When Bad Things Happen to Children

I took a buzz feed quiz the other day and it said my most defining personality trait was “sensitive.” I suppose that is a positive thing. I am empathetic and I care. Two things I think we need more of as a society. The problem is that being sensitive can be painful too. It can sometimes feel like a punch in the stomach. It can feel overwhelming and heavy. It can feel like a weakness rather than an asset. But, not today. Today, I am going to garner strength from my ability to feel.

Last Sunday, Mathias Giordano – a Leesburg, Va., 13-year-old boy I’ve written about before – lost his battle with cancer. Mathias is finally released from his pain and suffering, but his loss is immense. There have been many tributes and words of support written about him, but one comment on a facebook post I read stands out for me: “I don’t know what it’s like to lose a son, but I do know what it’s like to love a son.”

Mathias Giordano

This is exactly right. I know what it’s like to love my children, so the idea of another mother losing hers cuts very deep. It always does, but Mathias’ loss cuts even deeper because I have followed his story and prayed for him from afar for nearly two years. I desperately wanted (like so many) a different result for him and his mother Roya, father Chris and brother Troy.

I didn’t want his family to go through what my family did with my Dad, who also lost his battle with cancer less than a year ago. I understand what it’s like to watch a loved one slowly waste away in front of your eyes. It’s a helpless and horrible feeling. You want to do something… anything. But, you can’t. The best you can do is be there. To tell him you love him. To bring him the one or two things he asks for between the many hours he spends sleeping. To hope and pray for a miracle while also understanding that the time will come to say goodbye. You make peace with this on an intellectual level, but nothing really prepares you for the moment.

To imagine this happening to a child is just too much. I think this may be why people don’t fight for the awareness surrounding childhood cancer like they should. Perhaps this is why there is too little funding. It’s heartbreaking and disturbing to think about children suffering and dying in this way.

But here is the truth… CHILDREN ARE DYING. Their lives are being cut short. Their parents, siblings, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, friends and neighbors are grieving. We cannot look away. We need to feel and then we need to act. We need to harness our sensitive sides and be strong. For them.

When bad things happen to children, we need to do more than cry and pray. We need to advocate and take action. We need to honor the lives of the children who are suffering by standing up.

December 14, 2014, was the anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings. Two years ago, 20 children ages 6 and 7 were killed at the hands of a shooter while at school. They were supposed to be safe. Their parents were supposed to see them again. But, this horrible thing happened and these children, along with 6 teachers and administrators, never made it home. A fellow blogger I respect, Mary Tyler Mom, wrote a powerful essay about this anniversary. She understands what it is to lose a child. She knows what it means when I say that bad things are happening to children. But, she is speaking up. She is bringing awareness to not only childhood cancer, but to gun control. Here is an excerpt from her post Read This Before You Tuck Your Children Into Bed Tonight:

“Having lost a daughter myself to an aggressive brain tumor, something no one could have ever prevented, my heart broke open to imagine that twenty more moms and twenty more dads would mourn their own young child because of something that could have been prevented.  Losing a young child defies the natural order of how we all imagine life is supposed to be. Losing a young child to gun violence is, for me, unimaginable…  I know some of you are tired of reading my words about guns.  I certainly know that I am tired of reading the hateful comments I receive when I write about them.  But I will keep doing it, as, to me, it seems the most effective way I can encourage change in our world.”

She is absolutely right. Speaking up is how we can ALL make a difference. Mourning and praying is not enough. It is important, but it is simply not how we can change things for other children. We need to do something, anything to make a difference. We need to fight for more research and awareness for childhood cancer. We need to figure out a way to protect our children from gun violence, especially while they are at school. We need to be honest about what is happening.

Tears are healthy. They are good. But, we owe it to all the mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, friends and neighbors who grieve for these innocent children to do more. When bad things happen to children we need those with sensitive hearts and souls to stand up. We need to harness the power of our love and do something.

When Bad Things Happen to Children


I urge you to please keep these conversations going. Keep Mathias and all the other innocent children in your heart and remember that nothing will change without action. I will continue to advocate and do what I can from this tiny little space of a blog. I will reach out to others. I will do my best not to allow the heaviness of my feelings weigh me down.

What will you do?

Click Here to see a beautiful slideshow of Mathias’ family and friends participating in a candlelight vigil held in honor of both Mathias and worldwide candle lighting day. #MathiasStrong



Nicole Dash is a writer, blogger and business owner who lives in the suburbs outside Washington, DC with her husband and four children. She started her career as a journalist and copy editor. She also managed public relations and corporate communications for a national franchise company, but in 2006 started a child care business. In 2012, she launched Tiny Steps Mommy, a lifestyle and parenting blog that quickly gained a following and connected her to an expansive group of women-owned businesses. In 2013, she started a digital marketing consulting business that focused on growing community in an authentic way. Through those connections she was inspired to open Play, Work or Dash, a coworking space that also offers onsite childcare up to three hours per day. It is where like-minded professionals pursue their business goals with the extra level of support parents desire; a place where you "bring your kids to work." She is an active member of the Washington, DC blogger community. She has been published on The Washington Post, Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, Mamalode and Pop Sugar.




  1. THANK YOU! I was unaware of how bad our kids are being treated until the ER Dr told my 19 year old son they “found something” on his CAT scan in April. Two months and one removed kidney later he received his diagnosis. Ewings Sarcoma is rare. About 250 a year. But to be found in a kidney? Four a year. We became educated in a hurry, and it was not pretty. He just started round 18 of chemo today and it’s still not pretty. Thank you for raising awareness. Thank you for not turning your head. Our kids deserve far more than what they’re getting.

  2. This post resonated so much – and for a couple of reasons. I am pretty certain that I would have come up with ‘sensitive’ in that quiz as well. Empathy is something that I carry on a very deep level, sometimes to a painful level. It can be a blessing and a curse.

    Also, the boy you mentioned here was a dear friend of a lovely family we had as neighbors while living in Hawaii. We knew of his battle with cancer and were so sad to hear of his passing. Such a small world.

    I found you through Jill’s (Scary Mommy’s) new FB group. Glad I did!
    Nicole @MTDLBlog recently posted…A Simple Blueprint to Joyful LivingMy Profile

  3. The Sandy Hook shooting really impacted me a lot because I had a daughter in 1st grade at the time. It is SO hard to see children die, but I believe that their lives are far to precious to God to keep them on this earth a minute longer where life is so hard. Not that it makes it any easier for those of us that are left behind.
    Meredith recently posted…Fruit By the Foot Printables for Birthdays and Valentine’s DayMy Profile

  4. I’m very sensitive about reading of such news about children too. But it’s a good thing that you ended your post on an inspirational note. Gives me something to think about.
    Tarana Khan recently posted…Ten thoughts every first time mom hasMy Profile