I’m grieving – what do I do next?

For people like me who always like to have a plan in place, here are four simple steps to help you through those early stages of grief when you simply don’t know what else to do. 

adult alone autumn blur

When a loved one passes away, and you enter into a season of grief, it can be hard to know what to do next. You might be thinking, “How do I go on?” or “When will I start feeling like my old self?”

For people like me who always like to have a plan in place, here are four simple steps to help you through those early stages of grief when you simply don’t know what else to do.

During this time, all you have to do is REST:

RRe-hydrate: Make sure you are drinking half your body weight in ounces of water each day. Hydration has a major effect on energy levels and brain function. I actually love drinking water, but I know many people who don’t. If drinking water is something hard for you to do, perhaps add lemon or other fruit to your water. I keep a bottle of water on my desk at all times and constantly sip throughout the day. The sips really add up!

EExercise & Eat: The last thing you probably want to do while grieving is to exercise and eat well (or at all). However, I have found that getting some type of exercise, even if it is just a walk around the block on a nice day, or 20 minutes on the treadmill has really helped me clear my  head. And when it comes to eating, the last thing I wanted to do was go grocery shopping and prepare any type of meal, especially a healthy one. Thankfully, my coworkers chipped in and gave me numerous gift cards to local restaurants such as Panera, Bob Evans, Chipotle, and Applebee’s with a card that read, “No cooking. No cleaning. No worries.” This meant so much to me, and was really a lifesaver thrown out to me in my darkest days of grief. While I didn’t feel like cooking, I could easily order soup and salad from Panera, and pick it up to feed my family. I could sit at Chipotle and eat a burrito bowl while my son happily devoured guac.

SSleep: Thankfully, when my dad died, I never had any issues sleeping. At the end of the day, I always felt so mentally and physically exhausted so I couldn’t wait to slip under the covers. Unfortunately, I know many people that struggle with sleeping after a loved one passes. Sleep is so important for the healing process. For me, I would try to read before bed or meditate. I downloaded an app called Simple Habit and listened to the free meditations while I drifted to sleep. And I would always try to catch up on extra sleep during the weekend.

TTake Care: During the beginning stages of grief, it is crucial to be kind to yourself. Self care is so important. I signed up to attend GriefShare, and it was a dedicated time for me to focus on my grief and my healing. I had friends who invited me to the movies or to dinner. And even when I necessarily didn’t want to go, I still did and I enjoyed myself. It is okay to put yourself first.

That’s it. Just REST. Give yourself grace and time. You might be frustrated because you want to be doing everything you were doing before. It can wait. Honor yourself, and honor your loved one by leaning into the basics. It might seem like you are in survival mode, and that is okay. You are doing the best you can. You can do this, even when you think you can’t.

Make the Fish – A Metaphor for Life

A dream has forever changed the way I live my life. 

On July 18, 2017 – 14 days after my dad’s suicide – I had my first dream about my dad. And this dream has forever changed the way I live my life. 

My Dream

My dad was in my parents’ cheerful, yellow kitchen at their lake house. He was standing in front of the kitchen sink, and was preparing to make some food. A large green bowl that my parents always used for large dishes, such as my mom’s famous Thanksgiving stuffing or my dad’s fan favorite fried walleye, was sitting on the counter.

I stormed into the kitchen and haughtily said to my dad, “Can you believe that mom wants to have a fish fry for all of these people?! Why would she do that? Doesn’t she know that it is a lot of work and money to make fried fish for everybody?”

I was expecting that my dad would have the same indignant response as me. However, he looked at me and said, “Make the fish. The walleye in the freezer will go bad if you don’t use it.”

And that’s it.

My Interpretation

Author Eileen Elias Freeman once stated, “Pay attention to your dreams – God’s angels often speak directly to our hearts when we are asleep.” And for this instance, that quote could not be more true.

Initially, I thought about this dream on a more literal level. I called my mom, shared this dream with her, and asked, “Does dad have fish in the freezer?” And my mom responded, “Yes, actually he has some walleye in the freezer for you. I will give it to you the next time you are here.”

Great, problem solved.

However, one of my best friends had a more metaphorical view of this dream that I think is spot-on.

She mentioned that in many cultures, a fish often symbolizes good luck, good fortune, and a long life. So instead of interpreting the dream from a literal perspective you could view this dream as a call to action.

Make the fish. Live your life to the fullest. If you put off your aspirations until later, your talents will go to waste. Don’t save your resources for a special occasion. The time is now. Share the labor of your fruits. Be generous. You were made for more. Don’t let these blessings expire.

“Live your life to the fullest. If you put off your aspirations until later, your talents will go to waste. Don’t save your resources for a special occasion. The time is now. Share the labor of your fruits. Be generous. You were made for more. Don’t let these blessings expire.” 

Since that time, I think about this dream a lot. When things get tough, when I am restricting myself from experiencing something great, or when I am fearful of making a bold change, I hear my dad’s voice, “Make the fish. The walleye in the freezer will go bad if you don’t use it.”

My Challenge for Our Lives

So that’s what I’ve been doing. Why I decided to make a huge career move when I was thriving in my role, why I created this blog with transparency and vulnerability, and even why I allowed myself to splurge on experiences in the past year such as Taylor Swift pit tickets, a John Legend meet-and-greet, and vacations to Key West and Cozumel.

This is my life. This is your life. These are our lives. And we’ve each only got one.

So how do you want to spend it? Apologizing? Regretting? Questioning? Hating yourself? Hating others? Making yourself small so others around you feel big?

I don’t want to live that way and I don’t think you do, either. Instead, I am challenging myself and others to live big. Act bold. Take risks. Be kind. Be generous.

Make the fish. 

GriefShare – The Best Thing That Helped My Grief

My top 5 reasons to join GriefShare if you are in a season of grief.

About a year ago, I went to my first grief support group through an organization called GriefShare. This program was truly the life preserver thrown out to save me from drowning in my season of grief. When I tell people about GriefShare – numerous professional counselors, fellow church members, and countless friends/family, nobody is aware of this wonderful group. And I am here to tell you: everyone should know about GriefShare. 

About GriefShare

GriefShare groups meet weekly to help you face these challenges and move toward rebuilding your life. Each GriefShare session has three distinct elements:

1. Video Seminar with Experts

Each week your GriefShare group will watch a video seminar featuring top experts on grief and recovery subjects. These videos are produced in an interesting television magazine format featuring expert interviews, real-life case studies, dramatic reenactments, and on-location video.

2. Support Group Discussion with Focus

After viewing the video, you and the other group members will spend time as a support group, discussing what was presented in that week’s video seminar and what is going on in your lives.

3. Personal Study and Reflection

During the week you will have the opportunity to use your workbook for further personal study of the grieving process and to help sort out your emotions through journaling. Your group will spend time discussing questions and comments from the workbook study.

My GriefShare Experience

Shortly after my dad’s suicide, do you know how many people told me “You need to be strong for those around you?” Too many to count. So, for the first two months I was extremely “strong.” I rarely cried. I helped plan my dad’s memorial service, and I wrote my dad’s obituary. I gave a eulogy in front of a room full of hundreds of people without shedding a tear. I went back to work less than a week afterwards (I received 3 days of bereavement leave from my company…more about that in a separate post).

I was taking impeccable care of my 2-year-old son, oftentimes solo-parenting while my husband was traveling for work. I was managing our household. I was going to counseling.

I am a doer. A fixer. And I would tell myself “I will look forward, not backwards! Look how good I am doing!”

And then I went to this grief support group on a Saturday morning. And as I was watching the weekly video, I started crying. I didn’t want to cry, but I couldn’t control it. I was not sobbing, but my eyes were just slowly spewing tears.

And then we got in a circle and do an activity. And I started crying again! And I was thinking, “Who is this person?! What happened to the strong Misti?!”

From the very beginning, my grief was immense. But I am the type of person that does not show my grief in front of others because I don’t want to be a burden. So…please know that if someone going through grief looks like they have it all together on the outside, on the inside they are probably just a hot mess just like everybody else.

“Please know that if someone going through grief looks like they have it all together on the outside, on the inside they are probably just a hot mess just like everybody else.”

I think this quote from my first day at GriefShare says it best:

GriefShare Quote

GriefShare taught me to be as authentic as possible with my grief and to pray that those around me would help me when I was feeling overwhelmed, and tell me that I was not being a burden.

Here are My Top 5 Reasons to Join GriefShare:

1. Structured Learning About Grief

At a time in my life that was pure chaos, it was a relief to have some structure to follow. During the 13-week session, there was an extremely systematic curriculum about a variety of topics that were always helpful.

2. A Safe Space to Share About Your Loved One

I thought about my dad ALL THE TIME (and still do), but I struggled with nobody ever wanting to talk about him or say his name! I was an open book and desperately craved to tell others about my dad’s death and life, and share stories about him. GriefShare provided an open outlet to share these experiences with others who simply “got it.”  Sharing my stories, listening to other’s stories, and the two-way dialogue helped me heal.

3. Carved Out Time for Yourself

Many times I felt like there was simply no room for grief. Life goes on, even though time stands still. Before GriefShare, I was very bad at making time for myself to just reflect and sit with my grief. It took a concerted effort and commitment to go through GriefShare, but it is the best thing I have ever done for myself. I looked forward to going to the group each week, and I carved out about 15-minutes each night to complete the suggested reading and associated workbook questions.

4. Forged Friendships That Will Last a Lifetime

The biggest benefit to GriefShare was that I created numerous friendships with group members. During the 13-week session, you are sharing so much about yourself and your grief with others, so I feel like it is natural to form strong bonds with those in your group. I felt extremely close to my group leaders, and I made strong connections with two other women in my group. Even though the three of us are at different stages in our lives, and experiences different losses, we had so much in common so we just understood each other on a higher, more emotional, level. A year later, we are still celebrating each other’s birthdays, going to lunch or dinner on a regular basis, and simply sharing our hearts and memories of our lost loved ones with one another. It is a beautiful thing, and I will be forever grateful for these friendships that were initiated by our involvement in GriefShare.

5. Greater Hope for the Future

Through its Christian foundation, GriefShare helped me discover hope for the future. While things looked bleak then, GriefShare helped me learn ways to restore my hope and faith in God. Even if you are thinking to yourself, “I am not a religious person,” I will say that GriefShare isn’t “too religious” or intimidating for someone who doesn’t have a relationship with God yet. Personally, I am much closer to God now than I was before my dad passed away. GriefShare was a great way for me to learn about God’s grace and develop a stronger relationship with Him, and this gave me so much hope and peace for all that is to come after this life.

“Many times I felt like there was simply no room for grief. Life goes on, even though time stands still.”

Interested in Joining a GriefShare Group?

If you are interested in learning more about my experiences with GriefShare, please reach out to me! And if you are interested in joining a GriefShare group, go to https://www.griefshare.org/.

Entering Into My Season of Grief

It was just a normal, peaceful morning at my in-laws house and looking back, was just the calm before the biggest storm of my life…

adult alone anxious black and white
Photo by Kat Jayne on Pexels.com

July 4, 2017

As the sun shined into my husband’s childhood bedroom, I woke up to the sound of my two-year-old son, Blake, jumping on the mattress of his crib. I looked at the time on my phone and it was 7:47am. “Wow,” I thought, “I can’t believe I actually got to sleep in on a holiday!”

We stayed up late watching the movie Hidden Figures with our family the night before, and I was grateful for this late start to my day.

“Good Morning! How did my baby sleep?” I chirped to Blake as I lowered him onto the carpet.

“Good” he mustered as he waddled towards his changing table.

I put an episode of Daniel Tiger on my iPhone, lifted him up onto the changing table, and proceeded to change his diaper and put on his festive 4th of July outfit.

“There you go—now you look ready to party!” I exclaimed and we proceeded down the stairs.

I took my phone away from Blake and put an episode of Arthur on the TV for him while I made my morning coffee and breakfast for Blake. My husband, Aaron, was still in bed sleeping and nobody was up yet, not even the dogs.

It was just a normal, peaceful morning at my in-laws house and looking back, was just the calm before the biggest storm of my life.

“It was just a normal, peaceful morning at my in-laws house and looking back, was just the calm before the biggest storm of my life.”

I chose a K-cup from the carousel, and placed my favorite Harvard Business School mug on the Keurig and selected the largest output possible.

“Why did I not remember to buy one of these when we were in Boston last year for the reunion?” I thought to myself, rather annoyed.

I got an apple juice pouch out of the refrigerator and proceeded to pour Blake a small bowl of Coco Puffs. Blake was casually playing with some Hot Wheels while watching Arthur, so I placed the food and beverage next to him on the carpet.

At that time, my in-laws, Terry and Sue, came down the stairs.

“Good Morning!” I greeted them and asked Blake to do the same.

I walked back into the kitchen to get my coffee, and proceeded to pour some sugar and cream into the hot, black liquid.

As I was talking to Terry and Sue about our potential plans for the day—Should we go to a parade? What time are we going to have a cookout? What time will we head back home today?—I felt the vibration from my FitBit signaling that someone was calling me.

“That is so odd. Who would be calling me this early in the morning? It’s only 8:20am,” I thought to myself.

I reached to get my phone off the kitchen counter and looked at the screen. My phone displayed a 419 area code number and with the city of Bellevue listed. I am no stranger to receiving multiple telemarketer calls a day, and I briefly hesitated, almost declining the call. Then, an ominous feeling came over me that something was wrong. One of my best friends, Tish, is from Bellevue, and I automatically thought that something must have happened to Tish and that one of her family members was calling me.

While I was standing at the kitchen counter, looking into the living room at my son cheerily and nosily playing with cars, I answered the phone.

“Hello,” I answered quietly.

“Is this Misti?” a man asked.

“Yes, it is,” I confusedly replied.

“Misti, my name is Mike and I am a Chaplain with the Marblehead Police Department. Your father is dead. You need to come right away.”

“Misti, my name is Mike and I am a Chaplain with the Marblehead Police Department. Your father is dead. You need to come right away.”

As the man said these words, I leaned my body towards the kitchen counter and placed a hand on my forehead, trying to comprehend.

“I am sorry—who did you say? It is really hard to hear you,” I expressed.

“Your father is dead,” the Chaplain exclaimed.

“My Dad?” I asked.

“Yes.” The Chaplain a matter-of-factly said.

“Are you sure? My Dad?” I asked again, hoping that I misheard him.

This must be a sick joke, how could this be possible? My initial reaction was to grab a pen and notebook of paper, thinking that I probably need to write something down. At this time, Terry and Sue whispered to me “Is everything okay?” as Blake ran over to show me a cool car he found. I shook my hand no and asked my in-laws if they could take Blake away for a couple of minutes. Terry and Sue asked Blake if he wanted to play with his cars on the back porch and he excitedly ran outside to move his cars around their circular patio table—one of his latest obsessions.

Now that Blake was out of the house, I was able to gain additional information from Mike the Chaplain.

“I’m sorry, Mike—my son was in the room with me. You can continue.” I told the man.

“Ma’am, your father is dead. We are here with your mom and she is very upset. We have her hooked up to some machines. Is there anyone that you know who can come over to be with her?” He asked.

“My Aunt Lynn lives right down the road—you can get her! She will be awake!” I exclaimed.

As I was trying to put all these terrible pieces together, I immediately thought that my Dad must have been in a boating accident. As a charter captain, it wouldn’t be uncommon for him to be out on Lake Erie so early in the morning. He just helped fix a jet ski we just bought, so maybe he was out on that early this morning and was in an accident? I just wasn’t sure. At this point, nothing made sense.

“I am sorry, Mike. I am not following this really well. How did my Dad die?” I asked him.

“It looks like he took his own life, Ma’am,” Mike the Chaplain told me. And at that time, the wind was knocked out of me and I knew that I would never be the same again.

“‘It looks like he took his own life, Ma’am,’ Mike the Chaplain told me. And at that time, the wind was knocked out of me and I knew that I would never be the same again.”

At some point during this conversation, Terry ran upstairs to get Aaron out of bed.

“Aaron, something is wrong with Misti’s Dad! You need to come downstairs right now!” he exclaimed.

By the time Aaron came downstairs, I was pacing in my in-laws front yard. I don’t even think that I had shoes on, which is a rarity for me.

“Can I talk to my mom? Does she want to talk to me?” I asked the Chaplain.

“Misti, he’s dead!” My mom shouted into the phone.

“Mom, we are going to get through this. I will be there as soon as I can.” I calmly told her.

“Misti, you don’t need to come up here. He’s dead, there’s nothing you can do to change it! He isn’t coming back!” My mom sobbed.

“Mom, of course I am coming. I just need to get ready and I will be there. I love you.” I wearily stated and hung up the phone.

What seemed like an eternity was actually 9 minutes in duration.

9 minutes.

That is all the time it it took to change my life forever.



Girl, Wash Your Face Book Club Key Takeaways

Last Sunday, I had the pleasure of hosting a book club for Rachel Hollis’s “Girl, Wash Your Face.” I was was hoping to find a book club of this book, and was disappointed when I couldn’t find one. Then, I got the great idea to host one myself. I posted this idea on Facebook, and so many of my friends in the area were interested in joining me! I think this is a great example of how if you want something to happen, you have to make the active effort to turn your vision into reality.

“If you want something to happen, you have to make the active effort to turn your vision into reality.”

I absolutely loved sharing and listening to all my beautiful, highly accomplished friends.

Here are some key takeaways, from the book and from my friends, I wrote down during our book club that I think may benefit others:

1. The more you pay attention to your life, the more you can change the trajectory: Take the time to evaluate what you are doing, and who you are doing it with. If you are mindful about your actions, and take the time to be introspective, you can make the necessary changes to be the best version of yourself.

2. Embrace your eccentricity. Live true and be you: We are each like snowflakes-unique and beautiful. Stop trying to be like everyone else. Love your perfect imperfections, and do not deny your talents to the world simply because it may not be the most popular option. I am a firm believer that if your tribe is not cheering the loudest for you, then it is time to find a new tribe.

3. Don’t think of yourself as changing, think of yourself as evolving (like a caterpillar turning into a butterfly): I have heard this metaphor many times recently, and I think about it often. A caterpillar is awesome and has its own purpose in life. However, when a caterpillar changes into a butterfly it is no longer a caterpillar. It is an entirely new creature and is an elevated version of itself. Being a caterpillar is fine, but being a butterfly is the ultimate end goal.

4. Any decision you make is NOT permanent. You are allowed to change and evolve. You are allowed to change your mind: Making any type of change can be paralyzing. Should I stay home with my 12-week-old son? Should I take that consulting job? Should I try this keto diet? If you grant yourself the permission to try something out, and then make a change if it’s not working out, you are able to take some of the pressure off of yourself.

5. NEVER make yourself small to make other people feel better. Refuse to live as half of yourself because people can’t handle all of you: I am extremely guilty of this, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. I can think of countless times in my life in which I didn’t raise my hand in class because I didn’t want to be seen as the “know-it-all,” downplayed a really great idea to not be seen as a “show off,” and sat back quietly while someone else got an incredible opportunity so I would be seen as a “team player.” I do think there is a time and a place for everything, I definitely can do a better job of being my own advocate, and not “dulling my sparkle” to make others feel better about themselves. God has made me for more, and to do anything less than my best is a true disservice to myself, my family, and God.


If you have read the book, what were some of your key takeaways? Or what is some great advice your friends have shared with you?

5 Ways to Help a Loved One in Grief

5 Ways to Help a Loved One in Grief

Last Family Photo

This is our last family photo. And it wasn’t even an actual photo, it is a screenshot from a video someone took during Blake’s 2nd birthday party. I saw my Dad one other time before this, but we didn’t capture the moment of my Dad baiting a fishing pole for Blake for the first time, the great family dinner we had, or our last golf cart ride. If I would have known that would be the last time I would see him, I would have captured a million pictures for posterity.

During this period in my life, countless people have told me, “If there’s something I can do, please let me know.” I truly think these family and friends wanted to do something but simply didn’t know what to do or what to say. Death, especially suicide, is an uncomfortable topic. Loved ones don’t want to say the wrong thing and evoke even more sadness. Yet sometimes even the smallest gestures can have the biggest impact.

“Even the smallest gestures can have the biggest impact.”

Here are 5 examples of what loved ones did or said that helped me during my grief.

1. Share a Personal Story: One morning, someone I worked with but wasn’t super close with came up to me while I was making a cup of coffee. He said to me, “I lost my dad when I was in college. One of my professors told me that research shows that you start feeling a little better after 6 months. She was right but I still miss my dad every day. Hang in there, it gets more manageable.” I don’t think he realized how meaningful that small conversation was, but I still think about that chat. During those first few months, those words provided hope that while my life would be changed forever, the waves of grief would get smaller over time. However, I caution that you should NOT dominate the conversation and make the other person’a grief all about you.

2. Provide a Practical Gift: Within days after my Dad died, a high school friend that I have seen in years asked for my address and sent me paper products: tissues, toilet paper, paper plates, and napkins. This was such a practical gift that was truly so helpful as at that time I was crying constantly and didn’t feel like washing dishes.

3. Send a Card: Many people sent sympathy cards immediately after my Dad’s passing. That was so meaningful. I have all the cards in a box, and I still look through them from time to time. I received the most meaningful card months afterward. I came to work one day and there was a card sitting on my desk. I opened it and it said something like, “I don’t know what you’re going through, but I am thinking of you and I am here for you.” That was such a powerful message to let me know that even though I felt like it, I wasn’t alone.

4. Carve Out Some Time for Something Fun: Around the holidays, one friend took me to a tea house for brunch and afterwards we went to see the movie “Wonder.” It was a great girls’ day that simply allowed me to remember how much I still had in my life.

5. Do Something, Just Because: Close to the one-year mark of my dad’s death, my best friend sprang into my cubicle and cheerfully extended a Starbuck’s Pink Drink. “I got one on my break, and I thought you would like this as well!” she exclaimed. She didn’t ask me what I wanted, or if I liked that drink, she just did it and that random act of kindness touched my heart so much. Even if I didn’t like the drink (which I did! Yum!) that $5 purchase really turned my day around.

These are just some of the things my loved ones did or said to help me through the darkest time in my life. I hope these examples are helpful to you.

What things helped you through your grief?