About the Pilgrimage

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?”

 

Living with Life-long Loss

Cropped_Glacier,_Avalanche_LakeWhat I didn’t find was much on the long years ahead of living with loss.

In pilgrimages, people choose such travels, filled with obstacles, because of their belief in the importance of the quest.  It is usually to a place of spiritual significance, like the historic Santiago de Compostela route, Mecca, or the Ganges River. In early years it also meant “wanderer.”

But for mothers and fathers, our long journey is unchosen.  Nor is there an end point destination. Parents rarely seek illusionary “closure,” expressing instead our reality of living with the forever love of our child.  But significance infuses our wanderings.

So, for the past I have been listening and learning from other families.  Their stories inspired me as I heard how many eventually embraced their changed lives with open hearts, seeking significance and meaning.

But we are a “mourning avoidant” culture, and I also met parents who found their lives narrowed.  Adhering to the perceived cultural message “to keep grief to yourself” left them grieving alone.  Broken by the fragility of life, they lost trust, and began living with greater emotional distance from others, or even mind-numbing addictions.  Their stories give glimpses of why a compassionate community matters.

 

Toward Healing

kristapic1But for some, the love that lies underneath such sorrow often proves to be a wellspring for new creative ways of living. Researchers actually refer to this now as Post-Traumatic Growth.  Our memoir, and these parent interviews will be in my book Pilgrimage through Loss to be published in early 2014 by WJK Press.

But it is never easy.

At one of Krista’s memorials, I saw a college friend whose family endured the murder of her 2-year-old nephew.  “Molly, how did your family ever survive Devon’s death?, “ I asked.  She paused for a moment, and then said simply, “Your joys become more intense.”

So we will focus on the lifelong journey, and what leads or hinders, pathways to healing.   “To heal” means “to make whole, sound, and well,” what every grieving parent longs for again.  Naturally, this means our pilgrimage will include adventures in our luminous world, as well!



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14 Responses to About the Pilgrimage

  • Great to see this beautiful project completed. Let’s see where the paths lead.

    • Thanks for all of your support these past months as I’ve been learning a whole new communication language! Another path on our own pilgrimage….

  • Several things have immediately impressed me about this blog. One is Linda’s gift as a writer. She is able to write with clarity and depth as well as freshness and vitality. Dealing with heart wrenching issues, Linda manages to honour the grieving process while at the same time offering hope from her own experience and that of others. There are no formulas or simple answers here but there are many creative pathways through the darkness.
    A second aspect of this blog which impressed me is that the more you read the more you realize that the comments here are relevant for any devastating loss not only for the loss of a child.
    And finally I am a reader who has not experienced the kind of losses described here but I so often connect with those who have. I am grateful to be able to refer people to this site where they will encounter wise and compassionate counsel from a variety of sources. I am also grateful to discover ways I can become a more effective partner on the pilgrimage.

    • Thanks, Judi, for reading these initial entries. I am delighted to have readers in the community who hope to find this blog insightful as they befriend others going through many types of loss. The friendship of others has made such a difference for Jim and me as we live with the loss of Krista, but I also found such friendships vital when my brother Larry was killed. Kindness from others is always a gift!

  • Linda,

    What an amazing tribute and project. I am literally I tears as I write. I look forward to your book and continued blog posts.

    Much love-Renee

  • Oh Linda,
    I am excited that you are gettting ready to publish this very important creation! How wonderful that your work with other pilgrim friends will thread out through our broken world where children die and families walk alone in the darkness of grief, your book will offer the light to guide them.

    I look forward to seeing you in the near future pilgrim! Much love ~

  • Linda,
    I’ve just reread your blog and feel inspired again. Our daughter, whom we lost four years ago, used to say at the end of a letter or a call “Here”s a hug!”. I’ve been afraid to say it because I thought it would make me cry, but now I think I can because it feels like it could bring her back a little bit.

    • Hi MJ,
      What an endearing way your daughter closed her letters and phone calls. I hope saying it will make her seem a little closer, almost a tribute to her warm spirit.

  • Hi Linda,
    A friend just brought your website to my attention. Very nice site. I am a bereaved parent and the president and founder of Open to Hope Foundation with the mission of helping people find hope after loss. I have a radio show “Grief Relief” and wanted to know if you would like to be a guest. It is a 15 minute commercial free interview tapped interview . My next open date is March 17th at 11:30am Calif. time. Please let me know if you are interested. Also feel free to call me. My telephone number is 415-994-8263. Gloria

  • I was drawn to your web site while researching information for my book. May I first begin by letting you know how very sorry I am for your loss and pain. Your daughter, Krista is beautiful. I say “is” because I believe her spirit is alive and free. You see, my 22 year old son was killed and died in 2004. Oh, talk about grief, it has taken me 10 years to be able to find complete healing. My book is the story of how I found total healing from his death. I would just love to keep communicating with you, I have many questions to ask you. Please let me know if that would be possible. I send you peace, continued healing, success and many Blessings,
    Elizabeth

    • Thanks, Elizabeth, for writing, and for sharing some of your journey over the death of your beloved son. I am sending you an email with my contact information. We are on book tour in the South right now.

  • Linda ~
    You are such a precious gem! Thank you for shining your sacred light!
    ~ Andriene

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About Linda
For everyone, life sometimes brings shipwreck moments.

Ours happened when four friends woke us one beautiful May dawn to break the news that our 25-year-old married daughter Krista had died 7000 miles away while volunteering in Bolivia. Our hearts shattered, much like the shards of her bus that plunged over a mountain cliff.
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Pilgrimage through Loss can be purchased from your favorite independent bookstore OR
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Read early reviews.
Available now…

Desperate. Determined. Unwaveringly confident. In 1896, a Norwegian immigrant named Helga Estby dares to cross 3500 miles of the American continent to win a $10,000 wager. On Foot. BOLD SPIRIT: Helga Estby’s Forgotten Walk across Victorian America introduces readers to this fascinating journey of an audacious act of courage and love of a mother trying to save a family farm.

“You absolutely do not want to miss this book!” ~Mitch Finley, Auntie’s Books

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Support for Parents

+ Alliance of Hope for Suicide Survivors On-line forum and website www.allianceofhope.org

+ American Childhood Cancer Organization (ACCO) (Formerly Candlelighters Childhood Cancer) www.acco.org

+ Compassionate Friends www.compassionatefriends.org

+ First Candle: www.firstcandle.org Support for Stillborn and SIDS deaths

+ Loving Outreach to Survivors of Suicide (LOSS) www.catholiccharities.net/loss

+ MISS Foundation (also in Spanish) www.missfoundation.org On-line support groups : Infant & toddler death and advocacy

+Parents of Murdered Children www.pomc.com

+ TAPS: Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors: www.taps.org 1-800-959 3277 for survivors of military deaths