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HeadsUp! CTE in the Charlotte Observer with Kelly Buckley

July 19, 2012

Grieving with gratitude

Charlotte mom shows how giving thanks each day got her through her son’s death

By Alicia W. Roberts, Correspondent, Posted: Friday, Jun. 29, 2012

Kelly Buckley speaks in ripples. Her thoughts cascade off of one another as she scrutinizes her current state of mind and considers the life that brought her to this point.  She’ll claim she is overanalyzing, that her message is much simpler than she’s putting it. Her voice ebbs and flows with each thought – quick and low as she ruminates, stronger and slower as she focuses.

This is her son’s death she’s talking about, so the analysis is understandable.

Stephen, 23, drowned three years ago on the Fourth of July, during an outing with friends at Lake Jordan, near Raleigh. Buckley remembers the unbearable sadness she felt that day. She remembers sitting on the lakeshore, waiting for divers to find Stephen’s body. And she remembers being overwhelmed by the need to write about it all, on the back of a utility bill, in the parking lot of the funeral home after Stephen’s service.

That’s when Buckley began to base her existence on ripples, the ripples Stephen’s life and death could make in the world.

The latest ripple is a new book, “Just One Little Thing,” in which Buckley describes how giving thanks for one thing each day has helped her work through her sadness over Stephen’s death.  “Just One Little Thing” grew out of a Facebook community of the same name Buckley established on July 4, 2011. She posts pep talks and positive nuggets each day for her more than 10,000 JOLT followers. (One post, on a recent Melody Monday: What five songs would be on the soundtrack of your life?)

She pictures Stephen in heaven, urging her on. “His friends said he had a way of figuring out what people needed, and did it,” she said. “I think I’m just continuing what he would do if he were here. … As his mom, that’s what I’m supposed to do.”

Buckley is grateful for the connections she has made with her JOLT-ers, as she calls them.  She has hundreds of emails from readers reaching out; she’ll reply to them all. She has no publicist, no marketer. She’s just a mom, she said, who sits in front of her computer and writes. “The true magic in this is the connections,” she said. “It only happened because I decided to not grieve alone.”

The ripples keep her going, like the one that connected her to Colleen O’Malley-Weber of Charlotte.

O’Malley-Weber’s brother, Sean O’Malley, died earlier this year. He battled with the depression that comes with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a deterioration of the brain that affects athletes subjected to frequent blows to the head. He took his own life.

O’Malley-Weber calls Kelly Buckley her “virtual sister.” She saw an article about “Just One Little Thing” after her brother’s death, and bought two books – one for her and one for her mother. She said the books – and Kelly’s support – showed her the way to starting, to spread the word about athletes, head injuries and the repercussions.

“When I read Kelly’s book, I learned about the ripple effect,” O’Malley-Weber said. “That kind of cinched it for me. I knew what I had to do.”

Read more here.

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