Written by Mara
I first met Amanda in the kitchen of my neighbor’s home. We had been talking for a little over an hour when she began to relate the loss of her twenty-month-old son, Bennett. Five years earlier, he had inexplicably passed away in his sleep, and her anguish at that time was unbearable. As she tried to explain the pain of his loss, my tears flowed. I felt the gravity of her loss because she had literally lived my greatest nightmare–to have to bury a small child.
Anyone that meets Amanda now can feel her strength. Her gaze is that of one who has traversed the deep valleys of life, but has climbed and persevered to a higher plane. You can feel peace and security and light in her presence.
Amanda is from Utah, though her young adulthood life took her to places as far as Kenya, Tanzania, Egypt, Israel, and to college in Virginia where she met her husband, David. Together they now have five children ranging in age from 2 to 14 (including their sweet Bennett who would have celebrated his seventh birthday this May).
Amanda was raised in a family of doers and has always found ways to incorporate service into her own life. In the middle of the night after Bennett had passed away, Amanda was awakened with the thought that she needed to write what she was experiencing in a blog, a thought that she immediately recognized as inspiration. Less than 24 hours after her son’s death, the blog Sunshine Promises
was born. Writing commenced almost immediately in its most raw expression. At the time, she didn’t fully understand the importance of this exercise but sensed it would somehow be a doorway to her healing.
Through blogging in the weeks and months that followed, Amanda began to realize that, with each post, others were healing with her. People began reaching out to her one by one telling her how much her blog meant to them in their own journey with grief. She was asked to speak at conferences, write guest posts and articles, and meet with others experiencing loss. As time passed, it became abundantly clear that Bennett’s death was actually a call to be a Safe Harbor for those experiencing grief and loss.
It was also during those months that Amanda had an epiphany about grief. After learning that traditional grief support groups were not meeting her needs, she realized she needed to be very proactive in her own healing. Time would not necessarily heal her heartache, but it was what she DID with the time that would bring healing. She discovered that she must intentionally seek out healing, wholeness, connection, and joy every single day. It became her quest. And, in that journey, she learned that the deepest healing could only happen when partnered with God.
Now, five years after Bennett’s death, Amanda is a transformational grief coach, writer, speaker, and consultant. She has been invited to present internationally on grief and the importance of healing in communities that have experienced compounded grief because of trauma from war and natural disaster. She constantly receives calls from people looking for support for all types of grief. She is currently working on her first book and will launch her personal website by the end of the year. Along with individual and group coaching, Amanda will be hosting grief retreats and workshops in the next year to support individuals and families through loss. She also partners with nonprofit organizations like My Story Matters to help parents record the life histories of their deceased children. This fall she will also begin working with the refugee community to walk with them through their grief and loss by writing their stories.
Over time, Amanda has grown into her God-given purpose: “I do what I do to promote healthy individuals, marriages and families. I have learned that it is not so much WHAT we experience but HOW we move through it that changes us. An individual can create a life of peace, meaning, and purpose, no matter what cards they have been dealt. Intention is the key. And when you can see the purpose in the pain and then begin paying it forward, that’s when the magic happens.”
While listening to Amanda share all the good that is coming from the greatest heartache in her life, I was again moved to tears. As a mother myself, I marvel at Amanda’s transformative journey. Amanda represents the best of what Big Ocean stands for–a woman reaching out to heal the world in the midst of her own heartache.
Want to read more from Amanda Wilkinson? Here are a few links to check out!