There are no new pictures, no new experiences to share, and no new life developments to tell you about. At the marker of thirteen years without John Robert there are no new observations. We’ve lived through several cycles of holidays, birthdays, and this anniversary of loss. At least so far, we have survived the most devastating loss a parent can imagine. We have associated with other bereaved parents and been coached, encouraged, and helped on this journey. So what is there to share thirteen years later?

Maybe there’s something good about the lack of new reflections to express. When our dreams for his life were snatched from us in one stunning moment, we couldn’t imagine ourselves coping thirteen years later. As we sifted through all the emotions over and over again, it did not appear possible to ever feel kind of normal again. After years of reading, writing, teaching, and speaking about grief, I have come across few really new and helpful gems of knowledge. Not that I know everything about grief- far from it. Grief is so personal and individual that you never know all there is to know. It’s just that somewhere on the timeline you realize you don’t think about your grief any longer. It is no longer the center of your attention. But grief?

It is still there.

If thirteen years of grief has taught me anything, it is that on the day that I pass from this earth I will have my grief with me. The only way I can be rid of my grief is to stop loving John Robert. That, I cannot do.

In order to carry John Robert in our hearts forever, we must also carry the sorrow of loss. It no longer controls us. The dark presence of grief has diminished and is mostly a subtext of our lives, not the main feature that it was for a while. We don’t fall apart every day. We can tell funny stories and share happy memories without a waterfall of tears. We can look at his pictures and smile. We reflect on the promise of heaven and being reunited with him. We hurt less but we do not love him less. So if you see us smile, it is genuine. But grief?

It is still there.

So if I have any new reflection about grief at this marker in time, it is that in spite of the fact that grief remains a presence in our hearts, it is not in control. Most of the time. It is our plan to stand at his grave tomorrow and reflect. We will place flowers and see family. We will wonder aloud … what would a 31 year old John Robert be doing? We will agree that he would be making us smile. We will laugh, enjoy a meal, visit with Maggy’s sisters that we haven’t seen in a year, and John Robert will be in the middle of our thoughts during all of it.

Yes, grief is still there.

Grief is not necessarily a friend, but it is a reminder of the depth of love we still feel for the one who is no longer with us. In that sense, love never dies. So, it may be true that grief is still there. But we have this inward reminder:

Love is still there also.

Out here, hope remains.

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  1. Beautifully said. I’m grateful for my memories of John Robert. I love you and Maggie. I’m thankful for how you have walked with me in my grief.

  2. Thank you John for this insightful experience with your grief. I am hopeful that someday I will be able to describe the turn for my grief after losing my son, Nicholas to a tragic double homicide. It’s been almost three years and grief still has that choke hold on me. There are days that I feel strong only to shatter, fall apart, weaken and surrender to the grief! When others share their stories of how they have managed to live with their grief in ways that I could never imagine for myself, it helps build hope that I someday will share a similar story.

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