How I Talk to My Child About Death

Ways I handle talking about lost loved ones with my son.

girl and toddler walking at the shore

“How did you tell your child that their grandpa passed away, and how do you keep your dad’s memory alive with your son?”

These are the questions I get asked most frequently about my grief journey. I know from firsthand experience that it can be SO HARD to have these conversations with your child or children. I also know that it can be done and that you can finds ways to keep your loved one’s memory alive for posterity. Here is how I’ve had these heartbreaking conversations with my son and some examples of how I attempt to have the legacy of my father live on in my family.

How did you tell your child that their grandpa passed away?

When my dad passed away, my son had just turned two years old. Since he was so young, I didn’t deem it necessary to immediately sit him down and tell him that his papa had passed away. Thankfully, my in-laws were able to care for my son while I was finalizing funeral arrangements and all the other logistics that come with death and for those first couple days he was very content to be playing at their house. However, when we would visit my parents’ house, Blake would notice his papa’s absence and would ask questions like, “Where is papa?” and “Why isn’t papa here with us?” I knew this conversation would arise organically and it was time to tell my son that his papa had passed away and what that exactly means.

My parenting style has always been to treat my son like the little human that he is. And whether we are talking about why the sky is blue, or the reason I can’t go into the men’s restroom with him, I always have a conversation with him just like I would an older kid or an adult. So when he asked about his papa, I calmly told my son that his papa was in Heaven. Since we are Christians, I attempted to explain what Heaven is, and how Blake will be with his papa again one day. I also mentioned that Blake can still talk to his papa whenever he wants and that Papa is always with him – protecting him and guiding him throughout his life journey. Blake did not ask any questions after my explanation, and just began playing with his toys again. The conversation wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.

Since this initial conversation, we have experienced other deaths in our family. I’ve had this conversation with my son multiple times and I stick to the same talk track. Honestly, I was worried that Blake would start to resent Heaven. However,  when letting Blake know that another loved one has passed away, our son is now finding comfort that many loved ones are all together now. In fact, when Blake’s goldfish recently passed away, my son looked up at me excitedly and said, “Mom! Don’t worry – Papa is taking care of Everest and Zuma now.” In moments like this, I feel like Blake has grasped the concept of Heaven and I know that he will be okay.

“In moments like this, I feel like Blake has grasped the concept of Heaven and I know that he will be okay. “

How do you keep your dad’s memory alive with your son?

Although Blake was only two when his papa passed away, Blake has many memories of his grandfather. Perhaps I have just done a good job weaving my dad into our everyday conversations, but I truly believe that Blake still has actual memories of my father and I am going to do everything I can for him to hold on to those memories. Either way, I do think that my son still has a strong affinity towards my dad and that is extremely important to me.

“I truly believe that Blake still has actual memories of my father and I am going to do everything I can for him to hold on to those memories.”

An example of how I weave my dad into our conversations happened just the other night. We were eating popsicles after I completed a 7 mile run. Blake chose a banana popsicle and I looked at him and said, “Do you know who else likes banana popsicles?” Blake thought about it for a second and shook his head. “Papa LOVED banana popsicles! Those were his favorite!” I exclaimed. And when we pray each night, we still pray for Papa.

How have you handled these situations? 

Telling a child about the loss of a loved one and keeping their memory alive are definitely difficult topics to discuss, but they are a natural part of life. And just like with every season of my life, I have attempted to handle this situation and these discussions in a practical and calm way – and with lots of love.

Have you had to tell your child or children about the loss of a loved one? If so, what did you say and how have you handled this situation?

And how have you kept your loved one’s memory alive with your child or children?

I would love to hear about your experiences as you are going through your grief journey, too.

Fish On, 


How to Write a Eulogy

My experience writing my dad’s eulogy.

black microphone
The day after my dad committed suicide, I sat down at my parents’ kitchen table, fired up my laptop, and got to work on my dad’s eulogy. Just like with the writing of his obituary, this task was not directly assigned to me, but it was simply inferred that I would be the one to provide remarks on behalf of my small family. Honestly, I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
My dad was an excellent father to me and I took the task of writing his eulogy very seriously. At the time, I viewed writing my dad’s eulogy as one of the final acts of love I could afford him. In a time of so much chaos, this eulogy was one of the only things I could control and I clung to this task life a life preserver that was keeping me afloat.
In a time of so much chaos, this eulogy was one of the only things I could control and I clung to this task life a life preserver that was keeping me afloat.
The day of the funeral we had the calling hours immediately before. I had been on my feet for hours, thanking people for coming in a surreal and dazed way. When it was time for the funeral to start, I took my seat, sandwiched between my mom and my husband. The funeral began with three songs, and then our pastor called me up to give the eulogy. I had given speeches to rooms full of thousands of people, but nothing would have prepared me for the most important message I would ever have to deliver.
I stood up, a little unsteady, with a piece of white computer paper shaking in my hands. My hands braced each side of the podium and I stared out at the hundreds of grieving family and friends in the audience-waiting for me to share my message. I focused on my sister-in-law, Annie and her kind tear-stained eyes. I took a deep breath, exhaled loudly, and unconsciously said aloud, “Okay, I hope I’m able to do this” and began delivering my 3 minute eulogy. During that time, I had people engaged, laughing, and crying. At the end, I took another deep sigh of relief, smiled a sad smile, and headed back to my seat in the front row.
I did it. I executed the message perfectly and miraculously I did not shed a tear. I completed the most difficult task I’d been assigned to date. Afterwards, one of our family friends, who was a former mayor, told my best friend “If Misti could get though that, she can get through anything.” I tend to agree and now whenever I am feeling overwhelmed at work or at home, I think about that moment and draw strength in knowing that if I could successfully get through delivering my dad’s eulogy, I can get through anything else life throws at me.
If I could successfully get through delivering my dad’s eulogy, I can get through anything else life throws at me.
I hope you are not tasked with writing and delivering a eulogy anytime soon. But if you do find yourself in that position, I would like to share the structure of the eulogy I wrote. And I’ve also included the eulogy I wrote for my dad below. I found that there are not many resources on this topic, and I know I would have appreciated some type of template or structure to follow when I was writing my dad’s eulogy.

Suggested Eulogy Structure

  1. Thank everyone for coming: You are the voice of your family and the beginning of the eulogy is the prime time to thank everyone for their support. This will also give you time to calm any nerves and to get into the flow of delivering the message you want to convey.
  2. Share a story (or two): Provide a couple stories about your loved one that will engage the attendees.
  3. Add some humor, if possible (and appropriate): The tone at the funeral will most likely be somber and many will appreciate the comedic relief of a good joke, especially if your loved one had a comical personality and zeal for life.
  4. Share something personal: This is your time to be raw and vulnerable. If you are giving a eulogy, you were one of the most important people in that person’s life. You are going to have many intimate memories. Talk about what you are going to miss the most. It’s okay if you cry.
  5. End on a high note: Tie up your eulogy in a nice package with a great ending. Share a quote that sums up the overall sentiment or share one final piece of advice your loved one bestowed on you.
As promised, here is the eulogy that I wrote and delivered for my dad. If you have to write a eulogy for a loved one, you are more than welcome to use this as a template if it speaks to you. And remember: even though you might feel like you can’t get through this, you will.

My Dad’s Eulogy

First, I would like to thank everyone for their support and outpouring of love during the most difficult time in our lives. It has been so positively overwhelming to know how much my dad and our family are loved. I know many people came from near and far to pay their respects, and on behalf of our entire family, thank you for your support as I am well aware that each person in attendance is going through some type of grieving as well. Please look around the room and know that each and everyone one of us has a support group of people to lean on during this terrible tragedy. We will get through this together, because we are all in this together.

I was going to bring my flute and play a song for this eulogy for my dad. As many of you know, I used to be a very accomplished “flutist.” However, many of you also probably know that my dad HATED it when I played my flute! Don’t get me wrong, he was so proud of my accomplishments. He went to every band concert and marching band competition, took me to private lessons and solo competitions, and supported band fundraisers by selling instants at our school’s smoke filled and absolutely disgusting Bingo hall—if that isn’t love, I don’t know what is.

But he REALLY did not like the sound of the flute. Or the song choices my band director selected. He always asked me why Jethro Tull songs were not in the repertoire. To my dad’s annoyance, I was one of the good kids who practiced every day. He always told me to practice each night when he went down the road to play the lottery so he didn’t have to listen, so that’s what I usually did. One time recently, my parents were at our house. I had pulled out my old flute and was playing it for Blake. My husband, Aaron and my dad were sitting on the couch and he looked over at Aaron and said, “Well…I don’t miss THAT!” So…dad, for you, I will not play a song tonight in your honor.

As I was writing my dad’s obituary the other day, we have copies in the back of you would like to take one, I was thinking of ways to describe him and asked many of you in the room to do the same. What came up repeatedly was that my dad was just an all-around good guy who was, to simply put it, NICE and thoughtful. Please raise your hand if Kendall Parsley did something to change your life for the better—helped you fix something at your house, loaned you a tool, shared fishing advice (or a trip) with you, gave you a beer, a pirated movie, or something else? [WAIT FOR HANDS TO RAISE—PAUSE].

I have so many “nice guy” memories of my dad, because he was especially nice to me. One of the last occurrences that comes to mind has to do with ANTS. As many of you know, I DO NOT like bugs. At all. And especially NOT in my house. Well, this Spring I had ants in my house. I suppose it was not the end of the world, but to me it was an INFESTATION! Of course, Aaron was out of town for work. So the first thing I think of is to call my dad. I asked him, “How do I get these ants out of my house?!” He told me a couple of things to do. I am not proud to admit this, but I perhaps had a bit of a meltdown. Then, my dad said that he did not have a fishing trip the next day and offered to come to my house to get rid of the ants. So…he drove the hour-plus drive the next day with supplies in hand, sprayed around my house, and showed me what to do in the future. For some reason, I worked from home that day and was able to see him. He did not stay long, he had to get back for his couple’s bowling league, but I am so glad I was there to see him and I am so grateful for all the big and little things he constantly did for me throughout my life.

The other word to describe my dad is funny. He had such a fantastic sense of humor full of sarcasm and wit, which I would like to think I inherited. This is the type of person whose natural response to Aaron asking my parents’ permission to marry me was, “I saw on Dr. Phil that the average wedding costs $30,000.” Really?! 1) Why are you watching Dr. Phil? And 2) that’s really the only thing you have to say, Dad?!

When I look back at our text messages, we primarily talked through emojis and memes—most recently about his support of Donald Trump, his detest for Hilary Clinton (not trying to get political here…it’s just the truth!), and his love of Ohio State and hatred for all things Michigan. And when I see my dad in my mind’s eye, I see him wearing a hilarious t-shirt with a funny picture and/or saying on it. He would always send me text messages with links to these shirts. Sometimes it was a hint for me to buy one for him as a gift, but other times he would say “Nope—already bought it” and I would see him sporting his latest clothing find the next time I saw him.

I also would like to briefly mention, and only because this is the most raw and sensitive topic for me at this point in time, that my dad was an incredible Papa. He was a surprisingly excellent baby whisperer and he loved Blake from the moment I told him I was pregnant, to the night he held Blake in the hospital for the first time, and for the past two years. It was such a privilege to see their bond and seeing them together is definitely something I will miss the most.

Some of the best advice I have received is that grief is not something that you complete, but rather something you endure. So, as Sheryl Sandberg said in her most recent book—“lean in to the suck” and expect your life to be awful for a little while. But also know that Option A is not available so let’s just kick the shit out of Option B and FISH ON!

Fish On,


5 Lessons from My 2nd Year of Grief

For the rest of my life, 4th of July will never be the same. 2 years ago, I received a call that would forever change my life.

photo of woman holding sparkler

For the rest of my life, the 4th of July will never be the same. 2 years ago, I received a call that would forever change my life.

“Your father is dead, you need to come right away,” a chaplain simply stated to me as I was making a cup of coffee in my in-laws kitchen. My dad had committed suicide. That was all I was told before I made the excruciating three hour drive to Lake Erie.
These past two years have been a roller coaster of emotions and so many unanswered questions. And while the first year of grief is very distinct and raw, I think that the second year of grief has offered its set of unique experiences and feelings. As I reflect on all that has happened since the last 4th of July, there are five distinct lessons I’ve learned from the second year of grief:

1. Time Doesn’t Heal Everything: The pain I feel has turned from acute to chronic. It is not an imminent danger, but it is always there. I will carry this loss with me for the rest of my life. It will not go away. It is a part of me – a wound that only I can see. During this second year of grief, the scar tissue has built up and I am tougher and stronger. But I can still feel the pain of all that once was there, like phantom limb after an amputation.

2. Life Goes On: Whether you want it to or not, life goes on while you are just trying to survive. Adulting does not stop even though you want to hit pause: there is work to do, kid(s) to raise, and bills to pay. Grief is just something I now juggle with everything else in my life. I can either choose to ride the currant or let it pull me under, and I am making an active effort move forward while also leaning in to all that has shaped me and my life.

3. Grief has Changed Me: Post-traumatic growth is a real thing, and something I have definitely experienced. I take way more risks now, splurge on experiences I would have never done before, and I push myself to the limit. I only have one life to live, and I want to make it count. In the past 2 years I have changed my career, started a blog, bought a new house closer to family, sat in the Pit at a Taylor Swift concert, met John Legend, went to NYC to see Jimmy Fallon, signed up for my first half marathon, and more. My dad’s suicide has opened my eyes to the fragility of life, and I refuse to wallow and instead try to savor all that life has to offer.

4. A Strong Support System is so Important: After the first few days after a loved one passes away, it can feel like you are simply abandoned and left to deal with everything yourself. Friends and family have to get back to their lives (because life goes on). Even though I was always thinking about my dad, it was hard to bring up memories in conversation or to have those conversations with others. And the second year of grief has definitely been more lonely than the first. A lot has changed in my life in the past year, and many people don’t even know about my dad’s passing and it would be really awkward to bring up all the details in a random conversation. Thankfully, I was able to find a core group of loved ones who continue to understand, support, and acknowledge that this is a part of my life that has shaped me. Grief is a journey, and one that has not ended two years later. This will be a lifelong route, and I am grateful to the handful of friends and family who are with me through it all.

“When anything bad happens and I start feeling overwhelmed I just tell myself, “You have already gotten through the worst possible thing in your life. If you could get through that, you can get through anything.”

5. I Can Get Through Anything: Now, when anything bad happens and I start feeling overwhelmed I just tell myself, “You have already gotten through the worst possible thing in your life. If you could get through that, you can get through anything.” This has been a source of power and confidence, especially during this past year. If I can get through a random stranger telling me my dad committed suicide, plan a funeral, write his obituary, see my dad in a casket with a bullet hole in his right temple, give a eulogy in front of hundreds of people days later without shedding a tear, go back to work 3 days later, and also maintain a household and raise a child, then I can surely get through telling my current boss I am leaving my role of seven years, conducting a successful product launch, navigating all the hoops of selling my house, and more. I am a victor, not a victim, and I will continue to play the hell out of the cards I am dealt.

Fish On,

Happy Birthday, Dad

61 memories of my dad on his 61st birthday.

happy birthday dad

If my dad were alive today, he would be 61.

It’s hard to believe that this is the second birthday without him. The permanence of his suicide is just too much to take sometimes, but I refuse to let his absence and cause of death define my life. Instead, I choose to celebrate him and all the great memories that we shared together.

In honor of my dad’s 61st birthday, I wanted to share 61 memories of my dad. There are so many more great memories, but these are just a variety that came top of mind when I decided to write them down this morning.

61 Memories of My Dad


  1.  Although my dad did NOT like chocolate, his birthday cake of choice was always a devil’s food chocolate cake with milk chocolate icing. Ever since I was old enough to bake, I always made him one from scratch to celebrate.
  2. When I was 7, I went on my first roller coaster with my Dad and Uncle Bob. We were at Cedar Point and rode the Raptor. It was so fun!
  3. My Dad loved banana Laffy Taffy. I would always save the yellow ones for him. Actually, he loved anything banana flavored.
  4. One year, my dad named his work forklift “The Awesome Possum.” I helped him create a banner for it, and he had it taped to the forklift. I thought that was so funny.
  5. Whenever I needed a button sewn on, my dad was the one to help. He always used fishing line to see because it was way stronger than thread.
  6. My dad was a champion speed skater. I always loved when he would skate during my skating parties in elementary school, because he was so good and fast, and made me look cool.
  7. My dad sold all of his speed skating trophies in one of my grandpa’s garage sales.
  8. Every night, I went with my dad to the local convenience store to play the lottery. He always let me pick out an instant and a treat. I usually chose a Doubling Dollar and candy cigarettes.
  9. When I had my tonsils removed, my mom asked him to get me jello from the store. He came back with EVERY SINGLE flavor. He wanted to make sure I had options. I liked the island pineapple the best.
  10. Every Friday driving to the lake, my mom, dad and I would have a jam session and would belt out our favorite tunes. I liked Cheap Trick and Meatloaf the best.
  11. Every Sunday driving home from the lake, my dad listened to the NASCAR race. Do you know how boring it is to listen to NASCAR on the radio? I do.
  12. When I was 9, my dad took me to see “The Rock.” Yes, it was an R rated movie. Yes, my mom was upset. Yes, I thought it was awesome.
  13. My dad loved hunting for Beanie Babies with me. We always had so much fun finding them.
  14. When I was little, my dad assembled a playhouse for me. Since I could never find anything with my on it, he made me a “Misti’s Clubhouse” sign and I thought it was the coolest thing ever.
  15. One time when I was 10, I faked being sick so I could stay home from school. My dad stopped at Blockbuster on the way home to rent movies. He also got me a stuffed animal dog from “There’s Something About Mary.” I still feel terrible about that.
  16. When my first boyfriend came over for the first time (I was a freshman in high school), my dad quickly ate dinner and then sat in the recliner and watched TV the entire time. I don’t think he ever talked to my boyfriend that night.
  17. My dad and I would always go to Blockbuster every single Friday night to get movies. I was never allowed to get popcorn or snacks.
  18. Occasionally my parents would get Chinese food and I thought that was disgusting. That was the only time I was allowed to eat a different meal. My dad and I would go to Kroger and I was allowed to get a “Kid’s Cuisine” meal before picking up their meal.
  19. My dad NEVER had pizza delivered. We always picked up Donatos and brought it back.
  20. My dad taught me how to drive and was always very calm. My mom, on the other hand, was not.
  21. My dad loved online shopping, even before it was popular. He bought one of my prom dresses online from New York and I thought I was so fancy.
  22. My dad was a great cook. He made the best wings and walleye.
  23. My dad could NOT make lemon bars. Every time he tried, he would burn them.
  24. My dad always let me fish for bluegills at the dock. I really enjoyed that.
  25. My dad and I always waited until Christmas Eve to buy my mom’s presents. We would go to Westland Mall and it was so fun.
  26. In order to be released from the hospital after my tonsillectomy, I had to eat my entire breakfast. I HATED eggs at the time, so my dad ate my eggs so I could go home.
  27. My dad always bought Blake the most random things and he always loved them.
  28. My dad loved watching movies. I loved sitting with him in our Buckeye Basement and watch with him.
  29. My parents loved hosting parties and it was fun planning with them. I loved our Ohio State vs. Michigan party the most.
  30. The first time my dad met Aaron, he told Aaron that “Misti will kick your ass fishing.” I was mortified.
  31. My dad was obsessed with The Weather Channel. I hated watching it with him.
  32. For a while, we would go to karaoke every Friday night. It was so fun. My dad never did the karaoke, though. He just liked to watch.
  33. My dad and I were not big dancers, but my mom is. So when dancing was involved, my dad and I sat back and watched my mom tear up the dance floor.
  34. Even though my dad did not enjoy my flute playing, he attended every single band concert – except the sprig he quit smoking. He skipped that one.
  35. I always loved when my dad would play video games with me. I would always beat him and he thought it was funny.
  36. The only game my dad would play with me was Crazy 8s. I didn’t really like that game but I played it a lot so I could spend time with him.
  37. When my dad retired from Sears, he got to pick out a retirement gift. I always wanted a globe growing up, and he picked that out as his gift and gave it to me. I love that globe and it’s displayed in our basement.
  38. My dad would always dress up as Jim Tressel for Halloween. Parents and kids would get so excited when he opened up the door to give out candy, and many took pictures with him.
  39. My dad and I loved making buckeye necklaces together.
  40. My dad made his own fishing lures called weapons. I have spent countless hours of my life making weapons with him.
  41. When my parents dropped me off at college, my dad cried. That was one of the only times I saw him cry.
  42. My sophomore year of college we finally got text messaging. I loved texting my parents goodnight. It was so exciting to be able to message them whenever I wanted.
  43. My dad bought me mace when I went to college. If that isn’t true love, I don’t know what is.
  44. When I was living at home, I NEVER pumped my own gas. My dad always did and I didn’t know how to pump gas until I was in college.
  45. When I was in high school, my dad gave my barbies away to a needy family at work. I was devastated when I found out, but now I realize how kind that was.
  46. My dad was super helpful with our wedding. The day before, he drove all over to get supplies. And he never complained about wearing a tuxedo. I was so impressed.
  47. My dad gave a speech at our wedding and it meant the world to me. I know he was nervous, but he really wanted to thank people for coming and making the day so special.
  48. In high school, I wanted to create band hoodies since many other schools had them. My parents fronted the money to pay for them and my dad helped make it happen. That meant a lot to me. My dreams were always important to them.
  49. My dad was so proud of my husband, Aaron. Whenever he would introduce Aaron to people he would say, “This is my daughters boyfriend/fiancé/husband, Aaron. He went to Harvard!” We always thought that was so funny.
  50. I am so glad we went on a trip to Jamaica a couple years ago. It was my parents first time out of the country and they loved it. I will cherish that vacation forever.
  51. When I was little, I always wanted my dad to fix my hair. He would blow dry it and style it in a way I thought was so cool.
  52. Growing up, I went to so many sport shows with my parents. I would help set up the fishing booth and try to sell charters. I also slept on the concrete floor of the booth to pass the time.
  53. When I was in middle school, my dad taught me how to cut his hair so he didn’t have to pay for haircuts. I never did a very good job.
  54. I always tried to buy my dad the best birthday and Christmas presents. And oftentimes he would never use them. That blue ray DVD player? Seldom used. Those Columbia fishing clothes? The lost them in his own closet. I was annoyed at the time but I thought it was really funny.
  55. My first cell phone was one of those big, clunky NEXTEL phones. My dad said that I needed a sturdy phone in case I dropped it off the football stands in college. And he also liked the fact that we could use the walkie talkie feature to talk to each other whenever we wanted.
  56. My parents took me to the Mary Chapin-Carpenter concert at the Palace Theatre when I was about 9. It was my first concert and I loved that BOTH my parents went. We had a great time.
  57. The last gift that my dad ever bought me was a bright pink, super long cell phone charging cable. He said I would always know which one was mine because it was pink, and that the long ones were better and more functional. If you ever want to use it and I get weird about it, that’s why. I am very protective of that gift.
  58. My dad was a great contractor and did many home renovation projects himself. I loved helping him. Demo day is my favorite.
  59. When I started working, I called my dad on my commute home every night. He was usually driving home at the same time and I loved catching up with him.
  60. My dad had me in his phone as AMisti so he could get to me easily. I also had my own ring tone in his phone.
  61. When I was about 5, my dad bought this car that didn’t have seatbelts in the back, just a bar you held onto. I thought it was so cool, but my mom did not. She made him return it the next day.

I hope enjoyed reading some of these memories of my dad. Happy birthday, dad – I will always love you.

Fish On,



How to Write an Obituary

A how-to guide to best describe your lost loved one when you least want to write.

creative smartphone desk notebook

When my dad died, SO MANY decisions needed to be made simultaneously. Did I want my dad to be a tissue donor? Which funeral date and time would best accommodate this tragic life event? What poem did I want inside the funeral program and what type of tranquil theme best captured my dad’s personality? What picture immortalized my dad for posterity—the one holding two large walleyes, or the one of him standing next to me on my wedding day (and were we far enough away from each other that I could be completely cropped out)?

Another big decision that needed to be made was the writing of my dad’s obituary. It wasn’t discussed, but rather assumed that since I was the designated writer of the family, that I would be the one to take on this insurmountable task. And, honestly, I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. In my mind, this was one of the last ways I could express my undying love for my dad while focusing on his life rather than dwelling on the gory details of his death.

“In my mind, this was one of the last ways I could express my undying love for my dad while focusing on his life rather than dwelling on the gory details of his death.”

I had never written an obituary before, and as a researcher, I leaned on my natural tendency to research the topic at hand. When I Googled, “How to write an obituary” not many helpful tips and tricks populated my screen. I then proceeded to scour the web for recent obituaries, and that felt depressing and morbid. I desperately wished I could find a how-to guide for this important and unwanted task. Because, trust me, if you are the one chosen to write an obituary it means that YOU were one of the most important people in your loved one’s life. And even if you are the best writer in the world, the last thing you will want to do is to sit down for hours and write that story—especially if it is forced and unexpected.

“If you are the one chosen to write an obituary it means that YOU were one of the most important people in your loved one’s life. And even if you are the best writer in the world, the last thing you will want to do is to sit down for hours and write that story—especially if it is forced and unexpected.”

Since I couldn’t find helpful resources, I stared at my blank computer screen, prayed to God for the right words, and wrote from my heart. I have received many heartfelt compliments about my dad’s obituary and I wanted to create a “how to” guide for others who are in an unfortunate similar position. I have also included my dad’s obituary below for anyone who wants to use as a starting point.

Tips for Writing an Obituary

1. Start with the Details: List your loved one’s name and age. Add in details of when they passed, and where. If you’d like include details such as birth date, where they grew up, and parents.

2. Insert Career & Volunteer Details: Include career details, and any causes that your loved one was passionate about.

3. Include Details about Your Loved One’s Personality: Describe your loved one in 1-2 sentences.

4. Share about Hobbies & Interests: Include 1-2 sentences about your loved one’s hobbies and interests throughout the years.

5. Family Information: Include information about family that is left behind, and those that preceded in death.

6. Visitation & Funeral Information: Include details about the visitation and funeral information, including the address, date, and time. If your family prefers other gestures than flowers, mention the alternative here. Also include the website in which online condolences can be made.

My Dad’s Obituary

Captain Kendall “KP” Parsley, 59, passed away unexpectedly on Tuesday, July 4, 2017 in Marblehead, Ohio. Born February 23, 1958 to Roy and Wanda Parsley, Kendall grew up in Columbus, Ohio.  It was there he met his beloved wife, Brenda Hicks, whom he married on May 16, 1987. The couple recently celebrated their thirtieth wedding anniversary with a trip to Las Vegas.

KP began his career at Sears, where he worked in logistics management. He retired from the company after 40 years of service on December 31, 2014. Kendall was also an avid fisherman both personally and professionally which led him to owning and operating Drift Away Charters in Marblehead, Ohio where he was a Charter Captain licensed by the US Coast Guard and the State of Ohio. He was an active member of the Lake Erie Charter Boat Association (LECBA) and enthusiastically volunteered with charitable organizations such as the National Multiple Sclerosis Society through fishing tournaments. Captain KP was extremely passionate about the conservation of Lake Erie and the sport fishery industry and volunteered in the Governor’s Fish Ohio Day each year.

Kendall was known to family and friends alike as a generous, unassuming gentlemen who was the first to lend a helping hand at a moment’s notice. He spoke infrequently, offering sage and thoughtful advice and witty humor that was highly valued by those fortunate enough to hear it.

When he wasn’t fishing, KP enjoyed tinkering on various projects throughout the house and garage, watching movies from his impressive collection, and cheering on the Ohio State Buckeyes where his daughter earned her graduate degree. Most recently, he liked bowling at Star Lanes in Port Clinton and was a member of the Channel Grove Bowling League. KP delighted in spending time with his children, grandson, relatives and Channel Grove family, all whom cherished him.

Kendall is survived by his wife, Brenda; children Misti (Aaron) Allison, and Steven Parsley; grandson Blake Allison; sisters Linda (Ronnie) Pierce, Andrea Clickenger and sister-in-law Rosal Parsley. He is preceded in death by his parents; infant grandson, Kaiden Evans-Parsley and brother, Raymond Parsley.

Visitation will be held on Saturday, July 8, 2017 at the Neidecker, LeVeck & Crosser Funeral Home, 7755 E. Harbor Road, Lakeside Marblehead, Ohio 43440 from 4pm to 7pm and a memorial service will immediately follow with Pastor Jan Winnale officiating.

In lieu of flowers, the family prefers donations to Blake Allison’s CollegeAdvantage Savings Plan as Kendall was adamant about contributing to his grandson’s college education. Memorial contributions may be made at by entering the Ugift code: 29Y-74F.

Online condolences may be shared with the family at

I Hope You Find this Helpful.

I pray that you don’t have to use this how-to guide for a VERY long time. But when you do, I hope you remember this post and use it to help guide your words during this extremely sad time in your life. Words matter. Your loved one matters. And the task of writing an obituary matters.

Fish On,


Christmas in Heaven

My Christmas wish for those grieving the loss of a loved one.

acorn advent blur bright

This is the second Christmas season without my dad. I intended to write many blog posts between Thanksgiving and Christmas, but to be honest, I just haven’t been in the writing mood.

Many people say that the second holiday season without a loved one is the hardest, and now I completely agree. Last year, Christmas came five months after my dad’s suicide and the reality of this permanence hadn’t set in for me yet. Sure, I knew that my dad was gone forever but I was honestly still in shock. It takes time for the frozen feeling of grief to melt and then you are left with a puddle of sadness for all that will never be.

“It takes time for the frozen feeling of grief to melt and then you are left with a puddle of sadness for all that will never be.”

Fast forward a year later, everything this Christmas season reminds me of my dad and it is a lot to handle emotionally.

The Grinch? We watched that together.

Taking Blake sledding? My dad will never get to see that pure joy on my son’s face.

Making my dad’s favorite holiday recipes? Wow – I never thought that I would be the one making them at the young age of 30.

Although I try to be positive and make the most out of a terrible situation, I admit, there are times that are pretty unbearable. Oftentimes, I carry my dad and this sadness with me everywhere I go—I can feel the heartache in every corner of my being, and deep down in my soul. I think expressing these feelings with others is really important, because it may look like I have it all together on the outside, but on the inside I am absolutely devastated.

“I can feel the heartache in every corner of my being, and deep down in my soul. I think expressing these feelings with others is really important, because it may look like I have it all together on the outside, but on the inside I am absolutely devastated.”

I thought I had so many more Christmases left with my dad. And now I don’t.

To comfort myself, I recently have been thinking about what Christmas must be like in Heaven. I am sure it is an extraordinary event, and I think about my dad sitting around a table of all our lost loved ones with so much peace and joy. I think about that image when I start to feel sad.

On Friday, I went to lunch with my dear friend Alyssa. It was so great to catch up about our careers, children, and life in general. At the end of our lunch, she handed me a Christmas present and I did the same. I drove home, got back to work, and then a couple hours later I remembered that I hadn’t opened my gift yet.

As I pulled out the tissue paper, I saw a red lantern, and I thought “Wow, this is so nice and festive!” Then, I turned the lantern around and discovered that there was a little Christmas tree, packages, a rocking chair and a candle inside.

Then, I burst into tears.

And keep in mind, I probably hadn’t cried in a month. I have just been in a place where I have been so frozen in grief that even my tears were icy.

“I have just been in a place where I have been so frozen in grief that even my tears were icy.”

On the lantern, Alyssa inscribed a beautiful poem about Christmas in Heaven. She is so creatively talented, and made this lantern all my herself. I was so touched by her thoughtfulness and generosity. I will cherish this lantern for the rest of my life, and I am so grateful for Alyssa, her friendship, and her Godly heart.

Christmas in Heaven

The Poem Inscribed on the Lantern

Christmas in Heaven

What do they do?

They come down to earth to spend it with you.

So leave them a seat,

Just one empty chair.

You may not see them,

But they will be there.

-Author Unknown

My Christmas Wish for You

If you are grieving the loss of a loved one this Christmas, I pray that God is near to help you carry on traditions that keep your loved one’s memory alive. I pray that you find comfort in family and friends, and that you can lean on one another during the ups and downs of the holiday season. And when those inevitable tears come, I hope that you can be vulnerable enough to embrace the tears and realize that it takes strength to admit when we are weak. And I hope that we always remember that although our loved ones are gone, they still exist in a happy, more peaceful state with God, yet are always connected to us through love.

Fish On,


Gift ideas for someone in grief

4 gift ideas to remember a lost loved one.

four christmas themed boxes

When someone you know (or even yourself) is grieving during the holidays, you might be compelled to provide the perfect gift that will pay homage to a lost loved one.

This was especially true for me. I thought about my dad all the time (and I still do), love having keepsakes that remind me of him.

Here are four gift ideas for someone in grief

T-Shirt Blanket (


My dad ALWAYS wore hilarious T-shirts, and had a huge collection of them. When my dad passed away, I had T-shirt blankets made for my mom, my brother, and me. My mom and brother were so touched by this intimate gift. My T-shirt blanket provides me a lot of comfort when I am missing my dad.

I purchased the T-shirt blankets from Project Repat, and I was highly satisfied with their timely services and the quality of the product. They have a great mission, too!

Personalized Ring (


After I had my son, I had a ring created with my son’s name. When my dad passed away, I wanted to get a ring created with his name as well. I wear this ring every day, and I love looking at it and thinking about my dad and all the great memories we created together.

Thumbprint Necklace (


My best friend gave me a necklace with my dad’s thumbprint on it. I didn’t even realize that the funeral home captured my dad’s fingerprints. She contacted the funeral home and they sent her the images. She gave me this gift for Christmas, and I was so surprised and touched. I will always remember this act of kindness. I wear this necklace on most days, and touching the fingerprint makes me feel like my dad is always close to me.

Carson 44 in. Sonnet Heaven’s Tears Wind Chimes (various retailers)

Wind chime.jpeg

One of my good friends gave me these wind chimes in memory of my dad. I have the wind chimes hanging on our front porch, and whenever it is windy outside, the chimes ring and I think about my dad. I have given away these wind chimes as gifts to loved ones during the past year, and they have always been a well-received gift.

I hope these gift ideas are helpful!

What are some other gifts you have given or received to remember a lost loved one? I am always looking for suggestions!

Fish On,



How to express your grief during the holidays

Writing a letter to loved ones can provide a powerful outlet for healing and understanding.

photo of person writing on notebook

Exactly a year ago, I was in the midst of the first holiday season without my dad. This year was the biggest shock, and honestly, I was still learning to adjust. The Grief Share support group that I completed taught me many things about grieving, and specifically that while I will never “move on” I must move forward. While I was trying my best to do that, the weight of my grief was be oppressive at times, especially with the added stress of the holidays, working full-time, and maintaining a stable household for a small child.

One of the assignments for Grief Share was to write a Grief Letter to friends, family, and co-workers in order to:

  1. Describe my experience and my feelings
  2. Let loved ones and coworkers know what they can expect from me
  3. Tell them what they can do and say that I would find comforting and share what is not comforting
  4. List specific, practical needs they can help with

This Grief Letter was on my to-do list for months, and the holiday season sparked my motivation to share with my family, friends and co-workers in a deeper way. And writing my Grief Letter was one of the best things I ever did for my grief.

“Writing my Grief Letter was one of the best things I ever did for my grief.” 

To describe my feelings, I created Misti’s Top 10 List of Grieving. I also attached the beginning of my “Grief Story” for my loved ones and coworkers to read. This was another activity that was part of Grief Share. I intend on adding more to this story when I feel up to it, and I hoped that sharing this helps my loved ones understand my version of what transpired on July 4th (that letter is in an earlier blog post).

My Grief Letter: Misti’s Top 10 List of Grieving

  1. I apologize if I have seemed a little stand-offish lately: That is definitely not my intention and most certainly not directed towards anyone in particular. I am still trying to navigate through my grief—while I think that I have a lot of good days, sometimes I have bad days. I am sure that can be confusing and at times off-putting to others. I really do apologize if I hurt your feelings if I didn’t have a complete conversation with you or if I seemed really distracted if you tried to reach out to me. It’s not you, it’s me…seriously.
  2. Please be patient with me: It’s been almost 5 months since my dad’s death, and I am sure you might be thinking “why are you not over this yet?” Trust me, I wish I was. But, this is probably something I will not get over—I will just learn how to live without him and to live with “what is” versus struggling with the “whys” and “what ifs.”  Also—it has been almost 5 months, but I really think I was in shock for the first 3 months. I helped plan my dad’s funeral, gave a eulogy in front of a room full of people, and have been helping my mom with many logistics that death entails. In those first few months—I was too busy to even have the irrevocability of this situation settle in. Now, I feel like I am finally getting to the point where I am realizing the permanence of this loss and when I take the time to comprehend what is actually transpiring, it is absolutely devastating to me. So…please be patient if I am still a bit “stuck” in my grief at times. I am working through it, I promise.
  3. I am on an emotional roller coaster: I am the typical “Hero Child” (look it up if you want a good definition of me), and ultimately, I am just longing for the approval of others. I have always been an overachiever who is good at everything, and I want to be good at losing my dad as well. I am trying SO HARD to hold myself together, and to do everything right. To do this, I push things away and then at some point it just builds up into a point where I start hysterically crying. Currently, this happens about once a week. I realize that this is NOT healthy, and I am working on handling my emotions in a manageable way. I apologize in advance if I cry at a really random time. I have probably been holding back tears for hours, and I was trying really hard to not cry, and it just happened. In the event that this happens in front of you (odds are that it won’t since I hate crying in front of others), please hand me a tissue—tell me it is okay, and let me ugly cry in private. Please do not act like I am not crying—that makes me feel invisible or unimportant and/or annoying to you. Once I gain my composure, I will be ready to reengage in our conversation. Just please ignore my puffy eyes and red nose—those will be there for a while.
  4. The holiday season is making me EXTREMELY emotional: Beware: I am hyper-sensitive right now, and I do not handle conflict or stress well currently. I am not proud of this, but because you are important to me, I just want to let you know. Please be really nice to me: tell me I did a good job, compliment my Christmas cards or cookies, or that you like my new shirt and think that I am having a good hair day (if applicable and warranted).
  5. If you are thinking of me, please let me know: Death can be awkward, and especially when someone is dealing with a traumatic tragedy like a suicide. I get it—not many people know what to say when others are going through a loss, and you might be afraid that if you do say something that it will come off wrong or it might not be the right thing to say. From my perspective, I have been rather lonely and feeling like people have forgotten about me and “moved on” or that they don’t even care to know how I am feeling. Maybe you are thinking about me, but you are asking my husband, close family, or best friend how I am doing instead of asking me directly. If that is the case, I probably don’t even know that you asked about my situation or if so, it makes me sad that you do not feel comfortable specifically asking me. The next time you are thinking of me, instead of asking someone else how I am doing or being worried about saying the wrong thing, please consider sending me a text message or email to say “I was thinking of you. How are you doing today?” It is also okay for you to just say “I literally don’t know what to say, but I wanted to let you know that my heart still hurts for you.” If you don’t feel like talking, I always love receiving cards in the mail. And sometimes a hug or a pat on the shoulder can mean more than words can say.
  6. My loss is only one part of my life: I want to interact with others, and my dad dying is only one sliver of the pie chart of my daily thoughts and interests. If you don’t want to chat about my loss, I also like to talk about: TV (This is Us, Grey’s Anatomy, Designated Survivor, Modern Family, Blackish), movies (I really want to see Wonder, and love Christmas movies), Taylor Swift, sports (Ohio State!), books and random current events. I also love playing games like Euchre, Yahtzee, and Catch Phrase.
  7. Do not expect me to make the first move: I know I am usually the first to initiate things (making plans, texting, etc.)  but that has not been me lately. From my perspective, I feel like nobody wants to be around me because I am “damaged goods” or that I am not fun to be around. Currently, it is really hard for me to initiate things with others because I don’t want people to do things with me simply because they feel sorry for me. If you feel inclined, I would love to receive invitations to lunch, a walk or various holiday events. Even if I don’t feel up to attending, I sincerely appreciate the offer more than you know.
  8. I hate asking for help: I have always been very independent and I hate asking for help. Usually, this is because I really don’t know what type of help I should be asking for. So…If you have been thinking, “I wonder if Misti would like help with X, Y, and Z” the answer will always be “Yes.” Do you want to take Blake to Chik-Fil-A so I can wrap gifts? Yes! Do you want to help put our Christmas cards into envelopes and mail out? Yes! Do you want to spend time with my Mom so I don’t worry that she is alone? That would be great! Do you want to invite us to dinner? We love to eat! (Not that I am trying to get you to help me—this are just suggestions if you feel so inclined.)
  9. Talk to me about my dad: I think about my dad all the time, and I would love to share stories about him! I am an open book and I would eagerly tell you about his death and answer any questions that you may have. Don’t feel like you are burdening me if you ask me how I am doing, or if you had a thought you want to share. It probably won’t make me burst into tears, and if it does…so what?! Your questions, stories and dialogue help me heal. It would hurt me so much if you avoid speaking his name (Kendall). There is meaning in my dad’s life and I will find meaning in his death.
  10. Talk to me about you: I still want to know what is going on in your life. I know that I am not special and that everyone is always going through something. If you used to come to me for advice, you still can. If you have a funny story, please share it with me—I could really use a good laugh! If you need assistance with a survey, a resume or anything else—please ask. I would love to help and I would like to still be part of your life. I want to be there for you, just like how you are there for me.

The Result

Writing a Grief Letter was a great way for me to collect my feelings in an effective way. Even if I wouldn’t have shared my Grief Letter, the process of writing was beneficial for my healing. I was nervous to be so vulnerable about my feelings and needs. As I pressed send on those emails, my heart was racing. However, I am SO GLAD I shared!

I received so many heartfelt messages back from my family, friends, and coworkers. One friend invited me to brunch and a movie. My sister-in-law sent me a daily devotional and included an inspirational note. Many friends and family attended a Remembrance Ceremony with me after I wrote my Grief Letter. During Christmas, many people talked with me about Taylor Swift, and my mother-in-law bought Yahtzee for us to play as a family.

“People in your life love you and are hurting for you, and they simply just don’t know what to do or say. And although it takes some active effort on your part, if you want support that is most effective for you, then it is your responsibility to communicate your feelings, what will help you, and what won’t.”

I am a firm believer that people in your life love you and are hurting for you, and they simply just don’t know what to do or say. And although it takes some active effort on your part, if you want support that is most effective for you, then it is your responsibility to communicate your feelings, what will help you, and what won’t. Everybody grieves differently, and you are the only person who knows what is best for you.

If you find this Grief Letter helpful, please feel free to use it as a template for your own Grief Letter. I am praying for you this holiday season.

Fish On,


You can do this.

Last year, I was very anxious and emotional about my first Thanksgiving without my dad. And then something happened that helped me through the holidays.

You can do this



I would like to share a story in case it might bring some comfort to others during the holiday season.

Last year, I had an odd thing happen to me the night before Thanksgiving. I think it was real, but maybe it was a dream. I had a really restless night. With Thanksgiving approaching, I had been very anxious and unpredictability emotional. I had been dreading this first major holiday without my Dad and I kept telling myself “I can’t do this.”

Around 2am, I woke up to go to the bathroom. I looked down at my Fitbit and there was a message on it. (For those who don’t own a Fitbit: Messages can pop up for texts or sometimes it will message you when you have been inactive, when you take it off the charger, etc.)

The Fitbit read: “You can do this.”

I really think it was a message from my Dad. I know that probably sounds ridiculous, but in the Grief Share support group I went through, we learned about “miracle moments” and I truly think this was my miracle moment from my dad. Since then, when I start freaking out or feeling myself spiraling into an emotional mess, I just keep telling myself “You can do this. You CAN do this!”

“Since then, when I start freaking out or feeling myself spiraling into an emotional mess, I just keep telling myself ‘You can do this. You CAN do this!'”

So, for everyone who is going through something – a devastating loss, a traumatic change, a type of doubt – during this holiday season, I hope you are able to find an inner voice telling you that “You can do this!” as well.

It seems impossible, but somehow, with the passage of time, faithful family and fantastic friends, and the power of God, we will all get through whatever valley we are facing. Because “You can do this.”

Thornton Wilder once said, “The highest tribute to the dead is not grief but gratitude.”

During this Thanksgiving, while my grief is still extremely raw and constantly with me, I have so much gratitude towards my Dad and to all those who have helped me through this darkest time in my life. Thank you.

Fish On,


My dad’s favorite holiday recipes

Every year, my dad would make a few of his fan favorite dishes for the holiday season. Last year, I wasn’t able to make any of them. It was just too emotional. But this year, I am going to try. 

Here are 3 of my dad’s favorite recipes to make during the holiday season.

lunch table salad

There is something about food that evokes so many emotions.

My dad was always the one who stirred mom mom’s famous stuffing. Last year, since my dad wasn’t there, my husband was the one who stirred the stuffing. When I saw him helping my mom, tears started welling up in my eyes. “This is not right!” I thought to myself. And I sadly knew that holidays would never be the same again.

Every year, my dad would make a few of his fan favorite dishes for the holiday season. Last year, I wasn’t able to make any of them. It was just too emotional. But this year, I am going to try.

Here are 3 of my dad’s favorite recipes to make during the holiday season.

KP’s Easy Cheese Bowl

Hands down one of the easiest and yummiest recipes to serve at your next holiday party! This easy cheese bowl recipe is always a huge hit! Many people made a “cheese ball” but my dad said it wasn’t worth the effort to shape into a bowl, hence why he made a “cheese bowl.”



  • 16 ounces cream Philadelphia cream cheese (softened)
  • 1/4 cup green onions (chopped fine)
  • 1 package Budding’s beef, finely chopped
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 package Ritz crackers, for serving


  1. Hand mix all ingredients until smooth.
  2. Scoop into bowl that has a lid. Refrigerate for at least one hour.
  3. Remove cheese bowl from fridge, and serve with crackers. Enjoy!
  4. Place cheese ball on a platter with crackers and serve. Enjoy!

Simple Sweet Potato Casserole

This recipe entered my dad’s repertoire when I was a teenager. I always helped him make it, and it was so easy! This recipe also heats up well, so it’s perfect for leftovers!

Sweet potato casserole


  • 1 can (40oz) Bruce’s Yams, drained
  • 1 tub Kraft Jet Puffed Marshmallow Fluff
  • 1 small package pecans, chopped
  • 1 stick of butter, melted


  1. Preheat oven to 350º F.
  2. Mix yams, butter, and marshmallow fluff with electric mixer until smooth.
  3. Mix in half of the pecans into the mixture by hand.
  4. Cook for 30-35 minutes until brown. Cool, serve, and enjoy!

Captain Kendall’s Sweet Tea

My dad ALWAYS made this sweet tea! If it was warm out – sweet tea. If we were having a holiday part – sweet tea. If I was home from college – sweet tea. Even though I don’t consume many sweetened beverages as an adult, I MUST make his favorite beverage this holiday season.

Sweet tea.jpg


  • 6 Luzianne Iced Tea Bags
  • 16oz water, to boil
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 quarts cold water


  1. Boil 16 oz of water on stove.
  2. Remove from heat, and steep the 6 tea bags in the hot water about 5 minutes.
  3. Pour into a pitcher, and add sugar. Stir well.
  4. Add cold water to the mixture. Stir well.
  5. Serve over ice, and enjoy!

I am hoping that by making these three recipes this Thanksgiving, I will be able to hold onto the memories that my dad and I recreated during all those years of cooking together.

What are some dishes that remind you of your loved one? Are you making those recipes this holiday season?

Fish on,