Adversity: Lost daughter, Lulu, in a tragic accident
Advocacy: Created Lulu’s House of Hope to provide bereavement support to other parents
“When you reach out and give, the feeling and the love and the joy that you get deep down in your soul – it is just indescribable. I really believe the power of healing comes from engagement, not grief. The more you give, you get back a thousand-fold.”
Gretchan and Warren Pyne were at Cape Cod with their daughter and twin sons on a sunny summer day in 2001 when it began to lightly rain and two rainbows appeared in the sky. Gretchan’s daughter, Lulu, danced and twirled with the rainbows in the background as Dad captured her joy on video. Then Lulu leaned up against an unsecured bicycle rack, in what her Mom calls her Vanna White pose, and the rack came down on top of Lulu, severing her heart and killing her instantly.
“The grieving process is truly a process,” says Gretchan. “After Lulu died I couldn’t sleep. I just wanted to write.” What evolved was a series of Lulu stories, the first of which, “Lulu’s Rose Colored Glasses,” was inspired by a moment Lulu and Gretchan shared three months before the accident. “When I received the first book from the publisher it was Lulu telling me, ‘Momma, it’s time to find your rose-colored glasses. It’s time to find your happiness again.” Gretchan began a mission to share Lulu’s inspirational messages. Then Lulu came to her Mom in a dream. “She said, ‘Mamma, Mamma, let me show you what I can do. She was creating this world around her – the faster she danced, the faster the world moved. I took her hand and danced with her.” In the dream, Lulu had a message for her mother. “It was, ‘Mamma, don’t you see? I’m not over the rainbow, I am the rainbow. Dream Believe and Do, I am the rainbow and so are you.’ ” That soon became the theme of an arts and creativity program Gretchan took to students at an underprivileged school. Through her books, her documentary “Dream Believe and Do” at www.lulubellebooks.com, and public speaking engagements, Gretchan shares the value of giving. “We all have pain, we can’t escape that, but it’s what you do with that pain that matters the most,” she says. “It’s in the first step that you start to feel the courage and realize, ‘I can take this pain and do something to impact others.’ ” As part of her journey, Gretchan joined her husband in opening up their summer cottage to other parents grieving the loss of a child. There, she directs bereavement support groups, guided meditation and writing exercises. “For me, personally, it was in the writing that so much healing took place,” Gretchan says. “I realized that I could truly connect with Lulu on a spiritual soul level.”