Mission: To save lives and reduce hospitalizations by protecting children, families, and communities against influenza.


Grief & Emotional Support

An Introduction for Family

from John Vittas

No one can ever be prepared to deal with the sudden loss of a loved one, especially when the loved one is just a child. As a father and a grandfather, the sudden loss of my granddaughter, Emily, to the flu was devastating. Once Emily left us, everything became different.

My daughter, Jennifer, and her husband, Joe, were facing the most devastating loss imaginable – the death of their child.

My wife and I were coping with our own loss while also trying to support those around us – our other children and grandchildren and other family members. While supporting our loved ones helped our grieving process more than we can say, the challenge was often overwhelming.

There were times when we felt helpless – pulled in many directions at once as we tried to navigate this terrible reality with our family.

We have dealt with our personal pain of losing Emily, as well as the pain of seeing our daughter suffering, in our own way. We have learned that every person’s experience with grief and their path to getting better is different. This Emotional Support guide has been created to serve you and others close to you as you find your path. Just as I was able to find comfort from the other members of Families Fighting Flu, know that we are there for you too, to listen and to help you get through this unbearable time, to answer questions you may have about the bereavement process, how to support your family, and where to find additional resources.

This guide will also be helpful to your family, your friends and others affected by your loss. The resources included will not only help them to understand what they might be able to do in support, but also perhaps what they shouldn’t say or do.

It is my hope that the resources included in this Emotional Support guide will not only help you cope with the loss of your child, but also help put you on a path which, over time, will lead you to realize that while things will never be the same, they can still be good.


John Vittas, Emily’s grandfather (2000-2004)

Page last reviewed: May 2020. 

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