27 March 2009

It is not so much our friends' help 
that helps us as the confident knowledge 
that they will help us.
   - Epicurus

Know someone who is grieving? Help is on the way.
Wakefield, MA – March 26, 2009
Sourcebooks, Inc. (Naperville, Illinois) announces the release of 101 Ways You Can Help: How to Offer Comfort & Support to Those Who Are Grieving, by Liz Aleshire. The book contains 101 sensible, sensitive ways readers can assist those who grieve, without trying to take on the task of making the bereavement period shorter.

The tips cover dealing with family, friends, and co-workers in a variety of situations and needs. In usage, these tips can lessen the often unendurable burdens grieving people feel when confronted with the routine, everyday realities of life after a loved one's death. This fact makes the book unique. There are scores of books, articles, and seminars available today on the subjects of death, dying, and how to heal after a loss. Before this, however, there was absolutely nowhere to turn to learn the practical steps you can take that make a grieving person's life more bearable.

The author’s goal was to spread her hard-earned knowledge as far as she could. Her only son died in 1995 at the age of sixteen of bone cancer. As a result, she went into a deep, prolonged bereavement, and while in it learned first-hand that most people don't know what to say or do when faced with a person suffering a devastating loss. She discovered that because of ignorance, even well-meaning actions sometimes made the situation worse. She intended the book not only as a vehicle for information, but as a way to honor her son's memory.

Aleshire was felled by a heart attack in May 2008. While in the Cardiology ICU at the Hartford Hospital in Hartford, Connecticut, she was too weak to finish the writing. Without thinking of anything other than helping Aleshire, and with her permission, six of her closest friends, all published writers, contacted her editor. They proposed finishing the manuscript on the original editorial schedule. Sourcebooks accepted their offer. Using Aleshire's outline and writing as much as was possible in her voice for consistency, they met the deadline.

Aleshire lived to see her friends embody the central message of her book through their actions, and she saw the pre-production copy, but she did not live long enough to actually see the book in print.

She died on October 13, 2008, while waiting for a heart transplant.

If you know somebody who is bereaved and trying to cope with what they feel as overwhelming loss, you owe it to them to read 101 Ways You Can Help: How to Offer Comfort & Support to Those Who Are Grieving. Become a true friend, and extend your hand in appropriate, needed support that will be welcomed.

Liz Aleshire’s six writer friends will be appearing as part of the Author's Panel on Sunday, April 19th at the IWWG Big Apple Conference at Scandinavia House (58 Park Avenue at 38th Street, New York), from 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM. Call the International Women’s Writing Guild at (212) 737-7536 for conference details.
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Excuse me. I need to make my reservation.

02 March 2009

You cannot prevent the birds of sorrow 
from flying over your head, but you can prevent 
them from building nests in your hair.”
  - ancient Chinese Proverb

I've just finished reading a story from the Evansville CourierPress. It's arguably the worst I've read in a very, very long time.

An 18-year-old tried to rid herself of head lice with gasoline, and ended up with severe burns over more than half her body. As she waited in the bathroom for the gasoline to kill the lice, the fumes built up, and the water heater pilot light ignited. The resulting flames seared her over most of her body. According to the report, she "suffered third-degree burns on her chest, arms and hands and first- and second-degree burns on her face and head. Doctors had to shave off her hair to peel off the burnt skin on her scalp, [...] and they already performed one surgery to bring her swelling down."

The 18-year-old is now in critical condition, so doctors have put her into a medically-induced coma so that they can work to save her without putting more stress on her system. It's not clear yet that she's going to survive this. Her roommate, fiance, and mother are keeping vigil over her.

However, it's not the burning or disfigurement that bother me about this story. It is hard for me to accept the fact that nobody could seem to do anything to prevent her collision course with horror. The roommate and the fiance agree on this point--she was determined to go through with the gasoline soak, even though they objected to it on the grounds it was dangerous, and there were other, safer methods for getting rid of lice.

Had she stood on the ledge of a window overlooking a street, or threatened to drink poison, would nobody have thought to call for help, in an effort to prevent her self-destruction? 

There are valid reasons for requesting help from officials in extreme cases--when a person shows suicidal tendencies, it's important to remember that their lives depend upon your sanity, reason, and rational thinking.

If somebody says they're going to do something you know is dangerous or reckless, and you don't use every means at your disposal to stop them, then by your inaction you are hurting them, too. Pay attention to the people you love, and help them stay safe. And if you can't do it alone, get help.

I'm sure that right now, Jessica Brooks' mother, fiance, and roommate are all in agreement with me.

Excuse me. I have to go check to be sure that nobody's fingers are reaching into our electrical outlets.