Kopfman received a call on Aug. 11, 2011 that Jacob, 21, had fallen 85 feet from a cell phone tower he was working on in Chillicothe, Mo. He was taken by helicopter to the University of Missouri hospital in Columbia. Kopfman was in shock as he rushed to the hospital with Jacob’s twin brother Jordan, and was totally unprepared for the decisions that needed to be made once he arrived.
What about the autopsy? How was he going to get his son’s remains back to Kansas? What about funeral arrangements? How would he cope with the emotional pain of losing a son?
According to Kopfman, he was so emotional he couldn’t think. Fortunately, he was assisted by a very capable social worker, and once he returned home he sought the help of Dr. Jon Farrell-Higgins, a psychologist and a deacon in his church.
Starts Website After Death
The trauma of his son’s death could have broken Kopfman’s spirit and will to carry on, but instead he decided to devote his life to helping others deal with and survive the loss of a child.
The first thing he did was start a website www.forthesurvivors.com to be a resource for those who are thrust into this ongoing nightmare. He said his goal was to provide “within two clicks” all the necessary resources like books, tapes, help groups, legal assistance, funeral arrangements, counseling, and spirituality.
His long range goal is to place special cards with the website address in the hands of ambulance drivers, social workers, hospice nurses, and fire fighters across the country to be handed out to people that suddenly have to endure and deal with the loss of a child. Since the website was launched in March, Kopfman has received responses from more than 400 people.
If that wasn’t enough, Kopfman is working on a series of books called The Letters Project that have been inspired by his personal experience of completing a handwritten letter to his son at the suggestion of Dr. Farrell-Higgins. His other son Jordan was very upset about not getting to the hospital before his brother died and his letter to Jacob was also very therapeutic. “It was almost like having a conversation with Jacob,” said Kopfman.
He decided to do some research about the reasons why “narrative therapy” is so beneficial and subsequently suggested the handwritten letter idea to others he came in contact with who had also lost a child. This has resulted in over 100 letters that are being included in a book. Because of the tremendous reaction, another book is in the works for people who are terminally ill that write letters about themselves, while a third is being planned for those who have lost a family member.
Kopfman’s crusade doesn’t end here. He is an accomplished song writer and Jared asked him to write a song based on his letter to Jacob. This song has turned into 25 additional songs that have been professionally recorded and he is working on 100 more. According to Kopfman, the letters and the songs are a way for people to be assured that their child will not be forgotten and “the story becomes something that will last long after we have gone.”
Kopfman runs a thriving air conditioning and plumbing business along with his business partner, Terry McCart, and 40 devoted employees. He has supported these ventures without asking for a dime of donations. If you want to reach out to a fellow industry member, go to www.forthesurvivors.com and volunteer to help distribute cards to emergency medical personnel in your area.
Publication date: 9/10/2012