When parents experience the devastating loss of a child, we need the nectar of sustaining friendships, inspiration, and reliable information as we enter this life-changing journey.
My hope is this blog becomes a community of encouragement for all families who now travel in this unknown territory. Whether the death is an infant filled with the promise of life, or a 55-year-old beloved son of aging parents, such losses cause profound sorrow.
“To grieve,” means to “bear a heavy burden” and we need others to help carry the load.
So, Pilgrimage through Loss will also offer insight for friends, family, clergy, counselors, and medical staff who walk with us. Stories from parents will show how your companionship and tangible actions make a significant difference, but also ways unintentional hurt added to their pain. Your desire to help ease our days proves pivotal as we seek renewed strength, peace, and a vibrant savoring of life again.
I like the term pilgrimage because it implies a long journey. When Krista, our 25-year-old married daughter was killed in 1998 while volunteering in Bolivia, (see A Terrible Beauty at www.kristafoundation.org), I read what I could on parental grief and loss. I found helpful writing on the early acute months when parents wonder, “Will I always feel this bad?” …[continue reading...]
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November 15th, 2014
Does serving in war have potential to cause "moral injury" to our soul? As our nation grapples with the escalating suicides of over 22 military men and women each day, this is a question both troubled veterans and a growing group of PTSD counselors are seeking to understand. I had never heard of "moral injury" as one of the potential causes of veteran's Post Traumatic Stress Disorder until recently. Rather than grief over...[read more]
October 28th, 2014
Do you long for "built-in" ways of remembrance for someone you love? The most common lament I hear from families is frustration over the subtle, and not-so-subtle silencing that emerges after the death of a loved one. "Don't talk about your sorrow," counseled a widow in a letter to my mom after the death of my father. "People don't want to hear it." Believing her, she privately grieved the end of a sixty-year marriage....[read more]
October 6th, 2014
A favorite condolence note included only nine words. "Heart shattered lives….by no means escape God's notice." After our daughter died in Bolivia, Suzette wrote this contemporary translation of Psalm 51 on a simple ecru card with her beautiful personal handwriting and signed it. For years, I propped this treasured card on my desk, a visual assurance that we don't walk on this pilgrimage alone. Often such notes from friends help us h...[read more]
September 24th, 2014
Are there healing ways for all in the family to remember an infant who dies? This was Ashlee Hammac's question last October when their baby Ryan died just five days after his birth from Hypox-Ischemic Encephopathy. Though in shock and heartbroken, this mom also recognized her three-year-old son Tucker's heartbreak at losing his little brother. He had shared months of the family's joyful anticipation during her pregnancy. He...[read more]
September 12th, 2014
Why are gardens so universally healing? This morning, after harvesting sun-ripened peaches, Japanese finger eggplants, heirloom tomatoes, kale, sunflowers and more, I felt profound gratitude. Truth is, I still live in awe of seeds. How a bland black/brown seed planted last spring emerges as an seven-foot tall branching sunflower amazes me. That's even after the deer dropped by for a gourmet meal and topped off their first flower heads. No...[read more]
August 31st, 2014
At the heart of healing, many persons speak of how practicing gratitude proves life-giving. I learned about Naikan, a fascinating Japanese spiritual practice of gratitude this past weekend while speaking at an international Sage-ing Conference in Seattle on Pilgrimage through Loss. Barbara Sarah led this workshop, a psychologist who uses this method in both her counseling practice and with a large Oncology Support Program in New York that she fo...[read more]
August 21st, 2014
How can families remember one we have loved? This was Nancy Spencer's question as she neared the one-year anniversary of her husband's death. Rather than seeking illusive closure, many families are creating rituals of remembrance. When Don Spencer, a good friend of ours was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, for the next 20 months he invested all his energy into bonds with his wife Nancy, three children, and eight grandchildren. A ...[read more]
August 2nd, 2014
Hello again, Have you ever written or dreamed of a "bucket list"….things you hope to do before you die? When Kristina Chesterman's grieving parents began the painful process of cleaning out their daughter's apartment, they discovered a rare treasure tucked away in a make-up bag. To their great surprise, their 21-year-old daughter left a "bucket list," probably written in high school. Her exuberant spirit of adventure rings through, from pl...[read more]
A special thanks to photographer
Mickey Shannon for his beautiful
image of Mt. Rainier National Park,
a special place for our family.