Review: life after the death of my son: what I’m learning – by Dennis Apple

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by Joe Mudd on February 6, 2011

Several months before his death, Richard was home for the weekend and he was looking at one of my bookcases. On one shelf he spotted a stack of books about seizures and epilepsy.

He looked at them and asked me, “Why do you have all these?”

“Because you have that little time bomb in your head, and I thought we should find out about it. Maybe find something that can help.” I told him.

He just sighed and shook his head at me.

That’s just how I am. If something interests me, or bothers me, I try to learn as much as I can about it. I buy a lot of books.

So it should be no surprise I have a large and growing collection of books about grieving and the loss of a child.

I just finished Dennis Apple’s life after the death of my son: what i’m learning.

I read this book faster than any other grieving book I’ve owned… except for Good Grief, which is so small it hardly counts.

Dennis and Buelah Apple’s son Denny died on this day in 1991. I guess this review is my tribute on the 20 year anniversary of his death.

Dennis Apple kept journals of his experiences after the death of his son. A lot of journals. In this book he shares what he went through in those early years and expands on the lessons learned. He deals candidly with it all… from the pain, the marriage issues, and his doubts about God and religion to finding his way toward healing.

This is Super Bowl Sunday so one of the comparisons he makes is appropriate on this day. He equates learning to deal with our grief to great athletes learning to play with pain. Play with pain. I really think that’s the goal now. I think it will always be there, so we have to learn to live with it.

Another part of his story that really hit home for me are the issues of faith. Mr. Apple is a minister and on the pastoral staff at College Church of the Nazarene in Olathe, Kansas. His son’s death made him question God. This had to be really hard for him, as religious life was such a big part of his very core.

There are so many feel good stories in the readings and songs at church. They tell us about how God is looking over us. That he cares for us. We’re taught that if we follow him to our best ability, he’ll be looking out for us. God has our back.

Then our kid dies. Denny Apple sounds like he was a great kid. My son Richard wasn’t a saint, but he was a good kid and a fine young man. I was very proud of him. So how could God let something so horrible happen to such good kids?

In all my years attending Catholic schools I was told God is up there and is all seeing and knowing. He controls everything and has a reason for everything he does. I don’t believe this anymore.

I still believe there’s a God. I just don’t think God is watching and controlling everything that happens on earth. If he was, how could such pain be allowed?

I’ve told people that God has a lot of explaining to do. I still feel that way.

Mr. Apple had to deal with these same doubts at the same time as he was trying to be a minister leading others to God on a daily basis. The conflicts inside had to be overpowering.

But he made it through all that.

His story gives us hope. The enormity of the struggles he faced are clearly told, yet he came through it with his soul intact. Like all grieving parents he will never “get over” the loss of his son. He’s just learned to play with pain and he shows there’s hope we can too.

I highly recommend this book.

Life After the Death of My Son: What I’m Learning (my Amazon affiliate link)

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

ARLINE LYNCH January 19, 2012 at 5:45 pm

PLEASE GIVE ME A PHONE NUMBER THAT I CAN CALL AND ORDER THIS BOOK OR GIVE ME STORES IN CARSON CITY NV THAT I CAN BUY THIS BOOK.
THANKS,
ARLINE LYNCH

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Joe Mudd January 20, 2012 at 2:42 am

Hi Arline – I’m afraid I have no idea about phone numbers to get the book and I’ve never been to Carson City, so I can’t help there either. I got mine at Amazon (the link in the post above will take you there). I’m sure any large bookstore can get it for you if you want to shop locally.

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Cindy Casey August 13, 2012 at 1:36 pm

I am in the process of reading Mr. Apple’s book “Life After The Death Of My Son.” I lost my son last year unexpectedly and everything in the book is exactly what I am experiencing. I really love the book, I have also kept a journal and so many of the feelings he has written I have written the same. You can’t know this experience unless you are a victim of such a tragedy. It is the most difficult thing I have ever been through in my life, it is a very long, lonely road and I am just at the beginning of the journey. I will always have so many questions with no answers just as Mr. Apple has written in his book, hopefully some day I will be able to have peace and hope in my life again.

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Gary Kiger December 28, 2012 at 12:53 am

I am deeply Sorry for your loss Cindy, we lost our son as well on 9/29/2012, he was 23. Just wanted to let you know, your not alone, and my thoughts and prayers are with you.

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Sandra Meleskys September 24, 2012 at 2:46 pm

I just found this site today…I lost my sweet son almost 3 yrs. ago!!!…The pain I still feel is absolutely horrible…I feel as though my heart is going to burst…I will get this book & hope it helps…I have questions for God also & I break down alot & ask why He took my son…I have a daughter & grandson that I dearly love & I am afraid of losing them…I feel complete powerless as a mother…About 3 days after my son died he came to me in a beautiful light & told me he was ok…I begged him to take me with him but he said it was not my time but I begged away…Where do I put this pain?…Sandra

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Gary Kiger December 28, 2012 at 12:55 am

I am deeply Sorry for your loss Sandra, we lost our son as well on 9/29/2012, he was 23. Just wanted to let you know, your not alone, and my thoughts and prayers are with you.

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DEOUNA L JAGNE April 21, 2017 at 2:28 pm

Gary,
How are you?
GOD bless you. I am praying for you and everyone here…
I love you and GOD bless you.
Deouna

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Melissa Ludlow April 1, 2014 at 4:13 am

I long for what you received… my son died January 16, 2014 – a tragic accident after going off of his medications too quickly, became delusional, and ended up taking his life. He was 19 1/2 years old. My prayer is to know that he is ok and happy and at peace with loved ones around him, freed from his chemical imbalances in his brain. What I would give to have him communicate with me, as Sandra you have had with your son. You are so very lucky. May you cherish the experience of having him come to you, what a special gift you received.

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Melissa August 27, 2015 at 9:36 pm

Dear Sandra,
I lost my 19 year old son to a horrific tragedy a year and a half ago (01/16/2014). He was the light of my life, and I’m struggling to find peace because I miss him so, and I’m just so sad/mad that mental illness had to strike his brain, and cause him to become delusional and paranoid and have hallucinations. Life, of course, isn’t fair, but this is my lot.
I would love for you to message me privately to share with me how your son came to you… you are extremely fortunate that you’ve have this special, sacred experience. I would dearly treasure it if I was so lucky, that’s for sure. My email is Melissa.Ludlow@gmail.com. Thank you so~

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Janie May 1, 2013 at 8:43 am

I lost my son March 10, 2013. He had mono and it attacked his brain. He spent 16 days in ICU fighting. I have ordered this book and can’t wait to get it.

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Janie May 1, 2013 at 8:43 am

I lost my son March 10, 2013. He had mono and it attacked his brain. He spent 16 days in ICU fighting. I have ordered this book and can’t wait to get it.

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Mary December 19, 2013 at 7:13 am

Peace he with you Janie! I feel,your pain! Hugsss!!

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Velvet April 21, 2017 at 12:56 pm

It’s been exactly 15 years to the day my mom died when I was in high school and one of my best dreams was that she never died and I was able to see her again in my dream. Of course, it’s never ha!p!ned!peThank you!

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Mary December 19, 2013 at 7:12 am

My Son passed, 10/02/13. The grief is horrible. I do not feel him. That concerns me. No dreams, no unusual incidences add to my pain. Pls advise?

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Janie December 19, 2013 at 9:40 am

Thanks Mary. I know what you mean. Everyone keeps talking about dreaming of him and how in detail their dreams are of him and I am not having them myself. I ask the question, why can’t I. I don’t know or understand why I can’t, but I have thought that maybe I am not ready to yet. I may not be able to handle seeing him in my dreams right now. I don’t know, but I just wonder if that is it. I already miss him more than anything and think of him non-stop. Maybe seeing him in my dreams and not being able to get to him would be to much right now. I just keep hoping that when I am strong enough, I will be able to.
That is just my opinion though.
I am sorry for your loss. I know exactly what you are going through. If you ever need to talk or anything, I am here. janieb001@yahoo.com
Message me any time. I found it does help to talk to people who know what you are going through and how you feel. HUGS!!!!

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Joe Mudd December 19, 2013 at 11:33 am

Mary, I’m really sorry you’re here. Indeed the grief is horrible.

Richard died in late May, and the first dream I had of him was the following Jan. It was the most intense dream I’ve ever had. I woke in a completely dark bedroom and I had no idea where I was or how I’d gotten there. It was like being transported to another world.

The only other time I’ve seen Richard in a dream over the 4.5 years since his death was more like watching a video, and I remember being aware it was a dream while it was going on.

Don’t beat yourself up because you’re not having the dreams you think you should. We’re all different. We all grieve different. Some dream a lot, others don’t. Some cry lots, and other don’t but think they should (I’m waving my hand on that one.)

Janie, I’ve always wondered why I haven’t dreamed of him more too. I’ve come to the conclusion I think of him so much when I’m awake, my brain just needs a beak from it when I’m sleeping.

I hope you can both find peace.

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Mary December 19, 2013 at 10:18 am

Lost my Mom in 2004. Thought the grieving would never end. Everyone was having dreams….but not me. Then finally had one, where she was looking around a door. when I leaned forward to see her there was only 1/2 of her laterally. There was no significance that I thought. I could feel her presence often. A Butterfly was flying aound me…I said Mom if that is you, pls land on my hand…I then held out my hand…it landed. While staring at the night sky..I said if you can hear me show me a falling star…immediately I saw one….doubting asked again…this contined w/seeing 5 that night. (How can I doubt that many times??) With my Son, I have this feeling he is very far away. I have did the same with him but nothing. I wonder if we do dream and our conscious mind finds it too painful to remember!

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Mary April 1, 2014 at 9:10 am

We all share a common bond. We have lost part of our being. My last days have been somewhat better. In my mind he is away. Is that healthy? At times, reality kicks in and I have a meltdown. I do not understand this whirlwind we are caught up in!!?? I have always been strong in my faith! Why so much doubt these days? I continuously tell myself God is in control. It is his choice. Dying is part of living. My son had so much unfinished business. His work, his wife, his children, his brother, me……why now? Then comes the torment…..will we all truly be together again?? Will we know each other as it was before? Or, is it just OVER? Too many questions! I continue to hold on to my faith. Guess it is what gets me through the days and nights.

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linda March 5, 2014 at 4:56 am

Lost my precious son Oct 4 2013 ,five months ago today ,Pain and suffering doesn;t even come close to how I feel .My son was 21 and just started his career and was living his dream . Then he was just gone . faith is optional now. why I miss his smell , his music ,his laugh , and his kindness , gentelness and his love or him just asking me to make him a sandwich or was his work clothes . may we all find our own way to move on somehow. I would say god bless us all but not there yet.

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Gary March 5, 2014 at 9:41 am

Oh Linda……I am so sorry you lost your son and the ones that post here such as myself understand the deep overwhelming pain it causes in our life’s that people don’t understand at no fault of there own……our son had just turned 23 and passed in late 2012 and here it is 1 year 6 months later already……please get help if you need it through this tough time of greiving ……talk to someone close to you or seek out a qualified grieving therapist or maybe someone in church…..but I’m afraid greiving is the only process that works and everyone is different in their own greiving process……what helped me as well is that I started a journal…..never did anything like that before and it became my personnel place to speak. Speak to god, my son, my days ….but early on I wrote to my son…everything unfinished, regrets, happy times, things we talked about, dreams, and my progress in healing……it’s a place to cry, with many a wet sheet…….so I still do this even now…..but maybe try it to see….if it may work for you…..I will tell you you do move on, but you may be different then you spouse or loved one in this process so respect in knowing each persons space…..there’s will be friends who mean well, but just don’t understand…..and it’s ok…forgive them…..I have to tell you when it came time to clean our sons room who was home from college….it nearly killed me…..but I have to tell you his dirty clothes are still in his room as he left them……I just haven’t reached that point to do something with them, I sleep in his bed and look at his life and memories as they were…..and that’s ok, my wife can’t do that, but I can …….the first year was so so hard …but little by little later down the road and even when you don’t realize it…your healing ……my thoughts and prayer to you Linda and if you just need to talk, which you will, reach out to someone who will listen…..your son sounds like a great young man and I always feel they are still with us you just have to listen……Wish you well….

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Mary March 5, 2014 at 10:48 am

Linda, I so feel your loss. Lost my son 10/02/2013. I pray for your comfort and strength. This lost feeling is agony. I struggle to keep my faith. Peace and Love your way.

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Mary March 5, 2014 at 10:44 am

Feeling better! I must be in denial. I look at his pics and try to imagine reality. It all seems like a bad dream. I listen to his voicemail. It is so comforting to hear his voice. Richard was such a high spirited young man. A wonderful nurse. A loyal dedicated veteran. So proud to serve his country. As a nurse he care for children with special needs. They loved him so. He had an aura that people, especially children, gravitated to him. His last nursing job was caring for veterans. It was challenging and rewarding. He was far from perfect, but a true blessing to us all. I pray for all if our comfort. The road is long. Peace be with you all.

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DEOUNA L JAGNE April 21, 2017 at 2:25 pm

Mary,
GOD bless you and GOD bless your son Richard.
My son was special needs and anyone who takes the time to care for them is ANGLES!! U RAISED A GOOD MAN.
GOD bless you and I am praying for you and everyone on here…..
I love you.
Deouna

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Gary April 2, 2014 at 8:12 am

How is everyone doing these days…..it’s been 18 months for my family since our son passed and we are moving along in life again…slowly but moving, which is always good….we all struggle still for myself, my wife and my daughter…..but I’m proud of my daughter as she is counseling others in a grief work shop at church where we went for a grief workshop after our son passed……what can you say, this process is not easy and it really amazes me how some people don’t understand it or think you should be over it……but I don’t get mad…I forgive them and move on as some will not understand……in this process I still go places where my son would go or want to be, whether that’s fishing, hiking or just walking in the outdoors and it brings peace as I feel him near, but also pain at times……..I tell myself now…” I can’t bring you home anymore, but someday I can come to where you are”………wishing each of you peace in your heart and healing of your soul……for this journey is not easy……

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DEOUNA L JAGNE April 21, 2017 at 2:18 pm

Gary,
I am so happy to hear how you and your family are doing.
I pray for everyone on here and It Is so true what you mentioned In regards to people think you should be over it like really, this Is y child, I to have learned to just forgive and pray for them and also myself.
I still cry very often and mourn a lot since the death of my son( I like to call It ” The rebirth of my son” I have buried my only sister, favorite uncle, cousins(husband and wife) also their daughter, who’s husband murdered her In front of their two minor children and then took his life and the kids we’re there alone over 36 hours, my Xhusband Is still In a coma since 2010 ,my brother’s best friend died,another aunt died and my sister’s dad just died 8 months after her and she passed on ,well it will be mother’s day this year (1)year, My family has suffered over the last few years, all the people I mentioned has been “REBIRTH ” within the last two years besides my Exhusband who has been in a coma since Sept 2010…
It Is like whenever I try to mourn or move forward I am brought to another family member’s death and It has sheltered me In ways of being antisocial and afraid to get close to someone of fear of them dying…
I have long ways to go but I am looking forward to the days, now and tomorrow so that I may be able to help someone In the future who will suffer from a loss…
Today, Is my B’day, April 21st, also my identical twin daughters birthdays and I am remembering my loved ones and praying for them too as I know they are looking down @ me and with me every day.
My son(Dominque) I know without a shadow of a doubt that he was an angle while here on earth and I had the privilege to care for him, I have NEVER FELT ANY COMPARISON to his spirit since he has “REBIRTH”
I just read my post I wrote almost two years ago(below) and boy what a difference, In my heart. The pain has not left and I still have a loooonnnngg ways but boy I tell ya I am ready to talk about It…
GOD IS GOOD.
I LOVE EVERYONE HERE AND KNOW THAT I AM SINCERE.
I pray you all have peace as you sleep tonight….. Every night!!….Only GOD knows… Please take your time….
Deouna

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Deouna August 27, 2015 at 8:32 pm

Unlike a lot of people on this site my son had severe cerbal palsy /Spinal bifida and was mentally challenged, He wore pampers, was in a wheel chair ,ate through a Gtube in his tummy,did not walk ,talk and wore hearing aides. **& He was /Is the apple of my life***
My son was the light of my life !!! ,He needed 24hour care and i gave it to him>No help from anyone unless it was my other children”s assistance.
When my son died 10/28/15 my world STOPPED & life as i know it has been extremely challenging.
My son was born on 2/15/1986 (28 yrs old).
He was amazing and whenever there was any sorrows in anyone’s life around him (family) whenever you entered his room and saw that big smile you would just know you would be Ok>Dominque (son’s name) he could not talk but he had his Way of communicating with you and u knew exactly what he needed or what he was saying…I really miss my son…
I had the money,cars,business,family and i would trade it all>>(Well i would trade the money,cars,business & materials) just to hold him,kiss him and to see his beautiful smile or laugh,>>I AM SO LOST…
It will be 10 months tomorrow and i still grieve today like i did the 1st day…
My son died in our home in his sleep(complications from cerbal palsy /Spinal bifida so to try and move forward i moved my children and i from that home & it was the most challenging/sad decision i could make i felt as if i was leaving him…
I have NOT been back to my business >>I own a women’s boutique,I just find myself crying every time i’m around big crowds or when people say how sorry they are for my loss.
I would bring my son sometimes with me to my store and he would enjoy that ,he loved people and so do i,I use to be the VERY outgoing friendly people person >>Everyone wanted me @ their parties and gatherings or wanted me to host them, I was the fun energetic ,happy smiling laughing,intelligent ,witty ,VERY FUNNY Beautiful women everyone loved being around >> SERIOUSLY<tearssss…. I am SO lost without my son…
I took care of him from mornings to nights i was his mother ,best friend ,his guardian as he was my BEST friend and now it’s GONE!!
I thank GOD for my other children and grand children because i don’t think i would be on earth without them…
I must say after all this time the pain has NOT changed but i have learned to love more, also be so much more forgiving, understanding and open minded.
TO ANYONE READING PLEASE MEND ANY BROKEN BRIDGES WITH ANY LOVED ONES BECAUSE WHEN WERE GONE & ONE DAY WE ALL WILL GO U WILL NOT BE ABLE TO DO SO…
Thanx for listening to me vent…
Keep GOD 1st.
Deouna Jagne

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DEOUNA L JAGNE April 21, 2017 at 2:30 pm

I am praying that everyone Is having a WONDERFUL day.
I also pray for a peace of mind, sleep, and a better tomorrow….
I love you.
Deouna

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