All Articles Tagged "Grieving"

Children’s Grief Awareness Day: 10 Things Grieving Children Want You To Know

November 19th, 2015 - By Kweli Wright
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One in 20 children will lose a parent by the age of 18. Most Americans will experience the death of someone close to them before graduating high school.

Death is a part of life, and loss is difficult for everyone, but children and teens grieve differently than adults. When a child’s grief goes unnoticed or isn’t properly addressed, the hurt can last a lifetime. Data indicates that without support, grieving children are at a much greater risk for depression, suicide, poverty and substance abuse.

“As a society we tend to overlook how grief affects children, despite the tremendous impact it can have on their lives,” said Mary FitzGerald, CEO of The Moyer Foundation. “But when we can provide the support children need, it’s truly amazing to watch them start to heal and learn to hope again.

The Moyer Foundation’s Camp Erin® Program is the nation’s largest network of free bereavement camps for kids, serving more than 3,000 children and teens annually in 46 locations.

Observed this year on Thursday, Nov. 19, Children’s Grief Awareness Day was established to draw attention to the unique needs and perspective of grieving children. Grief support organizations and families across the country mark the day each year as a way to remember loved ones and to raise awareness.

“We have been focused on leading a national discussion about childhood bereavement since 2008,” said Heather Nesle, president of the New York Life Foundation, a primary supporter of The Moyer Foundation. “We have made great progress, but this issue needs more attention, and we need to reach moregrieving children across the country.”

For those who have a grieving child in their life, here are a few insights into what they might be thinking and feeling, and how you can help, courtesy of The National Alliance for Grieving Children.

1 – I want to be told the truth.

Tell grieving children the truth, keeping in mind the child’s age and maturity level and the circumstances surrounding the death.

2 – I want to know that there will always be someone to take care of me.

Grieving children spend a lot of time worrying about another person in their life who might die. To help alleviate this fear, it’s important to reassure them that there will always be someone in their life who will take care of them.

3 –My grief is long lasting.

Children will grieve the person who died for the rest of their life – they don’t “just get over it.” As a result, they will often be bewildered when other people in their life have seemed to move on.

4 – I often cope with grief and loss through play.

Typically, children cannot sustain prolonged grief, so they use play as a way to cope with and to take a break.

5 – I will always miss the person who died.

Love doesn’t die – grieving children will miss the person they lost for as long as they live.

6 – I probably want to share my story and talk about the person who died.

Telling their story often helps a child heal. Grieving children don’t want to forget the person who died. They also worry that others will forget their person, so it’s important to share memories about the person who died.

7 – I might grieve differently from other kids.

Some children might be more expressive with their grief; some might keep it all in. Even siblings grieve differently, and it is important to honor each child’s story, even if it differs from their sibling’s.

8 – I probably feel guilty.

Grieving children will often feel pangs of guilt, even if it is not justified and has no basis in reality.

9 – If I’m acting out, I’m probably feeling intense emotions of grief.

Grieving children frequently feel sad, angry, confused, or scared. Because they might not know how to express these emotions, they often end up acting out instead.

10 – If you’re not sure what I want or what I’m feeling, just ask me!

When in doubt, ask a grieving child how you can help. They want to talk about the person who died, or maybe not. They may want to write about their grief or do some other activity to express their feelings.

Learn More: Get educated about how grief impacts children and teens, and what you can do to help, starting with the following links:

Moyer Foundation:

New York Life Foundation – A Child in Grief:

National Alliance for Grieving Children:

Pop Mom Daily: Mom of Late Actress Michelle Thomas On Grieving The Loss Of A Child

October 26th, 2015 - By Erickka Sy Savane
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penwah 1

I first met Penwah at Thanksgiving. A mutual friend invited me and my family to her Jersey home. I remember her place being freezing cold, even though the fireplace was burning, thank God the food was delicious and she was the warmest person ever. She talked about hosting her own cooking show and I could totally see that happening. She can throw down in the kitchen and has personality to burn.

Resting over the fireplace I saw a picture of actress Michelle Thomas, known mostly for her role as Theo Huxtable’s girlfriend on The Cosby Show (she also dated Malcolm in real life), and a reoccurring role on the hit show Family Matters. I remember how gorgeous Michelle was with her mega-watt smile that would light up the TV screen. What I didn’t know was that she was an accomplished singer who was actually in the studio when the unthinkable occurred, she was stricken with cancer and passed away short after. Who knows, with her pedigree, maybe she would have followed in the footsteps of her father, Dennis Thomas, an original member of the legendary R&B group Kool and the Gang.

Last month I learned September 23rd was Michelle’s birthday when Penwah shared a collage of photos on her Facebook page. She’s been gone 17 years. Wow. Where did the time go? The pictures brought to life so many questions that I had always had like, How exactly did she die? and being a mother myself, I wanted to know how a mom survives such a devastating loss.

I reached out to Penwah recently and she was gracious enough to speak to me about her late daughter and grieving the loss of a child.

penwah and michelle thomas

Penwah and Michelle arrive at an event.


Tell us about your daughter, Michelle. 

Penwah: They found a rare cancer in my daughter called desmoplastic small round, which at the time had only been found in adolescent Caucasian boys. They diagnosed her in November 1998 and she was gone that Christmas eve. She had just turned 30. My daughter was a vegan, so they’d give her a sedation that was supposed to put her out for 20 minutes and she’d be asleep for four days. Her body couldn’t take it.

What impact did her passing have on your life?

Penwah: Everything I experienced from my childhood – the death of my friends, the people who went to Vietnam, the drive-bys – prepared me for Michelle moving on.  Once I realized that the world wasn’t so horrible and the universe wasn’t against me, because you go through that, I thanked God for helping to build a thicker skin and a spiritual consciousness. I became gracious. Michelle’s not dead we just can’t see her. Her spirit is so alive.

michelle thomas 2


Is that how you got over it?

Penwah: You never get over it. She was my best friend, my buddy, my confidant. People would say, “Five years from now it’ll be okay,” that’s not true. You gotta go through it, and unless it happens to you, you won’t have the capacity to understand. There’s no handbook. But I can always tell a mother who has buried her child. It’s something that you just know.

What would you tell someone else about the grieving process?

Penwah: No one can tell you how to grieve. I still keep some of her outfits in the closet, some folded t-shirts in the dresser, and a pair of her shoes in the hallway. It gives me comfort.

Can you look forward to any peace or joy after losing a child?

Penwah: Absolutely, when I talk about this I get emotional because I am overwhelmed that God loved me enough to entrust me with such an angel. I had her when I was a tween. My father had arranged for me to have an abortion and I couldn’t do it. I only get sad when I forget that Michelle was God’s child, and I was only babysitting. She went back to him.

What do you get asked the most about your daughter’s passing?

Penwah: People don’t ask me sh*t. I wish they would. They don’t know what to say. It’s almost like a disease that people think they’re going to catch. Or sometimes, because Michelle was a public figure and people feel like they know her, I’ll get someone come up to me and ask how she’s doing lately because they haven’t seen her in a long time.  

Do you keep in touch with any of her friends?

Penwah: Yes, Donna, Lisa, Leigh, who were her friends outside of the business, a few who are in the business, and Malcolm [Jamal Warner]. He just called recently to check on me. I don’t speak to him all the time, but when we talk we pick right back up where we left off. I’ve also built relationships with a couple of her friends she went to school with on Facebook.

What are you doing today?

Penwah: I’m an artist. This is what I do! I write, act, sing and do comedy. Some people who don’t know me have tried to act like I’m exploiting my daughter’s success to get work, but it’s not true. I was one of the kids in “Porgy and Bess,” I was in “Hair” with Donna Summer. I’m classically trained; I have been doing this a long, long time. I trained Michelle. Everyday I work on my craft. I coach, I mentor young actors and I groom and encourage them.

I just co-produced, single-handedly cast and acted in a film for a brilliant screenwriter that I’m so excited about called Steps . It’s a healing film that you can bring your whole family to. It’s the type of movie I stand for as an artist, a mother and human being. We have a responsibility to groom our youth. These girls wanna show their vaginas before they even know what it is. Michelle respected herself. God has left me here for a reason and it’s to help pave the road.

Though it would take a book to adequately capture all the fascinating nuances of Pehwah’s life, I wanna thank her for sharing part of her journey here with us. May Michelle rest in peace.

To learn more about click here Penwah.

Erickka Sy Savané is a freelance writer and creator of THE BREW, a left-leaning social commentary blog. Check out her daily column, Pop Mom Daily, right here on Madamenoire. Before Erickka began writing she was a model/actress/MTV VJ. She lives with her husband and two daughters in Jersey City. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Let The Dead Lie: It’s Not Our Place To Make Assumptions About How Someone Lived or Died

June 18th, 2012 - By Brande Victorian
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When I was looking at Madame Noire over the weekend, I was shocked to see the news that Erica Kennedy had passed away. I instantly recognized her gorgeous face and was hit with memories of blog posts I’d read of hers, and like most people, instinctively wondered, what happened? I tend to get sort of obsessed with death in a weird way, as though I have to read every possible article I can to soak up whatever last bit of knowledge I can of the deceased, and with Erica I was no different, searching the Internet for cues to a question no one had explicitly answered: what happened.

I began to piece together news from some sources, drawing conclusions about what being “found” dead in her apartment meant, with anecdotal stories like those from her friend, Bassey, who writes openly about her bout with mental illness. When it came to Erica, she wrote in a strikingly open post, “I would come to learn that Erica and I had far more in common tha[n] I would have liked. I’m not here to tell her story because she was fiercely guarded and private,” and later adds that Erica recommended alternative medications for her. The inference that Erica may have succumb to a mental illness of her own and consequently taken her own life was there, but it’s a liberty one has to be careful in taking when speaking on things or people which they do not know.

It’s funny because I’d instantly thought about writing an article along the lines of, you never know what a person is going through, but I stopped because I knew I was being assumptive and no matter what I had pieced together from the blogosphere, I still didn’t really know what Erica had been through or what the circumstances of her death were and I realized I needed to leave that alone. Interestingly, on Essence, the magazines’s executive editor has connected the dots in the same way I had in my mind but didn’t dare relate as fact, writing:

“As of this writing, no official cause of death had been released, although the word on social media seemed to link it to her depression. I don’t know if Erica sought help, but if the buzz is confirmed, I do know this: We as Black women have to stop holding it in and start letting it out. Tell somebody. Find somebody to listen. Don’t be afraid. We have to stop pretending everything is okay, like Superwomen on steroids, and start admitting that we can get vulnerable. And sad. And low. And that’s okay.”

The article uses an understandable news hook to speak to a much larger issue black women are dealing with, but as remarks in the comment section show, the message has been lost on the assumptive nature of the prose. Meanwhile on XO Jane, commenters are responding to Bassey’s article, almost demanding that those closest to Erica expose the mental illness the court of public opinion now believes she has, insinuating that keeping her battle private only adds to the stigma of mental illness in our community. While I do agree with that sentiment in a lot of ways, Erica’s battle with depression or whatever other condition she may have had is no one else’s business to out.

When you think about Erica being a writer and the amount of personal information she’d disclosed in her 42 years on this earth, I think it’s safe to say that if she wanted the world to know about her struggles, she would have shared it with us, much like her feminist ideals. I think it’s also a bit naive on people’s parts to not realize that a lot of the stigma surrounding depression and suicide comes from observers who have no idea what it’s like to live that life. Many see suicide as a selfish decision, or even a weak one, and depression as a dramatic mood swing when it is so much more. While there could be a lesson in her life and death if she were known to suffer from any of these conditions, she had and still does not have any responsibility to be that symbol, no more than a homosexual has to come out of the closet and openly declare his sexual orientation. I’m also sure that if it were to be made known that either of these conditions led to Erica’s passing, her reputation and her legacy would change unnecessarily. Like a celebrity has no obligation to share their personal lives with the public, the loved ones of those who have passed on owe us no explanation just to satisfy our curious minds.

Amber Euros wrote an excellent response on the XO Jane posting, encompassing all that is wrong with the way in which we approach unexpected an unexplained deaths. She said:

“I am sharing what I have recently begun sharing with my friends which is: Stop asking me what happened to her. She died. I’m sad. End of story. Can you not understand my sadness without knowing why she is no longer here? Does it make it less sad to know how or why? Is my sadness only justified if her death fits your mental makeshift maslow’s hierarchy of sadness?

WHY is her DEATH not sufficient enough reason to be sad? WHY is her impact on me and the others lives she touch not sufficient enough reason for someone to share their story on how she allowed them to be more open about their own truths?

What age do we live in that the DEATH of a friend does not suffice as reason enough to feel an outpouring of emotions, be they sadness, anger, confusion or otherwise?”

The age we live in is one where we think we are entitled to know everything about everyone (thank you Internet and Social Media) and it’s high time we changed that and started to honor the words we say about someone when they have died: rest in peace.

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Bobbi Kristina Wanted in Rehab

February 20th, 2012 - By Brande Victorian
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Any daughter would have a tough time dealing with the death of their mother, but Bobbi Kristina’s rumored drug past has Whitney Houston’s family especially concerned about how her daughter will handle her passing going forward.

Bobbi was already hospitalized twice in the immediate days following news of Whitney’s death, and after her mother’s funeral Saturday, she went missing for nearly 24 hours, sending her family into a panic. It seems Bobbi slipped away unnoticed while family and friends gathered at a local eatery in Newark, NJ, Saturday afternoon, but when phone calls to Bobbi’s cell phone went unanswered as it was time to transport Whitney’s body to Fairview Cemetery  for burial Sunday morning, her family became extremely worried.

“There was some confusion about Bobbi Kristina’s whereabouts last night for a short time, but she’s OK,” a Houston family spokesperson told The Daily Beast. “She needed some time alone.She is going through a very hard time as you can expect.”

The spokesperson said Bobbi Kristina isn’t on drugs and is simply grieving, but that story conflicts with that of a close family friend who said the family is worried Whitney’s death could cause Bobbi to spiral out of control.

“Cissy and others won’t admit out loud that Bobbi Kristina has a drug problem, but they know it and have been trying to keep her straight even before Whitney passed,” the family friend said. “But losing your mother and the life you’re accustomed to all in one day is enough to send anybody off the deep end.”

Bobbi Kristina was said to have used drugs the night after her mother’s death to ease the pain, and a family associate said Bobby Brown being forced or choosing to leave the homegoing ceremony only made things worse for his daughter, who was reportedly found getting high in a hotel several hours later.

“That hurt Bobbi Kristina, and you know it hurt Whitney,” said the source. “Bobbi Kristina saw her father keep it moving and leave them behind. Whitney had accepted it to some extent, but Bobbi K. is still so angry and was angry before her mom died.”

While some family members wanted to send Bobbi to rehab immediately, others thought it was important for her to be present at Whitney’s burial. With that now completed, Bobbi is expected to be flown to a drug rehab facility in California to help her cope with her addiction and her mother’s death.

“It’s a horrible situation for everybody,” said a close family friend. “They tried to save Whitney, and it didn’t work. Now with Bobbi Kristina, they fear the same thing is happening again and they won’t be able to stop it either. Bobbi Kristina is all Ms. Cissy has left of Whitney. She’s so tired, but she’s ready to fight again to save her grandbaby.”

Do you think Bobbi Kristina needs to be placed in rehab or is she just grieving?

Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.

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