Singer/songwriter Melissa Pettignano joins Drs. Gloria and Heidi Horsley to discuss the death of her aunt during the 9/11 tragedy. Pettignano transitioned from singer to inspirational speaker, today specializing in both and committed to helping others find hope after a tragedy. “When 9/11 happened I was 13 years old, and my aunt was missing…it was very difficult on myself and my family.” However, she remembers her aunt as the type of woman who wanted everybody to celebrate and have a great time. “She would say, ‘Listen, if anything happens, you keep celebrating.’” Her aunt was sure that even in bad happenings, there was good to be found.

After her aunt went missing, one of the big questions was whether Christmas should be celebrated. A strong Christian family, the family moved forward with the celebration of Jesus’ birth and has continued to celebrate Christmas—while including her aunt’s memory—for years. Even though she was only 13, Pettignano relied heavily on prayer to help her get through her loss. “With anything that happens in our life, that’s who we go to (Jesus),” she says. Pettignano has penned a book, beginning when she was only six years old, which has gone on to be published and inspire hope in many.

A Life Looking Forward

Pettignano says her book has some elements of grief and loss, comprised of a collection of stories. She found incredible support from many, including teachers, when publishing her book. It’s aimed at children, and meant to help them face scary situations with insights and uplifting tips. Knowing that you’re not alone, and help is available, is key. For Pettignano, who thought of her aunt as a second mother, it was that kind of perspective which helped her remain upbeat after such a loss.

Moving from despair to joy and hope has been kick-started by her faith.


Dr. Gloria and Dr. Heidi Horsley

Dr. Gloria Horsley and Dr. Heidi Horsley are a mother/daughter team and internationally recognized grief experts. They are the founders of The Open to Hope Foundation and the hosts of The Open to Hope Show. In addition, Dr. Gloria is a board member for The Compassionate Friends and Dr. Heidi is an adjunct professor at Columbia University and has a private practice in manhattan. Their message is that others have made it through the grief journey and so can you, if you do not yet have hope lean on theirs.

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