Taking the scenic route
I grew up in a small Minnesota town on the Canadian border—Baudette, the Walleye Capital of the World, gateway to beautiful Lake of the Woods. I "always knew" I wanted to be a teacher; I went to the University of Minnesota and became one.
That was the extent of my goal setting. Much as I enjoyed teaching and coaching middle schoolers, irresistable opportunities drew me in new directions to wonderful adventures I had not imagined. As a result, I travelled a scenic route to arrive here.
The first detour happened when a college speech class about "weekend warriors" enticed me into 13 years of service as a public affairs officer in the Army National Guard. Army winter survival training in Norway drew me to live and teach in that beautiful country for three years.
My Guard experience led to a public relations career. I was the community relations director for a suburban school district when I became a mom. That momentous event led me to earn a Masters degree in family education and become a licensed parent educator. A decade later, volunteering with a hunger relief organization drew me into the nonprofit world of "mission advancement."
I've pretty much lived my life taking on opportunities and tenaciously pursuing positive possibilities. That has served me well when faced with circumstances I didn't relish but couldn't avoid. Needless to say, there have been some of those.
Even in those cases, possibilities energize me. My thriver instinct kicks in. I'm simply not very good at accepting the status quo when there's a possibility for something better. Lemons are made for lemonade, after all.
Here and now
In 2014 when I left my mission advancement
position at a women's shelter, it was time for me to advance my own mission of helping other bereaved parents of grieving children remake their lives after loss.
Very real possibilities for something good exist even in heartbreak, even in the devastating. I want to give families this hope and help parents claim the wisdom and gifts within themselves to choose a better possibility—for themselves and for their children.
There's a lot of parenting information out there, but it's not necessarily sound, smart, sensible or even true. I prefer wisdom to knowledge. As a coach and an educator my goal is to help parents discover their own heart-led wisdom. The heart knows what is true, right and lasting. I am a discovery partner, not a therapist or a counselor.
Most importantly, I stand on a Rock, and His Name is Jesus. He makes all things new (Revelation 21:5). He works all things for good (Romans 8:28). He is faithful (2 Timothy 2:13). His Word is Truth.
"Mommy, half of me is gone . . ."
Those six words from my three-and-a-half-year-old daughter are the reason I am here. When my son—her beloved big brother, best friend and only sibling—died of cancer, the loss was devastating. It broke our hearts and left an unfillable void in her young being.
I was teaching early childhood parenting classes at that time. My heart's desire was—and is—to make good things happen for children and the parents who love them. Yet with all my resources, I found very little to help me navigate our unthinkable new reality. No one could tell me how I was supposed to parent my daughter without her brother.
I don't want it to be the same for you. I knew then that I had to do something—not just for my precious daughter, but for children like her and parents like me who are heartbroken after the death of a child.
Bereaved parents need tremendous support. You've suffered "the worst loss" imaginable. And when your child leaves a grieving sibling, your heart is twice broken. I felt my daughter's loss even more deeply than my own.
The task of parenting a child without her sibling is uncharted territory that thankfully most parents will never walk. For those of us who do, it's a lonely and isolated place. I'm here to step into this space of grieving with you.
Childhood sibling loss has deep ramifications that few people recognize; it impacts the most basic of day-to-day interactions. My daughter spoke it so well one day on the playground when she said to me, "No one can know the pain that we feel."
I want to help you know that you and your child will get beyond the pain. Your lives can be good, and you can even feel joy. More importantly, I will give you tools to do it.
My daughter's loss would never ever be okay. Yet I couldn’t change it. I simply had to make the best lemonade I possibly could. I had to figure out how to do the rest of our lives—how to help her cope with her loss, shine light into the void, and remake a meaning-full life around her altered identity.
Parenting my sibling by heart to adulthood was my mission for 16 years. Today I better understand what I needed as a bereaved parent of a young child, what would have been helpful for me and for her, what may be helpful for you and your child. More than any particular thing anyone could have told me, it's about heart wisdom—and the Essential Messages that strengthen the parent-child bond.
My Essential Messages parenting approach—inspired by The Grief Recovery Method®—guides families beyond mourning to experience whole, joy-full lives. As a Certified Grief Recovery Method® Specialist I am able to help adult grievers recover from losses of all kinds.
Each Person's Grief is Unique.
The more I learn about others' journeys, the better I can help parents of grieving siblings. If you are the parent of a child whose sibling died in childhood—or if your sibling died when you were a child—I would like to hear from you. Please contact me using the form below if you are willing to share your experience with me.