Face Your Grief: Letter to Grieving Kids from my 14 Year Old Son Who Lost His Dad Two Years Ago

Grief doesn’t go away for us.  And it sure doesn’t go away for our children when they lose an important loved one in their life.  We feel a compounded grief when our children grieve.  The pain of watching them as they struggle to make their own way through grief is very difficult on us. We do our best most of the time.  Other times we do our worst when we ourselves are consumed with a big wave of grief.  Everyone has a full plate in the epicenter of grief, and children are no different.  Some stop talking.  Some act out.  Others pack it all away and do not face their loss and pain.

There just is no rule book here to go by.  All of our situations are different and to pull them all together under one plan of action just doesn’t work. One size doesn’t not fit all when it comes to grieving children.  Just like the education of a child take a village, so does helping a child through grief.  Grief Anonymous wants to be part of giving back to children.  And who better to relate to grieving children, than grieving children themselves.  Here they can come online, read stories, post comments with their parents if they want to, and not risk having to tell their story to other children who do not understand what they are going through and even become frightened over hearing their experience.  When my husband died, several children who were friends with my son had to go to counseling just from being a witness to our experience. They were terrified that they would lose their parent too. It was a big reality check for many people in our community.  The feelings that they have at school can be isolating and confusing and cause emotional turbulence in their young lives being around other children who have never felt grief and loss before.  Connecting children through the writing of stories and experiences here can maybe allow them to know they are not alone.  And they will not have to risk their friends who don’t understand finding out about it.  Teenagers are sensitive about self-image and to wear their grief out on their sleeves is very difficult when you are just trying to fit in.  We as adults remember this awkward stage we ourselves went through.  Imagine going through all of that, along with grief.  I think I have a remote idea now as I write this at how important it is that they know they are not alone.

My son woke up this morning having another hard day with lack of sleep and was struggling going to school. I gave him his laptop and said- write it out.  He wrote this and asked me to share it with you:

I realized another very important thing about dealing with grief today.  It has been the most difficult thing to process in my mind.  It’s like this advice has been said to me multiple times and I couldn’t understand it.  Whenever I feel upset about something, my mom would say, “you’re grieving your dad.”  As a kid, that’s honestly the hardest advice to take. Ever since my dad died, new good things and good opportunities came into my life, I would always have a bad side to it.  Now I know, something that has been said to me since my dad died is really true.  I never focused on the main problem and that caused me even more pain and sadness when really I could’ve had less had I dealt with my grief.”

Thanks for reading,



This was Jackson two years ago at his father’s company location for a memorial tree dedication, four months after his father passed away .  He got up in front of all his dad’s co-workers and told them how much they meant to is father, how he enjoyed hearing the stories from work,  and for that he was grateful.  I am so proud of this young man.  I see his father’s Light through him every day.




The Jordon Barker Foundation, Inc.

My husband, Jordon passed away at 2:00 am in the morning at hospice just 13 hours after he was admitted.  We did not know it was his last night with us.  We did know he was in severe pain and we were doing all we could to keep him comfortable.  My husband was 41 years old when he passed away.  Cancer stopped him abruptly in the middle of his life. He was an amazing father. His friends and connections were scattered all over the world and he was finally back in his hometown surrounded by his childhood friends, family, and loved ones. I don’t think there was a soul on the earth that he knew that didn’t like or love him. Between the time he was diagnosed with metastatic cancer till his passing was only six weeks long.  We had no idea death would take him so soon.  We thought he would live through the summer and that we still had some time as a family, but that was not to be.

We, the ones left behind, often have to whitewash our real experience of losing our loved one.  When we are asked, we skip on many of the hard details when we discuss the nature of our experience of losing them.  We do this for many reasons. To tell the real story of what transpired takes away a sense of privacy and a dignified death to talk about the unpleasant details. We sanitize the conversation to protect the one who asks so we don’t ruin their day and hear our own voices as we describe what we bared witness to. What we experience behind closed doors stays there. Or so we think.

What happens to many of us through the experience of loss is emotional trauma. The after-effects of trauma emit an energy in the human mind in the form of anxiety, panic attacks, PTSD, OCD, and depression.  These are the symptoms of grief, not grief itself.

I remember being in my husband’s hospice room and having some emotional turbulence around me and out of nowhere the feeling of lack of air, light-headedness, and weakness came up without warning.  I felt my blood rushing to my face.  I was not able to talk. I heard a ringing in my ears and felt a welling up of nausea begin.  I was sitting next to my husband’s bed and I literally fell out of my chair and on to my knees unable to breathe. This is what a panic attack feels like.  I made my way to the other side of the room and crawled up on another chair and kept my head near my knees and tried to breathe.  I did the only thing I could do. Pray.

Our Father Who Art in Heaven, Hallowed Be Thy Name, Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will be Done On Earth as it is in Heaven, Give Us This Day our Daily Bread, And Forgive Us our Trespasses, As We Forgive Those Who Have Trespassed Against Us, Lead Us Not into Temptation, But Deliver Us From Evil, For Thine is The Kingdom, The Power And the Glory, Forever and Ever,  Amen.

I said it in my mind and softly on my lips over and over again until I could finally stand and breathe. My spiritual mantra brought me out of my reality and slowed the energy that had overcome me.

Over time the trauma symptoms from my experience of losing my husband are still with me, but they no longer have the piercing, cutting edge to them that they once did. Other people are not so lucky.

For many of you out there, the symptoms have not slowed and they have disabled you. They have come to rule your world without your permission. Grief is alive in society within our homeless populations.   Drug addiction and alcoholism are often the result of not being able to cope with the trauma over loss.  I know thousands of people are living this life because I see it every day on my Grief Anonymous Facebook page and my closed online grief group.  Many people who have experienced loss have found themselves incapacitated from grief and trauma.  They cannot hold a job.  They have no back-up and they lose everything they have, including their own minds.

This is the part of grief in our society that cannot be whitewashed and sanitized.  Their story must be told and the shame and stigma must be removed.

I remember joining an online grief group on Facebook after my husband died.  I remember a woman in Florida on one particular post who had just purchased a train ticket to travel several states away to her aunt’s home for safety, shelter, and hopefully a hot meal.  She only had $5 in her pocket. She had just lost everything as a result of her husband dying.

I will never forget the moment I read that.

I have founded the Jordon Barker Foundation, Inc.  Through the foundation, we will seek to find local charities throughout the USA who can earmark funds for those who are suffering extreme hardship due to grief and loss.  I want to clarify something important. We ourselves are not a charity.  We are a foundation that will give to charities.  We will be looking for legally-registered, financially transparent charities who are local in their communities and who are established to help people who are in crisis from the loss of a loved one.  I want to do something so that people like the woman in Florida have something more than $5 in their pocket and a train ticket to their name.

Forever forward,

Holly C. Barker

CEO, Founder of the Jordon Barker Foundation, Inc.




My Son’s Advice to Other Grieving Kids about Losing His Dad Two Years Ago at the Age of 11. In His Own Words:


I woke up today not feeling up to anything. I had a bad dream and I’m stressing over my grades because they are terrible. I was walking to my bus stop and my feelings kept crawling deeper inside my head. I texted my mom and said “today is not going to be a good day,” so she let me come home.

On my understanding of how to deal with my feelings when it comes to grief there’s no way that I can make myself happy in a second. I think of it like a table with lots of food on it. You can not eat all of it at once. You have to be the smart one and sort this out. I would start off with the stuff that catches my eye first. Then I would slowly take it day by day eating the food. That’s my vision on how to deal with problems with grief over losing my dad. If I choose to eat all the food (deal with all my problems) in one day, I would feel terrible. If I choose to do it that way, none of my problems would get solved. If you don’t take it slowly and deal with all your problems, they will turn into bigger problems. In many situations this is true. No matter what the situation, you have to be your number one priority and you have to sacrifice stuff that does not have to be in your life.

A good way I like to get through my week is to not to look forward only to my Friday night, but to take every day and try to find something to enjoy about it. Take your free time and use it as fun and wisely as possible.

After my Dad died, my mom and I moved back home to be closer to family. All through 7th grade I could not stop missing Toronto, which was the city I grew up in. I spent most of my free time missing home. That is an example of problems that don’t need to be in your life. Now I realized I missed a whole school year on helping myself get better. Free time is the most important thing in going through grief. If you don’t know how to use it right, you’re getting nowhere. If you use it right I PROMISE you will improve.

Thanks for listening to my story,