Archive for January, 2010

The Broken heart- Trigger response

A couple of days ago I wrote the post Dying of a Broken Heart???



I have of course ( as is my nature) researched grief, grief counselling , drugs you name it . The grief that overwhelms is supposed to lessen? Time heals and all that – but in my research I have discovered the triggers.

Apparently , as I understand it, our brain when we experience something new such as intense emotion, for example, a very joyful event ( maybe the birth of your child), a great love, great anger, fright, terror and death in its varying degrees, the brain takes on board the information and at the same time notes and files away the surrounding sights , smells , sounds etc that accompany that new happenstance.

You can apparently be blithely going about your everyday business when you may- do , see, smell , hear one of those pieces of information – stored by our brain . Those stored bits of information “triggers the brain” to bring to the fore of our consciousness everything that was connected with that piece of information- the sorrow, joy, anger, fear or what have you .

The trick is apparently to recognize the negative triggers, avoid them where possible and understand the process.

Sometimes the triggers bring back moments of great happiness and joy- that is a good thing. Hopefully we can access them when we have need, but even then there is a risk. For example it is no good to look for escape in rememberance of holding your child for the first time when you have lost your child , that trigger can backfire on you. You search for the “happiness triggers” warily .

When triggers bring great anger or sadness it can be “debilitating” ( that word actually is one of my triggers)

It is a bit like fire, you know not to put your hand in the flames because the reaction is painful, so you are supposed to do the same with your “painful triggers” identify them and put them in quarantine .

Drugs can block the triggers until the body and time can heal – maybe for some , but I think I would have to be totally put under for the foreseeable future to block all my triggers.

Understanding why things are happening helps , but it doesn’t stop them happening. You just try and stay away from “triggers”

I know I will never go to my favourite florist shop in person ever again since it is across from that damnable Calvary Cemetery . I know that I will never go near 7th Street again , The trigger of that church, some parishioners and a priest brings on a plethora of emotions, all of them intense.

I will be staying away from two local banks due to their “employees” even if one is my own bank . I will never if at all possible ever set foot in the Cleveland Clinic , I would have to be drugged to oblivion. As for Drs……. ( Thoughts about them will be coming later)

I have thrown away and burned clothes that I wore in that ICU , I have burned photos of people who have caused great pain so I don’t come across their likeness. I cannot bear the thought of ever watching “Everybody Loves Raymond” again. I have tried to destroy or avoid my “known triggers”. Yes! I know which triggers cause pain!

The triggers are “legion” – they can be as mundane as filling a hot water bottle – the very thing that once gave me comfort initially when I was dealing with the diagnosis of the obscenity . And more recently the filling of hot bottles almost hourly for my son in Texas so he could deal with the pain on his joints and muscles because of the SGN35 . Even the bloody kettle , I have to get another one that is not the same model.

A simple act yesterday , not thinking, and deciding I needed some warmth for an aching shoulder set off a cavalcade of raw emotion, just the act of filling the hot water bottle .

Logically I knew why it was happening but that didn’t help. The triggers sometimes come in the form of flashbacks . I know I can never cook “stewed steak” again or “grilled salmon and asparagus” . I will never cook for or celebrate Thanksgiving or have another Christmas Tree in this house.
I stay away from people , those I care about and who care about me , because their kindness and concern triggers!

I am surrounded by triggers. It is painful, I understand why, and how it happens but it happens just the same and the physical ripple effect is noted by a breaking heart.

January 31, 2010 at 2:15 pm 14 comments

Dying of a Broken Heart????

Heart Hostage Sketch

There are a great number of hits on this blog lately directly due to heart pictures that have appeared previously ( the cause , I presume – upcoming Valentines Day ).

I have in recent weeks watched my husband as he literally chokes on his own emotion as caused by grief of losing Chris and the after events denying him his goodbye.

I know “choking on one’s emotions” to be a real phenomenon , one that I have never actually seen demonstrated so vividly before losing Chris. It isn’t pleasant and there isn’t any sort of “Heimlich Maneuver” that will help.

I have watched, if this makes any sense at all , a 91 year old “AGE .

I know now what being “rocked with grief “ means. I know how the body can rock back and forth trying to find comfort in that action , possibly reminiscent of being cradled in your mother’s arms.

Chris and Nikki from Nana’s Memory Ring ( forthcoming)

I have watched as my daughter , sure of her relationship with her brother and strong in her belief in love, kindness and compassion dissolve into self-doubt and 2nd guessing.


And I have felt the pain in my chest, it is like a tight band , a crushing and tightening , it interferes with breathing, as if something has stopped my lungs from filling with air, holding ones breath too long underwater is a similar sensation . Just when you think you will drown in the pain and grief you surface , an explosion of tears and sobs pulling you back from the depths, a relief but also knowing that you have also lost an opportunity to be released from the slow suffocation of sorrow that has become your world.

It is a peculiar sensation , because the part of the brain that is logical is wondering ,

What the hell is that noise ????

and is incredulous when it realizes that it is YOU!!!!! .

I can only say that it seems to be a safety valve , the part of the brain that deals with the mechanics overriding the part that deals with the emotions.

Can you die of a broken heart? Apparently Yes!

Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, also known as transient apical ballooning syndrome,[1] apical ballooning cardiomyopathy,[2] stress-induced cardiomyopathy, broken-heart-syndrome and simply stress cardiomyopathy, is a type of non-ischemic cardiomyopathy in which there is a sudden temporary weakening of the myocardium (the muscle of the heart). Because this weakening can be triggered by emotional stress, such as the death of a loved one, the condition is also known as broken heart syndrome. It has also been reported in cases of partial drowning. The presence of a trigger such as emotional or physical has been reported in 33% to 100% of the cases.

This version of a broken heart brought to you by “life” and “thoughtlessness, selfishness and control”

January 28, 2010 at 7:56 pm 2 comments

Ashes to Ashes- The Video

THE SERIES- What Happens after you die?

Part One-Burial – Not Green The Embalming
Part Two – The Visitation-or what to decorate is the question
Part Three – A Tisket- A Tasket What type of casket?
Part Four -Going Green whilst daisy pushing

Part Five – Cremation- The Video

Part 6 – Ashes to Ashes- The Video

All the literature/ informational websites of death, dying and grief all have the same words. We, as all humans, have a need for a focal point for our grief. A special place where we can go and remember

Apparently it helps with the grieving process, your loved one is still somewhere and you are still connected. You say goodbye but there is still a place left to those left behind that can give solace. A place of peace. It was THAT PLACE OF PEACE and remembrance that has been denied to Chris’ family- We are in a far different place .

“ashes can virtually be spread anywhere … including anywhere that had meaning to, or that symbolizes, the deceased. This can obviously be a powerful experience of closure for the living”

Crematoriums in Europe and their gardens are usually beautiful places- My father’s ashes were scattered in such a place.

However there are many choices if you go the way of cremation to find a special place. You are only limited by your imagination and by your wallet. A trip to outer space or perhaps “Lucy in the Sky with diamonds”??
and if you are really into recycling, the Urn used for scattering can become a bird house

There are a plethora of “keepsake remembrances” from necklaces to glassware / globes to candlesticks

The choices are out there… that is for those that had and have a choice! Would that we had that option

January 27, 2010 at 1:30 pm 3 comments

Cremation – THE VIDEO

You will always be my little boy- Chris – “Til death do us part” NOT for a mother and child-

As discussed in this series,
Part One-Burial – Not Green The Embalming
Part Two – The Visitation-or what to decorate is the question
Part Three – A Tisket- A Tasket What type of casket?
Part Four -Going Green whilst daisy pushing

there doesn’t seem to be a pleasant way to morph but since we have to morph eventually it will be a personal choice for most of us.

However, as has been demonstrated by recent events in this family, it may not end up being YOUR or your family’s wishes that are followed but the “ideas” of other people.

My son’s “cremains”( ashes), as most of the regular readers are aware, were withheld from us for our closure both here in the US and in England partly due to the excuse given:

” he was not an organ donor ”

( more on that later)

And so she who shall remain namelessand her “Committee of Control” wanted to keep him intact.

This ignorance of the cremation process has caused and is still causing so much pain to our family. I cannot find the words descriptive enough to describe the ripple effect caused by their cruelty and their wickedness. The depth of our sorrow and pain heaped on top of our already inconsolable grief of losing Chris directly attributable to their actions can only be expressed with a rawness that defies my ability as a writer. It is like a slow torture or even a cancer that eats at your heart night and day-there is no understanding of such selfishness – there is no respite.- there is no closure -there are no good days. This “cruelty of control” that has only added to an already overwhelming sadness and loss.

To be intact??????

During the cremation process, a large part of the body (especially the organs) and other soft tissue are vaporized and oxidized because of the heat, and the resulting gases are discharged through the exhaust system. The entire process usually takes about two hours.

All that remains after cremation are dry bone fragments (mostly calcium phosphates and minor minerals). Their color is usually light grey. They represent very roughly 3.5% of the body’s original mass (2.5% in children)

“So much for the organs ! “

But just incase there are any others that think that way:

Cremation -The video

to be continued…….

January 25, 2010 at 12:55 pm 3 comments

Viking Funeral- the alternative cremation

Sketch by Chris RITCHEY

Note ( just a reminder- RITCHEY – not Lombardi, Vyka, Gonzales, Gott or Zaworski)

It has been 7 weeks since the essence of Chris left this world due to the cruelty of cancer to go where, I am not sure ?

Oh ! I know where his earthly remains are unfortunately – locked in a box beneath the cold grey Ohio clay due to the “cruelty of control”.

My nights are still the stuff of nightmares. The days are filled with tears and longing for what can never be.

Chris deserved so much more from life and from the lack of dignity at his demise.

He was “courageous” through all the treatments – he tried to protect his family from his pain. He never complained about the hand he was dealt- for months he carried on doing what was required, no matter how much he suffered. The only time he became emotional was when he was told he had “no hope” except for a trial of a drug that was closed to him in Cleveland.

The evening of his death, in between the wracking sobs and disbelief, I knew the type of “goodbye “ I wished I could give my son- one fitting the bloodline of his heritage ,

The romanticism of a warrior’s farewell- that is what I wished I could give my son .

The last time my mother saw Chris , as he was headed back to Texas for treatment, he had grown a beard. I wasn’t keen on the beard but I understood why he grew it – because he could!

For many months the chemo had robbed him of hair. He had ,after many weeks, been able to grow his hair again.

My mum didn’t recognize him ( as he had been in Texas for many weeks).


she said upon walking into Nikki’s great room as he stood looking out at the woods

Oh! you look like a Viking and that is how I shall think of you as a Viking!”

We laughed, but I remembered her words as it was the last time she saw her grandson.

Her Viking, appropriate – for many years he was a Viking, as he attended Irving School- home of the Vikings.

And then there was the art project that took the art award – A Viking ship –

The project had to be constructed out of things that could be found in the forest, and all natural . The core of the ship was a tree branch , the dyes used made of crushed berries found in the woods, the sail was a piece of deer hide, stripped and tanned , the wood burned to give depth.

Chris loved the outdoors, the air , the music of the wild. He loved the Texas sky , he loved “fire” ( so much so that when he was little we had to take a trip to the fire dept to have the firefighters explain to him the dangers of his obsession with flames.)

Chris – Morocco

Yes, if I could have , I would have given my son a true Viking Funeral , a ship pushed into the waters, archers with flaming arrows launching their cleansing flames into the air, his body released into the sky, to be as one with the air and the wind and the stars.

Unfortunately only in “another’s parallel universe would this be possible.
As WRY Reflections wrote even in this universe can you imagine the paperwork and possible cost?

Service Rate
Homeland Security license $15,000.00
Bi-State Seacoast Cemetery Association right to inter permit $3,100.00
Coast Guard security $5,000.00
Marine Patrol security $3,000.00
Docking and piloting fees $2,500.00
Ship to burn (up to 35 feet) $15,000.00
Extended burn time (2 hours) $1,000.00
Barge for funeral party (up to 40) $3,500.00
Wagnerian music $500.00
Costume rental $2,500.00
Professional video $1,000.00

No unfortunately I couldn’t give Chris the funeral I believed would honor him. Chris was cremated ( thankfully )and it is that aspect of “morph” that I will next explore

To be continued

January 22, 2010 at 2:24 pm 19 comments

Going Green whilst daisy pushing

Part One-Burial – Not Green The Embalming
Part Two – The Visitation-or what to decorate is the question
Part Three – A Tisket- A Tasket What type of casket?
Part Four -Going Green whilst daisy pushing

There really isn’t a pleasant way to deal with our earthly remains. No matter the way we choose – eventually what is left of us “morphs”. It really is a matter of “how long do you want it to take”?

We have learned that in the “What type of Casket” that it may take the longest time for you to eventually morph, unless you can get hold of some of those Egyptian Priests.

Now lets us talk green and coffins ( as opposed to caskets – which depending upon where you live also have some differences and where you can be buried .)

Why should it matter to us that are left for you to consider going green?

Each year, 22,500 cemeteries across the United States bury approximately:

30 million board feet (70,000 m³) of hardwoods (caskets)
90,272 tons of steel (caskets)
14,000 tons of steel (vaults)
2,700 tons of copper and bronze (caskets)
1,636,000 tons of reinforced concrete (vaults)
827,060 US gallons (3,130 m³) of embalming fluid, which most commonly includes formaldehyde.

What is meant by going green when you pass?

The goal of a natural burial is to return the body to the earth in a manner that does not inhibit decomposition and allows the body to recycle naturally. It is intended as an environmentally sustainable alternative to existing funeral practices that may pose future hazards to public health and run counter to modern resource-conservation activities.

It seems it is the ultimate in recycling- cremation doesn’t actually fit the ultimate green requirements so we will leave that for another post.

Toe Pincher Coffin UK

and Willow Coffins are becoming increasingly popular in Europe due to the Willow’s ability to regenerate quickly

There are any number of biodegradable “coffins” if you wish to go back to earth .

Eco Pod – Source
Or even Coffinless- The Shrouds “you could be in ”

Shroud Source

Of course the process does involve more bacteria and creepy crawlies-

I was going into the process and pictures of the insects involved BUT it might put you off saving the planet altogether- it is hard enough to get people to put their recyclables into those blue bags around here as it is. But you can find all the info by clicking on the insects picture at this site

As gross as the creepy crawlies are they are very beneficial really and you don’t want to end up with
adipocere ( grave wax)

There is another way to go green – and this latest from Europe sounds interesting

1. The corpse is frozen down to -18 °C.
2. The coffin with the deceased is lowered into liquid nitrogen. The body becomes very firm and brittle.
3. The coffin and the body are exposed to a light vibration, disintegrating into dust.
4. Mercury and other metals are separated using and induced magnetic field.
5. 25 – 30 kg of the powder now remains. This is put into a coffin made from maize starch of potato starch.
6. The starch coffin is buried shallowly and will turn into compost in 6 – 12 months’ time. A tree can be planted on the grave. It will then absorb the nutrients given off.

If you want to go Green there are many “Green Cemeteries ” world wide -Here in Ohio you might want to look into
Foxfield Preserve, Wilmott , Ohio
from this
Foxfield burial and in a couple of months

Green burials rely on GPS – isn’t technology wonderful- you can be put into your loved ones Sat Nav.

Foxfield Preserve is a nature preserve cemetery operated by The Wilderness Center. It is the first “green cemetery” operated by a non-profit conservation organization in the U.S. and the first of its kind in Ohio.

You can also check out the site for Funeral Consumers Alliance of Central Ohio
and lastly to find a”green cemetery world wide”


January 20, 2010 at 8:56 pm 5 comments

A Tisket – A Tasket – What Type of Casket?

Part One Burial – Not Green The Embalming
Part TwoThe Visitation-or what to decorate is the question

Part Three – A Tisket – A Tasket_ What Type of Casket


EVEL KNIEVEL– photo with permission
Steve Mandich

You have opted for – the embalming , the visitation and now your family ( unless you have made your wishes known) choose the vessel that will hold your vessel.

In North America things have progressed…. from this to sometimes this plain pine box

to possibly this:
Fiske Metal Burial Case SOURCE

and more recently to this :

You can even buy your casket on line from Walmart ( search caskets)
in the price range from $750.00 to $3,000 but shop around because Cosco was selling at least one model cheaper.

OR perhaps you would like to opt for The Promethean, only set you back about $25.000 –

Micheal Jackson opted for this one
Inspired by James Brown’s 2007 funeral, the late King of Pop ordered a coffin called “The Promethean,” the same model chosen by relatives of the Godfather of Soul, from Batesville Casket Co. in Indiana—Jackson’s own home state.

You can get veterans / fire and police caskets dressed or “art worked” caskets specified to your branch of the service .

You have now been embalmed, laid out in your casket , been viewed and you are off to your final resting place. The cemetery – Here, you – in your casket- will be placed (more than likely ) inside a burial vault, liner etc.


Ever wonder why a burial vault?

Most think it is to give you added protection against ground water and creepy crawlies ( that will be dealt with in Going Green) etc. and to seal you in even further and that is possibly the case but that isn’t the only reason

Most states do not have laws or rules requiring the outer burial container, it is the Cemetery that mostly does. That is because the unit does offer use. It prevents ground collapse around it when a casket fails. The easier maintenance of the lawn and safe walking is assured, as is the safe excavation of ground around a grave liner, for new burials. It prevents unearthing an urn, casket or body when another grave is being dug.

And there you are – lying beneath the surface – all embalmed and made to look wonderful, snug in your casket with its pillows and blanket, protected by seals and concrete and styrofoam liners from all that could reach you for eternity or exhumation ( which ever comes first) ( hey you never know they might need that plot of land one day)

but who is going to save you from yourself?

Sometimes it is not such a good thing to be sealed in –

you could end up in a mess of your own making

. In some cases, a sealed coffin may actually accelerate the process of decomposition. An airtight coffin, for example, may foster decomposition by anaerobic bacteria, which results in a putrefied liquification of the body; all putrefied tissue would remain inside the container, only to be exposed in the event of an exhumation

SOURCE ( can also cause bad breath)

Ah! what lies beneath indeed????? Well another box ticked. I know that I don’t want “me or mine” to take that chance –

Whew!!!!! dodged a bullet there from the “extended family”- !!!!!!


January 19, 2010 at 2:11 am 3 comments

Dark Humour- shedding a light?

Theodore Gericault – “Insane Women”, 1822-1823.

I know some of my friends and acquaintances are becoming quite worried about me – especially considering this latest series. Let me assure you , apart from the physical and emotional pain of losing Chris. I am not yet ready for bedlam – there is a method in my current madness.

So for those who haven’t “twigged it” yet – I have taken a diversion from the main road of “In search of my Son – In search of Me” -whilst trying to give readers a “sound bite” of what you need to know before you make your wishes known. ( especially locally and in the USA).

I am, in fact, exploring my own reasoning for my current “despair” and to give some insight ,for those that care, as to why certain decisions have more than “creased this family with grief and doubt” . I am ticking the boxes of 2nd guessing one by one – SOURCE

Chris had an irreverent sense of humour ( just like his mothers actually) . In fact we even shocked our immediate family from time to time. My “search” and journey to confirm the “essence” we believe was Chris ( since I can no longer ask him ) has to rely on how he still speaks to those that loved him from the day of his birth. These very recent “quips” may give some further insight………

Whilst in Texas( end of October) a text came through from ” she who will remain nameless” with regard to the fundraiser– Chris was told that two funeral homes had donated- Chris turned to me and said :

“You think they are vying for my business?”

Also during his last hospital stay I noticed a chord around his neck ( it was bit like the soccer one he used to wear but a little different) . I hadn’t noticed it before so I thought

“This is a recent addition.??”

I asked “she who will remain nameless”

“What is he wearing on that chord around his neck, I haven’t seen that before?”

Her reply:

“Oh it is a “healing cross necklace” -but don’t worry Chris hasn’t all of a sudden turned Catholic”

I said

Oh! I thought it was ‘T’ FOR TEXAS !

( as of course Texas is where he got the good news that the SGN 35 was working and the Pet Scan showed clear)

Thats funny

( said she who will remain nameless)

When I gave it to him – Chris thought it stood for ‘T ‘FOR TUMOR

but it is a “Healing” cross.

Healing Cross – I can hear Chris saying , as clear as day in my head.

Well – shi*! that didn’t work either!!!!

So you see Chris never lost his irreverent sense of humour even through the Cancer and all that went with it . He was my Chris

and we are who we are……….

“Transatlantic survey of identical twins shows our taste for biting satire and withering one-liners is in the genes

A survey of more than 4,000 twins suggests that humour regarded as typically British – sarcasm and self-deprecation – is linked to genes found in British men and women, but not shared, for instance, by Americans.

and I will be visiting Chris’ humour later as I make the method of my madness clearer. In the meantime the next up in the series will be


January 16, 2010 at 9:24 pm 11 comments

A Moonbeam request

Laura has pointed out the hard cold fact there is a financial side to illness and loss.

Nothing can ease the emotional burden that this family is going through, but we can help ease the financial burden that they also have to bear by making a donation at any First Federal of Lorain Branch in Memory of Gabriel Miller.

If you can remember the little moonbeam
Gabriel Miller

that shone so briefly in the lives of one of our own

please do so. Loraine

January 15, 2010 at 7:52 pm 1 comment

The Visitation- or what to decorate is the question?


Part Two – THE VISITATION or what to decorate is the question

If you are still with me after part one- none but the brave –BUT remember this will be happening to each and every one of us eventually— there is no escape….. no turning away from death!

We have now learned that the embalming process is done for a few reasons but mainly for visitation purposes and viewing the body . In some cultures including those that live in Lorain, Ohio it seems to be the norm.

It is a way of a community to pay their respects to those that have lost their loved one , and to meet and greet and share remembrances. It is a way of closure for some ( not all) but I respect those rituals and respected the right of my son’s extended family to have their way of closure.

Frankly it just goes against the grain for me. One of the very, very rare occasions that I attended a “visitation ” I over heard one aged aunt saying

” Doesn’t she look well”

I wanted to say :errrr She is dead!!!!how WELL can you look?

Or my friend, whose visitation I did attend ( under duress I might add) , lay stretched out in her Cadillac of a casket with her glasses perched on the end of her nose. Those that knew her well knew she didn’t wear them but for reading and was actually a little vain about her appearance ( she would have hated it). All I could think of was :

“OMG now she will have them on for decades under the ground unless they fall off!”

No ! the “receiving line of grief “ was not for me and to attend would have been hypocritical on my part – I may be many things but I am not hopefully not a hypocrite.

Coupled with the fact that upon hearing my son’s remains would not be available for the visitation due to cremation , ONE “extended” family member expressed to those gathered at the funeral arrangement meeting:

“If there is NO casket for display what are we going to DECORATE????

No!!!! my son was not a Christmas tree or mantelpiece to be decorated as a back drop to a receiving line…… I did not wish to stand in such a line with people who thought that way my beautiful talented son merely a backdrop to their “ritual of closure” filled me with disgust and pain.

I am not alone in my thinking that we need to face death and what happens.
The Desert Pastor Desert Pastor is actually Chris Monroe — an ordained elder in the Free Methodist Church who pastors a congregation in the high desert of Southern California

Open Caskets: Our Need and Our FearWith three funerals to conduct this week, it’s certainly understandable that I’ve been thinking about death, dying, and grief. And when it comes to grief, it seems to me that there is a growing number of people in our American culture who struggle with the whole notion of open casket funerals. At last night’s funeral, approximately 90% of those who attended chose not to approach the casket or even look in its direction as they filed past to leave. Afterward, a family member commented about it and asked me why that was.

For some families, an open casket funeral is a must — it’s a way to bring closure and to say their goodbyes. For others, it’s little more than a macabre display which dishonors rather than honors the deceased. Add to all this (IMHO) a general insulation from the stark realities of death and dying in our culture (VERY unlike many other parts of the world), so that no wonder people are either afraid of looking at death, or convince themselves that somehow they are above such a thing.

To Be Continued………..

January 14, 2010 at 2:47 pm 14 comments

Older Posts



Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 231 other followers
January 2010