Thursday, December 22, 2011

Kindness Of Others

Today I was handed a card which contained several hundred dollars of donations to Casey's Foundation. It was collected by a number of the staff at the law firm and was given as a gift to help us carry out our mission. I was very touched-very emotional and have been so for most of the last two weeks. Certainly the needs of my counseling clients have grown as we got deeper and deeper into the holidays and the experience of the holidays without a loved one became real. I guess I did not notice that my needs were greater as well. In thanking all of those who were so thoughtful I said the following:

The holidays are difficult and I have been somewhat emotional. That of course is not a bad thing but it is a fact. I count myself fortunate to work here , where everyone is so supportive and no one tells me to get on with my life and that Casey is in a better place-although the latter very well may be true. I am counseling family members in a hospice for my Master’s in counseling. Many of the clients do not have the support that I have received. My internship as well as Casey’s death has taught me to value life, value those that you love and care about and what is important. It has also taught me that so many family members have not told those that they love how they feel about them. I work with sons and daughters who desperately want to connect with a dying parent and have that parent tell them that they love them and that they approve of them. For many it does not happen before the death- “unfinished business.”

My wish for all of you is a happy and joyously reflective holiday and that you take the time to tell those who are important to you how you feel about them. Casey’s death has also taught me that there are no guarantees and that we must do what is important today and not put it off .

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Holidays without our children

We just celebrated our third Thanksgiving since Casey's death. I remember that for our first Thanksgiving I wanted to say something for Casey but was too emotional and could not. I regretted not writing it down so that someone else could read it for me.In our family we celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah and Casey loved both holidays.From carefully taking out the tree ornaments from prior years-many made by Casey when she was a little kid in school- and decorating the tree, waking up hours early on Christmas morning, having her gifts on the left side of the tree, her stocking hanging on the left of the fireplace mantel, looking for the Hanukkah gelt(chocolate candies looking like gold coins), lighting the menorah, and exchanging gifts there are just so many memories. As elegant, classy and well-dressed as Casey was when she would go out, I most remember and miss her with her hair tied back, half asleep, no make up and with an extra-sized night shirt on coming down the steps in the morning-as an 8 year old and all the years in between. Even after she lived away at college when she would come home I would so look forward to seeing her like that. Her looks changed as she matured but there was always something so simple, genuine and comforting to me about seeing my little girl like that during the holidays. Or making her favorite breakfast-2 slices of french toast placed together like a sandwhich with a bar of chocolate melted in between. I miss her every day--these little things that I won't see and there are so many memories surrounding the holidays. Holiday memories are built on family traditions and now one of our family is dead .

At the hospice where I work part-time I recently did bereavement programs for the families to help prepare them for the first holidays since their loss. If we can try to plan ahead and think of what the holidays will look like without our loved one we can try to make decisions about what we want to do or not do as opposed to just letting the holidays happen. Will we do things the same to carry on traditions, or will we purposely alter how we celebrate so it will be less painful? Will it be too painful to be around many people who are celebrating when we may feel that to celebrate at all and enjoy ourselves is dishonoring our loved one? Will we welcome suggestions of friends and family how to celebrate or will we feel resentful and consider it an intrusion? Will we feel up to all the tasks that the holidays bring, and, if not, will we feel comfortable saying no or asking others for help when we did not need to do so in the past? One of my clients told me that her daughter-in-law did not set a place at the Thanksgiving table for her recently deceased husband and she became so angry and enraged and confronted her daughter-in-law with her lack of sensitivity and caring at the table before the meal. It is almost impossible to predict how one will react who is still mourning , but planning in advance and talking about what you need should help. While those in mourning may not know how they will react, well-meaning family members and friends most assuredly do not know either. If those who are in mourning can, it helps to tell others what you want to do and what you need from them, knowing that you can always change those plans if you need to. We who mourn loved ones need to care for ourselves and may need more care during the holidays.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Finding comfort in "good deeds"

Many of the positive things that I do now are a direct result of Casey's death-speaking about distracted driving to students and community members, sponsoring volunteerism through Casey's Foundation, speaking to those in the community who have suffered tragic loss and now working at a hospice. My life is better in some respects, I am a better person,a more complete person now. But it is because Casey is dead and almost everyday I am reminded of that and I have yet to find long-lasting comfort or serenity in these "good deeds." Casey did and would have done many good deeds because she was so kind-hearted . It took her death for me to do so...........

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Ignorance and silence in the face of loss

Reprinted from August 24, 2010 (accidentally deleted):

Casey's death changed the way I look at loss personally and as an attorney. I have met with several families after Casey's death for the puposes of legal representation. I do so diffently now than I did before. I know that as a person suffering a loss I need support and that it is so dificult for others to provide that support. It seems that initially there can be a failure of support that was hoped for, then perhaps a withdrawal of support as time goes on and then just downright awful support-judging, criticism, unsolicited advice giving. It is becoming more evident to me that I need to take a role in helping others learn how to help me and provide the support that I need. The framework for providing/receiving/obtaining support could be as follows:

Let me tell you what happened to me.

It is ok and even helpful to talk about it and to bring up the subject of my loss.

Here is what you can do to help me.

These , again for me, seem to address the issues of what I need as a victim, the awkwardness and ignorance about loss, and directly communicating what I need to educate others about how to best help me. In applying these concepts to my legal practice I know I can better tell my client's stories.

A Need to Talk About Casey

Reprinted from 2010 (prior version accidentally deleted):

We continue to meet new people who have learned of our loss. We continue to meet parents who have also lost children. It is so clear to me that we need to talk about our children - we need to give their life meaning in whatever ways possible - we do not want our children who lived such very short lives to be forgotten. As I have said before, society does not make it easy sometimes for us to feel comfortable talking about our loss. Some of us have been fortunate to have those surrounding us who try to understand while many of us have not been so fortunate. Talking about our children is another way of keeping them alive. Many of us have also set up scholarships in our childrens' names and have tried to do something positive and lasting in their memory. We do this for them but very much also for us. What do we need to recover? What is recovery from this most awful experience? Someone recently talked to me about the difference between acceptance and peace. I have some measure of acceptance but little if anything in the nature of peace.

New Jersey Pedestrian Safety Law is Changed

Reprinted from April 2010 (prior post accidentally deleted):

On April 1, 2010 a new law in New Jersey designed to protect pedestrians went into effect. With my wife we attended several press conferences across the state to announce the changes. Casey's story was part of the impetus to have the law enacted according to some traffic safety officials. There was an incredible amount of press, television and newspaper, and it was an emotional day, but overall healing. The thought that somone may not die as a result of a pedestrian accident in the future and another family may be spared what we have gone through is comforting.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Who is my oldest child?

Casey was 21 years 3 months and 11 days old when she died. Brett turned 21 in March of this year. I had been anticipating the day when Brett would have been alive on this earth longer than Casey. That was June 14th. Brett was thinking about it also it turns out.

So is Casey still my oldest child or is it now Brett? I was talking with Brett and he wondered if Casey would always be his big sister. He said that , for example, when he was 30 he would be more mature than Casey had been at 21. I asked him what Casey would have said about that. We both started to laugh, and we laughed and laughed. "No way" Casey would have said in a heartbeat and would say it for quite a while.

Casey will always be my little girl that was so precocious, the rebellious and independent teen, the awkward girl turning into a graceful and beautiful young woman and the elegant and sophisticated city woman who made me so proud to be her father. She will not age past 21, she won't get those lines in her face or perhaps add those extra pounds. Casey's birth made me a father and she will always be my first born but I think, probably to her chagrin, that one day Brett will become my oldest child. What do you think Casey-when Brett is old and gray maybe he will catch up?..................."No way Dad."

Monday, July 25, 2011


The second anniversary of Casey's death was July 17th. Like last year, friends and family, about 35 of us, performed service at a No-Kill animal shelter in Casey's memory. It was a very good day when I stayed focused on what we were doing. Later that night I had one of the worst nights I have had in months-questioning why I am doing all of these things in Casey's memory, surrounding myself with young people who are leading lives that Casey should be leading and constantly reminding me of what Casey is missing. Of course I do it to remember Casey, to have her life make a difference, and to help me have some focus and direction which otherwise might be difficult. I have no choice but to continue, as painful as it is at times. The alternative is not an option. So how am I doing after the second anniversary of Casey's death? Half of my family's future was wiped away with Casey's death in a manner of speaking so I just look at today, if I can. Am I better? Am I worse than I was before? Am I less angry? Am I less in pain?

For the most part I am and feel so empty and tired.

Friday, July 1, 2011

One of Casey's friends is now engaged

One of Casey's friends became engaged last weekend. She is a sweet, kind, compassionate young woman who has been so supportive to us following Casey's death. She said that she was actually wearing one of Casey's dresses that we had given to her when her fiancee proposed and that she felt Casey's presence and knows that Casey is happy for her. We are so happy for her and her fiancee.

What would Casey have said? How would Casey have reacted? Knowing that Casey will not be at that wedding, will not have a wedding of her own, was overwhelming for me. It is so unfair-not that her friend is getting married-but that Casey will not be. I had wondered in the past how I would be prior to and at Casey's wedding. Casey had no doubts-she said I would be a lunatic like Steve Martin in Father of The Bride and that she would have to really work hard to keep me in line.

This is why I don't look too far into the future-while there is hope, there are friends and so much to do in Casey's memory there is also lots of pain and it is just the way it is and will be until I die or get so old and senile that I do not remember the beautiful young woman I am blessed to have for a daughter.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Second anniversary

The second anniversary of Casey’s death will be on July 17th. The night before she died I asked her if she was happy – I don’t know why, but I did and she answered “yes.” She said that she was happy in the moment but also with respect to her life as a whole. She had so much energy, excitement, vitality, compassion and love and, also a ton of self-confidence. She knew she would be a successful reporter and she knew she would make a positive difference in other’s lives. I knew it also. After telling me she was happy she smiled and that is the last conversation I had with her, the last time I saw that pretty smile and the last time I saw her alive.

Before her death I would often say I was blessed because my wife and children were healthy. I did know that life and health were gifts and not guaranteed. Now one of my children is dead and my wife is not so healthy as she grieves the loss of her daughter. Life has lost that comfortable rhythm and joy and I don’t look too far into the future anymore as it is too painful to contemplate all that Casey has lost and we who loved her have lost. I am no longer blessed with the good health of my children and my wife but I am blessed with the gift of the support, understanding , compassion and kindness from so many. That includes many being kind enough to ask me to speak to their groups-survivors of devastating injuries, family members of those who have died and young people in driving school/education classes about distracted driving.

While I do not look too far into the future personally, I do see the future as offering many opportunities to help others and at the same time help me by telling Casey's story. Listening to and supporting others as they mourn or contributing to making the highways safer feels right for me. We will be performing a day of service in Casey's memory on July 17th and I know that will feel right also.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Daily losses and gains

I spoke at a recent meeting at Gilda's Club, a support group for those who have lost loved ones due to cancer. I told Casey's story-a little about her life and also about how she died and then talked about what the grief process has been like for me.I discussed how dificult it is for some to offer support and there was general agreement from all in attendance that something needs to be done to improve the dialogue of loss and that will not only help those who are grieving but also those who try to offer comfort. I took my grief support survey questions and statements and we chuckled over some of the statements that we had heard from others supposedly offered to console. We were able to laugh now but it was not so easy in the months following our loved ones loss. The researchers call it "social ineptitude." The experinece was very helpful for me and all who attended told their story of loss and something about their loved one so we could better understand and feel their loss. After the program was over an elderly gentleman told me that death is a loss but that there were so many others. He proceeded to list several-reduced eyesight and hearing diminishing independence, arthritis in hands preventing him from doing his hobbies, loss of friends who do not know how to treat him after his wife of more than 50 years died. He is right of course. I really had nothing to say except to nod and touch his shoulder. I hope as I age that I will be able to offset these losses with daily gains-a smile, a kind thought, a beautiful sunrise or feeling especially connected to another.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Getting on without Casey

This past week was as stressful a week professionally as I have had for many years. I had a securities case go to a three day arbitration, Di was away in Colorado and the night before the cross exam of the defendant's expert and the closings, little Hamlet, one of our rescue cats, had a bladder stone/blockage and needed to get treatment on an emergency basis. I wound up preparing for the next day at the vet's office until almost 1:00 a.m. After the case was over I was physically drained . It was great to not have to focus on the case as I had done for most of the last week around the clock. Slowly I realized that I had thought of Casey less than any time after her death. I am getting on without Casey and doing pretty well at times- The so-called reinvestment in life that grief specialists speak of. That became a very painful realization. I am not yet ready to admit or believe or accept that I can get on " so well" without her.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

What will it take...? Distracted Driving Program

On May 13th I participated in the every 15 minutes program at Notre Dame High School in Easton, PA. Students and their parents were involved in a two day recreation of the horrors and emotions of a traffic tragedy in their community. Students and parents were moved to tears when retelling what it had felt like to be cut out of a car with the jaws of life, flown by helicopter to a trauma center, be pronounced dead, placed in a body bag or to be told that their child had died in surgery. Another student, the drunk driver, told what it felt like to be subject to stares, scorn and hatred when being led through a real courthouse for sentencing in an orange jump suit and handcuffs. Parents received death notifications, wrote obituaries and selected coffins for their deceased children. Traffic safety experts believe that putting faces on highway tragedies may make us all think differently about how we drive. Clearly this program accomplished that for many students and their parents. I was asked to speak at the "memorial service." It was the first memorial service I had attended since Casey's. I was able to tell a Casey story or two that I did not tell at her funeral and was very warmly received. I played our 3 minute public service distracted driving video. It was "good therapy."I so very much love being with young people and speaking with them and learning from them as I did with Casey and continue to do with Brett and Casey's friends.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Mother's Day

Yesterday was Mother's day. I gave Di a card-from a husband and the father of our two children with this wonderful woman-two children and one is still living. Mothers and their lost children. I have gotten a glimmer into what it means to be a mother-a mother whose dying child's last words were "I want my mom." A mother who will never forget that she could not be with her daughter in those last moments. A mother who was comforted by knowing that as her child was dying there was another mother present who was comforting her child. A mother who yesterday embraced another mother who had lost her son in another senseless traffic accident. An instant connection-mothers who had lost children.
Di opened the card looked at me and then we both sobbed and cried and held each other-for ourselves, for Casey, for Brett and for all who loved Casey and those that she loved.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Casey's Birthday

Casey would be 23 on Wednesday, April 6th. This is from an e-mail I sent her on her 21st birthday:

Not to get too sentimental but I was thinking about that day 21 years ago when you were kind enough to appear and make me a father-one of my greatest blessings in life and for which I am so grateful every day. The eagerness, the worry-your Mom did not want to get to the hospital fast enough for me. And just that feeling when you arrived and we knew you were fine and healthy.

Casey responded " Awwwwwww Dad I love being your daughter."

...and I love Casey being my daughter.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Distracted Driving

Seeing Casey's face on the Cover of the Newspaper

The DOT Video has taken off more than I could have imagined. I was interviewed for the local County paper and knew there would be a story. I walked into the convenience store and headed to the paper display racks. Then I saw Casey’s face on the front cover- three or four papers across with her sweet smile and face. I was in shock and numb as I paid for the papers. By the time I got to my car I broke down and just sat in the parking lot and cried as I have not done for several months. I became angry at the driver and then just sad and empty. I sat in my car watching people pulling into the parking lot for about twenty minutes before I could drive. Many were on hand-held cell phones, and some of those were smoking cigarettes at the same time. In several of the cars there were kids in the front seat with their parent driving and talking on the cell phone and in one case eating something and talking on the hand held cell. I presume that each driver is a good person, is loved by their friends and family ,and loves their family and friends. I know they are just like the driver that killed Casey, the drivers that killed all the others who were too young to die .They all never thought that they would be in an accident and that it was just “bad” people or really unlucky people who kill or maim while driving.

Related Links:
Faces of Distracted Driving Casey Video

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Sharing our loss, Faces of Distracted Driving

Casey Feldman-The national symbol of the toll of distracted driving. That is the headline on the cover of yesterday's Daily Times. The distracted driving video featuring Casey's friends and Di has gone national: Faces of Distracted Driving: Casey Feldman, 21
A father asks: "Listen to Casey’s story,
share it, and commit to driving safer."
I worked so hard for this to happen and it was a very emotional day-seeing Casey's face on the cover of the local newspaper , speaking with reporters about distracted driving and Casey and our loss.... Gratifying but gut wrenching. All of the positive e-mails I receive are very helpful and promising ..perhaps people will change the way they drive.

What Will It Take?", Delaware County Daily Times, 2-25-2011
Faces of Distracted Driving: Casey Feldman, 21. U.S. DOT, 2-22-2011

Friday, February 11, 2011

I think I understand what it means to "be strong"

Immediately after Casey's death a number of people told me to "be strong." After hearing that for several days I asked those who said that to think about it and get back to me and tell me what that meant. I made that request of five or six people. Only one did speak to me about it later. He said "just keep doing what you are doing."

I recently completed a study of the support groups of grieving parents-those friends, co-workers and neighbors who come in contact with grieving parents. Because of my experience I solicited information about the statement "Be strong" when used to respond to parental grief. Almost all of the men considered it to be helpful while virtually none of the women responded that way. Not a single women said that to me after Casey's death.

I was told to be strong when I was tearing up or was too full of emotion to speak. At the beginning it almost made sense-be strong for your family, let them see through my "strength" that there was a path forward. My father-in-law also told me that the day after Casey died. He was trying so hard to be stoic and controlled after losing his granddaughter. The next day he suffered a stroke.

With time and distance and the experience of grief I sense that there is strength in suffering, in feeling the pain of an incredible loss and in wearing that pain plainly on one's face. My concept of being strong is very different I suspect from the behavior I was urged to adopt in the days following Casey's death.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Be strong

Immediately after Casey's death a number of people told me to "be strong." After hearing that for several days I asked those who said that to think about it and get back to me and tell me what that meant. I made that request of five or six people. Only one did speak to me about it later. He said "just keep doing what you are doing."

Thursday, February 3, 2011

What would Casey be doing?

I seem to be thinking a lot lately about what Casey would be doing because I am with her friends and they are "actually doing." I once told someone that as a result of Casey's death a piece of me is missing-a gaping hole that does not feel like it will ever heal. So am I trying to fill in a little around that wound, trying to maybe smooth out the raw and jagged edges, by what I am doing with Casey's friends? Of course. But there is something more-it is really incredible to have relationships with Casey's friends and with other young people who did not know Casey or us at all before . I wonder at times, and so does Di, what we offer to them in return. That is something they can blog about.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Learning about our children

I am so fortunate to have Casey's friends in my life. They recently came here to help us film segments for a video we hope to complete over the next several weeks that will focus on distracted driving. They were so sincere, eloquent, compassionate and all so beautiful in every way. They said so many nice things about how Casey had been a friend, had listened to them when they needed to be heard and that her death has caused them to think differently about life. They take life more seriously, try not to take the gift of life and health and youth for granted. I was thinking that I am learning so much about Casey and her relationships. I now know how much Casey affected other parent's children. All parents should be able to hear how important their children are to their children's friends. Absent a death it is not so likely to happen. I wonder what Casey would have said had I asked if I could sit down with her friends for a couple of hours without her just to have them tell me about Casey. She would have called me a creeper and said forget it dad-No way! If only we could learn about our children in life.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Are you happy? Yes and Yes

Last night I spoke with a mother whose son died in July. She was talking about all his promise and unfulfilled potential-how he loved life and how others loved him. He was only 20. She lamented that it was so unfair because he was so full of life and energy and so positively affected others. I thought of Casey and thank God that she lived life to her fullest for the short time that she had. I can't imagine how I would feel if I felt that while she was here she had somehow been cheated of life, was not happy or did not take chances and explore life fully.

The night before she died I asked her if she was happy. She asked if I meant then or with life generally. I said both. She thought a moment, tossed her hair, did one of her smile giggles that lit up her face and triumphantly said "yes and yes." Those were the last words that I recall Casey speaking and for that I am as lucky as any parent ever could be. I shared that with the mother and she slowly smiled as she realized that her son had been happy also-That smile was for me, for her, for her son and for Casey.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Distraced driving as impetus for positive change

Over the next month we will be creating some videos that highlight the dangers of distracted driving. We will add them to the traffic safety section of our websites in connection with partnering with a national safety organization, NOYS, on a project to help young people who lose a classmate deal with that tragedy in a constructive manner. Di and I met with many of Casey's friends over the holiday and filmed some of them speaking about how their driving behaviors have changed since Casey's death. The realization that just taking one's eyes off the road for only a few seconds could so drastically impact so many people really hit home for them. I also saw how Casey's death had impacted them in other ways. Almost every person we interviewed talked about realizing now how precious life was and that not a single day can be taken for granted. It was not enough to do well in school or make money at a job, but it was necessary to impact positively those around them. As Di and I search for meaning in our lives after Casey's death we have the incredible support of Casey's friends and classmates as they, each in their own way, strive to do better in their own lives and remember Casey with love and affection.