Parents, cars can be replaced but kids can’t—one father’s story about forgiveness.

Grief Diaries

Yesterday, an 18-year old girl, her mother, older sister and brother-in-law came to my office. The girl had just rear-ended another vehicle.

When I asked if everyone was okay, they all politely smiled and said yes. But I sensed otherwise.

As an insurance agent, I spelled out the steps to file a claim, then came back to the girl.

I told her it was okay. Everyone makes mistakes and she needed to learn from it and let it go.

Her eyes welled up, she said, “My mom and dad will NEVER let this go.”

She said never through gritted teeth, and I sensed she’d already been given quite a bit over it.

I said, “I want to tell you a story.” 

“On my 26th wedding anniversary, my son came home from his drive to school almost as soon as he’d left. His face showed anguish like yours does now. Behind him I could see his car hood standing up like a tent, his grill and headlights smashed.

For some reason, I felt calm. And I never feel calm. I told him it was okay, we all make mistakes and I was just glad he wasn’t hurt. It was probably one of a handful of things I did right as a parent in his eyes.

He later thanked me for the way I handled that morning. And 58 days later, he was gone.”

My gaze turned to the mother who, until then, had been silently seething. “We can replace cars and houses and boats and ATVs. But we can’t replace people. How this situation today is handled will always be remembered.”

There wasn’t a dry eye. Even macho brother-in-law was sobbing. Mom and daughter embraced.

When someone asks my advice about getting into my business, I tell them what an older, wiser agent told me—it’s a tough job. But there are payoff days that make it worth the ride. Yesterday was such a day.

And parents, cars can be replaced. Children can’t. Learn from it, forgive, and give thanks they live to make other mistakes.

SCOTT SMITH, Jake’s dad

Grief Diaries

A picture worth a thousand words

Faces of Resilience

They say one picture is worth a thousand words because it captures complex emotions in a single shot.

Our newest book is filled with photos that are priceless.

Faces of Resilience is a stunning gallery of nearly 200 portraits taken by Barbara J HopkinsonPRae M Miliotis, and myself that showcase both the commonality and individuality of a timeless journey experienced by people around the world.

Traveling the country to conferences, annual gatherings and even support groups, each subject was invited to write something meaningful on his or her skin to portray how grief has influenced their emotions while serving as a visual reminder that the power of resilience lies within us all.

Thousands of photos later, the top 200 made it into our first published collection.

Faces of Resilience

It’s our hope that this influential collection tells a story better than written words, and serves as an agent of change by stimulating conversations about a universal experience through love, loss, heartbreak, resilience and—ultimately—hope.

Faces of Resilience

Faces of Resilience

Faces of Resilience

Faces of Resilience

Now available on Amazon.

Faces of Resilience

By Lynda Cheldelin Fell

#FacesofResilience #healing #hope

International Bereaved Mother’s Day

Grief Diaries

Today is International Bereaved Mother’s Day.

It’s not a day we celebrate. Rather, it’s a nod of recognition for fellow sisters of the Wailing Tent.

Recognition of the moment when we became a square peg in a round world, turning us each into an Other.

Recognition for . . .

. . . . our strength to get out of bed each day

. . . . our courage to face the future without our child

. . . . our love for mothers who speak our loss language

. . . . our admiration for those who are stronger than we

. . . . our dedication to helping those behind us

. . . . our determination to find the good in life

International Bereaved Mother’s Day is recognition of an invisible pain we carry for life, and yet we carry on.

Big hugs to my fellow sisters in the Wailing Tent.

Lynda Cheldelin Fell

Grief Diaries

Answering God’s nudge

Grief Diaries

The nudge came 3 hours in to the 5-hour flight. Sigh.

I was tired. And sore.

Just a few hours earlier on the way to the airport, we were involved in a 3-car accident. Hit from behind by a car at 45 mph, thankfully my friend’s truck was larger than the car. Three vehicles, two tow trucks, no obvious injuries. And, thanks to Uber, I still made my plane on time.

Thank you, God.

With security behind me, Starbucks in hand and two cookies in my purse, I boarded the plane bound for home.

My seat was nestled between a young man traveling to Alaska and a small elderly woman reading a book. I swallowed the last of the Starbucks, rested my head against the seat and closed my eyes. The cookies could wait.

Some time had passed when turbulence woke me. Not wanting to ruin a good night’s sleep in my own bed, I pulled out my iPad and began watching a movie.

Thirty minutes into my movie, I felt the nudge.

THE nudge. A nudge from God.

Sigh.

I paused the movie, laid down my iPad, and pulled out my earbuds. God pointed to the elderly lady to my right.

She had been reading earlier but the book was now in her lap. I opened the conversation by asking whether she was from Atlanta or Seattle.

Seattle, she said.

Her kind face was framed by short silver hair, wire-framed glasses and soft pink lipstick that accentuated bright blue eyes. She was wearing a beautiful blue sweater.

The nudge was still there. I obeyed and continued.

“What were you doing in Atlanta?” I asked.

She started to speak and then burst into shoulder-heaving sobs.

I wrapped my arms around her as best I could and just held her, resting my cheek on the crown of her small head.

I recognized those sobs. They were the sobs of a newly bereaved mother.

The sobs of a mother who lost a 47-year-old son to suicide just 4 months before. The sobs of a mother who had just traveled to his house to tend to details no parent should have to tend to.

The rest of the flight was spent in conversation with my new 86-year-old friend, a conversation punctuated by occasional sobs, lots of tissue, and a few smiles. I reassured her that one day it wouldn’t feel so raw.

We parted at the luggage carousel. No goodbye was needed, just a long hug before heading in opposite directions, she to a taxi and me to a northbound shuttle.

I’m still tired. Still sore. And still on the shuttle. But when my head finally meets my pillow tonight, I will fall asleep with a heart full of gratitude, gratitude for God’s nudges.

Thank you, God. XOXO

Lynda Cheldelin Fell

Grief Diaries

Through the Eyes of a Widow

Grief Diaries

Collateral blessings, a term describing something good that results from something bad.

Today marks the release of the 35th book bearing my name. A book filled with stories by widows who share their own personal insight into the unspoken challenges of losing a husband, and the emotional, mental and social shifts she’s forced to reckon with in the aftermath.

I didn’t lose a husband, but I lost a child. Our daughter Aly.

As I fought to restore balance to my world, I found comfort in stories by those who walked before me. They gave me hope.

Grief Diaries was born and built on this belief. By leaning on and learning from one another, our stories become a lifeline in a griefphobic society.

Each book offers family and friends a better understanding of why their loved one acts the way they do.

Scholars and clinicians learn from the rich spectrum of unfiltered narrations by people from all backgrounds.

When I lost Aly, I didn’t set out to do anything other than breathe. The collateral blessing is that her death led to something far bigger than either her or me. It birthed a village of people brave enough to share the truths of their loss—and what hope means to them today.

I will celebrate right after I blow my nose.

Lynda Cheldelin Fell  XOXO

Grief Diaries

Grief attack at the grocery story

Grief Diaries

Lately I was becoming a bit of a shut-in, and if I didn’t go food shopping I’d go hungry another day. Having exhausted the dry goods and freezer supply, my stomach grumbled in agreement.

I had to first take a shower so as not to offend anyone with my funk. Feeling a little revived and more alive, I hopped into my Jeep before I could change my mind.

Wet hair blowing in the wind, head boppin’ to the bumpin’ music. I had to stay motivated because I was on my way to what my depression had convinced me was a battlefield. Landmines everywhere in the form of memories threatening to strike.

Today I didn’t walk into the grocery store, I sauntered—an effect of having some pep in my step for the first time in a long time. Armored with my favorite protection amulet, most soothing gemstone ring, and my trusty pocket knife.

In the very first aisle I caught a glimpse which took my breath away and stopped me in my tracks.

A twenty-one-year-old man-child was buying beer. The puffed-up way he walked, strumming the whiskers on his chin as he carefully considered his choice, suggested it was his first time.

I had to steel myself at the sight. I wasn’t armed for this.

Brandon’s body had been found mutilated just a week shy of his twenty-first birthday. On his birthday, his father spent it in court for the arraignment of his suspected killer. His mother spent it at a funeral home planning his services.

In the grocery store, I took a deep breath, shook my head and put up my defenses. Trying to stay present by focusing on the task at hand of restocking provisions. I’ve always been a healthy eater, sticking mainly to the produce aisle and the perimeter of the store. I drink only the three necessities: black coffee, water and beer, though not necessarily in that order anymore.

I didn’t think about the case of coke, nor did I give a second thought to the Mac-n-Cheese or easy squirt jelly as I placed them in the carriage. In fact, it didn’t hit me until I was in the frozen section grabbing DiGiorno’s stuffed-crust pepperoni pizza, buy two get one free, that I froze.

Too late this time to steel myself from the oncoming grief attack.

My heart refused to accept reality and I found myself grabbing supplies for what had been our regular Friday pizza night. I was buying nephew-approved foods, as Brandon called them, eager to have them on hand for our next aunty date. Except there won’t be any more aunty dates with my nephew Brandon. Ever.

He’s not missing anymore like he was for six weeks. He’s dead. Murdered.

He’s not going to pop over. Not. Ever. Again.

Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. The hands can’t hit what the eyes can’t see. ~Muhammed Ali

The weight of this truth hit like Muhammed Ali and stung like a bee. Grief is the perfect TKO.

With weak knees, slumped shoulders, and eyes heavy with unshed tears, I knew I wouldn’t be able to duck and cover this time. The blows landed and I was about to go down. I made a beeline to the bathroom for cover.

As I shut the stall door, my shoulders began their familiar shudder. I leaned against the door and let the tears flow. I just had to ride it out.

As women came and went, I was helpless against the onslaught. Their concern and kind words exasperated my breathlessness. All I could mutter was, “It’s grief. It’ll pass.” With the breathy whisper of a shy little girl, I said, “Thank you.”

If I didn’t sit down, I would fall down. So I went to the sink and, leaning on it for support, splashed my red swollen face with cold water.

Just then an employee came in to check on me. I swayed on my feet fighting for control, and she offered me a chair and a bottle of water. She introduced herself as Nancy and asked genuinely for whom I was grieving. I told her about my beloved nephew Brandon. She was quiet, empathetic and—most important—not the least bit patronizing.

She surmised, “He felt like a son to you, didn’t he?”

I silently nodded my head. I wouldn’t dare to say it out loud, but a crucial piece of me is gone and I’m lost in a daily struggle of being here without him, the present reality too much to bare. With a hoarse voice I thanked her for her care and concern, to which Nancy replied, “We are all in this together, just helping each other along.”

I left the bathroom and shuffled to the register, leaning on the handlebar of the carriage. My unsteady gait, red face and runny nose revealed the heart on my sleeve. Grief has a way of breaking down walls and stealing what’s left of one’s dignity.

A young teen tentatively approached me and said, “I hope your day gets better.”

Bless him. He saw heartache on my face and tried to shine a little light in the dark. Wishing I could hug him but feeling too damaged to dare, I whispered over and over, “Thank you,” trying to convey my gratitude yet unable to feign a smile.

I returned from the battlefield battered and bruised. The grief offensive defeated my resilience defense and left me feeling listless.

I don’t remember the drive home but when I got there, I tossed the perishables into the fridge and retreated to sleep.

Grief had won today’s fight. But if I’m lucky, I’ll see Brandon in my dreams so I can wake to fight another day.

-Sarah Mercier

In loving memory of Brandon

Grief Diaries

Near-death experience: Patty’s story

Near-death experiences. Do you believe they happen? If so, what is it really like on the other side where our deceased loved ones are?

Meet Patty Furino, a reverend who ministers to bereaved families. Although she had been communicating with spirit guides since childhood, she had a pivotal near-death experience at age 16 that forever changed her perspective on life—and death. Watch her story below.

Watch more interviews on Grief Diaries or our YouTube channel.

Why Katy Perry got it wrong

Lauren Engle
Dear Katy Perry,
 
I know you meant well, but last night you got it wrong.
 
You told 27-year-old American Idol contestant Lauren Engle to be strong after she auditioned in memory of her husband.
 
Why does she need to be strong?
 
The poor girl is grieving her husband who has been dead less than two years.
 
Grieving the past and fearing the future, Lauren is doing her best just to get out of bed each morning.
 
You telling her to be strong is holding her down. It’s the same as telling her not to be a wimp. To quit crying. Don’t be a baby.
 
It’s sucking her hope up in a vacuum.
 
I know you meant well, Katy, but would you tell the families who lost a loved one in the New Zealand shooting to be strong?
 
Of course not.
 
Find that contestant, wrap your arms around her, and tell her that one day it won’t always feel so raw. But until then, it’s okay to cry.
 
Shared sorrow is half a sorrow—Finnish proverb. It means to support someone in their time of need. Because that gives them hope. It helps them go from zero to being their own hero.
 
With support and love, one day Lauren will be her own champion. Please don’t rob her of that opportunity.
 
Thank you.

Lynda Cheldelin Fell  XOXO

Lauren Engle

The power of joy to heal a broken heart.

Grief Diaries

I love babies. My babies. Your babies. Everybody’s babies.

There’s just something so wondrous about these tiny beings. They’re innocence and pure love rolled like a little magical burrito.

Once a week I sneak away from the office to volunteer in the neonatal ICU. I cuddle, feed, change diapers, and soothe.

As they look into my eyes, I know I’m holding future teachers, humanitarians, astronauts, Nobel prize winners, and world leaders.

I’m also holding future gang members, addicts, and lost souls.

Grief Diaries

It doesn’t matter who I’m holding because in that moment, I give as much love as I can and hope that my little imprint will carry them through life.

When I’m done, I leave with a heart full of gratitude because those tiny babies gave me so much more than I gave them.

They gave me joy.

Doing something that makes your heart sing is a powerful healing modality.

When heartbreak and sadness rule your world, do whatever it is that brings a smile to your face and lifts the heaviness of your heart.

If you don’t know what that is, then go find it. And don’t stop looking until you do.

Then do it as if your life depends on it.

Because it does.

-Lynda Cheldelin Fell XOXO