Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thursday's Therapy - 8 Ways for Us Child-Loss Grievers to Restore Our Damaged Brains

Thursday's Therapy

8 Ways for Us Child-Loss Grievers to Restore Our Damaged Brains

It was first at the conference Tommy and I went to in Atlanta, Georgia, training under premier Trauma specialist Dr. Bessel A. van der Kolk, when we learned that brains are often damaged (with evidence of the "hippocampus" actually shrinking) when going through severe trauma such as that of losing our child. That was in February, 2010. At that point in time, Dr. van der Kolk, who works as Medical Director of the Trauma Center at Justice Resource Institute in Brookline, Massachusetts, was not sure that the damaged hippocampus (which was revealed through the newly available brain imaging for trauma patients) could be repaired or not. (Even the medical world didn't think that the brain could generate new cells; doctors had been taught over the years that the brain had a fixed number of cells, and that was it; a person could only lose cells from that point on, but could never expect to regain any.) Research since that point in time, thankfully, reveals that our brains can indeed go through neurogenesis in which the hippocampus loss that we've apparently experienced can be restored! This new understanding regarding the potential for brain cells to regenerate is called "Neuroplasticity." The following is a list of exciting ways in which the brain can purportedly (via scientific observation) be stimulated into producing such new brain cells, called "Neurogenesis."

7 Scientifically Proven Ways to Stimulate Brain Cell Growth / Neurogenesis

~ found in a blog called,

Neurogenesis - “The birth of new neurons in the brain; also referred to as the process in which neurons are created.

The growth of new brain cells occurs in the region of the brain called the "hippocampus." The ‘hippocampus’ is an area involved with memory, learning, and other cognitive functions. In order to live and become part of our brain, new neurons formed in the hippocampus-region need support from surrounding nutrients from blood and glial cells.

Most importantly, they need support from other surrounding neurons – otherwise these new brain cells will die. Though thousands of new brain cells are formed and produced via the hippocampus each and every day, many die quickly after birth. When we can keep them alive for this crucial period after birth, we are able to effectively boost the power of the human brain by adding new brain cells to the bank of existing cells.

Though neurogenesis is most active during prenatal development, there is growing evidence that certain activities also induce the growth of new brain cells [neurons] in the brain. Provided below are 7 researched and proven ways to grow new brain cells and provide a safe haven for effective neurogenesis.

1. An Exercise Regimen

Everybody knows that exercise is good for your overall health and heart, but in recent findings, powerful evidence has proven that exercise is great for your brain. Scientific experiments have discovered that mice consistently using running wheels had around 2 times the amount of hippocampal neurons (brain cells) as the mice that didn’t exercise.

Another study at (Columbia) University found that humans who had a(n) exercise training program were able to grow and maintain new brain cells and nerve cells in the hippocampus region of the brain. The specific area called the “dentate gyrus” is responsible for helping produce neurogenesis. Even more studies have discovered that those who exercised had 2 – 3 times the increases in the birth-rate of new neurons!

2. Eating Blueberries

Eating blueberries can trigger the growth of new brain cells? That’s right! 19-month-old rats that were put on a blueberry enriched diet [equal to about 1 cup per day for humans] were more skilled at navigating through mazes than rats who weren’t fed blueberries. Scientists know for a fact that blueberries promote the growth of new neurons. In order to track the growth of neurons, researchers injected dye into rats.

They saw that in the hippocampus region, new brain cells were generated. Scientists figure that “anthocyanin dye” – the dark bluish-dye found in blueberries caused the neurogenesis. The anthocyanin-dye contains chemicals that can cross the blood-brain barrier and produce the growth of neurons. There is growing evidence that the “anthocyanin dye” has the same effect on the brains of humans!

3. Taking Time for Meditation

Meditation (w)as always thought to have been beneficial for the brain. Recent compelling evidence from scientific researchers at Yale, Harvard, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology revealed that meditation can allow us to “grow bigger brains.” Though this isn’t the same thing as neurogenesis, meditation could very well be an activity that boosts the birth rate of neurons.

Researchers also discovered that meditators literally had an altered-physical brain structure compared to non-meditators. Brain scanning technology [i.e. MRIs] showed that meditation boosted thickness of brain structure dealing with attention, sensory input, and memory functions. The thickening was found to be more noticeable in adults than younger individuals. It’s interesting because the same sections of our cortex that meditation thickens, tend to get thinner as we age.

Meditation is known to boost brain activity, coherency of brain waves, strengthen neural connections, and thicken gray matter. Though scientists haven’t confirmed the effects of meditation and its ability to aid neurogenesis [due to complexity issues], there is a likely possibility that it helps.

4. Antidepressant Drugs

Scientific research by the National Institute of Mental Health has proven that antidepressants work by allowing our brains to grow new brain cells (neurons). In a 2003 study, scientists discovered that when they blocked the formation of new neurons in the hippocampus brain region, behavioral effects of the antidepressant Prozac [Fluoxetine] were diminished.

Research has already understood that depression, stress, and anxiety disorders can cause death of neurons in the brain. More studies have demonstrated that most other antidepressants on the market can and will trigger the growth of new neurons. {Actually, our understanding is that, according to J. Douglas Bremner, M.D., associate professor of psychiatry and radiology at Emory School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia and author of Does Stress Damage the Brain, in a seminar held in Atlanta, Georgia in September, 2011 that Tommy and I attended, the SSRI anti-depressants are the only antidepressants on the market that trigger the growth of new neurons in the brain.} Even more interesting is the fact that besides humans, adult animals grow new neurons when given antidepressant drugs.

Though there are many other interactions in the brain with antidepressants, their primary beneficial effect from them is derived from their ability to produce neurogenesis. Now if scientists can only figure out a way to induce the amount of neurogenesis that antidepressant medication does without creating a new drug!

5. An Enriched Environment

Science has long known that living in a mentally stimulating environment versus an impoverished environment is far better for brain development. Research has found that exposure to an enriched environment enhances neurogenesis functioning and is able to regulate emotionality.

Scientists have found that memory-based tasks were far improved in the hippocampus region of the brain when human beings are raised in a healthy, enriched environment. One study found that mice put in stimulating environments actually had larger hippocampus regions than did those living in “standard” or “poor” laboratory conditions. They discovered a direct correlation between an enriched environment and the amount of neurons produced in the brains of mice. This had a significant effect on neurogenesis!

6. The Act of “Learning”

Though scientists have long known that new brain cells are able (to) “enhance learning” – they never thought that “learning” could actually cause the birth of new brain cells… that is, until recently. In recent animal studies, researchers have found that there was a direct relationship between “learning” and the survival rate of newly-birthed brain cells.

When researchers taught certain rodents a wide-variety of cognitive tasks which involved a wide-range of brain areas – scientists found that the more the animal “learned” – the more new neurons were able to survive in the hippocampus. Scientists have made it clear that “learning” can increase the presence of new neurons in the brain.

Brain cells that are born in the hippocampus, which normally die off, are literally “rescued” by “learning” experiences. There is still plenty of research being conducted in this area and not all sources agree. However, your best bet is to keep your brain power boosted and your mind sharp. Always try to learn something new!

7. Restricting Caloric Intake

The phenomena of calorie restriction has continued to puzzle researchers. They have found that eating less food can lead to significant increases in longevity. Even when starting calorie restriction in middle age, it is able to produce around a ten to twenty percent increase in life-span. (Calorie restriction) has also been associated with hundreds of biological changes and can harbor our ability to produce new brain cells.

Restricting calorie intake has been associated with increases in neurogenesis and a better overall neuroprotective effect in the brain. Scientists have found that calorie-restricted animals nearly always stay active and healthy up until the end of their lives. This phenomena has also been associated with a significantly lowered likelihood of developing a degenerative brain disease and can even produce new nerve cells!

8. Infrared Light Helmets

Though the use of infrared light helmets is relatively new, researchers believe that they may help patients with Alzheimer's disease by helping them grow new brain cells. Developer of this infrared light helmet, Dr. Gordon Dougal, (also the director of medical research at medical research company Virulite) believes the helmet will hit the market about 1 year from now. It works by aiming low levels of infrared light at the wearer’s brain. Next, it stimulates neurogenesis in the brain, suggests research.

More on how this works according to its inventor [Dr. Gordon Dougal]:

“How we hope it’s going to work is that the infrared light will be facing inside the helmet onto the actual person, onto their skin, onto their brain, and actually goes on the frontal part of the bones, so it goes onto the actual front part of the brain and the side of the brain.

“The side of the head and their skull are relatively thin, so the light will penetrate the skull and treat the underlying brain tissue. And the top of the head is also quite thin, and the light will penetrate the brain tissue at that point.”


For more information, view the sources:

LE Magazine: June 2002 – Calorie Restriction, Exercise, Hormone Replacement, and Phytonutrients Fight Aging – Age Conference – Madison, Wisconsin

Harvard University – Meditation found to increase brain size – Mental calisthenics bulk up some layers By William J. Cromie – Harvard News Office

Antidepressants Grow New Brain Cells –;

Sci STKE. 2003 Aug; (195):318. Antidepressants and Hippocampal Neurogenesis. Santarelli L, Saxe M, Gross A, Surget A, Battaglia F, Dulawa S, Weisstaub N, Lee J, Duman R, Arancio O, Belzung, Hen R.

The Journal of Neuroscience. 2007 Mar; 27(13): 3252-3259. Experience-Specific Functional Modification of the Dentate Gyrus through Adult Neurogenesis: A Critical Period during an Immature Stage. Tashiro A, Makino H, Gage FH.

Stanford University Research In Progress: HD & Lifestyle

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Wednesday's Woe - Stranded Between The Now and... The Not Yet

Wednesday's Woe

Stranded Between The Now and… The Not Yet

~Tommy and Angie Prince

So, on the Good side: We got to spend Thanksgiving loving on our two sons, our daughter-in-law, and our little 3-month-old grand baby. It was a precious time, really idyllic. And we had such a sweet time cuddling with our precious grand baby girl, Ellie.

But on the Down side: Though we experienced such sweet closeness with our grand baby girl, such sweet physical closeness also seemed to accentuate the LACK of sweet physical closeness with our own baby girl…

Going through withdrawals now, with the heavy-heart, physical reminder that SHE IS NOT HERE to love on!!!

I read this quote today on Facebook:

"You begin to die the moment your memories of yesterday are greater than your hopes and dreams for tomorrow. To live is to love."

~B. M. W.

Does this mean we are beginning to die? According to this quote it does. Perhaps it's more accurate to say we feel dead already. Any sweetness in the here-and-now feels like icing on the cake, but was the cake our own sweet little intact family? Holidays in many ways just accentuate the absence of that intact sweetness…

Hold on. More holidays to come. We may be in for a long ride yet…

Meanwhile, we ourselves will walk baby-step by baby-step through this paradoxical land that seems to be stranded between The Now and… The Not Yet.

Picture, thanks to Inspiring Greatness

Monday, November 28, 2011

Tuesday's Trust - Amidst the Holidays ~ Keeping the Good...

Tuesday's Trust

Amidst the Holidays ~

Keeping the Good...

We are coming out of Thanksgiving weekend and looking back on the time with awe. Looking back on our lives this weekend is somewhat like watching the immature pupa in the process of its transformation between larva and adult within its transitional state within the chrysalis. Going into the weekend, we knew certain new rules we have tried in years before would have to continue to be in place, such as,

  • There will be no "crowds" of people in which we will gather. No large family-of-origin get-togethers. No massive amounts of interpersonal dynamics we will have to navigate through. No unnecessary tensions to get stirred up for no good reason.
  • There will be no shopping furor or frenzy that we will force ourselves to contend with.
  • There will be no extra activities undertaken which might weaken us down into an unnecessarily tired state.
  • We will not force ourselves to do things just because that was what we always did.

  • On top of that, I was contending with the somatic dysfunction that has plagued me these five years as my body struggles to tangle with the realities manifest that my heart, soul, spirit, body, and mind never wanted to happen but did anyway. So, I am learning, of necessity, to attend to what my poor body is requiring to stay healthy. Which includes the need for boundaries, saying "No" to tasks I ordinarily would have tackled "just because" a holiday is here, and that is what you do.
  • And we will maintain a schedule of healthy activities like obtaining proper amounts of sleep, proper amounts of healthy exercise, eating the appropriate foods called for to which our bodies will respond well, hopefully.
  • And we will open the door to sweet, low-key visits from just a few key people that we don't ordinarily get to spend enough time with, like our own two sons, and daughter-in-law, and granddaughter!
  • So on the flip side of the weekend, we can see now how incredibly sweet the weekend was. The sacred was retained. The fluff was eschewed. And in doing so the purity of the sacred moments stand out in full relief, not muddied down at all by the usual toxicities that can often come with the holiday package. How sweet. How thankful we are that amidst our "new normal," such as it is, in some ways our holidays are spent in even BETTER ways than before, and that is such a relief to see! And for that major transition, I am so very THANKFUL. I am indeed THANKFUL that I can be THANKFUL on this Thanksgiving season!
  • It even gives me a trust and a hope that our devastating child-loss grief can usher in much BETTER habits and rituals and family-togetherness than in years before! God is good, and I guess we are in a better position to really listen to His still small voice these days. Indeed, not everything about child-loss grief is bad. Some changes coming our way are not only good, they are very good!

Posters, thanks to

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Monday's Mourning Ministry - I Am Weary, Let Me Rest ~The Cox Family

Monday's Mourning Ministry

I Am Weary, Let Me Rest

~The Cox Family

  • Songwriters: Peter V. Kuykendall A/k/a Pete Roberts

Kiss me mother kiss your darlin'
Lay my head upon your breast
Throw your loving arms around me
I am weary let me rest

Seems the light is swiftly fading
Brighter scenes they do now show
I am standing by The River
Angels wait to take me Home

Kiss me mother kiss your darlin'
See the pain upon my brow
While I'll soon be with the angels
Fate has doomed my future now

Through the years you've always loved me
And my life you've tried to save
But now I shall slumber sweetly
In a deep and lonely grave

Kiss me mother kiss your darlin'
Lay my head upon your breast
Throw your loving arms around me
I am weary let me rest
I am weary let me rest

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Saturday's Sayings - First… Walk a Mile in My Shoes

Saturday's Sayings

First… Walk a Mile in My Shoes

Many poems in today's post are thanks to "Grieving Mothers"

I am wearing a pair of shoes.

They are ugly shoes.

Uncomfortable shoes.

I hate my shoes.

Each day I wear them, and each day I wish I had another pair.

Some days my shoes hurt so bad that I do not think I can take another step.

Yet, I continue to wear them.

I get funny looks wearing these shoes.

They are looks of sympathy.

I can tell in others eyes that they are glad they are my shoes and not theirs.

They never talk about my shoes.

To learn how awful my shoes are might make them uncomfortable.

To truly understand these shoes you must walk in them.

But, once you put them on, you can never take them off.

I now realize that I am not the only one who wears these shoes.

There are many pairs in this world.

Some women are like me and ache daily as they try and walk in them.

Some have learned how to walk in them so they don’t hurt quite as much.

Some have worn the shoes so long that days will go by before they think about how much they hurt.

No woman deserves to wear these shoes.

Yet, because of these shoes I am a stronger woman.

These shoes have given me the strength to face anything.

They have made me who I am.

I will forever walk in the shoes of a woman who has lost a child.

~Author Unknown 


Angel in Heaven

There's a special Angel in Heaven

that is a part of me.

It is not where I wanted her

but where God wanted her to be.

She was here but just a moment

like a nighttime shooting star.

And though she is in Heaven

she isn't very far.

She touched the heart of many

like only an Angel can do.

We held her every minute

for the end we all knew.

So I send this special message

to the Heaven up above.

Please take care of my Angel

and send her all my love.

~Author Unknown~

contributed by Grieving Mother, G. T.


A Thanksgiving Prayer for Grieving Families

Dear Father who art in Heaven...

Please join our family on this Thanksgiving day

And bless each one as we sit down to pray

As we remember those who have joined You above

So dearly missed and deeply loved.

Please provide us strength on this Thanksgiving day

Bless us with memories of those faraway...

Please grant patience to family and friends as we grieve

And help us reach out to others who are bereaved.

We give thanks to You on this Thanksgiving day....

For Your presence in our lives each and everyday.

For Your comfort, guidance, and never ending love...

And for taking care of our loved Heaven above.

As we light this candle on this Thanksgiving day...

And it glows in memory of those in Heaven today....

May their lights always shine down on us and give us light...

And may we feel their presence along with Yours tonight.

May the peace and tranquility of this Thanksgiving day

Be an everlasting light within each of us along the way...

Lets bow our heads and give our Thanks to God above..

For our blessings, whether on earth or in Heaven above...


~Grieving Mothers


Walk With Me...

Walk With Me

Walk with me…

Walk in my shoes

for one single day.

Then you’ll see why

I need to pray.

Come live in my home

for a week or two

and then remember

I am just like you.

I didn’t ask for the things I was given

I didn’t choose this road I have taken

Walk a mile with me hand in hand

Then perhaps you will understand.

I’m not really complaining

about the stress in my life,

I know that we all have

some toil and some strife.

But walk with me, when you think

I am wrong, walk with me

and you’ll start to belong.

Embrace my sorrows,

like they are your own,

And then you will know me

And see I have grown.

The journey I take

is different from yours

My life took one of those

unexpected detours,

But this road that I travel

is not really so long,

If the people who watch me

will join in my song.

Listen to my footsteps

and watch how I dance

And then you will know me

and give me a chance.

Take heart and remember

It can happen to you,

who knows where my pathway

will cross over to you?

So speak to me softly

if you can’t understand

Remember I once stood

right there where you stand.

And walk with me gently

when the day is at end.

And then I will know

I can call you my friend.

~Author unknown



Every Holiday, we're greeted

By that ever empty chair.

Your place is always plated

In hopes that You are there.

Some say, You weren't invited,

But this day is just for You,

With prayers of thanks and blessings

And this invitation, Oh! So true.

A table sat for nine

When only eight are there

For this day in our lives,

With You, we want to share.

And when we laugh, or eat, or drink,

Each moment shared again;

Then I know that You have joined us

And each time.... I say Amen.

~Carolyn Ford Witt


Thanksgiving Day Go Away

Today is Thanksgiving what words can I say

Since my loved one was taken away

The anger,the grief the sorrow I feel

In my mind this is not real

We used to celebrate with family and friends

Now we are like the plague and avoided again

Nothing I did could change what I went through

All the torment I suffer all because I miss you

So as Thanksgiving begins on this day

I have no one to share for they went away

My day is empty and feel nothing but pain

Wishing you were here with me once again

So Thanksgiving to me is just another day

As I feel empty with no words left to say

Remember the good times and not the bad

For then in your heart (we) will be glad

I hope in time (we) will find peace and love

Sent by an Angel from God Above.

~Robert Walters Sr.


Unless You Have Walked In My Shoes

Please don't tell me to be strong

To be wise and stand up tall

Please don't urge me to move on

Don't treat me as if I am a pawn.

I'm not heartless, callous and cold;

I'm not brave nor very bold

I'm not as tough as I need to be

So understand, that's just not me!

It's not advice I seek from you

Just stand by me; let me work it through

And though I fight daily to stay alive

With family and friends I will survive.

Don't be so eager to be my judge

Unless you have walked in my shoes!

And though I don't hold a grudge

I'm still battered and bruised.

~by "Grieving Mothers"


First Thanksgiving

The thought of being thankful

fills my heart with dread.

They’ll all be feigning gladness,

not a word about her said.

These heavy shrouds of blackness

enveloping my soul,

pervasive, throat-catching

writhe in me, and coil.

I must, I must acknowledge,

just express her name,

so all sitting at the table,

know I’m thankful that she came.

Though she’s gone from us forever

and we mourn to see her face,

not one minute of her living,

would her death ever replace.

So I stop the cheerful gathering,

though my voice quivers, quakes,

make a toast to all her living.

That small tribute’s all it takes.

~Genesse Bourdeau Gentry

TCF, Marin/San Francisco, CA


Walk A Mile In My Shoes

I've been to hell and back on a rocky path of shards

falling along the way

I've played in fenced grassy yards

on a sunny day

I know what its like to win

I know what its like to lose

if you want to go to places I've been

walk a mile in my shoes

I've been accepted applauded respected by people along the way

I've been stepped on kicked beat rained on till I was wet on a cloudy day

sometimes its not what you choose

if you don't believe me

walk a mile in my shoes

I've been beat down thrown around

had my days of blues

I've been helped praised let down raised

by people with different views

if you want to see what its like

to be me

walk a mile in my shoes

just when I had enough times were too rough

sick of bad news

leaving town looking down

lost all I could lose

I noticed . . .

I was walking in your shoes

~Ernest Clary


‎"Losing our child/children did not guarantee us that we would receive compassion and understanding from others. It did not guarantee us that family and friends would understand our pain, our heartbreak, our actions, our choices. It did not guarantee us that we would receive no more trial in our lives. Quite the opposite...we lose family and friends, we have been told to "get over it" "move on" to stop crying....well, one thing it does guarantee us is that we will meet the people we are supposed to meet, the ones who care, the ones who understand and I am thankful for those who have held my hand through this nightmare of a journey through grief for the past 7 1/2 years. Love you ALL!! Adam

~by Grieving Mother, M. H.


See everybody's got their own problems that they are going through.
I take it day by day, it's the only thing that I can do.
So I live for me as you live for you
But you can't be me...
unless you walk in my shoes.

Pictures, thanks to Grieving Mothers