Before and After | Ellie's Way

Before and After

Before and After

Before Ellie died, I took my son to his baseball hitting lesson. We really liked the instructor. I was just being friendly and asked him “How many kids do you have?” He informed me that he had two sons, but one had committed suicide several years before. I remember being shocked and at a complete loss as to what to do or say. I think I probably looked very uncomfortable, and I was. I don’t remember exactly what happened, but I probably changed the subject, and I would bet that I didn’t offer up very much in the way of comfort.

Before Ellie died, I was afraid of death, pain, suffering. I didn’t want to experience any of those things for myself and it was scary to see in other people. I didn’t know what to say, how to feel, what to do, and the easiest thing was to avoid thinking about it. Sadly, I had never been to a funeral before Ellie’s.

Before Ellie died, I didn’t appreciate taking Ellie to the costume jewelry store or playing with her dolls. I enjoyed our bedtime routine of reading and snuggling, but I always wanted to leave before she wanted me to. I had things to do. What was so important?

Well, things change. After losing six-year-old Ellie, I have learned a few things.

I give people the benefit of the doubt, and assume that they care, even if it doesn’t seem like it. The fact is that unless you’ve experienced a deep loss, it is hard to empathize and understand. I try to help people with their reactions. I try to make it easy for them if I can. I know that I needed some help and guidance over all my prior years.

I saw the baseball instructor at a game a few months ago. I jumped up and walked up to him. I told him about the conversation we had many years ago and I apologized for my insensitivity and lack of understanding. Although the circumstances of our children’s deaths were different, we were both fathers without our babies. We shared a hug and a few tears and it was a memorable moment.

Now I always go to the funeral. I have been to many in the past five years, and volunteered to help out as needed. It is so important to support the grieving families by just being there for them.

One day I was leaving the grocery store walking past the girl scout cookies, little girls, and a dad. I was late and did not intend to purchase any cookies, but the father said “How about some cookies?” I said, “no thank you.” He said, “you must not have a little girl at home, you’re lucky!” The tears quickly flowed as I continued walking. It was a difficult moment, but I soon realized that could have been me with Ellie, a father who wasn’t exactly excited about selling girl scout cookies. We are all on a journey and life has a way of teaching us.

I take the time to be with my family and friends — to savor the moments. I am thankful for each day with my loved ones and try to bring a smile and some joy to the world. I’ve learned that kindness, compassion, and service to others brings deep meaning and purpose. Loving God and loving people through all of the circumstances of life is a good plan.

I was at golf lesson with my son the other day, and his instructor was talking to me. Then he asked the inevitable question in a friendly way, “How many kids do you have?” And so it goes…

Todd Nigro (Ellie’s Dad)

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Terri BartchakGeneva L BairdkathyDawn HagenCheryl L Kurdziel Recent comment authors
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Rebecca Carney

I no longer look at the world the same since our son died. I notice the impatience of parents in stores and other places, wishing I could impress on them how important the small things are and how important it is to spend quality time with their kids. I walk forward to hug a person who is hurting, instead of turning away. The “how many kids do you have?” question is a really hard one, one that comes up in casual conversation. It is never an easy walk after a child dies. There are so many things I wish I… Read more »

Dawn Hagen

Todd- Our grief journey began at 0511 on August 18th, 2015. We were woken by a brisk chime that came from the front porch. We live just a few miles out of town in a rural setting. We’ve lived there for 8 years and the front doorbell has never been rung. It was still dark out side and the sheriff began flashing his badge with his small pocket light to let us know who was present. I called for my husband and proceeded to open the door. Our lives would be changed forever. The two Sheriffs just stood there and… Read more »

Cheryl L Kurdziel
Cheryl L Kurdziel

Before and After—very well put.


totally lifeet is divided into two parts. .”before and after ” the after is so different. .my daughter is gone , her precoup 3 yr miracle baby is gone. .it is a journey. a pain like no other. .as others have said I totally empathize with people in a totally different way. .I literally “hurt” with them. .so thankful I know where they ate and that I wI’ll see them again! so thankful God left her little boy ams he is such a joy! !! can’t wait to see all of them again! my mom, my dad, my only… Read more »

Geneva L Baird
Geneva L Baird

I really Wish This Was Here 27 Years Ago When I Lost My First Daughter She Was 23 days old and past away in my arms. I was so lost and sadly continue to feel lost and didn’t understand anything as i had to face this alone without support. and told more than once all the tears in the world would never bring her back to me. then on July 9th 2017 my oldest daughter who would have been 28 in august past away from dormant epilepsy and heart failure. And then heartache happened again my first born son i… Read more »

Terri Bartchak
Terri Bartchak

Todd, Thank you so much for sharing your heart. Ellie is a beautiful girl. About 6 months after my son passed away my husband and I went to Chicago for a trip. I will never forget it. We got off the plane and needed a taxi. Another passenger was also in our car and we were making small talk. Then she asked us that one simple question. How many kids do you have? Bob looked at me with such a frightened look that I will never forget his face at that moment in time. I looked at her and I… Read more »