Ambushed by Grief

Sometimes it just hits me out of nowhere. Today I was stopped at a red light and was overcome by vivid images of the night Jonathan entered eternity. Of course it didn’t help that I was stopped staring directly at the hospital where valiant but unsuccessful efforts were made to save his life after that horrific motorcycle accident. Waiting for the light to change so I could go run my work errands, I was  looking at a directional sign that said something about patients with an arrow and I was transported back to seeing his lifeless body laying there in the ER while Noah was gently stroking his freshly cut hair.

I tried to shake it off because I have so much to get done this week. I went about the rest of my day, and then it caught back up to me tonight. Now here I am in the middle of the night desperately trying to fall back asleep after an extremely awful night terror. I’m exhausted and my mind is swirling with so many things, but I keep landing back at how much I miss Jonathan.  How much I wish for one of his super tight hugs. How I hate this journey of grief. Tonight is one of those times where my head and heart cannot come to an agreement, and I can’t even bring myself to say “not my will, Lord but Yours” because in this moment I just want to hear his giggle in person one more time. I want to be able to talk with him and laugh together at how funny his brother was in his Groundlings show the other night. I want to watch him tease his Marano brothers about who they are dating and laugh together with Nate at the silliest things. I want to watch him play with Jacob’s son, Luke, and walk around proud and somewhat arrogant that Luke’s middle name is Jonathan – after him.

Instead, the quilt made from his clothes is draped over me, I’ve watched all of the video clips I have of him stored on my phone and any minute now the essential oils I’m diffusing next to my bed are going to kick in and help me get a few minutes of sleep before the alarm goes off.

I miss you so much, Baby.





March 8, 2016 changed our lives forever.

We do not celebrate the date, but we celebrate our son and the incredible life he lived. His legacy of love and loyalty lives on in so many of you.

We have no special plans this year, but would love to continue the tradition that we started last year.

We’d be blessed if you join us in doing random acts of kindness in Jonathan’s name.

I shared some possible examples in my 2017 blog post titled “One Year,” and there are countless other ways you could honor him.

Please share your posts on social media by tagging #JMSsicktricks

I just learned that we can follow hashtags on Instagram so I look forward to having my feed full of your posts .


I have two sons!

I have spent a lot of time talking here about Jonathan and my grief after losing him a year ago. That has been intentional.  I find it helpful to “talk” through this journey here.

However, in case you did not know, I have 2 sons! Jonathan was our oldest and Josh is our younger son.

Joshua Michael Sepetjian

I am so proud of this guy and I just wanted to brag on him for a minute! Currently 19 and a freshman at CSULB Josh is a man of depth and sincerity. He is one of the smartest people I know and he causes me to think deep. He stretches me and I am a better person for knowing him. What a gift it is to be his mama.

Losing your only sibling in the last quarter of your senior year in high school is enough to shake things up a bit, to say the least. Josh could easily have let his grades slip and just blow things off. Honestly, I don’t think too many people would have blamed him. Yet, Josh persevered. He finished his senior year with all the rights of passage including prom and grad night, and I think that is exactly what his brother would have wanted for him. We are so very grateful for the community who surrounded him during that time. His friends from OCSA and his youth group at Calvary were there for him, as were many of those kids’ parents. Sure, there have been and still are hard times – this type of loss is not something you ever really recover from.  We are figuring it out, though. That is not any less true for Josh.

Over the last two summers Josh had the opportunity to travel and  serve alongside other students at our sister church, Way of Peace in Lushnje, Albania. Josh first said he was interested in going on this trip while he was in his junior year. I was actually surprised, because even though he had done some local short-term mission trips to Arizona over the years, this kind of trip was way out of his comfort zone. He was accepted onto the team and it was an amazing time for him. He enjoyed that first trip so much, that he signed up to go again the next summer, even though it was a high school trip and he had since graduated. Josh was actually eligible to travel to Israel with the college group at the time, but instead chose to go to Albania saying that is where he felt God leading him to go. It was such a blessing to see him owning his faith, sharing it and really learning to listen to how God is leading him.

When I heard that the college group at Calvary is headed on a mission trip to Thailand and Cambodia this summer, I was sure that he would have no interest in going on that trip. Once again he surprised us. So, this June 16 -30 Josh and a small group of college students will be serving kids who have been rescued out of sexual slavery. They will be partnering with an organization called Destiny Rescue. If you want to hear about this trip in his words, you can read his support letter here: Josh Thailand Support Letter 2017 . If you are interested in supporting him and this trip financially, you can visit his personal fundraising page.

I am amazed at his heart to serve and love what God is doing in his heart.

In loving memory of Jonathan Matthew Sepetjian

A video tribute by Jonathan’s uncle, Vasken Sepetjian


Jonathan’s Memorial Service

There were a handful of people who have reached out to let us know they were not able to attend Jonathan’s Memorial Service and wondered if it was available online somewhere, so here it is. This is the full service, it is almost 2 hours long and includes the tribute video made by Jonathan’s Amo Vasken. Special thanks to my friend Tammy Harris who had the forethought to make sure this was captured for us.

I will post the link to just the tribute video separately.


One year.

To our family, friends and anyone who loves Jonathan:

As we approach the one-year anniversary of Jonathan being received home by his Creator, we wanted to let you know how we plan to spend the day. All things considered, we still wish that he was here with us but we find incredible peace and even some joy knowing that he is in the presence of his Savior in a restored body. We know that we will see him again one day.

JMSOver the last year, spending time with the people closest to him has been so healing for us. We have loved to hear you share your memories of Jonathan.  Knowing about the ways he touched your lives and what he meant to you is so precious to us.

March 8 is a Wednesday this year and we know that most people have work, school and other commitments. We are planning a brief visit to the cemetery after which we are going to release some butterflies in our backyard. My friend/pastor/boss will pray a blessing over us and we will enjoy some food together. We are hoping for it to be a simple day and our intent is to mark the day with reverence – to do something to honor Jonathan’s memory. If you would like to be included in any of those parts of the day, feel free to message Noah, Josh or me and we can give you more detail about times.

For any of you who cannot be with us but would still like to do something in Jonathan’s memory, we invite you to do small acts of service that include things he was passionate about. Here are some suggestions:

  • Appreciate a service person.
    Paying for someone in line behind you for coffee is a nice gesture, but we all know that he had a love/hate (mostly hate) relationship for his time at Starbucks. A Jonathan twist on this would be to do something nice for your favorite barista (or waiter or cashier): see them, thank them, buy them lunch, etc.
  • Do something special to appreciate a first responder.
    Two of his closest friends are firefighters. Jonathan was proud of them. He also had enormous respect for police and the military. Take some cookies to your local fire or police station. Buy them lunch/coffee or just approach them to shake their hand and thank them for their service.
  • Share the road with motorcycles.
    Say a prayer for a rider’s safety as they pass you on the road. Look twice and give them a wide berth as you drive. Here is one organization that Jonathan liked. They supported us after his accident:
  • Appreciate someone’s tattoo.
    Sometimes the first thing we see about someone is their choice to have tattoos and we frequently make assumptions about people based solely on that fact. Very often tattoos tell a personal story, not to mention that they an art form. Ask someone about his or her ink and what it means to them. Let it be a way to build a bridge to someone you might not ever talk to otherwise.
  • Adventure outside.JMS on beach
    Go on a hike, run on the beach, ride a sea-doo, go snowboarding, climb a big rock.
  • Love people.
    Tell the people in your life what they mean to you. Be a loving and loyal friend to someone who needs it.
  • Do something nice for a doctor, nurse or other medical professional.
    Jonathan spent more than his share of time in ER’s over the years for various reasons. He was in awe of the people who cared for him during those times. On March 8, 2016, there were many people in the Orange County Global Medical Center ER who worked on Jonathan in an attempt to save his life. I know that it was hard for them when they could not bring him through that night. Thank someone in Jonathan’s name.

These are just a few suggestions, surely there are many more. Let the Lord and your heart lead you in this.

We would love to hear about anything that you do, but also understand that you may prefer to do something quietly, without fanfare. Message us privately, post it on social media by tagging Jonathan in your posts or treasure it quietly in your heart. Our desire is simply to keep his memory alive.


Susie (also for Noah and Josh)

P.S. A sweet friend suggested using a hashtag for this so that posts can be grouped. Keeping it very simple, use #JMSSickTricks as you share about your acts of service on or around March 8
Tag Jonathan in these feeds:  Instagram, Facebook, Twitter (does anyone besides our president still use Twitter?)


One Day Closer – Part 2

Several times since publishing and sharing my last post, I have wanted to write a follow-up. Not to change the original idea. I so appreciate God having given me the perspective of each passing day moving us closer to seeing Jonathan again. That thought still brings me comfort. The more I sat with it, though, the more it felt like an incomplete post.

While it is true the more time that passes the closer we are to seeing him again, it is also a fact that the days are often very hard without Jonathan. Random, unexpected moments and occasions or conversations bring him back to the front of my consciousness; the harsh reality of living without him frequently brings along with it sadness. His absence is such a hole in our lives and looking forward to seeing him again is sometimes only a small comfort in contrast to the depth of pain we feel.

Then again, without the assurance of being reunited with Jonathan one day I feel pretty certain I would not have made it this far. What a joy to have been his mama for almost 24 years here on earth. What a blessing to know that we will spend eternity with him. It is in light of eternity that this “time in between” is actually short, so that is another encouragement to hold on to… especially on the hard days.


One Day Closer

Without a doubt 2016, was the hardest year of my life. As the year was drawing to a close and we began marking significant days that would not include Jonathan, part of me was just eager for the year to end. His absence at all of our holiday celebrations and even the ordinary days is an unimaginably painful hole in our lives.

Jonathan 6/2012We did some special things around Christmas to make sure Jonathan would be a part of our celebrations. There were definitely some tears on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning, but we were together as a family and it was good. It was healing.

So when New Year’s Eve rolled around I was surprised that the thought of starting a new year without Jonathan was harder than spending our first Christmas without him. Somehow it felt like we were moving further and further away from him.

Here now a week into 2017 and I have not been able to shake that thought. Yesterday we marked 10 months exactly since he was received home by his Creator. So many of Jonathan’s friends are experiencing major life events like weddings, engagements, new babies, new jobs and birthdays. These are wonderful things and we are sincerely happy for the families who get to experience them. At the same time, these events are very real and painful reminders that we will never experience those things with Jonathan. Left alone with those thoughts, it would be easy to slip into a pit of despair and bitterness, but God. God is so gracious to pursue and pull me back out of that pit. Day by day, minute by minute He does not let me stay there long.

This morning the nagging thought of 10 months without him popped back into my head. In many ways, time has stood still for us since March 8, 2016. In other ways, it is moving faster than ever. I could not help but think that before we know it, it’ll be 11 months and then a full year without him here. Then two years. Then five. Further from the last time we saw Jonathan and spoke to him; heard his giggle. Further from the last time any of us received one of his super tight, warm hugs that always spoke louder than words.

Then this morning as the rain was falling outside and I was trying to shake the cobwebs out of my head to get ready for the day, God graciously gave me an epiphany. We are not moving further away from him. Today we are one day closer to seeing Jonathan again. It is so simple, yet it makes all the difference. My soul immediately felt lighter. What a gracious and merciful gift from a loving God. Praying that you also would possess this gift.

Ephesians 2:1-9

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.  Ephesians 2:1-9 ESV


Cathartic Creativity

In recent months I have found that being creative is therapeutic for me. Not sure what it is, maybe it provides a good distraction for me – something to keep my hands and mind busy. Unlike vegging in front of the TV or wasting hours on social media, when I am creative I will typically have something to show for my time. I have been learning and experimenting with the Cricut that I got for my birthday and let me just say, time flies when you’re creating!  It took me several weeks to complete our Christmas ornament project (I will share about that project in a post another time) and even though it was more labor intensive than I initially realized, I loved doing it and found it to be such a blessing to be able to give them away.

tiered tray


Earlier this week, Noah rescued this cute thing from going into the dumpster at work. It had been received full of Christmas goodies from one of the neighboring businesses and after all the edible items were gone, no one was interested in the tiered tray. Well, I am happy to say that my husband knows me and asked if I wanted it. Um, YES! He brought it home for me on Wednesday.

We have this spot at the end of our hallway that has always looked kind of barren to me so I wanted to see if I could make it work there. It is a pretty small space and there is no natural light at the end of the hallway; there is very little artificial light so plants were not an option – well, real plants were not an option. I have been scrolling through Pinterest for inspiration and after work today I headed over to Hobby Lobby for more ideas. I made multiple trips circling the store picking things up and putting them in my basket, then putting them back when I found something I liked more. After more than two hours I finally headed to the register and cashed in some Christmas gift cards.

As ideas started flowing, I remembered something that I had seen on Instagram. One of the home decor feeds I follow @homeonfernhill had done this really cool thing with an old window that she has displayed on her mantel, that I have been wanting to try. See the post that made me swoon here.

I didn’t want things to be too seasonal, because I would rather not have to constantly be redoing it. There are some words that are close to my heart like blessed, faith, family, love and home. Some succulents, that look real but will not shrivel up with the lack of light. Our first initials and the closest thing that we will have to a real puppy in the immediate future, a sweet yellow lab who needs a name. I really wanted another J, but they only had one. There was also a corrugated metal heart that they were out of. I may eventually add either another J or the heart, but for now we’ll just let the one stand for both of our J‘s. On the bottom tier there is also a larger S for our last name.

I am sure things will get changed up from time to time, but for now I am loving what I ended up with! It was a great way to spend a quiet evening!



trinkets + treasures

Social Media + Grief

Since Jonathan’s accident, I have joined a few closed Facebook groups for bereaved parents and others who have lost someone close to them. Sometimes I need a safe and semi-private place to vent the thoughts that seem so crazy in my head. Those groups have been helpful (at times) to make me feel understood and not so alone. These are parents who know the pain of my loss. However, I also see so many people there who are drowning in anger and pain and bitterness. It breaks my heart. I occasionally try to share where my own hope comes from. Often, I just have to take a break from them altogether at the risk of being pulled in to their despair in my own fragile condition.

Over and over the one thing that remains consistent in these groups is grieving parents who are chastised for not only how, but also how long, they are grieving their children. I just read a post of a mom who buried her 2-year-old son two months ago and this morning someone commented on her FB profile pic (of her and her baby who is now gone) that she needs to “stop living in the past and move on.” After two months. TWO MONTHS!!! I just don’t understand this. It feels so cruel.

I get it that social media seems to give people the platform to say whatever they want to with very little consequence, and if we chose to participate in social media we open ourselves up to that – it is a risk we take. What’s even worse is that many of these grieving parents are also being told things like this to their faces. From their own parents, or siblings or even spouses. From people who they considered to be their most intimate family, friends and supporters.

I am learning that grief is such a long and hard journey. One that is as unique to an individual as each person experiencing it. No one should tell someone else how to grieve, much less how long to grieve. I have heard that our grief will last as long as the love was deep and then some. I can say for myself that I will miss my son until the moment we are reunited in our Father’s house, not a minute less.

What these parents are going through has been so different than my own journey. In the almost 10 months since Jonathan joined his Savior in heaven I have not experienced any overt attacks like that. I have no idea if those things are being said behind my back, and I try not to care if they are.

This is not to say that I have not felt hurt by things people have said. There have been some words that have pierced my already broken heart like a hot knife. However, I know that it was not the intent of those people to hurt me. I truly believe that the majority of people mean well. They sincerely want to help and be supportive in some way. They want me to know that they are hurting with us or at least for us. At times words just fail them so they either don’t say anything (this can leave me/us feeling isolated/ignored) or they trip over the words and things just come out wrong. I try my best to assume only good intent and have compassion for those who fumble in this area.

As someone with the Spiritual Gift of Mercy it was initially hard for me to understand that empathy does not come naturally for some people. I generally have no trouble hurting with or entering into another’s pain, and I often feel drawn to encourage hurting people. I think that Romans 12:15 might be engraved on my soul. A friend and close confidant who has walked with me over the last few years (and even more so in the last few months) explained that some people have to work fairly hard at showing empathy and compassion. It is very taxing on them, but they might be the first person to step in and meet some other kind of need: physical, financial etc. Understanding that was probably one of the most helpful pieces of advice to interact with others over these last several months.

I can’t expect people to automatically know where I am at or what I need on any given day. So, I have become more bold to speak out about what I need. I feel freedom to tell some people a better way if something they have done or said hurts me. I have found that my vulnerability draws people in and then we move towards deeper connection.

As far as social media goes, I am always happy when my Facebook memories include Jonathan. Remembering him makes my heart smile. In a month or a year or even 10 years from now if anyone feels the needs to unfriend or unfollow me because social media posts remembering my son make you uncomfortable then I’ll say “so long” and wish them well. If anyone ever feels the need to berate me publicly for wanting to keep my son’s memory alive, well we can just part ways right now.