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Families shattered by sudden loss seek help in the holidays

For 67 years Globe Santa, a program of the Boston Globe Foundation, has provided gifts to children in need at holiday time. Please consider giving by phone, mail or online at globesanta.org.

The loss of a parent can have profound consequences for a child. When it happens suddenly, with no chance to say goodbye, no last hug, no explanations, no chance to process, the trauma is multiplied, with confusion and disbelief, heaped on grief.

In the spring of the year, a mother writes, “My wonderful husband and amazing father of our two children died tragically. … We have been living through our worst nightmare.”


He died in a car crash, leaving two sons, ages 6 and 3, and their grieving mother, now struggling to hold the family together.

“Not only did we lose the most important person in our lives, but he was also the sole provider for our family,” she writes. “He had no will or life insurance, and he was only 37 years old.”

The pain is ever present, she said. “It has been awful for our family. We miss him every moment of every day.”

She asks for help from Globe Santa to help her boys through the holidays, their first without their father.

“Any bit of help for our family means the world to us. I just want to be able to provide for my children and give them the best life possible, even through all this tragedy.”

Three years ago, another car crash left two boys on the North Shore orphaned. Their father had died the previous year. The boys, who are 10 and 11, are in the care of their grandmother.

“My grandsons have been through so much in their short lives and they are great kids,” she writes. “They so enjoy the holidays. I don’t want to disappoint them.”


Without help, she fears she will.

“I would be so thankful for any assistance Globe Santa can provide,” she said.

It can happen in an instant, and in the US it happens more than in any other developed country: Of the world’s 30 advanced economies, the US has the highest rate of traffic fatalities. In 2021, 43,000 people died on the roads, in cars and out of them, as pedestrians.

For a Boston mother of three daughters under the age of 3, a car crash last spring has had consequences for her family that are hard to fathom

It happened just two months after the birth of their youngest daughter. “Daddy got into a really bad car accident,” she said in her letter to Globe Santa. “He has been in the hospital for eight months.”

She lists the injuries and complications her husband has endured.

“Daddy was in a coma for a month. He broke both arms and both legs, fractured his hip, shattered his shoulder and had brain swelling and bleeding,” she writes. “Then he had a seizure, then a stroke. Two months later after about seven surgeries they had no choice but to cut off his left leg, due to an infection that could reach his heart.”

He remains hospitalized, with left-side paralysis and unable to recognize his children.

“Daddy was our protector and provider, and it hasn’t been the same since,” she writes. Only a year ago, they had their little family, “and our big Christmas tree. We know it will never be the same.”


And while they would be grateful for Globe Santa’s help, the mother said, “if we can’t get any gifts this year, that’s OK. All we want is for daddy to be home with us again.”

Globe Santa, a program of the Boston Globe Foundation, will help this family and thousands of others, with boxes of books and toys, and family games, delivered in time for the holidays, as Globe Santa has done for 67 years.

Christopher Tangney can be reached at ctangney22@hotmail.com