Summer…It’s Complicated

Summer is one of our most favorite seasons.  School is out and staying up late and sleeping in are, well, in.  We throw our limited sugar rule out the window and eat all the popsicles and treats.  We watch movies and swim our hearts out and craft and things feel easier…then Everett died and our summer season instantly became complicated.  It went from carefree to full of hard, heavy emotions.  It’s no longer light and airy.  Summer is different now because we’re all different now.

I share a lot about how grief affects me.  I share about things that are hard and crappy and things I have learned.  I share because someone might never suspect that a season would morph forever due to loss and grief.  I share because it’s rare anyone asks how I’m doing in my grief these days and this is my space where I can write and share anything I’d like.  It feels good to write…like free therapy.  And I share because I want us to be better people to those around us grieving and suffering.  And while I know my experience is not universal and everyone handles grief differently, I do want to be apart of what helps…not what adds more hurt.  It seems unless you have actually walked in grief…in suffering…you might benefit from insight into someone’s personal experience.

This season of sunshine and loss reminders brings out a lot from our family as an entirety.  One thing I tread lightly on sharing is how our children are grieving.  I don’t go into crazy specifics because it’s a piece of their life story now and I want them to tell things when they are ready to tell.  When I hear or see someone dismiss the trauma they have all walked through it makes my blood boil.  Someone recently questioned me about one of our kids with a, “What trauma?” comment and I could have lost my mind.  In our experience, almost 2 years later, we are still unearthing trauma and grief just around Everett’s death alone…new things they had never shared until now and it’s honestly just hard and sad.  We have such an open door to their pain and sadness, but that doesn’t mean they were or are all ready to share right away.

Each child is so different and so we have to watch and try and read their emotions and feelings.  We have to recognize how hard the summer season is on their hearts and memories.  We have to have open hearts and open hands and open minds knowing they are all still walking through this loss of their little brother and processing what all that means to them as an individual.  They each had such a unique relationship with Everett so of course their grief is so unique to them as well.  I will never forget sitting in our parental grief group and listening to siblings speak about their own feelings of loss, feelings of being pushed aside and feeling like their sadness was second to their parents.  The parents’ loss is highlighted and tends to come on the forefront, but these brothers and sisters have lost something just as great too.  Remembering them in this is crucial.

So how do you love the season your son and brother died in?!?!  I have no idea.  I have zero good answers.  This season will always be multi-layered for us…the high of highs and the low of lows…the moments of precious life with Everett and the moments surrounding his death.  I still feel like we’re treading water trying to figure out life without him, but man are we giving this summer thing a go.  We want it to be full and fun. We want it to be deeply good.  We want our sadness and joy to mix up and maybe create some kind of laboratory summer koolaid.

We’re determined not to waste one hot humid moment of this summer.  We’re determined to enjoy one another.  We’re determined to soak our bravehearted lion boy up.  This moment is what we have and this moment we do not want to waste.  So here’s to remembering and crying when we want to and all the triggers that send us into a tailspin.  And here’s also to faded bathing suits and tearing through sunscreen and far to many summer treats.


  1. Mama, you are doing a good work. My mom was 3 when her older sister died, and everyone brushed it aside, saying it didn’t matter because she was so little. But you are right, it absolutely is trauma, and my mom’s life was colored in a different hue after sister’s death and no one acknowledged it or helped her process. Thank you for giving grief and trauma their proper weight; it is only in dragging mess to the light that we can heal. Praying you all find grace and a bit of lightness to your souls this summer. Much love!

  2. Bethany bergman says:

    Two summers ago we were leaving Florida and going to California. It’s was while we were in California that E passed. I remember bawling my eyes out in our little hotel room, my husband and boys watched and also felt sadness. I was keeping them in the loop, as our socks had helped bring him home and his story was a part of ours.

    We are currently leaving Florida and will be heading back to California in two sleeps. I remember it like it was yesterday as we’re kind of reliving what we were doing at this time two years ago. I’ll be thinking of you and the rest of the Kelley’s.

    I appreciate all of your openness and honesty, you’ve inspired me to dig into grief by at least asking questions of those who are going to through it.

  3. ” It seems unless you have actually walked in grief…in suffering…you might benefit from insight into someone’s personal experience.”

    You ARE teaching, Laura….and challenging me at the same time. I thank you for helping me learn.

  4. Raye marie says:

    I have experienced the loss of a child. I have walked in grief and almost drowned in sorrow. I truly and deeply benefit from your insight and honesty. I marvel at your grace and heartfelt words. I am inspired and healed in your willingness and bravery in being open and talking about how consuming and raw grief is. All too often people don’t want to talk about grief and loss. It can become very lonely and isolating. Thank you for sharing what’s in your heart so beautifully.

  5. I lost my Mom last November. My childhood was long ago, but I find the hardest folks I have processing grief with is my siblings. I think I worry that if I show grief they consider out of their bounds, then I’m trying to say she meant more to me than she did to them. Maybe they are doing the same thing. I guess, all that to say it is hard to show your grief to anyone who just doesn’t know what you are talking about. You have your heart and hands very full with all the many ways grief might come, go, linger, stab, submerge, raise up in so many big and little lives. Peace like a river wash over you and yours.

  6. Brigette says:

    You all lost a piece of your hearts when Everett died. I guess people expect that the heart break automatically heals or they just are too comfortable not knowing what to say, don’t want to make you feel extra sad, or something. I think it is good that you are letting the kids share with whom and when they tell someone. Everett was too special for them to share it with someone who doesn’t deserve to hear their story. We have an intern at work this year and it seemed somewhat unfair to him as we all know his sister died in an accident right after Christmas (his dad works with us). That’s something he should get to chose to share not come into a group of 50 people who all know she died especially when it’s so recent.

Leave A Comment