Pre-Order So God Made a Mother


I love to write, but don’t write enough. I have a journal, but the past year or so have been difficult for me to even put into words. April 1, 2014 changed my life forever. I lost my only sibling Ryan. He not only passed away, he took his own life.

To this day, and probably in this life time my family and I will never know why.

Ryan was a kind soul; artsy, creative and sweet. He never wanted the corporate grind or the white picket fence. He traveled the world—played guitar—was in a band. He was super cool and I loved him. I, of course, still do and I miss him. He is my brother. He was quiet and reserved, kept his thoughts and feelings to himself.

Not like me. His heart was too tender for this world. I live in the corporate structure and get beat on from time to time, but get back up and start over again.

We grew up in small town America—with the white picket fence and a very loving home. Our parents took in a foster kid and a foreign exchange student. We had lots of love to go around. We had a good childhood. We have awesome parents.

I wear my heart on my sleeve. Ryan, however, didn’t want to be a burden. A burden…well, isn’t that what family and friends are for, to be a burden? We need to vent and to let go the stresses of this world, right?

Not Ryan. You see, Ryan was ill. He had a physical illness and also suffered from depression. He suffered silently with both as he did not communicate to us the extent of his illnesses. Sure, there were odd phone conversations and what now seem to be subtle hints, but looking back, we didn’t know. “Yes, I will go to the doctor,” he would say. He hid it all too well. That was Ryan’s way. He was also hundreds of miles away from us living in New Orleans. We couldn’t see his face or read his body language. To persuasively ask; “Okay, what’s up…why that sad face?” His family and friends are all sad about that because we would have been there for him. We would have dropped everything, flown to New Orleans, LA and took care of him. In a heart-beat, no questions asked.

But, he didn’t want to be a burden. Are you kidding me? When I am sick, I am at the doctor’s office. “Get me better. I don’t have time to be sick, I am busy.”  When I am down, I call my friends. “Meet me at Hamm’s (Cunningham’s), I had a crappy week, need to talk.” And, my friends are there. Blue Moons, talking, laughter, support of family…it goes a long, long way in this crazy world.

Not Ryan. He told a friend in New Orleans that he didn’t want to “burden” his family. This friend knew something was wrong, both physically and emotionally with Ryan. It haunts her to this day. It haunts me. Ryan, ultimately, made the decision to take his own life. Somehow-I have to make peace with that. Again, some days are easier to deal than others.

Suicide is a very tough topic to talk about. It has been a part of my life and will forever. Not only did I lose my own baby brother, my one and only sibling, but three classmates. What? How can this happen? In a town of 1700 people and a class size of 24 students, this just doesn’t happen!

 It happened to me and what do I do with this? Okay, seriously, what the heck do I do with this? I have a strong faith, but my faith was shaken, my world was upside down. Yes, I know this is not all about me, but God, you have slapped me across the face with this. Suicide. Why has this happened in my life? Impacting me to the point where I needed  to take this sadness, this grief to a level of action. Or, completely go off the deep end. Stay focused, healthy and be there for my parents. Three classmates and now my brother!!! (me, yelling at God). What do I do with my grief? Where are you God?

One night, two months after Ryan died I was watching NTV, a local TV station and Seth Denny had a series on suicide. I tuned in. At the time, I had met Dave Griek, the sports guy at NTV. We knew each other, not very well. I was cooking supper and Dave begins to tell his story about suicide in his life. What? Again, this young, clean cut, polished sports guy is talking about suicide on the news? Like an open book. And, there is another slap in the face.

The next day, I emailed him. Hey, remember me? Well, we have something in common. And guess what, it isn’t pretty.

We met and talked. We are both proactive, active in the community and communicators. We do sales, marketing, news for a living and we love sports. We have something else in common, suicide.

The stigma is there, of course. It is very difficult to talk about suicide, mental illness and depression. I couldn’t help but feel that God was calling me to do something. I didn’t quite know what but I had to do something to help, advocate, to make a difference.

For the next few months, Dave and I and others met, cried and organized some more. We reached out to the Lincoln LOSS Chapter to begin a LOSS Group in Central Nebraska. We are Local Outreach to Suicide Survivors.

Yes, outreach and first responders. We are, if you will, the real suicide squad. We pray and hope every day that our services are NOT needed. Believe me, I don’t wish this pain on anyone else. But it is real and it is out there. Suicide is a reality in our world. Even in our cozy little town in the middle of the country.

We are not ambulance chasers. No, we wait for families to contact us when they are ready to talk and when they are ready for support. They have and they will. We take this seriously. There are close to 20 of us on the LOSS Team of Central Nebraska, including survivors and licensed clinicians. We are equipped with the best licensed   clinicians in the state, the country. That is how we roll, the suicide squad.

We pray, support and respect each other and our families we visit. We are getting to know each other in our grief and our sorrow. I love them all, they are-becoming like family. We are not a support group but we support each other and all who call out to us. Survivors include those who have lost dads, moms, grandmas, uncles, husbands, grandpas…and brothers. We come in all shapes and sizes and all kinds of backgrounds and want to help. We are putting our grief into action. Not only do we support families and loved ones, but we host events to create awareness. A  golf tournament, a balloon launch and a walk. Anything to be proactive and to let others know they are not alone. Please, you are never alone, you are not a burden!

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our new book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available for pre-order now!

Pre-Order Now

Renae Zimmer

My name is Renae Riddle Zimmer. I was born in Iowa and raised in Nebraska. I am a Midwest girl. I married my high school sweetheart, Dave Zimmer and raised two awesome kids. Nolan, 21 and Kamryn, 17. As we approach our empty nest years—we reflect a lot on our life—our kids—and being a part of the “sandwich” generation as well. Taking care of teenagers and aging parents. All the joys and difficulties that are ahead. We are solid in our faith—solid in our family and we love each other, support each other. I work a corporate job and travel. My husband is an educator and coach. We love to cook, garden, landscape, watch sports and enjoy our kids activities. We follow up college-age son as he runs cross country and track for Northwest Missouri State in Maryville, Mo. And support our daughter as she is in the last year of high school . Where did the time go?

Losing My Narcissistic Mother Is Complicated

In: Grief, Loss
Depressed woman sitting on kitchen floor silhouette

It’s so utterly destructive. It’ll knock the wind—no the very oxygen—out of your sails. It’s nauseating. Conflicting. Terrifying. And so very, very confusing. I did not know what to do with the information. The way I received this information made it more painful and confusing. I was angry.  My mom and I have never had a good relationship. She had her demons to fight, but by the time I was born, she must’ve been done fighting them. She showed one picture to the outside world, a perfect and happy family. But behind closed doors, it was just like the negatives...

Keep Reading

I Am the Griever

In: Grief, Loss, Motherhood
Mother kissing child's forehead

As I write this, my mother-in-law is in the ICU. We don’t expect her to leave.  She’s too young. Sixty-four. We got the call on Saturday.  “Get here this week,” they said. So we did. With a newborn, a 3-year-old, a 5-year-old, and a soon-to-be 16-year-old. We managed ICU visits with my in-laws and juggled childcare so we could all take turns seeing the matriarch. For the last time? Maybe.  The logistics are all-consuming and don’t leave a lot of space for anything else. Also, I hate logistics. My son asks questions nobody knows how to answer: Will I die...

Keep Reading

To the Friend Who Just Lost a Parent: It’s Going to Hurt and You’re Going to Grow

In: Grief, Grown Children, Loss
Sad woman hands over face

Oh, the inevitable, as we age into our mid to late 30s and beyond. The natural series of life states that losing a parent will become more commonplace as we, ourselves, continue to age, and I am beginning to see it among my circle of friends. More and more parents passing, and oh, my heart. My whole heart aches and fills with pain for my friends, having experienced this myself three years ago.  It’s going to hurt. It’s going to hurt more than you could expect. The leader of your pack, the glue, the one you turn to when you...

Keep Reading

Your Brother Is With Jesus Now

In: Faith, Grief, Loss
Brother and sister in yellow outfits smiling on park bench

“Thao is with Jesus now,” we told her, barely choking out the whisper. Jesus. This invisible being we sing about. Jesus. The baby in the manger? Jesus. How can we explain Jesus and death and loss and grief to a 3-year-old? And now, how can we not? We live it, breathe it, and dwell in loss since the death of her brother, our son, Thao. Here we are living a life we never wanted or dreamed of. Here we are navigating loss and death in a way our Creator never intended. What words can I use to describe death to...

Keep Reading

Don’t Delete the Picture You Think You Look Bad In

In: Grief, Living, Loss
Woman holding phone with picture of her and daughter, color photo

Don’t delete the picture—the one you look bad in. I said it. You heard me. Don’t delete the picture, that picture—you know the one, the one with the double chin or the bad angle. The picture that is not so flattering. The picture that accentuates your forehead lines or the one taken next to your skinny best friend. We are all so hard on ourselves. Many of us are striving for a better complexion or a thinner physique. Sometimes scrutinizing ourselves and zooming in on a picture—seeing things the world does not see. Don’t delete the picture. RELATED: Take the...

Keep Reading

Things that Hurt and Things that Help after Someone You Love Has a Miscarriage

In: Grief, Loss, Motherhood
young woman with arms crossed across stomach

I am sadly no stranger to pregnancy loss. Out of seven pregnancies, I have been blessed with one beautiful boy on earth, one miracle currently growing inside of me, and five precious angels in Heaven. As a result, I have plenty of experience in dealing with the aftermath of miscarriage. During this period of intense grief and loss, I have had many well-meaning people tell me things they believed would make me feel better, but in reality, caused me pain. Additionally, I have had close friends pull away during this period of time, and later tell me it was because...

Keep Reading

Even When You Can’t Find Joy, Jesus Is There

In: Faith, Grief, Loss
Sad woman through pane of rain covered glass

The international church service was vibrant with voices lifted up in songs of praise. Many clapped their hands and some even danced before God. But I wanted to be invisible. Joy felt like a land depicted in a fairy tale. I had returned from the hospital the day before—a surgery to remove the baby who had died in my womb. Watching this church buzz with happiness unearthed my fragileness. I slouched in my chair and closed my eyes. Tears trickled down my freckled face. My mind knew God was in control, but my heart ached as yet another thing I...

Keep Reading

He Mends Our Broken Hearts

In: Faith, Grief, Loss
Praying hands of woman with bracelets

Rays of soft sunlight streamed through the curtain onto the hospital bed. I stepped to the edge of the bed, taking a moment to soak in his face before gently holding his hand. Eighty-nine years is a rich, full life, and each passing day revealed more convincingly it was time for him to go. Grief and relief shared the space in my heart as I carried the weight of understanding each visit held the opportunity to be my last.  When he felt my hand, his eyes opened, and he gifted me a smile. Pop Pop always had a smile for...

Keep Reading

This Is As Close to Heaven As I Can Get

In: Grief, Loss
Sunrise over the ocean, color photo

I have sat here a million times over my life—on good days, on bad days, with friends, with family. I have celebrated my highest points and cried here at my lowest. I am drawn here, pulled in a way. When I have not been here in some time, the sea calls my soul home. My soul is at peace here. It has always been. Maybe it is the tranquility of the waves, or the sun shining on my face. Maybe it is the solitude I find here. I love her (the sea) in all seasons, when she is calm, when...

Keep Reading

10 Things Bereaved Parents Want You to Know about Child Loss

In: Grief, Loss, Motherhood
Sad couple hug in hallway

My first baby died. After a perfect full-term pregnancy, she was stillborn. That was 10 years ago. Ten years I’ve spent wondering who she would have been. Ten years I’ve spent missing someone I hoped to know but never got the chance to. In those ten years, I’ve learned so much about grief, love, and life.  Grief is love. When they laid my stillborn daughter’s cold and lifeless body in my arms, my world was broken into before this nightmare began and after, where I was forever cursed to live with it. I thought I would never be the same...

Keep Reading