A decade after losing her son to type 1 diabetes, Wisconsin D-Mom Michelle Bauer has penned a new book sharing her tragic story, and how she channeled her grief into advocacy, action, and building a nonprofit program aimed at helping other families dealing with similar loss.

Published in April 2020, “Jesse Was Here (More Lasagna Please): Feeding the Soul of a Grieving Mother” is a 136-pager honoring Bauer’s son, Jesse Alswager. He was diagnosed with T1D at age 3 but died suddenly and unexpectedly at age 13 in February 2010 from complications of the disease.

Notably, this is the first book written by and for the community that’s aimed at coping with the loss of a loved one from type 1 diabetes.

In the works for a decade, Bauer’s book details her story more deeply than she’s ever shared before.

She focuses on how she grappled with literally each and every day following her son’s death. She chronicles the days immediately following to months and years later, and how she managed with support from family, friends, and the broader Diabetes Community.

Bauer notes that she initially intended just to write about her experiences of the first 6 months after Jesse died, but that evolved into a year and longer. She realized that confronting grief and reconstructing your life are gradual, long-term efforts.

Bauer writes candidly, straight from the soul. Raw emotion is on every page, as the book delves into the topic of death and diabetes — an issue Bauer notes is so very important to address, because it often doesn’t get talked about as much as it should.

She knows it’s an uncomfortable subject, but one that must be faced.

“I know I’m not alone; there are many people that have faced losses like mine,” she writes. “It happens every day. Day in and day out. We question God. We question autopsies. We question Tuesdays, if that makes sense. We question a lot of things, but we still exist whether we like it or not. We find joy in small things and immense sadness in others. We re-examine our lives, the way we live them and who is important to us.”

Indeed, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that roughly 250 American youths ages 1 to 19 years die from the effects of T1D each year.

So, why the mention of “more lasagna” in the book title?

Michelle Bauer

“I knew people were going to bring me lasagna even though I didn’t want to eat,” Bauer explains. “I would let them do it because it would make them feel better. They were just like me — they didn’t know what to do, either. I knew I would find it difficult to ask for help, but I grudgingly realized I should accept help when it was offered… (and) I knew I was going to have to help myself.”

It’s well-documented that those who’ve never experienced it have a hard time understanding grief. Over the years, other parents who have lost children to T1D have shared with us at DiabetesMine that rather than making vapid reassurances, they’d prefer people to be honest with a simple, “I don’t know what to say.” Others also need to understand that grief can make people act strangely.

Bauer describes being triggered by ambulance sirens, and also being angry at her own sadness and at complete strangers — even sometimes in grocery store aisles — who didn’t know and recognize the tragedy she was grappling with.

She describes how simply getting out of bed in the morning was difficult, and it took a long time to be able to go out shopping. But, eventually, “Wednesday was just Wednesday” and not necessarily the day of the week her son died.

While this is a relatively short book, it took me longer than expected to read because I found myself choked up, needing to step away. The author has mastered the “Chicken Soup for the Soul on Grieving” flavor, and for me it was a lot to take in all at once.

But clearly for many scared parents and people living with grief, her words are soothing. From a few of the five-star Amazon reviews:

  • “This is a book that was SO much more than I expected. I knew the subject matter would be a tough read but in the end I was pleasantly surprised with how hopeful it was.”
  • “As the mother of a child with T1D, who was diagnosed at the age of 2, the reality has always been that we could lose our child to a severe low blood sugar in the middle of the night, or to prolonged high blood sugars. It is critically important for any parent who loses a child to have a safe place to talk about it. The diabetes community should talk about it more instead of making it seem as though it rarely happens.”
  • “I read this book in its entirety in one sitting. I recently lost my husband unexpectedly and even though Michelle tells her story about her son Jesse, she has described grief as it truly is. I’ve wondered for months if I’m grieving right, if I was slowly losing my mind and if it was normal to feel like I have. I highly recommend this book to anyone that has lost anyone. There is nothing sugar coated but is told from the heart.”

Toward the end of the book, Bauer shares the story of how the slogan “Jesse Was Here” first came to be.

It was the phrase her son scribbled on a campground wall the year before he passed away. She eventually was able to obtain that piece of wall and have it framed to display in her home.

At the time of Jesse’s death, “nobody was talking about kids losing their lives to diabetes and there weren’t a lot of doctors telling parents about (death) being one of the worst side effects,” Bauer told DiabetesMine previously. So, she began to devote herself to raising awareness and sharing her story.

Finding community is what carried her through many times in her grieving process, especially finding others who had lost children or family members to type 1 diabetes.

She recounts how she became able to channel her devastating sadness into different ways to honor her son through advocacy, from creating the Jessepalooza memorial event each summer to the Jesse Was Here inspirational program launched by Beyond Type 1 in 2018, which is aimed at connecting and supporting those grieving from loss within the D-Community.

Share on Pinterest
Michelle Bauer, speaking about her son Jesse

If death and grieving are issues that speak to you for whatever reason, this book is definitely recommended.

You can find “Jesse Was Here (More Lasagna, Please): Feeding the Soul of a Grieving Mother” on Amazon in paperback form for $12.95.

Interested in winning a free copy of Michelle Bauer’s “Jesse Was Here” book? We thank the author for helping us give away a free copy to one lucky winner.

Here’s how to enter:

1. Email us at info@diabetesmine.com with the subject line “DM-JesseBook” to let us know you’re entering the giveaway. Or you can ping us on Twitter or our Facebook page using the same code word. (For shipping purposes, we must limit the giveaway to those with mailing addresses within the United States.)

2. You have until Friday, May 22, 2020, at 5 p.m. PST to enter.

3. The winners will be chosen using Random.org.

4. Winners will be announced on Monday, May 25, 2020, via social media, so please be sure to keep tabs on your email, Facebook, and/or Twitter messages, as that’s how we contact our winners. (If winners don’t respond within 1 week, we select an alternate.)

We’ll update this post with the winner’s name once chosen.

Best of luck, D-Friends!

This contest is now closed. Congrats to Eva Kathmann, chosen by Random.org as winner of this giveaway.