Not until later did it occur to me that the butterfly's asymmetrical left and right sides might somehow symbolize Gabriel's heart. Only then did I realize that the butterfly had landed directly over my own.

I always thought butterflies were used as a sort of saccharine greeting-card sentiment about death. I would have infinitely preferred that Gabriel stay in his cocoon on earth with the rest of us, thank you very much.

I didn't learn until more than a year later that many people report (or keep to themselves for fear of being thought crazy) unusual experiences with butterflies following the death of a loved one. The Compassionate Friends group uses a butterfly as its symbol, featuring one on the cover of its magazines. Other people report unusual coincidences involving eagles or even red cardinals.

Maybe they're not coincidences.

Read more: New approaches for grieving parents

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