On October 25, 1989, my fourteen-year-old son Shawn was struck by a car and died. When the coroner came to our door to tell us, I felt like he’d stuck a knife in my heart. I wanted so badly for him to be at the wrong house talking about the wrong kid. But he wasn’t and the nightmare began.

I don’t remember much about those first few weeks and months. I do remember how hard it seemed to breathe. I kept waiting for the nightmare to end. It didn’t. I didn’t suddenly wake up and see my son sleeping in his bed or have to tell him to turn his music down. Those days ended with the ringing of the doorbell. Life as my family knew it was over.

Our house seemed so empty. It seemed to scream Shawn was gone. There were reminders of him everywhere. All those things he’d never use again. His brand new bike hanging in the garage that I couldn’t bring myself to part with.

His jackets were still hanging in the hall closet. All of those things that took on new meaning and became so important to us after our loved ones die. The clothes they wore. The things their hands touched.  The things that now keep us connected to them. When we can no longer touch or smell those we love, we touch and smell what they leave behind.

Grieving is like being in a no-man’s-land. It is a place of loneliness, even in a crowd, longing for what we had; it’s a place of sadness and anger that we can never have it again. It is a place where hope is non-existent or very hard to find and difficult to live without. I, like many grieving people, longed for a sign that my son was okay.

Days passed and turned into weeks and then months. Time takes on a confusing quality when grieving. It can seem like forever since our loved one died and at the same time that it was just yesterday. Easter was coming and I was dreading it. Easter had always been a happy time. It had been a time of celebration.

My mood would not allow me to feel  like celebrating. I wanted to skip Easter.  I couldn’t get excited about church, an Easter egg hunt, Easter baskets, and dinner. I knew it would just make me miss Shawn more. I desperately needed to have something good happen soon.

That something happened the day before Easter with a phone call. There was a message on our answering machine from a local handmade chocolate store that Shawn had won the drawing for the solid chocolate bunny. I knew there must be some mistake. Was someone playing a cruel joke on us? Had they meant to call a different house with a boy named Shawn? I asked my husband to call the store. He did and was told they had called and left the message and verified Shawn’s name as the winner.

As I headed out to my car feeling confused, I decided someone in my family must have entered Shawn’s name. When I got to the store and brought out the bunny, I was amazed at the size of it. It was huge. I questioned everyone in my family but every one of them said they had not even been to the store. I started thinking maybe one of his friends had done it.

Suddenly, I realized it didn’t matter how my son’s name got in there or got picked. All that mattered is it happened and I thought it was Shawn’s way of saying; “I love you all. I’m okay. Please be okay for me. Happy Easter.”  I wrapped those messages around my heart and went to the refrigerator and got the eggs out.

Deb Kosmer 2011


Deb Kosmer

Deb has worked at Affinity Visiting Nurses Hospice for ten years, the first two as a hospice social worker and the last eight as Bereavement Support Coordinator supporting families before and after the death of their loved ones. She provides supportive counseling, developed and facilitates a variety of grief support groups, including a well-attended group for men only as well as other educational events. Deb received her Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from UW-Oshkosh and her Master’s degree in Social Work from UW Milwaukee. She received her certification in Thanatology through ADEC. Her writing has appeared in New Leaf Magazine, We Need Not Walk Alone, Living with Loss, Grief Digest, numerous hospice publications and EAP publications. Some of her poetry on death and dying will be included in a college textbook for social workers in end of life soon. New Leaf has also used some of her poetry for a line of sympathy and anniversary of death cards. On a personal level, Deb's 14-year-old son died after being struck by a car. Her 31-year-old sister had died in a car accident eight months earlier, and her 56-year-old father died from a heart attack exactly three years before. These three unexpected deaths within three years started Deb on a journey she never wanted to be on and she learned first-hand the importance of having the help and support of others. In the years since, she has experienced other losses, the most recent being the unexpected death of her 44-year-old step-daughter who died from complications three months after routine surgery. Deb's passions are writing, reading, education, nature, and family. She is currently working on a book of her grief poetry. She recently moved with her husband to Waypost Camp, Hatley WI. Her husband accepted a job there as Property Manager and his position allows them to live on-site with acres of woods and a lake. She anticipates the quiet beauty to be a strong catalyst for writing.

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