Losing Lulu: Coping with the Loss of a Child

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Living Without Regrets

Grief experts will tell you that there is no more searing loss than that of a young child. "It's the wrong chronology. It's not the way it should be," says Rabbi Earl A. Grollman, a grief counselor who has written numerous books on the topic. "It's the death of your future, the loss of innocence."

A family is an organic unit; when one part of it dies, the whole is threatened. As little as she was, Lulu filled a large space. What happens when an unthinkable tragedy strikes a family? How do the surviving members go on? What helps and what hurts in their journey back from the brink?

The Pynes' story began in Davenport, Iowa, in 1985. Every three weeks Warren Pyne would get his hair cut at the Phase III beauty salon. It was just a few blocks from the Palmer College of Chiropractic, where he was studying. The $8 cut suited his student budget, and the hairstylist suited his fancy.

He and Gretchan Russell dated for a year, and when it came time for Warren to graduate, they decided to come back East together. He had grown up in Brockton, a working-class town 25 miles south of Boston, and spent summers at his parents' cottage on Buzzards Bay, the gateway to Cape Cod.

The couple moved into that cottage while each established a practice: She opened her own beauty salon, he a chiropractic office. They married, in 1989, and the following year bought a raised ranch in Wareham that came with an additional lot that fronted the beach. They could see the water from their bay windows. For Gretchan, who never laid eyes on the ocean until she was 21, it was a piece of heaven. For Warren, it was a necessity.

In 1992, Gretchan gave birth to twin boys. With two businesses and two sons, the Pynes thought their family was complete. But on July 5, 1997, after 30 hours of labor, Olivia Lynn Pyne was born. The family nicknamed her Lulu because she shared a certain adorableness with Cindy-Lou Who, the blonde, doe-eyed girl in How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

The Pyne family was in perpetual motion, hiking, camping, boating, skiing. Every nice-weather weekend they would take their boat over to Cuttyhunk Island or Martha's Vineyard; in winter, it was skiing in Maine. When she was 3, Lulu broke her leg on the slopes. She wore her hot-pink cast like a badge of honor.

"We spent all of our time with our kids," says Warren. "And we still do. That's one regret we don't have."

Lulu loved to pick up starfish and crabs. She kissed frogs and chased dragonflies. "It was inconceivable to her that someone could be in a bad mood," says her mother. "She was happy all the time, and rightly so. We all adored her."

Continued on page 3:  The Morning After

 

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