About the Film



Death and Dying

Family History



Copyright © 2000 Trish Williams

This page is an ongoing dialogue of comments and reactions by those who have watched the film and/or visited the Web site.

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Comments and Reactions

Watching "Losing Tom" was an intense experience, not only because you get drawn into the emotions of the family members as they talk about their tragedy and their recovery process, but also because the film has a way of allowing you to make connections with your own life, your own "family secrets." I found myself resonating on so many levels. The film itself explores many level of meaning simultaneously, so that you can't help but having a very rich, multi-layered experience.

The visual images in the film are simple and subtle at the same time: The wall of firehouse mugs (all beer steins); the photo of Tom as a teenager after his father committed suicide--while Trish is explaining in the voiceover that he had to become the "man of the family"--with his hands on hip hips and head cocked to one side; the scenes driving through the rain in Autumn in the Ridgewood, NJ area with its connotation of journeying (as well as the emphasis on exterior appearance such as affluence, versus interior reality). There are so many others!

The film made me wish I could make a documentary on my own family and our losses. And that made me realize what a courageous undertaking this film was for the director.

Mary Goldschmidt (colleague& friend)
Ramsey, NJ

First, I would like to commend the heroines of the film: Trish, Sue and Karen. What a BRAVE effort and a terrific telling of a very sad story. This film touched me greatly, not only because of Tom, but equally, if not more so, because of the proverbial hero's journey that was thrust onto Tom's wife and children. I do wonder about the lost third sister and would think that a brief explanation would have been helpful on that note. Secondly, I find it interesting that although the story does not relate in any factual way to my own life, my family is experiencing a similar living loss through my own father's losing battle with Alzheimer's disease. The photo comparisons of healthy Tom and ill Tom could be from my own photo album.

Debra Anderson (friend)

What a comprehensive approach to the subject of alcoholism and its effects on the alcoholic and the people in his/her life! The links you provide cover many aspects of this disease and allow us to perceive the intricate web of issues related to alcoholism.

Nancy Schneberger (friend)
Midland Park, N.J.

I found losingtom on the web, and read the whole thing in one sitting. It was so fascinating how all these things tie together, especially the power of family secrets to create dysfunctions and cause alcoholism. It was especially fascinating to me because your story connects straight to my life - my Dad never mentioned his marriage to your grandmother Louise, I'm sure because of the alcoholism and her institutionalization. Neither did he ever mention my mother to Rico and me, except a very brief 10' conversation when I was 15 or so. So basically a large part of his life was a secret from us, and my mother's entire life was a blank slate to us, like she never existed, like your grandfather. Our Dad was always a pretty liberal drinker, and became (as we now realize), a passive alcoholic after he retired, I'm sure because it was so hard to carry the weight of all his secret tragedies and the guilt he never resolved in himself. Work and his career overseas was his primary distraction most of his life, and after he retired for good, he was quite depressed, and drank a lot.

On my step-mom's side, I have discovered that no-one living truly knows who her mother was - she was raised by her Aunt Muriel. It may be her mother died (as she was told), or her Aunt may have actually been her mother, and was hiding this, because she had had her out of wedlock (this is what her step-brother John thinks). I think she got rid her birth certificate, because we don't have one for her, though we have every other type of document! We're trying to see if we can obtain a copy -hard, because we're not sure of her place of birth. The secrecy continues one more generation, because likewise, Jonathan [my step-brother] doesn't know the identity of his father, because she [step-mom] would never talk about him (another out of wedlock birth).

Phew! It's exhausting to think about the weight of all these people's secrets. I can only imagine how much of an impact it had on you to conduct all this research into your family for the first time. So glad for you and your family that you did this film and research. And glad for those of us who will benefit, and come to better understanding of ourselves and our own families.

Shirley Tudor (relative of the family)
Santa Cruz, CA

I never expected to be as touched by the film as I was. So many different issues arose in my mind while watching Losing Tom. I thought about the power of family, the loss of connection with those you love dearly, the strength of learning when to stop internalizing another's inability, etc. This film goes beyond alcoholism and family secrets. Everyone can relate to loss of some kind, to finding strength in the midst of hopelessness and to unconditional love and forgiveness. Trish, you did a good thing with this film. If all it does is makes people look at their own lives and evaluate their connections to themselves and their families, you've done an enormous amount of good. You've gone beyond that with this site, by offering a list of resources which people can use to help deal with newly realized issues, or even issues which have been ignored. Awesome job.

Amy (colleague)
New Jersey

Trish - This film was sadder than words can express. It was good that you had told me a about the film sometime last year when we had gone out to dinner. Of course the film was much more poignant. I think so few of us live in families that "have no secrets", that most of us can identify with your family on some level. I know I can and more than just "some".

Since I saw your film I have been out of sorts. I dreamed about the film last night and feel sad today. I am insightful enough to know that this sadness is a result of seeing the film. And one does not dream about "other people's" sadness.

Knowing you, having met Sue a couple of times and having had a relationship with your mother (and her appealing dog, Charlie) when you had Jesse at the Center made the expressed and the unexpressed pain even greater for me. Your mom is very brave. Her relationship to her co-workers and the way they protected her was very touching. I wonder if you inspired that kind of feeling about yourself?

This film would be good to show at detox Centers and at Al-Anon meetings.

Lorraine Chouinard (friend of Trish)
Mahwah, NJ

I thought that this film was amazing. It touched on major issues and facts, but presented them in a more personal manner. It was easy to follow and easy to relate to. It makes you think about how one person's life influences others so greatly. It was very powerful and i really enjoyed it.

Allendale, NJ

My son was a fireman in Franklin Lakes, and was very fond of your father and looked up to him during his fireman days. Trish you've done a "good thing". Excellent work. You should be proud—I'm sure your Dad is proud of you and your work—God Bless.

Franklin Lakes, NJ

Superb! What an accomplishment. Don't stop filming.

Greta Helle ("Aunt" by adoption)
N. Cape May, NJ

This film is a comprehensive depiction of the devastation families suffer when faced with a loved one's painful addiction. It touches people on so many levels and it's universality should be shared as the subjects of loss, death, family secrets and alcoholism are unfortunately painful realities we in the West often share.

Donna Kauder (friend, colleague, student & biggest fan)
Pearl River, NY

I applaud the courage you and your family have shown in "going public" with this film. I was very moved. You managed, through simple and straightforward testimonials, to depict the downward spiral of your father's life. Anyone could relate to a tragic loss such as this. I greatly admire your talent, but even more, the honest and open manner with which you approached this very difficult aspect of your life.

Rita Tepper (colleague)
Nanuet New York

Your film exposed to many people who were "open to seeing" that alcoholism is a disease that affects both the physical and mental state of being of individuals who have fallen to this disease.

You are to be proud of your straight forward examination of this "family secret" so you could learn from it and help others who might be struggling through similar circumstances even though it was a pretty heavy cost to your emotional well being.

While I did not have to watch the slow death of my father, he died at the early age of 66 from alcohol related liver problems. He stayed ahead of the disease but was unable to fight for his life at the end, due to years of alcohol abuse. He too left a legacy as both of my brothers, early on in their careers on the Police Force in the city of New York, found themselves struggling through alcohol dependence. They took a long hard look at my dad, got help and have been recovered ever since (about 25 years for both of them).

I remembered my mother's stress during holidays, birthdays, anniversaries and numerous events that families enjoy. She was always afraid of how much my dad would drink and that he would leave her with the job of entertaining as he went into bed or slept in a chair right at the party! As kids, you think dad is sleeping but later as young adults, you too get that same stressed feeling when you don't know how the day or night is going to turn out.

So, again, hats off to you, get on with the healing process and put this out for public awareness.

Carole Weingarten (Ramapo College staff)
Bloomingdale, NJ

I found your site through my father who told me about it.I was a fireman in Franklin Lakes from 1979 to 1988, when like many other young guys got married and moved away, I knew and respected Tom as a past chief, he taught me many aspects of firefighting, I am still a firefighter in my home town 21 years later. To this day when ever I smell a pipe it brings me back to the Franklin Lakes firehouse and memories of Tom, When I first heard of what happened to Tom I was extremely shocked because I had no idea of his alcoholism, I still have fond memories of Tom and his "jokes". Although I have not seen the film, I plan to if possible. Your Father was a great guy. God Bless.

Dan Fitzgerald (Former F.L. Fireman)
Blooming Grove, N.Y.

I had seen the movie on the 24th at the Berrie Center. I am a graduate student at Ramapo. I thought the film was outstanding. I know many folks who would like to see it. Can you please let me know if you will show it again and if so when and where. I loved the filming out the car window when it was raining during narration. Great effect. I also know for sure, that I know very few people if any, that have not been touched by alcoholism and or addiction in some way. I find it strange what most people call dysfunctional is actually the norm in most cases. Great job on the movie.

Mahwah, NJ

The documentary was as much about the painful survival of a wife and daughters as it was about the loss of a husband and father. I was struck by the visual difference in appearance of your mother compared to your father by the end of the film. Your mother (and you and your sisters) are true survivors. Congratulations on making a work of such cathartic power.

J Skrzynski (colleague)
Cornwall-on-Hudson, NY

I was very moved by the video and the quality and quantity of the web site. You certainly did a lot of work on this project.

Bob Shine (colleague)
Ridgewood, NJ

I never had the chance to see the film however people I know that did loved it. I am sorry I didn't have the chance. However, I was very interested and visited your web site. I to have had to face family alcoholism (my mom) I too had to find out family secrets. My parents were married twice and when I found this out I was in my early teens I was floored. My mom was raped at 19 and living in Calf. She also married for the 2nd time (not to my dad) and quickly ended. There just comes a time in life were we have to let go and change things. Our parents did what they could they did the best they could for what they had. I can add sexual abuse that I experienced myself and that I had to make it end also, I just told the person what happen happened and even that it happen to me I had to let it go. You unpeeled the layers of your life thru this move and that was a GREAT WAY. Going over and over the issues that hurt is good. This is how we heal not by putting it away. You have done a great job Trish never expecting this out of you only because you seem so private. But I always knew there was a lot going on there. I hope to see your film soon I couldn't due to my past because I still get up set but, only because of sadness for my parents not me. What they put themselves thru in this life, and only now are they learning about life at the age of 73 and 80. Addictions are a beast in all of us. Great work and hope you go further in producing another film. You seem to have the talent......you have accomplished so much. Thanks for the knowledge and sharing your story with us. I am sure we in someway of our life feel connected and thats good we all need that.


Trish, I didn't get the opportunity to see the film but from reading the article in the Ramapo News, it was a moving picture. If I saw the movie, I myself would definitely have cried. My father also had a drinking problem and it caused many problems in my growing up years.

There is too much emphasis on drinking beers....especially at football, baseball and concerts that no one feels that drinking a beer is drinking alcohol. It took me many years myself to overcome the problems that drinking causes....arguments, pain and suffering for everyone in the household. It does affect everyone. My father since has passed away but I will never forget....as I was always close to him.

I feel that more emphasis should be about alcohol just as much as tobacco as they both are addictive.

Thank you for hearing me out

Garfield, New Jersey

There is no family untouched by alcoholism. My sister's second husband (now ex) is an alcoholic who ruined many family holidays and her children suffered living in the same household with him for five years. I wish I had seen Losing Tom before I had to deal with my own family's situation. I felt helpless during that time, not knowing how to help my sister or her children rather than urging them to leave. Losing Tom touches on all aspects of the family's concerns -- the legal, emotional, hurting, healing -- in ways that are realistic and make you feel that you are not alone. Great job a difficult tribute to a father and congratulations to the mother and daughters who had the courage to tell the story.

Janet Dengel (colleague)
New Milford, NJ

I have had the chance to view Trish's film twice, and have found each experience profoundly moving. As I have gotten older and widened my circle of friends and acquaintences, I have discovered that all of us have a 'Tom' in our background, but most of us choose to keep him (or her) locked away in a closet. There are few, if any, Brady Bunch families on the loose, but that is the image most of us try to emulate. When we are unsuccessful, we feel as if we are not 'up to par'. The question is, 'up to par' with what? What Trish's film has done is to bring to light the deep pain (as well as the possibility for growth and wisdom) that comes when we acknowledge that problems like this exist. Unfortunately, as was the case with Trish's dad, we are not always able to find solutions to the problems at hand, but rather we must sometimes learn to let go. Thank you Trish for a beautiful film.

Connie Roseler (graduate of MALS at Ramapo)

I wanted to thank you for sharing the story of how your father's alcoholism not only affected him, but the whole family. You described the "Family Secrets" characteristic perfectly. Thank you for introducing me to the term "disenfranchised grief". One of the family secrets that existed in my family, was that I had an etopic pregnancy when I was 19, fathered by a man I had only known for 3 months. Not only didn't I have a child to mourn but I was sworn to secrecy by my mother. Then when I was 32 and discovered that I was infertile I went through some more of this grief. I ended up in therapy along with attendance of Al-Anon, AA and OA meetings. So you can see where my "Family Secrets" led me. Thank God I have been able to reveal these "Family Secrets" in therapy in the rooms of recovery and to my sister. I also have to thank a wonderful temporary Al-Anon sponsor for giving me permission to create a place to mourn the loss of our child. She suggested that I make a memorial box and put mementos in it to the baby. I was amazed that this was a "Family Secret" for so long that it kept the baby's father ( who I have been married to for 23 years) and I from talking about the pregnancy and the baby until we were both in recovery, It was at least 20 years that had passed before we ever shared our feelings about what happened! By the way I also married an alcoholic. By the grace of God we are both sober today. Anyway you can imagine the grief feelings I went through again when I found out I was infertile and no one to talk about it with, as I didn't get into recovery until I was 35, talk about the flood gate opening, oh boy!!!

Anonymous (web site visitor)

I've spent the last hour or two reading every last word you've put to paper. More than once I asked myself, "Are we the same person?....Have we lived the same life?" Our only difference is that, as of this very moment, my father is still alive. Alive is the term the hospital uses. He is very much dead to me. His home now consists of a hospital responsible for his every need. His internal organs are damaged beyond repair and the extensive brain damage is also irreversible. I spend most days weeping for the man I've called Daddy for the past 33 years. He knows me now as another voice on the phone...that he will forget within 5 or 10 minutes of hanging up or falling asleep with the phone to his ear. Every inch of the 1,200 miles that separates the two of us is marked with my tears. I know the end is near. I only wonder how to go on once he has gone... Does the pain ever subside?

I would very much like to know how I may view a copy of your film. From what I have read, it seems as if it may help with the coping and eventual healing.

God bless you for bringing our pain and suffering to light so others will not feel as if they are alone. I know it was not easy.

Lori Reetz (web site visitor)
Ft. Worth, TX

My name is Tom, I am an alcoholic (in partial denial).

I was in treatment 6 months ago and relapsed recently. I am still not persuaded 100% about the disease concept of alcoholism (THIQ etc...). I tried (and still am) AA but I just cannot force myself to take the steps. I even took step 3 as a good reason to drink. Even if I accept a Higher Power (nature for instance)I just cannot force myself to believe that whatever Higher Power is caring for or helping me. I think I could stop drinking if the THEODICY problem was solved (another good reason to drink).

I do admire what you are doing and the two pictures of your father deeply shocked me (fear????).... and my name is Tom as well (coincidence of course). I have 3 wonderful children (the only beings I am able to love) and I am scared should my son ever do a movie like you did.

I am confused. Your side made me nearly cry (selfpity of course)

PS 1 Please forgive my bad english (obviously not my native tongue lol)

Anonymous (web site visitor)

I am the daughter of an advanced stage alcoholic. Where can I get a copy of this movie?

Anonymous (web site visitor)
Gibson City, IL

my sister and I found our mother dead yesterday after a 35 year battle with alcoholism. I have been drawing comfort from your web site. Thank you.

morag colautti (web site visitor)
dundee tayside scotland

I am a 30 year old recovering alchoholic, and I believe if it wasn't for people like you that would open up their hearts to tell such a personal and tragic story, so many people like me would not have it to benefit from.

Thank you and believe me, I am still in tears just looking at the website, where could I get the film?

Jennifer (web site visitor)

I came to your website by way of researching wernike-korsakoff syndrom, that my ex-husband has recently been diagnosed with[ and father of my 3 adult children]. I would love to see [purcase] a copy of your film to share with my family. Thanks,

Patsy White (web site visitor)
smyrna, ga

Thank you so much for sharing your story. It has personally helped me 'a co-dependent'.

Kichele Jones (web site visitor)
St. Louis, Missouri

U are very brave. my brother commited suicide 5 yrs ago; he was a chronic alcoholic. i was living with him at the time. but that's another story. thanks heeps

Anonymous (web site visitor)

Being a drunk:

I would like to see the film. I was scared when I read all the stuff in your website. It is so familar and I'm 37. Thanks for the info (info I don't like seeing)

Shannon (web site visitor)

Losing Tom is the best film I have seen that covers all the sad affects that the disease of alcoholism causes to families friends and the person,(.you covered everything,) I can identify with all of these things as I have been there. It is a horrible disease cunning powerful baffling I can only thank god that only for the help of other people one day at a time I have arrested my alcoholism .Thank you your mother and your sister for being so brave in the making of this amazing film And with the help of the film I can help others. We have a saying in Glasgow you do not have to go to the terminus someone already who has been there will let you know.

Glasgow Scotland

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