When Children Grieve: A Special Kind of Love

The voicemail was short. It said, “I’d like to pick your brain around the subject of when children grieve and how I can provide support to my grieving children for the events occurring in our lives …so if you can give me a call at …”

I called Carissa right back. We had been friends since high school but our connection to one another was now threaded together more by Facebook posts and comments than actual human connection. 

As she shared her recent reality with me, I learned that her beautiful family had been shattered and broken by drug addiction, adultery and betrayal.   Everyone in her family was, in their own way, grieving the loss of what they once had. 

I couldn’t help but think that Carissa was the last person something like this would happen to.  She is a leader, has a brilliant mind, attended a prestigious private college, is committed to her family and spouse and the list goes on.  But now life was breaking her and she was fighting back through the fervor of her own self-love. 

When we love ourselves enough to be real about our situation and circumstances, it means we allow ourselves to open to the truth and to unselfishly love ourselves.  It is at that point that we can truly share ourselves with another person.  Life is meant to be shared. This is the bold step Carissa was taking on that very day she asked me to call her back. 

Authentic friendship goes beyond surface chit-chat.  It is genuine, heart-to-heart…sometimes gut-level sharing.  It happens when people love themselves enough to be honest about who they are and what is happening in their lives.  They share their hearts, reveal their feelings, confess their failures, disclose their doubts, admit their fears, acknowledge their weaknesses, and ask for help and prayer.

In our culture this type of self-love is rare.  Instead of an atmosphere of honesty and humility, there’s pretending, role-playing, politicking, superficial politeness, and shallow conversations.  People wear masks and keep their guard up and act as if everything is rosy in their lives. But is this truly self-love or a life based in fear?

Darkness is used to hide our hurts, failures, and flaws but in the light, we bring them all out in the open and admit who we really are and the challenges we face.  Of course, being authentic requires courage, self-love, and humility.  It means facing our fear of exposure and rejection and being hurt again.  Why would anyone take such a risk?

Because it is the only way to grow spiritually and be emotionally healthy.  We only grow by taking risks and the most difficult risk of all is to be honest with ourselves and with others.

Self-love allows you to look out for yourself and in looking out for yourself, you also look after others.  I believe the greatest gift Carissa is giving her grieving children is showing her vulnerability and pain and, most importantly, showing that it’s by facing the pain that we move through the pain.  What an immeasurable amount of self-love this takes.  And, yet, in the end, by caring for herself she will have given the greatest gift to her family, the gift of self-love.

In this journey of love, resilience, and self-discovery, Carissa exemplifies a special kind of love that is stronger than one may know. Her bravery to face her family’s shattered reality, has led her to embrace her vulnerability and pain. As she navigates life’s great challenges, she not only cares for herself but displays a profound example for what to do when children grieve. Through the fervor of her own self-love, she bestows upon them the greatest gift—a path toward healing and the power of self-love.

May her journey inspire us all to embrace our truths, love ourselves unconditionally, and share the depths of our hearts with genuine, authentic friendships. In the light of self-love, we find the strength to grow, heal, and support those we cherish the most.



Embark on a profound journey of resilience and spiritual growth with Dena M. Derenale-Betti, a mother who bravely navigated the depths of grief after the tragic accident that took the life of her 14-year-old daughter. Her incredible story unfolds as she transcends the pain and devastation of loss, transforming her understanding of life’s purpose. Through the intimate and powerful blogs on hersmile.org, you will discover the unyielding power that resides within us all. Dena’s roles as a mother of three daughters, wife, friend, community leader, and business owner reflect her dedication to building loving connections and contributing to the world around her. A graduate of the University of San Francisco, where she played on the school’s inaugural golf team, Dena is passionate about personal growth and believes that love can conquer all. As you immerse yourself in her captivating journey, remember to find your own strength and cherish the power that love holds in shaping our lives. Experience the transformative wisdom of her book, “You Are Stronger Than You Know, My Daughter Told Me So,” available on Amazon today!


We are a nonprofit founded in honor of Jenna Betti, funding programs to empower and inspire people to thrive despite adversity.


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