Solace in Sandy Hook: A Mother’s Inspiring Story

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How does a parent ever recover from a tragedy as heartbreaking as the murder of twenty-six first-graders and staff at Sandy Hook Elementary?  On this one-year anniversary, I’m heartened by the determination from many of the mothers and fathers that “this is not the end of the story.”  On Scott Simon’s NPR Morning Edition this December 14, they included a compelling interview with Nelba Marquez-Greene, the mother of six-year-old Ana Grace who was killed.  As a therapist who counsels mentally ill and troubled young people, she talked of three attitudes and actions that have shaped her days even when “most days, it feels like I’m hanging off the edge of a cliff.”



1) Making a choice on where to focus memory.

She’s very aware that one doesn’t always choose our circumstances, but we have choices on our responses.

She describes how “I’ve made it my business” to stay focused on good days with Ana, to keep her spirit alive.  Rather than reliving December 14, she loves remembering the day before, on December 13, when their busy family suddenly dropped everything to go out together for dinner at the Cheesecake Factory.  She’s forever grateful for this time of lots of laughter,enjoyment of one another, and snapping of photographs.  It was their last dinner together as a family of four.


2) Living with an expanded heart.  During the December 2 conference of the Ana Grace Project, 500 people gathered for their family’s effort to build community, connection, and compassion.  “A moment came when we wondered if we should create a table with 28 candles instead of 26, to include both Adam and his mother who also died that day.  We put 28, a gesture of compassion.”


3) Acting on creative ways to honor Ana Grace.  Their family motto is Love Wins and Ana’s father, Jimmy, is a musician and friend of Harry Connick, Jr. so they’ve composed a song called Love Wins now available on You Tube.


Click this link to a beautiful full interview of a  Generous Spirited Newtown Mother who seeks to make meaning from such heart devastation.  I found her expanded story immensely inspiring.  I think you might too.



Even during their first year of acute raw grief, many are demonstrating the empowering characteristics of compassion, strength, intention, and resolve that mark their community.

As grieving parents, they banded together and formed the Sandy Hook Promise, going on the road to lobby for “common sense solutions to gun violence.  When lawmakers failed to pass legislation in April, father Mark Barden expressed the sentiment of many.  “We are disappointed, but not defeated.” Many saw this as “round one” in their fight for reform, equating the challenges of changing America’s gun violence as a marathon, not a sprint.


Now they have launched a grassroots campaign called Parents Together, emphasizing mental wellness, connection to community and gun safety.  With a new strategy, and proven tools and programs to help local communities, they believe that parents’ common love for children can overcome national political paralysis. They are determined that Sandy Hook will be remembered as a place where real and lasting transformation to prevent gun violence in America began.


This is their solace and their hope, and a force towards their healing. Such courage and determined actions give hope and solace to our nation too.


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Pilgrimage (54 Posts)

Pilgrimage through Loss: Pathways to Strength and Renewal after the Death of a Child offers encouragement and information for other parents living in the long season of sorrow. Drawn from interviews from mothers and fathers on their grief journey, plus Linda Lawrence Hunt's memoir of their family's loss, it also includes recent research on grief, resilience, and creative healing.

6 Responses to Solace in Sandy Hook: A Mother’s Inspiring Story

  • I heard this story on NPR yesterday morning while driving to a Bible Study on the South Hill. I think this mother, trained in therapy, moves in the right directions with her grief. She remembers the good times and days with her daughter, she does not view the murderer of he child as a “monster,” and even goes so far as to light a candle in remembrance for both the murder’s mother and the murderer. She does not allow revenge or hate fill her memories of the day. She has gone to a higher place in her grief work–a better place for her and her community. Her story told to Scott Simon brought tears to my eyes because I know what she has gone through. I thank her for sharing this story and Linda as well for posting it. I’ll pass this along to my Facebook and Twitter friends.

  • I thought of you both yesterday along with all my friends who have lost children..I heard some of those amazing parents yesterday too, but missed the one you posted so thank you for sharing it. Still makes me cry…they are amazing folks, those parents. So hard to comprehend, but this attitude will hopefully be contagious. Love, Catherine

  • Thank you Linda for posting this. What struck me as so true is the present and past reference. So often people expect to hear parents talk of “I had a daughter” , or not to count my daughter when I tell them how many children I have or we are a family of 4 instead of 5. I love saying I have 2 daughters and we are a family of 5. She is! I feel her and know she is..just not as touchable. Thank you for the blog, Linda, it is such a connector to all of us who are on this journey.

    • Hi Penny,

      I love your assurance “I feel her and know she is…just not as touchable.” As one mother expressed it to me, “It feels natural to talk with my son….I just consider him in another universe.”

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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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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.

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Support for Parents

+ Alliance of Hope for Suicide Survivors On-line forum and website

+ American Childhood Cancer Organization (ACCO) (Formerly Candlelighters Childhood Cancer)

+ Compassionate Friends

+ First Candle: Support for Stillborn and SIDS deaths

+ Loving Outreach to Survivors of Suicide (LOSS)

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

+Parents of Murdered Children

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