Sharing Pain is a Gateway to Hope

After my daughter Jeannine died almost eight years ago, I examined and re-examined my existing values, beliefs and priorities. This process was made extremely challenging by the raw pain of my early grief. I am a different person, and in many ways, a better person as a result of my struggle with Jeannine’s death. I have also learned some important lessons about unconditional love, faith, and the enduring power of relationships:

The more that we allow the universe to guide us, the more that our redefined purpose becomes clearer. Surrendering to the journey has allowed me to increasingly surrender my life to God.

We can experience joy again in a world that has forever changed because of the physical absence of our loved ones. In early grief, this seems like a totally unattainable goal. I eventually discovered that working through my pain of loss with the help of others, allowed me to make the decision to celebrate Jeannine’s life. Shared pain with others who understand that pain is a gateway to hope.

Look all around you, not just straight ahead. I have recently spent more time looking up at the sky when I am outside and/or walking. Even when the sky is at its darkest, I have noticed patches of light. Our ability to see light in the midst of darkness is key to our ability to thrive in a world without the physical presence of our children. When we walk in awareness, we can develop our own unique insights that will help us during our journeys.

Progress made is never progress lost. Sometimes the emotional roller coaster of our grief makes us lose sight of the progress that we have made along the way. Make it a point each day to celebrate progress made, no matter how big or small.

When we open ourselves up to a continuing bond with our children, that bond may transcend to others in our lives.

If we commit to working through the pain of our grief, that pain may transcend to unconditional love for others.

Pieces of Jeannine are now pieces of me. Being able to incorporate the best parts of Jeannine into my personality has allowed me to become a better person, and has enabled her to become my partner in the service work that I do with others.

“All you had to do was say hi and you had yourself a friend.” This quote was taken from Jeannine’s orientation speech that she did for incoming sixth grade students at her middle school, a speech that I found only recently. A simple, yet powerful statement that I believe applies to our journeys following the death of our children.

Every bereaved individual who says hi to us in a Compassionate Friends support group meeting or a regional or national conference is an invitation to share our pain and be companioned. Every hi is also an opportunity to make new friends and is a lifeline to love and hope.

David Roberts 2011

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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  • Harriet Hodgson says:

    Dear David,
    Thank you for writing this. It’s been almost four years since my daughter died and there are days when I still can’t believeshe is gone. I spoke to the local chapter of Compassionate Friends and was stunned by the causes of death the bereaved parents cited. Thankfully, we may comfort each other and I hope your days become easier.

  • Dave Roberts says:

    Dear Harriet:
    Thank you for taking the time to read my article. Please accept my condolences on the death of your daughter and my wish to you to experience easier days as well. I am also a Compassionate Friends chapter leader and you are right, the causes of death are at time stunning. But it is not the cause of death, but the pain of losing a child that binds us all. I have also read your articles for Open to Hope and have always benefited from them. Thank you for doing the work that you do to help the bereaved