Grief Into Public Good


Grieving family finds purpose but no comfort in the face of unthinkable grief over the abduction and killing of their young daughter and niece. The bodies of their 8 year old daughter and their 10 year old niece were discovered right before of the start of the holiday season, and since that time, the grieving parents spend any spare moments raising money and spreading awareness. Mom has been raising money and helping coordinate construction of a memorial park for the girls and three other slain women.  Grieving dad has been helping police crackdown on convicted sex offenders considered missing after they fail to register with authorities. While they had not been active in politics before, they didn’t let that stop them from joining other grieving parents to push hard for legislative changes that include stricter penalties for sex offenses and laws to make it easier for authorities to alert the public when children go missing. They use their pain and grief to empower their efforts in memory of their girls and in the hope that some of their work will help prevent others from having to go through their experience. “You have to try to do all that you can to make it better for the next person, as hard as it is to be doing.”


Husband’s death inspires her life’s work. Her husband, Sgt. Jamie Jarboe, was shot by a sniper two months after deploying to Afghanistan – and two months after Melissa and Jamie were married. The bullet penetrated his spine and left him paralyzed from the chest down. He died 11 months later at 27 years old, after more than 100 surgeries. Melissa turned her grief into a powerful force of good that is making a direct, positive impact on the lives of others. Using the money from her husband’s life insurance policy, Melissa started a nonprofit to fulfill the promise she made to him, “to take care of his fellow soldiers even though he is gone.” The Jamie Jarboe Foundation is a 100 percent, volunteer-led organization focused on raising awareness and providing a support network for active-duty soldiers, veterans and their families. Only 1 year since its inception, the foundation has provided assistance for more than 500 active, reserve, wounded and retired military members and their families on everything from access to financial advisers and mental health resources to social activities to help veterans transition back.


Grieving aunt, whose 13 years old nephew drowned, turns her grief into something positive by sponsoring a free program for children age 6 through 14 that will teach basic swimming and water survival skills. “I still break down,” the grieving aunt shared. “It’s hard when a child’s life ends. Rashad was a great kid.” She said she’s had to deal with a lot of heartache in the last few years.


First, her sister died of toxic shock syndrome, leaving her with seven of her eight children. Two years later, her mother passed away and, in March, her husband died. And then, she had to deal with the traumatic circumstances of Rashad’s death. “It’s still hard, you know? But I’ve got the other ones, so they keep me going. If we teach 144 boys and they teach someone else, then we’re making an impact.”


Grieving Mom, who lost son to asthma attack, turns her grief into campaign to educate and promote asthma awareness campaign. It was a normal day, she sent her son to school, and he never returned after suffering an asthma attack. She is behind a new campaign launched to ensure students and teachers can breathe freely and safely in schools. She wants the community and schools to be educated on what asthma is all about and how to tell symptoms, and what to do if an attack happens. She is hoping her efforts help to prevent other students and families from going through the pain she is facing. She wants people to know that it can be treated but you need to know how to identify it and treat it.


Grieving mom, Joyce Sportsman, has turned her grief into a work of beauty.  Her son, Jacob Sportsman, who was in the U.S. Navy, was killed on his 22nd birthday by a train while on leave from his ship in Virginia.  She is doing something to make him proud and to make her city of Las Vegas a better place to live.  “Jacob’s Living Park” will be the heartbeat of John Park Elementary School and it will feature a bird bath, vegetable garden, and even a labyrinth.  Jacob studied Buddhism and taught friends to be still.  Now generations of kids can learn from him in a peaceful garden grown with love.


Grieving his best friend, former gang member turned his grief into a motivation to intervene and “interrupt” the cycles of violence in LA street gangs.  They had both grown up in the same neighborhood; they were both high school athletes, and they both joined gangs that led them to prison.   After their time in prison, they dedicated themselves to forging peace in the same streets they had grown up in, and had fallen into a nightmare of crime.  They helped put together one of the biggest peace agreements that the inner city had seen by getting gangs from Downtown LA to Venice to come to the table for peace.


After unexpectedly losing her 2 ½ year old beautiful daughter, Ava, while she was undergoing a routine tonsillectomy, grieving mom Krista Bright began a foundation to honor her daughter by building a water park for the children in the community. A water park with Ava’s favorite colors and animals; a water park Ava would have been proud of.  Three years later, with Krista and her family’s determination and commitment, Ava’s Splash Pad became a reality.


“Tuesday’s Children” was founded by family and friends of 9/11 victims in the days following the September 11 attacks. The organization has made a long-term commitment to meet the needs of every individual affected by the events of September 11, 2001. It provides support at each and every stage of life through innovative, needs-based programs and mental health support. Its international initiative began in 2008 and is called “Project Common Bond” which unites young people from around the globe to share their common experience of losing a loved one in a terrorist act, to heal together, and to learn important leadership and peace-building skills. Tuesday’s Children’s strength is building community which has a profound and positive impact on healing.


As the body of her 19 year old son (the fifth drowning victim of the season) was being recovered, grieving mom turned her grief into action to help others. She used the media attention being given to her son’s death to loudly warn and appeal to youngsters and their families to be careful in the water and try to prevent more deaths.


Grieving mom, in the midst of her grief in dealing with the murder of her 24 years old son, channels her grief into a call to action to her community. She wants to bring her violence-plagued community together to say “enough is enough”. She wants to put a face on the violence and she is turning her family’s tragedy into a triumph that will bring the community together and put a stop to these senseless killings.


Newtowners are determined to transform their tragedy into a form of action. Doing nothing would mean those 26 victims — those “20 little angels,” as they say, and their six adult protectors — died in vain. “Our collective strength and resilience will serve as an example to the rest of the world,” the high school principal told students upon their return to school. It has become a mantra repeated by residents and posted on signs around town. More than 60 organizations have formed here since the tragedy, from grass-roots activist groups to charities helping victims’ families.


Mom, whose 3 year old son died from a brain tumor, turns grief into mission to help other families deal with a loss of a child, especially parents who needed support transitioning back to normalcy after a child dies from a long illness.  Only a week after her son’s death, she threw herself into organizing events that were not only fundraising and awareness opportunities but also fun for the families. On her experience in coping with grief, she says every day is going to have a little sadness, so “It’s important to find something that helps, to start your day in a positive way.”


Grieving wife, whose husband and brother’s fiancee were killed at in a crash at an intersection with a history of previous crashes, is on a nonstop mission to make sure it does not happen to other families. She does not want other people to die and families to suffer like she is suffering.  She has enlisted the support of the community, an NFL player and others in demanding that the Department of Transportation installs a stop light at the intersection where her family was killed.  Her efforts are already making the intersection safer for others as  the speed limit has been lowered; warning signs and markers have been added, and trees have been cut back to enable greater visibility.


Grieving mum, whose youngest son was killed in a footpath by a driver who lost control, urges drivers to change thinking.  Since the death of her son, she has been an advocate for greater road and driver safety.  The grieving mom and her husband were part of a team that brought a highly successful driver re-education program to their community. The program works with young recidivist driving offenders, greatly improving their safety on the road. It doesn’t achieve this by teaching hands-on driving skills. It increases their empathy for other people and shows them the consequences their actions could cause.  She reminds us that it is impossible to know the far-reaching implications that driving with more care and awareness has. How can you put a number on how many lives have been saved?         


Mom, whose 18 year old son was weeks away from graduating from high school died when his car flipped while driving 80 miles per hour on a hill, channels her grief into a crusade for safe driving decisions and speeding.  While still dealing with her very painful loss, she has been on a mission to lecture at area high schools and driving schools about safe driving. She has also created a nonprofit organization in her son’s memory dedicated to supporting local students and families in need. The nonprofit has made donations to families struggling with illness, death or those who have fallen on hard times. She singlehandedly led effort to place “No Need to Speed” in roadways throughout her community, and engaged the support of others to wear bracelets with the same message. Grieving mom’s yearbook message: “Although Matt did not make it to graduation, he wanted to make a difference. I am going to be sure his life does make a difference. I am happy knowing his life does make a difference every day in the lives of so many.”


Grieving mom, whose 3 year old lost his battle with cancer, never knew how many children are afflicted by cancer every year until she had to face the death of her son. After his passing, she knew she had to do something, she could not sit still in this unimaginable pain, so she pressed full speed ahead into a campaign to raise funds to establish a grief support program for families at the local medical center.


Couple overcomes grief over murder of their 18 year old daughter by counseling others. “As we read through our Bible verses, we realized that others before us had lost loved ones and were not exempted from the pain and suffering of grief.” The grieving couple turned their grief into an effort to help others grieving; an effort that included writing a book about their journey through the grief process, From Misery to Ministry.


Grieving grandmother, who lost her 26 year old grandson in Afghanistan to an improvised explosive device (IED) turns her grief into trees of life and remembrance for the community.  She wanted to honor her grandson by planting a tree, and when she went to request permission by the city to plant the single tree the City Commissioner of the Division of Parks, Recreation and Forestry, took the grieving grandmother’s request and expanded it to a grove of trees to honor all of the city’s residents killed while in the military. Thanks to the initial efforts of this grieving grandma, 50 cherry trees will be planted.