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Losing a Child: Always Andy's Mom

As a pediatrician, married mom of three biological children and one foster son, my life was busy, rushing off to my office four days a week, seeing patients for three and working as a medical director of a local physician organization for one. I balanced this with rushing off to shuttle my kids to after sports and other after school activities. All of this changed one day in August of 2018 when my 14 year old son, Andy, was killed in a car accident. I felt like my life was over, and in some ways it was over, and a new life was forced to begin in its place. 

Grief is seldom discussed openly in our culture, and the death of a child makes people feel even more uncomfortable. On this blog and podcast, ‘Losing a Child: Always Andy’s Mom’, the topic is approached openly and honestly, speaking to people who have lost loved ones and experts who help care for them. Whether you are a parent experiencing loss or someone who wants to support another going through this tragedy, this blog and podcast strives to offer hope and help.

Feb 3, 2022

When I started thinking about what to write about for today’s guests, Traci and Michelle, a song immediately came into my head. Perhaps it is because both of these women describe their children as ‘old souls’, but an old song came to mind. The song is, ‘You’ve Got a Friend,’ as sung by James Taylor originally recorded in 1971. The lyrics start:

 When you’re down and troubled and you need a helping hand.

And nothing, whoa, nothing is going right.

Close your eyes and think of me and soon I will be there.

To brighten up even your darkest nights.

This song truly seems to fit what they have become to each other. On the surface, Michelle and Traci are different in many ways. They originate from different parts of the country. They have very different backgrounds, different accents. Even the ways that lost their children are very different. Michelle’s daughter, Rachel, died from an electrical accident at a pool where she was working as a life guard (Episode 70) and Traci’s son, Hunter, died due to an accidental drug overdose. However, the bond of this shared experience of child loss brings them closer than they even could have imagined.

This friendship led them to seek out and attend different bereaved parents retreats across the country. Most recently, they attended an amazing While We’re Waiting retreat (which has been featured on the podcast). Michelle and Rachel loved these retreats and loved the bonds and friendships that were started on these weekends. Michelle says that during these retreats, she really felt like for the first time in a long time, she could truly breathe. She could open up and be herself without fear of judgment.

After seeing the long waiting lists for these retreats, Michelle and Traci had this overwhelming feeling that they should start one themselves. The organization, ‘Pangels’ (Parents of Angels) was born. The goal of their ‘Reflective Healing’ retreats is to help build personal supportive friendships. Their first retreat will be held March 4-6, 2022 at Lake Gaston In their home state of North Carolina, but the dream is to spread them to other parts of the country as well. To learn or and register for this retreat, visit their website,