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, and I became one.
But that was the extent of my goal setting. New possibilities led to opportunities I had not imagined.
A college speech class about "weekend warriors" led to 13 years of service as a public affairs officer in the Army National Guard. Winter survival training in Norway led me to live and teach in that beautiful country for three years.
The Guard led me into 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 get a Masters degree in family education and become a parent educator. A decade later volunteering with a hunger relief organization led me into the world of nonprofit "mission advancement."
I've pretty much lived my life seeing opportunities and taking them. They have led me from one wondrous place to the next. I've made a habit of taking things on, being tenacious, and barely thinking twice when a possibility presents itself.
Those habits have served me well when faced with possibilities I didn't relish but couldn't avoid. There have been some of those.
Even those possibilities energize me. They make my thriver instinct kick 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
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.
I see the greatest possibilities of all embodied in children, with their exuberance, imagination, resourcefulness, resilience and inherent wisdom. They are precious treasures. Who can doubt that they are Divinely designed?
I prefer wisdom to knowledge. There's plenty of information out there, but it's not necessarily sound, smart, sensible or even true. Children, experience and compassion are the wisest teachers. The heart knows what is true, right and lasting. I try to pay attention.
As a coach and an educator my goal is to put parents in touch with their own wisdom. I am 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 for parents like me who are heartbroken.
It took me 16 years to be able to be here—choosing to step into this space of grieving with you. Now I have something that I want you to have. That is the truth that you will get beyond this, that your life can be good, and that you can even feel joy. I know this may be hard for you to believe.
Bereaved parents need tremendous support. The death of a child is "the worst loss" imaginable. And when your child leaves a grieving sibling, your heart is twice broken. Mine was. I felt my daughter's loss so much more deeply than my own.
The task of parenting a sibling without her sibling is uncharted territory that most parents thankfully will never walk. Sibling loss has deep ramifications that few people really grasp; it impacts the most basic of day-to-day interactions. My daughter spoke it so well on the playground one day when she said to me, "No one can know the pain that we feel."
Her loss would never ever be okay. Yet I couldn’t change it. I would simply have to make the best lemonade I possibly could. So I had to figure out how to do the rest of our lives—how to help my child 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. I understand better now 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. It’s more about heart than any particular thing anyone could have told me. And the ESSENTIAL MESSAGES that strengthen the parent-child bond.
In 2014 when I left my mission advancement position at a women's shelter, it was time for me to advance my mission of helping other bereaved parents of grieving children remake their lives after loss.
I discovered THE GRIEF RECOVERY METHOD (GRM) that year and was certified as a Grief Recovery Specialist. The GRM program helps grievers recover from losses of all kinds. The GRM course HELPING CHILDREN DEAL WITH LOSS inspired my ESSENTIAL MESSAGES parenting approach.
Each person's loss is unique. The more I learn about others' grief journeys, the better I can help parents of grieving children. 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. If you are willing to share your experience with me, please contact me using the form below.