Tag Archives: grief

Resting In Peace

by Lillian Csernica on July 29, 2019


On Friday we held the memorial service for my mother at Pacific Gardens Chapel. More than a dozen people attended. Given the perils of weekend traffic during a Santa Cruz summer,  I was grateful to see so  many friends of our family make the effort to honor Mom’s memory.  This was in addition to the presence of my brother, whom I have not seen since my wedding 31 years ago this month.


More family and friends sent flowers, among them white roses with blue hydrangea, a basket of roses the red of garnets, and one of those big sprays of spider mums and daisies and greenery. The flowers made the chapel even more beautiful, all of it centering on a photo of Mom taken from the days when she worked in music videos and as an extra in movies and TV. That photo, a cheerful headshot, let us mourners remember my mother as the person she was, the lively personality inside that body so weakened by illness.

My brother spoke about Mom making the most of every little thing they had when my brother was growing up. My husband talked about how many ways Mom expressed her creativity, through art and acting and singing and even stand-up comedy. I gave Mom credit for teaching me one of life’s most important lessons: Try everything! I’ve done my best to teach my boys do that so they don’t miss out on something they never knew they’d enjoy.


These last few months of Mom’s life have been so hard. Now she’s in a better place, free of the body that kept breaking down and causing her so much pain. Mom can rest in peace, knowing how much we all loved her.

Yesterday I sat in my favorite coffeehouse and wrote for close to an hour. Then I switched notebooks and went on writing about something else entirely. I haven’t done that much writing in a single sitting in far too long.

It’s time for me to get some rest too, then go on living the life my mother encouraged me to live.



Filed under artists, creativity, Family, family tradition, hospital, mother, parenting, special education, worry, Writing

Memory Eternal

by Lillian Csernica on February 21, 2018


I know what it’s like to bury a child.

I lost my son James at 18 weeks when I ruptured early.

The first time I ever identified myself as a mother was when I signed the paperwork for my baby’s funeral arrangements. I’d never seen a coffin that small. Up to that point in my life, I’d never had reason to think about one or realize such a thing existed.

The day of the funeral, I stood there and had to see my baby wrapped in what would have been his first blanket, lying there in his little white satin-lined coffin. I had to stand there and watch while the priests chanted the funeral service and that little white coffin was lowered into that hole in the ground and I had to deal with knowing I’d never see my little boy grow up.

To the parents of all the children who have died in school shootings, I say I cannot imagine how much greater is the pain you’re being forced to suffer now. I never had the chance to get to know James, to see him smile or hear him laugh. You knew your sons and daughters. You watched them grow into fine young men and women with hopes and dreams for their futures.

Futures cut short by a tragedy that should not have been allowed to occur.

I know the agony I’ve had to live with, the tears I’ve shed every time I’ve visited my baby’s grave. I am so terribly sorry that all of you have been forced to experience the torment of such grief.

I promise you, I will do more than send you my thoughts and prayers. I will VOTE. I will MARCH. I will make phone calls and I will sign petitions. I will join the crowds chanting, “NEVER AGAIN!” until my throat is raw and my shirt is soaked with tears.

We must see to it that other children do not die. That other parents do not suffer the grief that you and I must endure. The children of this nation are our children. We must see to it they are safe.



Filed under Depression, Family, family tradition, love, mother, parenting

Time To Say Goodbye

by Lillian Csernica on December 8, 2016


One of my favorite people is dying.

He and I have been friends for about eight years now. We’ve been in two different writers’ groups together. He writes nonfiction, a memoir of his Navy days. We’ve gone out to brunch together a number of times, and we have a few treasured in-jokes.

It’s very hard to see him and know these are his last days.

As soon as I heard he was in the hospital, I hurried over there yesterday. Fortunately, my friend was awake and aware, so we had a brief conversation. His brother and his four children were on hand, so I didn’t stay long. After I left my friend’s hospital room, I found a private corner and sat there crying for a while.

Today I stopped by the hospital. My friend’s wife and one of their sons were about to take him home. It’s time for hospice care. I don’t know how I managed to keep it together until I got out to the parking lot.

I wanted to write all kinds of profound things here about my friend, his life, and our time together. Yesterday I was in shock. Today I’m so sad.

I love you, Art. For however many days you have left, and for every day after that.



Filed under Family, Fiction, frustration, hospital, Lillian Csernica, memoirs, perspective, worry, Writing

There are No Happy Endings

by Lillian Csernica on March 5, 2015

I’m talking about real life.  For me, endings, stoppages, goodbyes, farewells, and leavetakings are all matters for sorrow.

I am really bad at saying goodbye.

Why is that?  Is it because I can’t stand the sense of loss that comes with the departure of a person or animal?  I’m not talking death, I’m just talking no longer a part of my personal life.  That is certainly one form of grief.  When you’ve had to cope with several losses and departures in a short time frame, you start getting very sensitive about just the prospect of one more.  Back when I left 5th grade, we moved that summer and I ended up in an entirely new junior high, away from all the classmates with whom I’d just spent what amounted to the first five years of my life.  My neighbors were gone, their pets were gone, all the landmarks and those little details that had become important just to me because I lived for such a long time in that same neighborhood.

Am I afraid of people leaving because of the more traumatic losses I’ve dealt with?  My parents divorced when I was eleven years old.  I hadn’t seen much of my father on a daily basis because he worked the graveyard shift and slept by day.  Once my parents divorced, my father had to go into rehab for his alcoholism, which meant I didn’t see him at all for months.  Then the whole visitation mess finally got settled, and I started spending every other weekend with Daddy.  This kind of inconsistency can really mess with your head when you’re only eleven.

I’ve lost a best friend to a misunderstanding that should never have happened.  I’ve lost boyfriends to distance and rivals and boredom.  I’ve lost pets to time and illness and predators.  I lost an entire stage of my life once I got married.  Sure, I gained a new stage, but the transition was more than a little nerve-wracking.

Even temporary goodbyes upset me.  When I say goodbye to Michael and John before I leave for a convention, there’s always that faint anxiety in the back of my mind about whether or not I will in fact return to them.  Ours is a world of growing uncertainties.  Accidents happen.  Deliberate mayhem happens.  And sometimes life just goes sideways.  I once promised John that I would always come back.  So far, so good.  I have always come back from every day trip, every weekend away, and even from as far away as Japan.  I have to be careful around John.  If he sees me wearing shoes on the weekend or wearing one of my outdoor cardigans inside the house, he will ask me where I’m going.  He gets nervous, because for him the future is an abstract concept.  It isn’t real to him.  Before my last trip to RadCon, I showed John the dates on the calendar, when I’d be leaving and when I’d be coming home.  That made it real for him.  I also called home twice and talked to him.  I know what this anxiety is like, so I do what I can to help John.

I’m one of those people who gets bummed out when the movie is over and I have to leave the theater.  I love movies.  Sometimes it’s hard to make the transition back to reality, to the daylight world.  Florence King writes about this in her memoir Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady.  She calls it “the other.”  She understands what it’s like to develop relationships with people who exist only in the imagination, some of them in the movies, some of them in books.  It’s hard to see the credits roll or to reach those endpapers and close the book.  I believe that’s one reason people are so committed to writing and reading novel series these days.  You get so invested in the lives of these fictional people that you don’t want the story to end.  That’s one of the factors that gave rise to fan fiction.

It’s March, and I’m never at my best during March.  March 15th is the anniversary of my father’s death.  Mary 17th is St. Patrick’s Day, which has a number of peculiar associations for me.  This month in the U.S. we experience the torment that is Daylight Saving Time.  “Spring ahead, Fall back.”  We lose an hour this month.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t have an hour to spare.


Filed under autism, cats, Conventions, Depression, Family, fantasy, Fiction, Goals, Japan, marriage, Special needs, Writing

Frustration Station

By Lillian Csernica on January 8, 2015

Winter break is over.  School is back in session.  This means the temporary ceasefire is over and we’re back in the trenches for the Homework War.

I love my sons.  To me, John and Michael are the two most important people on the entire planet.  There are many joyful moments with my boys, but there is also a really staggering amount of frustration.

John is a sophomore in high school now.  Even with the adjustments made for his autism, the assignments are getting more complicated and more difficult.  Today’s Video Production homework included a handout that explains the five types of documentary film making.  I read it over.  No wonder John tried to say he didn’t have any homework.  Each of the five types is explained in a paragraph where at least half of the words must be translated from the abstract into the concrete so John has any hope of really understanding what they mean.  Imagine having to break down the meanings on seventy different words, with repeated efforts until the meaning of each word is grasped.  Now imagine doing that five times in a row.  And that’s if everything goes smoothly.

Again and again John kept rejecting my explanations of the assignment.  It didn’t seem to matter to him that he’s part of a team and everybody has to make his or her contribution for the group project to turn out well.  John loves superheroes.  Even my explanation about how Superboy or Robin would never let his teammates down had no visible effect.  John just kept refusing to do the assignment, repeating over and over:

It’s too hard.

I can’t understand these words.

My mind is too mixed up.

My mind won’t let me do this.

At times like this I ask myself, how much of John’s resistance is his processing disorder, and how much is simple teenage stubbornness about doing homework?  I don’t know.  I can’t tell.  I have no idea if there is a way to make the distinction.  And so I feel terrible frustration and heartbreaking sorrow for my son.

Does he really believe these things he’s saying?  Does he really see himself that way?  I can’t ask, because I do know that John is clever enough to take any road available out of a task he wants to avoid.  One of the first things I teach a new aide is to watch out for John’s sneaky streak.   He will play Mom off Dad until he gets the answer he wants.  We all have to talk to each other to make sure John isn’t trying to get away with something.  This leads to even more frustration because running all over the house double-checking with each other is tiresome.

It gets to a point where I have to treat the homework issue as a discipline problem and start taking away privileges such as computer time.  Like most boys his age, John loves his electronics, so this is usually effective.  Today, however, John got to the point of being in tears over his frustration with the assignment.  What am I supposed to do?  Punish my ASD child for being the way he is, something over which he has very little control?  A large part of me cries out against that injustice, and yet I know I have to hold the line and get John to do his homework.  If I don’t, the problem will snowball into notes from the teacher and meetings with the caseworker and John being tagged with even more stigma over his diagnosis.

I hate this.  I hate watching my son suffer.  I hate being the cause of any further suffering, especially when I don’t know whether or not that’s what I’m doing to him.

Every single day is a battle.  Please, pray for John, for Michael, for me and our whole family.  Thank you.


Filed under autism, Depression, Family, Goals, love, Self-image, Special needs, Writing