In the first few years of my grief, writing was an enormously helpful outlet. But, in the past year, I’ve lost (temporarily?) the urge to write. Maybe because of the pandemic, maybe because I fell out of the habit. Or maybe it’s because my grief doesn’t hurt in the same knife-constantly-piercing-my-heart kind of way.

I found this letter I wrote to my sister in July, 2019 — just before the 2 year anniversary of her death. Since I’ve lost my drive to write anything new, I thought I’d share something a little old. …

A relationship defined by loss

Wedding day | Photo courtesy of the author

My husband, Nate, and I started “courting” in the fall of 2003. I choose that term because it’s the only one I can think of to accurately describe the bizarre song and dance of our early affection.

This confusing period lasted from the day I noticed our AIM conversations had suddenly turned flirtatious (late August 2003), until we became “official” (late April 2004). Despite many months of obvious interest, the transition to boyfriend/girlfriend was fuzzy. …

Alison (left) and me, with our children | Photo courtesy of the author

Two families separated by divorce reunite at a funeral

My sister, Alison, was biologically my half-sibling, but I never described her that way. Our mom and her dad divorced when she was a baby, and our parents married when she was two. She grew up calling my dad, ‘Dad,’ and that’s why I use the term ‘our parents’ throughout this essay. Aside from genetics, I was never any closer to my full brother than to my half-sister.

In a typical ’80s custody agreement, Ali would see her father every other weekend and alternating holidays, though this arrangement faded away once she became a teen. …

A Glimpse into the Reign of the Duchess of Dunwoodie

Carmella “Millie” Spagnolo, September 18, 1949 | Photographer unknown. Photo of the photo credit to author.

It’s hard to accurately describe my grandmother, Millie Spagnolo, who from now on I’ll refer to by her real name, which is Nanny.

As a child, after hearing one of my stories about Nanny, a friend asked, “Oh, is that your mean grandma?” Mean is not the right word, not even close. Nanny was brutally honest so her manners and word choice could be a little harsh if you didn’t know her well.

But any flair of her temper was quick to subside. It’s true that whenever she babysat my siblings and me for the weekend she threatened to leave…

The ‘shameful’ thoughts the bereaved are reluctant to disclose

Image credit: Here For You

Soon after my dad died in 2004, I came to the logical conclusion that I was evil. I told my new boyfriend about it in a jokey manner, my go-to approach for serious yet scary conversations.

“I’m about 80% evil. Just thought you should know…” I casually mentioned while using a Bic pen to draw a doodle on his hand (one of the many odd flirtations we participated in during the early months).

Never in my life had I been so judgemental, and coupled with that judgment was an underlying riptide of rage.

Six practical ideas for supporting a bereaved friend or family member during the holidays

Illustration credit: author

Chances are that you know someone who has had a very difficult 2019.

Maybe they lost a friend or family member, maybe someone they love is physically here but is suffering from dementia, substance use disorder, or end-stage illness. Maybe they had serious trouble at work, experienced a breakup, or are struggling with infertility.

The holidays are memory markers. They’re a definitive moment that longs for comparison. This is the time of year that we remember holidays past, and that is part of what makes them so painful. …

How the Bereaved Keep Score

When I visualize my grief underbelly it’s on the set of a film noir —
preferably with a light mist or drizzle. Photo Credit: Movie Still from Third Man

There is a grief underbelly: a dark and damp place swirling with thoughts that many grievers have but are too ashamed to admit. If these thoughts are ever spoken aloud it’s almost never in every-day conversation with ordinary people.

Instead, you may hear them uttered in the safe spaces of grief groups or in an honest conversation between grievers when they feel free of judgment. This is where you realize that the thoughts you were previously ashamed of are actually not shameful at all, and a lot of people are thinking the same things as you.

One of the more…

Image credit: author

4 Tips for Making the Holiday More Manageable

Creating Photo Books to Keep the Deceased Present for Young Grievers

Image Credit: Pixabay

This is Part I of a series on childhood grief. Part II, on talking to children about death and dying, may be found here.

This Thursday, November 21st is Children’s Grief Awareness Day. Childhood grief can run deep, but because children can move from tears to laughs and smiles in a matter of moments, it’s easy for adults to believe that they’re too small to understand or assume that they’re naturally resilient. It’s also incredibly difficult to support a child’s grief when their grown-up is struggling with their own. …

It turns out that honesty really is the best policy

Image credit: Jordane Maldaner

Part II of a series in honor of Children’s Grief Awareness Day. Part I, on helping children grieve with remembrance books, may be found here.

Death and grief are notoriously awkward subjects for most adults. We are caught up in what to say and how to say it. We never know whether to point out the elephant in the room or to talk around it. Our struggle to find the right thing to say often leads us to the wrong thing to say, or even worse, to say nothing.

But it does not have to be like this with children…

Kellyn Shoecraft

Navigating sibling & parent loss and trying to change the way people support each other in grief. Founder at

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