Daddy-less Daughter

By Kristen K. Brown           

Brooke and Me

“Mom, I don’t want to go to school!”  

Brooke, my sassy and sweet three-year-old is once again fighting me in getting out the door to preschool.  But looking out the window at the snow and ice encrusted Minnesota roads, I really don’t blame her.  We had been hibernating all winter and some days, we didn’t even leave the house. (Thankfully I own my own business and work from home!)

“Mom, I want to stay home with you and play Jumping Monkeys and watch Max & Ruby!” She demands. Her crazy blonde curls form a halo of hair around her head as her bright blue eyes plead with me to stay in the comfort of her bed.  She looks nothing like me with my dark brown hair and brown eyes.  She’s a spitting image of her dad whose own blonde curls always made me smile.         

For ten months, Brooke was the light of her dad’s life.  He would come home to us waiting for him at the top of the stairs. He would sneak up slowly and peek-a-boo over the top step where she would erupt into a fit of smiles and giggles, her tiny arms reaching for him.  She was bald then – just fine peach fuzz barely discernible as hair.  We didn’t know then she would be the spitting image of Todd in so many ways – ways that remind me every day of him and the six years we had together before he left us to miss him.

In September 2007, Todd went to bed at a hotel after my sister’s wedding in northernMinnesota.  He never woke up.  Brooke had captured his heart, but an unknown time bomb in his chest stopped it and stole away the daddy she will never really know.  He was tall, skinny and ate healthfully.  He was a former college athlete who exercised most days.  He had just had a physical a few months before and been given a clean bill of health.  And now, on a September Sunday morning, he had died of a 99% blockage of his left descending artery that I would come to find out is called “the widow maker”. 

But I wasn’t just a widow.  I was a mother to our 10-month-old daughter.  A widow would have been easy.  I could have fled to an island somewhere or locked myself in a dark room to have it out with God and the universe for taking away my husband.  But instead, I had to be strong for Brooke.  I had to put on a smiling face and not let her know I was dying inside.  She couldn’t lose both parents so I had to keep on going and internally fight the battle with grief so that she wouldn’t suffer from the sudden disappearance of her peek-a-boo playmate and dad she will miss so much as she grows up.

When she was two, we drove by Todd’s old office building.

“That’s where Dad used to work.” I explained to her.  Her brow furrowed and she looked at me inquisitively. 

“Where is daddy?” she asked.  There it was.  The question I had been dreading for over a year.  Where is daddy?  Where IS daddy?  How could I explain something that is still so confusing for me?  I looked at her in the rear view mirror.

“Daddy’s body stopped working and he died.  He had to go somewhere we can’t go right now, but someday we will see him again.” I said holding back the tears that were threatening to overflow their gates.  Brooke sat quietly for a moment, her two-year-old brain trying to make sense of my statement.

“Daddy, wait for me.” She yelled then.  “Wait for me daddy!”  She really thought her dad had gone somewhere without her and she wanted to go too.

“Brooke, he had to go somewhere we can’t go.  We can’t see him but he is always around us.” I tried to explain again but knowing she didn’t get it.  A sob rose in my chest as my heart pounded with emotion – the loss of my husband and father of my child re-surfacing the anguish I had felt for months after he died.

“Daddy, wait for me! Wait for me!” She pleaded again over and over as I drove; trying to keep it together and in control so I wouldn’t have to pull over to the side of the road.  For the next fifteen minutes Brooke called to a daddy who wasn’t there to hear her.  But I know he was there surrounding us with his spirit and keeping me on the road that day.

That was the first of many conversations we have had since then.  Now, at age three, she speaks in full stories and often talks about the dad she doesn’t remember.  When she is sad or mad at me for disciplining her, she will often go into a sulky kind of grief.

“I miss my daddy.”  She will mumble so forlornly that it breaks my heart to hear her say it. 

“I miss him too honey.  But we’ll see him again someday.  Just remember you can talk to him anytime you want and he will hear you.”  I will say trying to comfort her as her confused and sad little mind takes stock of the situation.  She understands her dad is dead.  I don’t sugarcoat it.  I have explained that his heart and body stopped working and he died.  She understands that.  And at her young age, she realizes that our family is missing something that all of her friends and classmates have – a dad.  I often wonder if this missing piece will impact her as she grows up.  Will she fall victim to the stereotype of the single parent home and act out against me without the second parent in the house?  Or will she continue to cling to me as she does now, scared she will be left parent-less in a big and scary world? 

Recently, I had a bout of chest pain that wouldn’t go away for a couple of weeks.  I was terrified.  Was fate playing a cruel joke on me?  Not funny!  Was destiny reinforcing the importance of heart health?  Still not cool.  After an EKG and an ECHO Stress test, my heart checked out perfectly.  But I kept thinking about my own mortality and health.  I am all Brooke has left.  Of course I know she would be loved and taken care of if I died.  Her grandparents and aunts and uncles would see to that.  But she and I are a team now.  We have weathered this blow to our livelihood and have managed to come out on the other side stronger and more resilient than ever before.  We’ve got each others’ backs.  Even at the age of three, she is my biggest supporter giving me high fives for my wins and hugs for every setback.      

She was born on December 1st, 2006, exactly halfway between Todd’s and my birthdays – a permanent link to connect us.  Her physicality more like him and her moodiness more like me.  And that connection remains.  Every time I look at her, I am reminded of him.  Every time she looks at me with grumpy, tired eyes in the morning, she looks just like him being roused from sleep.  And every morning, I hold my breath as I go in to wake her until I see those blue eyes peek out at me from under her blonde lashes – reassuring me her heart sustained her for the night and she didn’t succumb to an unknown time bomb in her chest while she slept like her dad did.  Every morning since he died I hold my breath as I watch for the rise and fall of her chest as I will until she leaves this house.  And then, she will probably get a call or text from me every morning and I will wait with nervous anticipation for her to answer – until my dying day.

Kristen Brown


Kristen Brown is a widow mom and the founder of, an author, entrepreneur, radio host and speaker. Learn more about her and her companies at


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