Grieving the loss of a loved one is a uniquely personal experience that forever changes us. When a loss is sudden and accidental, the experience can be deeply traumatic, making grief seem an unbearable burden.
We found a National Public Radio (NPR) story about a group of loved ones who found a unique way to cope with an unthinkable loss – an accidental shooting that claimed the life of a not-quite 16-year old boy named Chad in 1990.
Chad’s Trading Post is a small country restaurant in Southampton Massachusetts where the employees are united in service for a very important purpose. They are fulfilling the dream and grieving the loss of Chad MacDonald.
Chad’s story is tragic. He died in a shooting accident in his home two days before his 16th birthday. He and his younger brother’s best friend were in his room at home with Chad’s father’s gun when it accidently triggered, fatally wounding Chad and instantly sending all of his loved ones into deep, prolonged grief.
Chad’s Trading Post was a long-held dream by Chad during his short life. Chad and his brothers and friends planned to open a restaurant after graduating high school where they would all gather to work, laugh, share their lives and prepare and eat good food. They would all stay connected this way, every day. And so it has become, except of course, without Chad.
In 1993, the year that Chad would have graduated high school, his friends and family chose to turn their grief into something tangible that they could all rally around, a dream they could fulfill in Chad’s memory. They opened Chad’s Trading Post to honor and remember the beloved boy gone too soon that they will forever miss.
The first thing customers notice when they walk into Chad’s Trading Post is that all of the employees wear shirts that describe their connection to Chad, like “Chad’s Brother”, “Chad’s Father “ or “Chad’s Friend.” Personal memorials to Chad are everywhere. The indoor and outdoor décor, ambiance and menu are all dedicated to Chad’s memory. Several friends and loved ones got the same tattoo in his memory. Some even named children in his honor.
Many customers and reporters have wondered whether this large, roadside living memorial that has become essentially a shrine to Chad could really ease grief. Many who learn about its origin wonder, ‘Is such public display of mourning strange – or just plain sad?’ Common questions include, ‘Is it healthy to dedicate a restaurant to such a tragic story?’ Yet his loved ones swear it has saved them from devastating permanent grief.
Everyone grieves in their own way. Grief is as individual as the person experiencing it. Chad’s Trading Post, now called, Chad’s Good Table, is an example of a unique, personal and yet very public expression of grief – one that unites and sustains his dearest loved ones every day.
Listen to the inspiring story here.