Karen has struggled with several deep losses in her life. Her parents both passed away from battles with cancer at the ages of 51 and 73. Her husband took his own life at the age of 50. The experiences of losing both parents and a husband forced her to face the challenges and questions that grief sets into motion.
Her parents experienced the extremely difficult struggles that one generally encounters fighting cancer. Chemotherapy and radiation side effects, never ending doctors appointments, various operations, etc. filled their lives for many years. She saw both parents meet their roller coaster challenges with amazing grace, confidence and peace. The lessons she learned from burying both parents by the time she was 45 years old partially helped her navigate the turbulent waters of a suicide.
The Buchanan family’s lives took a traumatic and life altering direction one beautiful spring day on May 22, 2011 at 3:20 in the afternoon. Her husband and the father of her two children, took his own life in their home as she was simply making a late lunch. Their children, ages 21 and 22, were many miles away on vacation. The intense shock and crippling despair set in immediately along with this question, “What does she do next?” The emergency response teams filled her home and asked her the question, “What do you need?” She had no idea what to do next nor what she needed. It was at that moment the seed was planted. She thought to herself, “There has to be a way to find what steps to take next or people to contact that can help guide her and others going through a crisis.”
As she moved through the years facing her own grief, several people came along side of her embracing the vision to help others dealing with unexpected loss. Her heartache has turned into a deeply felt passion to help others find hope in healing from their own grief circumstances toward living a life filled with joy again.
Lisa Schardein is no stranger to grief. In 2006, her brother Philip, at the young age of 42 suffered a major heart attack and died leaving behind an 18 year old son, Adam, who was just graduating from high school. Her father passed away in 2013 at the age of 82 from cancer. And the most devastating loss of life imaginable came when her 19 year old son, Ben, was killed by a drunk driver in June of 2011.
Ben was her only child and they shared a closeness that was often defined as “the best of friends.”
A few years after her brother Philip passed, her nephew Adam needed a change of venue. Adam approached Lisa and her husband, Rick, and asked if he could come and live with them in Kentucky. Adam was suffering from anxiety and anger as a result of unresolved grief. Lisa researched the topic and realized there was a group meeting at her church so she and Adam started attending the group.
Within about 6 weeks, she saw a marked improvement in Adam’s confidence and demeanor. When Ben passed away a few years later, Adam was still living at their home in Kentucky.
The doorbell rang at 4:40am and the coroner stood there asking if Ben Koier lived here. The news that followed sent both Lisa and Rick into shock and disbelief. Lisa begged him to tell her this wasn’t true.
The hours that followed were more pain that anyone should have to endure. Phone calls to family members and Ben’s father were so very difficult. News report details came out on television and seeing the actual accident images made it all too real.
A member of clergy from Lisa’s church came to visit that morning. His advice was, “Lean into Jesus and let Him hold you through this.”
After the funeral, Lisa knew she needed help with the deep grief and sorrow she was dealing with and so did many of Ben’s friends. They started attending the same grief support group at her church and realized the shock, anger, sadness, depression and roller coaster of emotions were all part of the journey. And that they were not alone.
Today, Lisa has found joy again and while life will never be the same without her precious Ben, she has found a way to honor him and continue to keep his memory alive. She now facilitates grief support groups and offers one-to-one mentoring. Lisa has 5 step-grandchildren that help inspire her new passion for life in addition to a very supportive husband. And she’s made many special friendships through helping others with grief.
“God has not wasted one second of of this pain and brought some beautiful people into my life.”
Diana Cahill has been married for over 20 years to her husband, Bill. They have a blended family with 2 adult sons and 2 teenage daughters. During the course of their marriage, they have suffered the sudden loss of 2 children – their infant daughter and 20 year old son. After a healthy pregnancy with twins, Diana will always remember the moment she was told one of the twins was stillborn. The days to follow were confusing and bittersweet as she had one healthy baby, but was making funeral arrangements for the other.
Ten years later, the Cahill’s lost their 20 year old son in a car accident sending their lives into turmoil once again. There are no words to express the amount of torment they felt as they walked through the funeral process once again. Both experiences were sudden, unexpected and turned their world upside-down. The grief they have endured is every parent’s worst nightmare, yet they have found hope in the midst of the pain. Diana has a passion for walking in the raw moments of grief with others and offering hope during those agonizing days.
My father was an Army Chaplain, so our family moved quite often. Although we visited incredible places and met some wonderful people, I felt the pain of continually leaving home, losing friends and missing valuable time with extended family members.
I married Tom Leedom a few days after my High School graduation from Black Forest Academy, in the beautiful little village of Kandern, Germany. He was funny, kind, gentle, well-loved by all who knew him, and one of the most handsome men I had ever seen in person. I felt like Cinderella marrying her Prince.
Life seemed like it would be a wonderful fulfillment of wishes I had never dared to dream.
Instead, it became a series of nightmares that haunt me to this day.
Within a year our first child, Joshua Thomas, was born. Soon after, my 23 year old husband was diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer. We endured weeks of radiation and chemotherapy. For months Tom couldn’t drive our car or even walk in a straight line. It was heartbreaking. I remember one afternoon watching him carry our trash to the curb. I don’t know how many times he staggered and fell, so determined to do a man’s work.
After three years of tedious rehabilitation, Tom’s doctors became optimistic about his prognosis and suggested we grow our family. We added another son, Christopher Joe. A month later another brain tumor was found.
Tom died the following year; he was 28 years old. I was a 23 year old widow with two young sons, ages five and one.
A year and 3 months later I married Ross Brodfuehrer, a tall and handsome man with a gentle spirit, brilliant mind, quick wit and a love for me and my boys. He adopted Joshua and Christopher and we became a family. We added another son, Benjamin David and daughter, Elizabeth Anne.
Cinderella had found another Prince and was off again to the ball. Or so I thought.
A few years later my brother’s infant son, Dan Campbell McCall (III), became ill following a routine surgery. We watched in horror as his tiny body shut down and died.
Then, when my Christopher was 17, he was killed in a car wreck. My world shattered and the music of my heart stopped.
Five years later my dad, my hero, was killed when his tractor rolled over on him. It might as well have crushed me, too.
Although it’s been a few years since these people have been in my arms, at times it feels as though they just left.
Thirty three anniversaries without Tom. Twenty birthdays without Campbell. Fifteen birthdays and Christmas mornings without Christopher. And eleven Father’s Days and without my dad.
Yet, here I am living (well most of the time) and breathing. I hate to admit it, but there are days when I do well just to exist. Still, I put one foot in front of the other and try to do the next thing.
I have a wonderful family to do life with. The God who created them loves me and treats me like a beloved daughter. He is helping me collect the shattered pieces, carefully, as though each one fell from a delicate chandelier.
My experiences with grief, loss, and recovery motivate me to help others recover from the effects of their own heartaches. I hope there is some way I can help you.