems to be taboo for anyone to talk about Derick. So I have learned to wear a mask even around my own husband and surviving son. They have no clue of my anguish, of the dark pit I constantly try to avoid falling into again and again. My husband works late hours every week and therefore can’t come with me when I go to the meetings and I think that is part of our problem. Even though I know he loves Derick and misses him too he is Derick’s Step Dad so I feel like he is once removed from this deep grip of grief. Maybe I’m wrong, I don’t know, we don’t talk about it. It is my hope that through the help of The Tony Brown Foundation and this scholarship to attend this years National TCF convention will help change some of the barriers between us. Help me to learn ways of coping without isolating. Give me the power to feel free to talk about my beautiful son. The Compassionate Friends and the people I’ve met have been a blessing and a God send. Because of God and other parents like me I know I need not walk alone.

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