Mother uses writing to help cope with children’s deaths

Holly Campbell’s “Rainbows Through the Storm” is about her struggle with faith following the deaths of two children. (Staff photo: Andrew Chavez)

By Tonya Garner: CNJ staff writer

Holly Campbell has a welcoming smile and large expressive eyes that reflect her every emotion, including the grief she has carried for the last five years.

Campbell, a lifelong Friona resident, recently released a book titled “Rainbows Through the Storm.” The short but touching story is narrated conversationally in first-person format by first-time author Campbell. In the 100-page tale, she recounts her daily struggle to maintain her faith in God after the death of two of her children.

The stylish brunette said she was born and raised in a Christian home by loving parents. She married her high school sweetheart, Danny Campbell, and they settled down next door to her parents to begin raising the three children they were blessed with over the following years.

According to Campbell, her idyllic West Texas life was forever changed when her 20-year-old daughter, Sarah, died after undergoing routine surgery in June of 2004. “I was in shock,” Campbell said. “It was like a nightmare.”

When asked to describe Sarah in one word, unshed tears brightened Campbell’s blue eyes and a bittersweet smile crossed her lips. “Wow,” Campbell said. “I don’t think that’s possible.” Campbell added her daughter was loving, accepting, crazy and alive.

The heartbroken mother said she immersed herself in her two sons and in establishing a newly purchased real estate business following Sarah’s death. “I just tried to stay busy,” Campbell said.

On Sept. 29, 2001, the soft-spoken Texan said a 1:15 a.m. phone call once again turned her world upside down when a voice informed her that her son, Dustin, had been involved in a fatal vehicle accident. “I didn’t want to believe it at first,” Campbell said. “I was a mess.”

The words came quickly and were accompanied by an affectionate smile when asked to describe Dustin. “He was easygoing and lovable,” Campbell said. “He was always a momma’s boy.”

According to Campbell, she picked her Bible up many times after burying her children, but was unable to find comfort in the familiar verses. She tried to pray, but couldn’t find the words. The grieving mother said she hoped for solace in her husband’s arms, but he was also unable to provide comfort due to his own pain. Campbell said she began writing her feelings in a journal that eventually led her to write her story of “facing tragedy and finding faith.”

“I questioned God numerous times over this,” Campbell said. “I went through every emotion imaginable.”

Campbell said writing “Rainbows Through the Storm” was therapeutic. She added she hopes sharing her story will help those dealing with loss caused by death, addiction or divorce. “I want people to know it’s OK to question God,” Campbell said. “It’s OK to ask why.”

Ron Carr, owner/publisher of the Friona Star newspaper, said he has known Campbell since 1995 and considers her to be one of his closest friends. He described Campbell as an energetic, smart, unpretentious, down-to-earth, country girl. “She is one of the strongest women I know,” Carr said. “It is amazing to me that she went through this and came out as well as she did.”

Carr said he spent numerous hours editing Campbell’s book. “We had our ups and downs,” Carr said, “but I think she ended up with a book that is easy to read and covers both the positive and negative aspects of her experience.”

Carr added he believes writing the book helped Campbell and will help others who are dealing with similar situations. “I don’t think you can ever completely get over something like this,” Carr said, “but writing this book definitely helped Holly.”

“It doesn’t get any easier,” Campbell said in closing. “but I know my kids are together in heaven.”