Five EASY ways to decorate when you’re tired but don’t want to be a Grinch

Credit: Shutterstock MALIZ ONG

  1. Buy a few artificial wreaths that already come with bows or bulb ornaments and hang it around your outside lights. It is festive and takes approximately 30 seconds. Yes, this might mean supporting a big box store to get a really cheap wreath, but read on, friends, there’s support for small businesses in a minute. 
  1. Change your outside light bulbs to red or green bulbs. Easy and quick. Decorator pro tip: If you use red bulbs, these will last right into Valentine’s Day. Use green bulbs and you’re set for St Patrick’s Day. Or, follow me and use a mix of the two and change the red/green back to normal bulbs just before Easter. You’re dabbling into decorating for several holidays for months to come. I know!! Keep reading for more mind blowing ideas.
  1. Buy a porch pot made by a local vendor. Local ingredients, local support, even if you spend a bit more than the outside light wreaths (idea#1) it’s worth it.  If you’re local to the West Michigan area, check out The Kraft Shack. Alternatively, if you’re crafty you can go for a hike in the woods and collect these items for free. (Of course if you are really crafty you are probably not reading this post to get ideas. But maybe you’re a tired crafty person and have given yourself permission to treat yourself this season and contract out some of your decor- wise choice!).  Note: be prepared for your dog to relieve himself on the porch pot (or deck pot, in my case). With all the branches and pine, it’s an understandable confusion and we’ll just hope it doesn’t affect the aesthetics.
  1. Buy a candle that smells like pine, mistletoe, cinnamon or sugar cookies.  The sense of smell is so powerful and can bring back all sorts of memories even if you don’t have energy to do much decorating or baking. Your nose will convince you and your family that you’re all up in the holiday spirit, even if it’s coming from a simple glass jar. Warning: if you choose the sugar cookie scent, be prepared to face the disappointed look from your family when they realize the scent does not lead to an edible treat. Consider quickly tossing them a wrapped chocolate candy from your private stash to prevent the chaos that could occur in this situation.
  1. Get a tree. Even if it’s an artificial, pre-lit small tree. There is something so mesmerizing about having the lights off except for the tree lights. Even if you don’t put any or many ornaments on, there is something magical about it. If you can put some ornaments on, choose the ones that bring you the happiest memories. For me, it’s the handmade ones from my kids. The ones where you’re not really sure what it’s supposed to be, or a half-painted train because their attention span at that time was 3 minutes. Those are special.

Whatever you choose to do this season for decorating, give yourself grace to let it be what it is. Pressure from your kids to carry on traditions can be ok…they look forward to certain things that are an important part of their childhood and lifetime memories. Many times, once you uphold those traditions whether it be decorating a certain way, or making a certain baked good, you’re glad you did. But also be good to yourself. If you just don’t feel like doing a certain activity this year, give yourself permission to skip it. You don’t have to skip it forever, but this year, it’s ok. It’s ok to change it up. Less is sometimes more. This year I only got out about one-third of our ornaments and I am completely at peace with that! Do your best to declare this Christmas season the season of PEACE. Maybe that means less decorating and more sitting and staring at a smaller, less glam tree. Whatever a more peaceful Christmas means…I wish that for you. 

What is one way YOU are simplifying your decorating this year? 

5 things many widows/single moms are missing right now …

If you’re not a widow or single person why is this post worth reading? Because this is a peek into our world and it’s important to tell your partner today which one you’re most appreciative of. If you are a single mom or widow, you’re not alone.

  1. Hugs 

Not until I met my husband Kevin did I actually like hugs. He hugged like no other. The kind that cracked your back and lifted you up off the ground until you shrieked and he set you down. Many people know “the Kevin hug” I’m talking about. I haven’t really liked hugs (except with my kids) since then.  The hug from your partner is not comparable to any other hug. The strong arms, the closeness, the extended period of time you could just stay in that spot without any need to move.   The feeling of: “I’m yours, I’ve got you, we’re together.”   Single and widowed people don’t have this feeling with their partner anymore. 

  1. Couples friends

When you married your spouse, they usually came with friends, some of which became your “couples friends.”  Or maybe the couples friends were people that you met together through church, or kids’ sporting events or through your neighborhood. You go camping with them, vacation with them, have game nights together, have bonfires with them, or go out to a new restaurant with them.   I miss being a couple and having couples friends. 

  1. Financial stability

The financial stability of knowing if one of us had to leave our job, there was still the other holding us up. I’ve been a single mom way longer than I was a married mom but I miss that stability that comes with another income. It’s a big responsibility to be the sole income earner without another person that can supplement. To have double my income would be amazing – more giving, more saving, more stability.  

  1. Teamwork mentality

When your patience is wearing thin, when your anger is escalating, when you can’t be in two places at once, when you need to bounce an idea off of someone who has the same vested interest as you, when you need a night off….your teammate is there.  Single parents may have friends or relatives that can help with some of these issues but nothing beats the “immediate swoop.” The in-house, right there, “I’m coming,” that is available to those that have a teammate in the house.   I miss my teammate. 

Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

  1. Balance

It doesn’t usually happen that household responsibilities are split 50-50;  (most) moms, I see you!  For single/widowed moms it’s 100-0. Working full time, having a house and car and being responsible for 100% of the duties of the house is exhausting. Depending on age, our kids can help with chores. You can have “cereal nights” for dinner. You can hire out snowplowing, yardwork, cleaning, and fix-it jobs but at a cost not always affordable. It’s still not even close to 50-50 when you’re a single mom. The weekend is a “this or that” situation. If you do x, y and z…then a, b, and c don’t get done. We have to choose which tasks to do and which to let go of; we cannot do it all alone.   When you have that partner, you can split up or share the responsibilities. Even if it’s not 50-50, it’s better than 100-0. Having a partner to help means you can say “yes I’ll be there” and “yes, you can sign up.”  Two partners still have to make choices and don’t get everything done, but I miss being able to count on that other person to balance out the parenting responsibilities. 

This isn’t a “poor me” post….just a peek into the world of single momhood/widowhood so that others can understand and be grateful for what they have. When you feel moved to, reach out and help others that don’t have what you do. 

If you are a widow or single mom, which of these are you missing most today?

The one thing they really need…

Recently I took an unofficial poll and asked friends and family, “What is the one thing that a newly grieving person needs right after their loved one has died? “ 

Some good answers included: A listening ear; a shoulder to cry on; to know they are not alone; a connection. 

These aren’t wrong. In my experience, though, the one thing newly grieving people say they really need is: their loved one back in their arms. 

I cannot tell you how many times I wanted to respond that way, when people said, “Let me know if you need anything.” My thoughts were, “Ok. Well, I need Kevin (my spouse) back. Now. Can you do that?” 

I never actually responded that way because it would have probably scared some people off; they wouldn’t offer help again. They might even feel slightly offended at my seemingly quick dismissal of their help and my ask of the impossible. It might have made some others tear up, or tilt their head slightly sideways in a “poor thing” interpretation.  If I responded in that honest way, it would have been awkward.

If the loved one was sick or suffering, the grieving person can process that their loved one is no longer suffering and is healed. Even in those cases, selfishly yet full of love, we can feel that we still need them with us.  

For all of you that lovingly reach out to a newly grieving person and offer, “let me know if you need anything,” just understand that you cannot deliver on their likely biggest need.  It’s hard for newly grieving people to think about the tangible things people can actually help with; they are thinking of the big picture and the long-term loss. We just wish we could bring our loved one back, that we could go back in time and somehow change the outcome. 

Since we can’t turn back time or bring the loved one back, what are five ways you can truly help? 

G – Grace. Understand that they will be tired, distracted, forgetful and withdrawn. Give them some space without taking it personally or judging them for how they act. Give them grace and know that grief is complicated and exhausting. Allow them to be what they need to be right now. 

R – Reach out.  Send them a card, a text or make a phone call. Offer a specific way in which you would be glad to help, or a specific need that you can fill. “Can I bring you dinner on Tuesday?” or “I’m at the store, what can I pick up for you – I’ll drop it off”. Continue reaching out for months and years to come, letting them know you remember their loss and that they are loved and not alone.

I – Include. Don’t assume that the grieving person is busy or wants to be left alone. Include them in your thoughts and your invitations. It’s possible and completely acceptable for them to decline but making the offer is so important. Allow them to change their mind, too. Invite them even if you think they might have plans or even if you’re not sure they’d be interested. They might surprise you.  

E –  Ears. Sometimes a grieving person just wants to talk about their loved one. Or, talk about their day and have someone pay attention to them (especially if they’ve lost their spouse). If they mention their loved one by name, don’t act uncomfortable or change the subject. Acknowledge it by repeating their name in the conversation. Don’t try to fix their problems or always point out the bright side; just listen. 

F – Friendship. Be kind, comforting, supportive, loyal and fun. Don’t forget the fun. Grieving people want to have fun with friends, too. They are dealing with a lot, they may be struggling,  but they want and need their friends to treat them the same as before the loss- invite them, tell them jokes, laugh about funny memories, check in often, be a friend. A lot has changed in their world; maintain the friendship. Sometimes friendships change after a loss, but keep being friendly.

Father’s Day: The Gap

Our reunion day will come, I am confident of that, but the gap is not easy.” —Joe Pighetti

Father’s Day, for many, is a day when the gap is not easy. 

Whether it’s been many years or a few days since we hugged the fathers in our lives, there is an obvious gap on this day, magnified by social media posts and photos, billboards and television ads. 

The role of a father is one that is hard to fill completely. We try – we learn to fix things that normally the father of the house would. Or, we admit defeat and ask for help. We teach our children things that the father would have probably done better. We take over the stereotypical father duties, hoping that the absence isn’t too obvious. We tell the stories and jokes that they told better than us.  We imagine what they’d be doing today if they were here. We remind ourselves that we are doing ok. But today, the gap is not easy. 

We can celebrate fathers – the ones we were born into, the ones that raised us, the ones that become fathers, the ones that partner with us while raising kids, the ones we gain by marrying into, the ones that are fatherly to us and the ones we see as inspiring fathers.  But today, the gap is not easy for the ones we are missing. 

Today we think of the gap – the time without those beloved fathers. We think about what those missing fathers are missing. Fishing, hunting, grilling, boating, golfing, anniversaries, birthdays, graduations, watching children grow, tough talks with children, teaching how to fix things, discipline decisions, teaching kids to ride bikes and waterski, tossing a football around, making long-term goals and sharing dreams, being by our side helping, partnering, advising, hugging and cheering us on. There is so much more that is being missed – every day. The gap is not easy. 

Today, though,  I am also feeling lucky. I have three earthly fathers – my own (Pat)  and two fathers gained by marriages (Phil and Mike). I also have fatherly figures to me and my kids – cousins, uncles, brother, neighbors, Scout leaders and friends.  The gap exists for me due to the death of my husband, Kevin. Today I am thinking of friends who have lost their own fathers or women who have also lost husbands who are fathers to their children. To not be overwhelmed by the gap, I think of fathers who help to fill it. 

To anyone feeling a gap today, I want to remind you of the most loyal Father of all, God. He has placed these fathers in our lives to help fill the gap. And He will never leave us. He will provide gap-fillers in our time of need. He gives us the hope that the gap will not last long. He provides us with memories that result in tears but also smiles.  The gap is not easy, but it’s not so wide after all. 

Happy Father’s Day…may you feel blessings in the gap.

Join me: three steps to getting back on track…

Are you on a hiatus (or procrastinating) from something you thought you’d have done by now?

Sometimes we are on a certain path, our goals are defined and we are on our way to achieve them. And then…life happens. We get distracted or displaced, our priorities shift and we have to put some dreams or projects on hold. Can you relate?  Maybe it was a choice to shift priorities and not pursue those goals for a while, or maybe it was forced due to a change in finances, jobs or family situations. 

The goals you had might be something large like completing a renovation, starting a new business, researching new job paths, losing weight, gaining muscle, eating healthy, being free of debt or writing a book. Or, the goals might not be life-changing but equally as important to you such as decluttering a room, making a photo book for your children, planting a garden, learning a new language or skill or knitting a blanket for grandbabies. What is a project or goal that you’ve put on the back burner? 

Once that project gets put on hold and time passes it can be even harder to pick it back up again. We wonder, what if I start it and then have to stop again? Can I really make it happen now? 

If you’d like to get back on track, here’s how to start: 

  1. Redefine your goals. Write them down. Pen and paper. What is it that you want to get done? It might not look the same as it did before and that’s ok. Write down your “why.” Why do you want to get it done? What joy, accomplishment or freedom will it bring you? It’s important to keep this reason front and center because it will mean more than just checking off a task on a list. Why not? Why isn’t this project getting done? If you can identify the real hurdles, that will help. Maybe it’s lack of prioritizing time, maybe it’s lack of funds, maybe it’s fear. (Spoiler alert: fear is a very common roadblock!)
  1. Get support. List who that support can come from and reach out. Whether your goals involve someone else or it’s just for you, who can you lean on for support? Try to think of at least a few people for each goal. If it’s a financial goal, maybe you meet with a financial advisor for guidance, or find an online tool that will help you track expenses. Maybe it is having an accountability partner that will check in and ask how your project is coming. Maybe it’s your family and you need their cooperation and “buy in” to help support your dream; express specific ways in which you need their help and what the end result will bring to all of you. Maybe it is someone that will pray you through the process – perseverance and accomplishment. Last, but certainly not least, ask God to help you! He hears you and will help guide you to where He knows you need to be. 
  1. Take the first step. Sometimes the first step is a large one. In other cases the first few steps are small and quick. Whether you take one big step or a few small ones, you’re on your way. Be proud of yourself! It takes courage to get back on track and not give up. The timeline might look different than before and maybe you’ve made some alterations to your original plan or detoured but you’re back on the road.

Once you’re back on track, 

  • circle back often to your #1 (What & Why) to keep you motivated. 
  • Circle back to your #2 (Support) to persevere and ensure you’re not in this alone. 
  • Keep returning to #3 (Steps) to reach those milestones no matter how big or small. Big goals can seem overwhelming but if you keep chipping away and celebrating little victories you’ll be successful. 

Tell me, what is your project or goal that is on hiatus?  

I’ll share mine ~ if you share yours!

“Mom, don’t move your face!”

When I heard “don’t move your face” for the first time from my 3 year old daughter, I burst out laughing. She looked concerned because she was genuinely asking me to watch her do a new jump. She wanted to make sure she had my undivided attention.

Undivided attention…does that exist anymore for you? Can we ever focus on just one thought, one task, one conversation without our mind wandering somewhere else?

When the website you’re on is slow, isn’t it easy to click on another tab and work on something else until the original site comes up? Why wait- there are many other things I can do to pass the time.

When my son is explaining to me about a new feature in a game, I am turning my ear to him, but my hands are changing the laundry. I am hearing him but I’m not really listening. This issue resurfaces when my son is sure I have a memory problem because he already told me the explanation of Fortnite V-Bucks yet I ask again, “does that require real money?” The life of a busy mom, you know, we have to multitask in order to keep up with life.

young beautiful girl uses a smartphone on the street, surfing the internet Free Photo

(Photo credit

My house isn’t spotless or de-cluttered. My yard needs work. My dishes are in the sink. So it’s not that I “move my face” because I am a perfectionist and feel the need to uphold my perfect home. I am a “survivalist.” I do enough housework to keep us clothed, prevent tripping hazards (for the most part) and stop dust bunnies from forming…mine are more like dust hamsters (those are smaller, right?)

But do you, too, find yourself moving your face away? Moving your eyes away from making your storytelling children feel listened to and understood? Are you nodding “um hum” to a conversation but you’re also scrolling social media at the same time? Are you turning your ears away from a friend that is asking for support indirectly and not listening enough to catch it?

“Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.” Psalm 105:4

God, too, wants us to seek Him and keep our attention on Him. Maybe God is speaking through my daughter when she needs me and says, “Mom – don’t move your face.” God doesn’t want us to move our face from Him…just like my daughter wants my face on her.

What can we do today, tomorrow and every day to keep our face on Him and to those that seek our help or attention? For me, I need to look at people in the eye and show them that they have my attention. Maybe it’s knowing the laundry will be there in 5 minutes and move my face toward my son and daughter right now. Spiritually, keeping our faces on Him, not moving our faces away, is to invite Him into our daily lives. Our decisions, our goals, our attitudes…let’s not move our face; let’s bring Him honor through inclusion & direction in our lives.
Don’t you love it when an everyday life happening points us to being better followers of Christ, and better moms in the process?

A widow’s guide: Top Ten Tasks to prepare your yard for winter. (Comments encouraged – What did I leave out?)

Blog fall


Owning a home is great….until it’s not. When something breaks, leaks, cracks, explodes, ….who is going to fix it? Some of us have learned these skills from our own parents or from trial & error. Some of us have the means to hire out someone to fix it for us. Some of us have the resources of friends and family that will do it for us or help us do it. But for some of us that are widowed/divorced/single, being a homeowner can be overwhelming.


Every fall I scratch my head trying to recall all of the things I am supposed to do to get my yard ready for winter. No one enjoys standing out in the freezing cold trying to unscrew the hose…whilst trying not to let the bitter air make us bitter about our situation.  To change the course of my previous unpreparedness, I have come up with a list of Top 10 must-do’s to get your yard ready for winter.

1. Garden hoses

Disconnect them from the house, (“Lefty Loosey”) and drain any remaining water. Lay the hose on any sloped surface like a driveway or backyard hill. If you can leave it out on a sunny day for a few hours, even better. Once drained you can put the hose back on a reel and store in a shed, garage, or under a deck.

2. Lawn mowers

Some say to run them out of gas, though I’ve kept gas in mine most winters and haven’t had a problem (fingers crossed). Start keeping a written log of when these items are serviced – blades sharpened, oil added, tune ups. Springtime is often the best time to do this, but get that log started now. Come spring, you might not remember if you did it in the fall. Use a spiral notebook hung on a nail in the garage (it need not be fancy) where you can keep record of these maintenance events.


3. Irrigation system 

If you have an irrigation system, winterization is a must. Many landscaping companies offer this service for usually $50-$80 and if you can rally your neighbors together to get it done at the same time, there might be a group discount. It basically is an air compressor blowing the lines out, similar to the above-stated hose draining, but on a more powerful level. Some systems are self-draining but verify with the owner’s manual.


4. Snow, Snow go away!

If you think hiring a snow removal service is worth it….I agree with you. Personally I don’t have the strength, desire or time to shovel my driveway before work.  Look for landscaping companies that might offer a pre-season discount or neighborhood discount. But get it paid for now, before you have to scramble to find someone. On average, this will cost $200 per season.   If you decide to take on the winter fluff yourself, definitely get the machine out now and start it up, let it run for five minutes at a time, every couple of weeks so that it is in good working shape when you need it. If there’s a problem, you can get it in for repair early.

 5. Gas cans

Whether you have regular gas in a can for  a 4 cycle engine or the oil/gas mixture for a 2 cycle engine, make sure to use Sta-Bil fuel additive in them.  It basically keeps the gas “good” for several months.  It’s easy to use, just measure about an ounce for a gallon of gas, following the label instructions.


6. Windows/Screens

Check that that screens are tight or stored for the year.  Verify there are no cracks in the glass windows.  If there are cracks, get estimates now for repair or replace. You don’t want them to spread, get worse, or cause damage or injury. See if you can feel any drafts coming in around the windows.  If you suspect there is a draft, consider putting up 3M Window Insulator kits on windows that don’t get used or won’t get punctured by young kids/animals.  It is an easy process, involving double sided sticky tape, attaching plastic film and using  a hair dryer to heat it and take the wrinkles out.


7. Outside Doors

Consider adding an outside storm door if you don’t have one. During warmer months you can use a screen and in the cooler months use the glass insert. This provides another layer of insulation from the cold. Either way, you’ll want to make sure the foam insulation around the door jam is intact. Home improvement stores sell the replacement foam and it’s as easy as attaching the sticky side to the door, letting the foam on the other side help with stopping drafts of air.


8. Outside Dryer Vents

Check/Clean the outside dryer lint exit for the dryer… not only does this prevent fires, it will be easier to do now than when ice is pelting your red-cheeked face and you’re cursing “Pure Michigan.”


9. Garage/Shed clean out

Clean out and organize the garage and shed. You don’t want to be tripping over bikes and grills in January when looking for a snow scraper or shovel. And, you don’t want to tempt any rodents to make a cozy bed out of leaves or grass clippings that have collected on the garage floor. Is there space for your outdoor lawn furniture or outside kids’ toys? If you can’t move them into an enclosed space, at least cover them to prevent cracking. 


10. Prepare your car

I know…. this post was about preparing your house and yard, but multi-task a little bit and pack an emergency kit for your car. Include flashlights, window scrapers, a blanket, gloves, and a small shovel. There are other useful items that could be added to this kit, but at minimum, include these.


Hopefully you have people in your life you can call upon to help you with some of these tasks. If not, there’s always YouTube for further reference. And, while being a single/divorced/widowed homeowner can be a daunting situation, you can do this. You will either learn to ask for help with the tasks you really have trouble getting done or you might decide it’s worth the investment to hire it out .  But, maybe you’re like me and decide to conquer new tasks each year resulting in confidence that you’ve got this. Go you!


And, if you are a capable DIY’er that cares about people, think of someone in your life to whom you can offer this specific help…and offer it soon! They will appreciate it.

Special thanks to family friend Andy Waldron for helping provide me this information!

What to say (and not say) to a grieving person.

To break the awkward silence.

To offer comfort.

To be helpful.

To offer advice.

To let them know we care.

To show them we are hurting with them, too.

To let them know they are not alone.

To make ourselves feel better.

To get them to stop crying.

To get them to smile.

To make them feel loved.

Today’s question is: Why do we say… what we say… to grieving people?

We’ve all been there…maybe on both sides of the equation. We’ve been the ones to speak to a grieving person, and also on the receiving end when others responded to our hard life event.

I am going to bet that most people truly want to be helpful, loving, caring, and respectful. But sometimes what people say during these hard moments may be just the opposite.

BLOG Blessed are those who mourn

Can you identify with the 6 most common phrases said to a grieving person?

I’m sorry for your loss…

They’re in a better place…

Just be thankful it wasn’t…

If you need anything, let me know…

I know what you’re going through…

I’m praying for you/thinking of you…

What about YOU? Which one is your go-to?

“I’m sorry for your loss…” – respectful, honest, THE most common phrase (especially in written form), and perfectly acceptable.

  • Add to it: “I’m sorry for your loss….he was such a great guy/I will remember his bear hugs/He will be missed/Her smile was precious.
  • Bring up a memory of that person that the grieving person would appreciate hearing. They want to hear stories about their loved one! They want people to say their loved one’s name. Follow up with a written form of that story or memory. It will be treasured, and they might not remember you mentioning it at a visitation or funeral. Remember – a newly grieving person’s head is spinning and cloudy.

“They’re in a better place…”  Oh boy. Listen: if you are a Christian you know that ultimately this is true. Heaven is pure bliss and it is no doubt better than any perfect paradise we know of on Earth. There is no suffering, no fear, no regret, no looking back. However, in the midst of severe grief the thought of our loved one being anywhere but by our side is not comforting at all.

Quite possibly the worst experience of my grief journey happened in my own home, said by a priest, nonetheless. I can’t remember if my husband’s body was even out of the house yet, when we formed a prayer circle. The priest included in his prayer, the fact that my husband was now in Heaven, and he wouldn’t want to come back even if he could. (Cue the slamming brakes sound!). I was livid. I wanted to scream out. I wanted to choke that priest and argue my case. Absolutely without a doubt, if Kevin could, he would see us all crying and shaking and come back to his family, his precious boy, his barking and confused dogs, his heart-broken best friend….he would. He would come back right now if he could. I was sure of it.  I mean, talk about the absolute worst time to say such a thing. That phrase haunted me for years. If you as the reader take nothing else from this blog, take this: please be careful when thinking of this phrase. While it may be true, the result could be devastating.

“Just be thankful it wasn’t…”  Seeing the bright side of things, I get it. Taking a bad situation and finding the positive – yes. I do this in my life. I believe it could always be worse and when I’m faced with a sad situation I try to focus on the positive.

  • The grieving person may not be able to see the bright side right now or for a little while. They are allowed to cry, be sad, and be realistic about what has happened. While it could have been worse, it doesn’t change the fact that it still happened the way it did.
  • Don’t tell the grieving person how to feel or that they need to be thankful. Let them be how they are going to be.

“If you need anything, let me know”  Please avoid this. If you are saying it to merely appear helpful, or don’t know what else to say, then say “sorry for your loss” instead.

  • Offer something specific – use your gifts to offer something the grieving person needs.
  • Offer it several times over the course of the next few months.  Don’t be pushy, but offer more than once and don’t be offended if they don’t respond right away (or at all). Offer again in a few weeks or a few months.
  • Do not wait for the grieving person to let you know what they need. The only thing they really need is their loved one back. Unless you are Jesus, to my knowledge you cannot do that for them. Asking for help is a really hard thing that grieving people have to ease into and get used to over time. They probably are not good at it, and don’t want to do it, even if they know they need to.

One kind friend, at the visitation of my husband, offered her husband to come mow my lawn for the summer. She insisted that her husband really wanted to do it and they would be calling me soon to set it up. It was such a blessing that I didn’t have to do it and didn’t have to ask. They offered and followed through.  A neighbor offered child care if I needed to do grocery shopping, or anything else. They offered over and over again, in person and written in cards. They insisted that they meant what they were saying and they would be the ones feeling blessed if they were able to help me in this way.  It was because they offered multiple times that I finally felt ok with accepting this help so that I could take an exercise class with some friends.

“I know what you’re going through…”  I doubt it. Not exactly. I probably have said this to new widows. But the fact is, all situations are different. I can let someone know that I, too, was widowed and I know it is very hard and it’s a long road ahead. For a newly-grieving person feels so alone, and much comfort can come in talking to someone who has “been there.”  But just use caution in claiming that you know the exact pain they are facing, when you don’t know all the facts, the history, the exact relationship or what all happened in the accident/death/illness.

And, I beg of you: please do not compare this loss of grief that they are facing to the death of a family pet. I love my pets, they are part of our family. But there is not one widow or parent of a deceased child that will say their loss was not quite as bad as losing Scruffy, or similar to when Whiskers crossed the rainbow bridge. Don’t say it.

“I’m praying for you/thinking of you…” Yes. Good. Much appreciated. This is also a safe phrase that shows compassion and leaves the grieving person feeling not quite so alone. Knowing that others care and are not forgetting about the grieving person or the loved one that passed away means a lot.

  • Please take this a step further. Don’t write, “praying for you,” and then scroll down to the next Facebook post. Stop and pray.
  • Pray for specific ways that you hope God takes care of them.
  • Tell those specifics to the grieving person. “I’m praying for peace and comfort. I’m praying that God will hold you in his hands. I’m praying that you are able to get some sleep and eat and take care of yourself during this hard time. I’m thinking of you constantly. I’m praying that you do not feel alone and know that you are in my thoughts daily. I’m praying that you know how much you are loved and how many people want to help you on this journey…”
  • Take action. There’s a reason they popped into your head. Pray, call them, text them, mail a card, drop off treats at their door.

If all else fails: 

  • Say, “I don’t know what to say.” Or, “I wish I knew what to say.” Or, “This really sucks.” Those are all ok and honest.
  • Be genuine, caring, and don’t feel the need to fill the air with words that might not be helpful. Embarrassingly, I recently walked into a visitation and said to a grieving sibling, “How are you?” …I quickly said, “Well that was a stupid question. I’m sorry.”
  • A hug or an offer to get them a tissue or glass of water is always a good option, too, if you’re not sure what to say or do.


Thank you for reading this to the end.  There have been many sudden deaths recently of family and friends that have me wanting to offer advice to those that truly want to take care of their loved ones facing this tough road ahead.

Stay tuned for the next topic in the series – you won’t want to miss it.

A miniseries you won’t want to miss…

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(Photo credit toolakeacreage dot com)

Recently, I’ve known of three people close to me or friends of mine, that have passed away suddenly and unexpectedly….all three were in their 40’s or early 50’s. Way too young. Who are you thinking of that passed away too soon?

We all know life is “short.” But most of us assume we will live into our 80’s or longer. When we know of people that seem to be healthy and alive one day and gone the next, we are left shocked, confused, scared, and dumbfounded. It just feels wrong. We are sad for the loss of that person, sad for the spouse or family and friends that are left to live with this void. But we also think of ourselves, our spouse, our friends and family…could it happen to me? To us? To my friend? To my sibling?  We hope and pray not.

I’m working on a large project that isn’t quite ready yet, so I’m going to be doing a BLOG mini-series in the meantime, that I really hope readers will find helpful.  It’s coming soon! I don’t want you to miss it. I promise you will be able to put the lessons learned into practice, albeit in unfortunate situations. But you could be the blessing to someone that desperately needs it. 

That is, I believe, what we are called to do. Whatever life experience you have, whatever your passion….share it with others. Whatever you’ve lived through, the tough situation, the devastating loss, the growing pains….why not help someone else going through it so they might experience a little less pain?

If you haven’t gone through anything really hard…yet…well, then, Hallelujah!  You are probably young. 🙂   Because as wonderful as life is, you will face trials, and possibly a tragedy here and there. (Let’s hope those are few and far between).

I recently saw a post (author unknown) that said, “Be the person you needed when you were younger.”  This.

I have to say, I was lucky in that when I suffered the loss of my husband, I did have many good friends around me, some that had experienced the death of a spouse. But I still want to be the person that I needed back then. I want to support, help, educate and inspire others to be there for someone else who is grieving.

For the next several blog posts, I will be tackling some of the important issues surrounding grief – specifically the sudden death of a loved one….though even people that experience an “expected” death (illness, old age/natural causes) can, hopefully, relate to or be inspired by the readings as well.

Thank you for reading this. It tells me that you care. Maybe you can relate to grieving a sudden loss, and don’t want to feel alone in what you’ve gone through. Or maybe you’ve seen others go through a sudden loss and you want to know how you can truly help someone who is grieving. This world needs you! Thank you for caring. Stay tuned. 

Volunteer Dads

You might know a widow with young kids, maybe you know several. Here’s a sneak peek into our world and why I feel compelled to talk about dad volunteers.

My husband has been gone almost eight years. I often think about what he’d be doing now if he were still here, especially things that my son and he would have done together.  As I sat on the sidelines of our son’s basketball practice a few weeks ago, my eyes welled up with tears. His dad will never be the dad volunteer coach. He won’t even watch him practice. His dad won’t be the one patting him on the back, or teaching him a new play. My son won’t look to his dad and see him clapping after that shot he just made.

But what my son does see is other dads. He sees other dads who pat him on the back, who teach him a new play. He sees other dads that clap for him when he makes a basket. It’s not his first choice, but the point is, they are there.

These dad volunteers have other jobs and are probably tired. These other dads might have other kids, and other chores to take care of at home.  But they do it. They show up, they cheer on and coach and teach not only their son, but the boy whose dad isn’t there. The boy whose dad is out of town for work, who has other commitments, or who’s sick at home. For the boy whose dad doesn’t give a darn. Or for the boy whose dad who is in Heaven.


Today at my son’s second basketball game, I found my eyes welling up with tears again. I almost lost it. I was hoping the people next to me just thought I had something in my eye. Both eyes….continually for 2 minutes.  

It happened when my son got a rebound, threw it back up and made it in – swoosh! His first-ever score at a critical moment in the game. To say he was pleased is an understatement. I wish I would have had the camera on so I could relive that moment…but I hope to remember it in my mind forever.

It wasn’t just my son I was watching, however. I saw how happy he was but then I heard the roar of cheering from the three coaches on the sidelines of my son’s team. My eyes welled up with grateful tears for those guys that were proud of my son.  They cannot possibly understand what an impact they are having on my son, who doesn’t have his dad. Once or twice a week when they give him a high five, or tell him he’s doing a good job…it means the world to him (and me).

I realize I am a lucky lady, surrounded by some strong male father figures that are the next best thing to having his dad here. (My brother, dad, father-in-law, neighbors, cousins, cub scout leader, teacher)… Take my cousin, who has already attended a zillion cub scout events and meetings with his own boys, selflessly commits to take my son to cub scouts each week. He cares that much about my son; my husband would be amazed and equally grateful.

Every once in awhile I take my son to cub scouts and last week I got to witness the leader teaching my son to use tools. It was hard. That was my husband’s thing. He loved tools and was so talented at using them. I’ll be honest….I pounded my fist at least once against my leg in frustration that his dad wasn’t doing this. Not now, not next year, not ever. But thank God for these incredible mentors that are teaching my boy these skills. Thank God that these dad volunteers give their time, talent and encouragement to all the kids, not just their own.

Grieving people: This will happen. These waves of grief, even when you are sure you are doing really fine. Not just months after the death, but for years…….you will never be “ok” with the death and there will be times when the grief resurfaces and you so wish they were here. Hopefully, though, after the fist punch to the leg, the sobs in the shower, or shaking of the head….you can find gratitude for what and who God has left to care for you and youd kids.

Today I am grateful for the dad volunteers that have stepped up and continue to step up. Please tell a volunteer dad that they are having an impact way beyond their intentions. My son may not truly understand the impact of these strong role models until he’s a bit older, but I feel like the hole in his heart is being filled in an incredible way by these volunteer dads.