Roni Lambrecht: Creating Grace from an Unthinkable Tragedy
Losing a child is one of the most heartbreaking, dreadful events that any parent can imagine. Roni and her husband, John, lost their only son, Dalton, a few months before his 16th birthday.
Even while overwhelmed with unfathomable grief, they knew in their hearts that they had to honor Dalton. Rather than focusing on the challenges of losing a child or joining the chorus of other in dealing with loss, Roni struck out on a different path. Through books, social media, and speaking engagements, Roni's mission is to help other parents become better parents.
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Shea Oliver: Hi, I'm Shea Oliver. Welcome to The Priority Paradigm. I'm sharing stories of amazing people who have made radical changes in their life for something more important. Today I'm joined by Roni Lambrecht and she has a truly amazing story to tell us. So without further ado, Roni, please take it away.
Roni Lambrecht: Well, Hi Shea. Thanks for having me. Let's see here. So now we start with our story, Huh? Well, we, my husband and I and our son Dalton had a great life together for 15 years and eight months. And in December of 2013, our son actually passed away in an ATV accident where he was hit head on by a sand rail. The question most people ask in that moment is, what is a sand rail? And I'll tell you, it's like a huge Dune buggy and about six times the weight of his four wheeler. Yeah. So he was hit head on and killed instantly. and who, sorry to breathe a little sorry. Oh I always try and get through that really fast.
Shea Oliver: I can't begin to fathom.
Roni Lambrecht: Oh yeah, sorry. So anyway, we lost Dalton on December 29th of 2013 and my husband and I obviously started, had to start a whole entirely new life that was not our choosing. So living in a family of three and surrounding your whole life usually as parents with our children. We do everything around our children's lives and focus on their needs and where they need to be and when they need to be there and who their teachers are and what they're doing at school and that kind of a thing. And so the first major thing that we really noticed was how much extra time there now is in every single day. And what do you do to fill that time? Because in most cases when someone loses a child, they fill that time by laying in bed by watching tv all day or not doing, not doing anything. And both John and I felt like we really didn't need to be a drain on society and we really needed to do something to make Dalton's legacy matter. And in going through the entire process of losing him.
Roni Lambrecht: And and the week between losing him and bringing, bringing him home. And then another week until his life celebration, we had so many calls and emails and Facebook messages and, you know, just so many messages from people who told us how Dalton had made a huge difference in their life. And as most parents, most of us are, you know, we think our kids are amazing, right? Everybody thinks their kids are awesome and amazing and the best thing in the world, right? So, and for us, we really knew that, that, that Dalton was a great kid and that he really cared about people and really cared about their feelings and that kind of thing.
Roni Lambrecht: And we were very close to him. I mean, we spent every single night, we spent a minimum of 10 or 15 minutes in his room cuddling with him, even at 15 years old. He would tell you it's hanging out. We were not cuddling but we were hanging out. But anyway, but I mean we would talk every single night and you know, we just really felt like we really knew everything about him. And as it turned out, thankfully, it was good things that we found out, but at his life celebration, the kids actually stood up and they spoke for almost four hours about how Dalton had changed their life. And six of them actually stood up and said that had it not been for Dalton, they wouldn't be here today and how, how they were going to commit suicide, how they, you know, things had been wrong in their lives or that kind of a thing. And Dalton made them stop and kind of see the light and talk to them. And in most cases, really, a lot of them just said he really listened a lot.
Roni Lambrecht: And for a 14-15 year old kid to have the ability to do that and the ability to sit and listen and, and not get caught up in all of that was pretty amazing to us, but then the fact that these kids really felt like, because Dalton lost his life, now they need to do something to make their lives matter because he was the reason that they are still here. So we thought that was pretty amazing. And definitely that does help you feel really good as a parent that hopefully you did something right and, I don't know that we had a whole heck of a lot to do with that. I just know that he, he came into the world as a wonderful kid, and hopefully our love just helped nurture that.
Roni Lambrecht: So anyway, but that being said, even though you have such a great kid. Life will tell you that you have regrets. All of us have regrets, and you could have been the best parent in the entire universe. You could be the best of anything in the entire world, but you still have regrets. What if I did something this way? What if I did that? You know, would you still be here if I didn't let him go riding that morning? What? Do you know? There's so many questions you can ask yourself and you can consistently spin down a hole if you're, if you're always asking those questions.
Roni Lambrecht: And so with a lot of guidance from friends and family, John and I were very, very diligent in deciding, head on, the day of Dalton's passing actually that we would have to do something with, with this and, and make the world a better place with it, but the other thing was that we decided had on that we were going to not focus on all the things that we didn't get to have with Dalton. All the things that Dalton didn't get to do, but that we would focus on all of the time that we did have with them and how lucky we were to be his mom and dad and to have the 15 years, eight months, three days, that we did with him.
Roni Lambrecht: And so, I don't know why we chose to do that. I think probably I, you know, we raised Dalton that way to be very positive, and I think he'd be mad if we didn't do that, but I also think somewhere he must've been reaching out and also trying to make us see that too. Because quite often it's very easy to go down that rabbit hole and see the dark side and, exactly so, so we work diligently and I'm diligently on a daily basis to get out of bed and say, okay, today we are going to, you know, do this, this, this and this and we are going to make a difference today.
Roni Lambrecht: And there is a reason that we're here because if you catch me late at night or you're catching me in Dalton's room, there's a lot of days I would tell you I don't want to be here anymore. And, I would far rather be where he is, and be with him and be able to hug him, but because we have to be here, and there's only one way to not, then we better focus on making the world a better place and doing something about it. And so that being said, all those regrets that pop up in those dark times, really started taking over my husband, John. And one of the things he said was, honey, you're such a great writer. Why don't you write a book about this? So the parents now who still are lucky enough to have their kids can take what, what I've screwed up on, basically, and, and make a difference in the life that they still have with their kids so that if anything were to happen to either one of them that none of them would have any regrets like I do.
Roni Lambrecht: And then that being said, in addition to that, I had been, not blogging, I wouldn't call it blogging, but just kind of doing some posts on facebook. People ask questions and then I would post and people are always asking how we're doing. And so I would post things and some of the things that I would post I would get pretty deep into how we're feeling or what's going on and the grief process and that kind of a thing. And I'm in one of the posts, I just really talked a lot about really enjoying the time that we had had with Dalton and, and the looking back on all of the things that we did with him. And, and while we may not have done a ton of, you know, certain things we did do, we did really work on making our everyday life with him when he was here. We really did work on making things fun and being together and just focused on our family.
Roni Lambrecht: And I know my sister would tell you I was a mean mom because from the age of four years old, Dalton had to sort his own laundry. He had to do cleaning. He had to empty the trashs in the house, he had to make his own lunch every day, and I know for us, seems like a young age, but my kid could do it, and there's no reason if they can do it, there is no reason to not let them do it, and make them feel good about it. And so, while there were a lot of things he didn't like to do, he definitely, you know, got his allowance and he got things with that, you know, that kind of a thing.
Roni Lambrecht: But I really felt like it was important that we raise a responsible human being that we want to put in the world. And so in doing so, one of the biggest things that we did was we really tried to make our everyday mundane chores kind of fun and you know, hanging out in the kitchen and making dinner, you'd turn on Bruno Mars or something and dance and giggle and, you know, have a great time together. And, so many of our memories include things like that. And so, when you're, when we're looking back and we look at all of the things that we did, those are some of the things that we can say, hey, we did do that right. But some of the things like my husband will tell you are that he never swung a baseball or swing a bat and played baseball was Dalton, and every dad plays baseball with their kid. And you know, why didn't I ever play baseball with my kid? And you know, those kinds of things. And so we've worked through a lot of the, well, you know, don't never wanted to play baseball, you know, he had a baseball and a bat and the glove here, and he never wanted to do that. And so we found other things that he liked to do and he loved to be on his ATV and he loved to camp and he loved to hunt and you know, all that kind of stuff. And so those are the things that you did that, you know, I tell John, those are the things you did with him and those are the things that mattered to him. If baseball matter to him, we would have done it, but society, like you were saying earlier, society, you know, throws into our head the white picket fence and the family and you know, the two kids and the, you know, you play baseball and you do, you know, if you're a boy, you play baseball, if you're a girl, you going to ballet or whatever, you know, all the things that, that are kind of poured it into our heads of what's normal.
Roni Lambrecht: And in our life personally, our normal was camping and riding four wheelers. And we didn't do sports ever, Dalton was not a sports kid. We tried sports, didn't work, and so to, to get my husband out of the thinking of you didn't play baseball with him, so what? You did something else he loved. So, but that, that took at least a year, if not longer for him really to get over that hump, that, you know, he didn't play baseball with his kid. And so it just teaches you that in our lives. And I think we all know this on a daily basis that, you know, if bad things happen, you know, the drama and the thought process and everything goes to that bad thing, and we forget to really focus on the great things.
Roni Lambrecht: And so we had, we had gone through this baseball thing and John had decided that we need to write a book about regrets. And then I had been putting these posts out on Facebook and people were saying, you know what, because of what you said to me today, I haven't talked to my child in three years because he told me he was gay, and so I disowned him and sent him out of my house and I haven't spoken to him in three years. And, because of what you said today, I made a phone call and my son and I are having dinner. And then a lot of other people would say things like that and, or, and they would say things like, you should put that in a book or you should, you know, write more about that or do a class on that or that kind of a thing. And so I took, took all of that stuff and decided I would write a book to current parents - not those that have lost a child, but to current parents who are still lucky enough to have their kids and it doesn't matter what age they are, zero to 100. You're lucky enough that your kid is still surviving you then that's amazing. And so I wrote the book to those parents, and what I did in the book as I tried to write a story about us with Dalton in the beginning of each chapter, and then at the end of each chapter, I did straight forward tips for parenting at your best. And, I'm using that and trying to speak to parents. I'm doing moms' groups and libraries and book clubs and I'm just speaking engagements in general, just trying to meet with parents and a lot of one to one kind of ending up talking to them. I'm not a counselor. I need to preface with that. I'm not a counselor by any means.
Roni Lambrecht: But I do feel like our story does have some importance, some important thoughts to it. And, you know, one of the biggest things I would tell you is put your freaking phones down, put your phones down and pay attention to your kids when you're eating dinner and make them put their phones down too! You know, there's just, there's so many tips and that's actually not one that's in the book, but it's something that John and I see every single time we go to a restaurant. We will see a family who has all their phones in their hands and they are not communicating. And it just kills us to know that they're giving that time away. And who knows for them. You know, we had dinner with Dalton, you know, just a few hours really before he passed away, about 15 hours I think before we lost him, we had had dinner and I just can't imagine if we didn't have that last dinner with him. So it was just so many, so many things that, that I could share with you. But in the book, there's 31 chapters of stories and ideas for current parents to help them with their kids and to help them really focus on the time that they have and to really be in the moment and make memorable moments with even the dreariest of things to do - dishes and making dinner and laundry and that kind of a thing.
Shea Oliver: I don't know how to express my condolences. I mean, this is something that is something I don't think you can fathom.
Roni Lambrecht: Exactly.
Shea Oliver: You know, with any sense of reality can say what it must be like, what you've gone through. So, thank you so much for coming and sharing your story with us today. I'm blown away by the direction that you went. You know, I actually know one father who lost his son. The father didn't commit suicide, but he died within a year. He gave up. And I think that that's a more common thing that people do is when they're faced with such a horrible situation, is that they give up, they focus on the negative and you've really... You're amazing that you focused on doing something positive. You know, I have to ask, how, how did other, your friends and family were there some that thought the idea of you doing things, engaging with parents that still had kids. Was there any negative like, well, you don't have a child anymore, was there?
Roni Lambrecht: Absolutely, absolutely. I can tell you almost everybody is very fearful that is painful for John and I. and it is, I'll be honest with you. It is painful. But, I also feel like it's very healing when you can talk to a parent who says, wow, what you told me today made such a huge difference and I'm, and I am going to make a difference today and for a long time now do things like that. I mean, it's just like exercise and diet, you know, is it, are people really going to commit to things? And so when I do hear of other parents who say they read my book six months ago and they're still making those changes, or now they do highs and lows at bedtime, you'll read about that in the book, but they do highs and lows at bedtime and how important that that's now become in their lives.
Roni Lambrecht: When John and I know that our story has helped a parent, even if it helped them connect with their child for 10 minutes more a day, you know what?
Shea Oliver: It's huge.
Roni Lambrecht: Yeah, it's massively huge. And if I helped out one parent do that, then I did my job. So it's just, it's just awesome to hear parents say, Oh, you know, we now when we do laundry together, we throw socks at each other. Or now when we make dinner at night, we dance in the kitchen. I never would have danced before because I'm not a dancer. You know, everybody thinks to dance with their kid, they have to be some Fred astaire and it's not that way. It's way more fun if you're not.
Shea Oliver: Wow. So during that time, were you, after you lost Dalton and you began to realize you needed to do something different, you needed not to behave like the typical parent who's lost a child, what were some of the processes going on and the debates that were going on inside of you personally that made you pick the direction you did?
Roni Lambrecht: That's a really interesting question. I know one of the biggest things that I ... don't want to say fight with, but I don't know what that word is. I go back and forth with a lot, is I am one of the very first phone calls that people make when they hear that a friend's child has passed away. And, I've been very open with that. I'm happy to talk to those people. I'm happy to do anything you need. I'm happy to give you advice as to how to, how to handle that situation and what the best things are for you to do. In fact, I've got a list and in the book and then also that I can email to anybody, but I've got a list of all the things that you don't think about when someone loses a child or is going through a terrible time in their life.
Roni Lambrecht: You don't think about that they need toilet paper in their house because there's a million people walking through their house trying to be there for them. So I have that practical list of all the things that you can do and that kind of thing. And then I also am very wide open to talking to those parents or talking to those friends about what can they do to help. But, that comes very naturally because, you know, what, I'm been in it now and suddenly, you know, I'm thrown into something that I suddenly have to become an expert at and was not of my choosing, and both John and I feel like we did not choose this. We don't want to be in this situation, but there's nothing else we can do. So if we need to be here for parents who have lost their children or those who love them and are trying to help them than we are here for them.
Roni Lambrecht: And one of the biggest arguments people said to me was, why don't you write a grief book, and that would, yes, that would be so logical if you would just write a book on grief, why would you write a book on parenting and life and living and that kind of thing when, when it's so logical that you're an expert now and you know, in this loss that you could help other parents who have lost a child. And. Sure, can I do that? I absolutely could do that, but I feel like that's taken the easy way out. And, John and I are both not those kinds of people. We always take the hardest path. I don't know why, but I also feel like too, can I do that someday? Can I do that? You know, someday down the line, I absolutely could. And I feel like, you know, four years into this, there's a whole lot more for me still to learn. So maybe someday I'll do that.
Roni Lambrecht: The other side of the not writing a grief book is I read every grief book I'm telling you in the first couple of years and there is not a single one of those grief books, not a single one that can tell you, get off your ass, be busy, you know, keep living every day and that kind of thing. They all tell you to focus on your grief and live through your grief. And, you know, and they all want to know what did, what are you missing and what did your child miss and what are you lacking and all these things. And it just doesn't make any sense. Why is there not a grief book out there that teaches you how to turn things around and to still live after you don't want to live anymore.
Roni Lambrecht: So if I do ever write one, it will be that kind of grief book because there's never been one written before. They're worthless. And if anybody ever tells you there are five stages to grief, they are lying, lying, it's not true. So that being said, I think that it was just, it was more important for us to turn things around and do the parenting book and work with current parents because I feel like somehow we could have a bigger impact. I've read, in my own parenting life before we lost all, I would probably tell you, we've read nearly every parenting book on the planet. I wanted to be a good mom. I didn't want to suck at it, you know, I wanted to do what I could do, and do it right, but I can tell you there are certainly never been a parenting book written from the perspective of a person who's on the backside of it.
Roni Lambrecht: And the other side is, is, it's all, again, all the parent, most of the parenting books out there are, are based on psychology kind of things. And, and you just don't find a whole lot of them that are real every day down and dirty. This is parenting is about. And some days you hate your kid and some days they hate you, and some days you love him so much you could just eat them, you know? And then the, you know, there's those other days they're running up the stairs and they're screaming at you and you're screaming at them and you're rahhhh.
Roni Lambrecht: So there's, there's gotta be some reality there that, you know, this is, it's just real life isn't beautiful all the time. You know, sometimes it sucks. And, in all reality parenting in general, you're probably in, in reality, you're probably 70 percent of it really is tough. It's really, really hard. And maybe 30 percent of it if you're lucky is really fantastic, and you're really enjoying it and you really love being a parent and that kind of a thing. So I just wanted to write this book and I want it to be real. And I really just wanted people to realize that when, if and when you were to ever lose your child or your child was to ever lose you - the big trip to Disney world, the big family reunion, the big wedding that you planned two years for, you know, the, all these big things that you planned for. Those aren't the things that you miss. And, I can speak for, for John and I, but I also can speak for a ton of other parents that I've talked to who have lost children. The things that you missed, honest to God, are those every day things - driving them to the bus, driving them to school, picking up from the mall, you know, trying to organize their schedules, doing homework together, doing laundry together. It's... those are the things that you missed. Getting that hug when Dalton would walk down the stairs in the morning and I'm taking my vitamins every morning, same time. And, he would grab me and give me a hug That's, that's what I miss the most. And I'll tell you our trip to Disney world. Sure. Can I see a picture and go, oh yeah, that was when we were at Disneyworld. Oh Yay, but that's not the times that are the important ones. And so I will tell you as a mom that, you know, life is busy and we are all overwhelmed. Things are insane. We're pushed constantly to work so hard and to make money and to provide. And that kind of a thing. And I would just tell you that if you can just take, you know, you're doing the dishes and take five minutes of that time and turn on the stereo and dance while you do the dishes and you know, just make it fun. And those are the little things that you remember, the conversations that you had out of the blue when you're freaking out and you're like, oh my God, we're going to be late for school, and there's so much going on. And then your kid like has a breakdown and you have this long talk that lasts for an hour and they're late to school. That's the moments you remember. It's not the big things. So just take those small things that you do on a daily basis and start including your kids in them. And do it, just do it in a different way. Do it differently than you do it now, and just do it in a different way. So I'm not asking you to add minutes and hours and days to your time. I'm asking you to take those minutes and use them more effectively and get your kids involved.
Shea Oliver: Absolutely. I love that. So as you began this process of first off writing the facebook posts and then eventually coming to writing the book and now doing the speaking, do you ever face inside doubts that you're going in the wrong direction?
Roni Lambrecht: Well, there are so many way better speakers than me. People don't want to listen to me. Why would they want to listen to me? But now you know, and then and definitely and I'm sure you find those to any in your life that when you decide that you're going to do this and try and make a difference in people's lives, to some people, what you're doing seems really, really important and wonderful, and they really want to help support you. And, then other people are like, oh, yay, that's a really great idea and you know, that you're never going to have their support. And sadly enough, those are the people that we focus on. Why don't I have their support? But it's, I don't, I have a lot of doubts. I have a ton of doubts, but I do... it's when someone calls and they say, you know, I read this story about pay it forward in your book. And, I feel like I really touched someone's life today and they touched mine. Or you know, there's just so many different things that people will say they read in the book that made a difference. And so they have spent more time with their kids. That it just makes it all worth it. Even though I feel uncomfortable every day, in my skin, which I think obviously has a whole lot to do with the grief in general -confidence that goes down the drain when you're going through grief. But, but I also feel like if one person says that we made a difference, then kind of makes it worth it for the day.
Shea Oliver: So how did you press forward before the book was done to push through those doubts? The keep yourself on yes, I'm going down this path. This is what I'm going to do, before you had the positive feedback loop that you now have.
Roni Lambrecht: Well I still was having kind of that positive feedback from my facebook posts, but I also, this sounds really funny and it really probably depends on what you kind of believe. But as I was writing the book, there were multiple times that I felt like Dalton was right here with me. And I will tell you that when I was writing the outline and I had come up with all my topics, I was pretty sure that, what kind of, what story I would put in the front, like I knew which story I'm going to talk about before each chapter, you know, on each chapter before I did my tips. And there are definitely two chapters that were very obvious to me. Where, I was like, oh my God, that's such a great topic and I knew I had, you know, I had something to say there, but now I don't know what to say or I just don't know how to get that point across.
Roni Lambrecht: And it was honestly like Dalton was right behind me saying, hey mom, do you remember the day when? And he would walk me through There's ne very poignant one where I was really stuck and I was sitting at my desk crying that I was going to let him down because I wasn't writing the story right. I wasn't doing the book right. I wasn't writing it right, it was doing it right. He would be mad at me that I'm not doing it right. You know, that kind of thing which is not true, but you know, you just beat yourself up all the time. You'll learn this when you write your book.
Roni Lambrecht: But I remember that day I was crying at my desk and I was like, oh my God, I can't come up with how to write this. And the topic is basically that we don't give our kids enough credit no matter how old they are, they know way more than we think. And I was trying to get that point across and I just couldn't make it happen. I just couldn't. And, and Dalton says to me, I swear to you, he was right there, and he tapped on my shoulder and he said, hey mom, do you remember the day I got home from school, and you were in the kitchen, you were doing laundry, you were all dressed up still from being at work and you were doing and not laundry. I'm sorry. Yeah, dishes. And I walked in and I had a big day and I had a whole bunch of stuff to tell you. And I'm talking and talking and talking and you were ignoring me and you're being really rude. And finally you said to me, can you just slow down for a while? I need a breather. You know, I need a break. Give me five minutes. I just need a break. It's been a really crappy day. You know, just give me a break, and we'll talk in a little while. I just, I'm totally stressed and I remember Dalton saying then and again, this story had completely, this event had completely gone, gone. I had totally forgotten it. And he said to me, mom, put the dishes down. Let's go in the living room and I want you to talk to me and tell me why you're so stressed today.
Shea Oliver: Wow!
Roni Lambrecht: Yeah. He's 10 years old. Mind you.
Shea Oliver: Oh my Gosh!
Roni Lambrecht: And I was like, no, dude, I don't have time for that. I have so much stuff to do and I'm freaking out and and I'm stressed. And he's like, mom, stop. Come in here, sit down with me on the couch and let's talk. And so I went and I sat down with him on the couch and one of the biggest things I was stressed about was that I was speaking at the mortgage event the next day and blah, blah blah. And I had, I was nervous about speaking to 500 people or whatever. And he says, what are you nervous about? And I said, I don't know, just I just not a great talker in front of people. And he says, well, get up and tell me this speech. And so I stood up and I gave him this speech and he says, okay, mom, don't say "um""um" as much. Try not say all the time, which I still do mind you.
Shea Oliver: We all do.
Roni Lambrecht: But he said, God, what you do every day is so boring.
Shea Oliver: Yeah you know sometimes they have really good insights .
Roni Lambrecht: Mortgage and real estate is kind of boring sometimes, you know, especially to a 10 year old. But he said, mom, you really did a good job but I think you're going to do great tomorrow. And he said, it's women that you're speaking in front of. You told me and women are nice. Oh, okay. So it's good that you have that view that women are nice. But anyway. But it was so poignant to me that here I had been, you know, all day I'm beating my head against my desk going, why can I not come up with, you know, a teaching moment about how kids are smarter than their parents. And then he reminds me of that day and it was like, oh my God, why didn't I remember that? What about what else have forgotten and yeah.
Roni Lambrecht: But, anyway, it was just an amazing moment. And, and so writing the book was extremely therapeutic for me, and and being able to have Dalton telling me stories like that, that, that I had forgotten. And as a mom who's lost a child, I will tell you my biggest fear is forgetting. I don't want to lose those memories. So, so having him tell me that story was just so phenomenal and again, so poignant and that as parents we think we have a bad day and our kids gonna think that, you know, they're the number one thing on our plate and we've got to take care of them right now and that kind of thing. And it was just so cool that he stopped me and made me talk to him. And I think a lot of that has to do with the way that we do our highs and lows at night. You know, one of the things that we've always done as Dalton would tell his highs and lows for the day and then it was John's turn and John would tell his highs and lows and then I would tell my highs and lows and some of the, the most awesome parts of those things where the fact that first of all, Dalton didn't feel like he was being interrogated, because that's how they fail and I know you notice with teenagers, but it was also cool to how I could spend a whole day being frustrated about something being massively wrong at work or things weren't going right and he would go, well, mom, why don't you try this? Like really I've been stewing on this all day and that's what you came up with. And then you go try it. And it freaking worked!
Shea Oliver: Oh those little small humans!
Roni Lambrecht: Exactly! There are brilliant. We just give them the opportunity to be that.
Shea Oliver: Absolutely, I completely agree It sounds like Dalton was an absolutely amazing young child and young man.
Roni Lambrecht: Yes, he was.
Shea Oliver: I'm glad you're getting to share him with me and with everyone on that you're getting to share them with. That's really fantastic. So kind of swing back around to some of those difficult early days. Shortly after you'd lost Dalton and you guys had gone through this process and you decided you were going to do something different and push forward with the book and where you are today. Did you have to say.. either distance yourself from friends or say goodbye to any friends or family that were thinking you were headed on the wrong path and not dealing with things appropriately?
Roni Lambrecht: Not In response to the book, but there were definitely some friends that and still who don't know how to talk to to us now. So they've just distanced themselves in general, but not because of the route we were going, but just because we lost Dalton.
Shea Oliver: Sure, yeah, I can, that unfortunately I'm afraid probably more happens more often than we'd like to admit that it does. So how important was it to have people around you as you took what is a pretty courageous step into doing something so different? How important is your social network?
Roni Lambrecht: In the beginning it was actually pretty secret, because, I had mentioned it to a couple of friends and, and, and, you know, you get that feedback back and even my parents, not that they ever discouraged me, but they were like, yeah, I don't know, you know, I'm not sure if that's the right thing, and so I kind of closed up and didn't talk about it anymore. And then I just decided that every Friday I was going to take off work and write and for six months or so I didn't even let anybody in my family and in my sphere, I should say other than clients obviously, but in my sphere of family and friends, I really didn't let them, a lot, a whole lot of them even know that that's what I was doing until I was really close. I think maybe three months, maybe four months before I actually was ready to release it to the editor, is when I finally was really honest with everybody and said, this is what I've been doing.
Shea Oliver: So you really had to dive deep into yourself as you did this and really look for courage and look for strength in yourself and push forward.
Roni Lambrecht: Yes, absolutely.
Shea Oliver: And how did you go about doing that? I mean, that's a, it's a lonely process. How did you continue to push yourself?
Roni Lambrecht: Honestly, because I felt like, again, this has to do with beliefs and stuff. I felt like if I kept writing that Dalton would come to me, and it was the only way I had to really be close to him. And so if I could get up, and know that I was going to write today, then maybe he would come to me today. Maybe he would talk to me. Maybe I could hear his voice in my head. Maybe I could smell him, something. Maybe he'd leave me a dime today and let me know that he was here. Yeah, so honestly that's really what the goal was with the originally, with the book was that I could see that he would come to me. I don't know how else to say that.
Shea Oliver: I hear you. That makes perfect sense. So you obviously talked to lots of different people and most of them I'm assuming have children, but one of the things that's somewhat thematic is people come to, I'm sure, and begin to talk to you is that they realize they need to make a change of some type, in a generic sense, not just with people with kids. How do you encourage people to make changes?
Roni Lambrecht: Boy, I've never really thought about that before. That's a great question.
Shea Oliver: I mean, you're an inspirational person, and my thought is that you are making a very positive change in the world, and there's people that are looking at you saying, wow, you know, I haven't lost a child but, and if I could go do a, b or c, but I'm just not brave enough, what would you tell them?
Roni Lambrecht: One of the things that John and I both say a lot to a lot of people is, you know, you hear the slang, the sentence you'll hear, life is too short, and John and I will both tell you life is too long
Shea Oliver: Oh, say more.
Roni Lambrecht: Well, you turn it around and you go, you know, obviously Dalton's life was cut short, but you turn around, you look at our life now and our life is too long at this point. Would we rather both be with him? Absolutely we would. But, even looking at it further than that, look at your life. Life is really a long period of time in this world. You know, they tell us that another world, this life is a blink or whatever, but in this world life does feel like it's long. And when you're, when your living life, and it does feel like it's long. Why do you want to do something that you hate doing for a long time? You know, if it's just a short, you know, oh this is just going to take a couple of weeks and it's going to be over. That's one thing. But if I've got to work this job for the next 10 years just so I can make retirement or, you know, meet my goals or whatever, and you hate it so badly, you don't want to get out of bed in the morning. Life's too damn long for that. Make it change seriously. Because why do you want to live like that? It's too long. They have to be here to do something you are not enjoying or that you feel like is not making a difference or if you, that you feel like is not meeting your goals and your dreams. It just doesn't. I don't know. I, yeah, I just, I, that's, that really is how John and I put it when we talk to people is, God, if you hate what you're doing, then then you do need to make a change because it is really just too long to, to have, to deal with things
Shea Oliver: That is a blunt and honest and accurate assessment. The thing that comes to mind is my grandmother's old saying, in the days of one bathroom in the house, is either you shit or get off the pot.
Roni Lambrecht: Exactly. I don't beat around the bush. Sorry, it didn't warn you of that.
Shea Oliver: No that's fantastic. So no five stages of grief. I heard that earlier. I'm just going to ask about anger because you know, I, I guess I'm, this is me as a father too. I can't imagine what I would go through. Not at all, but the anger, I would feel that my son wasn't with me anymore. Assuming how did you deal with or did you, did you have to deal with that?
Roni Lambrecht: Absolutely. We still deal with that everyday. Everyday when someone says some stupid comment to you, like God needed another angel, and you want to punch him in the face, you are dealing with anger, a lot of times. And we're, we're in the midst of selling our house right now, which is something I never in a million years thought we would do. I thought that we would be in our house for the rest of our lives. That's the reason we built it the way we did. The reason that, I mean we, we thought Dalton would want it someday. We thought our grandkids would be here. We don't get to have grandkids now. And I talked to people everyday that have grandkids and they dote on their grandkids and how wonderful it is to have life with grandkids and all that. I don't get to get that. I don't get to have that in my life.
Roni Lambrecht: And then that is maddening and, and lots of times I can sit with those people and I can laugh with them and be happy for them that they get to have grandkids and then I can come home and go, God Dang it. Why do they get to? And I don't know. Yeah, I mean that's supposed to be the funnest time of your life, spoil them and send them home. Right. I looked forward to that and I don't get to do that now, you know, there's just so many things. I don't get to walk my kid down the aisle to his, to his wife someday, and you know, all those things that you don't get to do and that is maddening and it does make you angry.
Roni Lambrecht: But it also makes you feel like, I just, what I say, there's not five stages to grief. What I mean is that in so many moments you are going through so many emotions. So as an example, when you went through your divorce, you were probably in, you were angry. I'm sure you were probably really hurt at the same time. You were probably really emotionally worried about your kids and you know, but, and, and, and that's only three, I'm sure there were 100 at once going on. And the same exact thing when you lose your child is, yeah, am I angry? You're damn right. I'm angry. Is, am I, if there's a God I am, madder than hell at him. I think you made a really crappy decision. You know, do I know the whole universe yet and why this all happened? No, I don't. But for the moment, with the information that I've been given, it pisses me off that this is the decision that got made. I'm a good person. Why do I lose my baby? It's not fair. And why are there so many other parents who don't care about their kids or so many other kids who are out there and doing terrible things, hurting people or you know, all that kind of thing. And why are they still alive and my, my child is not. So yeah, there's a lot of anger.
Roni Lambrecht: Then there's the entitlement too. There's like the, well, I've had to go through this, and so I shouldn't have to deal with this or this or this or this because I've had to go through this big thing, so why should I have to deal with my tire going flat, you know what I mean? It's all those little. Yeah, all those little everyday things. And you're like, oh my God, why do I have to go through this? Why do I have to deal with this? I have already been through this horrible thing.
Roni Lambrecht: There's, there's the, you know, obviously the insane extreme depression and sadness. There's just so many emotions, but they're all, you go through really happy times too, that are... they the guilt then? So you have a happy time and you have a happy moment - you're laughing and then you're so guilty. I'm laughing, Dalton's not here. And I'm laughing. You know, why, why is that happening? There's, you know, while you're in the happy moment and how you feel really, really good and you're like, oh my God, like, this is my reality for this moment. It's okay to be this way. There's just, I can't even tell you, but there are, when someone says five stages, you can even lump all of the feelings that you have into a stage.
Roni Lambrecht: Like I know one day, I had woken up and I was pretty upset that I had just finished reading Five Stages of Grief, and what is it On Death and Dying, or whatever that book is by Kubler Ross or whatever, and I was so mad and so I sat on my phone, and I just typed in my notes every single feeling I was feeling at that moment, and I think I came up with something like 112 different things I was feeling at that moment, and then I was like, well, maybe she's right. I'm going to sit here and I'm going to go through these and I'm going to try and break it down and see if I can fit all of them into these five stages that she says. And you can't. It's impossible. I don't know. It's definitely. So that is something that really gets me mad. What, what, what stage are you in? can you tell?
Shea Oliver: Do people actually ask you that?
Roni Lambrecht: Oh yes. Oh yeah. What stage do you think you're in? You know,
Shea Oliver: So people want you in a bucket?
Roni Lambrecht: Absolutely. They do that. They want you, this box around you and they want to be able to say, okay, she's depressed right now. She's angry right now. Yeah.
Shea Oliver: So when somebody asks you something like that, I saw one reaction. Is that usually how you explain to people?
Roni Lambrecht: But yeah, I will, I do say there are, there are five stages of grief. I'm going through many emotions all at once. Would you like me to list them? All right now?
Shea Oliver: So, how important is being frank, blunt, and honest with people. When you face something like this, how important is that?
Roni Lambrecht: I think there are definitely nice ways to do it. I know that I have a girlfriend from that lost her daughter and I know when people say, you know, like God needed another angel or you know, God just needed him more than you did. Oh, I hate that comment, but people say those things, and she will grab their arms and she'll shake them and say, you have no idea and this is how you, what you should have said. You should never say that. This is what you should say. I wouldn't, I don't think I would approach it that way in most cases. We had a really close friend say to us, he said, just think of it as retiring from parenting early. You get to go on a lot of vacations now.
Roni Lambrecht: Yeah. But, yeah, when I told her that she's like, did you wring his neck? Did you shoot him? What did you do? And in all honesty in that moment, I bit my tongue and I just said, hey bud, that's probably not the way that we'll ever look at it. But the other side of that is I really did turn out around and I looked at, and don't, don't take this offensively, but first of all, he's a guy, right? He tried his darnedest to say something, right? And he probably drove all the way out here for 30 minutes from his house thinking, what the hell am I going to say to them, And he truly thought that was a brilliant comment. And so you know what? You got to give him Kudos. He tried. You really do, know other people. They'll tell me, oh, to kicked him in the face of, you know, but it's like, you really got to stop and you think about, they tried. And they really. I know he thought that through. I know he did. He was so proud of himself when he said it. I could see it in his eyes.
Roni Lambrecht: So you just got to give people. So you know, we expect grace right? As we're the people that lost a child. But we also have to turn around and give grace to because people don't know what to say and we have none of us, none of us have ever been taught what to say during grief, what to do during grief, any of that. And so I have a whole chapter in my parenting book on grief for that very reason. I'm one of the things that we dealt with was somehow it gets through the grapevine before my parents even know that Dalton's died, and somebody gets on his facebook page and says, are you dead, Dude? My parents don't know. My sister doesn't know, you know, we're 1,100 miles away from home. We haven't gotten that far yet. And somehow, it got to this kid and you know, where I was in my grief, I don't know how to get this off of his Facebook page. I don't know how to make that happen and I don't know how to contact the kid. And you think now and you look at it and you go, well, you could have clicked on the kid's name and you could have sent him a message and all that. But at the time, I can't think through that.
Roni Lambrecht: And I cannot ask for help with that because the people that I need to ask for help from are the people who don't know yet. So, but again, people say the dumbest things because they don't know. And so, so in my chapter, Events That Transform Your Lives, it talks about, you know, teach your kids to stay away from the buttons on their phone. It's not their message - shut up, you know, keep your fingers off the phone, if you are going to tell somebody bad news to always, always, always, always make sure that they have someone next to them to help them through it. Don't give somebody a, one of Dalton's best friends found out, and he had nobody next to him to help him, how with, how to handle it. And therefore he was crying so hard and couldn't talk and he was a 13 year old kid at the time and all he knows to do is get on his phone and text and other friend. And then from there, things blow up and they get in the wrong hands. And he was just trying to ask for help because there was nobody there to help him. Well, had someone been right there next to him to help him in the first place, he wouldn't have texted.
Roni Lambrecht: So there's just so many things that as a society we do not teach people how to help people who are grieving and who are going through something bad in their life, you know, and I don't mean to compare this, but a job loss, a kid who just lost a boyfriend or a girlfriend, you know, somebody that just had their first kiss and then that person left them, you know, or you know, all these, these things that you think are little things, versus, you know, as, as well as all the big things, you know, losing a parent, losing a friend, losing a spouse, all those things. Nobody knows what to say. And we need to be better as a society at educating people. As that it's not, what would you say? It's what you do. Be there, you know, just be there. Listen, help them go through pictures. You know, I have a whole list of things I can, I can share it, but just be there and be involved and do whatever you can and mow the lawn, do the grocery shopping, clean the toilet. I honest to God, I couldn't grocery shop, I got in the egg aisle at Walmart, the first time we went, shopping afterwards and I sat down on the floor and I cried for an hour and do you know, not one single person stopped and said, are you okay? Can I help you? What's wrong? Nothing. And I sat there for over an hour and cried because I couldn't pick out eggs because Dalton made us eggs. Every Saturday morning, he made scrambled eggs and I didn't know, I don't know that I'm going to go grocery shopping. How in the world could grocery shopping cause a trigger, you know, who would have thought of that? And I picked up a carton of eggs and I slid it back and I fell on the ground and I couldn't talk. I cried and I couldn't function. But nobody said a word to me. And that alone says this world needs help in dealing with grief.
Shea Oliver: Indeed. Indeed it does. So has this experience made you more compassionate as a human?
Roni Lambrecht: Absolutely, yes. Yes. We definitely give a whole lot more grace than we would have before. And it also makes you feel like, I'm in the real estate business, in the real estate business, things are life and death every day. Oh my God, if you don't get this contract and you'll not get this house, and what if it doesn't close at 1:00 and it has to close at 3:00 and the whole world's going to end, you know? My whole life, every single day has always been a life and death situation for the last 23 years in real estate. And now I don't run my business like that anymore because I know better. It's not life or death. And you know what, if you don't get this house, you weren't meant to have this house. You know, if this offer comes in from a buyer and it's too low of a number and it makes you mad, it makes you mad and you put the house back on. Big deal. and it does, it really does change your perspective on what's important and what you freak out about and what's, you know, what's worth getting upset about. Because again, life is too long to live in insanity all the time.
Shea Oliver: Sure. So what is the most important thing in life ?
Roni Lambrecht: To surround yourself with the people that you love and that you love to be around? I've always been very, even before we lost Dalton, and I've always been a big proponent of teaching him and teaching my husband that if someone, if someone takes food off your plate instead of putting food on it, that's how we used to always explain it to Dalton, but if someone feeds your soul, you keep them around. But if God, if they're constantly like negative to you and they're telling you how fat you are, how skinny you are, how ugly you are, or how dumb you are, why don't you think of that? Or you know, those kinds of people, they need to be out of your life, whether they're friends or family or acquaintances, a neighbor. If they're an asshole, get rid of them. Cause life is... life is too long to have terrible people around you.
Shea Oliver: Absolutely beautiful. That's a perfect place for us to wrap up. If somebody wants to learn more about you, or contact you, or read your book, what resources should they be going to?
Roni Lambrecht: Let's see here. So my website for the book is ParentingAtYourBestWithoutRegret.com. And they can email me at DoItForDalton@gmail.com, and we also have a pay it forward campaign on Dalton's website. It's called DoItForDalton.com. And what we ask you to do is that in Dalton's name or in anyone's name of someone that you love, gone or here, go do something nice today for someone and then ask them to pay it forward.
Roni Lambrecht: Absolutely. Fantastic. I love that. I always end with one last question, and that question is what question did I forget to ask you?
Roni Lambrecht: Oh Wow, that's a good one. Boy. I'm not sure maybe about the other books. I guess maybe I don't because there's three books versus just one.
Shea Oliver: Okay. Tell us about the three books.
Roni Lambrecht: Yeah. So, so the first one is called Parenting at Your Best - Powerful Reflections and Straightforward Tips for Becoming a Mindful Parent, and again, that's on my website and it's also on Amazon, and it's also in an audio book now. I have a second book called A Parent's Guide for Journaling to Their Child - Simple Strategies for Writing Heartfelt Love Letters to Your Child. And then in addition to that, I have one called A Parent's Journal to Their Child with simple strategies for writing heartfelt love letters to your child. And the reason that those two about is because in our grief journey, many, many wonderful people have said to us, what is it that we can do for you that would help you along your grief journey? And both John and I have always said to them, write love letters to your babies. And when I say babies, I mean zero to a hundred. Write love letters to your babies so that they have something tangible and they know how much you love them.
Shea Oliver: That is beautiful. Roni Thank you so much for spending this time with me today. This has been an absolutely fantastic conversation. I really appreciate that you are as courageous, and brave as you are to come out, share your story, and work to make such an awesome difference in the world.
Roni Lambrecht: Thank you so much.