The Profound Presence of Absence


In the days following the accident, a wise psychologist and friend came to our home to meet with with our family. He talked about grief and what we all might feel and experience. Then he said something that I’ve thought of many times since that day.

He said we would experience the profound presence of absence.”

Think about that for a minute.

What we are feeling so deeply is Kalkidan’s absence. It’s hard to express, but for a small person, she had a very big presence. She had amazing energy; when she walked in the room, our attention was drawn to her. She asked a lot of questions, moved quickly, left things all over the house, opened cupboards and didn’t shut them, listened to music, talked on the phone, and was rarely quiet.

Our thoughts were often on her.

I spent hours thinking of Kalkidan, planning for her, researching, reading, writing – I can’t begin to guess how many of my 1600+ blog posts were prompted by her.

Yesterday I walked into her room and, for just a moment, I sat down on her bed. The impact of realizing she would never sleep there again just about did me in. I had to stand up, and for some reason, thump my chest with my fist – almost like trying to dislodge the overwhelming bad feeling. I went upstairs and tried to carry on with the day. It took a couple of hours before the profound presence of absence settled back into a dull ache, but it did.

We talk about Kalkidan every day. We intentionally mention her at the dinner table and around the younger children. They need to know that we all miss her and it’s good to talk about her, cry, or just be sad. Mad feelings are okay too. There’s no getting around the fact that it is terrible to lose a sister.

We trust God and we love him with all our hearts – but we still really hate that Kalkidan is not with us. [As I reread that last sentence, I contemplated how I could make it sound more spiritual, but the truth is, we do hate this. It feels terrible and we wish so much that she wasn’t gone.]

I know she is with Jesus, I know she is filled with joy, I know she will never suffer or struggle again – but I don’t like being left here with the weight of the profound presence of absence.

I’ll close by telling you that we are okay – we really are. The Lord is healing my body; I even drove for the first time this week. Most days the kids go to school (an hour or two late on occasion), I go to physical therapy, Russ goes to work. Wonderful dinners continue to arrive in my kitchen a few nights a week; what a gift that has been. We are making it through one day after another.

One day soon I’ll even blog about something other than grief and loss – I promise.  Until then, thank you for reading and being 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. Christall
    February 19, 2015

    You are loved. It doesn't make anything better, or easier, or any of the things I wish for you – but just know that you are loved and I think of you and pray for you often.

  2. MommaFoster
    February 19, 2015

    Thanks for letting us know how you are doing. I am continuing to pray for you and your family. This is the verse I have been praying over you all: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

  3. Tami Heiss
    February 19, 2015

    Thank you for sharing. Everything you say is what I feel. I lost my 13 year old daughter suddenly on last month on January 6th. She died in her sleep and I was the one that found her. Life is slowly moving on without her, but her absence is screaming at me. I miss her terribly and just wish her to be with us so much right now. I keep thinking if I could just have a short video of her running around with Jesus, I would be just fine. But that is why I have to have faith that she is doing just that. You wrote the other day that you are glad God is patient so that your heart can catch up with what you believe. That is where I am at right now. I do believe, but my heart is aching worse than it ever has in my whole life. I never knew I could have such pain and heartache.

    1. Amy
      February 20, 2015

      Praying right now for you and your family Tami.

  4. Sandie
    February 19, 2015

    Oh beautiful Lisa. So many tears reading this and feeling your pain through the words. You blog about whatever you want to. This is your time and we are all walking with you every step. Please don't feel you have to write about anything else other than what you are feeling right now. Take your time. Even through your tremendous grief your beautiful heart shines through. Take care.

  5. Emily
    February 19, 2015

    Lisa, I'm sitting in a hospital room now writing verses to mail you. I'm grateful for your request – His promises are true for your family and ours. Thinking of you and praying.

  6. DFNY
    February 19, 2015

    My heart aches for all of you. You are all in my thoughts and prayers.


  7. kristine barr
    February 19, 2015

    Blogs much as you need to. Hoping each day is a little better.

  8. lisajoythompson
    February 19, 2015

    I think this quote sums up the tragedy of loss in a beautiful way…

    “There is nothing that can replace the absence of someone dear to us, and one should not even attempt to do so. One must simply hold out and endure it. At first that sounds very hard, but at the same time it is also a great comfort. For to the extent the emptiness truly remains unfilled one remains connected to the other person through it. It is wrong to say that God fills the emptiness. God in no way fills it but much more leaves it precisely unfilled and thus helps us preserve — even in pain — the authentic relationship. Further more, the more beautiful and full the remembrances, the more difficult the separation. But gratitude transforms the torment of memory into silent joy. One bears what was lovely in the past not as a thorn but as a precious gift deep within, a hidden treasure of which one can always be certain.”
    ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

    1. Kerri Thorn
      February 20, 2015

      What a beautiful quote. Thanks for sharing that.

  9. Sherri
    February 19, 2015

    Thank you for writing. Kalkidan was a beautiful girl who touched so many lives as your blog shared her story. Her story goes on, for she is very much ALIVE. Just across the veil, not "far far away" as we used to sing. I know she touched my life. Thank you.

  10. Joelle
    February 19, 2015

    I am so glad you write about your grief. Please feel no hurry to move on. Yes, I pray for the day when you do "move on" in the sense that the deep, deep knife pain of grief lessens but I love that you are open and vulnerable and tell us what you are feeling and experiencing. That is hard for me to do and I learn from you as I read your journey.

  11. Angela
    February 19, 2015

    It's good that you can blog about it… thanks for sharing…. so sorry for you and your family and I understand so very well the profound presence of absence!! I remember it feeling so overwhelmingly!!

  12. Susan
    February 19, 2015

    So many of us are thinking of you with love and compassion. I hope it helps in a small way…love this post.

  13. Sara
    February 19, 2015

    I think about you and your family so often and in ways identify with much of your grief. The profound presence of absence rings so true. My loss is much different right now….my husband chose to leave my son and I the week before Christmas. The grief is stifling at times and the absence so profound. Like you've said I trust God and know he will take care of us but I can't help but wish the reality was different.

  14. Jennifer
    February 19, 2015

    Having never met Kalkidan it feels odd to say this, and I know it infinitely and drastically pales in comparison to how her family feels, but I too feel the profound presence of her absence. She was so much a part of the stories you shared with us – such a bright and vivid force and energy. So much so that she was firmly on my 'wish list'. I sent many wishes skyward for her, in hope of her healing. Now I send them for your family, for your collective healing. May peace be with you.

  15. Maureen Curtin Evermann
    February 19, 2015

    Dear Lisa, I have the wonderful privilege of having spent and still spending time with Hannah & Noah and once in a while Katie (at football games :)). I had lunch with Hannah today and the joy and beauty that young woman brings to me, and the WWAMI family, just validates what a spiritual and loving family you and Russ have created for all of your children. I am not one to post publically on your blog site, but I want you to know I treasure what you write and how you remind me to be thankful of all of God's blessings and the trials He occasionally throws in our path. God bless you. Thank you for all that you share with us………………and next time I'd love it if you would join us for lunch!

  16. Theresa
    February 20, 2015

    Thank you for putting into words the things that we feel when a foster child leaves our home. While it is not a death per-say there is a profound presence of absence. I will be sharing this with my other foster friends as they also know this pain all to well!
    I do not mind you blogging about your grief! Please do not stop just because you might think we do not want to hear it! You could have never imagined your words would bring comfort to someone in my shoes so please keep writing! Praying for you and the family!

  17. Laura
    February 20, 2015

    I felt honored to be able to come spend two weeks in your house caring for you and your family dear sister. I noticed how quiet it was too. But, what else I did notice is lots of talk of Kalkidan and it was so wonderful—what she would have thought of dinner, would she have liked the movie, things she said and did–and it was all spontaneous. I think it is good and healthy that everyone from you to the youngest casually mentions Kalkidan in conversation, it shows she is still present in your lives even if she is dancing in heaven with Jesus.

  18. Cathy
    February 20, 2015

    I'm praying for all of you Lisa. Thank you for your words.

  19. Ann Hodgman
    February 20, 2015

    From Act III, scene 4 of King John. Philip has just told Constance, "You are as fond of griefs as of your child." Constance answers:

    Grief fills the room up of my absent child,
    Lies in his bed, walks up and down with me,
    Puts on his pretty looks, repeats his words,
    Remembers me of all his gracious parts,
    Stuffs out his vacant garments with his form;
    Then, have I reason to be fond of grief?
    Fare you well: had you such a loss as I,
    I could give better comfort than you do.
    I will not keep this form upon my head,
    When there is such disorder in my wit.
    O Lord! my boy, my Arthur, my fair son!
    My life, my joy, my food, my all the world!
    My widow-comfort, and my sorrows' cure!

    . . . And Ben Jonson at around the same time:

    On my First Son

    Farewell, thou child of my right hand, and joy;
    My sin was too much hope of thee, lov'd boy.
    Seven years tho' wert lent to me, and I thee pay,
    Exacted by thy fate, on the just day.
    O, could I lose all father now! For why
    Will man lament the state he should envy?
    To have so soon 'scap'd world's and flesh's rage,
    And if no other misery, yet age?
    Rest in soft peace, and, ask'd, say, "Here doth lie
    Ben Jonson his best piece of poetry."
    For whose sake henceforth all his vows be such,
    As what he loves may never like too much.

    And the wonderful "Elegy on the Death of Furuhi," by Yamanoe Okura, written in about 700:

    What worth to me the seven treasures, so prized and desired by all the world?
    Furuhi, born of us two–our love, our dear white pearl–
    With dawn, with the morning-star, frolicked about the bed with us, standing or sitting;
    When dusk came with the evening-star, he pulled our hands, urged us to bed.
    "Leave me not, mother and father. Let me sleep between you,
    Like saki-kusa, the three-stalked plant." –So spoke that lovely mouth.
    Then we trusted, as one trusts in a great ship,
    That he would grow up as time passed by,
    And we should watch him, both in weal and woe.
    But, as of a sudden sweeps the storm, illness caught our son. […]
    Nothing availed my prayers. He languished day by day.
    His voice failed each morning. His mortal life ebbed out.
    Wildly I wept and kicked the floor,
    Cried, stared up, stared down, and beat my chest in grief–
    But the child from my arms has flown.
    So goes the world…

    So young he will not know the way…
    Here is a fee for you, O Courier from the Nether World,
    Bear him on your back!
    With offerings I beseech you,
    Be true and lead him up straight along the road to heaven!

    …Thank God for writers.

  20. Karen
    February 27, 2015

    I don't know you but followed a link to your blog and have been reading your story with great sympathy. I know God is holding you through this very hard time! Here's a verse I found last evening … it speaks to a situation I'm facing and I thought of it again this morning as I read your post: I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them. – Is. 42:16 God bless you!


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