Grief Helps Others

Grief Helps Others

From Chicken Soup for the Grieving Soul

Grief Helps Others

Grief knits two hearts in closer bonds than happiness ever can; and common sufferings are far stronger links than common joys.

Alphonse de Lamartine

Linda Maurer studies a framed portrait of a beautiful young woman with long blonde hair and striking hazel eyes—her only child, Molly, who died in a railroad accident in the spring of 1991 when she was only nineteen.

She rereads the article she clipped from the newspaper about another mother’s child who died tragically. Her eyes fill with tears as she puts pen to paper.

“I understand your grief because it happened to me,” she writes to these suffering parents whom she has never met. “Let others help you through your terrible nightmare,” she advises them. “You’ll get stronger with each passing year, but you’ll never, ever stop loving your child with all your heart.”

Linda’s love for her daughter was boundless. But she and Molly were also best friends. They went clothes shopping together and baked poppy-seed cakes and regularly waged battle on one of the local tennis courts. “You two are inseparable,” friends often commented, and Linda always smiled and thanked God for blessing her with such a lively and loving child.

“I’m the only one in the dorm who can’t wait for parents’ weekend,” Molly once told Linda on the phone from Arizona State University, where she was a freshman.

It was a few months later when Molly went on a spring-break train trip through Mexico with friends. There was a terrible accident. That Sunday afternoon Linda and Larry received the fateful phone call.

“Is it Molly?” Linda gasped when Larry’s face turned white as a sheet, and she nearly passed out when he nodded yes. “Is she dead?” she asked, but deep in her heart Linda could already sense the answer. In the blink of an eye her precious Molly was gone.

“I simply can’t bear this pain,” Linda sobbed as mourners gathered at the family’s Boulder, Colorado, home to offer their condolences and love. Dozens arrived from Molly’s college. Others traveled from as far away as Australia to express their grief and to attend the funeral that filled a twelve-hundred-seat church to overflowing.

Neighbors brought food to feed the scores of mourners who gathered each day to pay their respects. Others cleaned and shopped and chauffeured Linda and Larry wherever they needed to go. Neither was in any shape to drive.

Linda cried herself to sleep. “I’ll never see Molly graduate from college and begin a career,” she grieved. “I’ll never see her fall in love or start a family of her own.”

The pain was so unbearable that Linda became briefly suicidal. But her friend Kay took Linda in hand. “See those kids?” she said, pointing to Molly’s many friends who had gathered to share their tears and their memories. “If you take your own life, how many of them do you suppose might follow you? And what about Larry? He needs you just as much as you need him. The two of you must face this tragedy together.”

Linda tried, but for months she was unable to bear the sight of any of Molly’s favorite places: the local mall, the lake where the family used to go fishing, the tennis courts where Linda first taught her little girl how to swing a racket.

Once, when she felt strong enough to venture out to buy a friend a birthday card, Linda bolted from the shop in tears. “The racks were filled with Mother’s Day cards,” she wept that night in Larry’s arms.

The holidays were hardest of all. Molly’s birthday. Thanksgiving. Christmas.

It was the day after Christmas when Linda spotted a newspaper account of a young boy who had perished in a holiday skiing accident. Her heart went out to the child’s mom and dad, and soon Linda was pouring out her feelings in a letter. “If there’s anything we can do, please call,” she urged, and a few weeks later the boy’s parents came for a visit.

“How do you go on?” the newly bereaved mom asked Linda in a tear-choked voice.

Linda clasped Larry’s hand. “We help each other,” she explained. “It’s the only way.”

Linda’s words seemed to comfort the couple, and from that day forward whenever Molly’s mom heard of a child who had died she always took time to send the parents a heartfelt letter. The writing brought Linda solace, and many of those who received her notes called or wrote back to say how much her gentle words had helped them through their darkest hours.

One morning Linda awoke from hugging Molly in a dream with a single thought resounding in her head. “I’m going to write a book,” she decided. She borrowed a typewriter and began that very afternoon. She described the sudden triggers of grief and loss, and how she and Larry finally found the strength to start living again. “Helping others is what God means for me to do with my life,” Linda realized with sudden clarity.

Linda wrote not one book but two: I Don’t Know How to Help Them, for friends and family of bereaved parents, and Standing Beside You, which she wrote for grieving moms and dads. She self-published both books and included her home address so anyone who wanted could contact her.

Soon the letters began pouring in, and they haven’t stopped to this day. Linda answers each and every correspondence personally. She also attends book signings and organizes discussion groups afterward.

“When Molly died, I used to think that if she’d never lived, I wouldn’t have to go through all of this pain,” Linda shares with these groups. “But now I understand that I also would have missed out on the happiest, most fulfilling nineteen years of my life being Molly’s mom.”

These meetings always take their toll on Linda. Afterward, she lies awake for several nights, haunted by all the sad stories she’s heard, and because she knows that for many of the parents she met, the real pain is only beginning.

Linda spends several hours every day at her desk answering the dozens of letters she receives each week from bereaved parents, their friends and their families. “If I can help one person get through another twenty-four hours, I know that my Molly is proud of me,” she says. “She’s with me always. She’s standing right here beside me, and the memories don’t hurt anymore.”

Heather Black

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