Donate! Support your community news.
Subscribe! News delivered to your inbox.

Parent to Parent: On Grieving

by | Jan 6, 2020 | Bottom Right Box, Voices of Davidson

By Betsy Flagler
Former columnist and preschool art teacher based in Davidson.

The following syndicated parenting column was originally published in dozens of newspapers nationwide the week of Jan. 10, 2013, in response to the horrific shootings of students and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School. I revised the column recently at the request of the editor of

For the grieving, no act of kindness is too small — especially on holidays. No age — young or old — defines life-long journeys through grief. The tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School led a Charlotte mother, teacher rand consultant to share with me what helped her to keep trudging along after the death of her daughter. The child was a student in her mother’s kindergarten classroom when she was killed more than two decades ago by a driver talking on a cell phone.

The mother’s tips have stood the test of time.

“Although my daughter’s death was not surrounded in the horror of that Friday in Newtown, it was indeed a tsunami to the heart and soul of my family,” she recalled soon after the Sandy Hook slayings. Her daughter was only 5 when she was killed by a distracted driver while she was crossing a neighborhood street.

• Every card sent was appreciated. Some shared prayers and others shared special memories of play dates and interactions with her daughter. Even cards that arrived months past the tragedy provided unique comfort, she shared in an email. “I appreciated the acknowledgment that our grieving was indeed a long process.”

• “I was grateful for those friends who had faith in God’s provision and plans and shared Scriptures of promise and comfort. However, I found equal comfort in a missionary friend who said our daughter’s accident had ‘taken his faith and put it in a blender.’ “

• “For me, making the smallest decisions seemed insurmountable, most especially trying to get dressed in the mornings to face my daughter’s friends as I returned to teach in her class. A friend reorganized her closet and kitchen, providing simple ways to order her choices.

• “My husband’s hardest days were Saturdays, a time when he and his ‘little buddy’ used to tackle yard projects. For several months a friend from our church showed up each Saturday morning with coffee, breakfast and the time to work side by side with his hurting friend.”

• “Several families made sure our other daughter, 9 at the time of her sister’s death, had times away from our home, enjoying recreational activities designed to mitigate the heaviness at home.”

• “A dear family stepped forward as we faced our first holiday, Thanksgiving, without our daughter. They volunteered to be and to do whatever we needed in facing our new emptiness. They helped us plan and joined us on a trip out of town, avoiding the sting of former traditions and in those days helping us create the foundations of new memories for our family.” They began “mobile Thanksgivings” to explore new settings, for example.”

In talks and emails in 2013 that became the basis for this column, the grieving mother expressed gratitude for those who “shared their time, talents and tears with our family.”

Betsy Flagler

Betsy Flagler, a retired newspaper designer, parenting columnist, and preschool teacher, has lived in Davidson for nearly 20 years. Her husband, Mark Washburn, is recently retired from The Charlotte Observer. Betsy and Mark live in Bailey Springs.

Support Your Community News