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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May 11th, 2015
The Sunday before Mother's Day, while visiting our daughter Susan's family in Boston, I worshipped in their beautiful church with our 7-year-old Vietnamese granddaughter, Quinlen. Born premature and abandoned at birth, she grew up in two rooms of a crowded orphanage until almost two. Having recently learned to read, she was enthusiastically singing the words to the historic Irish hymn Be Thou My Vision, also chosen for our...[read more]
April 20th, 2015
Can grief actually be a friend after losing one we love? "You won't always feel this bad." This was the quiet assurance a friend gave Babs a few weeks after her 16-year-old son died while rolling his truck on a mountain road. Reeling from the loss of her only child, she found "these words gave me immense comfort because I knew she'd been there after her own child's death." She expressed the concern of mot...[read more]
April 6th, 2015
EASTER, 2015 In a Palm Sunday service, our Episcopalian preacher quoted from novelist Jeanette Winterson's memoir, "What we notice in stories is the nearness of the wound to the gift." During this liturgical season of Lent, the forty days of remembrance beginning with Ash Wednesday to this Easter morning's joyous celebration, her words illuminated this faith journey. In truth, I have often found the Bibl...[read more]
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]
A special thanks to photographer
Mickey Shannon for his beautiful
image of Mt. Rainier National Park,
a special place for our family.