Joanne Cacciatore’s daughter, Cheyenne, was stillborn in July 1994. She says it was the worst day of her life.
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She briefly held her baby girl in her arms, but that was all the time she’d get with her.
It was then that Cacciatore decided to dedicate her life to helping parents like herself deal with grief.
But first, she had her own grief to contend with. She says in the months that followed, she couldn’t stop crying and found parenting her other three children to be an impossible task.
That Christmas, which would’ve been Cheyenne’s first, Cacciatore took the money she would have spent on presents and did something a little different with it. She bought a bunch of toys for underprivileged kids through a local charity.
“And in that moment [Cheyenne] was very much alive, because my love for her continued, and I was able to enact that love in the world,” she told Yahoo! News.
That’s when she first became aware of the immense healing power of giving. From there, she started The Kindness Project.
The Kindness Project asks grieving parents to do good deeds in their communities in memory of a lost child (or parent, friend, or spouse).
They then leave behind a small note card so the recipient can channel their gratitude toward the deceased and know that person’s life and death continues to matter.
Cacciatore says so far, over 2,000,000 acts of kindness have occurred because of the project around the world.
There’s young Mackenzie’s mother, who paid for and left two giant stuffed animals for some unsuspecting kids at a Kohl’s in memory of her daughter.
A first-grade class in Richmond, California, wrote kind notes to their neighbors in honor of Teddy, a young boy who died of cancer (see main image above).
As beautiful as it is for a stranger to experience an unexpected act of kindness, the project is really about parents finding constructive ways to heal.
“While these good deeds do not eradicate grief, nor should they do so,” Cacciatore wrote, “They do provide a means through which the mourner can redirect painful emotions into feelings of love and compassion and hope.”