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Iconic Radio Host Delilah Opens Up About the Tragic Loss of Her 3 Sons

Delilah Rene shared her experience with grief and moving on in a new interview.

Anyone who has heard Delilah Rene's radio show during the decades she's been on air knows that she offers support, provides advice, and plays songs for callers, whether they are going through a hard time or wanting to celebrate the love in their life. But, what you may not know is that Rene has faced a lot of tragedy herself. In the span of seven years, Delilah Rene lost three sons, which the radio host opened up about in a new interview.

"We've buried three sons since 2012," Rene shared on the People Every Day podcast. "I think when you lose a child, if you don't have coping mechanism, you're not going to last long."

Read on to see what Rene said about how she does cope and to learn more about her life as the mother to 15 children. And for another story of a mother who suffered the loss of a child, here's Vanessa Bryant Shares Moving Letter on the Anniversary of Gianna's Death.

Rene lost three of her children: Sammy, Zachariah, and Ryan.

Delilah in a selfie from her Instagram account

Rene has 15 children—three who are biological and the rest adopted. Her son Sammy died in 2012 at the age of 16 following complications from sickle cell anemia. Then, in 2017, her son Zachariah died by suicide at age 18. In 2019, her stepson Ryan passed away.

Some advice about the future helped her manage her grief.

Delilah in Port Orchard, Washington in 2008
The Old Major /

In the interview with People Every Day, Rene shared that she received advice from country singer Rory Feek, who lost his wife, Joey Feek, to cancer in 2016.

"Right after Zack passed, [Feek] reached out to me, and he said something to me that changed me," Rene said on the podcast. "He said, 'Your boys are much more a part of your future, than they are a part of your past.'"

The radio host said that this upset her initially, because she didn't understand what Feek meant. But, he explained that she could find comfort in knowing where her sons were. "And because your hope is in the Lord, you know you'll be with them again," Rene remembered Feek telling her. "So now you will look forward to that day with great anticipation. You won't ever fear death again."

"It reframed everything, that one little conversation, and gave me the hope and something to look forward to," Rene said. "But while I'm here, I want to be as effective as I can as a mom, as a broadcaster, as a friend. And so I got to keep moving forward."

Delilah also shared that she went to a grief counselor, which was "probably the best thing [she] did for [herself]."

She also wrote about loss in her memoir.

Delilah at Build Studio in New York City in 2019
Gary Gershoff/Getty Images

Rene has spoken openly about losing her children in the past as well, including in her 2018 book, One Heart at a Time. The year of its publication, the host told Parade that writing the book was a "cathartic" experience for her after losing two sons.

"It was very healing," she said. "I have a grief counselor that I work with and she said that probably the best thing for someone who has lost a loved one to do is write. When you get it out of your head and write it down, it is cleaning the wound. It helps to make sure that that pain doesn't stay stuck inside and consume you."

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Rene is keeping her sons' spirit alive in her large family.

Delilah and three of her daughters in a March 2021 Instagram post

Rene and her fourth husband, Paul Warner, have been married since 2012. In a 2018 interview with People, she shared that their relationship at the time was unconventional, with them living six hours apart due to their jobs.

And while she has many children of her own, Warner also had five adult children when they got together. "He was kind of done raising children when we met—although, he loves my children very much and is extremely supportive," Delilah told People. "I've been a single parent for many years, raising my children, and that's one of my passions. And though that's not necessarily his passion, he would never stop me or dissuade me."

At the time, Rene also talked about how Sammy and Zachariah were still very much a part of her family's life. "The boys are talked about pretty much as if they're just in the other room instead of in an eternity," she said. "From the little kids to my adult children, we all talk and reference Zack and Sammy as if they're in the other room, not as if they're away from us."

Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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