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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February 13th, 2015
Sometimes an almost miraculous moment gives peace to a broken-hearted mother. When Cathy Bobb learned her beautiful 20-year-old daughter Mary was murdered while closing up the video store where she worked, her heart shattered. Already emotionally vulnerable when she struggled with bouts of depression, this shock in 1993 added to her sense of life's fragility. Sometimes, though, in the following years she foun...[read more]
February 1st, 2015
Grief often affects our bodies as well as our spirits. My first inkling of the value of exercise to soothe grief came when my friend and faculty colleague, Jerry Sittser, lost his wife, mother, and daughter in one car accident. A few months later, in the aftermath of this unimaginable tragedy caused by a drunk driver, his brother-in-law insisted Jerry go skiing with him. Fresh mountain air, invigorating exerc...[read more]
January 13th, 2015
Hello again! An important article in the Sunday New York Times, "Getting Grief Right," addresses how harmful the myth of closure and stages becomes for persons living with profound sorrow and loss. While listening to parents across the nation, I often hear them describe this problem in our culture, and how these attitudes towards grief often confuse and hurt them. As families say in Nancy Berns' book Closure: The Rush...[read more]
December 26th, 2014
Christmas morning. It's 5 a.m. and I am awake, not to the sounds of Santa Claus visiting our two 'heart grandchildren,' but to a growing sense that Jim and I are living within the true Christmas miracle, "Emmanuel," God with us. We are visiting at the Seattle home of Aaron Ausland who was married to our 25-year-old daughter Krista before her death while they were volunteering in Bolivia. Shadowed by profound sorrow during the b...[read more]
December 9th, 2014
Do you find that family rituals during holidays often increase joy, but also have the power to accentuate sorrow? One of my favorite family traditions is the lighting of our five-candle Advent wreath on the four Sundays before Christmas. Advent comes from the word "adventus," meaning 'coming' and the spirit encouraged is 'expectant waiting.' It orients us to prepare for the future with a confidence born of trust. The lighting of th...[read more]
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]
A special thanks to photographer
Mickey Shannon for his beautiful
image of Mt. Rainier National Park,
a special place for our family.