Dealing with the death of my child

n January of 2003, Mary’s firstborn child, Joseph, was senselessly murdered in a carjacking.

Crawling back from the darkness that descended upon her wasn’t easy, but with three other children and a husband still needing her, she found the strength to live in the face of death.

“They needed me there; they didn’t need me in bed, they didn’t need me drugged up, they didn’t need me drunken. I can guarantee you that those are places I wanted to go,” Mary said.

Joseph was 18, and his most prized possession was his car, a ’71 Lincoln Mark-3. He spent all of his money restoring this car, and he finally got down to the last thing that he wanted – a set of rims for his tires.
Mary remembers that when Joseph said wanted the rims for Christmas, she asked, “Son, why do you want rims? People get killed for their rims.” Still, she gave him money to go toward rims, and Joseph eventually bought a set.

Things went well until one night in 2003, when Joseph went out on a date.

The assailants shot Joseph three times, twice in the head and once in the back. It is still unknown today whether Mary’s son put up a struggle or if the attackers, in an act of thoughtless violence, shot him just for the sake of shooting him. They took his car and left him on the ground. Joseph’s blood work came back clean; there were no drugs or alcohol in his system.

“It happened less than eight minutes from the house, and what a nightmare that night was,” Mary said. She credits her faith, family and friends with helping her make it through the hardest times.

“There was a time where my husband didn’t think that I wanted to be with him because I would lay on the couch and watch TV until five in the morning,” she said. “It had nothing to do with him. I just could not lay my head down without starting to cry.”
Mary’s neighbor brought her homemade lunch and dinner, and she says if not for this act of kindness, she wouldn’t have eaten during that time.

“It is interesting because when you eat it brings comfort, but when you are going through a death like that, you don’t want to be comforted. You want to wallow,” said Mary. “I can understand how people can go into a depression so deep that you can not get out of it. If I didn’t have to be there for my family and my friends, I would have gone there.”
Mary belonged to a few support groups to help her get through, but said it still felt like a nightmare at times, until finally the killers were brought to justice.

“It was such an emotional relief that they were going to catch them,” she said. “In some of the organizations that I have been involved with, there are people who never get to that point of finding the people who murdered their loved ones.”

The support group showed Mary that as bad as things were for her, there were many others who had it worse. She met some parents who had lost more than one child, or who’d lost their child before they even had a fair shot at life. Being around others helped her feel supported and understood and gave her a perspective that turned her grief into gratitude.

MORE TIPS & TOOLS

Indigo No More
Beyond Indigo can help you change the way you deal with grief and loss.

Living After Losing
Beyond Tears is a heartwarming book written by a group of mothers who were united in their experience of losing a child.

Interactive Hope
A mother and daughter doctor team bring you The Grief Blog, a comprehensive site focused on healing and dealing.

Support System
GriefNet offers simple access to over 50 e-mail support groups to aid people dealing with many different types of loss.

A Shoulder to Lean on
Psychologist and grief expert Alexandra Kennedy helps people cope with the loss of a loved one with her books, tapes and seminars.

Trigger Happy
The Mayo Clinic’s resource/informational sheet about what triggers grief and the best way to face those triggers.

My daughter the hairstylist: Keeping me current

From the time she was ten years old, Alyssa’s mom gave her full creative license with her hair. She experimented with everything from Sun-In to streaks of turquoise and pink.

When Alyssa was about 15, her mom helped her get a job as a receptionist at a salon. It was a kids’ salon called Hair Depot. “I loved it, and one of the girls here encouraged me to start beauty school.” She ended up getting her high school diploma at the same time she got her beauty school license.

Alyssa worked at Vidal Sassoon and a few other places for a couple of years. And even though she was still very young, her mom knew she was a creative and talented hairstyling powerhouse.

Mary, her mother, however, wasn’t as creative as her daughter. But she’s always been a good businessperson, so when Hair Depot went out of business, Alyssa and Mary saw it as the perfect opportunity to open their own hair joint.

“We called it The Cut. We wanted to create a neighborhood atmosphere, a really comfortable salon where people could come in their sweats and bring their children,” Mary explained. “Our goal was to provide the same quality of service, but in a more comfortable setting and at a better price.”

Alyssa gets a lot of enjoyment out of being a stylist, but says a lot of clients can be resistant to change. Mary admits she used to be one of those clients but says working with her daughter has opened up her eyes.

“After opening this salon and working with young, cutting-edge stylists like my daughter, I’ve learned that there are a lot of styles for older women that can make them look much younger and more contemporary, and beautiful and free. A lot of women get stuck in a permed style that makes them look older.”

Mary and Alyssa both agree that it’s really important for women to be able to try something new. After all, it’s just hair, and it will always grow back.

“When I cut my mom’s hair, I don’t listen to her at all. If you don’t pay me to do your hair, you’re just my canvas and I’m going to do whatever I want to. My mom’s got conservative ideas about her hair, and I push her to make changes that I know will look good—but the changes are still pretty conservative.”

Mary responds, “If I didn’t have Alyssa as a daughter, my hair would probably still be one long fuzz ball.”

Mary has loved every style that Alyssa has given her—especially when she does something that she didn’t want her to do.

“In those cases, I usually end up loving it more,” she says. “At this point, I trust her to do anything with my hair.”

For herself, Alyssa can’t stay with the same hairstyle for very long. She is constantly updating her look. “I can’t understand why someone would want to stick with the same thing for years and years.”

“It can be scary to get a new look,” Mary says, “Hair is like a security blanket, especially if you’ve had one style for a long time. I think a lot of women have a hard time changing with the times.” For older people, they are used to the same style—they’re afraid they won’t know what to do with something new.

Alyssa has a very professional take on how to work with different types of hair, “Style has more to do with the hair texture than the face shape or your age. If you have really thick hair and you cut it short, it’s going to look poofy, and if you have thin hair and you try to grow it long, it’s just going to be flat and stringy.”

Everyone has something different about their hair, that’s why it’s important to communicate with your stylist about what you want. Mary and Alyssa both think you should be able to really trust your hairstylist, no matter who it is. Mary’s just happens to be her daughter!

If you live in the LA area, visit Mary and Alyssa at their cute, cozy salon, The Cut.

MORE TIPS & TOOLS

She Bangs
Bangs are the coolest, simplest way to make yourself over. Check out the hairstyle page on About.com to figure out what style is best for you.

Mom Hair: It’s Not What It Used to Be
Whether you’re 30 or 50, a mom or a careerwoman, About.com has the best hairstyle for your lifestyle.

Clearing the clutter helped me enjoy my family again

Before Mary got rescued by a professional organizer, she was a self-proclaimed “stuffer.”
“I stuffed everything in closets and then shut the door,” she recalls. “Then every time I had to go to that closet to put something away, I would have feelings of anxiety. It was overwhelming, especially after having kids, because we had just accumulated so much stuff. While my kids were playing, I was always trying to organize, in my ineffective, disorganized way.”

After seeing a TV program about organizing, Mary tried to get organized on her own, but it didn’t take long for her to realize that she needed to have a system that worked for her. So, Mary decided to get a professional organizer to help her get started.

“Deborah, my organizer taught me tips that I had never even thought of,” Mary says. “What she did was go to a closet or cupboard and empty everything out first. This way, we were getting a fresh start, which makes things easier.”

As part of Mary’s new organizing effort, she and Deborah tackled her daughters’ closets, where Mary kept all the stuff was that she thought she needed to save. Deborah asked her questions like, “Do you really need this?” or “Has your daughter worn this in the last six months?” Now, Mary asks herself those questions, and she’s able to get rid of stuff she doesn’t need every six months

“I want my girls to grow up with a sense of organization. It feels so good to give them good habits that I didn’t have at their age,” Mary says. “For example, one of the tools that my older daughter Sophia uses is giving everything important a home. She knows that you don’t have to throw everything in the closet and close the door when company comes over if you stay organized on a daily basis. Sophia’s only six, but she cares about what the house looks like when her friends come over.”

Mary does things to make organizing exciting for her girls. They work together to give toys a new home; for instance, their dollhouse was in the corner before and the girls had a puppet theater that they didn’t use. So, they got rid of the puppet theater and moved the dollhouse to be the center feature of the room, where it’s become a whole new toy for the girls. They also set up stations with bins for dolls, for art, and for books, and the kids love it.

“Getting organized has improved my life by giving me more freedom and time to enjoy my family,” Mary says. “I feel like what I’ve learned is such a gift. My household has become so peaceful, and I’m definitely inspired to keep it up. Now, every six months I go back and reassess everything so that I never have to start from scratch again.”

If you’re wanting an organizational overhaul, take a look at these sites to get some ideas of how to start.

MORE TIPS & TOOLS

Keep It off the Floor!
At the Lillian Vernon online home store, you can buy cute yet functional organizing accessories for the kids’ room.

Crafty—But Clean
At Family Fun, you can find tons of family craft projects that double as storage and organizing pieces, like a pocket wall organizer made from plain curtains!

Regain Your Sanity With NAPO
Contact the National Association of Professional Organizers to find a specialist who’ll help you get your life back in order!

Neat or Not?
HGTV organizing guide will help you control your clutter, once and for all.

Thinking inside the Box
Tap into every professional organizers’ handy bag of tricks by taking a tour of the Container Store.

Meet the Organizing Junkie
Laura, a mom to three, can barely contain her excitement for organizing, and we’re all the better because of it! Get menu ideas, decluttering insights, and photographic evidence that organizing really works in her blog.