Transforming Sorrow to Joy: A Mother’s Story
As Mother’s Day approaches, my stomach begins to ache. It’s a familiar, if old pain, tucked away in my soul, born of the loss of my son, Dan, killed at the age of 22 while working as Reuters photojournalist in Somalia more than 17 years ago. It seems a long time for that hurt to linger, but people say that you never get over the loss of a child, although if you are lucky, you may get through it.
For me, the only way out of the agony was to try to transform it into something positive, and in the early days it helped me to believe that Dan’s spirit was perched on my shoulder, urging me to crusade for awareness of the risks to journalists, which have only increased since his death in l993. More than 800 have died to tell a story. My heart goes out to their parents and the families of 9/11 victims, soldiers who have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan–and all those who are not going to receive a Mother’s day call, or a special visit from a son or daughter this Sunday.
On my journey to healing, I found inspiration from one group in particular–other mothers. I heard about extraordinary women who have taken something that has happened to their child, or to other children, and have created projects, even organizations, to try to right the wrongs. MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, founded by Candy Laughtner after her daughter, Cari, was killed by a repeat drunk driving offender, has saved more than 300,000 lives. Following the death of her son, Peter, killed in the World Trade Center on 9/11, Elizabeth Alderman and her husband launched a foundation to heal the emotional wounds of victims of terrorism and mass violence which has impacted more than 100,000 people.
In 1998, my daughter Amy and I launched Creative Visions Foundation to celebrate “creative activists” like Dan who use media and the arts to create positive change. I think he would be proud to know that CVF has incubated more than 80 projects and productions on five continents, touching more than ten million people. Our new Dan Eldon Center for Creative Activism is a daily source of delight, brimming with people of all ages eager to transform their bold ideas into positive action.
Dan has brought us other gifts too, including a friendship with Julia Roberts who we’ve discovered is an amazing mother. Every time she comes over she is bearing her still warm home cooked healthy goodies she has pulled from the oven. A few years ago, Julia, Amy and I decided to tell stories of incredible moms who had changed the world around them.
This Saturday, May 7th, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Rosie O’Donnell, Christiane Amanpour and three not-so-famous but just as amazing mothers will be featured in “Extraordinary Moms” produced by Creative Visions and Red Om Films. (8/7c on OWN, Oprah Winfrey Network.)
We hope this special and our new XO Moms campaign will inspire mothers across America to tackle challenges they face in their neighborhoods, schools and communities. Never underestimate the power of moms, for together we can change the world–one block at a time.
On Mothers’ Day, when I hold Amy’s baby son, Daniel, named after his uncle Dan, on my lap, I have a feeling that Dan’s spirit will be perched on my shoulder once again–noisily urging me to get off my backside and do more, give more, care more, and most of all, to love more.
I can still feel the ache. But now I can say to all those grieving the loss of a loved one, know that healing is possible. With the passing of time and a renewed sense of purpose, joy can bubble forth again, filling even the deepest well of sorrow as we transform ourselves–and inevitably, the world around us.
p.s. Please share this video below and tell us about an extraordinary mother or mother figure who inspires you. Let them inspire us! Visit our XO Moms campaign page. For every 20 views, a mosquito net will be donated to a mother in need to prevent malaria.