"Mommy, half of me is gone . . . "
Six words from my three-and-a-half-year-old daughter are the reason I am here. "Mommy, half of me is gone."
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.
A futile search and a mission
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 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.
Parenting the sibling by heart
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 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."
My daughter's loss would never ever be okay. Yet I couldn’t change it. I simply had to make the best lemonade that 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.
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 not all of it is sound, smart, sensible or even true. 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 grief counselor.
My hope and my help for you
I want you to 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.
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 Specialist I am able to help adult grievers recover from losses of all kinds.
Deanna, when we cross the street, we need to hold hands. When we're walking on the sidewalk, we don't have to hold hands; we hold hands just to love each other.