YOU are the Author of YOUR Life – Tips for Creating Your Own, Unique Sixth-Stage of Grief

Anyone who knows anything about grief (and even one who doesn’t) has most likely heard of the five stages of grief.

5 stages

These stages were realized by Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, a pioneer in near death studies.  She did not develop the stages to describe the stages of loss people go through when someone dies, however, they are more about what terminally ill people experience.

Yet, ever since these stages became known to the world, humans have looked to them when they experience their own significant loss. Finally, there was a guide that would help the human race to understand the wide array of emotions surrounding every aspect of their loss.

My opinion?  Meh.  I suppose there is some truth here, but just as each person is different, so are their reactions to certain situations, especially grief.  I mean, who are we to give someone a timeline about how they will be feeling a month, a year, even many years after the loss of a loved one, a job, a home?  Our unique body chemistry is wired for us, an individual in a world made up of over seven billion people.  Chances are you will not grieve in the same way as I grieve.

Let’s take a minute to talk about Acceptance, the fifth and final stage of grief.  The actual description of this particular stage is as follows:

“Acceptance does not mean that you have to forgive, ignore, go into denial, or excuse what has happened. Acceptance means that you are at a place where you can recognize what has happened, process it without denying what has happened, and are at a stronger place than before. ‘Acceptance’ is a process in and of itself. You are not likely to embrace acceptance until you experience the prior four stages at some point.”

Okay.  I get it.  This is a pretty hopeful outlook.  For those of us dealing with grief, this tells us that there is, indeed, a light at the end of the tunnel.  There is hope that, while our lives will never be the same, we will be able to process what has happened and will be stronger for it.

But what happens after we accept?  How do we take that newfound strength and apply it to the life we must go on living?

Applying these stages to my own personal grief after the loss of two cherished family members in a matter of months, I can comfortably say that I bounce back and forth between all of these stages all the time.  With each sunrise, I never know how my grief will affect me for the coming day.

Let’s rewind to a time before grief, to a time that was simpler.  You wake up in the morning and, most likely, have a plan for the day.  Maybe it is showering and heading straight out the door to work or school.  Maybe it is feeding, bathing and dressing children before you are finally able to partake in that cherished cup of coffee.  Perhaps you have the freedom to do whatever you want with your day and each morning holds a new adventure.

We still struggle with emotions surrounding these everyday circumstances, but those emotions are familiar, the norm.  Throw grief into the mix and we have begun playing a whole new game.

This is where being a human with our own free will comes in handy, because we have the freedom to choose how we will react to the emotions we feel.  We are the writers of our own grief stories.  How beautiful is that?

In the end, it is up to us to choose how we will go on from one day to the next after we have accepted what has happened.

We must accept that the sun will go on rising and setting each day.

We must accept that we need to continue to bathe, feed and clothe ourselves (and anyone for whom we are responsible).

We must accept that things happen, whether good or bad, all over the world, all the time.

We must accept that our lives are forever changed, and find someway to be okay with that.

Most importantly, we must accept that we have the freedom to begin writing our new chapter, our own, personal, unique sixth stage of grief.

So, before we close I will leave you with this…

Figure out the person you want to be today.  Do something that brings you joy.  Tell someone who you are thankful for that you are thankful for them.  Perform at least one random act of kindness.  Smile at a stranger.  Give someone a compliment.

I promise you, when the day is done, you will have a lovely outline for the first chapter in the book of the rest of your life.

flower 5 stages



BUCKET LIST: El Camino De Santiago

Who has done it? Why did you make this trek? What was your experience? What did you take from your journey?

Ever since watching the movie “The Way,” and hearing the stories from a couple of family members and friends who walked The Way of Saint James, I’ve been itching to do it.

Here are a couple of helpful resources if you have the same itch…

Nope, I’m So NOT Okay. But Thanks for Asking! – The BEST Thing to Say to a Person Grieving


“It’s been one HELLUVA ride, but I’m okay.”

That’s the response I find myself uttering to the hundreds of well-meaning people who bombard me with the only question they feel is safe to ask…

How are you doing?

It’s not their fault they don’t know what to say.  Shoot, I never knew what to say either.  Sometimes I still don’t.

Society has groomed us to put on a happy face and pull up our big-kid panties, because God forbid, we make any situation uncomfortable.  I mean, how would someone respond if I answered, “Well, the same year I had to have my uterus ripped out, diminishing any chance to have more kids, was the same year my sister was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer.  Oh!  She died, a few months ago, by the way. And hey!  My grandfather, with whom I was extremely close, died last week.  So, yeah.  I’m kind of righteously not okay?” (True story, BTW)

But I get it.  Human beings want to comfort those they love, and it’s a lot easier to let them if we respond in a way that allows them to fulfill this desire, and for that reason, I suck it up, far more than I’d like.

Each person on the planet is created differently, just as each person deals with grief in their own, personal way.  Some of us want to talk about it, and some of us don’t.  Some of us cry, and some of us laugh.  Some of us need to surround ourselves with our friends and family constantly, and some of us hide out in our home for weeks or months on end.  It’s truly not you, it’s us.

So, what do we say to people who are dealing with loss and grief? Are any questions truly safe?

The other day I was chatting with a girlfriend of mine.  This sweet, genuine soul witnessed my entire journey, from the time my hysterectomy happened, during my sister’s diagnosis and death, right up until my grandfather died.  A few days ago, she showed up at my home, not caring that my eyes were swollen and puffy, that my house looked like a frat den, or that I smelled like a living nightmare.  She simply wanted to see if I was okay, with a bottle of wine in tow (if you don’t have friends like this, you need to find some new friends).  Anyhow, as we sat at a bistro table on my deck, catching up on life and soaking up the last sun beams of the day, she told me something so profound that I just had to share it with the masses:

“MB,” she said, “I want to say the right thing to you right now, but nothing is going to take away the pain.”  She held up her wine glass for cheers and continued, “Just know that I love you and I’m here for you if you ever want to talk.”

And that was it.

Boom.  She nailed it.

Now, as I mentioned before, I’m one person dealing with loss in my own, unique way, so what makes sense to me might not for another.  But man.  Her words touched me, deeply.  She didn’t ask the question that put me in the dreaded position to alter the truth.  She simply let me know that she would be an outlet, a resource, a loving, non-judgmental ear should I need one.  With that small statement she gave me a huge gift, the permission I’d subconsciously been longing for; it’s okay to feel all the feelings and to let them out around me.

A weight was instantly lifted, and I started sobbing like a child who just had their Halloween candy stolen by creepy clowns.  We are talking hyperventilating, wine-spilling, convulsing sobs.  I didn’t know how much I needed to let it out until that moment.

It is human nature to feel the need to be strong and resilient.  But, IT IS OKAY to break down.  It is scientifically proven to be good for your health to NOT hold things in.  Loss is usually new, unfamiliar territory, and it is only natural that we turn into weird, blubbering, overly-emotional beings (trust me, I’m an expert).

I truly believe that all any person dealing with grief needs is permission to grieve!  Like, openly and honestly grieve. We are trying to be strong for our family, our clients, hell, even our energy-feeling pets.  How long can that last before we turn our lives (and our health) inside out?

If you are reading this, chances are that you are either dealing with loss, or know someone who is.  Whatever your situation,


On behalf of every person who has, or ever will experience loss, I thank you.


Do You Have a Grief Story? I Want to Hear About It!

Some of the best ways to accept and overcome grief and loss is by listening to others who have experienced the same, as well as to share your story.  Letting your emotions pour out of you provides a great sense of relief, just as connecting with those who have similar life experiences creates a sense of community and peace.

Therefore, I will be starting a series called “This is My Grief.”

I’d like to share one or two stories a month with my readers, from my readers.  They should be stories of loss, any kind of loss.  Grief doesn’t necessarily only happen because of death.  It can be brought on by loss of a job, a relationship, even an end of your favorite show on Netflix (you know you’ve experienced that).

If you’d like to submit, please keep these questions in mind as you share your story:


What kind of loss did you experience?

How did this loss affect you physically?

How did this loss affect you emotionally?

Did you seek any type of counseling?

Where are you currently in your grief journey?

How did you overcome, or what strategies are you implementing to overcome your grief?

What would you like to learn more about when it comes to grief and living life on purpose?


Please email your stories to with the subject “My Grief.”

Don’t forget to include your name!

Through this series it is my hope to remind those who are suffering know that they are not alone.  There is, indeed, a light at the end of that long, dark tunnel.  So let’s shed some light together!

Remember the Journey – Focusing on the Means

The following post was written three months after my late sister was diagnosed with cancer.  I wanted to share it here as the words I wrote then, when she was still alive, have become even more prevalent since her death and have greatly helped to inspire this new venture.  The lesson, I believe, is priceless, and will open the eyes of anyone struggling with grief, loss, depression or who are simply seeking inspiration to find meaning in their lives.

I can still remember the hot sun beating down on my face as I struggled to keep up with my dad and two older sisters; the smell of sweat, dry dirt and pine infiltrating my dusted nostrils.  My legs ached and scratched from trekking straight up the manzanita-filled, boulder-lined incline from the base of the meadow to the top of the pinnacles.  With each breath I longed to be finished with this day.  Why had I begged and pleaded for them to take me with?  Why had I agreed to “not complain one bit” when my dad had warned me about the strenuousness of the trail?  I was eight years old, hiking with my father, a seasoned outdoors-man, and my two pre-teen sisters, also decent hikers.  I just wanted to be included.  I’d always had a longing to be in the woods.  I’d always liked taking walks on trails, but this God-forsaken, high-desert scorched landscape, and these unfathomable vertical trails were getting the better of me.

Skip forward to later that day, as I sat perched on a rock about the size of a semi with a ridiculously huge smile spread all the way across my sun-burnt face.  I had a perfect three hundred and sixty degree view a mile above the Earth below. On one side, a vast, mountainous landscape.  On the other, a desert stretching all the way to the base of the Sierra Nevada.  This was my first summit.  It was a day that I will never forget, and a moment forever frozen in my memory. Eight years old, standing on top of my southern California world, feeling the wind blowing through my hair, cuddling up next to my dad and sisters; that was what it was all about.

I never complained on a trail again after that day, because I knew that the journey would be worth it.

It is thinking back to that day that gives me strength these days.

Almost three months ago, one of my sisters was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer. (Simply writing the “C” word still makes me cringe).  For me, cancer is a word that is synonymous with unfair, why, how, no, and please. For years I have known folks who have had friends and family members get cancer.  Sometimes those afflicted would pull through, and sometimes they would pass away, but I never fully grasped the hell that is cancer until my beloved sister, a person whom I’ve always looked up to and who has always been a rock in my life, incurred the disease.  As many cancer support groups, books, websites and medical professionals remind us, it is not only the person that is battling the cancer who suffers, but those who love them the most who suffer right along with them, sometimes even more-so, as those folks use every ounce of energy to keep spirits up and positive, and happily do what they can for the person affected, all the while concealing their inner turmoil.

There have been days when all I want to do is curse the world and say “to hell with it all.”  Why did my sister have to be the one to get cancer?  Why?  Why?  Why?  And what can I do about it?

Hearing the news that somebody you love has been diagnosed with a potentially fatal disease is likened to a near-death experience; the memories you’ve had with that person suddenly speed-race through your mind.  Then, everything slows down, and you remember certain moments and times so clear it is as if those moments and times just happened in slow motion, seconds before.  One of those moments was that day at the pinnacles; the trip when I was eight, and thought I would die, until my heart become a part of the trail and the journey.

As we grow older, life happens, beautiful and terrible as life may be.  Our careers get in the way of our passions.  Our children take up any free hours that we once cherished.  Mortality becomes very real and ever present.  We stop taking chances and risks for fear of this mortality.  We wind up spending any glimmer of free time sleeping our lives away. We end up focusing on the end instead of the means.  And yes, I am guilty of all the aforementioned.

Learning to cope with my sister’s unfortunate situation has rekindled a dying flame inside my soul.  Throughout these past months since the disease became a part of my life as well as hers, I have noticed things again; the beauty of a sunset, the simple way in which an autumn leaf floats on the water, the innocent laughter of the children, the incurable longing I have for separating myself from civilization as often as I can and actually following through.  I’ve also found myself taking risks again and remembering things that I loved to do before I became another victim of focusing on the ends.  

And all of this has become evident because someone I love is battling cancer.

My sister was the person who plowed the trail before me so that I could make it through. Don’t I at least owe it to her to prove that I can do the same?  As a society who has become ever invested in our ends, let’s strive to enjoy the journey again.  Let’s not take for granted the little things we pass by on the trail.  It might be the last time we are fortunate enough to see those small, insignificant, beautiful details.

Thank you, Marnie.


MY GREAT, BIG, BEAUTIFUL GRIEF – An Optimistic Overview of the Aftermath of Tragedy and Introduction to the Blog

First of all, let me give a big, warm THANK YOU to everyone who took the time to stop by this blog.  A bit ominous in title, but I assure you, the content will be anything but.

Let me tell you a little bit about the origins and birth of Great, Big, Beautiful Grief

Currently, I am smack dab in the middle of my thirty-sixth year on this planet.  I have lived, what some would call, a pretty decent life; raised in the mountains of Southern California, attended college on the stunning Monterey Bay of the Central CA Coast, worked and lived in a vibrant LA suburb where I met my Minnesota-born husband, and now, currently reside steps away from the famous Lake Minnetonka in the Twin Cities West Metro along with a little human boy that we created.  I’ve experienced “good times, bad times, and everything in between” (c’mon, I had to throw in some Zepplin).  For all intents and purposes, my life has been pretty typical for a woman my age with my particular upbringing, and thus far, I’ve been okay with that.

Then tragedy struck on August 3rd, 2016, putting life into perspective in a way that it had never been before.

My beloved sister, three years my senior, was diagnosed with colon cancer, and on her thirty-seventh birthday no less.  For two and a half years my family and I watched as she fought a most courageous, faith-filled battle.  But on December 30th 2018, at approximately 4:45 AM, cancer won the battle, and she left this world, leaving behind her sweet, young family.

Life. Was. Changed.

It was heart wrenching, awful, a nightmare come true.  How could this have happened to someone so young, so vivacious, so good?  She would never get the chance to watch her children grow.  She’d never have grandchildren.  She’d never have the chance to check off items on her bucket list.  My parents lost a child, my niece and nephews lost a mother, my brother-in-law lost a wife, and my surviving siblings and I lost a sister.  Nothing about this was even close to being fair.

Still, it happened.  She’s gone, while we remain.

During my sister’s last few days on this planet, fighting through massive amounts of pain and fear of the inevitable, we were able to have a little chat about life.  I remember it as though it happened seconds ago.  It was a moment that will remain forever imprinted in my memory.

I was sitting on the edge of the couch in my parents living room next to the fireplace.  A fire was burning brightly.  The golden, California sun was sinking below the horizon, and a peaceful glow illuminated the room, dancing off the ornaments that hung on the forgotten Christmas Tree.  In my lap lay my sister’s delicate, balding, head.  I was gently stroking what remained of her once thick, full hair.  While we were enjoying the simplicity and familiarity of each other’s company, cracking jokes here and there as we often did, I asked her the question that I’d been afraid to ask throughout the prior two and a half years:

“If you could have changed anything about your life, what would it have been?”

In true Marnie fashion (that was her name, Marnie, which was born from a nickname for Margaret) she chuckled and quoted one of our favorite Monty Python scenes, “I’m not dead yet, MB!”

We laughed, loud, but towards the end it was hard for Marnie to laugh.  The cancer had completely infiltrated her lungs and each breath was a struggle. After hacking for about a minute straight, she was able to catch her breath and continued, “You know sis, I don’t think I’d change much, but I’ve been thinking a lot about things I haven’t done that I’ve wanted to do.  But there has always been a reason not to.  We’ve wanted to save money for the future, I was working, or some other factor always got in the way.  If I could do it differently, I’d have had less EVERYTHING; cars, house, things, so that we could have made more experiences.”

Upon hearing these words, I began my downward spiral of denial, that my sister would be able to experience life in the way she dreamed.  Some miracle would surely happen in the next forty-eight hours and her cancer would magically disappear.  The hair on her head would grow full and bright once again.

But that didn’t happen, and two weeks later we were laying her to rest.

Her words that day in the living room struck a very sensitive chord somewhere deep in my soul.  There have been very few people in my life who have spoken authentic words, born from their unique minds, that have truly resonated with me.  Marnie’s were the most profound by far; If I could do it differently, I’d have had less EVERYTHING.

And here we are today, nearly eight months since my sister’s passing.

My husband and I have made a number of noteworthy changes to our lives. We sold our unnecessarily-big house this past May, downsizing significantly.  We took over four car-loads of “stuff” to the local donation center.  We sold seven pieces of furniture.  I have a trip to Ireland coming up in October, and more trips in the works.  I switched careers to allow me more time to raise our son (who is a miracle and our only, I might add), and life has never been more blissful.

It. Is. Happening.  Each day I begin by focusing on the good. I wake up thankful, grateful that my son is alive and well, that my husband is such an amazing provider and support system, that I have so many incredible friends in my life, that I have a roof over my head, and that I have my health. Sure, there are days where I’m tired, exhausted actually.  I’m a working parent.  It comes with the territory.  Still, I’m powering through and am absolutely falling in love with the person I am becoming.

So, in conclusion, why is my grief great, big and beautiful?

It is simple. Grief brought me back from the dead.  Grief taught me that life is so much more than what we do for a living, how big our house is, or what kind of car we drive.  Grief taught me that love, compassion and forgiveness give meaning to our lives in ways we cannot comprehend until we’ve trudged through the deepest darkness.

Most importantly, grief taught me that we only die once, but we live every day, and for that I am forever grateful.




Stay tuned for more life hacks on how to LIVE LIFE after LOSS. You won’t want to miss it.