There are some tough days sometimes that you just have to live through. For my family, the hardest day of the year is the anniversary of my son Nick’s death. I am stunned every year by how hard it hits me. I used to try to tell myself that it would be okay, but there’s no way around it, it’s a hard day every year. A very, very, very hard day. Some years are worse than others, but there seems to be no way to escape it.

Other days that are filled with memories are easier, like his birthday. That at least is the anniversary of what was once a happy day, and you can’t help but smile at tender memories on those days, even if it’s bittersweet. But anniversaries of the day someone you loved died have no redeeming features. It’s the anniversary of a terrible, sad day.

So, we just made it through another one, supporting each other, and reaching out to each other. With all of us in different cities, we couldn’t be together, so we called and emailed throughout the day, which always helps. I had breakfast with one daughter in Paris, flew to New York and had dinner with another, and the next day flew to San Francisco to see several of my children, and three days later am heading to LA, to see another, making my rounds. As I do everyday, I wish we were together.

You do learn to live with the loss, but sometimes the pain of loss is more acute and impossible to ignore. The anniversary of my son Nick’s death is one of those days. I went out to the cemetery to visit him when I got back to San Francisco, and it always takes your breath away (or mine anyway), to find yourself there, face to face with the reality. It was a sunny day, and peaceful there. It was the day after the anniversary, and my youngest son had been out there the day before to visit him too. He had left him flowers, and I could see by mementos he had left, that another of my sons had been out there recently too.

Losing someone you love, particularly someone very young (Nick was 19 when he dies) is not an easy process. It is a journey, and sometimes a rocky path, but there are flowers along the way, tender memories and gently people who help you along. And in the end, despite the loss, I am grateful to have had Nick in my life at all. We will love him forever, and the anniversaries are just days we have to get through as best we can. I hope that if you have lost someone very young, or anyone you love, I hope the anniversaries go as gently as possible for you. With much love, Danielle

Leave a Comment

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

Name (required)

Email (required)


23 Comments so far
  1. Joann September 25, 2009 5:23 pm

    I loss my father when he was only 47 and I was 14 years old. It never gets any easier. This December 1 will be 40 years since he died and because it is so close to the holidays it seems to hurt the most. All those holidays we had to spend without him. Then there was my wedding, when he wasn’t there to give me away. I just wish he had met my husband, my children, (my son resembles my father a lot, I’ve always called him my gift from God), and now my grandchildren. Father’s day is another hard one for me. Just when I think I am over it, something like his birthday or Father’s day comes along and the pain is still there. It has never left me and I don’t think it ever will. My wish for you Danielle is that as the years go by that the pain will get easier for you and your family to bear. God Bless You. Much love, Joann~

  2. Susie Lang September 25, 2009 6:38 pm

    You and your family are in my prayers. I am glad that you were all able to be there for one another. I am going through some tough stuff, though nothing like what you have experienced, and it is nice to come on here sometimes and read your blog. It puts a smile on my face.

  3. Lorraine September 26, 2009 6:43 am

    Thank you for sharing this. I cannot imagine how awful it must be, and I pray to God I never will have to experience it. I am glad you have such a large family to remember and share the loss. People who really understand, as they are living it too. Love, Lorraine

  4. Amy Limpach September 27, 2009 7:45 am

    I know how hard is to loose someone you Love,
    My Grandmoter died a year ago at the age of 60 she had cancer. So I know how hard it is to loose someone you Love.

  5. Debra Shiveley Welch September 27, 2009 10:38 am

    I am so sorry that you have to go through this every year. I just lost my beloved father-in-law and I know that next year, July 27 is going to hit very hard.

    Your post reminds me of a line in “Little Women.” It’s Beth’s first illness, the fever hasn’t broken and Jo and Meg are with her. Jo says, “If life is this hard, how shall we ever get through it?” I wonder that sometimes myself after I experience loss after loss.

    But, it is a part of life, and I’d rather suffer the loss of a loved one than to never have known them. When I think of the ones I loved, I realize how much they have enriched my life, the lessons they have taught me, the love they have given me.

    Again, I am so sorry for your incredible loss.

  6. Carolyn Engstrom September 28, 2009 7:49 am

    My heart both swells and aches for you and for your family. I am a mother of six. My children, like yours, are growing older and branching out in their inevitable, undeniable ways. Our hands may not find them everyday, but our hearts hold them indefinitely (probably with something like wonderful elastic tethers so that they can just bob along like those oversized balloons that you can watch in a parade…free,yet still attached).
    The physical loss of one of them is unfathomable—-dealing with that everyday must be the single hardest thing for any mother to bear. Please be especially kind to yourself at those times that are the most difficult. You know best what you need. Carolyn Engstrom

  7. kimmi September 28, 2009 9:20 am

    Loss is such a difficult journey, one that continues on. I lost my sister, who was a young age on my Birthday.

  8. Jane Bose September 28, 2009 3:09 pm

    Hello Ms Steele,
    I have just finished reading your moving story of Nick’s life and your journey with him. My own sister suffers from a mental illness, and I am full of empathy for the struggle you both endured (and of course your family). May God Bless you and your family as you hold all the happy memories close to your hearts.
    Kind Regards,
    Jane Bose (Melbourne, Australia)

  9. Jane Bose September 28, 2009 3:12 pm

    Hello Ms Steele,
    I have just finished reading your moving story of Nick’s life and your journey with him. My own sister suffers from a mental illness, and I am full of empathy for the struggle you both endured (and of course your family). May God Bless you all as you hold the happy memories close to your hearts.
    Kind Regards,
    Jane Bose (Melbourne, Australia)

  10. Melissa Elkins September 29, 2009 3:28 pm

    I just wanted to let you know that I know the pain you are going through as we also have lost a son. He was only 8 weeks old and died of crib death but the pain is the same when as a mother you have to bury a child before you are ready to let them go. Right now I am reading your book “His Bright Light” as I am going through the trials of having a young son with early onset bipolar disorder. As I read the book I am finding so many similiarities with my son and yours. Thank you so much for having the courage to share your story as it is so hard to explain to others about the disease that threatens our childrens lives. I have found with Garrett, who is only 9, that at times it would almost be easier if he had a physical handicap or a disease such as diabetes or even cancer because since people can’t see his disease it is as if they misjudge him and me because of his behaviors. He was diagnosed bipolar at the age of 5 but I tried to run from that diagnosis and did not want to accept it since I had just buried his grandfather who was bipolar and had committed suicide while in a psychiatric facility and supposedly under 24 hour suicide watch. I have cried many tears for you while reading your book and my heart breaks as I know the feeling of people wanting you to send your child away. You are a strong woman and my prayers are with you nightly and please remember me in yours as I now travel the journey of acceptance as you have.

  11. Holly P September 30, 2009 2:12 pm

    Thank you for posting this. We have been dealing with this a lot recently. I had a miscarriage two years ago, and I feel this every year on the day we lost our son…and on the date he was supposed to have been born. Two different friends lost their baby boys late in pregnancy this weekend, so they had to give birth to their precious babes. They’ve asked us how we got through our miscarriage…and all you can say is one day at a time. It isn’t always easy, some days it is harder than others…but you get through them. You have to. It doesn’t mean you love them less if you have good days…in fact, that’s what they would want I’m sure.

    This is always a tough subject. I am so sorry that you had to experience the loss of a child. It’s a club to which no one wants to become a member.

  12. Valerie October 2, 2009 12:09 am

    I read your book about Nick when i was in junior high. And i am now 23 and i just re-read it, and finished it today..i was balling! I thank you so much for your voice for mental illness. My mother is manic depressive/ bipolar.. I grew up way too fast due to this desease, but i thank god my mother is still here. Like Nick, she tried several times to take her life, but once again, thank god she is here. I try to explain to people but you truely can not understand mental illness until you experience it in some way. I want all my friends to read this book now that we are older so i can share with them something that has effected my life greatly. I am getting my degree in social work and one day i hope to work somehow in suicide prevention and/or those who deal with this terrible illness. Thank you so much once again…

  13. Serena Campbell October 2, 2009 12:50 pm

    Miss him & you!

  14. Bev Walker October 7, 2009 6:58 pm

    I remember very clearly reading His bright light and crying for what you went through.Not long after that my son too tried twice to commit suicide because voices told him to do it.
    He was diagnosed with Pyschosis. Every day to pray that I dont get that phonecall. At least I still have him (now 23) but I always think of you on Nicks anniversary.

  15. Sally October 8, 2009 8:00 am

    Ms. Steele: I lost my l7 year old grandson in a motocross accident Sept 16, 2008; we just got through the first year of our loss and it was so very hard.

    Thank you for sharing your feeling about Nick. We feel the same. God bless you, and all your family.

  16. Mary Ann Garcia October 10, 2009 10:08 am

    I read your book about Nick last week and everyday after that I would wake up in the morning and still feel the shock and loss of Nick’s death. I swear my son Jonathan and Nick were brothers somewhere. My son Jonathan loved to write, loved his music, and played in a band and he too was the vocals and he gave the audiences a show they would never forget but Jonathan did end up pulling his jeans off and stay in his boxers singing and jumping around and of course the girls loved him. He too had the tattoo’s and all I swear they were the same person.
    My son Jonathan was diagnosed with depression and Bipolar II when he was 17, of course we had so much before that but no one really wanted to touch it the usual.
    Jonathan died on April 16, 2009 at the age of 24 he chose to stop his world and the world for us and others by finding the main highest bridge with the most cars in early rush hour traffic and jump.
    We are coming up on the 6 month anniversary and I just keep waiting to when will it get better or easier I miss him every single day I think of him always it is just so hard. I read your book and it helped me that it was not only me who went thru this.
    God Bless
    Mary Ann in TX

  17. zama October 18, 2009 7:50 am

    Im scared because my youngest brother died a year before this one and we are still to face the anniversary of his death, I really hope we survive it as a family. Thank you for taking a bit of the fear away

  18. Alexa October 28, 2009 4:45 am

    I read your book “His Bright Light” several years ago, and cried almost all the way through it. My son also suffers from mental illness, and although it’s a different form than Nick’s, I couldn’t believe how similar so many of our experiences were. Thank you for sharing your story and your son’s. My son is now almost 19 years old and I worry about his future all the time. Nick was a very brave young man and he is an inspiration to me to continue fighting for my own son, no matter what.

  19. Vickie Jussel November 3, 2009 3:40 pm

    Thinking of you and praying for you also.

    I wrote to you about 3 years ago about my son. He has been up &(mildly and down) since then. He now is on (which I think is on)a “high” again and it scares me. He is 31 and I have no control.(due to privacy acts) I am so scared. Let me re-phrase that, We are so scared.
    Darn kid, He is really a great person. And he knows what he is doing as far as his job) He has a great job,(which is something great in this economy) We keep encourage him, but… Just do not know what to do. Everyone around him Loves him so much. Guess hopeing for the best, and preparing for….(where ever God wants this to go.) Vickie

  20. Maria Llerena November 10, 2009 8:03 pm

    My heart is with you Sra Steel, May God bless you and keep you strong.
    Your Amiga, Mari

  21. Daniele Sant Campos November 25, 2009 5:05 pm

    olá Danielle gosto muito dos seus trabalhos.Gostariade demonstrar meus sentimentos e dizer que me realmente é muito dificíl em momentos como esse que parece que perdemos um pedaço nosso;concertezaDeus o levou para si e está cuidando de sua grande abraço

  22. simmi December 21, 2009 3:02 am

    read your blog and I also feel the same.
    My heart just cries for you. i can understand the loss you must have felt. the ery thought of it gives me shivers . I can imagine how diffucult could it be to handle such a agraet loss of your loving one.

    I always wanted to tell tou why I connect to your boks so easily, you have some kind of tragedy in all your books and later it moves on and become a happy ending.
    Whenever I read any ofyour books i start imagining the story and start living in the characters.pls keep writing

  23. Albert Ellis September 9, 2011 10:50 am

    Hi Danielle,
    I have just finished reading ‘His bright light’ and cried silently more than once.You sure are a strong person and probably the reason why Nick kept faith in life.You were there for him in all moments of his life.

    One of my best friends was diagnosed with OCD that is a mental disorder,maybe not life threatining but still dangerous.He was a very normal and great friend up untill 2 years ago when the disorder hit him hard.His actions are strange and those who don’t know say he is either insane or bad.He has just been expelled from work where he worked for the last 15 years,and only me and another friend stood firm by all this.Others just turned their heads.What could happen to him is a big question mark,as he seems to be drifting in a deep depression,and my best friend seems to be slowly fading away.