Heart Connections: When A Simple Hug Sparks a Chain Reaction of Love

Christi Center Founders Susan and Don Cox with Dr. Dina O’Brien (center)

When University of Texas sophomore Dina Ragow called The Christi Center, she had no idea how much it would change everything – both then and in the future. Dina had just lost her mother to colon cancer, right on the heels of losing her only sibling, Dana, to leukemia just two years prior. She could not fathom how she would survive life as an only child and a motherless daughter.

At The Christi Center, Founder Susan Cox (who started the organization after her daughter Christi was killed by a drunk driver) welcomed Dina with open arms. “Susan and I connected in a way words can’t describe”, says Dina. She started regularly attending grief support groups at the Center on Monday nights.

“When you’re in the thick of it, nothing else matters – not what bills have to get paid, who you have to call back, what’s for dinner, what you’re wearing that day. You just want to feel like someone else gets it – like you’re not the only one whose heart is permanently broken”, says Dina. It took time and a lot of hard work, but after many months of attending group, one night a new member came to group and shared about the recent death of her brother. When she talked about the overwhelming, choking feelings of grief that were drowning her, and how she did not know how she would get up the next day, Dina says it suddenly struck her like a ton of bricks  –  “I am not there anymore. I have made progress, and I’m not stuck in that place that I was before – and thought I would be forever”.

Dina realized that when she first came to the Center, there were others further along in their grief journey that had helped her to feel not alone and who had also given her inspiration that she could get up and survive the unbearable pain for one more day. And now – she had become one of them. It was her turn to give back.

She continued to attend groups regularly, but also helped Susan start the Kids Who Kare program for grieving children, as well as services for students at The University of Texas. “I felt like my love for my mom and sister, as well as my connection to Susan and (husband) Don were guiding my way towards helping this organization grow and expand its services,” says Dina.

That was 27 years ago. Today Dr. Dina O’Brien is a child psychologist, dedicating her life to helping children and families navigate emotions such as grief and loss. Now married with 4 (!) boys of her own, Dina proudly serves on The Christi Center’s Advisory Council, helps facilitates groups from time to time, and is a powerful ambassador for the organization – sharing the miracles that happen here every day.

“The Christi Center allowed me to find hope again and to honor the memories of my loved ones by living the best life I possibly can on this earth each day. Don and Susan and I still share an unbreakable bond – our heart connection that was formed by the amazing love we share for those we lost too soon. They will always be “parents” to me and Nana and Gramps to my boys, and I am honored beyond measure to be considered like a daughter to them. I know Christi and my mom and sister wouldn’t have it any other way.”

1 thought on “Heart Connections: When A Simple Hug Sparks a Chain Reaction of Love”

  1. Michael D Christopher

    Thank you for writing this. I know how special Dina is to Don and Susan but I did not know how special their bond was. What a special bond.

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