A parentless child is an orphan. A spouse whose partner dies is a widow. But what, muses Jayson Greene, do you call a parent whose child has died? “It seems telling to me there is no word in our language for our situation,” he writes. “It is unspeakable, and by extension, we are not supposed to exist.”
Greene and his wife, Stacy, find themselves in this nameless state after their only child, Greta, dies at age 2. Greta was sitting on a bench with her grandmother when a brick fell from a nearby windowsill and struck her on the head.
The couple quickly turn to one another for comfort; while some families are torn apart by such a tragedy, the Greenes find hope in working through their grief together. But grief is a tremendous thing, and mourning Greta is a gargantuan task.
Jayson and Stacy open themselves to healing possibilities outside of their norm. They didn’t think of themselves as the sort of people who would turn to a medium in times of grief, but she becomes part of their journey when the couple travels to the Kripalu Institute for a seminar called “From Grieving to Believing.” A grief expert at this retreat tells them, “Grief is a reflection of a connection that has been lost. . . . It is a reflection of that love you had for that individual.”
The Greenes find comfort in these words, and in the family and friends who rally around them. Even as they move forward—sometimes literally, like when they sell their home—the Greenes carry Greta’s memory and their pain.
“The act of grieving our daughter continues on, and on, and on,” Greene writes. “We have held our firstborn child’s corpse in our arms, and now there is no limit to what we can endure.”
Once More We Saw Stars isn’t about the tragedy that befell a family—although Greene recounts with exquisite detail how he felt in the tragic days that ended his daughter’s life. The memoir is instead a story of a couple who faced one of the worst things imaginable and still continued to choose life.