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Challenge: What Makes a Family?

Picking Up The Pieces After The Loss Of A Family Member

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There is an old saying that it takes a village to raise a family, well our village came to the rescue when we desperately needed them and now they are part of our extended family. It may seem strange to call friends and even strangers, family, but after tragedy struck our family, it was our community that filled in those critical gaps and helped us to feel normal again.

When dealing with the loss of my wife Jill, the mother of our four children under 10, I was counseled to not dance around her death, and to not sugarcoat the situation and circumstances surrounding her death. My wife Jill died in an automobile crash where she was texting while driving and went through a stop sign and T-boned a duly pick up truck.


As I’ve navigated explaining to the children, I first shared that mommy has been in an accident and she may die, when were reports came from the doctors sharing that she was Brain dead and would not ever wake up I shared with the children that mommy is going to die. Then at the end mommy has died.

Now Right after I shared that mommy has died the four-year-old asked me OK now what happens if you die. I was counseled that the children may ask this and my response could never be that I could never promise that I will always be there. So I shared that if anything ever happened to me mommy and I made provisions for auntie Cara and uncle Troy to come and stay with you. But you will always have auntie and uncle, Auntie and Uncle, Auntie and Uncle sharing the list of all their relatives that love them and will be with them forever.

Showing the children it’s OK to be sad and to cry was important. I believe when you keep those things inside it’s not healthy. My belief was creating consistency around their normal activities. We spent and spend time talking about mommy celebrating her still. We celebrate Mother’s Day. The school wondered how we wanted to deal with Mother’s Day. And I said we celebrate their mom and make art and crafts celebrating her even though she’s no longer here.


We do not celebrate the day she died or talk about that date. I believe acknowledging a date of death is toxic. The children and I set upon a task to create an app for kindness called "awesome". When doing an act of kindness for someone it picks you up and empowers you. The receiver is blessed but so is the giver. We wanted to create a tool that would create a ripple effect of kindness. We create all kinds of kindness challenges on this platform that we named Awesome. We talk about the fact that all it takes is one act of kindness to change the world for the better. Now we are The Awesome Pope family of 5. We honor my wife's legacy by spreading love and joy throughout our community.

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