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Book Signing & Child Grief Day

He called to me to get my attention – “Mom” – but I wasn’t sure I’d heard him correctly. I wasn’t his biological mom, but I wanted him to be attached to me in that way.

“What?” I asked. He shook his lowered head. “What did you say?”20180324_150814

He refused to repeat himself. I then realized he seemed embarrassed. He had spoken accidentally, and to my disappointment, he’d wished he hadn’t called me Mom at all.

Even in my youth of 25 years, even in my inexperience with grief, I assessed that he likely felt as if he’d been disloyal to his real mom. She had died months earlier, when he was 10.

Children’s Grief Awareness Day is on Nov. 15 this year. It falls on the calendar as the joyful togetherness of the holiday season approaches and punctuates the sense of the loss of loved ones.

To mark Children’s Grief Awareness Day, I’ll be at Master Jewelers in Olive Branch, Miss., to sign books. I’m one of 61 contributors to Grief Dialogues: The Book, the brainchild of author and playwright Elizabeth Coplan. Elizabeth and I found each other via Twitter while she was looking for contributions. She’s flying in and will do a reading at the Thursday afternoon event, and I will read from my entry, Standing in the Gap.

My essay isn’t about child grief, however, don’t you know we can feel like orphans, like little lost children, no matter what age we lose our parents. Death can strip away our sense of security and belonging. Our advantage as adults is we are likely better equipped at navigating the mine field of emotions. Nonetheless, the wound death leaves is life altering.GriefDialoguesPhoto3

I think from time to time of my little friend Ricky, whose father I dated for several years. That’s because now two other children are in my life and my husband’s. Their mother died last year, and they live with their grandmother. The girl is 11. The boy, like Ricky, is now 10.

I’m much better equipped today than I was in my 20s to guide them in the complexities of life after the death of a mother. I’m not a counselor, but I’m a friend. I’ve accumulated a lot of experience with seeing grief – tears at crime scenes, goodbyes at funerals – and I’ve lost both my parents, all my uncles, an aunt, a few cousins, and friends, however, each grief sort of lays us bare. No matter what we’ve seen or personally experienced, there is a rawness to new loss as someone else slips from our grasp and into eternity. Loss never becomes easy.

We’ve got the option of sharing the encyclopedia of lessons that come with loss. I’ve taken that option, and it’s what Grief Dialogues: The Book is here to do. By telling our stories, you may hear pieces of yours. In hearing others’ stories, our sense of aloneness may subside. We realize someone else understands. We may pick up a kernel of wisdom and apply it to our individualized journey. And then, as we have been helped, we help others.

So if you are in the Memphis area Nov. 15, please do stop by. Pick up a copy of Grief Dialogues, or if you aren’t in the area and you’d like a copy, visit The book also will be available soon on Amazon and at independent bookstores.

If you could share one thing you learned about grief, what would it be? What would you pass on in print or by word-of-mouth?


Copyright © 2018 by Toni Lepeska. All rights reserved.


2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Sheryl M. Baker #

    Congratulations Toni! God is working through you in amazing ways. I love hearing about you helping the neighbor children walk their grief journey. As for my answer to your question, I’ve learned that something personal from the person that passed, whether it be an actual item or a special memory, helps me feel close to the person. As a Christian, the knowledge that I will see many of my loved ones again also brings me comfort.


    November 13, 2018
    • Thank you, Sheryl. God has strange ways of working. I expected my first book appearance to be my memoir. But I see how his plan was better. I’m learning a lot, even though I’m only 1/61 of this book. I agree with how the comfort of knowing we will see our loved one again brings comfort. I cannot imagine going thru grief without this assurance. Thanks again for your continued support. I do hope we get to visit sometime – let me know if you will be going to any conferences.


      November 13, 2018

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