Who we are

Greg and Cathy Buffkin

Greg and Cathy Buffkin

Warren and Kristie Merck

Warren and Kristie Merck

Kevin and Donna Jordan

Kevin and Donna Jordan

Three couples who have experienced the devastating loss of our precious children, Ryan Buffkin, Chandler Merck, and Paul Jordan. We share a passion to bring awareness and understanding to this life altering loss with the hope it will better enable you to reach out and be a lifeline.

Three unique stories, one unique hope.

Ryan Buffkin

Ryan Buffkin

Chandler Merck

Chandler Merck

Paul Jordan

Paul Jordan

The death of a child is considered the single worst stressor a person can go through.

Deborah Carr

Sociology Dept. chair at Boston University


Hands in Prayer

What we do

Our purpose and passion is to bring awareness to our communities, churches, and workplaces of the devastating impact the death of a child has on the survivors. It is our desire to help prepare and equip others for compassionate and effective ministry to these survivors.

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.

Romans 12:15

If you have personally experienced such an unspeakable loss, we would be honored for you to contact us with your story. Anyone on our team would be glad to talk with you about your child and your journey. We understand because we have been where you are. While no one on our team is a trained counselor, and as such is not equipped for that level of intervention, we do care and will do everything possible to connect you with helpful resources such as professional counselors, local grief share groups/chapters, books, and web links.

View Resources

… grief, I’ve learned, is really love. It’s all the love you want to give but cannot give. The more you loved someone, the more you grieve. All of that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes and in that part of your chest that gets empty and hollow feeling. The happiness of love turns to sadness when unspent. Grief is just love with no place to go.

JWA (Unknown Author)

Your Role

Take Action

What you can do

Be willing to risk something rather than doing nothing. It’s not that difficult, and it’s not about perfection, but rather a willingness to step out and toss someone a lifeline who may be drowning in grief.

You can invite us to speak with a group or organization you may be a part of. Please contact us to schedule a time and location. Depending upon your needs, we are available as a team, as couples, or individuals.

Research suggests that psychological damage done by a child’s death often does not heal over time. One U.S. based study from 2008 found that even after 18 years after losing a child, bereaved parents reported “ more depressive symptoms, poorer well-being, more health problems and were more likely to have experienced a depressive episode and marital disruption” While some parents did improve, “recovery from grief …… was unrelated to the amount of time after death.”*

Read To Friends, Families, and Employers by Greg and Cathy Buffkin

* What the loss of a child does to parents, psychologically and biologically
www.fatherly.com Sept. 10, 2021

If you have personally experienced such an unspeakable loss, we would be honored for you to contact us with your story. Anyone on our team would be glad to talk with you about your child and your journey. We understand because we have been where you are. While no one on our team is a trained counselor, and as such is not equipped for that level of intervention, we do care and will do everything possible to connect you with helpful resources such as professional counselors, local grief share groups/chapters, books, and web links.

Read To Survivors by Greg and Cathy Buffkin

… grief, I’ve learned, is really love. It’s all the love you want to give but cannot give. The more you loved someone, the more you grieve. All of that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes and in that part of your chest that gets empty and hollow feeling. The happiness of love turns to sadness when unspent. Grief is just love with no place to go.

JWA (Unknown Author)


Online Reading




Davey Blackburn ministries


National organization with local chapters - meets at HopeHealth 360 N. Irby St. Florence


Living with and Healing from the Loss of a Loved One to Overdose

Our Podcast

Please visit our Buzzsprout Podcast at hopeafterchildloss.buzzsprout.com.

To Family, Friends, and Employers by Greg and Cathy Buffkin


You have suddenly found yourself in a place where you probably never thought you would be; someone you love, care about very deeply, or work with has just had their life shattered and turned upside down by the loss of their child.

Unless you’ve been there yourself you may be at a total loss for how to respond. Prior to Oct. 25, 2015 we were one of you. But on that day our world changed forever when we awoke to learn that our precious, beautiful boy had taken his own life at only 26 years of age.

Prior to this day we had known people who lost a child, and we had even lost a daughter (Chelsea) at 3 months in the womb, and another through miscarriage, but NOTHING could have have prepared us for this. We never thought something like this would happen to us, only other people. Only now could we begin to comprehend what those others had gone through. Because we’ve lived it for the past six years, we’ve experienced quite an array of responses to our grieving by others.

We would like to offer the following suggestions for you to consider in your interactions with those you know who are grieving. Remember grieving is a very personal journey, so please be very sensitive in your interactions.

  • Be patient. Their world has just been turned upside down and they will never be quite the same people again. Forcing themselves to get out of bed may be their only accomplishment some days. Initially they’re in a state of shock and just going through the motions of living. Understand that their emotions are like a roller coaster. They dread facing decisions about anything. They may offer a forced smile, but feel crushed, paralyzed, or like they’re drowning inside.
  • Think before you speak because words matter. Please avoid offering well intentioned platitudes because, frankly, they don’t help. Here are just a few comments to avoid:
    1. At least you have other children.
    2. Well they’re in a better place now.
    3. At least they didn’t suffer.
    4. Don’t you think it’s time to move on?
    5. You’ve just got to get over it.
    6. At least you have each other.
    7. I understand, I lost my grandparent, aunt, uncle, etc.
  • Please don’t tell them what you think they need to do in order to heal. You may mean well and your advice seem good and logical from your perspective, but if you haven’t experienced the loss of a child personally, you have no concept of what brings healing. Your advice might actually yield unnecessary pain and distress to someone who’s already deeply wounded. Healing takes time, and no well intentioned advice can short circuit that process.
  • Take the initiative. Caring, well meaning people often say, “Call me if you want to talk” or “Call us if you need anything”. Please don’t expect your phone to ring or to receive a text. You can’t imagine the effort required some days just to breathe and move, let alone take the initiative to call or text; it’s just too hard! Don’t try to understand it or apply logic to it, just accept that it’s real and that you will need to reach out. Tell them you want to bring a meal or invite them out for coffee or a meal; if they’re not up to it, don’t be surprised or offended, but don’t stop offering. Keep it simple early on; dropping off some donuts and coffee is far more appreciated than you can imagine! It might be awkward trying to figure out how to reach out, but please don’t let that be an excuse to do or say nothing because you cannot imagine how deeply that hurts.
  • Men, if you’re reading this, there’s a good chance a male friend, family member, or colleague who’s also a dad may have just lost his child, it’s not just his wife. That this even needs to be addressed here reveals somewhat of a disconnect in our culture, and yes, even in the church. While men and women often grieve differently, there are also many similarities, and make no mistake, men absolutely do grieve! Because men are taught, beginning at very young ages, to be tough, and also due to basic genetics, we can struggle at expressing our emotions and sharing our struggles with others, including our wives. Let me assure you that your friend is struggling with a pain and loss like he’s never experienced. Please take the initiative to reach out to him because he, with few exceptions, WILL NOT reach out to you! He can’t because he doesn’t really know how, it’s too difficult, too painful, too awkward. Invite him to do something “normal” and in the process you can ask how he’s doing, and do risk talking about his child. It may not be easy at first, but dads need other men in their court as much as moms need other women. This is a time when good men need to step up.
  • Avoid idle chit chat in their presence; sometimes people are afraid of an awkward silence or that if you ask about their child it might hurt too much. The fact that you’re there speaks volumes. Chit chat to someone who just lost their child feels very meaningless and even repugnant. Please do talk about their child; it says you care about them and their child. If you knew their child, share a meaningful, or even a funny memory or shared experience; most grieving parents both crave and need this. We used to tell our friends who worried that talking with us about Ryan might be too painful, that we’ve already experienced the worst pain any human being can, so there’s nothing you can say that could hurt worse, and if it’s too difficult at the time we’ll tell you, but please ask or share!
  • Don’t avoid talking about our child. We want and need to talk about them! One of our worst fears is that others will forget about our child over time. Our dearest friends did it so very right, and still do; something about Ryan comes up everytime we’re together! One couple who never even met him, told us they feel like Ryan is the son they never had because we’ve all talked about him so much they really believe they know him now, and in an eternal sense they actually do. They even visit his grave regularly and leave flowers - you can’t imagine how much this means to us! Another couple who were with us when we received that dreaded call came up with the idea of planting a Maple tree in Ryan’s honor in our backyard. On the first anniversary of his home going, they, along with the others in our small group, presented us this beautiful tree which we planted in view of all the rear windows in our home. We decorated it with strands of clear lights which we still turn on every night year round. They also presented us with a very thoughtfully written message to go along with it which I still carry in my Bible.
  • Do invite them to do fun things again. Be patient, it might take a while, but they need it. Don’t wait for them to initiate! It’s a strange paradox; the idea of fun can bring unwarranted guilt, but many, if not most, want to just “feel normal again” for a little while. Scripture tells us that laughter is very beneficial, but it can be difficult to give yourself permission to do so early on.
  • Do text, call, or email to remind them that you’re grieving with them and praying for them. It’s very easy to feel isolated and alone.
  • Do ask if you can share a story or a specific memory of their child if you really knew them. They crave hearing how their child impacted the lives of others and how much others love them.
  • Failure to communicate with friends who have lost their child can result in uncomfortable future encounters for both the parents and friends, so please be sensitive.
  • If you employ or supervise someone whose life has just been shattered by such a loss, please reach out and reassure them that their position is secure, and to focus on taking care of themselves and other loved ones rather than worrying about work. As addressed previously, unless you’ve experienced such a loss yourself, you cannot begin to comprehend what this individual and their family are going through. If you value this employee, please find a way, if at all possible, to provide them with several days (weeks) of paid time off independent of vacation days because they’ll need those just as much later on. To expect a quick return to “business as usual” is both unrealistic and callous, inflicting even deeper pain, and risking unnecessary mistakes or errors on their part. When they do return to work, please accept that they, very possibly, may never be quite the same again, but with your support, understanding, and encouragement they will be able to carry on once again as a vital asset to your team. Unfortunately, some are treated like “damaged goods” at this point adding additional stress and anxiety.

Grief is a very personal journey, therefore, our experiences may not completely represent the journey taking place in those you know. However, you will likely discover more similarities than differences, so it’s our prayer that you will find what we have shared from our experiences to be helpful and enable you to more compassionately and effectively minister to those you will be uniquely positioned to. On their behalf, thank you for your willingness to walk and grieve with them along this painful path to healing and recovery.

To the Survivors

Empty Chair

That you’re reading this means your world has just stopped and been turned upside down. One that you love more than life itself, your precious child, is gone. It’s an unbearable pain and an unspeakable loss and you wonder how you can possibly go on or even desire to. Because we’re one of you, we really do understand.

Our prayer is that GOD might use our journey through “the valley of the shadow of death” and “the dark night of the soul”, to help you in some way as you begin or continue on this journey. We have prayerfully recorded here a few observations and suggestions we believe might be helpful because we too are living it.

On October 25, 2015 our lives were forever changed when we received the phone call every parent fears, the one telling us that our precious, beautiful son Ryan had taken his own life, and in an instant was gone. Left behind were people who loved him and who he loved, a beautiful wife, a sweet, precious nine month old baby daughter, an adoring sister, many friends and my wife and I.

This is where our journey began, one we’re still walking, though not alone. God has been there with us every step of the way, sometimes beside us, sometimes carrying us when we were too weak, always kind, loving and compassionate, and still healing us.

Understand, this is neither a formula nor step therapy for healing. We are not trained professionals, but like you, survivors who are still on a path of recovery and healing.


  • There are no timelines for grieving. For some it’s weeks, for others months, years, or even a lifetime. Some try to escape or avoid it by refusing to talk about it, medicating themselves, or becoming workaholics. Make no mistake though, unless you give yourself permission to grieve now, it will eventually catch up with you.
  • Haunting questions. Why? What if? How could I (we) have missed that? If only …. so many unanswered questions, many of which have no answers that we desperately want and need. This is magnified when suicide or sudden death are involved. It’s perfectly safe to express all those questions and hard emotions to GOD. He doesn’t get angry with us for doing so because He knows how painful it is and deeply hurt we are, and perhaps even angry with HIM for allowing it to happen; HE can handle it and wants to comfort us, but we have to let HIM.
  • Guilt. This is sometimes referred to as “survivor’s guilt". how can I go on living when my child just died? Could it have somehow been my fault? Our last conversation was heated or didn’t end well; what if I had just calmed down and listened better? Eventually, the guilt may come as the healing process enables you to laugh again and enjoy aspects of living that were very difficult, if not impossible, earlier on. It can just seem wrong or even disrespectful to have fun or enjoy life again. But it’s okay to embrace the healing that GOD’s doing in your life!
  • Birthdays and holidays. These are the “arrows” you can see coming; not that it lessens the pain, but at least you know when they’re coming. These are only two of an entire year of “firsts” to come, and it seems like they’ll never end. How do we celebrate Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, his birthday, and so many other special things we loved doing together without our child? It seems so pointless, hollow, and empty; it’s hard to see how anything will ever be fun again or how we can ever be happy again. But is this what he would want? What about our daughter and her family, his wife and baby daughter? And so we choose by GOD’s grace to step into the pain and celebrate even as our hearts break and we feel crushed under the weight of it all. We choose living knowing that it’s a way we can honor our child and his life and keep his memory alive until we see him again in Heaven. On his first birthday after losing him, we gathered with family and very dear friends at one of Ryan’s favorite spots out in the country where we had a cake and released helium balloons and watched them disappear from sight hoping somehow GOD would let him see how deeply he’s loved! We were even able to share funny stories about him, and unbeknownst to us in those special kinds of moments, GOD is weaving a thread of healing, one that will continue on for our lifetime.
  • The Ambush. These are the moments that can stop you in your tracks and take your breath away because they come from out of nowhere, hit you like a train and leave you a wreck all over again. It can be a smell, a forgotten photo, anything with your child’s handwriting, a store, or a song. Any one of these can shred your emotions immediately. It’s been five years and I still can’t listen to music playing on the radio or a CD when I'm alone in a car, it’s a little easier when my wife’s with me. She, on the other hand, cannot drive in silence but has to have either music or talk radio playing. About three months after Ryan died, I was meeting with a co-worker in a fast food restaurant and suddenly became aware of a young man about Ryan’s age and build talking on his phone just outside a window. Suddenly I was no longer engaged in the conversation as I watched him because I was now convinced that he was actually Ryan. He was even dressed in the familiar t-shirt Ryan was known to wear in public, with the same haircut. It wasn’t real, Ryan was alive and the past three months had all been a hoax somehow. I pushed my chair away from the table and started getting up to run outside to him when he turned and looked right at me …. and I was crushed and heartbroken all over again. Grieving is a very strange and personal thing.


  • Let others in, the one(s) you really trust. These are the ones who will listen and not judge or attempt to fix you. The ones who are just willing to be there even when you don’t want to talk about it. As you are able, and sometimes it will require a real effort, just talk about it without worrying about how you’re coming across or what an emotional wreck you might be; it’s okay not to be okay for now!
  • Talk about your child. As a parent, one of our greatest fears is that others will forget about our child. Sharing stories, favorite vacations, funny things they would say or do with others helps keep their memory alive.
  • Don’t expect too much of yourself or other family members. Grieving manifests in a variety of ways and symptoms that can include the physical, mental and spiritual such as: insomnia, hypersomnolence, depression, anxiety, excessive anger or feelings of guilt, and when suicide or sudden death occurs it’s not uncommon to experience PTSD like symptoms. While these are all normal, if the more debilitating symptoms persist without improvement, medical attention or counseling should be considered. All too often this is thought to be a sign of weakness or lack of faith, but rest assured that’s not the case.
  • To live again. Our world was turned upside down and suddenly stopped on that awful day in October 2015. NOTHING was the same, nor would it ever be again, how could it? We woke up to discover our beautiful son had taken his own life and was gone. We never got to say goodbye or “I love you” one last time. Why? For us to go on living seemed pointless and impossible. But GOD had other plans. If you don’t have to go back to work immediately, don't. If you don’t, try to create and maintain some sort of schedule, otherwise all you may find yourself doing is staying in bed, and that’s just a place where you cannot stay and be healthy. It’s true that there’s no right or wrong way to grieve, but there definitely are healthy and unhealthy ways! For a long while, everything you do will feel like it requires superhuman effort, so you just have to make yourself get up in the morning and get a shower. You may not want to leave your home because it has become your “safe place”. You can feel the most alone in a crowd and so avoid going into stores altogether unless absolutely necessary, and when you do you want to get back out as quickly as possible. And don’t be surprised or feel guilty if you discover that it’s exactly the same for church. It took us two months and even then we didn’t really want to be noticed and couldn’t get back to the car and home quickly enough! We found out later that some people thought we were okay simply because we were there and seemed “fine”? Let me dispel any notion that parents who have lost a child are okay just because we force ourselves to participate in or show up for something. We are NOT okay regardless of appearance; how could we possibly be, we lost our child? We’re anything but okay!
  • Resuscitation. The death of a child is an unspeakable loss! It’s so horrific that no words in the English language exist to describe it. In its aftermath, you feel like you’re drowning and will never be able to even breathe again. You feel a wreck. What do you do now? It’s hard to focus or concentrate, and making decisions, any decisions, is exhausting. In fact EVERYTHING is just hard. How can anyone survive this? There are some things that will help, but it will require effort:
    1. Move: find ways to be active physically and mentally.
    2. Force yourself to get out, even something so simple as a drive with no destination in mind.
    3. Let someone in that you trust; the one(s) that you really trust and who will give you the freedom to just be yourself when you need to cry, rant, be angry, or quiet and not say a word. Let them in because the truth is you need them and they need to be able to minister to and help you! It might be difficult at first, and may even take a while, but it’s important for the healing process.
    4. Set boundaries. Don’t feel the need to respond to every text, email, or phone call or request for a personal visit. Some days you’ll give anything to have any one of these, but others when you just want to be alone and that’s okay. Just be honest with others; unless they’ve “been there” they don’t understand what you’re going through or how your world has changed.
    5. Read scripture; some of the Psalms can be very comforting. Cry out to GOD in prayer when you can; this may be very difficult some days because you don’t know where to even start; you may be angry with GOD and don’t want to talk to HIM; some days it just feels like too much of an effort. HIS love for us is unconditional so don’t be afraid to tell GOD how you feel because HE already knows ……. it’s really more for you. HE’s our safe hiding place we can run to when our world is falling apart.
    6. Give yourself permission to see a trained counselor. They can be an invaluable resource in your recovery and healing. We began seeing one within just a few weeks of losing our son and continued for over three (3) years. We attended together most of the time, and occasionally separately. This enabled us to hear what our mate was feeling, thinking, and processing as the counselor asked questions designed to reveal what we might not have even thought about. We found it to be quite helpful in our journey.

Time does not heal all wounds; only GOD can heal this kind! Over time, the intensity does begin to subside and grows more manageable, but the wound is so deep it forever marks you. If you’ll let HIM, GOD will walk with you, and at times even carry you, through this very deep, dark valley to the other side where you’ll discover hope, healing and even joy again.

Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that JESUS died and rose again and so we believe that GOD will bring with JESUS those who have fallen asleep in HIM.

1 Thessalonians 4: 13-14 NIV


Empty Chair

Best known as “the forgotten mourners”, these survivors are often left behind in the wake of grieving parents. To be sure, however, they do indeed grieve.

As they observe the pain and devastation in the lives of their parents, siblings may try to ignore or bury their own grief. If they have loving, compassionate people in their lives the road to healing, while still lonely and difficult, will almost certainly be more bearable.

But what if that’s not the case, and what if they’re too young to know how to express this deep pain?

Make no mistake, however well hidden, grief will eventually begin to take its toll. If they don’t have support or community, they may start looking for ways to numb the pain by self medicating or becoming workaholics. As in other relationships, siblings often love and support one another fiercely, as well as arguing or fighting similarly.

When the death of a brother or sister occurs, siblings may battle those regrets with unwarranted guilt as they remember that last argument or harsh words spoken in a heated moment. This is to be expected, especially when there was never an opportunity to express sorrow, or to say goodbye as when suicide or sudden death occurs.

If you know someone who has lost a sibling, take the initiative to reach out in some way and let them know you care so they don’t feel forgotten. Take the risk and ask them to share a story or memory about their sibling. You might just be surprised to discover it’s both something they really need and want to do. As with grieving parents, they’re often afraid others will forget. Please don’t let that be you!

After their son or daughter dies, the community will galvanize around the parents to support them. Friends, neighbors and family members will focus on bringing in food, making phone calls and helping the parents.

Outliving a child is an awful and tragic loss that should not be dismissed or given short shrift. But siblings are not allowed the time to grieve themselves. They are told to be strong for their parents. Often, siblings are involved in setting up funeral plans and helping their parents get through such a difficult time.

Caretaking when you yourself haven’t had time to grieve is burdensome.

How to Cope With Sibling Grief by Barbara Field

365 Days Later, by Caleb Jordan

Empty Chair

It’s hard to put grief into words. It’s something you feel so deep down in an intangible, inexpressible way that few can understand it without experiencing it firsthand.

The tears sting, the throat tightens, the heart gets heavy. The memories come flooding all at once and then sometimes none at all. There’s a swirling combination of both helplessness and hope at the same time. It hurts, if I’m being real. A whole lot.

Every day since Jan 7, 2021, I’ve thought about you, Paul. Sometimes I laugh, remembering how goofy you were; and sometimes I cry, realizing I won’t get to hug you again and tell you I love you and am proud of you.

I remember the pranks and inside jokes, the mischief and the secrets. I remember you having my back and supporting me through anything. I remember you just wanting to go drive anywhere just so we could hang out. I remember Mo’Vember, sporting mustaches for cancer awareness. I remember when you were ready to fight that guy at Walmart with me just because you were ready to rumble alongside me if things went sideways. 🤣

I remember the night we went to dinner and a comedy show. We held hands and prayed in the car, recognizing the uncertainty of this brain tumor thing. I cherished those moments as if they could be our last. Many of them were.

And you never complained. For 7 years you dealt with bad news and negative reports and took it on the chin. You worked full time jobs where everyone praised how hard you worked and how well you treated others. I know you had both good days and bad days, but you never griped about it. You were always positive facing the darkness of uncertainty with your mottos like, “Feet on the floor. Chin up. Shoulders back. Chest out.”

I loved reading the notes you left like, “I am blessed, thankful, and alive! Here to stay, love and thrive.” You always were positive, happy-go-lucky, and sensitive to the feelings and needs of others.

There’s absolutely nothing like losing a brother, especially so early in life. For me, it was losing a best friend and a little brother. A shadow. I cry thinking I’ll never get to meet your wife and you’ll never be able to hold my kids. It hurts like hell and I can’t stand it sometimes.

But life goes on. You never would have allowed us or wanted us to wallow in self pity or sadness. You said, “just tears of joy.” I’m thankful for the hope you put in Jesus, and that you knew the best was still to come after this life. I treasure every moment of the last 10 days we got to spend together before you left us behind. You’re a true inspiration to me, Paul.

You always hear about a little brother saying he wants to be like his big bro. I want to be more like you one day, Paul. I’ll see you again one day. I love you and miss you.


Contact Us

Social Profiles

Email Us


If you would like for us to speak at an event or meet with your organization, please use the contact form below and you will receive a prompt response from someone on our team.

All fields are required.

site by MASDEV