Healing Hugs

Over the Fourth of July weekend in 1997, Tamara Gabriel was driving to a friend’s home with her nine-year-old daughter Janna. The car hydroplaned and collided with another car, killing Janna.

Tamara became isolated in her grief and felt people had turned away from her. She responded by writing a poem about the importance of hugs:

If You See Me

If you see me, do not run . . .

I know that talk is not much fun.

I know your hearts are sure to tug,

But all I need is just a hug.

After her poem was posted in the local paper, many people approached her saying they’d read it, and then just gave her a hug.

Sixteen years later, during 2013, Tamara started Healing Hugs. This nonprofit community helps with funeral-related services or other expenses. For example, when Tamara learned that, for a number of complicated reasons, a child did not yet have a headstone, she offered to provide one for his grave.

Tamara said sometimes it’s tough for parents to receive gifts like hers. She sealed the deal, though, when she told the boy’s dad, “Think of it as a gift from my daughter to your son—she always loved giving people presents. Besides, they’re probably the ones who concocted this scheme in the first place!”

She tells about her loss and growth toward thriving in Loss Survive Thrive,


It started with a Facebook page that has now grown to over two million followers.

The page posts inspirational healing messages for those who have lost a loved one. I receive messages all the time saying how helpful Healing Hugs is. Soon, I hope to have more programs available for support groups and raise additional funds to help even more people.

I have organized Zumbathons (Zumba marathons) since 2016 and raised about $6,000. The money is used to help parents with funeral expenses, and sometimes groceries, rent, or whatever financial need they present to me….

To keep my daughter’s memory alive, I’ll help almost anyone who asks. When I think back to those days of wanting to die, lying in my cockroach-infested apartment with no hope, and no love, and compare it to my awesome life today surrounded by loved ones and an amazing husband in our gorgeous surroundings, I know that I am taken care of by Janna and God. Every step I take in the good life I have today allows me to forgive myself for believing that I killed my child. It’s also a powerful reminder to keep moving forward in forgiveness of myself and others.

The 2020 Zumbathon, held virtually due to the Covid-19 pandemic, raised approximately $12,000, enabling Healing Hugs to provide therapy for several grieving families in need.


Tamara Gabriel
Tucson, AZ
Massage Therapist at Center4 Stress Reduction PLLC
Creator, Healing Hugs
Producer/Founder, Zumbathon (Healing Hugs annual fundraiser)
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/

Meryl Beck

Meryl Hershey Beck, MA, M.Ed., spent her early professional life as a high school and community college teacher. In 1990 she became a licensed counselor specializing in 12-Step Recovery and eating disorders and soon designed and implemented a successful outpatient Food Abuse Treatment week. After she discovered energy techniques, Meryl began writing about and teaching energy modalities to mental health practitioners nationwide beginning in 1998. An authority in this field, she has presented at workshops and conferences internationally. Her first book, STOP EATING YOUR HEART OUT: The 21-Day Program to Free Yourself from Emotional Eating, tells her story and presents many tools to skyrocket personal growth and alleviate emotional eating. As a professional counselor, Meryl spent decades helping others integrate loss. But it wasn’t until her 35-year-old son ended his life in 2011 that she fully understood deep grief. Meryl is the creator and developer of SourceTapping®, a meridian therapy technique that is like needle-less acupuncture, which helps to ease both physical and emotional pain. She uses this tool for herself, with bereaved clients, and now includes it in all her workshops. Although Meryl endured the hell of excruciating grief, she chose to face it rather than stuff it. And, she also made a conscious decision to recover and to honor her son’s memory by living as full and rich a life as possible. She has been called a way-shower, or role model, demonstrating that a joyful life after significant loss is possible. Meryl collected stories from 26 other bereaved parents who are not just surviving but thriving, to give others hope that their lives don’t have to end because of the tragedy they suffered. These stories (plus resources for the bereaved0 became the book LOSS, SURVIVE, THRIVE: Bereaved Parents Share Their Stories of Healing and Hope. Her blogs and event information can be found at www.StopEatingYourHeartOut.com, www.SourceTapping.com, and www.LossSurviveThrive.com/.

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