Mattie Miracle 2021 Walk was a $125,000 success!

Mattie Miracle Cancer Foundation Promotional Video

Thank you for keeping Mattie's memory alive!

Dear Mattie Blog Readers,

It means a great deal to us that you take the time to write to us and to share your thoughts, feelings, and reflections on Mattie's battle and death. Your messages are very meaningful to us and help support us through very challenging times. To you we are forever grateful. As my readers know, I promised to write the blog for a year after Mattie's death, which would mean that I could technically stop writing on September 9, 2010. However, at the moment, I feel like our journey with grief still needs to be processed and fortunately I have a willing support network still committed to reading. Therefore, the blog continues on. If I should find the need to stop writing, I assure you I will give you advanced notice. In the mean time, thank you for reading, thank you for having the courage to share this journey with us, and most importantly thank you for keeping Mattie's memory alive.


As Mattie would say, Ooga Booga (meaning, I LOVE YOU)! Vicki and Peter



The Mattie Miracle Cancer Foundation celebrates its 7th anniversary!

The Mattie Miracle Cancer Foundation was created in the honor of Mattie.

We are a 501(c)(3) Public Charity. We are dedicated to increasing childhood cancer awareness, education, advocacy, research and psychosocial support services to children, their families and medical personnel. Children and their families will be supported throughout the cancer treatment journey, to ensure access to quality psychosocial and mental health care, and to enable children to cope with cancer so they can lead happy and productive lives. Please visit the website at: www.mattiemiracle.com and take some time to explore the site.

We have only gotten this far because of people like yourself, who have supported us through thick and thin. So thank you for your continued support and caring, and remember:

.... Let's Make the Miracle Happen and Stomp Out Childhood Cancer!

A Remembrance Video of Mattie

January 30, 2011

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Tonight's picture was taken in March of 2003. Mattie was 11 months old, and that was his FIRST trip to Los Angeles. It was his first time flying ever, and he handled it very well. However, what you can't tell from this picture was the time of day. Mattie was very sensitive to the time change between the East and West coasts. I snapped this picture of Peter and Mattie at 4am. To Mattie it felt like 7am, and therefore it was time to wake up. I tried getting Mattie back to sleep that morning, but when Mattie was up, he was UP! So we began the first several days of our trip at 4am. Really NOT my hour, but with Mattie, I learned to do a lot of things I never thought I would do.


Quote of the day: While grief is fresh, every attempt to divert only irritates. You must wait till it be digested, and then amusement will dissipate the remains of it. ~ Samuel Johnson


Peter and I started the day talking about what we wanted to do today. I find that if I have NO plan on the weekends, this can be dangerous. So we chatted about going for a walk, having a late lunch out, and then tackling more cleaning. Today's cleaning adventure required muscle, so therefore, I had to have Peter's buy in into the process.

We returned to Roosevelt Island. Like yesterday, Peter walked the Island earlier in the morning, and then walked it with me in the early afternoon. During the winter months the Island is quiet, peaceful, and has very few visitors. Peter told me on his walk in the morning he saw a flock of robins. I had trouble believing this since it is winter and there is snow on the ground. I associate robins with the first sign of spring. However, to my amazement, as we were walking, I too got to see robins everywhere! In a way it was a beautiful reminder that spring will come, and all the wonderful trees and plants that are sleeping now, will return to life. Spring and particularly summer are my favorite times of year, and I am so happy Peter captured a picture of one of the robins today, because this bird signifies hope for a brighter tomorrow.
 
 
As we continued walking, in the distance I spotted something moving. A deer! As Peter tells me all the time, I have deerdar (or deer radar). That makes me laugh! But if there are deer around, I will spot them. This cutie turned its head to see us, and what I find absolutely amazing is how well camouflaged the deer are at this time of year. As the weather warms up, their fur coats seem to turn red in color. Today's temperature was in the 40s in Washington, DC and for some reason it just felt warmer. It was pleasant to be outside walking, and both of us enjoyed the peace, quiet, and openness of the Island. At times we just walked next to each other, quiet, and at other times we chatted. As we were leaving the Island we both reflected on how much Mattie loved visiting there with us, and all the things Mattie did on the Island. It was an amazing backyard to have where Mattie learned to climb rocks, feed ducks, play by the fountains, collect leaves, sticks, and rocks, skip stones on the water, and even sail his remote control boats. It is an Island rich with memories for us.   
 
When Peter and I got home, the fun began. I am still cleaning out things in our bedroom, but today, I had Peter take apart our bed, so I could remove everything I have stored there for years. I cleaned and vacuumed under there, and bagged things to donate, as well as things to simply throw away. I have no idea why I feel compelled to save certain things, but today I wasn't in the saving sort of mood, I was in the remove it from our home quickly mood. While cleaning, I also came across a rug Peter's grandmother gave us from her home many years ago. I had it rolled up under our bed. So what I decided to do was literally have Peter pick up our current rug, throw it out, and replace it with his grandmother's rug. So there are big changes in our room, and it is my hope that this will inspire me to have the courage to take on other parts of our home.
 
Tonight marks day SIX, and the final day, I will be discussing the article, Good News About Grief: As the nation mourns those killed in Tucson, a new look at the science of loss shows we're more resilient than we thought. This article was featured in Time magazine (January 24, 2011, pp. 42-46) and was written by Ruth Davis Konigsberg.


Just like I have done the previous five nights, I will share with you Konigsberg's writing, and then give my commentary below. Here is the fifth myth presented in Konigsberg's Time magazine article.

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Myth No. 5 Counseling Helps

Grief counseling is now routinely offered in a range of settings, beginning with the places where most people die: hospitals, palliative-care units and, most of all, hospices, where a minimum of one year of counseling after a loved one's death is mandated by federal legislation passed in 1982. If family members don't encounter someone offering to help in one of those places, they surely will at one of the nearly 20,000 funeral homes across the U.S., where the industry-approved term for bereavement support is "aftercare services." There are also freestanding organizations across the country that offer a wide array of treatments. Some of these organizations are not for profit, but others are all for it: The Grief Recovery Institute in Sherman Oaks, Calif., has trademarked the term grief recovery and charges $995 for a three day workshop.

For a practice that has become so ubiquitous, it has been awfully hard to verify its effectiveness, no matter how well intentioned its advocates may be. When Robert Neimeyer, a psychology professor at the University of Memphis, and his colleague Joseph M. Currier analyzed the results of more than 60 controlled studies on grief interventions in 2008, they found no evidence that counseling helped most bereaved individuals any more than the simple passage of time. "Instead of finding that people who received counseling got better or stayed the same and that people who didn't receive counseling got worse or stayed the same, we found that everyone just got better," Currier says.

The only instance in which counseling showed a benefit was when it was targeted at people displaying marked difficulties adapting to loss. "Given the current research, we can not say that grief counseling is as effective with adults who are showing a normative response," says Currier, referring to the statistical norm for grief's length and intensity.

That doesn't mean that no one is ever helped by counseling but rather that counseling doesn't, on average, seem to hasten grief's departure. In retrospect, the practice was likely popularized before there was enough solid research on normal grief to base it upon. And while counseling may have enriched a few of its practitioners, its propagation was driven more by ideology than money. Grief counselors are, by and large, not a sinister bunch out to make a buck off other people's misery, but they do, in the interest of self-preservation, have a stake in convincing us that grief is long and hard and requires their help.
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Konigsberg mentioned that counseling was mandated in 1982, by federal legislation, to be offered for a year to those who are grieving. However, contrary to her first paragraph of myth 5, I honestly do not recall Peter and I being offered counseling at the hospital and most certainly not through the funeral home where Mattie was cremated. However, as Peter reminds me, we were in shock back in September of 2009, so it is quite possible we are not remembering accurately. If I was to seek grief counseling, my most likely place to turn to for help would have been the hospital. However, Mattie's hospital for the most part doesn't have a bereavement program in place for its families. So I really can't say whether this type of support would have helped me. I do know that I attended one support group meeting at the hospital, a month after Mattie died. I was the one who asked for the creation of the support group, and the staff were nice enough to try to accommodate this request. But for various reasons the group never met again after that first session, and frankly after that initial experience, I felt very dissatisfied, angered, and with a clear understanding that a group environment was not right for me at that time.

Some of you may recall that pretty soon after Mattie died, I moved into Ann's house to help her with her dad, who was also dying. Once Ann's dad died, I spent many days after that point sitting with Mary (Ann's mom). Hospice grief counselors would come to visit Mary and offer her support, and at the same time, when they heard my story, they wanted to reach out and help me too. Frankly one social worker couldn't grasp how I could have just lost my son, and yet here I was functioning in an assisted living facility helping someone else grieve. Her insistence that I needed counseling infuriated me, because she wasn't taking the time to listen to my story and make an accurate assessment. I am sure to an outsider, it seemed impossible to grasp how I could go through another death on top of the one I already lived through. But here is the thing, for over 15 months prior to Ann's dad getting ill, I was caring intensely for Mattie. I was up around the clock seven days of week. My body was programmed to be alert, on all the time, thinking, caring, and working in a medical environment. When Mattie died, I couldn't just shut that switch off. It made sense from a physical standpoint that I should be the one to help Ann and from an emotional standpoint I am happy she allowed me in to do this. It brought us even closer as friends, and it gave me a purpose at a time when my world was crashing all around me. So what this social worker couldn't understand was that helping Ann's dad and mom, was actually therapeutic, it forced me to engage with the world, and in essence as Ann's dad was dying, Mary and I had many opportunities to chat. Which is in essence the beginning of our friendship together, a friendship that continues today.

So what is my point? My point is that we all handle grief differently and need different things to heal. Counseling may not be one of the things we all need on our journey through grief. I might feel quite differently if I did not have others in my life I could connect and talk with, but for the most part I felt early on, why would I be going to a counselor? This person can't possibly change my situation! This person can't bring Mattie back, and this person can't certainly erase the months of trauma I witnessed Mattie endure. Unlike other reasons for seeking therapy, with grief, I am not looking to learn a new strategy, I am not looking to change my mindset on how I am thinking or viewing the situation (because the situation is just bad, and no amount of reframing is going to make it look better to me), and I was most certainly unwilling to invest the time in rehashing what I lived through with someone who doesn't know me. That would be draining beyond proportion to me, because unless you witnessed what I lived through, I couldn't possibly describe it accurately to you. I remember one day I met with Mattie's social worker, Denise, at the hospital. I said to Denise that maybe I should meet with her periodically to just chat. Denise listened to me and was open to doing this, but then she asked me.... "why are you doing this? Because you want to or because others are telling you that you should?" Denise was correct, I was doing it because I was receiving pressure from others. Pressure and evaluations from others which weren't helpful. Denise normalized things for me and helped me understand that others in my life were frustrated and they wanted me to feel better, and they think that counseling will fix things. However, as Denise and I both knew, counseling was not going to fix the situation. I appreciated Denise's honestly, and what you should know is Denise's specialty is grief counseling. So she is a perfect example of person not pushing her profession upon me.

Grief is a very personal, private, and all encompassing issue. It changes your view of yourself, the world, and everyone in it. Part of the healing process is finding the will and hope to continue living. NO ONE can do that for you, not even the best of therapists. Which is why I feel that a good chunk of grief work, has to be done independently. I am certainly not closed off to professional help, but I am aware of the fact that in therapy change comes from within, and I do not want someone I do not know sitting with me hearing my feelings and thoughts on one of my most intimate relationships, raising Mattie.

At the end of myth 5, Konigsberg says.... "Grief counselors are, by and large, not a sinister bunch  - but they do, in the interest of self-preservation, have a stake in convincing us that grief is long and hard and requires their help." Reading this actually made me laugh. I am happy she doesn't consider mental health professionals (who wants to sit, listen, and help people at their lowest and most challenging points in their life) sinister! However, grief is long and hard, and most definitely I can see that there are times when professional help may be needed, but let's be honest. She is insinuating that grief counselors are convincing us as a society about the appropriate ways of grieving. I encourage you to step back, and think about this. Grief counselors are giving their opinions, sharing their insights from training and experience, and frankly how is this different than seeking the option of any other health specialist? Each specialist views a person from their own lens and training. You go to an eye doctor, because he/she understands eyes, and most likely this person will find an eye issue. You go to a cardiologist because he/she understands the working of the heart, and chances are this person will spot a heart issue. From my experience you go to these specialists to get their expert opinion, and most likely they will view your problem from their lens of knowledge. So why is it any different with a grief counselor? It isn't. In the end however, whether you are seeing a medical specialist or a mental health specialist, you as the PATIENT, must make the ultimate decision about your treatment. You are the one who is empowered, and you alone, know what is right for you. The same is true with grief. I can't think of a more imperative time in one's life where you must follow your own HEART and intuition about recovery than when you are surviving a profound loss.

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