Mother Taught Son How to Grieve With Dignity

My mother, Sadie B. Roberts, died on March 11, 1994 at the age of 77, due to complications arising from a massive bacterial infection. She died less than 24 hours after being admitted to the hospital. Her death left a tremendous void in my life.

My mother raised me as a single parent, since I was five years old. My father left us and was never heard from again. I am also an only child, so my mother was all that I had growing up. When she died, I found myself at 38 years of age, an orphan, even though I was married to a great woman and had three beautiful children.

My mother was a warm, intelligent and passionate woman who had unconditional faith in God and the universe. My mother had her share of heartache in her life, but she didn’t let it prevent her from enjoying life and helping the people that she loved the most.  She always saw the good in people, no matter who they were or what they did to her.

Even though my father left us and by all accounts treated her miserably, she only told me about his positive qualities. She also told me that despite his faults, he loved me with all of his heart.  My mother had every right to be bitter and angry at my father, but instead she strove to emphasize his good qualities and nurture those in me.  She was also a devoted grandmother, and my wife Cheri viewed her as a second mother.

My mother also gave me my first introduction to the world of non-ordinary phenomena.  Cheri and I were cleaning out her apartment about a month after she died.  I felt incredibly sad, empty and lonely. When we got home, I went into our bedroom and in the corner, I saw my mother as a young woman sitting in a chair, smiling at me. As I have since discovered, that was her way of telling me that she was happy in her new life and that we would someday meet again.

My mother’s influence on my life has become more apparent during my grief journey following the death of my daughter Jeannine on March 1, 2003. My mother’s emphasis on service, helping others in need and turning negatives into positives has helped me find meaning as a bereaved parent. My mother has also taught me to let the universe be my guiding light. As a result, I have met some wonderful people from whom I have drawn inspiration and have had many opportunities to be of service to other bereaved individuals.  Most of the time, these people and opportunities found me.

I still miss my mother’s physical presence, but the lessons that she has taught me have stayed with me and have helped me navigate my grief as a bereaved parent. My mother along with Jeannine remain partners in my grief journey and continue to help me grow spiritually and find significance.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom, and give Jeannine a big hug for me.


David Roberts

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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 department at Utica College in Utica, New York. Dave is a featured speaker, workshop facilitator and coach for Aspire Place, LLC ( He is also the chapter leader for The Compassionate Friends of the Mohawk Valley. Mr. Roberts has been a presenter at the Southern Humanities Council Conference in both 2017 and 2018. Dave has been a past workshop facilitator for The Compassionate Friends. He has also been a past workshop facilitator and keynote speaker for The Bereaved Parents of the USA. Mr. Roberts has contributed articles to the Huffington Post blog, The Grief Toolbox, Recovering the Self Journal and 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 2012 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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