When A Child Dies

When a child dies there is no play book for coping with such grief according to Dave Roberts, who became a bereaved parent after his daughter Jeannine died of cancer on March 1, 2003 at the age of 18. I met Dave at the annual Compassionate Friends Conference being held in Minneapolis this weekend.

I got the chance to ask Dave about his personal experience coping with the loss of a child and how he came to counsel other bereaved parents on their journey of grief.

Grieving The Loss Of A Child

When A Child DiesDave explained that the loss of Jeannine was unbearable and left him broken as all parents experience.  “You never expect to bury your children”, Dave told me.  Thanks to the support of his friends and family, he was able to work through it and find meaning through this painful experience. Today, he shares his wisdom and companionship with other bereaved parents.

As we talked, Dave shared  stories about his relationship with Jeannine. He fondly remembers how much fun they had together, and how they enjoyed many similar interests as adults. These stories help to keep Jeannine’s memory alive and he shared with me that “forgetting is not a requirement of the grief journey, but remembering is”. That is such a powerful statement!

He also went on to say that he has changed his life by taking the best parts of Jeannine’s that give his life meaning. Remembering her allows him to adjust to the new reality of life without her physical presence.

Dealing With The Death Of A Sibling

I also had the chance to ask Dave about how his other children coped with the death of a sibling and their parents’ grief. He explained that “siblings will often experience disenfranchised grief “ because they told to “be good for your parents” or “help out your parents during this time”  so the message they get is take care of the parents and put your own grief on the back burner.

Siblings need their stories validated by their parents and friends and should consider seeking sibling grief support groups through organizations such as Compassionate Friends or Bereaved Parents USA.  Dave went on to explain that its the “untold stories that cause the most pain.”  This is certainly true for anyone experiencing the loss of a loved one.

I felt optimistic for the bereaved parents that would be attending the annual conference this year where Dave Roberts teaches a workshop and lends a hand of hope to others who are now walking the all too familiar journey he had begun only eight years earlier.

About Dave Roberts

Dave Roberts

Dave Roberts

Dave  has been employed in the addictions field for 25 years and is also an adjunct professor in the psychology and psychology-child life departments at Utica College, Utica, New York.  Mr. Roberts also developed a topics course on Parental Bereavement issues, and teaches a Death, Dying and Bereavement course for Utica College.  He is a volunteer for Hospice and Palliative Care, Inc, in New Hartford, New York and a member of the All Inclusive Care for Children Coalition.  He has a website:  Bootsy and Angel

Dave’s Recommended Reading

Loss Of A Child

Blowey, Carla. Dreaming Kevin: The Path to Healing. Infinity Publishing.Com.

Brant, Mary Jane Hurley. When Everyday Matters: A Mother’s Memoir on Love, Loss and Life. Simple Abundance Press

Cimador(Rosigno), Diana. I Am Still His Mother. Infinity Press

Carmody,Mitch. Letters to My Son- Turning Loss to Legacy.

Crider, Thomas. Give Sorrow Words: A Father’s Passage Through Grief. Algonquin Books.

Peart, Neil. Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road. ECW Press.

Sibling Loss

Devito Rayburn, Elizabeth. The Empty Room.

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2 Responses to When A Child Dies

  • Jeanine must be so proud of you Dave. I am so glad to have gotten to know you. Your words of wisdom ” “forgetting is not a requirement of the grief journey, remembering is.” says it all.

  • JoAnne, what a great article about a great man! I got to meet Dave online but have not had the pleasure to meet him in person. He is definitely doing great things to help others, as are you. Thank you for sharing!

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