10 types of support The Shore Grief Center provides

 

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Participating at a Shore walk in 2014.

  1. First and foremost, we hold grief support groups each month for those grieving the death of a significant person in their life.
  2. Provide a group, Cameron’s Kids grief group, for children ages 6 – 12. This consists of six consecutive weeks with a meal provided before the group starts. We hold this once or twice each year – depending on the need.
  3. Provide a group just for teens (13-18). Save the Teens grief group is held for eight consecutive weeks. We have lots to teach the teens such as healthy ways to deal with their grief; not by using drugs or self-harm.
  4. Beyond the in-person groups, I answer calls from grieving adults, concerned friends and family, school counselors, mental health facilities and more requesting information about our services. Those grieving deserve, and receive, a soothing voice to help them through a confusing death (suicide, drug overdose or other expected death). There calls come in at all times during the day and night.
  5. We also provide comfort and information on our websites and Facebook pages (The Shore, Bereaved Parents, Save the Teens, and Wake Forest SOS). We are considering adding a closed Facebook group and are seeking volunteers to monitor the group.
  6. Provide support for those who have lost someone to suicide. This type of death slaps “survivors” in the face. Survivors are unclear why their loved ones choose to die. Just walking into a SOS group helps because you see there are other people who understand your pain and confusion. These groups helped me survive in 2005 when my 18-year old son choose death over life.
  7. Provide groups and support parents who have lost a child of any age. The death can be from drug overdose, murder, suicide, vehicle accident, illness – any type of death. The Bereaved Parents groups are here for them. We currently have groups in Wake Forest, Cary, Youngsville and Wilson for bereaved parents.
  8. Provide a sounding space for those grieving to express their fears, concerns, and even relief sometimes, after a death. We don’t judge or tell anyone how to feel or act. This allows bonds to form between group members who “get” how they’re feeling.
  9. Hold events where everyone can come together and relax and have a good time. Our next event (for anyone) is on 3/23. It’s our annual Comfort Food Cook Off. Click for additional details.
  10. Keep our main website, the Shore Grief Center, current with upcoming groups and events as well as helpful information and resources.

I hope this illustrates the depth and breadth of exactly what The Shore Grief Center does for those grieving.

Thanks for learning more.

Carolyn

http://carolynzahnow.com/

 

What’s included in running The Shore Grief Center?

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it came to my attention recently that maybe everyone doesn’t know the behind-the-scenes activities which makes The Shore Grief Center tick.

Ideally we would have a person to handle each of the following roles but as nonprofits run on donations, that’s not the case as we don’t have the funds. Each task gets done by myself currently. (P.S. I’m always hopeful I can reward myself with a small salary but that’s not always possible.)

 

  • Event planning
  • Marketing
  • Outreach
  • Grant writer
  • Volunteer coordinator
  • Bookkeeping
  • Social media
  • Training
  • Webmaster (3 websites)

I feel sure I missed a few roles but you get the picture. We do not have office space so we save at least $1,000/month there!

So the moral of this blog is – your donation to The Shore Grief Center is needed greatly! If not for the meager salary I receive for the many roles I handle, then for the following items which are vital to accomplish our mission:

  • Website – there’s the cost of keeping the web domains yearly plus other costs
  • Insurance – we must have!
  • Phone – I get phone calls at all times during the day and night. This is a vital link to those seeking help after a death.
  • Literature and other handouts for groups
  • Office supplies – gotta have ink to print handouts, etc.
  • Mileage – to events and getting to groups (Cary, Wilson, Raleigh, Wake Forest and Youngsville)
  • Arts and crafts supplies – for kids and teens groups. And new this year, we’re trying some mindful crafts at Bereaved Parent groups
  • Meals at children’s and teens groups – this helps the harried parents or caregivers.
  • Postage – for mailing out letters and outreach info
  • Advertising – mostly on Facebook, print is far too expensive
  • Fees related to taking online credit card donations
  • Salary for Executive Director

If you can volunteer your time at one or more of the roles I listed, that would be great! But please, please consider becoming a sustaining member by donating monthly to help us stay afloat. Here’s the link to donate online – either once or monthly. You can always help by mailing a check, too (info on our website).

In next blog, I’ll share everything The Shore does to help others.

Thanks for learning more about The Shore! And thank you volunteers who do help The Shore tick the best it can!

Carolyn Zahnow

Founder and (exhausted) Executive Director

New Book – “Beautiful Disasters”

I find myself with so much going on these days that I don’t know what to work on first or last. I’m not to the point of putting out fires – yet – but I feel it coming. I released by second book, “Beautiful Disasters – A Family’s Journey Through Teen Depression,” on June 20, 2017. It’s a follow up to my first book, “Save the Teens.” In “Beautiful Disasters,” I share a glimpse into the life of my small family during my son’s last three years of his life.

His natural (or birth) father died when Cameron was two months shy of his 15th birthday. This was pretty traumatic for him even if he wasn’t living with his dad at the time. He was there when his dad died on a March night in Washington, NC in 2002.

Anyway, most of you know the story but within “Beautiful Disasters” I share what occurred each school year. It also includes some of Cameron’s blogposts which are sometimes twisted and confusing. But drugs will do that to a brain.

I share the family fights, the groundings (sometimes we lost track of what Cameron was being grounded for already!) and the confusion of living with a teen who was depressed and who was abusing drugs to the point of self harm.

Pick up a copy of “Beautiful Disasters” and learn if your teen might be on a downward spiral like our son was. Books are on sale at www.carolynzahnow.com as well as Amazon (sign up for Smile Amazon and select The Shore Grief Center as your favorite nonprofit, that way you’ll be helping others who are grieving a death).

Thanks! And reviews online are always a plus. Shoot – I might even post a vlog one of these days!

Carolyn Z

Author, speaker

 

We are not funded by huge organizations

I tend to forget that a lot of people know very little about The Shore Grief Center so it’s time to to set some misbeliefs straight. We are a startup 501c3 nonprofit. We receive no government funding nor any from the supersized nonprofits which will readily take your donation when you are vulnerable after a loss.

This happens time and time again. I was one of those who raised a lot of money for such an organization after my son died from suicide. I wished I had donated that same amount of time and effort to the support groups which helped me survive this horrendous loss. Perhaps they didn’t ask for a donation. But now I know they could continue to help others if they received even small donations.

The Shore Grief Center’s facilitators are in the trenches with those grieving and helping them navigate the waters of lost dreams.  And yes, we can use your donations! We can expand to help even more people who do live in areas which offer no type of grief support.

So if you’re assisting someone who has experienced the death of a loved one and they have family and friends who wish to donate in their loved one’s memory, please consider donating to your local grief support group.

Donations for The Shore can be made here. We will use your donation wisely by being there, face-to-face, who those who are grieving.IMG_0314

Thank you and I’ll be writing more blogs to let you know how we help those grieving.

Carolyn Zahnow

Founder, Executive Director

Pet loss – let’s feel free to talk about it

I have always felt strongly about the connection between adolescent’s loss of a pet and depression or at least grief. So much so, I held a talk for the public about pet loss and grief. I hired a pet loss expert and then it was lightly attended. It could have been that it was a Saturday afternoon but I really think people are afraid to say, “I miss my pet!”

Yesterday I was invited to share pet loss information at a huge dog event. It was a strange speaking situation in that no one was sitting directly in front of me – or even on the side – it was outside. I did see one little girl listening intently so maybe I reached one person. I let her know that her feelings do matter and it’s normal and okay to miss your dog or cat when they die.

Today’s pets in the U.S. live as long as 20 years (some cats even longer!).  Anything, animal or human, that lives with you for a long time becomes part of you. Your routines are based on their needs. Your needs are based around their routines.

For example, my alarm clock goes off in the morning at 6:25 am. I know that Sheila (our cute little Sheltie mix) will be ready to go outside and then eat her breakfast.

It’s expected and I gladly do it for the happiness she brings me everyday. I’m rewarded when I get home at the end of the day with her little nose right there at the door waiting to welcome me home. She then jumps up on my legs, ready to provide a kiss if I need one.

Sheila is 11 years old and I am so fearful of the day that she can no longer be here for us. Or that we can no longer be here for her. See how it works?

She is showing her age by moving slower and not wanting to play for long. And she’s gained some gray hairs on her muzzle. But she’s still our girl.

The reason for my extreme attachment is that Sheila was at home the morning I found my son after he died by suicide.

That morning was quite chaotic but I seem to remember putting her in the guest bedroom downstairs after EMS and the police showed up. I don’t think she went upstairs when I was up there with Cameron. She was probably scared!

When I was asked to go to the hospital with my son that morning, I was worried about Sheila. I told the detective to be sure not to let her out. He promised he’d leave via the garage so she would be safe in the house.

She has been my comfort, as well as some humans, ever since.

There are two other pets I had that I still miss to this day. I had other cats and a couple of dogs but Albert and Canzas lived longer than the others so those are the ones that remain in my memory.

Albert was a beautiful black cat that had a penchant for fighting. His ears were gnarled up from fighting other cats. He came into my life, gosh I don’t remember how, but he grew up with Canzas. Canzas was an Irish Setter we acquired in Memphis and then moved to San Diego with us and later to Raleigh. Canzas was a bit daffy but sweet all the same.

Canzas was seven when he died. A vehicle on Highway 70 in Raleigh hit him. We lived on Ebenezer Church Road quite close to 70. We always just let him outside, which was the norm during those days.

One night a band member came over and I shooed Canzas outside since we lived in a small space. He didn’t come back that night. Our neighbor came over to give us the sad news. He even offered to bury our beloved pet for us in the woods which we accepted. Losing Canzas was as hard on my first husband as it was for me.

Albert met his demise while I was living in Five Points on New Road. Albert was an indoor/outdoor cat. He loved it that way. He was a frequent visitor of our next-door neighbors, an older couple who loved Albert, too.

When he didn’t come in one morning, I suspected he was at my neighbor’s house. But instead the neighbor came over and told me that a pack of wild dogs had killed Albert. In Raleigh – wild dogs! I couldn’t believe it. I took Albert, wrapped him a quilt and buried in my to-be-husband’s back yard. Albert was 11 years old at his death.

I have gone over my time here. I have provided resources for those affected by pet loss on The Shore Grief Center’s website. You can find it here – go to the bottom of the page to Pet Loss and Grief. Take time to heal after you lose a cherished pet. You have every right to grieve – don’t apologize for it.

Take care of your pets and yourself.

Please share with your friends, families and neighbors! Thanks.

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Sheila and Carolyn Sept 2014

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Albert

Carolyn Z

Two / nine years – celebration and remembrance

The Shore Grief Center officially turns 2 years old on August 10, 2014! This is cause for celebration for many reasons. The biggest is, if a business is going to fail, it’s within the first two years. We continue to grow and want to do more!

The nine years part; that’s the anniversary date of my son’s death which was on August 11, 2005. Yes, I know, how ironic that the Shore’s anniversary date and my son’s death are only one day apart. Cameron must have been looking down upon me that day saying, “Go for it Mom. Go out and help those who are struggling with a death or considering suicide. If anyone can do it, you can.”

I know in my heart that I have touched others and helped them along their grief journey. People share that with me often. I never considered myself a savior by any means; just someone who knows the hurt and confusion when someone you love dies, and unexpectedly.

My son experienced death too early in his life. His dad died when he was almost 15 years old. Cameron did not live with his dad during that period but he did when he was 6 years old until the 6th grade.

A bit of background info; I was left by my first husband, Cameron’s dad, to raise him on my own when Cameron was a mere three months old. This was quite shocking and unexpected. I lived in a fantasy world for a year thinking that my husband would come back and love us. That didn’t happen. I remember the phone call clearly to this day…”I don’t love you any more. I won’t be moving back.” My heart was ripped into pieces. 123952412_6d42c1429e_q

How was I was going to raise a baby by myself? Surely I must have done something wrong. I kept this secret that my husband no longer lived with us for a year. Only two of my closest friends knew the truth and they helped me along this new path which was laid out in front of me.

The path took shape; I went back to college to receive a BA degree in Communications at NCSU, met a wonderful man who loved me and my son, traveled to other countries, lived in beautiful houses – overall life was much improved.

Life changed again after my ex’s death though. Cameron’s grief turned into major depression and was fueled by teen angst, alcohol and meth addiction. Then his death by suicide. Yet another path was to be formed.

I left my heart and mind open so the powers greater than me would lead me where I could sort all this out. And I can happily say it has all culminated with the creation of The Shore Grief Center.

I hope we can help you one day in some way. We’re here for you and your family. Thank you for your continued care, love and support.

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Memorial Day – a day to remember the dead

IMG_5785Memorial Day hits me hardest for all the men and women who served military time in Vietnam – that is what I grew up with. We became numb to the number who died each day as shared on the national evening news. It seemed never ending.

I had an uncle, Don Voorhees, who died while waiting to board a plane for a trip home from Nam. Uncle Don was a Green Beret and quite a guy. His death saddened me. He left behind a wife and a son. I don’t remember much more. Later on his son suffered from mental illness and killed himself. Perhaps if his dad had not been killed, my cousin might have survived as well.

dog tags DC 2013

Dog tag Arlington Cemetery 2013

I just discovered this about my uncle: http://www.virtualwall.org/dv/VoorheesDL01a.htm

Peace to all who have died while in service during all the times our country has been in wars, scrimmages, protecting other countries’ freedom, and protecting us on our own soil.

Who are you remembering this Memorial Day?

Orbs at WWII Memorial, DC, 2013

Medical Examiners have it rough? It’s the families who do!

May 18, 2014

In today’s Raleigh newspaper, they have started a five-part series  entitled “Fatally Flawed” based on the Charlotte Observer’s investigation into North Carolina’s medical examiners. This is a topic of discussion in our survivors of suicide loss groups as well as law enforcement keeping items of the deceased for months, or years, on end.

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Example of Death Certificate

I’ve often wondered what would I go to bat for to make changes in our society. That’s it – how our bereaved are treated when a loved one dies by means other than a natural death. I read that the governor has proposed some changes as well as the DHHS secretary. I sure hope some changes are made.

Families who have lost someone via suicide, murder, and unexplained methods are already befuddled. Adding to their misery by taking months to complete an autopsy so a death certificate can be issued is ridiculous.

Fortunately we didn’t wait too long for my son’s autopsy report to arrive, or his death certificate. It was obvious how he died, but really only to me, as I was the one who found him.

Suicides are considered an active crime scene until all the pieces are glued together. I had to explain what I did when I found my son, where the rope was, etc. I don’t remember much of what was said but I do know the Flower Mound (TX) investigator who handled Cameron’s death was excellent in his demeanor. He did most of his investigating after EMS left and me with a police officer heading to the hospital.

Death certificates are so vital for the bereaved. Insurance policies are not paid until it is in hand. Once again I didn’t have much to deal with Cameron’s death due to his age (18).  There was no life insurance policy since your children are not supposed to die. I do remember needing his death certificate to transfer mileage from his American Airlines account to mine.  And to cancel his cell phone service without being changed a disconnect fee.

I can only imagine all the reasons why adults need death certificates when another adult dies.

I’ll be reading the weeklong series and see if any good directives come out of it. If they need someone to go talk to political officials, I know where I can find many as well as myself.

The grieving do not need extra grief!

 

Link to article about medical examiners and death certificates.

Do you have a story to share about the length of time it took you to receive a death certificate? Or items back from the police or sheriffs department? Share them here or via email Carolyn@theshoregriefcenter.org.

 

 

 

Death education – really – it’s good stuff!

IMG_2855I attended the Association for Death Education and Counseling (ADEC) conference recently in Baltimore (funny the last time I was in Baltimore was for a suicidology conference – yep I go to all the “fun” conferences!). This was my first foray into this group of helpful people who study and research the bereaved. Very friendly attendees!

I learned so much in my 2 1/2 days there. Some tidbits I gained:

  • Mindfulness is the hot topic this year – let’s all practice it on a daily basis. Be here, now, not in the past or future. But now.
  • Giving and expecting nothing in return (Robert Wicks)
  • To those worried about what to say to the bereaved, don’t be afraid that you’ll make us cry; we’re already crying anyway.
  • Pay attention to your emotions, “go where they want you to go.”
  • Complicated grief disorder – it’s real and violent death losses are predisposed to CGD.
  • College students and grief – faculty and staff see more grieving students than college counselors
  • Widowers want different types of groups. Such as gathering for an athletic or other social event.
  • PR – do one post per day on Facebook (I better get busy!). And include an image.
  • There’s a debate surrounding prescribing anti-depressants to the bereaved. They should not be used to treat life problems (such as grief).
  • And the best one – there are actual pet hospices in the country! YEA!  Our pets are getting the attention they deserve when it’s time for them to leave us.

Wonderful information and I’m happy to share it with you. Comments and questions are always welcome. Got any?

Carolyn Zahnow
Shore Grief Center

Suicide, Empathy and Prevention

May 3, 2014
(Written for Open to Hope)

sunset Tempe Beach AZMy story seems to be like too many others – son (or daughter) died by suicide. But then I forget that as a facilitator of a survivors of suicide loss support group, that I hear stories similar to mine while most of the public do not hear these stories. Or once people know my story and my willingness to help others, they share their stories with me.

Each and every story I hear is sad. But then so are the stories of the parents or children who die too young from cancer or heart disease. Yet suicide is more of a mystery to everyone. Over the years I have learned to normalize it, somewhat, for my support group attendees and others.

I remind them that happy people do not kill themselves. Our loved ones who made that final decision to end their lives, suffered from a depression we have a hard time fathoming. The dark tunnel they were consumed in made it too hard to live. So hard that death seemed a better choice.

Empathy can make more sense out of their choice. Try, if you’re brave enough, to imagine how they felt just before they pulled the trigger, stepped off the ledge with a rope around their neck, took too many pills washed down with alcohol, plunged a syringe full of heroin into their arm.

It’s terrifying I know. I did that. I mentally placed myself where my son stood before he stepped of the edge of the attic into the pull down stairs opening with a sisal rope tied around his neck. He must have been terrified yet he felt it was the correct choice.

I’m sorry to be graphic but sometimes it helps to understand the misery and the darkness of the depression. Yet we scream “why didn’t you ask for help?” I remember clearly after Cameron’s death, similar depression that he must have experienced.

I was so depressed from his death, I didn’t think about calling my therapist to help me out of my funk. I just muddled through for a day or two and it cleared up. What if I felt that way for weeks on end? I might start devising ways to end my misery.

Or what if your body was in so much pain, that you felt like a burden to others – years on end? Even though your loved one rarely complained about assisting you daily, you felt like you were sucking the life out of them. Suicide was a viable option, in your mind.

I’ve heard stories like these as well. So if you’re confused if you lost someone to suicide, try to imagine their pain and perhaps you will free yourself of any guilt you may be harboring because you didn’t “do enough.”

Even if you did know they suffered from depression, as I did with my son, you still can’t always stop someone from ending their life. The key, I believe, is to catch the depression before it takes over the mind. And before the person tries to dull their pain with drugs and alcohol.

Mixing a mental illness with alcohol and other substances is a disaster waiting to happen. It could be a car accident, violence against someone else, or even suicide.

If you’ve experienced the pain of losing someone to suicide, I know your pain. If you fear someone you love may want to make that decision, do everything in your power to help by getting them to a mental health professional on a regular basis. It has been proven that meds and talk therapy are the best course of action for depression and other mental health illnesses.

Two weeks are the key thing to remember when depression is suspected. If depression lasts longer than two weeks, seek help immediately. This could be true for you, your child, your parent, or your friend. Anyone.

To learn more about teen depression and my story, you can find my book “Save the Teens: Preventing Suicide, Depression and Addiction” on my website savetheteens.com or  Amazon.com.