Delilah has helped other people cope with loss and heartbreak for more than 25 years.
The beloved radio personality, 61, has had to apply those same coping mechanisms in her own life, she reveals on the latest episode of the PEOPLE Every Day podcast with Janine Rubenstein; after all, "we've buried three sons since 2012."
Delilah's son Sammy died of complications with sickle-cell anemia when he was 16 in March 2012. She also lost her 18-year-old son Zachariah to suicide in October 2017, before her stepson Ryan died in December 2019. "I think when you lose a child, if you don't have coping mechanism, you're not going to last long," she says.
She says that visiting a grief counselor was "probably the best thing I did for myself," adding that support groups and her faith were important in helping her cope. But it was the words of musician Rory Feek (who lost wife Joey to cancer in 2016) that stuck with her.
"Right after Zack passed, [Feek] reached out to me, and he said something to me that changed me," she says. "He said, 'Your boys are much more a part of your future, than they are a part of your past.' "
Courtesy Delilah/Conduit Media
Delilah admits that she was upset with him for saying that at first, until he explained what he meant.
"Because you know where they are," she remembers Feek telling her. "And because your hope is in the Lord, you know you'll be with them again. So now you will look forward to that day with great anticipation. You won't ever fear death again. You will look forward to it, because you know where they are."
"And that was such a huge gift," she says. "It reframed everything, that one little conversation, and gave me the hope and something to look forward to. 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."
The One Heart at a Time author and mother of 15 ("13 here and a couple in heaven," she explains) continues, "I can't stop living just because they did. I have to keep moving forward to be the best person that I can be. And so that's what I do every day. Every day I thank God that they're safe with him. Every day I thank God that they're not hurting. That the boys are not in pain. That they're in paradise, and that one day we'll all be there."
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Delilah, who called into the podcast while on an RV road trip with husband Paul Warner and four of her children, has been on the air for 48 years and syndicated for 25 of them. And she never tires of hearing from her legions of loyal listeners.
"I love finding out who they are. What motivates them. Who they love, what their dreams are," she says of her loyal listeners and callers. "And so that natural curiosity is what motivated the show. And so I'm always going to be this way. I was born this way."
So what's the secret to getting your love story some air time with Delilah? "I don't want to hear 'Yeah, I love him. He's the love of my life. He's my rock'," she says. "Anybody can say that. I want to know your story. Like what made you fall in love, or what is it about your husband after 30 years that still makes you smile? People will call me and I could hear the smile in their voice when they talk about their beloved. And I know when I hear that warm smile, that there is joy and there is the essence of real love ... A lot of times, honestly, it's what you don't say that I'm listening to, as much what you do say."