Forgotten Mourners Unforgettable Children


His animal-like howl shredded my soul, and literally brought me to my knees when I told my father that his 19-year-old granddaughter, Hannah Rose, had died. It’s been eighteen months since her death, and life for our family has been like a perpetual roller coaster inside a tornado within a tsunami. Grief is messy. We don’t do grief well in our culture. We don’t understand the nature and process of grief.

Grandparents’ grief, in particular, is often invisible and lonely. I just had an article published  in the December’s issue of AARP, the Magazine about these forgotten mourners . I hope to bring attention to another side of the loss of a child that is not readily recognized.

I learned a lot about grief over the last year and a half. I still wake up every morning with an elephant sitting on my chest. I can now offer the elephant a faint smile, a tasty peanut and get up, move forward and live twice as hard for Hannah and me (on most days).

Bereaved parents often have a need to figure out ways to honor their child, like write articles, for example. They often want to tell stories about their child, whether that child was four or forty when they died, whether the loss was last year or a half a century ago. They want to hear stories about their child too.

The strong need to recognize that our children lived and not just died by sharing stories often makes people uncomfortable, unfortunately. Friends and family can be reluctant to bring up the child’s name, let alone exchange stories for fear that they will induce a waterfall of tears. What many don’t understand, is that some of us want  to cry, to laugh, to feel alive. We want to hear that child’s name spoken aloud no matter what emotions surface, for forgetting that child is the worse consequence of silence.

That’s why I encourage people to write an Honor Your Angel Legacy Letter about their deceased child, in fact people can write a Honor Your Angel Legacy Letter about any beloved family member, friend or mentor who has passed. It can be therapeutic. It can possibly make that loved one laugh, wherever she or he is. However, it can be difficult too.

Being interviewed about Hannah and about  “Honor Your Angel Legacy Letters” on NPR a few months ago, was probably one of the most difficult interviews I have given in my life. But it was something I was compelled to do as I continually seek out opportunities to honor my daughter.

So, I encourage you to find time during the hectic  holidays and write a Honor Your Angel Legacy Letter about someone you really miss. You can also write about a beloved pet. Below are sample questions. Pick ten questions that resonate with you, answer the questions and wallah, you just created content for a Legacy Letter you can share… or not. If you need help, just call me. If you would like to inspire others write a Honor Your Angel Legacy Letter, send me your final draft and I can post it on this website under  sample letters.

Do it; do it!


 Describe this person’s personalities and characteristics.

 What are two or three favorite memories of this person?

 What are the things you most admire or appreciate about him/her?

 What do you consider were his/her most significant achievements and accomplishments? Why?

 What were his/her strengths and weaknesses?

 What were some of the difficulties or challenges he/she faced in his/her life? How did he/she handle these?

 Can you recall a choice or decision you made based on a value or principle taught to you by this person?

 What was this person passionate about and why?

 Can you tell me a story about a poignant  time, or high point in this person’s life?

 Can you share a funny story about this person?

 What trait(s) of this person do you most wish to emulate? Why? Can you share a story or two that helps illustrate these traits?

 What talent or skill did this person have that you would like to develop? Why?

 What life lesson(s) did this person impart to you that were most useful? In what way?

 Was there a crisis in your life that this person helped you overcome? How?

 What are some profound ways this person helped you or someone you love.

 Was there ever a time you needed a friend or advocate and this person came through for you? How?

 What did this person impart about what it takes to be successful and have a good life?

 What legacy do you think this person left?

 Did this person have any favorite sayings, songs, quotes or unique ways of expressing him or herself?

 In what positive ways did he/she touch your life, and perhaps of those you love?

 In what positive ways did he touch other peoples’ lives or the community?

 What are some meaningful lessons you and others have learned from him/her?

 What are some of the ways he/she gave help or services to others?

 What moment(s) spent with this person (is/are) the most memorable.

 What do you know of his/her childhood, teenage and young adult years? Do you recall anything unique or interesting about that time of his/her life?

 What kinds of fun did he/she enjoy doing? What kind of sense of humor did he/she have? Can you illustrate this in a real life story?

 How do you hope he/she will be remembered by future generations?

 How did this person contribute to your life, and helped you become the person you are today?

 Why do you look up to him/her, and what did he/she mean to you?

 What are your most memorable moments with him/her?

 Tell me about his/her qualities and quirks?

 In hindsight of passing years what has maturity revealed to you about this person’s real value?




  1. Thanks for the suggested questions to get me started. They are helpful in getting the writing process going!

  2. Leah, your daughter Hannah Rose, I’m sure, is proud of what you’re doing. I know other parents will be touched by your work.

  3. I am glad the blog can be a catalysist for you. Leah

  4. What a wonderful experience for me, with the help of Leah Dobkin’s aid, I am able to share my life experience and that of their heritage to my children,grandchildren & great grandchildren. Knowing who I came from, my background and knowledge of what I value. I feel that I’ve given them an understanding of what came before them and to let them know how much I love them.