As used to my own grief as I am, every time I am aware of another life lost to less than a full life, my heart sinks and breaks again.

I know loss and its hurts. I have been that puddle in the middle of the floor. The person whose tears seem like rivers and you cannot see the end.

Now, 17 years later, 17 years after my son, Christopher, was murdered, I stand tall and happy. I feel hopeful for all my days ahead, and even though I would love Christopher to be with us, I know he never will be. And yet, happy life trails seem possible and I look forward.

I still get triggered by shootings in the newspaper, massive natural disasters and small children with terminal illnesses. Add to that hunger, homelessness and war. You can feel very overwhelmed.

And then on top of it; Oklahoma, Boston, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Colorado (I am sure I am forgetting some others) and the world! My heart breaks every time another life gets cut short. It all hurts.

I find myself scanning the newspaper. Every detail seems too much to take in. Just knowing that it happened is enough to make me pause. My thoughts go straight to the families. I am familiar with this loss, though not exactly, because we are all different and what we experience is different.

Whenever I read of a loss, I would like to reach out over the miles to each family. I also know that is not possible. I have a very busy and full life to live where I am right now. I need to circulate these emotions thorough myself and not let them paralyze me. At the same time, I do not want to “forget” the journeys these families have been handed without their permission. I understand being thrown into relationships you did not ask for (the murderer of my son), the changes in your life (a family member missing) and learning to rebuild your changed life.

I add the world and people I don’t know to my prayer list. I send blessings. I have a list of people I do know next to my computer. I sit here a lot and I look over and smile when I see their names. I send love to help them through the difficulties they are facing. It is a small step and it makes me feel more connected to their journey. Gentle small steps every day.



Radha Stern

Radha Stern Since the murder of her son, Christopher, in 1996, Radha Stern has devoted herself to helping others who have lost a loved one due to a violent crime. She created and maintains her website,, to share her experiences throughout her journey from the darkness of grief into the light of gratitude. She is active in Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence (formally the Legal Community Against Violence) and the Insight Prison Project, as well as The Compassionate Friends, an organization for parents who have lost a child. Radha is an experienced grant maker, fundraiser, and marketer, and her extensive volunteer activity over the last two decades includes work with trade organizations, advocacy groups, and victim’s rights programs. She is a past member of the Board of Directors for the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation; a program officer for a family philanthropic foundation that supports organizations providing basic services to critical-need populations; and a volunteer at the San Francisco and Marin Food Banks. Radha’ s book, Griefprints: A Practical Guide for Supporting a Grieving Person, will be published this year. She is also a contributor to the inspirational book Courage Does Not Always Roar: Ordinary Women with Extraordinary Courage (Simple Truths, 2010). A native Californian, she lives with her husband, Gary; together they have five children and five grandchildren.

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