Grief during the pandemic had a larger reach than normal with the virus taking its toll on families around the country. Deaths not related to Covid-19 continued to devastate children and families, as this grandmother describes after the death of her son in August of 2020.
Sharon Leonard was winding down her day when the phone rang at 11:29pm on August 23rd. It was in this moment that she received the news that her son and only child had been shot. Getting herself ready for the drive to the scene, not knowing if he would still be alive, was a surreal nightmare. Her son, a father of 5, did not survive. In fact, the coroner’s report later stated that he had died instantly.
“This was the worst night of my life,” Sharon painfully recalled. “Then as the daylight came and I began the task of trying to figure out Why? What do I do next? How do I tell 10-year-old Makyi and 8-year-old Faith, his two oldest children? How are these children going to feel finding out they will not be seeing their father again? The emotions were a roller coaster and still are. I didn’t know what to do or where to turn for help for my husband, my two oldest grandchildren, or myself.”
Thankfully, an investigator put her in touch with the Victims Advocate program in Seminole County who shared information with her about New Hope for Kids.
Sharon registered her family in our grief support program, and says that it has been a blessing to her grandchildren, her husband and herself. They’re learning ways to celebrate and remember their loved one, and to know that it’s ok to express feelings with each other.
We’re so thankful her family found hope here with us during this tragic and difficult time. Sharon continues to be grateful for the services provided by New Hope for Kids, and looks forward to continuing the healing process with us by her family’s side. “My grandchildren look forward to the virtual group sessions every Wednesday, and after the sessions it is our time to remember their dad and share funny and happy times they shared with dad as well as share our sadness not having him here with us anymore. New Hope for Kids is truly a blessing for my family as it continues to help us get through the death of my son.”
After the tragic death of her husband, Carolyn Moor brought her 2 young daughters to the Center for Grieving Children for help. The support they received moved all three of them towards hope, healing and happiness. Carolyn is now on the Board of Directors of New Hope for Kids, helping other families learn about the life-changing services we provide to the Central Florida Community. Carolyn also founded Modern Widows Club in 2011 which has grown from its first group in Orlando to 10 chapters around the country.
The Bernard family consists of father, James, and his children, Ava, Chloe, Mia, and Asher. They are an energetic, talented family that attends New Hope for Kids Center for Grieving Children. James’ wife and mother of their four children died in 2011 after a long battle with leukemia. After his wife’s death, James had concerns about some of the ways his children were experiencing grief: acting out, feeling depressed and expressing rage. Since they began attending the Center for Grieving Children, James has seen many positive changes in his kids, who are now ages 4-10. They love the grief support groups and James knows that the sessions have had a huge impact on their lives. Ava has even expressed interest in becoming a grief facilitator in the future to help others dealing with grief. New Hope for Kids has also benefitted James as a parent. As he does not attend counseling, participating in sessions at the Center for Grieving Children is his only chance to talk to other parents and caregivers who are facing very similar challenges. James’ advice to new families contemplating whether or not they should contact New Hope for Kids: “Just do it. It is an inviting, non-judgmental environment that ends up feeling like home.” The Bernard family has made connections with other local families who are dealing with grief. James feels that this is an added benefit to the services New Hope for Kids already offers. He thinks the group and community atmosphere at New Hope for Kids is particularly effective for him and his children because they enjoy being around people. Overall, James and his family cherish their time at New Hope for Kids and they cannot imagine where they would be without it.
One of our “grief moms” wanted to share her thoughts after she and her 2 kids attended New Hope for Kids’ Center for Grieving Children in Maitland. We’re so glad Joshua and Nicole benefited from our grief program, and that Melisa found hope for herself and her children.
After the unexpected death of my husband in January of 2010, my whole world came crashing down. I found myself alone and with two little kids, struggling to make sense of what was now, “our reality”. How do you explain to a 3 year old that their “dada” is not coming back? From the initial call to the center, I knew we were in “good hands”. For my kids, knowing that they were not alone, that they could talk and play with other kids “like them”, was their first step in their grieving process. Because of New Hope, my kids are now able to sleep through the night without constant nightmares, they understand that what THEY are going through is “normal”, but most importantly, they are happy again! In fact, my 5 year old daughter said it simply, “When my dada went to Heaven, I was sad. When I went to New Hope, they helped me be happy!”
I was only three when it happened. That is, when I was three my father died. We never really imagine that our parents can die. It seems as if they will always be there, indestructible and permanent. Yes, everyone dies eventually, but when you’re a child, all of it appears far away sometime in the future.
The worst part was the shock and unexpectedness of it all. He was not sick, injured, or all that old either. He was a healthy fifty-seven year old man.
What I remember most is his love of the water. It was his favorite place on earth, especially the ocean. That is where he was the day he died, in the ocean scuba-diving. An air bubble from his tank somehow made its way to his brain and stopped the blood flow. I cannot express the loss I and my mother, along with the rest of our family felt. If you have ever had a loved one die, you can understand the emptiness and sorrow.
On October 30, 1989, Rosie discovered that her husband of 18 years had taken his own life and changed his family’s lives forever. The months and years that followed for Rosie were tangled with fear and challenges that separated her from the life she’d always known but also created the opportunity for her to become a strong, independent woman and an example to everyone around her.
After his death, questions flooded her heart and mind: What were the precursors? How did he get to the point where he felt there was no other way? What could I have done differently to help him? And why would he take the easier way out and leave me to pick up the pieces all alone?
Looking at Dagmar’s painting, you’d never know the pain she has felt since the sudden death of her husband in March 2009. She knew her 4-year-old son, Joseph, would need help dealing with the death of his dad, but she wasn’t sure how she was going to deal with her own pain. The support she found for both of them at New Hope for Kids Center for Grieving Children has helped them find ways to build strength and begin enjoying life again.
Dagmar has begun taking on new projects around the house, such as gardening and working on a deck in their back yard. She has also found enjoyment in taking long walks. But perhaps her greatest refuge of all is the time she spends painting. She said it allows her to express her feelings in colors and shapes, and viewing the painting she brought to our Center for Grieving Children, you can see her talent.
This painting, one of several she has created recently, is full of brightness, movement and hope. In fact, you can see footprints walking toward a full heart featured prominently in this piece of art. Those footprints are her son’s, and the full and restored heart is just ahead on the path they’re walking together. With the help of New Hope for Kids and their commitment to be happy again, we know they’ll get there.
My name is Carol Linsenmayer. My 9 year old daughter, Danielle, and I attended New Hope for Kids Center for Grieving Children after the death of my husband, her dad, in 2006. Paul always had a caring and giving heart. He was also the greatest “Mr. Mom”. For those of us that were left behind, going through this transition became heart wrenching. New Hope for Kids got us through those troubled times.
Imagine parenting while grieving. Many are ignorant of what happens when our world changes. Dealing with a loss is so very hard for the parent, because you are quietly trying to get through the pain and heartbreak yourself while struggling to stay strong and whole for your children.
Romeo and I met when I worked as an engineer and he as a Vice President with a major aerospace firm. He became my mentor, my friend and later my husband and the father of our children. When we were expecting our son, I told him I wanted to name him, Romeo III. He objected. I told him if our son grew up to be half the man that he and his father were; he would be wonderful, since I considered both of them to be exceptional men.
He was an amazing man and husband but he was a phenomenal father. He attended our kids school events which in and of itself was amazing. He helped run a multi billion dollar organization but knew at the end of the day his kids would remember looking out into the audience and seeing him.
On February 14, 2000, Valentine’s Day, I was out on a romantic dinner with my husband. On our way home we were in a car accident in downtown Orlando. Chad, my husband, had forgotten to put his seatbelt on and was thrown from the vehicle. He died 12 hours later from severe head trauma.
My seemingly perfect life came tumbling down. I was depressed, lost, scared and unsure what or where to go next. I was referred to New Hope for Kids by the minister who officiated Chad’s memorial service. I didn’t want to come to New Hope for Kids, I didn’t want to admit it was all so real and this was how my life was going to be now. So I went there for my children!!
At first I couldn’t talk out loud about what I was going through, but soon I realized I was in a room full of people who had all the same fears and confusing thoughts I did……..I felt like I belonged somewhere finally, a place where people understood what I was going through.