Sunday, April 18, 2010

Who am I following Casey's death?

I have been struggling with my identity since Casey was killed . I am realizing that much of my concept of self- worth was based on being a father to an incredibly talented, gifted and generous young woman. I had always thought that part of my worth as a person and father was in the legacy I would create as a father through my children. Casey and Brett--I have incredible children. Very different but similar in their kindness and caring for others. After losing Casey am I less? Less certainly for not having her in my life and all the promise of the continuing relationship I would have had with her, with her and Di and her and Brett and all of us together. But also less for her not being here after I die. the number of different areas in which I have and can continue to contribute to the world beyond being a father to a child who has died. I think I now can do so much more effectively as a result of the course and focus on many other areas of my life in which I do and can add value to the lives of others. I am also able to look at the legacy my daughter has left, and continues to leave, in the wake of her death-scholarships, benefits, the activities of the Foundation created in her name and , most recently ,changes in pedestrian safety laws in New Jersey(you may have read about these last week). Similarly, I felt isolated at work because I went from being someone who was asked by his colleagues to help on their cases and solve difficult problems to one who was not consulted and left alone/ignored for fear of overloading me or adding to my burden. My colleagues, and a number of others, have been less adept at providing comfort than they could have and I have felt like a lost another piece of me after Casey died-my professional identity. I will also be better able to focus on what I need with respect to approval, and the belief that I am a critical cog in my firm’s success-I am able to look and see that while I am a good lawyer, the firm can get on without me in a number of areas and I have actually been able to have some additional non-lawyering time to pursue other activities that interest me, including counseling. Coincidentally, there will be an Op-ed piece in the Inquirer tomorrow, Monday, which I authored which discusses what has helped me in my grief process and what has not. It is very abbreviated and if you would like to see the full version let me know and I will be happy to send it to you.
I have heard so many times since Casey died that there are no coincidences. Perhaps that is why I did elect to take your course. Thank you very much.

Champagne and pink cupcakes

Will others remember Casey? So short a life and so many more years she should have lived and loved and been loved and experienced and grown and ..........

I pulled in to the cemetery and approached her site. I saw some people at her grave and was annoyed-I was her father and on her birthday wanted to be with my daughter not some other folks. I saw it was Casey's college roommates- Kelsey, Janine, Christina and Cassie. They each had a champagne glass and were gathered around Casey's monument. They had a tradition of celebrating each other's birthdays with champagne and cupcakes from their favorite bakery. They had not forgotten Casey. After hugs and kisses and tears I realized that Casey would not be forgotten. I will always remember the ladies with their champagne glasses and pink cupcakes on Casey's twenty-second birthday.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Casey's gift to me on her birthday

I had spoken at a continuing legal education seminar last Tuesday-Casey's birthday. I had talked about Casey and how, as a result of being a grieving father, I realized that I had not really listened well to my clients who had lost loved ones over the years. I was nice enough but there is a difference between being nice and really listening in a way that the person speaking knows you are listening and that you get what they are feeling. I suggested to the attorneys that we could all do better and that it was really more about the clients than it was about us. I walked out and saw a man who had lost both his legs seated in a wheelchair. Thinking of Casey I stopped , gave him some money and smiled at him. I walked around the corner to the flower store where I pick up flowers ,wanting flowers to drop off at Casey's grave on my way home. I picked a bouquet of pink roses and brought them to the counter. The owner looked at them and since one or two were starting to brown said he would get me a new bouquet. He returned with the same pink bouquet as it was the last one in pink and also a beautiful bouquet of white roses. He said to take both--a gift from him. My present from Casey on her birthday--Thank you Casey.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Simple acts ease great pain

This article appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer on Monday April 5th 2010. I am grateful for its publication and the incredible response it has generated. I have received hundreds of e-mails and most are from parents who have lost children and many of them more than ten years ago. All of these parents still have a need to tell their story, their child's story and a need to be heard.
The e-mails were incredible-very emotionally draining for me-some of the stories of children who had died years ago and the intense continuing grieving scared me. I guess somehow I imagined it would continue to get a little better with time. Maybe you reach a place, a plateau, and it does not get better. Do we still need to tell our stories because we have not found the right people to tell them to?

Simple acts ease great pain

By Joel D. Feldman

My lovely 21-year-old daughter, Casey, died about eight months ago on a beautiful summer day in Ocean City, N.J. She was struck by a car in a crosswalk while on her way to a boardwalk restaurant where she worked. How she died and, more important, lived her short life was reported in various newspapers.
Casey's death is the most difficult thing I have faced, and going on without her is the most difficult thing I will face.
But in the immediate aftermath, I would not have expected to be doing as well as I am now. My progress has been possible because of supportive family, friends, acquaintances, and even strangers.
But I have found that many people, however well-intentioned, simply don't know what to say or do to comfort the grieving. Awkwardness, anxiety, and ignorance surround death and mourning. So although grief is different for everyone, I offer my thoughts on what has and hasn't helped me.

"How are you doing?" So many people asked me this question and then quickly tried to retract it, saying something like, "How stupid of me to ask! I know you must be suffering terribly." Even before Casey's death, I was ambivalent about this expression, which often doesn't indicate real interest in another's condition. It's better to ask someone who is grieving, "How are you doing today?" That communicates a genuine desire to know how someone is doing at the moment. A person can answer as fully or briefly as he wants, comforted by the knowledge that someone is willing to listen.

"What can I say?" You can't really lessen my grief, certainly not with a phrase. You can comfort, but not cure. Just be present. "I was thinking of you and your family" is the kind of sentiment that helps.

"I know how you feel." Please don't ever say this. Many of us have lost loved ones, and some have even lost a child, but your loss doesn't tell you how I feel about mine. (Presumably you are not as clueless as the person who told me she knew how I felt because she had recently lost her 18-year-old cat.)

Listen; don't feel compelled to talk. Casey was an award-winning reporter and editor at her college newspaper, and one of her colleagues told me Casey had taught her that everyone has a story - that one just has to listen. That is perfect advice for anyone trying to comfort someone in mourning. All I want is to be listened to - to feel you are trying to learn what it's like to stand in my shoes and are there when I need to talk.

"I didn't want to remind you." Many people said they were afraid to talk to me about Casey for fear of reminding me of her. But I think of Casey almost all the time, regardless of what others say to me.
I am afraid people will forget Casey. I'll always appreciate it when people speak of and remember her.

Don't judge my grieving. I struggled, and still do, with whether I am grieving enough for Casey. I know my grief is not a measure of my love, but when I would laugh or find pleasure in something, I would often chide myself for being happy too soon.
As I returned to normal activities, people would say things like, "I don't know how you are going about your life as you are. I would never get out of bed." This was probably intended as a compliment, but it made me question whether I was grieving enough. No one can know what I'm going through, so no one should try to characterize or judge my progress.

"I didn't want to intrude on your grief." I often heard this from friends trying to explain why they didn't reach out to me sooner. But whether they did nothing because they didn't want to intrude, didn't know how to offer comfort, or just didn't care, they still did nothing. I had no way of knowing the difference. There was not a single person who reached out to me whom I saw as intruding. Surviving a tragic loss is a struggle. I feel different as a result of my loss; don't compound that by making me feel isolated. Do something, lest your inaction be construed as insensitivity.

When is it too late to send a card? The answer for me is never. The bulk of the support I received came in the first month after Casey died. As time went on, there were fewer and fewer cards, phone calls, and deliveries. Some studies show grief symptoms may actually worsen several months after a loved one's death as a result of the gradual lessening of support over time. Put a reminder in your calendar to make a call, send an e-mail, or plan a lunch. It will be most appreciated. My expectations - that Casey would graduate from college, find a satisfying career, marry, have children, live a full life, and one day mourn my death - have been shattered. In struggling to put together the pieces, I have learned that a tragic death can paralyze kind and caring people. And I have been helped by those who, whether they were comfortable doing so or not, tried to offer support.

Joel D. Feldman is a lawyer in Philadelphia. He can be reached at For more information about Casey Feldman and what her family is doing in her memory, see

Simple Acts Ease Great Pain, by Joel Feldman, Philadelphia Inquirer, April 5, 2010

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Let's not write any new pedestrian death stories

The grief I suffered and my family suffered after Casey's death is something that is being used to try to get drivers to be safer, to try to focus drivers on what can happen with a moment's distraction. There is also the other side-imagine you are the driver who, through distracted driving, was responsible for killing someone's child. How would that feel for the rest of your life? At the New Jersey press conferences I wanted to point out that there were two sides to the story of every pedestrian fatality. No one wants to be on either side of that story and it can happen to all of us whenever we drive.

I pray that no new pedetrian death stories will be written for both sides.

More information can be found at

Sentencing Hearing Press

Following the sentencing hearing reporter Tim Logue from the Delaware County Times wrote a story that discussed the sentencing issues, but, more importantly, focused on the charitable events that are being done in Casey's name. This is a a part of the article:

Feldman and Anderson have poured their energy into a foundation created in their daughter’s memory. The Casey Feldman Foundation “supports individuals, groups and institutions whose interests and goals align with those of Casey,” according to reached Wednesday, they were in New York City with students from the University of Colorado and Fordham helping to feed people with serious illnesses at a nonprofit agency.“We are with 12 students from Colorado who are spending their spring break doing service instead of partying and two from Fordham, which is not on break right now,” Joel Feldman said.

Here is the link: