Growing up Catholic, Easter meant dressing up for church and coloring Easter eggs and eating chocolate. Many years later, my wife Lisa and I did the same thing with our young children.

Seven years into our marriage, and two years after Lisa’s devastating diagnosis of cancer, Lisa, our two children and I were living with our eyes on the future.  Lisa and I had talked about having more children but at this point, we could only adopt if an agency decided to take us on as clients.

We did find an agency that took us on because there are no guarantees that one parent will not be involved in an accident that could maim or kill them. Not a pleasant thought, but it gave Lisa the hope she needed. This agency was an open adoption agency where the birth parents would meet the adoptive parents.

In mid-summer, we received a call and we flew to another state and met the adoption agents there; we also met the teenage birthparents and the birth grandparents. The next day, we went to the hospital and picked up our 4-day-old foster daughter we named Nicole.

Six months later, just a week before Christmas, Nicole was cooing and waving her chubby hands and having a good time. She was unaware that the woman who wanted her so badly had just passed away. I could only look into Nicole’s big brown eyes and wonder at what she knew.

I was an emotional wreck. But I talked with the local adoption agency and the other state’s adoption agency, and I assured them that I still wanted to adopt. I was still Nicole’s parent.

During January, Nicole stated to crawl and the adoption agency told me there had been a snag and the adoption process was delayed. I would hold Nicole and smile at her and play with her and my sons. But I was emotionally overwrought and distant. Then there was another delay in the adoption process.

I worried about Nicole. How could we develop a father-daughter bond when I was emotionally shut down? Would I start to resent her because adopting her was my wife’s idea? Would she resent me because we never got close?

I decided that I couldn’t adopt her because she needed two healthy parents to bond with; that would give her the best shot of being emotionally mature when she was older. I had to do the right thing for her so I called the agency.

I brought Nicole to the agency and I met the adoptive parents. We talked about what Nicole liked to eat and her favorite toys. The next day, I went back and I handed her to her new parents.

Before I left the building, I was overcome with grief at having given up a child. She had been my daughter for nine months and now I had given her up. Logically, I knew it was the right thing to do but emotionally I was devastated again just 9 months after my wife had passed away.

When I looked at the calendar I realized that in just a few days it would be Easter. I had given Nicole a new life. Her parents received a new life. I knew she was in the right hands.

Richard Ballo 2011


Richard Ballo

Richard Ballo is a national speaker and author in grief and healing and has been a professional writer since 1980 and has a B.S. degree in Journalism. Richard’s general interest articles have appeared in the Montachusett Review, Fitchburg Sentinel & Enterprise, Neapolitan Families, Byline Magazine, Suffolk Evening Voice, Retrop Times, The Lynn Daily Item, The Waltham News Tribune, Florida Kiwanian, Resource Recycling magazine, and BMW ON Magazine. He is the author of the award winning book “Life without Lisa: a widowed father’s compelling journey through the rough seas of grief.” This book was awarded theFlorida Publishers Association's President’s Pick award. He has been a guest speaker to numerous groups about healing from grief including Hospice of Hilo, HI, Hospice of the Valley, San Juan, CA, Wings of Hope Hospice, Allegan, MI, and Charlotte Hospice, Charlotte, NC, and many churches and hospitals. He has been a guest on over 20 radio stations in the U.S including KKUP Cupertino, California, WXZO Kalamazoo, Michigan, WFLO Farmville, Virginia, WQQQ Lakeville, Connecticut, WOCA News Talk 1370 AM Ocala, Florida, KPQ 560 AM Greater Seattle, WNTN Boston, MA, and KLPW-AM St. Louis. He has also appeared on TV, including Fox News, and had book signings at bookstores across the country including Barnes and Nobles and Borders. Richard has experienced many sides of grief including the death of his wife early in their marriage, raising two sons as a single father, giving up a daughter he was going to adopt, the loss of his father and other loses. He is on the Board of Directors, and the Physicians’ Advisory Board, of Avow Hospice in Naples, Florida, and Avow bestowed on him recognition for all his work at Avow and in the community. He has been a member of the Kiwanis Club of Northside Naples since 1995 where he has served as the newsletter editor, a distinguished Secretary, and Past President. Richard continues to speak on grief and healing around the country at hospices, churches, and libraries. For bulk-rate discounts on his book or to bring Richard to your organization as a guest speaker to help you heighten community awareness of your organization, call 1-877-513-0099 or email

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