Fall 2017

As November 9, 2017, marks 5 years ago that Billy transitioned to the afterlife, I thought I would share some of the knowledge and wisdom that I have aquired from the intense pain which is balanced daily with "hard love" (yes, that is a song reference from Needtobreathe).

I have learned that the beautiful souls who come into our lives as a result of our tragedy, or those friends we consider family that remain in our lives after tragedy, are on our path for a reason…whether we are here for them, or they are here for us.  We are learning from each other and we are connected in this classroom of life.

I have learned that as different as we are from each other is how differently we grieve as well.  I have made the choice to grieve rather publicly with facilitating our GRASP bereavement group.  My main reason for starting this group was to help others understand that the Disease of Addiction is not a choice.  Those who have died from Addiction Disease should be mourned and remembered with love, dignity and honor.  Those with eyes of judgement looking at the addicted as a weaker being with no morals, display an ignorance that cannot be disputed.

I have learned that although we are not taught about death in school, and our culture considers it “taboo” to discuss death, we will all learn in time when the sharp stinging heartbreaking pain of losing someone we love will affect our life in ways we never imagined.  How we choose to handle this heartbreak will make all the difference in how the rest of our life is lived, as well as how our loved ones are remembered.

I believe it is in this pain that we can be transformed, if we allow ourselves to “feel” all of the emotions.  Our courage brings tears, and in the tears we evolve….and just maybe our purpose in life changes.  Perhaps the gift of Billy’s life was to do just that for so many.

There is no doubting how much we miss his love, his smile, that crazy sense of silly humor, his kindness and caring, his genuine sincerity, his loyalty, his truth and vulnerability…..all that was Billy.  But, I find a deep strength in knowing his life was not in vein....No life is lived in vein.   Our culture has this preconceived notion that a well lived life is a "long" lived life.  A life with little pain and much wealth, success and happiness is a life that has been blessed.  Let me be the first to tell all of you, that blessings come in many forms. Blessings come in the pain and heart ache, blessings come in the trials and sorrow, blessings come in the gratitude and love.

I recently began using an acronym F.E.A.R : Face Everything and Rise…….in the wake of our journey through Brian’s illness.  Billy’s courage facing an illness that we knew so little about will always haunt my rational brain.  However, there is a place in my soul that knows his physical life and gentle spirit, did not deserve a lifetime of suffering.  Billy lived, loved and made some amazing friends.  Forever friends are not easy to come by, but Billy knew the value of the bond with his brothers and sisters.  Our family has been so grateful through these years to become a family with these beautiful souls, always connected with our love for Billy.  And a very special thank you to all of our loving friends, FB friends, and family who have remained close by our side with love and support, we will always be forever grateful for your presence in our lives.

Debbie

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May 2018

Friday night we welcomed Debbie, Lucretia and John to our meeting.  Beginning the meeting with a piece that I have attached to this email by "Scribbles and Crumbs".....keeping my focus on gratitude and the power of love, I know that this place I've created takes much work.
As we went around the room as we always do, I took away the fact that each one of us not only has our own "coping skills," we also create the story that helps us find a place where some peace resides.  For some, they may blame their loved ones.  Other's blame our Government, Mental illness, their loved ones friends, the dealer, the list goes on.  Some look to their faith and the idea of a "destiny," that we have no control over.  Spiritual growth during this journey can be looked at as blessing and gift, for this can bring about an awareness and enlightment that can battle the darkness of death.  Whatever story you choose to live with, there is one component that we all can agree on and that is the Love we have for our loved ones!  As the meeting was concluding, I mentioned a song that has resonated with me not only after Billy passed, but as we face Brian's illness head on.  The song is "Hard Love" by Need to Breathe.  I believe it was used in the movie "The Shack" It is not a religious song....  I promised to attach the link in this follow up - just click   NEEDTOBREATHE - "HARD LOVE (feat. Andra Day)"  

Wishing everyone some Peace in the Storm,
Regards,
Debbie

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April 2018

Friday night we welcomed Jeannette and Barbara to our meeting with open arms and sympathetic hearts.  While many of our meetings consist of parents who have lost a child or children, we have had many siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins as well as friends attend.  We empathized with Barbara as she shared the loss of her two brothers. We know very well as parents that the siblings carry not only their own heavy heart, but also the hearts of their Mother's and Father's.  And, in many situations, the sibling(s) can feel the responsibility and guilt from the loss.
I began the meeting with an article that suggested the power of journaling and living with gratitude.  "No child dies without a legacy and a purpose for those that are left behind.  It's up to you, whether you are a Mom, Dad, Sister, Brother, etc., Honor your loved one by healing....They wouldn't want it any other way." -  Sandy Peckinpah.
Understanding that there is no right or wrong way to grieve, we try our best to navigate and cope "the best we know how."  Some will stay as busy as they can not to feel the pain, while others sit in the pain and may not be able to return to work too soon. Jeannette shared with us "those who are able to cry are very fortunate." We are all different, we all grieve different.  As we went around the room in conversation, the word "guilt" was brought up over and over again. We can try to rationalize with ourselves that we did everything we could for our loved ones, but we may still harbor the feeling of regret and guilt.  The only true way you will free yourself from this feeling of burden is by forgiveness.  Forgive yourself for whatever it is that you feel guilty about...tough love, enabling, not knowing everything!  "Uproot guilt and plant forgiveness!" - Maya Angelou.
I have attached the link to the documentary that I spoke of entitled : Heal  There are a number of ways to view this and I highly recommend it.  Heal documentary | A film about the power of the mind

Wishing you Peace,
Debbie

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January 2018

Friday night we gathered with our many members....the first meeting of the New Year, and the realization that each "New Year" will now be measured by our loss and grief.  I began the meeting with reassurance to all who routinely come to our meetings, as well as those who periodically attend, that we will "always be here" in this space the 3rd Friday of each month.  Both Larry and I are committed to our GRASP group, and we are grateful to all of you for allowing us to be part of your journey.  I have told you all time and time again, that you continue to help us as well.
I read a quote from the article I have attached to this email,  "Grief does not change you...it reveals you" - John Green *  From the early days of my journey through pain and sorrow I have known deep inside that the rawness of my pain combined with the LOVE I have for my son Billy, brought forth an enlightenment and awareness that was overwhelmingly present in everything I began to do to honor his life and survive this horrific tragedy.  The lives who walk with me, have also experienced many epiphanies and have grown these past 5 years with a deeper understanding of life.  "And herein lies the gift that cannot die.  It changes the course of your life forever.  If you allow yourself the chance to feel it for as long as you need to - even if it is for the rest of your life - you will be guided by it.  You will become someone it would have been impossible for you to be, and in this way your loved one lives on, in you.
We come together at our monthly meetings to support each other, to cry and sometimes laugh.  We understand and share this unimaginable pain, and we know that our thoughts and feelings are safe with each other.  The outside world can be cruel to our circumstance.... whether people say the wrong thing, talk behind our backs, or say nothing at all....who cares???  We can rise above their insensitivity and take care of ourselves!  Remember baby steps "day by day."
Namaste,
Debbie

5 Lies You Were Told about Grief. | Rebelle Society

Debbie and Larry Garceau
South Shore GRASP
www.grasphelp.org
www.anchorsoflove.com

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December 2017

Although the weather was not cooperative this past Friday night, we did have a nice show of members for our Annual Holiday gathering at our home.  Food was abundant, including a special "spicy" delivery from our friend Bennett who wasn't able to join us.  Our new puppy "Link" kept all of us alert and moving (lol), and Mike brought up a great point about animals...each one of them live in the present moment. They don't think about the past or the future, just the here and now.  While I realize that we aren't "programmed" that way as humans, perhaps we can take some advice from the animal kingdom as it can only help our mental well being!
Yes the Holiday's have arrived...for those who celebrate Hanukkah it's in full swing, with Christmas just around the corner along with the "here it comes" Happy New Year (ughhh). Each one of us know the Holiday's are changed for us.  Our time is spent perhaps reflecting on the many special days we once had with our loved ones.  We go through the motions for our remaining living family, but maybe if we had the choice we would just check out till after the New Year.  Personally, I find each year very different in the way I feel and my perception of the time of year.  Some years I feel like I need to be the "pillar" of the family, and some years I need to be taken care of.  This year I'm in the "let's get this over with" mode.  More than likely it's because I have many physical demands caring for Brian. My advice is whatever you are feeling, go with it.  Trust your gut and take it easy on yourself.

We all know the Holiday's increase our stress and sorrow (if that's even possible) even more.  Coming together with our group members as we did gave us a very secure and safe place to be ourselves without having to be "on guard" from inappropriate comments. I for one, completely enjoyed last Friday.
I hope each of you are able to surround yourselves with those who are supportive and gentle with your heart this holiday season.  We are certainly here for those who choose to show compassion, and allow them to show us their hearts.
Namaste'
Debbie

Debbie and Larry Garceau
South Shore GRASP
www.grasphelp.org
www.anchorsoflove.com

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GRASP Meeting Follow Up – May 2017

Last Friday night we welcomed Kathleen and Chris to our group, always with open arms.  Coming fresh off Mother's Day, and Father's Day fast approaching, many shared their feelings as well as their strategies for "dealing with" the actual day....as well as the days leading up, which can be worse.  Most everyone is not only dealing with these "emotionally designated" days, they are also facing Birthdays, or perhaps the Anniversaries of our loved ones passing.  Often, I have in mind a topic for discussion, however this particular night; especially having two new parents as well as many newly bereaved....I allowed the meeting to take it's own shape.  Taking a few days to think about my reflection, and now in the wake of last nights tragedy in Manchester, my focus will be on "changing course."

Many of you know that I speak in metaphors regarding the Horrific Storm of Grief.  The Waves of emotions and the Anchor that holds and keeps me balanced.  As adults, we set our course in life with a particular direction. Growing our beautiful families, and guiding them in setting their course of direction becomes our priority.  We watch with pride and hope as they experience all that life has to offer, and we gratefully appreciate all of the blessings we are bestowed.  Many of us are even taken back at the accomplishments of our loved ones, as we stand back in awe.  Then, tragedy strikes.....the horror and the excruciating pain of loss; the storm in which we can't breathe.  We struggle to stay above the water, because we know in our heart that we must survive this horror so that we can tell our story.  The story of our loved one's life.....the gift of their love, the joy and happiness they brought to us and the world.  Some people have asked me how I can "go on" after the loss of my son Billy? How do I smile and laugh at times? Mostly it's those people who have not experienced any loss that truly have no idea what this pain feels like, and I try to explain.......Through lots of hard work, grief work, I have changed course in life. I will always grieve for Billy, but I do not stay in a place where I feel sorry for myself.  I learned at a young age, after having Brian, that I didn't bring children into the world so they could become "my" accomplishment, or fulfill my greatest desires as they achieve "my dreams."  Each one of our children have taught us so much of life's true meaning.  As Billy pursued his course in life, we "always" remained close by his side with unconditional love and support.  In his death, I often say, "he" became the teacher.... not only for us, but for many of his closest friends as well.  We have changed the course of our purpose and existence.  We live and experience life with new eyes, and at a higher vibration.  My compassionate heart goes out to all of the parents and loved ones from yesterday's tragedy in Manchester.  As I know what is ahead of them, the inner strength that will test every part of their being, and knowing they must change the course of their direction.  I am proud to be a GRASP Chapter Leader with Larry and Chrissy by my side, helping others through their loss.  I am proud of the Scholarship Fund in Billy's name at the Massapequa High School, helping students get a head start on their course of direction. And most of all I am proud of the fact my grief has not made me bitter....through Great Love I can be happy for us, and for other's as we watch milestones, accomplishments and achievements. With the blink of an eye our lives can change course.....always live in the moment ♥ Namaste
With Love,
Debbie

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March 2017

Port of Call

Friday night we welcomed Marcella and Jan to our group, lending our minds and hearts to them, as they shared the stories of their sons struggles with addiction disease.  As our topic of Guilt and Regret engaged everyone in thoughts for discussion, it became clear that although these universal feelings are very much expected after our tragic loss, our thoughts can change the way in which we allow these feelings to affect us.  "Many people are destroyed by loss because, learning what they could have been but failed to be, they choose to wallow in guilt and regret, to become bitter in spirit, or to fall into despair.  While nothing they can do will reverse the loss, it is NOT true that there is nothing they can do to change.  The difference between despair and hope, bitterness and forgiveness, hatred and love, and stagnation and vitality lies in the decision we make about what to do in the face of regrets over an unchangeable and painful past.  We cannot change the situation, but we CAN ALLOW the situation to change us." http://www.griefhealingblog.com/2012/03/guilt-and-regret-in-grief.html

I often talk about how I felt my son (and continue to feel) Billy guiding me, from the very beginning, on this painful journey.  The Great Love that continues to exist beyond his death has been the light for me, keeping my head above water.  This type of loss from Addiction is perhaps the most complicated of all losses.  We try with all of our might to rationally explain the circumstances that led up to our loved ones "use" and ultimately "death."  We are angered and frustrated because we could not "control" the horror of daily life.....the agony of watching them spiral into a web that they couldn't break free of.  Some of us may not have known the extent of their addiction, so we blame ourselves for not seeing the signs!  Please, please, allow your feelings to surface....cry, yell, scream, etc... and then allow yourself to FORGIVE.  Forgive yourself, your loved one, your spouse, and above all your genetic pool!  We have little to no control over the situations presented in our lives.  When we allow ourselves to understand this, we can then find the peace we need to come to terms and "mourn" for our loved ones.  The gifts they brought to our lives far out weigh the turmoil of their disease and deaths. Living in gratitude takes great strength after having lost someone to Addiction Disease.  Understanding that they were not the person they "became" from Addiction takes great love and insight.  Our loved ones were not dumb or stupid.....we are not bad parents, or siblings, etc...This classroom of life is a gift to all of us.  Billy has become my teacher.  If I try to imagine our lives without Billy being born to us.....I simply can not!  We were blessed with his life, I am honored to be his mother, and I always will be.

I want to thank those of you who brought in books for our "Book Sharing Table."  We will continue this book exchange going forward.  Mike Feldman was kind enough to share a wonderful website for those who have experienced enlightenment.  "Buddha at the Gas Pump" www.batgap.com is a nice resource for those who are looking to connect with those who have experienced a higher level of awareness.
Also, for those of you who may not know, every Sunday on OWN (cable 180) at 11am is Super Soul Sunday with Oprah Winfrey.  She has an extraordinary list of guests that visit and discuss various topics......needless to say "very enlightening!"
Peace to all,
Debbie

forgiveness.jpg

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December 2016

Friday night we gathered at our home for some informal conversation, and lots of "goodies." Everyone contributed such delicious dishes!!   Needless to say, Margaret's dessert was the hit of the night (LOL If you are on Instagram with me you will see it :)
Each day, month or year that passes is extremely difficult for all of us who have lost our loved one.....however, the holidays seem to "amplify" our loss even more.  Family gatherings take place, tables are set, pictures are taken, but someone dear to everyone is missing.
The Huffington Post recently released a wonderfully written article entitled "The Empty Place Setting - Dealing with Loss During the Holidays." The idea behind the article is to honor our loved ones by "doing...or not doing" which ever feels right for you.
Filling the empty chair might be helpful for some to accept someone who may need a place to go for the holidays.  This doesn't mean that we are "replacing" our loved one, no...no....it means we are giving honor to their life by reaching out and helping someone in need.
Remembering our loved one in anyway you choose to do....a candle on the table, a toast, a picture close by.
Gentle Care....for ourselves.  This means we do whatever WE WANT, not what's expected of us.  "We take care of our hearts."
Go with the Flow.....it's ok to cry, it's ok not to make the casserole this year, it's ok to take care of yourself.  And last by certainly not least......
Gratitude, the one thing that can truly take a broken heart and begin to mend it with loving thoughts.

I've also attached the link to the GRASP fundraiser that is taking place for Evan and Andrew whose parents attend our monthly meetings.  Their dear friend Tom and his daughter Kim are participating in the Goofy Challenge at Disney World in a few weeks (the link will explain the details).  All donations will go directly to benefit our GRASP Chapter Groups Nationwide!  This has never been done before on this large of a scale, and to say we are all so grateful would be an understatement.  These funds could assist each chapter with much needed materials, etc..At last count there was over $7,000 raised, but there is still more time and no donation is too small.  Such a sincere way to honor both Evan and Andrew's life and their families ♥
 Half and Full Marathon in Memory of Evan and Andrew - GRASP

Half and Full Marathon in Memory of Evan and Andrew - GRASP
This is a special event in memory of Evan and Andrew.

Peace to all this Holiday Season,
Regards,
Debbie

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November 2016

Friday night we welcomed Meg and Steve to our group and listened with open arms and hearts as they shared the story of their daughter Amanda. As the holidays begin to make their appearance again, for the newly bereaved this can bring an avalanche of overwhelming emotions. For those of us who have had some practice with coping around the holidays, it can and will "still" bring all of the stinging painful emotions to the forefront.  During this time of year it is most important to take time for yourself....to mourn, to cry, to remember.  It's ok to say "No" to obligations that may be stressful.  Let your family and friends carry the weight for a change. Trying some different approaches to the holidays can be helpful.  Some of our members take this time of year to go away....finding some peace in the "quiet" of a vacation.  Talking, talking, and more talking for others who need to....and for some, pulling it inward, and just letting the thoughts and memories flow.  However you choose to handle the upcoming holiday, remember it's just a day. 
Our conversation led us to share how each of us are coping - our "Grief Toolbox" whether it's writing, reading, meditating, drawing, etc.  these are all wonderful ways of working through thoughts and emotions.  We discussed how everyone grieves differently, and while there is no wrong or right way to grieve we must be conscious of our progression.  If you find yourself "stuck" and functionally impaired by prolonged grief symptoms, then you must seek professional help. Look, this is new territory for each one of us.  We can't expect to navigate without some support and assistance. Some find solace in standing up and helping others in recovery, while others choose a road that connects them with a spiritual life. All of these stepping stones help us to make our path on this journey.
I wish all of you Peace in your hearts and minds as you embrace Thanksgiving this year. The love that floods your heart will always keep your loved one close by. 

Regards,
Debbie
    

PS.  Please read the attached article from the Surgeon General regarding Addiction Disease

Debbie and Larry Garceau
South Shore Grasp -
The Garceau Family www.grasphelp.org

Surgeon General Report Tackles Addiction

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September 2016

Hi Everyone,
Last Friday we welcomed Jeannie and John to our group, as always with open arms.  We listened as they shared their heartbreaking story with us, and shared many of our feelings with them. We know that our stories, circumstances, and emotions connect us in a way that differs from the outside world, and its in this nonjudgmental space that we can feel free to share our most intimate feelings. 

I arrived a bit later than I had expected as traffic from the Airport was insane that night! (I love NY lol)  As I settled in and we began the meeting, I was asked the question of "How I have been able to live this horrific experience in a more positive place"?  I was, of course, eager to share "my" journey these past (almost) four years, but as I began speaking I realized that my words could NEVER equate to the work it took to reach the place where I found some peace in this storm.  I told everyone that in my darkest days; where I felt my death with Billy's, is where I found the courage to face the pain and fear of loosing my son, and feel the Love and Gratitude that will always keep us connected.
I truly feel that pain changes us......and if we avoid the pain, we avoid the transformation.  Everyone of us is different from each other.  Married couples can not expect to "feel" the same, or "grieve" the same. Parents grieve differently then their children, etc... Everyone of us needs to find our own path....whatever it is that helps us to survive, and live on...for our families here in this physical world and also for our loved ones honor ♥
I do find that memorializing Billy's life by hosting the Annual Fishing Trip, and creating the Scholarship (and having our GRASP Chapter Group) has given us the opportunity to include our friends and family in our "new lives."  Our family will never be the same without Billy's physical presence, and accepting his death doesn't mean that we won't continue to live in pain.  It does mean that we have begun to learn how to balance our pain with the gratitude of having him for 22 years. We can't rely on others to keep our loved ones memory alive, it's up to us to show them how to do this.  If we speak their names, they will.......if we celebrate their lives, they will......I have had many friends come forward who never knew Billy (mostly from my workplace), say that they were glad to learn of his life through me, and my writing on Billy's website.  I've had neighbors tell me that Billy is like a "hero" because she sees so much good in the people that surround us, coming from our love for him. Believe me I know how hard this walk is, but we have a choice here......Pain is certain / Suffering is optional - Buddha

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