Author Archives: Cari Zorno

About Cari Zorno

Cari is married to the love of her life, Scott. She the mother of 4 wonderful kids. Cari has traveled the road of grief more than once as over a period two and one half years she lost her son Josh at age 20, her daughter Beth at age 17 and her son Chris age 17 to tragic accidents. As these 3 children have adventures in heaven Cari is blessed to have her daughter Abby still walking this earth. Cari’s heart is to reach out to the brokenhearted with God’s tender touch. She has spoken to large and small groups sharing her heart and what God’s word says about trials. She with her husband Scott have led a number of GriefShare groups and is in the process of producing a TATOOED by Grief A handbook for walking with grieving teens.

What’s the Point?

Christmas tree 2014With Christmas quickly approaching we had to find a tree. There was urgency because our daughter and son-in-law were coming over tomorrow to help decorate. You can’t decorate something that isn’t there. Off we headed into the woods in search of “the tree” it had to be the perfect tree. Each years tree was in competition with former years to be the perfect tree.

Scott spotted a beautiful tree as soon as we entered the cutting area. It was uniformly shaped and frosted with new fallen snow though the snow didn’t cause any branches to droop. It was just right and we were short on time. We had many things to accomplish.

Scott downed the tree with just enough struggle to make it worthwhile. He had the tree loaded in record time and we headed back home pleased with ourselves.

The pleasure was short lived when we discovered that the tree we choose was not a soft “friendly Fir” but a pokey “spiny Spruce”. Trying to settle the tree into the stand required thick gloves and long sleeves so as to not draw blood.

It was painful to admit we had brought home a beautiful but dangerous tree. But even more painful was decorating it. Each reach into its private space had to be calculated. I now have personal experience regarding how they acquired the name “needles” for with each ornament placement I drew back a wounded hand sometimes even drawing blood.

This experience was a vivid example of attempting to survive the holiday season when I was deep in my grief. Each time I would attempt to enter into a tradition it pricked my heart. Tears betrayed my wound causing me to retreat back into my protective shell. Christmas hurt but it wasn’t Christmas that caused the tears, it was memories of Christmas’ past.

When I look away from the glittering lights and packages under the tree and focus on the Christmas nativity 2014nativity scene, the reason for the season, my joy returns. Christmas began in a stable in Bethlehem. Jesus’ birth was page one of the plan of redemption. Focusing on the true reason for this season I became able to celebrate.

What I celebrated was not the gift giving, carol singing or cookie baking but the birth of Jesus. Jesus is the man of sorrows acquainted with grief but first he had to be born.

Christmas '03Jesus’ life and death give me the assurance that I will be not only united with Jesus but reunited with my children in heaven. This is what I celebrate.


Cari Zorno


Christmas Countdown – The Tree

Family time decorating the tree 2003

Family time decorating the tree 2003

We are now within  weeks of Christmas. Friends have asked me what we have done to prepare our home for Christmas. I would like to share some of our new traditions in hopes they will help you during this bitter-sweet time of the year.

It may take two weeks to get our tree up and decorated because of our schedules but it now has a prominent place in our living room. We have dressed it with glass balls, heirloom ornaments and new sparkly ones. We have the handmade ornaments with pictures of the kids growing up and ones bought on family vacations to spark memories.

The new tradition we brought to our tree are ornaments which represent each of our loved ones who are spending Christmas with Jesus. Josh has a soldier, Beth a snowboarder, and Chris has two – a camping tent and snowboard boot. When we hung these we told stories and shed a few tears. They are with us in our hearts as we look at our tree.

There are a myriad of stories depicting where the tradition of the Christmas tree began.

  • It is a Conifer which is green year round, even when the other trees seem to have died. To me it represents eternal life and stringing it with lights is like bringing the stars inside.
  • The Vikings saw the evergreen tree as a symbol of strength. It survived the long, dark, cold winters. They brought this reminder into their homes. When things got really tough and they felt as though they couldn’t survive they would see the tree and remember to be strong.

What a great symbol for us who celebrate a ‘blue’ Christmas. Grief is similar to winter, it too is long, dark, and cold but God wants us to remember He is with us. Through Him we can be “strong and courageous’ (Joshua 1:9) while leaning on Christ. One reason He came was to “bind up the brokenhearted”.

My new favorite “flower” is the Poinsettia. It is one of few flowers which will only bloom in the dark. I feel my sorrow may have darkened my world but God brought forth flowers, beauty out of ashes.

May you feel God’s strength wrapped around you this Christmas season.

What will you do differently with your Christmas tree to remember your loved one this year?


One Reason We Don’t Receive

She struggled her way through the dense crowd which engulfed Jesus. She approachedTeen Acquainted with Grief - girl purposefully from behind not wanting to draw attention. Her goal was simple, reaching Jesus. Accomplishing it could be life threatening but this was a life or death action. She could not wait. Successfully reached Jesus unnoticed, she stretched her hand and touched his robe.

She had bled for over 12 years exhausting her resources without answers. This Jesus was known to heal. He was on his way to heal. It was what he did. She knew, deep in her heart, if she could just touch his robe. This was her chance. She did not need eye contact. Who was she anyway? She was nobody, shunned by everyone else, unclean. But Jesus, she knew that Jesus could heal her. A touch was all she needed.

She reached, “If I just touch his clothes,” flit through her mind boosting her courage. Fingers grazed the fabric and immediately her bleeding stopped. She knew she was freed from her suffering. (Mark 5:28-29) The surge of this power stopped her in her tracks as she embraced the sensation, allowing it to fill her and empty out – push out – all that was impure in the face of pure holiness.

The crowd flowed past but only for a split second before everyone stopped. She glanced up, He had turned and was looking straight at her. She diverted her eyes not wanting attention drawn to her, wanting to be invisible.

He spoke, “Who touched me?”

“Master, the crowds are hemming you in and pressing against you.” One of His disciples said.

Jesus was insistent, “Who touched me? I know power has gone out from me.”

The woman felt a finger pointed directly at her though not a hand was raised.

She fell at his feet feeling equally grateful and exposed. Without raising her head she told her story. In His deep compassion He tenderly slid his hand below her chin lifting her face, “Daughter, your faith has healed you, go in peace.”

Jesus, was surrounded by people “hemmed in” people constantly bumped into Him. Why didn’t power flow into everyone? Why her? Enough power left Him that He knew someone received healing. He stopped. I think He wanted to make full contact, not just ignore her like everyone else had. He knew who had touched Him – He wanted her to speak, to say out loud what she needed to acknowledge, her need for His healing.

No one else was healed. Many may have needed His touch but didn’t ask. Maybe out of fear or they were unsure He would, or could do it. Whatever was the cause they didn’t ask, so they didn’t receive, “You do not have because you do not ask.” James 4:2. It was her faith that brought healing. She asked, by her action, with full expectation of being healed.

Ask and it will be given to you.” Matthew 7:7

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1

What do you need that only Christ can supply?                           What is keeping you from asking?

Write me:  [email protected]


What is your fragrance?

3 columbines on TorreysThere are many synonyms for fragrance; aroma, odor, cologne, perfume, and smell to name a few. Each word brings a picture to mind. Cologne may spark a memory of hugging your grandmother whereas aroma could bring a flood of Thanksgiving feast memories of turkey cooking and homemade pumpkin pie.

One of the most pungent scents I can think of is the smell of a campfire. Sitting around the fire ring on a camping trip is packed with family memoires from storytelling to marshmallow roasts to make sh’mores. You couldn’t stay put in one chair or even designate a log as yours for the smoke was so unpredictable shifting constantly. As soon as you’d move it would change direction.

The time eventually came to pack up camp and head home. As soon as the clothing bag entered the laundry room and was opened I could smell the campfire. The smoke had permeated every square inch of every item bringing a smile to my face each time. I love the smell of a campfire; I guess it is because of the memories.

Fragrance brings a totally different picture; it is of colorful gardens, floral shops and flower arrangements. Each flower carries its own fragrance and some fragrances are so light our sense of smell cannot even detect it. Fragrances can be spicy or musky, sweet or sour, each is unique to particular flowers. My favorite is lilies with roses not far behind but with roses each bred has a fragrance which is slightly different. For flowers to release their fragrance they must first open up and be vulnerable. If the bud stays tight we would never smell its unique fragrance. Only when the flower dies and is crushed does it release its full potential.

The mint leaf had only a little fragrance until it dies, is dried and crushed. Then the fragrance is so potent it can overwhelm many other smells. At the Celestial Seasons tea company in Boulder Colorado they produce mint tea. To be able to do it though they had to give mint its own room, the mint room, which is sealed off from all other areas of production. If they didn’t do this it would weave its way into all the other flavors of tea.

2 Corinthians 2:14-15 tells us “through us God spreads everywhere the fragrance of the floral displayknowledge of Him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved.” Fragrance, like mint and campfire smoke, lingers after you have left the mint room or camp ground. We are a fragrance, our lives our words, our actions should be remembered by those whose lives we touch.

My daughter Beth was a wonderful example of being the fragrance of Christ, when her name came up in conversation or on an invitation list people spoke only well of her and her love for God. On her swim team she was given the title “Social Butterfly”. To her there were no clicks. When she saw a team mate standing alone she would draw them into the circle. What had first started as the ‘popular’ group, we all know what that means, and the ‘outcasts’ became “The swim team”. No one was left out when Beth was around. She would light up a room by simply entering for her attitude was always one of love and joy, Christ’s fragrance.

We are all created as individuals; the fragrance of Christ will ‘smell’ different for each of us. There is one common ingredient we all need though, a willingness to be His aroma.

What aroma do you want to remain when you leave?

A life fragrance is our reputation. Our lives may be the only sermon some people may ever hear.

How much can you bear?



The quiet of the morning was a welcome reprieve to the hectic night I had on the ambulance. I put this time to good use doing inventory on the rig and shelves in the storage area. We needed to always be ready. This moment of calm could be interrupted any moment. Emergency Medical Services could be misinterpreted by the outside world as Earning Money Sleeping. Yes there can be long periods of extreme boredom but it is punctuated by intense levels of adrenaline. When tones sound waking us from a deep sleep we have to be ready for anything. The honest truth is we are a highly trained, well equipped rolling Emergency room.

Interrupting my inventory Cynthia, a member of the next shift, entered the room. In a glace I could read her face, she was low enough emotionally to be able to walk under a door. I wanted to cheer her up. What does a Christian say to another Christian to cheer them up? I grabbed for the one I had heard and used often,

“Cynthia, God will never give you more than you can handle.” I paused, expecting this to lift her spirit. “That is not what it says, go look it up!” was her sharp retort.

What? I was shocked and my face probably showed it as I became instantly silent not knowing any reply for that statement.

My shift ended and I headed home, straight for my concordance. I really didn’t know where that scripture was in the Bible but I knew it was there. I heard it in songs, read it in sympathy cards, and heard pastors use it in sermons. I searched under “handle” and came up empty handed so I looked under “more” and still no results. Wondering what other words could be used to convey the thought I struck on “bear” as in ‘more than you can bear’. I struck gold when I read “more than you can bear” cited in 1 Corinthians 10:13. I opened my Bible and read, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.” Wait, that can’t be right! There must be another verse; this one deals with temptation not trials. I searched for another 30 minutes before I realized 1 Corinthians 10:13 is the verse but I had misquoted it. I had made it say something it really didn’t say.

I pondered on this for days, I really didn’t want to admit Cynthia was right but she was! There was no scripture which said God would not give me any more than I could bear. That meant I would have to face trials I could not bear if I followed it logically. What does God want me to do then when I face those situations?

This thought led me on an intensive study to find the answer. Mining God’s word took me weeks before God showed me the answer. Paul had undergone overwhelming trials and sure enough he had addressed this very issue in his second letter to the Corinthians.

‘We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.”

Wow, this is Paul and he was experiencing far more than he could bear. He saw it as an opportunity to learn not to rely on himself but on God. He was familiar with God’s power to even raise the dead so even death was not beyond God’s power. This was my answer. When I am facing overwhelming pressure and trials I need to rely on God, His power will get me through.

God opened my eyes to 2 Corinthians 1:8-9 then showed me two more verses confirming Paul’s statement:

“God gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak” Isaiah 40:29

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” I Corinthians 12:9

I rested in this new knowledge but had not faced anything beyond my ability to endure yet. At the time I didn’t realize He was preparing me for what was to come.

Just as I had been doing an inventory of the ambulance so we would be prepared for any call I now realized I needed to take an inventory of my spiritual life. Was I well grounded? Was I ready for whatever came my way? Was I drawing close to God daily even when things where quiet? My study of God’s word proved to ground me in God’s faithfulness which I was going to need.

When have you needed to rely on God?



The Empty Chair at Christmas

Christmas feastBefore I even sit down at the Christmas table my senses  overwhelm me with memories. Of our 5 senses the strongest memory keeper is smell. I smell the ham with a brown sugar glaze just how my mother-in-law made it. The smells bring back the bitter-sweet memories I have of helping her in the kitchen. The tears well up but I push them back, it is too early to get teary.

Gathering around the table decorated beautifully with red and green ornaments, and evergreen boughs tied in bright red bows highlighted with three candles, one for each of my children who died over the last three years.

Bowing our heads in prayer we thank God for all the blessing and light the candles. My husband’s voice cracks, “As we light these candles let’s share things we remember about Josh, Beth, and Chris.” Each child had a favorite flavor. Josh loved cinnamon, Beth vanilla, and for Chris it was Monster drinks so we settled on citrus. I bought those scented candles to burn throughout the day.

In the pause that followed I want to share but I couldn’t say a word as my throat tightened holding back the tears. Silently I reach into a bag and pull out a small raccoon; Josh’s favorite animal, a frog for Beth, and lastly a giraffe for Chris. I gently place these on the table and in my way include them in our celebration.

I miss their smiles, hugs and laughter. Tears well up, unable to hold them back any longer but joy resides below the surface for I have the assurance from God that someday we will again sit at a feast together, the wedding feast of the lamb.

Finding my place at the table I settle in reach for my napkin to dry the tears then slide my hand into Scott’s, the circle continues until all hands are held around the table. Heads bowed as Scott said grace over our meal.  We are all here.

Suggestions for the Holiday table:

  • Leave an empty seat, our loved one is gone but not forgotten
  • Scented candles for each family member who is no longer here
  • Stuffed animals to represent loved ones

Christmas is the celebration of Heaven coming to earth and the wedding feast a celebration after we enter Heaven.

What do you now do different with a loved one gone?





One key to understanding the uniqueness of grief for teens are the many changes they are going through just being an adolescent. Their bodies are changing radically physically, emotionally and sexually. For some it is hard for their wardrobes to keep up. While their bodies ache from the physical changes and the heart aches from loss, life can be overwhelming.

                Teens need adults who are willing to come alongside them, spend time with them, listen to them, and then listen some more.

                Teens need adults who are willing to come alongside them, spend time with them, listen to them, and then listen some more.

What they are feeling is normal during grief:

  • It is normal to be forgetful, the mind so busy it can’t be slowed down.
  • It is normal to feel constantly exhausted even with hours of sleep.
  • It is normal to feel confused and lost in familiar places.

It is important that they know it is normal. For them these feelings may seem to last forever, but again, they need to be reminded – it is temporary.  Just like growing pains, the grief will subside. They will heal.

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Creating a journal in which they can express their thoughts and feelings can be very helpful. Use an inexpensive composition book and encourage them to cover it with their own drawings or pictures, phrases, and words cut from magazines that remind them of their loved ones.

This journal becomes a place to write their thoughts, poems, stories, and pictures of what they were feeling at a given time during their grief journeys. The outside of the journal represents not only how unique their loved ones were but also their own uniqueness. It is good for them to go back to these journals and see their progress over time. It is healing to see in their own words how far they have come, that feelings are temporary and one thing constant is change.

Too Dark Too Long

“The tunnel feels too dark and goes on forever” If the sadness is deep for a long time, meaning several months, please encourage them to speak to a trained counselor. Depression locks teens into believing their emotional pain is a permanent state with no way out. They need help escaping this trap. Chronic depression can lead to suicidal thoughts, which need to be addressed immediately. Trained counselors can help themlight-end-tunnel-18817673[1] refocus and lift them from this darkness.

Suicide warning signs:

  • mood swings or sudden personality changes, such as going from outgoing to withdrawn or well-behaved to rebellious.
  • lose interest in day-to-day activities,
  • neglect his or her appearance
  • show big changes in eating or sleeping habits

If you notice any of these signs take it seriously. Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Seek our help for them. Find the suicide hotline number for your area, contact Second Wind Fund for counseling assistance.

“I was emotionless and blank. I would just go back to my barracks room and sit in the dark and just listen to music or play video games ‘cause I could let out some of the suppressed emotions. It took a long time to talk to anybody about it. The only person I can remember talking to was my fiancé. Having someone to talk to about it helped.” Brian, age 16

Death leaves a hole, a huge gaping hole, in the teen’s life. They are reminded of that hole at every turn: the empty chair at the table, the undisturbed bed, the unoccupied desk or locker with memorials all around them. Our culture tells us to replace the loss, remove the chair, and fill the hole. God says to weep with those who weep, “mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15b).

You, their helpers, give them the courage to embrace the loss and walk through the grief, not run away from or bury it. As helpers you walk with them through the dark places and help them to identify if those places get too dark or last too long and professional help is needed.


Another key to understanding the uniqueness of grief in youth are the many physical changes they are going through just being teens. Their bodies are changing radically. For some it is hard for their wardrobes to keep up. When their bodies ache from the physical changes and the heart aches from loss, life can be overwhelming. They may already be moody and grief intensifies that.

They need adults who are willing:coffee 1

  • to come alongside them,
  • spend time with them,
  • listen to them, and listen some more
  • assure them that they are feeling is normal
  •  It is important for them to know they have support and what they are experiencing is normal. For them these feelings may seem to last forever, but being reminded that it is temporary is important.  Just like growing pains, the grief will subside. They will heal. This is temporary, long and drawn our but temporary none the less.

        “Even though I wrote quite a bit in my journal I wish I had written more. I’m having hard days      helps to read my words and see how far I’ve come since that day” Katie age 15

Making journals is a good hands on expression of their grief, honoring the loved one they lost. Use an inexpensive composition book and cover it with a collage with their own drawings or pictures, phrases, and words cut from magazines that remind them of their loved ones.

This journal becomes a safe place to write their thoughts, poems, stories, and draw pictures of what they are feeling at a given time during their grief journeys. Then they can go back to these journals and see their progress over time. The outside of the journal represents not only how unique their loved ones were but also their own uniqueness.

Excerpt from Tattooed By Grief by Cari Zorno


Unwanted Roller Coaster Ride


How will they know they are healing? Grief is an emotional roller coaster. One minute, the grieving teen feels really sad, possibly even crying for no reason they can pin down. The next minute a friend tells a joke and they laugh.It can pass as quickly as it came.

“The more I opened up about the loss, the lighter the weight became. As I look back, the sadness, obviously, did not go away or fade; it just became more endurable. It became something I could live with instead of    preventing me from living.” Chelsea, age 16

This roller coaster ride can continue for quite a while, but eventually the ups stay longer and the downs become shorter. They will know there is healing when the sun seems to shine brighter, when they can feel happy longer.

Documenting today will help them tomorrow. It is recorded in black and white that they are healing.

  • Journaling and diaries                                    pen-journal-open-blank-empty-page-7398267[1]
  • Drawing, collages, sketches, doodles
  • Craft projects

They will know there is healing when they can look back at things they had written or drawn and see how they have changed. They can reflect back on conversations they had in the beginning and realize that their moods are improving.

For this reason it is important for youth to document how they feel physically and emotionally each week. Watch for small improvements you can point out to them. Tracking improvement can be very encouraging. They need someone that is on the outside looking in to help them gain perspective.