When a Father Grieves

I often write about my grief as a mother who lost her daughter, but today I am writing about a father’s grief. While Russ and I grieve together, we also grieve in our own ways. This is a long journey, friends.

Daddy and Kalkidan Whidbey

He couldn’t sleep.

A list, far too long for any one man to accomplish, scrolled through his mind. One task weighed not only on his mind, but on his heart.

Our summer was busy, with a family reunion, followed by a family vacation, followed by preparing for the upcoming semester. Then school began, not only for the kids, but for my professor husband.

An appointment had taken us north up the highway, past the site of our accident where the weeds and grass had grown so tall around the cross bearing Kalkidan’s name that it couldn’t be seen.

We felt terrible.

We put that cross there to remember our girl, and so people driving by would remember her too. But life is busy, and we had been gone, and grass grows quickly.

Our hearts were heavy.

That night, in the dark, he quietly left our bed and put on work clothes.

He took the essentials with him, the weed whacker and a mug of coffee, and drove north until he reached the cruel curve that took our daughter’s life.

The sun wasn’t up yet, but his headlamp gave him enough light to get started.

More than an hour later, the grass along that curve in the road was shorn short and Kalkidan’s cross could be seen clearly from either direction.

K cross curve of road

A sad task for this daddy to do for his daughter, but one of the only ones remaining.

He kept this precious time to himself until yesterday when we drove that highway again.

I sighed, “We really need to get up to Kalkidan’s cross and clear the grass and weeds away. I feel terrible about it.”

He quietly answered, “I already did.”

I envisioned a  few feet of grass cut away, revealing the cross, but as we came to the curve in the road, I saw the labor of his love for our girl. The length of the entire curve, many yards long and many yards deep, was cut revealing Kalkidan’s cross with the orange bandana tied around it.

L cross tulips
spring 2016

He loved her so well then – and now.

I could see him in my mind, working along the side of the highway as the sun began to rise; making that place more beautiful for her.

And so we move through our sorrow and grief.

Thank you, friends, for walking with us.



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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.


  1. Lori
    October 5, 2016

    Your words are so true, Lisa. My husband fixed everything on our son’s truck that Colin never had time to do. I think it was his way of still caring for him. There are so few things we can do anymore for our beloved children when they are gone, even though our mum and dad heart’s long to continue caring in practical ways.

    1. Lisa Qualls
      October 6, 2016

      Oh, that reaches my heart, Lori. I can see Russ doing something just like that.

  2. S
    October 5, 2016

    A very poignant story. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Lisa Qualls
      October 6, 2016

      You’re welcome, S.

  3. Heidi
    October 5, 2016

    Oh, Lisa. This made me cry. So beautiful, and poignant, and a picture of the grief carried in his heart.

    1. Lisa Qualls
      October 6, 2016

      Thanks for crying with us, Heidi – it means so much that people care.

  4. mommafoster
    October 23, 2016

    This really touched me. Kalkidan has touched my life in a number of ways, even though I never met her. I am praying for you and Russ. It is a long journey. May the Lord draw you together today, and surround you with peace and comfort and healing.

    1. Lisa Qualls
      October 24, 2016

      Thank you so much – it honestly means so much to me when I hear that Kalkidan’s life impacted another life. I need to know that. And thank you for continuing to pray for us.


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