Dear Parents of Kayla,Brittany, Christina, and Halle

Dear parents,

     You are being inundated with cards, letters, Facebook messages, as well as every chicken casserole known to mankind.  I do not mean to add to your pain or be so presumptuous as to reach out to you as if we know each other.

 These meals help, and the messages mean well; each person you hear from is full of love, tears and abiding hope—and their faith combined with your own juggles all the feelings of intense sadness, and true awareness that God is in control of us each day.  While you read each card and letter, it makes you feel better on one level, sick to your stomach on another level, and just plain exhausted on another.  In a year or two you will look back and wonder how you got through the first year or two. You will still feel numb, and realize you have been numb for a long time.  Those people who just pop over to go on a walk, or brought over an extra pan of lasagna or those folks who send you cards a year later—they get it. But not every one grasps the levels of grief.

A sudden tragedy with your beautiful daughter at the center takes on a life of its own—everyone grieving and in the world of social media—it is hard to shut your door and cry in private. And if you do so the world today does not understand, and for me, I felt like I was not “grieving well” like the Christian world expected me.

Everyone and I mean everyone grieves different, and at different times feels different things.  Grief is not a competition. Grief does not have to post on Facebook page every other day.  Sometimes it is exhausting to feel what you feel and what the world feels too.  Your body literally shuts down.  Be kind to yourself. You are okay.

Your feelings are okay.

Young Life loved my daughter, and my daughter loved Young life. They dedicated their yearly run in her honor and it was held within 60 days of her accidental death.

I descended upon the bridge in Milledgeville, that beautiful fall day in September and observed the activity below—the stage with the awards for the runners flanked with balloons in Julia's favorite colors. A volunteer greeted me with love and a t-shirt with my daughter’s name on it—I put it on and vomitted in the woods. No one expects to have the words, In Memorial, next to your daughter's name.

One day I was on the UGA campus taking my stepson to dinner for his birthday. Just seeing a pack of girls—vibrant and alive made me so sad I had to collect myself in the bathroom before we were even seated at our table.

And here is what I know without fail:  God loves us and knows our pain. And that is all that matters.  And yes, our daughter’s sorority sisters, and their fellow Young Life friends, their bosses, their teacher’s, their old camp counselors all are sad and in pain and each will express it in various ways-- on blogs, on Facebook, in cards and with cupcakes, but it is not the pain of a mother’s loss. They can imagine your pain, a phrase that will be used often when speaking to you. I know your pain. And I am sorry for your sudden loss of your beautiful daughter.

 We will no longer brush the hair out of our daughter’s eyes or talk about what kind of wedding she will have one day; discuss where affordable grad schools exist in the area of her major or pick up dirty clothes left behind the bathroom door.   And the family dynamics change. Our Julia made the energy different at every family dinner. Kitchen dancing has not been the same. 

Be there for your other children. And that can be hard, because where you are in grief and where they are in the grief journey does not always match up. Try anyway. You are all traveling together--just sometimes on different roads. Pray when nothing else works.

Take care of your relationship with your husband too. He is in pain as well.Be gentle with all expectations, and if possible--try not to have any.

Get ready to try and make sense of the world that does not understand your grief.

Some folks will ignore you at the grocery store—because they do not know what to say to you.

Some will corner you and gush their pain all over for you as if you don’t feel enough yourself.

Some friends will understand.

Some cannot walk through grief with you –it is as if they are afraid of death itself—like it could happen to someone in their own family.

There will be someone who completely surprises you and will be a rock.

Listen to your dreams. Listen to the scripture. Jesus and your daughter are trying to comfort you.

Find a good counselor that you can talk to about all things, preferably one who has lost a child.  Get the Grief Share emails daily—and even try a group.

Know that you will never get over it and anyone tells you it is “time you move on” needs to put themselves in a shoebox on a shelf.

You have Jesus, you have family and you will heal to a certain extent but with scars.

And that is okay.

Call me if you ever need me. I may not have the answers, but I can hold your hand and make a great cup of tea.