Learning to Cope with Grief

Like most parents, I anticipated that the birth of my second child would be a time of celebration and joy. But this happiness was almost immediately shattered when the doctors informed us that our daughter suffered from a serious and inoperable heart malformation and that she would not survive childhood. Because she lacked a pulmonary artery (which brings blood to the lungs for oxygenation) her heart had to pump an astonishing 120 beats per minute to oxygenate her body while at rest. You cannot imagine the debilitating effects upon her physical health and her mental development as well. By age 2, Mariepier had received a secondary diagnosis of autism. She did not speak; she did not smile at us or express affection in any way. She lived encapsulated in her own little world, as if every ounce of her fragile energy was needed simply to sustain the beating of her heart.

Frightened of her death and depressed about my disappointed dreams, I withdrew too. I became a provider of services, making sure Mariepier received food, clothing and medical attention. But emotionally I shut her out, believing that this decision would ultimately make her early death more easy to bear. Yet I was haunted by guilt and self-judgment for my inability to fully love my own child.

When Mariepier was nine, I learned about the work of Barry and Samahria Kaufman and The Option Institute. My wife and I decided to participate in a Son-Rise Programthere, along with Mariepier, hoping to find peace and acceptance in the face of this tragedy. In just four weeks our lives were profoundly and permanently transformed. For the first time I was able to face my fears of Mariepier’s death, I realized that I was depriving myself of love for the little girl who was with me now, as protection against her future absence. I decided that I did not need this protection any longer. And with that decision, a miracle happened inside of me. I was able to be present with my special daughter, celebrating her life exactly ‘as is’ and recognizing her unique beauty. I fell in love with my child for the first time. My fear, my guilt, my disappointment dissolved, healed by my new found acceptance.

For the next two years, we built a bridge of love and trust with Mariepier. We lavished her with affection, celebrating each day the fact that she was still with us. We cherished each moment. And although she continued to deteriorate physically, she responded to our love with an extraordinary surge in nonverbal communication. She became attentive, affectionate, so expressive in face and gesture.

During this time we continued daily to make use of the tools we had learned at The Option Institute. And when new concerns or fears arose, we made use of the Institute staff to help us sustain our loving and accepting attitude.

Shortly before Mariepier’s 12th birthday, her physical condition worsened dramatically. The cardiologist told us that she would not live much longer. Although I had anticipated hearing this news for eleven years, I was still unprepared for it.

Soon after hearing this, I had the opportunity to speak with Barry Kaufman, who I’d come to know affectionately as Bears. As Bears and I spoke, my tears of loss and disbelief slowly gave way to a sense of gratitude – gratitude that I had been able at last to reach out to my little girl, gratitude for the wonder of these two magnificent years, gratitude for all the ways I had learned and grown because she was in my life. And in that moment, I knew that when the time came, I could let her go.

Weeks later we returned from a Sunday family outing. Mariepier had seemed more fatigued than usual. I took her in my arms and carried her into the house, laying her gently in her bed. She cried softly as her breathing became very difficult. Her big eyes watched me intently as I spoke to her. Suddenly her expression changed to one of surprise when her breathing and crying stopped abruptly. She looked right into my eyes as if to ask me what was happening. I held her hand and stroked her face, feeling an overwhelming sense of love and acceptance. I knew there was nothing else anyone could do to intervene. She folded her arms over her chest and pumped them three times, as if she was making a last ditch effort at reenergizing her own heart. I told her how much I loved her. Suddenly she let out a breath and then became completely still. That was it. She just let go. In twelve years I had never seen such peacefulness in my daughter’s face. For a long time I sat beside her, stroking her hair. My own sense of peace was profound. I knew she would always be in my heart. I knew I could celebrate her life instead of mourning her death.

For me this experience was a miracle. Had I not learned at The Option Institute that inner peace and love are a choice, I would have undoubtedly left Mariepier to face death alone in her room, so consumed by my own fears that I’d have been incapable of reaching out to her with love in her most difficult moment. I’d have lived my own life bitter and angry at the briefness of her life and guilty over my failure to love her enough.

Instead I had come to know that I could choose happiness and inner peace; and in making that choice, I remained a source of love, strength and support for my child. I cannot describe my gratitude.

Daniel Ladouceur, Business Consultant, Quebec

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The Option Institute and its teachers have had the honor to present programs (during the last four decades) that explore the attitudes and beliefs we have (and may want to change) and to help program participants find their own answers to questions about relationships, careers, family challenges and health issues. Our new program, Health & Healing: Navigating Life’s Health Challenges (formerly '5 Days to Live') , focuses on navigating significant health challenges and decision-making with greater ease, clarity, and clear purpose.

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Dear Donor,

Jeannie Reid was searching for answers to the challenges she and her family were facing. Jeannie and her husband Stuart’s son, Carson, had been diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder, a condition on the Autism spectrum. For Carson that meant being completely involved in obsessive behaviors and only using minimal words to identify objects, as well as frequently and completely melting down.

Soon after, Jeannie found the book, “Son-Rise: The Miracle Continues” and when she read it, she KNEW she had found what she was looking for. She began using some of the Son-Rise techniques described in the book on her own until she was able to come to The Autism Treatment Center of America for the Son-Rise Program Start-Up. As she put into practice what she learned there, Carson’s world was opening up. Today Carson is attending a Montessori school as a 'typical' student and functioning at or above typical grade level, being fully verbal and conversational, and very interested in learning about the world and interacting as much as possible with other people. He is even taking swim lessons at the local YMCA and doing great!

“It has been wonderful to get, and stay connected with other people and Son-Rise parents from all over the world. My son’s progress had already come very far, but now I truly believe we can go all the way!”

Jeannie wrote.

Stuart Reid then attended the Empower Yourself course and brought home a new sense of clarity, balance and personal power. He shared his new empowerment with Jeannie and she in turn gained in confidence, strength and enthusiasm. Their own relationship began to flourish anew, as well. Life-altering changes were happening for Jeannie and her family.

Jeannie journeyed again to Sheffield, this time for the Fearless course at The Option Institute to help her recognize and overcome her personal obstacles. Jeannie wanted to continue her amazing journey as she had found using the techniques she learned in The Son-Rise Program and in Fearless had absolutely changed the lives of everyone in her family.

But, because the Reids’ finances had been seriously stretched by then, their next steps were put on hold. Then an amazing event changed everything. Jeannie’s college roommate and lifelong friend decided to start a Son-Rise Program scholarship fund for people from the Cleveland area. Since then Jeannie has been able to move ahead with her courses, taking Radical Authenticity, Son-Rise Maximum Impact and Son-Rise Wide Awake ... and eventually she became a Certified Group Facilitator.

Jeannie Reid’s story is about wanting BIG and making it happen. She is about to embark on her renewed private practice as an art therapist, and plans to be a super advocate for The Son-Rise Program in her area. Her wonderful new life is a product of her persistence and belief, and of the wheels she helped set in motion for others when her friends learned of how she and her family had been impacted by The Son-Rise Program.

“I know I will be able to give back by helping others, and that will be the top of my personal mountain! Thank you to everyone who donates! You are making a big difference in the world!

Jeannie Reid


Dear Donor

Two years ago, Antonio's kindergarten teacher told us something was not quite right with our little boy. He was not socializing, he somersaulted all the time and hardly spoke at all. At the time I was working for a municipality close to Florence, Italy and basically I had nothing left after seeing to basic necessities.

In the meantime, I looked up Autism with Google and as I was also looking for happiness and personal growth, I was guided to The Option Institute, thence the Autism Treatment Center of America. I read up as much as I could and started trying to apply the “Happiness is a Choice” suggestions. I'm not quite good at it but it has helped me with attitude, and everything else that seemed trying is really different after all this.

When I decided to come for The Son-Rise Program Start-Up, I really had little or no money to pay for it. I spoke to my friends, old and new. My mother helped me, friends I thought couldn't [help] tried their very best and the scholarship did the rest.

What the scholarship did was give a HUGE boost to my fundraising. About six friends contributed the rest, at the travel agency a very kind lady who I may now call a friend helped me some more. I am overwhelmed with gratefulness. Here I am, happy to have attended the Start-Up program and looking forward to learning more and praying to God for guidance.

So the gist of the matter is, I am a happy mum who hopes to implement a wonderful relationship with her child and is riding a not so easy moment with lots of hope in her heart and THANK YOU is not enough for what I feel. I still remember William's words, “If you do what you've always done, you will get what you've always got.” Now I'm trying to do different, bit by bit, day by day. I feel the difference already.

About Antonio ... we are going on with the Italian program and I play with Antonio after school in a quiet room in the house. Knowing what the little guy is exposed to (he's always putting his fingers in his ears and he seems to have problems with too much light in his eyes), I find him very brave as he bears it tolerably. Drums a lot to digest it all.

When we went to the doctor, just weeks after starting the program at home, she told me that she found him more attentive. His attention span has increased. He is also tagging or pulling at one's arm when looking for attention. The child psychologist last Saturday reported the same thing and what's more, my son has always required that I enter the room, hence assisting in every session. Well, this time he went in along with the doctor and told me, “See you later.”

At school, his teacher who speaks English as well, read up and watched my DVD (Kyle’s Journey, Jade and “I want my little boy back”). Now she's changing, bit by bit and I do appreciate that very much. He seems to be OK with her and actually sent me away from class this morning, again telling me, “See you later.”

He is now ONE HUGE GREENLIGHT and I'm hoping to be able to really have volunteers (still looking), raise funds and settle down to business.

God bless,



Dear Donor,

I am the mother of three children, all on the Autism Spectrum. Before I heard of the Son-Rise Program and the Option Institute, I was a desperate, angry and depressed person…. I was on Anti-depressants, sleeping multiple hours of the day, and for a period of time, using alcohol to run away from my pain.

Then I heard of the Son-Rise Program. I called to find out more about it and thought “this if for me!” But I could not afford it. You see raising one child with Autism is very expensive but raising three is just outrageously expensive with all the therapies and dietary interventions that we were doing.

But I was offered a full scholarship to the SRSU program. I have since attended all of the Son-Rise Programs and many of the Personal Growth programs offered by the Option Institute.  Each time I have been given a scholarship and each time I go I learn more about who I am and I change for the better each and every time.  Because of your most generous support, my children are recovering from Autism, I have found happiness in my life!  I am no longer on anti-depressants and I have so much more energy.

YOU are the reason that my family is in recovery. It is because of YOU that my oldest son now is enjoying school.  YOU are the reason my second son is speaking. YOU are the reason my daughter is no longer as rigid and controlling as she once was.  Thank you does not even begin to cover how much gratitude I have for you.  I thank God every day for you and I do not even know you.

Please know that you are changing lives with your donation to ATCA and the OI.  It is because of you that every day people are getting the help that they need. Thank you, thank you and thank you!

With so much love,

Kerry Rihtar