From Grieving to Grateful
After losing five-year-old Ryan in 1993 to viral encephalitis, Tina Zarlenga discovered that giving back would actually save her. It started with something simple: volunteering to print mailing labels for the monthly Compassionate Friends newsletter. It was the beginning of her move from grieving to grateful.
Eventually, after recalling the kindness of a stranger to her son on his fifth birthday, Tina found a new sense of purpose. She organized a Christmas toy drive for Cleveland Metro Hospital, where Ryan had passed. Hundreds of new toys were collected by Tina, her family, and friends, which they delivered to the hospitalized children on what would have been Ryan’s sixteenth birthday. For the first time in years, Tina was beaming.
Telling her Story
She tells about it in the book Loss, Survive, Thrive: Bereaved Parents Share Their Stories of Healing and Hope by Meryl Hershey Beck (Rowman and Littlefield, 2019):
I’ve been an introvert all my life. So at first I was only comfortable doing these acts of kindness anonymously. I felt like a fairy godmother who sprinkles confetti and vanishes before it can hit the ground.
Giving Provides Hope
But as my practice of paying it forward has flourished, I’ve decided to share this powerful lesson. When I give openly in Ryan’s honor, others find ways of doing the same—and always on my sweet son’s birthday.
Thankfully, in the twenty-five years since we lost Ryan, giving still offers us hope. Each random act of kindness intercedes in a magical way.
Today, we celebrate Our Pay It Forwards throughout the year, as well as on Ryan’s birthday. What began as an effort to save myself now enriches my life beyond measure.
With his spirit of pure love and kindness, our precious Ryan lives on.
Founder, Pay It Forward for Ryan
The above was excerpted from Amazon.com: Loss, Survive, Thrive: Bereaved Parents Share Their Stories of Healing and Hope eBook
To read another excerpt from the book, see https://www.opentohope.com/intentional-journey-into-grief/