My conure, Tiki, who is looking at me (after we took a shower together). I think he thought my iPod nano had an eyeball to peck out. (I moved it quickly!)

Message from a woman in my grief forum:

I work in a retail shop. Yesterday I had a very nice customer going on and on about her only child moving 3 hours away from home. She doesn’t “know how she can go on, live without her daughter, the pain of being that far away.” This went on for quite some time. I didn’t say anything. My husband said I should have told her that I would give anything in the world to be only 3 hours away.


What would you have done?


My answer:

There are many stages of grief. I remember these things coming up all the time for me, too. If it pained you, then I agree with your husband. It would be an opportunity to give this woman a different perspective.


When I was in my angry stage, I wouldn’t have hesitated to say something. Farther along in my grief, I felt less of a need to express it because it became awkward – I felt wounded and wanted to pretend I wasn’t. Instead, I found other ways to cope, such as venting to other bereaved parents. I stayed close to those who truly understood and that helped a lot.


I have a living daughter. Even though I have lost a child (my 5-year-old son in 1992), I still reserve the right to be sad when she moves away from home. Comparing and measuring grief leads to isolation and loneliness; everyone has a right to express his or her feelings. This woman had no idea about your loss, so the truth is that you are the one who carries the pain around and many, many things will trigger it.


I have grieved a long time, but I share hope because I am truly happy now and able to enjoy life. It took a long time and my heart goes out to you.




I am performing in this picture at Kulak’s Woodshed, an open mic venue in North Hollywood.

I have not written for a stretch because I have been concentrating on finishing my book. I am my own production company, as I create all of my own spoken audio recordings, vocals, images, written stories, and book design format. I have been submitting query letters to try and obtain a literary agent.

At the same time as I tackle such a daunting task, I am also writing new material for my second book and composing new songs. I have set no deadline and I make sure to see both of my parents at least twice a week, with separate visits. My parents are managing and things are fairly calm for the moment.

Last week, I decided to call Larry. He was someone I had briefly dated in college and was a good friend of a couple I’ve known for many years. They gave me his phone number. Larry has owned his own audio/video business for 32 years. I called him and he invited me to his house to see what he does.

His home was filled with a fascinating array of equipment and he did some test recordings for me. It was wonderful to meet him again and the timing is excellent because I wanted his advice about the quality of my home recordings. I was concerned about the cost, but he said I could barter with him by assisting him with artwork and video shoots. My friend, Steve asked me to take a picture while at Larry’s, so I snapped one quickly. Steve, who does all of my music mixing, is going to join me next week when I see Larry again. That should be very interesting!

This is not a very good representation of Larry’s equipment, and I’ll take better pictures next time I’m at his studio.

I sent an email to my friends, to share my enthusiasm and received a cute message back from Sam:

On Sep 12, 2011, Sam wrote:

Well, us old boyfriends can come in handy! 

I celebrate all the goodness in my life. I definitely had some very nice messages to inspire me the last few weeks. I forget to mention that I even had an illustration assignment. When I delivered the final art to the art director, I received such a lovely message back:

Hello Judy, 

Thank you so much for all your beautiful work and working so hard with my tight deadline. I know you went the extra mile for me especially on the strawberry…I hope you got some sleep last night! Please send your invoice. Thank you again Judy, you were the best. 

My illustrations to be used on yogurt packaging labels.

I was given permission by my wonderful editor, Carol Bidwell Walkey, to share our recent e-mail exchange:

On Sep 5, 2011, Carol wrote:

Judy: I’ll read those last chapters and send them back to you by midweek, if all goes well. 

But I have to tell you; I read the first two intros, which I merged into one, and the first two chapters, and you, rock, girl. This stuff doesn’t meander anymore; it gets straight to the point and in a good way. It even made me tear up a bit, which the first one didn’t do.  

The main thing is, you’ve learned so much — both from me and from yourself. Your writing is so much clearer and freer. I’m so proud of you. I think this has a good chance to sell … but then what do I know? 


On Sep 5, 2011, Judy wrote: 

Oh, Carol, thanks so much for your message. I’m proud of myself, too because I have learned so much. I wrote in elementary school and this has been such a fantastic two years for me. I love what I’m doing (which is obvious) and even the responses I’ve gotten from my material prior to your editing has fueled me.

I think my book has an excellent chance to sell. I know my music isn’t contemporary, but it’s a good story and one that our depressed country might embrace. There are so many grief stricken people, and women my age who might not dream that they could change their life as I have mine.

You helped me so much and I feel how much clearer and freer my writing is. I certainly can feel more books in my future and with all that I’ve learned from your editing (isn’t that great?) I’ll have far less errors and a better writing style. 

Your last words of “What do I know?” Well, I think you know a lot. You’re not promising me anything and that “disclaimer” doesn’t phase me. You have a lot of great connections, which I hope to tap into once I have a finished product. I think my book is going to change a lot of people’s lives and that I’ll be on a talk show circuit. I’m such a dreamer!


On Sep 5, 2011, Carol wrote:

Judy: you sound excited, and you should. What I read today is head and shoulders above what I first read. You’re improving every day. This should be a great book. 


Lastly, I shared preliminary audio recordings for my book with my friend, Lori, who I’ve written about many times.



Her message was so beautiful that I’ve included it in my book! 

Hi Judy, 

I apologize for taking so long to get back to you regarding your audio book. To be honest with you I would selfishly only listen to it when I was alone driving in my car so I could give it the full attention it deserved. I was sad when I put in the last disc and knew I would finish it soon! Words cannot describe how I felt listening to it! First of all I am so proud of you for such a huge accomplishment. I was so touched to hear Matthew’s story included in your book. Your story is so emotional and inspirational both at the same time. I laughed and cried, and people probably thought I was nuts when they would drive by me! 

It’s been a very long time since I have visited Matthew’s death story. Hearing Jason’s story forced me back to that horrible day, almost 16 years ago. I realized, like you, I have come such a long way and I can say I am truly happy now. I had forgotten you were with me that very special day when I found out I was pregnant with Katie. It gave me such joy that you chose to include that in your book. 

I loved how you incorporated your music into your stories. Judy, with everything you have going on in your life right now it amazes me you were able to write a book! I truly believe it can make a difference in the lives of the newly bereaved and those who are farther along in their grief just looking for that light at the end of the tunnel.  We have always said our greatest fear is that our dead children would be forgotten. I now know that our children’s deaths have made us what we are today and they will never be forgotten. You are a beautiful, loving, inspirational person and there is no doubt Jason would be so proud you are his mother.

Love, Lori

My escape

When I went to swim laps the other day at my gym, it was fairly empty. I hate “lap traffic!”

Last week, while I was sitting at my computer, I stretched my arm behind me to pick up a piece of paper. Suddenly, a sharp pain stabbed me in my breastbone and I immediately froze. The throbbing pain was reminiscent of pain I felt after I had cracked a rib when I was a child. I wondered how I had hurt myself simply by reaching over for a piece of paper.

From experience, I knew nothing could be done for an injury in that area. On Sunday, I had a performance at my friend, Joni’s synagogue. It was difficult to play guitar and to even take a deep breath with the pain I was feeling. I knew I needed to contact my doctor. So on Monday, I was smiling as a technician finished shooting four x-rays of my chest. I found the memory of how I cracked my rib as a child humorous, even though it was an incredibly painful experience where I thought I was dying at the time.


I was probably about 8 years old and had recently learned how to do flips into a swimming pool. I thought I could practice my dives onto a mattress. As I leapt into the air and landed on my bed, the wind was completely knocked out of me. My mouth was open and I could not breathe. I flailed and squeaked in terror trying to expand my lungs.


My doctor called me later on to tell me that I had not cracked a rib. When I received a doctor visit summary on my computer, It caught my eye that it was a year ago this same week when I had suffered from terrible carpal tunnel pain in my wrists.


With that information, came the realization that seasonal change had begun to cause manifestation of my emotions into physical pain. My subconscious was very busy directing my thoughts into areas of my body. My heartache literally became that! The anniversary of Jason’s death was less than a month away and the “march” to it had begun.


It was time for me to go out of my way to take care of myself. Since I no longer bit my nails (something I had done up until the age of 50), I had a manicure. I went shopping to buy a few new bras and some blouses.


And then – I went swimming. As I swam laps, my mind took me to magical places. I was swimming in an azure sea to a tropical destination where I left behind all of my pain. Metaphors began to swirl in my mind as I swam laps. Within that half hour, I composed a parable.


I threw my gym bag into my car and my hair was still damp. I definitely felt better. I put on my music and my soul swelled as I listened to songs I could hardly believe were mine. I felt so emotional that I began to cry. At that moment, I decided to acknowledge there was a God, who had indeed blessed me.

© Judy Unger and http://www.myjourneysinsight.com 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

About Judy

I'm an illustrator by profession. At this juncture in my life, I am pursuing my dream of writing and composing music. Every day of my life is precious!
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  1. “The anniversary of Jason’s death was less than a month away and the “march” to it had begun.”

    Not everyone would understand that we subconsciously – within our thoughts and bodies – begin to acknowledge the “march” toward the anniversary of our children’s death as it approaches. After a while, we begin to recognize our reactions to approaching events/anniversaries/days…and we learn how to take care of ourselves.

    Your yogurt pictures are awesome, btw!! Beautiful, life-like!! Wow!


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