In early grief, it is difficult to find any meaning in pain. After my daughter Jeannine’s death in 2003, the pain I experienced in early grief was raw and something that I feared. If I had a choice, I would have avoided it at all costs.  However, as I have learned, we need to work through pain in order to be able to find greater meaning in our lives.

During the holidays, our grief and pain tends to become more intensified.  The stress of holiday shopping and get togethers is stressful enough. The stress of grief makes these holiday events more stressful. Early on, I just wanted to fast forward to January, and skip the holidays all together.

In the ninth year of my journey as a parent who has experienced the death of a child, the holidays still present unique challenges for me. Thanksgiving and Christmas will be forever associated with the period of Jeannine’s illness where I knew in my head and my heart that she was going to die. My expectation is that the pain of my early grief will continue to resurface during the holidays and will continue to until I cross over.

So what is different for me now? I have made a conscious choice to deal with my pain differently. During Thanksgiving dinner at my sister- in law’s this year, I was missing the physical presence of my daughter. After dinner, I decided to take a walk to clear my head.  I went to my  deceased mother’s former apartment which was less than a mile away. As I got closer to her apartment, I consciously introduced into my thoughts some positive memories of the relationship that Jeannine and my mother had. I immediately began to feel a sense of peace again.

Shortly thereafter, the sky was lined three wide with a hundred or more crows flying west to east above me. I have recently begun to embrace Native American teachings about the power of animal medicine and the lessons that they teach.  From reading both Jaime Sams’ Medicine Cards  and Ted Andrews’ Animal Speaks, I have discovered that crow medicine is about, among other things, sacred law as opposed to human law and that unexpected help with problems and obstacles is at hand to bring relief.

After Jeannine died, I realized that conventional wisdom or law was not going to help me adjust to my new reality.  I needed to look at relationships as occurring beyond the physical realm and be attuned to what the universe and all it has to offer was trying to teach me. Once I was able to do this, I began to find a new level of fulfillment in my life, and looked at pain differently. 

In the ninth year of my journey after Jeannine’s death, I have discovered that allowing myself to be totally debilitated by pain is not going to improve the quality of the life that I am now destined to lead. I need to continue to evolve as a result of my experience with it.

I am wishing you all peace this holiday season.


David Roberts 2011

David Roberts

David J. Roberts, LMSW, became a parent who experienced the death of a child, when his daughter Jeannine died of cancer on 3/1/03 at the age of 18. He is a retired addiction professional and an adjunct professor in the psychology and psychology child-life departments at Utica University in Utica, New York. Dave is a featured speaker, workshop facilitator and coach for Aspire Place, LLC. Dave has also been a past national workshop facilitator for The Compassionate Friends and a past national workshop facilitator and keynote speaker for The Bereaved Parents of the USA. Dave also co-presented a workshop titled “Helping Faculty After Traumatic Loss” for the Parkland, Florida community in May of 2018,in the aftermath of the mass shootings at Stoneman Douglas High School. Dave was also a keynote speaker at The Tom Coughlin Jay Fund Remembrance Weekend during in June of 2019 in Ponte Vedra, Florida .Dave has also done numerous workshops at the local and regional levels related to transformation from grief and loss. He is the co-author with Reverend Patty Furino of the recently published book "When The Psychology Professor Met The Minister" which is available for purchase on Amazon. For more information about their book,please go to: Dave has been a past HuffPost contributor and has also published articles with the Open to Hope Foundation, The Grief Toolbox, Recovering the Self Journal, Mindfulness and Grief, and Thrive Global. He is currently a regular contributor to Medium. One of Dave's articles, My Daughter is Never Far Away, can also be found in Open to Hope: Inspirational Stories of Healing and Loss. Excerpts from Dave's article for The Open to Hope Foundation, called The Broken Places were featured in the Paraclete Press DVD video, Grieving the Sudden Death of a Loved One. He has appeared on numerous radio and internet broadcasts and Open to Hope Television. Dave was also part of a panel in 2016 for the BBC Podcast, World Have Your Say, with other grief experts, discussing the death of Carrie Fisher. Dave’s website: is devoted to providing support and resources for individuals experiencing loss.

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