Read This First

I came across this through the National Suicide Prevention Hotline. It was on my Facebook newsfeed. I tried to cut and paste the article but it’s not easy on my iPad mini.

Read this article if you are considering suicide. Read this article if anyone you know is considering suicide, so that you can share it with them. Just Read This.


A New Katherine

I haven’t checked my stats to see how long it has been since I posted anything, but I know it’s been a long time. Most of my writing over the past 16 months has been very private. It has been an agonizing process of emptying my heart onto paper. Yes, paper. After my son died, I started writing and writing and writing. Letters to him. Questions for God. Poems in the darkest hours of the night when I had not slept in days. Almost all of these were written on paper. At my age, 53, the words seemed to come easier when I used a pen and paper. The thoughts poured from my soul onto the paper, sometimes until my hand cramped so badly that I had to stop. If I had no paper with me, I would write on the back of a receipt, a napkin, an envelope, or any surface available. My laptop, iPad, and smart phone were my last resort. I even downloaded an app to my iPad so I could handwrite my thoughts with a stylus or even my fingertip. Note…if you try it, it is not the easiest handwriting to read when you go back and I have not tried to print any of it.

I also read everything I could on grief, grieving, loss of a child, suicide, survivors of suicide (a term I used to think referred to one who attempted suicide and lived), depression, treatment, and so many more things than I can remember, much less list here. I am still in counseling and trying to get into a group for bereaved mothers. I talked to people, at least to those who would talk to me or rather, would listen to me. A grieving parent soon learns that very few people can bear to listen to or witness your grief. I’ve found that other parents have the hardest time. I believe that is because my loss has forced them to face the possibility that if it happened to me, it could happen to them. And, no parent can bear to think about that. It is terrifying. It hurts. I know, but I feel that I have lost friends because of the tragic loss of my son. The friendships were not strong enough to weather the changes that have occurred in me since Donald’s death.

Any parent who has lost a child will tell you that they have lost the person they used to be. I can tell you that unequivocally. I knew it within the first week. I am not the Katherine I was before Donald died. I’m not even the Katherine I was in the first few months after his death. For many months, I felt as if I was less than half a person, physically and emotionally. I am slowly becoming the new Katherine, but I’m still not sure who she is going to be. I see a vague picture developing, but it will be a long time before it becomes clearer. I know God has a plan and a purpose for me, one which will use my talents and honor my son’s life here on earth.

I may have mentioned before that I have always wanted to write. I’ve never wanted to be the next James Patterson or Nora Roberts. I love fiction, but I’m not sure that my talent lies in that direction. I may learn that I’m wrong about that but it’s not on my agenda for now.

I have reached a point where I believe it is time for me to start my new blog…a I have many ideas for blog. I feel, as the new year comes closer, that it is time for me to get busy. My hope is that by writing this new blog, I will be able to reach and help other grieving mothers. I am not ignoring grieving fathers, but their way of grieving is different. Any post I write about grieving fathers will be more along the lines of the differences in how mothers and fathers grieve, and how mothers can hopefully understand a little more about their child’s father as he grieves. I do hope to be able to find and share materials for grieving fathers, and even guest posts by grieving fathers.

Another topic I will be tackling is suicide, suicide prevention and awareness, and survivors of suicide. I’m not sure if that will fit into my new blog or will develop into a separate blog.

I am not a doctor, medical professional, therapist, social worker, or in any manner trained to give advice on this subject. I do not intend to give advice. I plan to share my experiences, and the stories of others willing to share, along with links to resources for help and treatment.

I hope that I can help at least one person. If I do that, I’ve done at least part of what God is leading me to do in this phase of my life. I really hope I can help many. The number of followers I may get is not important. I’m not trying to make money on this. It’s a calling. I am going to write from my heart, add in my research (as a retired lawyer, I can do some research!) and let God lead me. I feel very strongly that He is calling me to do this, as well as other things which will come later.

I ask one thing of anyone who reads this post. If you feel inclined to comment, I would greatly appreciate any suggestions, thoughts, resources, and constructive criticism that you can share. If you prefer not to comment publicly, please feel free to email me. One thing I’m trying to determine is how often I should post. Those of you who are experienced bloggers, please share your tips with me as well as any reading materials that you think would be helpful.

As the year goes by

It has been almost one year since your life here on earth ended and you went to your heavenly home.  I have cried, I have laughed, I have mourned your death and I have been grateful for the 22 years we shared.

I miss you so much, yet you are always with me. I see your face in the clouds, I feel you by my side at the sea, I walk through the ball park and football stadium and your spirit surrounds me.

As much as I wish that I could be with you, I know it is not my time. God will call me home when his time is right. Until then, I will fight. I will fight to preserve and honor your memory. I will fight the darkness that overwhelms my soul. I will fight for my right to grieve when people say that I should just “get over it”. I will fight to learn how to live as the new me in a drastically changed life. I don’t mean that I am going to be arguing with the world and everyone in it. I mean that I will stand strong against forces that try to bring me to my knees.

You may not know it, but you were loved by so many people. So many call you their brother or best friend. Your smile lit up the world. Your presence in a room made life a party. Your laugh was contagious. Your loyalty to those you loved is remembered as one of your best qualities. You loved and lived life so fully, and enjoyed the moment. If anything, that is what I would like to learn from you.

I love you, Donald Gwarjanski.


You Can Help a Grieving Heart by Alice J. Wisler

You Can Help a Grieving Heart by Alice J. Wisler.


I found this on  It is often so hard to know what to say or do when someone has lost a friend or family member, but even harder when that person has lost a child.  This article may help others.


As a grieving mother, I’ve been fortunate to have many loving, caring people surround me with help and support.   I know that God sends people and resources to me just when I need them.  Today is the six month “anniversary” of my son’s death. I am in need of solace and time to cry without worrying about what anyone else thinks.

Clara Hinton – Your Focus Determines Your Future.

Clara Hinton – Your Focus Determines Your Future..


As I continue this journey of coping with the death of my son, I find, or people recommend, articles and websites that help.  This one is very good at describing the grief process after losing a child.


I hope it will help someone.


Fear has me in its grip

I have been living in fear for several months now.  The fear is pervasive and crushing.  There are so many facets to my fear that I don’t know if I can describe them all.  You might think I’m nuts.  Sometimes, I think I’m nuts.

What do I fear?

My son died on August 18, 2012.  A sudden, violent, tragic end to a young adult’s life before he could start living the life he had been anticipating for so long. Since I have already lost the one who I loved the most, why does this make me afraid?  I am afraid because we still do not know why he died.  We do not know if it was self-inflicted, intentional or accidental, or if it was homicide.  As I go through the stages of grief, I know that one day I will receive an autopsy report and a toxicology report that may or may not give me the answers I need.  Even if I get the answers to my questions, how am I going to deal with that knowledge?  How am I going to feel?  Am I going to suffer that crushing grief of that first day all over again?  I’m afraid the grief will never ease.  I know that it will never go away, but at some point it needs to get easier.

After my son died, I started dating a man who seemed to be sent to comfort me, support me in my grief, be my friend, my partner, my lover, my companion.  He was a great actor.  At first he was kind, loving, generous and such a gentleman.  As time went by, he became his normal self: controlling, possessive, verbally abusive, and emotionally abusive.  He stole from me.  He cheated on me.  He tried to take my deceased son’s truck from me. I learned he had an extensive criminal background, including stalking.  When I finally got him escorted from my property by law enforcement, he began harassing and stalking me.  He called my cell phone hundreds of times.  I had to block his number, his mother’s landline and his mother’s cell phone, and still he called.  I had to leave my home for several weeks.  I went to stay with relatives in another county.  I’m home now, but I’m always scared that he is out there, watching, and waiting for me.   I have alarms on all my doors, I’m armed with a variety of weapons and I have my cell phone with me even in the bathroom.   I’m still afraid.  I watch everyone.  I look at all the cars around me when I’m driving.  I look around at all the cars in parking lots where I shop or visit.  I stand on my deck or in my driveway looking for him.  I’m watching over my shoulder all the time. I can’t sleep soundly.  I’m afraid to be out after dark.  My electric bill is going to be sky-high because of all the lights on in my house.

I had to get a protection order and a warrant, but he has not been served or arrested.  As the magistrate told me, the protection order is nothing more than a piece of paper.  It won’t stop a bullet.  It may make him more determined to control me.  I check the web every day to see if he’s been arrested.  I’ve called his probation officer to notify him of the harassment and of the protection order, both of which are a violation of his probation.  If his probation is revoked, he will be in prison for up to 10 years.  His probation officer has failed to return my calls or respond to my faxes.

I have suffered from major depression and generalized anxiety disorder for many years. Sometimes its is basically under control.  After my son’s death, it became much worse, which is understandable.  Grief, especially over the loss of a child, is crushing.  It comes in ever-increasing waves that threaten to drown me.  The experience of learning that the man I trusted was not the man I believe he was, and the fear created by his controlling, possessive and abusive nature, has made my depression much worse and my anxiety levels spiral higher than ever.

I have finally agreed to be hospitalized for treatment of my depression.  I’m scared of what it will be like in the psychiatric unit.  I can’t get any clear answer of what will happen in there. My perception of the psychiatric unit is based on movies, books, blogs, and reports by the few people I know who have been hospitalized for mental health issues. None of what I have read or heard is reassuring.  It feels as if I will be in a prison.  The list of things that I cannot take with me is baffling, but I know it must be for my safety and the safety of others.  I know that I need to try this because I am getting so much worse.  My doctors can adjust my medication and observe my response to it in a way that is not possible from outpatient visits.  I fear not only the inpatient stay but I fear it will not help me.

What is Fear?

I’ve listed the main things that have me in fear’s grip.  So, after discussing my fear with my therapist, I decided to write about it.  In that process, I also decided to research fear.  Here are some of the things I have found:

Merriam-Webster defines fear as:

a : an unpleasant often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger

(1) : an instance of this emotion (2) : a state marked by this emotion

: anxious concern : solicitude
: profound reverence and awe especially toward God
: reason for alarm : danger
According to Psychology Today, “Fear is a vital response to physical and emotional danger—if we didn’t feel it, we couldn’t protect ourselves from legitimate threats. But often we fear situations that are far from life-or-death, and thus hang back for no good reason. Traumas or bad experiences can trigger a fear response within us that is hard to quell. Yet exposing ourselves to our personal demons is the best way to move past them.”

Fear, as I have learned, can control you.  My fear is controlling me.  I’m afraid of everything, even those things that pose no danger to me.  “The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.”  This quote by President Franklin Roosevelt often comes to mind, except that there are real things that we should fear.

So, what can I do?  I can learn to recognize what real danger is.  I can practice relaxation techniques when confronted with perceived versus real danger. I can pray and remember these favorite Bible verses:

Psalm 23:4

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

Psalm 27:1

The LORD is my light and my salvation– whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life– of whom shall I be afraid?

Deuteronomy 31:6

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Isaiah 41:10

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Isaiah 41:13

For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.

Matthew 10:28

Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

2 Timothy 1:7

 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

One of my favorite Bible teachers, Joyce Meyer,  said:   ” Don’t stand still in terror, but take His hand and go forward. Remember, fear torments and God wants to deliver you from all of your fears.”

Another quote which I find inspiring is by Eleanor Roosevelt:  “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”

At times, I think my biggest fear is a fear of having no control.  As long as my fear controls me, I am giving in to the thing I fear most.  What a paradox!

Out of Answers?: you’re not out of God

Out of Answers?: you’re not out of God.


I found this post on Freshly Pressed this morning.  The title intrigued me.  The post inspired me.

I have been a Christian for many, many years.  I don’t always attend church services, which disturbs many of my friends, Christian or not. My maternal grandfather was a Baptist minister.  He stopped school in the sixth grade.  Yet he became an ordained minister and shaped a large part of my life.  One sermon that he gave has stuck with me for many years.  He said that you don’t have to be in church to worship God.  You can be on a rock, or under a tree, or working in the field, and still worship God.  I cannot tell you how much that has resonated in me all these years.


I memorized many scriptures when I was a child because that was how we were taught.  While memorizing scripture is not a necessary practice, I have found that being able to recall a particular passage during a time of or sadness is a great gift.  I still read my Bible and try my best to understand and to apply its teachings to my life.


I do  not pretend to understand all the Bible says, nor all there is to understand about God.  I have been through some very tough trials, and at these times, my faith in God and my Bible give me comfort and hope.  If you have read any of my posts, you know that I recently lost my 22 year old son.  I am in the pit of despair at this point.  But, if I don’t have answers, I still have God.




The Most Precious Thing I Have Ever Lost

The most precious thing I have ever lost is the prompt for the Daily Post.  The most precious thing I have ever lost is not a thing, it is a person.  My son, Donald Phillip Gwarjanski, died unexpectedly on August 18, 2012, just two days after starting his final semester at Auburn University.  My son was truly precious.

This is the definition of precious from Merriam-Webster:

Definition of PRECIOUS. 1: of great value or high price <precious jewels> 2: highly esteemed or cherished <a precious friend> 3: excessively refined: affected …

My son was highly esteemed and cherished, not just by me, but by the entire family and a multitude of friends, fellow students, teachers, former coaches, and parent of friends.  Donald brought life and light into my life.  His friends say he was the life of every gathering.  Everything Donald did, he did it completely.  There was no middle ground with him.  He always had a smile on his face and was the first to encourage others.  He loved his family deeply, especially his Mimi, my mother.  Donald and I had a special bond , even through his teenage years, which are always tough for a parent.

I’ m not sure why my son died.  I may never know.  When I was pregnant with him, I went into premature labor at 24  weeks and spent the next 10 weeks on strict bed rest. I did everything that the doctor ordered because Donald didn’t ask to be conceived and I was responsible for his health in utero.  I was in and out of the hospital and took various medications to try to postpone labor and to speed the growth of his lungs.  He was so impatient to be born that he arrived six weeks early, only 5 lbs, 2 oz.  But, by the time he was 3 months old, you would never had known he was born prematurely.  He grew fast.  He grew up to be extremely talented in sports.  He was very smart.  He was an only child, but had many close cousins who always enjoyed being with him.  He never felt that he needed a brother or sister.  He had two special friends, Chayse and Matthew, who he considered his brothers, and they also considered him their brother.  These two young men were the first people I talked to when I heard my son had died.  They text and call me frequently.  Matthew was my rock during the planning of the funeral and at the funeral.  He was the only friend who had the composure to speak at the funeral about how special Donald was.

When Donald died, I wasn’t there.  I didn’t know about it for hours.  But that day, at about the time he died, I felt as if something was wrong.  I felt strange and uneasy.  I was with friends and they said I just “went out of it” that afternoon.  Later, I found out that he had been found dead.  My world collapsed.  The light of my life was gone.  I had talked to him the day before but had not seen him since May.  We had plans to have lunch the next week.  I know that the strange feeling I had that Saturday afternoon was when his soul left this earth.

Every day, I think of him.  Every day, I wish the phone would ring with his special ring tone, the Auburn Fight Song, or that I would receive a text from him, as he texted me most days.  As the days get shorter, and the holidays approach, I am apprehensive.  I don’t know how to do holidays without him.  His father and I are divorced, many years now.  Thanksgiving was the holiday Donald always spent with my family.  He loved all the food and Matthew couldn’t wait for Donald to come back to Auburn with leftovers from Mimi’s house.  This year, family members who have not been to Thanksgiving at Mimi’s will be there.  We  have learned, very tragically, that life is even shorter than we ever realized.  I have lost a part of me, a part of my heart and soul, and it was not a thing, but a person, who was most precious to me.

Fear and Understanding

October 23, 2012

Quote of the Day

“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood.” – Marie Curie

About Marie Curie

Marie Curie, the pioneering Polish-born French chemist, was the first person to win Nobel Prizes in two different fields.  She was born in Warsaw in 1867.  No Polish school would admit a woman, so she worked as a governess, sending her sister through medical school in France.  Her sister, in turn, sent her to the Sorbonne, where she met her husband, Pierre Curie.  Together they studied radiology, discovering two new chemical elements and inventing the term “radioactivity.” She died in 1934.


This quote, with which I am familiar, touched me this morning.  The death of a loved one is something we all fear.  I never really thought about the death of my son because he was 22, way too young for death.  But, it happened and my unacknowledged, worst fear became true.  Now, I am faced with trying to understand it.  The circumstances of his death are troubling.  There is no explanation for what happened.  There were no signs that anyone could have seen.  Was it homicide, accident or suicide?  We don’t know.  It will be months before the medical examiner provides an autopsy report and toxicology screen.  So, as I go along my journey of understanding and healing, I have the shadow of the unknown hanging over my head.  I am learning not to fear what I may learn, but to try to understand.  However, I feel that I may never truly understand.  All I can do is try.