Dear Heidi,

Thank you so much for replying to my email. Your reply means a lot to me because I can only imagine how busy you must be with your professor schedule, working with 911 survivors, writing a book, co-hosting Healing the Grieving Heart with your mom, and having a family, with a new daughter too! Thank you for taking the time to reply.

First, thank you for acknowledging the fact that Krystal had her life taken from her. My heart breaks because she did not get the chance the raise Daniel and Andrew. She and her husband Joe tried for 7 years to have a baby, and finally (with medical help) she was able to get pregnant and had twin sons! She was delighted to be a mom. Being a mom to Daniel and Andrew was the most important thing in her life. My heart hurts for Daniel and Andrew, because they lost their mom, and she died 3 days after she gave them a big 1st birthday party. That day was magical. Krystal just glowed from motherhood. I had no idea that 3 days later my child be killed by a drunk driver. I am going to attach the Victim Impact Statement that I gave at the sentencing part of the trial. Also if you go on the internet and type in First Coast News and type in Krystal Duss in the “search” blank you will be able to read about the accident and trial.

We were blessed to have MADD assist us in coping with the stress of the legal system and the trial. I do not know how we could have survived it without MADD’s counsel, caring and attendance at all the legal proceedings. I am glad Carl McDonald is working with MADD as a “new normal” and a legacy for Carli. I am glad Byron Katie’s work was such a help for Carl and that he was able to let go of the anger and rage. Heidi, you are absolutely correct, healing does work differently for everyone, and Bryon Katie’s work obviously is the correct path for some people, just not me. 🙂 My email to you and your mom was just tell give you my personal reaction to the 1-11-07 show. I will continue to listen every week to Healing the Grieving Heart and take what resonates true for me, and let the rest go gently and with love. I have been a faithful listener since the show first began and all of the shows have had helpful, positive, healing, comforting, you-are not-alone messages for me, but not the 1-11-07 show. And that is completely ok, because although that particular message was not for me, it may be a help for many other people. And that is a good thing!

I am so grateful that you are using your life to help educate people and open their hearts to the world shattering experience of losing a sibling. I am so sorry that you were treated indifferently when Scott died. I can picture you as a young adult, away from home at college, and trying to just breathe and survive when everyone you knew on campus just went along with their lives like nothing had happened and yours was turned upside down and inside out. Also when you were home, you were asked how your parents were doing. Not, “How are you doing, Heidi?” And you did not even receive one condolence card. I am so sorry that Scott died, and you and your family were cheated out of having him grow into a mature man, with a career, and perhaps a family, and just spending time with you as your only brother.

Heidi, I have four daughters (Kina, Krystal, Karen and Kelly) and I worry about Kina, Karen and Kelly since Krystal died. I send them shows from Healing the Grieving Heart that deal with sibling loss. I do not know if they have ever listened to them; they just tell me they received them. I am open to listening and talking to them about Krystal’s life and death. But Heidi, for the first 2 years, they seemed to be in some form of deep denial. They stayed extremely busy, going nonstop from morning till late night, and they would just comment that they missed Krystal, but that she was in a “better place”. About 2 1/2 years into this grief journey (December 10, 2006 was the 3rd anniversary of Krystal’s death) my girls finally began to individually open up to me and share the deep pain they have been in and are still in. I am thankful we can now talk about feelings and discuss how we can begin to survive Krystal’s death. I hurt so much for each of them, because they were all so close. I tell them I can not even imagine their pain because they were suppose to grow old together, raise their kids together, and all out live me. Sibling loss is so profound and disorienting.

I am going to send you, in a separate email, a slide show Kina made for Krystal’s Memorial Service. She put a star by Krystal in the sister pictures, so people could tell which of the sisters was Krystal. ( Krystal is the second born of my four daughters.) Please listen at the very beginning. You will hear Krystal’s actual voice from her answering machine. I like the music Kina put with the slideshow. All the mom pictures are me. I was once young, thin, at times blonde, at times brunette. The slideshow starts with Krystal’s one day old picture and ends with Daniel and Andrew’s 1st birthday party ( 3 days before Krystal’s death). The slideshow takes 13 minutes to watch. I wanted to share my Krystal with you.

I go to Compassionate Friends, and go see a grief counselor. I keep breathing, and everyday try to live my life as a legacy for Krystal. I have been a public high school teacher for 23 years. Being with my students helps. I have a supportive husband, Krystal’s stepfather. My mom died 9 years ago from lung cancer, and I was holding her when she died. My dad died this past September, and I was holding his hand when he died. But Heidi, nothing, absolutely nothing prepared me for Krystal’s death. I feel like I am living in a different dimension. I keep listening to those of you further down the grief journey, and I have faith in you when you say it will get softer, and I will be able to create a new normal and create a legacy for Krystal. I thank you and your mom for giving me that hope.

Much love and gratitude,

Jo Ann

The Open to Hope Community

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