(Note: I am writing this from a mother’s perspective because I am a mother.. but this could apply to anyone, male or female, who is grieving the loss of a child)

“Finding Dory” (2016, Pixar) is a touching animated movie about a fish named Dory who gets separated from her parents at a young age, and goes on a journey in search of them. Guiding Dory are the memories she has held onto all of her life. Since Dory suffers from “short term remembery loss” she is guided by only glimpses of her past, and along with it, the sense of home, and feeling of belonging.

Years pass. Dory meets new friends, including a quirky fish named Nemo, that become like family. One day, Dory’s memory gets triggered, and she is compelled to find her lost family.When Dory was young, her parents set out a trail of purple shells to teach her how to find her way back home, she follows it.  So Dory sets off on an epic journey to find her parents.


Dory’s parents spent years forming trails for her to follow – up and down valleys, across distances and through the dark currents of the ocean, in the hopes that she would eventually find them.

“Finding Dory” offers a powerful message for Protective Parents separated from their children that is familiar to those who have experienced this particular kind of pain, grief and loss.  

And for children separated from their mothers, what Dory felt may also be familiar – missing family, fear of rejection and the emotional experience of trying to piece together memories.

The purple shells are what connect Dory to her parents, and trigger the memories that eventually lead her home. The tiny shells are unremarkable in the vastness of the ocean. At times the sandy floor washes over them, and they disappear. But Dory is not alone, with the support of her friends, she finds her way.


What are your purple shells? Each parent and child has something special or shares something that links them together. It could be a physical or emotional reminder. A trinket, photograph, a prayer or special song, a drawing or toy etc

You can also create “purple shells” to honor your parent/child or to preserve special memories. Some ideas: scrap booking, releasing balloons on special occasions, lighting a candle, spiritual celebration, talking with friends/family, writing a letter etc.

Create a Path in the ways you can. Find creative ways to connect to or reach out to your parent/child if possible. Use your shells to bridge the distance. Seek support to help cope with the loss or grief.

Another message in “Finding Dory” is that Dory, and her parents, never gave up hope.The love they have for each other is unconditional. For those mothers/children who are estranged from each other, and have no contact or communication, there is a value in hope. And value in holding onto the love you share. Through love, we maintain our “purple shells”, our connection to our family – and it does not diminish with time or distance.

Also, when Dory was separated from her parents she found other ways to express her energy and love, and was able to channel her loss in a positive direction. You see that especially in her unique optimism, and her loyalty to friends. Though a loss of a parent/child can never be replaced, we can channel the expression of our love, and what that person meant to us, in other areas of our life. Or use that love to make a positive difference in the world. Some ideas: volunteer, be a friend, participate in community groups/activities, do something in memory of your loved one, fight for a cause, raise awareness, join a prayer chain etc

Final message – Never give up!

~ EJ, © 2016.

Another Perspective:  

Mother, Carrie Goldman, shares her thoughts after watching “Finding Dory” with her family. Carrie’s teen daughter was profoundly moved by the movie. Carrie shares insights from her perspective of “Finding Dory” and on her daughter’s reaction to it. Finding Dory: Why It Made My Seventh Grader Cry by Carrie Goldman



Coping Skills (For Individual or Family Use)  


Relax, Soothe, Calm



Take a deep breath (Variations: Blow Bubbles, Blow a Balloon, Whistle, Aromatherapy candles, oils lotions or scents)

Listen to music

Read a book or Listen to audio books (Be careful of books that may cause triggers; choose a book that will evoke positive emotions (inspiration, laughter, excitement) or will be relaxing

Curl up in blankets (Variations: Wear comfortable or favorite clothing, Wear cheerful colors, Build a “fort”)

Play a game

Take a warm bath or a bubble bath (Suggestion: Add a few drops of essential to a teaspoon of honey or antibacterial soap to add fragrance to the bath)

For a girl: Style hair, paint nails, play dress up

Cook/Bake (If you are having a tough day, make the cooking as simple as possible.)

Go out to eat (Go to a coffee shop with a play area, For a teen going to a coffee shop can also be used to spend quality time together)

String Beads




Watch a comedy or go to a movie

Play a game  (Charades, Bingo, Pictionary, etc)

Read a funny book

Visit friends or family members

Spend time with a pet

Plan something fun

Play (Get down on the child’s level and take time to play—let the child direct the play and do not judge or criticize, take time to enjoy their imagination)

Make a paper airplane


Go to a thrift store (Try on unusual or funny outfits, Donate old things or things that cause triggers, Explore, Make up stories about an object’s history or how it was used)

Go swimming

Treat yourself

Blow Bubbles


Spiritual Comfort




Meet with a pastor or spiritual counselor (Variations: Participate in church activities, Volunteer, Ask the assistance of a pastor or spiritual counselor to develop a coping plan)

Read spiritual texts

Spend time outdoors

Listen to music

Smudge the room with sage, incense or essential oil diffuser

Visit a church or sacred site

Journal (For kids this could be an actual journal or drawing/arts)




Exercise (Variations: Dance, Yoga, Sports, Bike Riding, Roller blade)

Change of environment (Go outside/take a walk, visit a friend or family member, visit a museum, go on a day trip)

Play games that engage the mind (models, puzzles, mazes, sudoku, word finds etc)

Go on a “treasure hunt” or a “scavenger hunt”

Scrap booking (Variations: Sticker book, Collage, Editing a photo on the computer)

Write (Learning how to write in poetic forms is helpful. Child may enjoy using chalk, finger paints, or a Magna Doodle. Writing letters can also be therapeutic—you can send a letter to a friend or loved one OR write a letter to express thoughts or feelings without actually giving it to the person)


Be Positive



Buy some fortune cookies

Talk to someone positive or plan an event with someone positive

Listen to music

Watch a movie

Look at photos (Be careful the photos are of good memories, try to avoid triggers)

Read affirmations

Write down or talk about positive things about yourself—or things to be thankful for

Create something (Garden, Arts/Crafts, Models, Photography, Writing, etc)

Take a class/Learn something new (Variations: Go to the library, Listen to live music or poetry, Go to a museum, Try something different OR Do something you have always wanted to do). Look for opportunities to share what you have learned or help others.

Work Through Issues


Set goals (Try to be reasonable and if a goal is not met, ask for help or use coping skills—don’t be too hard on yourself)

Seek counseling or therapy

Join a support group

Join parenting groups or family activities (Through church, neighborhood groups or community ed, etc)

Ask for help

Talk to someone you trust

Gain additional information or education

Take a break when needed or using coping skills

Take care of yourself (Get enough sleep, Eat healthy, Exercise, Spend time with friends or family, Work towards goals, etc)