Finding Hope After the Death of a Child

In 2007 my elder daughter, the single mother of fraternal twins, died from injuries she sustained in a car crash. My daughter was 45 years old when she died, and the shock of her death will be with me forever. Six months later, the twins’ father died from the injuries he received in another car crash.

Our 15-year-old grandkids moved in with us and my husband and I became their legal guardians. The twins lived with us for seven years. They graduated from high school and college with honors. My granddaughter married a minister, and they have two little boys. My grandson is a physician and graduated from the Mayo Medical School.

The twins just celebrated their 30th birthdays. As time passed, my husband and I developed an adult-to-adult relationship with them. Though my husband died in 2020, I continue to have this relationship. My grandkids know I love them, care about them, adore my great grandkids, keep my promises, and continue to write articles and books.

Years ago, when I was dealing with questions, legal procedures, financial procedures, and being a grandmother, I found hope. Frankly, I was surprised. Overcome as I was with grief, I tried to find something positive in each day. The search was painful, challenging, and tiring, but I kept at it. How did I find hope?

My daughter was an organ donor. With permission from our twin grandchildren, my husband and I signed an agreement with an organ donor organization. An organization representative called us a few days later.  “Your daughter saved three lives,” she said, “and because of her one will see.” In a sense my daughter lives on.

Friends and strangers showered us with kindness. At the time, Rochester, Minnesota (my hometown) had a population of about 90,000 people.  Because my husband and I were active in the community we received hundreds of cards from friends, people we barely knew, and strangers. Though some of the comments on the cards make me cry, I was comforted by them and felt less alone.

Memorials in memory of my daughter gave me hope. At the end of my daughter’s obituary, memorials to Mayo Clinic were suggested. The checks we received added up to a sizeable donation to Mayo Clinic, which tried so hard to save our daughter’s life. Helping Mayo Clinic carry out its mission gave me hope then and gives me hope now.

The twins understood their mother’s values. The twins talked about their mother’s values immediately after she died. “Even when Mom disciplined us, she was never angry,” my grandson recalled. “Mommy always tried to make people smile,” my granddaughter shared. The twins knew their mother wanted them to go to college and my husband and I helped make this dream a reality.

Signs of spring gave me hope. Warmer weather melted the piles of snow around our house. I was surprised to see green grass beneath the snow. The birch trees in the side yard began to bud. I was really excited to see my first robin and hear its warbling song. The changing seasons gave me hope and I tried to enjoy each one.

Support groups and friends ignited hope. I participated in a church support group for a few months. Later, I joined The Compassionate Friends and found others who understood my story, didn’t recoil from it, and had helpful suggestions. Though I’m unable to attend every monthly meeting, I benefit from the meetings I attend. I know TCF members have my back.

I made good things from grief.  A week after my daughter died, I sat down at the computer and poured out my soul with words. Writing about grief was my way of coping with it. This led to dozens of grief healing articles and 11 books. In the long run, helping others helped me. Grief expanded my empathy and made me appreciate the miracle of life.

Hope seems like an unattainable goal, yet it becomes visible in articles and books, support from those who understand your journey, changing seasons, living a loved one’s values, memorials in memory of your child, and the kindness of family, friends, and strangers. Believe in hope for it will find you. Hope will lead you to a new and rewarding life.

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Comments (7)

  • Thanks for reading my article. My 11th grief healing book, Winning: A Story of Grief and Renewal, is in production now.

  • My condolences to all. Yet,
    in the midst of all of this why are ADULTS still living with you. These adults need to also move on & make their way, along with the good times and bad. Life us hard for all, yet we should help only when needed, not to help anyone use the help as a crutch. I too, had to learn the hard way & make do with all its ups & downs.

  • Hello, Thank you for your kind words, it seems that everyone who has lost a child truely understands how we grieve. We lost our 6 yr old son, Scott, back in 1979 from Reyes Syndrome. We just had his 44th Heaven anniversary on March 4th. I am a member of the Compassionate Friends loss of a child ages 4 – 12. I always start my comment to new members, Hugs, Mama or Dad, I tell them I am a veteran of this unthinkable journey we are on. I love to give support and wish I could see them in person to give needed hugs. Thank you for your books, sending you a big hug, we know… we understand.

  • Her comments are so very true. Finding hope helps with the grief. My son died suddenly; it will be 10 years in July. His memory keeps me going.

  • very helpful life story, thanks for sharing
    I lost my daughter age 39 with cancer

  • Harriet,
    This is a wonderful article! Wow, what a tribute to you that despite your own grief with losing your daughter, you stepped in and raised your amazing grandchildren, and kept their mother’s memory alive. Thank you for all you have done for so many, and the many helpful books you have written. You are a prime example that their is hope after loss, and I am so glad our paths have crossed!

  • I lost my 18yr old son in 2008 and during my grieving journey I have read literally dozens of grief and child loss books, including some of Harriet Hodgson’s. I can remember her books as being uplifting and hopeful during a desolate time. Thank you for continuing to publish her articles. I am so sorry to hear that she lost her husband.

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