“Men Grieve, Too”

My 19 year old daughter, Katie, died in a car accident in 2006. She, along with her fellow classmate, died instantly early one morning in a collision with a semi-truck on an icy, two lane county road. There was no social media back then to instantly report this, and we were notified by a home visit by her youth Pastor and a friend. Many emotions ran immediately through me. Shock, disbelief, numbness–followed by hugging family members–and many, many, tears. My youngest daughter, Laura, age 12, was visiting next door with her friend, and we had to call her home to share this sad news about her older sister. She knew when we sat down in the front room that something bad had happened. She asked if her pet bunny had died. I wish, as hard as that even would have been to tell her, that was the reason for our talk. I then had to share not her bunny but her big sis had been killed in an accident.

For me now the role of being the strong Dad and husband to my wife was what I immediately was cast into being. I’d like to say I did a good job, but tears of pain and loss flowed from me during that early moment of finding out the news of her death. Katie was dead, and nothing I did or said was going to bring her back to life. I, along with my family, were really hurting, and losing a child and sibling hurts so bad. My wife felt the immediate comfort of knowing Katie was instantly with the Lord and her sharing that with us did help me ease the pain. I did find out very early for me that tears and a deep cry was o.k and helped me instead of hiding them because I was the man of the house.

Shortly after the wake and funeral, the hospital my wife worked at offered a 12 week grief course for parents and kids. I agreed to go because it would help my daughter Laura who I knew was really missing her sister. They split the breakout rooms by children’s ages, and the parents were separate of their children. We were given the opportunity in week one to share about our loss to all the other families in our group. It was very tough hearing all the pain and stories of the loss that each family shared, but other men did tell their thoughts before they came to us. I had planned to let my wife share our loss, but upon hearing other men speak before me, I felt comfortable to talk about our loss of Katie. It was an amazing night to be a part of, as I realized I was not alone as a man feeling early grief.

I now realized that I had found a safe place to open up with others, rather than grieve alone. Each week, I got to know others in the group and actually looked forward to attending it. No longer was I going for my daughter, but I was now there for myself. I am convinced, years later, that by opening up to that first group and subsequently others through the years, I have been helped emotionally, physically, and most importantly, spiritually.

Not long after this, God put a couple of men from my church to come alongside me to help my journey to heal. Surprisingly, both men were older than me and really not that close to me as other good friends I had. If I could have chosen who I thought would take time to meet with me often for coffee, it would not have been them. It shows me that asking God to help me (which I did), He heard my cry by placing these two new special friends into my life.

They listened to me, cried with me, and just were there to comfort me through the early pain of losing Katie. I know this healing would not have happened if I had said no or maybe later to their offer to get together. My suggestion is to not say no, but to reach out for help, first to God, and witness how He will lead you in a path of healing. Be open to who He uses and any opportunities, such as grief programs, Christian counseling, or any people who want to listen to your pain of loss. Don’t try to go it alone, as the benefits far outweigh the alternatives. There are so many destructive paths, such as alcohol, drugs, gambling, and working long hours, which will only bring more misery into your marriage (if married) or family life. Your health will be greatly aided by making the right choices to reach out and talk with others.

I also was given some great advice by my mom and aunt, which was that my two remaining children also needed their dad at this crucial time of losing their sister. That really was what I needed to hear, that I would miss this role in their lives if I just focused on my grief alone.

I still miss my precious Katie, some 16 years later. I envision our reunion some day in Heaven, with her curly brown hair and blue eyes running up to me and giving me a great big hug and kiss. Today, I thank God for walking me through and not around grief, so that I may be grateful for my wife, children, and first grandson. When I miss Katie on special anniversaries, birthdays, and holidays, I try to think not about what I have lost, but what Katie has gained being in the presence of her Savior, Jesus.

Subsequent years after attending our 12-week grief support group, my wife and I were asked by the director to come and share our story with new groups. We did this for several years and then were asked if we would lead one of the groups. We both were ready to give back to others the hope and help that we had been blessed to receive. We led groups for several years, until Covid unfortunately closed down hospital rooms and this program. We continue to take phone calls and help those who are suffering from recent loss of loved ones. My wife assembles Katie’s Comfort Baskets, and we deliver it (if local) or ship it out to those who have suffered a loss of a child.

Our family also has written a book to help those who are dealing with depression in their lives. It is written by all four of us, as we share our journey of hope and healing for depression and grief. The title of the book is, One Pogo Jump to Heaven. To order this book or to request a comfort basket, please visit our website: www.katiescomfort.org. You may also call us at: 708-389-1127.

While working through your grief, here are some suggestions that have helped me, and my prayer is that they will assist you also:

Talk with someone you trust about your grief.
Accept help and support when they are offered.
Maintain healthy eating habits.
Make it a priority to get enough sleep.
Exercise regularly.
Keep a journal.
Plan to do fun activities, and do them without feeling guilty.
Be honest with those around you about what helps you and doesn’t help you as you grieve. People want to help, but often are not sure how.
See a grief counselor.
Plan ahead for certain days, like your loved one’s birthday and holidays, as feelings can be especially strong on these days.
Check the Internet for grief support.
Talk to a member of the clergy.
Help someone else.
Write a letter to your deceased loved one.
Enjoy the comfort of nature by going walking, hiking, camping, or cycling.
Create a memorial to your loved one by planting a tree or donating to a charity.

May God bless each and everyone who reads this blog, and may you find hope and healing in your loss.

If you need additional help, please feel free to contact me at 708-389-1127 or jerry@katiescomfort.org.

Showing 2 comments
  • Marilyn Vitale Destefano

    Jerry, thank you for sharing your difficult journey and support for others. May the Lord bless you and your family for the good work you do.

  • Cathy Smith

    Dear Jerry, this morning I kept envisioning a picnic basket, as I was praying Lord what kind of ministry do you see me doing. so I Googled picnic basket Ministry and your post came up about your daughter Katie. it is almost one in the afternoon and I have to tell you that I’ve been processing this all morning long. and this song, Holy Love, from Andy Park from Vineyard immediately washed over me this morning as I read your story, so I’m sending you the link.https://youtu.be/d-UDoT4XYNk?si=Vs1lN62TjYnOZDeB.
    I have gone through many sorrows, but nothing compares to loosing a child. Your courage and faith combined with your wife’s is a powerful testimony to God’s being far above whatever we could hope for or imagine! Hope! and Transcending Love!

Leave a Comment

Contact Us

We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.

Not readable? Change text.

Start typing and press Enter to search