Pieces of Me: Incorporating the Deceased into Ourselves

My perceptions about grief and the way we deal with loss has radically changed since the death of my daughter Jeannine more than seven years ago. Prior to Jeannine’s death, I grieved the deaths of other people in my life for a specific period of time and eventually returned to life, as I knew it.

Ongoing connection to our loved ones as a way to negotiate grief was not a part of my grief vocabulary. I never viewed grief as a lifelong process that permanently changed the way we related to the world and transformed us as human beings.

Finding meaning after loss wasn’t something with which I could readily identify.

After Jeannine died, I discovered that my prior beliefs about grief were not going to help me manage the pain of the worst loss of my life.  Jeannine’s death permanently changed the way that I viewed grief and the world around me. The pain that I experienced as a result of her death triggered a complete spiritual transformation.

Last year, I started working on a concept that I call “Pieces of Me.” My hope was to develop a way for parents to identify the best qualities of their children and incorporate them into their own lives so that they can maintain a continuing bond and find meaning after the death of their children. Doing this helped me tremendously in my grief journey.

In her eighteen years of life, Jeannine was, among other things, determined, playful, honest, compassionate and heartfelt. By incorporating those characteristics of my daughter into my life, she became a partner with me in the service work that I now do with bereaved parents.  Incorporating those characteristics also allows me to maintain a continuing relationship with her.

“Pieces of Me” involves a total redefinition of the self following the death of our children.  It is a self that is enhanced because the essence of our children is a part of who we are now. If we wish to redefine our selves following the death of our children there are three basic questions that we can ask:

1. What qualities or characteristics of (child’s name) do you admire the most?

2. How can you make these qualities a part of your own life so that you can find meaning and joy, amidst the sadness of grief?

3. How can you make these qualities a part of your own life so that you can be of service to others?

There is no time frame to begin answering these questions. As our grief journeys as bereaved parents are lifelong, you can start any time that you are ready. These questions can also be used by anyone who has experienced a loss of any kind, and who desires to stay connected to their loved ones.

“ All I know

Is that I have breathed your name for what feels like a lifetime

I can’t let go, you’re a part of me.”

Lyrics from the song “Hand on My Heart” by Foreigner

Written by M.Jones/L.Gramm/B.Turgon

Published by Somerset Songs Publishing, Inc.

David Roberts

More Articles Written by David

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 (www.aspireplace.com) 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: www.bootsyandangel.com is devoted to providing support and resources for individuals experiencing loss.


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  • alicia says:

    David, I read this article several weeks ago and I have thought about it several times. My son , Dylan, was a young man who always tried to welcome newcomers into his fold. Lately, I have been trying to honor him by making eye contact with people I pass during the day and treating people as people rather than not seeing them. I am sorry for your physical separation from Jeannine. I am grateful that your work has given me one more way to stay connected to Dylan and I am passing this great information to other bereaved parents, thanks, Alicia

  • David Roberts says:

    Hi Alicia. I am grateful that you have begun to incorporate Dylan into your own interactions with others. Thank you for passing on the information to other bereaved parents. Thank you for acknowledging the pain of my physical separation from Jeannine. I do take comfort knowing that we are spiritually connected and always will be and that she continues to guide me on my journey..

  • Jean Puglia says:

    David, thank you for writing this article. I am sorry for the loss of your precious daught Jeannine. I have found myself to be stuck in my own grief over the loss of my beautiful son Derick and I will try to set goals to implement your suggestions.

  • Dave Roberts says:

    Hi Jean:
    Thank you for acknowledging the death of my daughter Jeannine. Please accept my condolences on the death of your son Derick. I am glad that you found my article to be useful.Please understand that there is no time frame to begin to implement my suggestions,;it is when you are ready to do so. Our grief journeys are marathons and not sprints. Be gentle with yourself.