1/12/15, Deepest Sympathy

Hi Everyone,

It has taken me several days to catch my breath enough to write to you about the violence and tragedy in Paris last week. Everything one can say sounds trite, the words are not enough. The very idea of violence against our fellow man shocking, the results whatever the reason shocking, and in the end, despite politics and religion, it is about lives lost. Not just lives you see on TV in alarming videos, or read about in the newspaper, when violence occurs and people die, but someone’s father, mother, husband, child, someone we love or respect or care about is gone forever, and the lives they touched are forever changed.

For years we have read about civil wars, nowadays we read about terrorism, and not only committed by foreigners, but in our own country, by our own people as well. It is inexplicable and terrifying, heartbreaking, and part of our daily lives now. Whether 9/11 or the Boston Marathon, or the tragedy in Paris, or a lone gunman on a college campus, the children murdered at the school in Connecticut a year or two ago, or a number of years ago the children shot and killed in an Amish school, or in Colorado, and in the bombing in Oklahoma 20 years ago. Whatever the reason, or whoever the perpetrators, in the end, it is about the people who were lost, and the families who must live on without them. And our hearts ache immeasurably for those who died, for those who love them, and even for ourselves. We each lose a part of ourselves as well when tragedies occur, we lose our faith, our peace, our trust, our confidence that we are safe, and things will turn out well, and even that our children are safe.

Throughout the centuries, and all through time, religious causes have driven people to kill each other. It is an age old story, but one we are never inured to. It is always shocking, but it is not new. Today we see it more vividly on TV, cell phone videos, and computer screens. But the story is the same, the loss as agonizing. And each time something like this happens, no matter who does it, we are stunned into silence, we are grief stricken, and our hearts ache.

I am so deeply sorry for the families and loved ones of those who died in Paris last week. Whatever the political opinions or religions of the people involved, in the end it is about each person who was lost. We question what could or should have been done differently, why it happened, and in some cases why we didn’t suspect it could or would. It is always difficult to understand the reasons for man’s cruelty to each other at times, and the justifications. It is difficult to understand why it happens or that it does at all. How does a crazed student or young person slip through the cracks, climb over the barriers in their own head, and kill innocent children? Or in another case, kill the parents of innocent children.

We are all traumatized by this. I hear grief in the voice of everyone I speak to in my second home in France. People are subdued and shocked and sad. We all suffer a loss through something like this, and it breeds fear, anger, and cynicism.

We don’t know why it happens, why a breaking point is reached. We pray it won’t happen again. I fear there will always be tragedies of this kind; it is the nature of the human race. And for those of us in the outer circles of public events like this, we are helpless to change it, or make it better, or prevent it from happening again. I am reminded of something Mother Teresa said “We cannot do big things, only small things with an immense amount of love”. Let us do the small things, let us live our lives in love, let us make our small circle of life and the world better because we’re in it. And let us hope that those who perpetrate tragedies will find mercy in their hearts in future. Let the families and loved ones heal, and may those who have died in violence find peace.

When my son Nick died, a suicide at 19, I caught a very bad cold that turned into pneumonia shortly after. I went to my doctor, a kind man, who gave me a ‘dreidel’, the little top that is a tradition at Chanukah in the Jewish faith. It has Hebrew letters on it which say “A great miracle happened here”. When he gave it to me, I thought he was crazy. How could a miracle possibly have happened when my son was dead? But in time, it proved to be true, we started two foundations in his name to help the mentally ill and the homeless and we have helped thousands of people since his death. I wrote a book about him, his life and his illness, which over a million people have read, and it helped many of them. I have spoken out about mental illness, which has helped dispel some of the stigma and mystery around mental illness. One boy, my son, started all of that and caused it to happen, which is a miracle in a way. So many, many lives were touched because of his death. And when there is a tragedy, there is a miracle in it too. It can spawn empathy, understanding, compassion, forgiveness, change, it can be a bridge between grieving people, bring people closer together, and change lives. My prayer is that somewhere in the ashes of this tragedy, there will be a miracle for those who have survived and for the rest of us. May a miracle we cannot even guess at now eventually emerge? And to those who have lost loved ones, my deepest sympathy. And may we all do small things to help and comfort each other, with an immense amount of love.

With all my love to you, Danielle

Leave a Comment

If you would like to make a comment, please fill out the form below.

Name (required)

Email (required)


8 Comments so far
  1. linda January 13, 2015 8:21 am

    my thoughts were immediately with and of you, your safety and well-being. you cannot know how much your non-fiction works have changed my life.

    love from a a lifelong friend and fellow writer,

  2. Christo January 13, 2015 3:39 pm

    Hi Danielle! The world is messed up. Fortunately there are people like you who makes a difference with your books. Kind regards.

  3. joan mueller January 15, 2015 8:41 am

    Dear Danielle, I am amazed at your kindness and how you connect through words. I forgot that Paris is one of your homes, but even beyond that, your care is evident for all who suffer from loss of loved ones.
    I am here in Austin, Texas and remember my time in your San Francisco gallery with great pleasure. I still have the brown teddy bear on my bed each day.

  4. Carol January 19, 2015 4:24 pm

    Hi Danielle…
    so glad you are safe…I thought so much about you, In Paris…
    Carol in So. Calif.

  5. Rob Scott January 23, 2015 4:37 pm


    Thank you for this.

    It felt comforting and healing. You left us with HOPE like your books do.

    You will always be connected to Nick through Love.

    Truth, Wisdom, Love and Sincerity, to ALL Mankind.

    Rob Scott
    Chicago, IL

    p.s. Looking forward to your upcoming book “Prodigal Son” in February.

  6. Marcie joseph January 27, 2015 6:21 pm

    I literally just finished “His Bright Light” and absolutely fell in love with Nick. Being a mom of five, I loved the way you described the special love you have for each of your children. The uniqueness of each one is such a gift to watch unfold. It’s hard to understand how a mother could love each child with her whole heart and soul, and yet differently. To have a child like Nick is beyond both the greatest joy and also the greatest fear. It’s as though they truly have the mind of a genius, a heart of gold, a wise old soul, and yet an innocence of a newborn babe. Sometimes, I truly believe they are just too good and special for the evils of this world.
    My older brother is bi-polar and it took many many years to diagnose. He is fairly balanced presently, however, he seems to be a shell of the person we used to know. I lost the essence of my brother’s
    spirit, many many years ago. You are an amazing mother and I appreciated your honesty and difficulties with finding the proper help with this horrific disease. My heart goes out to you and your precious family. I know that I will hold Nicks beautiful face and spirit in my heart for a very long time.
    Sincerely, Marcie Joseph

  7. Carla J Bledsoe February 24, 2015 1:01 pm

    I would like you to know that you are my favorite author since you have been writing books. I have seen all your movies and.would love to see more of them on TV. I am reading Thurston House for the 3rd or 4th time today. This is definitely one book I would love to see made into a movie. It has always been one of my favorites. I wish I could get a lot of my favorite older books on CD at my library, but I can not. Thank you for your books they have kept me company over the years over and over again.
    I just wanted you to know how much your books have meant to me. Please think about having Thurston House made into a movie or at least make some more movies from other books, so we can enjoy your books on TV. I know I have gone on and on but I have never writen to an author before.

    Carla J. Bledsoe
    Monroe,Ohio. 45050

  8. Sue Crichton May 7, 2015 9:58 am

    Hi Danielle,
    I have so enjoyed reading your books and have done so for several years now.
    The very first book I read was called The Promise and from then on I was hooked.
    You have a beautiful gift and I hope you can keep doing it for many years to come.