This is an excerpt from Grief From the Inside Out: Creating Meaning Around the Loss of a Child from Substance Abuse or Suicide, By Fran Gerstein, MSW, LCSW. It is available through Amazon at



When I lost my child

a small, quavering voice appeared—

not quite mine,

not quite not mine.

It announced, through static,

that I was being rerouted.


I tried to follow the

orange signs marked Detour

but they led me to the edge of a cliff.

Still trusting and obedient, I drove right off.


When I regained consciousness,

I lay there for months in the wreckage thinking,

“Why get up?”

The old route no longer made sense.

I had followed the map to a T

and yet, here I lay.


18 months later

my internal GPS

guides me through the thickest fog.

It interrupts my mind’s talk radio

with clarity—

“Go this way.”

It repeatedly says,

“You are not dead,

what’s your excuse?

You have things to do!”

I wrote the poem “GPS” when I realized how much I wanted to reach out to other parents who were going through what I was—grieving the sudden loss of a child. Realizing that I could use my 30 years as a psychotherapist—along with my writing—to be of help, gave me a sense of purpose and direction and helped me begin to craft the story of my new life.




Fran Gerstein

Fran Gerstein, MSW, LCSW is a psychotherapist and grief specialist. Grief from the Inside Out is an intimate portrait of the first two years of her family’s grief journey, including her children’s art work, her husband’s family photographs, and her poetry and prose. Since the loss of her son, Daniel, in 2014 she has focused on helping family members survive the loss of a loved one to substance abuse or suicide and runs a support group for parents called Life After Loss in Rosemont, PA. Fran has published personal and professional articles in the Philadelphia Inquirer, clinical social work journals, and for a book called Psychotherapist Revealed. She has served as an adjunct faculty for the University of Pennsylvania, Bryn Mawr School of Social Work and Jefferson University. She is a frequent lecturer on topics including family therapy, couple’s work, eating disorders, and grief.

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