WPP 036: Nancy Bearg on taking a work sabbatical after loss

Give yourself the gift of time.... You will need to give yourself permission to do it. You know, it’s actually easier to say, I’m just going to keep doing what I’ve been doing. But the better thing is to be able to say, I’m going to give myself and my children the gift of time.
— Nancy Bearg
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I had such a great discussion with my friend Nancy Bearg for this episode. Nancy is the co-author of “Reboot Your Life: Energize Your Career and Life by Taking a Break.” I invited her to be on the show because I’ve heard from a number of listeners who are wondering if it’s ok to take a sabbatical-type break from work after becoming a widowed parent, and looking for ideas on how to make that work.

I knew right away when I first got a listener question on this topic that I just had to talk to Nancy about it. I’ve read her book several times in the past few years, so I knew it was full of information and examples that would be helpful to my listeners who are thinking about taking time off work.

Some topics that Nancy and I discussed include:

  • The benefits of taking a sabbatical, both personally and professionally;

  • Common concerns that people have about taking a sabbatical;

  • Advice for talking with employers about taking time off;

  • Considerations about how much time to take;

  • Suggestions about how to structure your time off;

  • How taking time off can help you reconnect with yourself and what is meaningful to you; and

  • How giving yourself the gift of time can be incredibly important for anyone, including widowed parents.

I hope you enjoy my discussion with Nancy Bearg.

Links & resources for this episode

Reboot Partners web site
Reboot Your Life: Energize Your Career and Life by Taking a Break, by Catherine Allen, Nancy Bearg, Rita Foley, and Jaye Smith
A Journal for Inspiration: Reboot Your Life, by Catherine Allen, Nancy Bearg, Rita Foley, and Jaye Smith
Reboot Your Life retreats

More links for listeners

Get my guide “What I’ve learned about widowed parenting”
Widowed Parent Podcast discussion group - sign up here (free) - first Sunday of each month
Jenny’s interview on the Life Through Transitions podcast


What is your biggest challenge as a widowed parent right now?

Call our voice mailbox at (669)257-3434 and leave a message. Or, answer this quick one-question survey. I’ll pick the most interesting questions and challenges, and hunt down experts to address them on upcoming episodes.

WPP 035: Allison Gilbert on keeping memories of our loved ones alive

When I wrote “Passed and Present: Keeping Memories of Loved Ones Alive”, I really wanted to get to work and to make sure readers understood that there is a real scientific backing for why keeping memories alive is so important to our long-term and short-term well being.
— Allison Gilbert
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I had such a great discussion with Allison Gilbert for this episode. I had the pleasure of meeting Allison earlier this summer at the National Alliance for Grieving Children annual symposium in Snowbird, Utah. Allison is a board member of the NAGC, and was a keynote speaker at the symposium. I knew right away that she would be fantastic to talk to about practical ideas for keeping the memories of our loved ones alive, and also about how important it is to do so.

Some topics that Allison and I cover include:

  • Why keeping memories alive is so important to our long-term and short-term well-being;

  • How remembering helps to create continuing bonds with our loved ones who have died;

  • Why Allison’s goal is to empower people to feel confident in implementing ideas and strategies for remembering;

  • Using fillable lamps to display collectibles or small items that remind you of your loved one;

  • Ideas for repurposing fabrics into special keepsakes, even if you’re not crafty yourself;

  • Why she calls technology the “low-hanging fruit of memory keeping”;

  • Ways to use social media to help with remembering, including embracing “Throwback Thursday”;

  • Suggestions for engaging your kids around cooking mom’s or dad’s favorite recipe;

  • What is commemorative travel, and how it can help us honor and celebrate our loved ones; and

  • Additional ideas and resources you can request by emailing Allison.

One quick tech note: about halfway through, the audio on my side of the conversation gets weird. I’ve tried everything to fix it, to no avail. I recently upgraded to a fancy new microphone that really should not have these issues, so it appears I have some troubleshooting to do. I apologize in advance for the rough audio in places. Allison sounds great on her end of the line, and that’s the most important part.

I hope you enjoy my discussion with Allison Gilbert.

Links & resources for this episode

Allison’s website and blog
Allison on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, & Pinterest
Email allisongilbert@allisongilbert.com to ask for “MORE FABRIC IDEAS”, “MORE TRAVEL IDEAS,” “PRESERVATION TIPS”, or “HOW TO HOST A MEMORY BASH”
O, The Oprah Magazine: The Reflection Effect, by Allison Gilbert
Passed and Present: Keeping Memories of Loved Ones Alive, by Allison Gilbert
Parentless Parents: How the Loss of Our Mothers and Fathers Impacts the Way We Raise Our Children, by Allison Gilbert
Always Too Soon: Voices of Support for Those Who Have Lost Both Parents, by Allison Gilbert
Grief Counseling and Grief Therapy, Fifth Edition: A Handbook for the Mental Health Practitioner, by J. William Worden
Fillable lamps
Totes with Tales
National Alliance for Grieving Children
TAPS: Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors
The Western Wall
National September 11 Memorial & Museum

More links for listeners

Get my guide “What I’ve learned about widowed parenting”
Widowed Parent Podcast discussion group - sign up here (free) - first Sunday of each month
Jenny’s interview on the Life Through Transitions podcast


What is your biggest challenge as a widowed parent right now?

Call our voice mailbox at (669)257-3434 and leave a message. Or, answer this quick one-question survey. I’ll pick the most interesting questions and challenges, and hunt down experts to address them on upcoming episodes.

WPP 034: Parenting older teens and college students with Lisa Heffernan of Grown and Flown

Don’t go it alone. You need need experts. You need community, you need friends the same way you did when your kids were in diapers. So keep that community. It’s an enormous help to you and it’s an enormous help to your family.
— Lisa Heffernan
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I had such a great discussion with Lisa Heffernan, co-author of the brand-new book out this week called “Grown and Flown: How to Support Your Teen, Stay Close as a Family, and Raise Independent Adults.”

This is one of those episodes that is not grief-specific. I was so glad to talk to Lisa about her new book because so often I hear from widowed parents that one of their challenges isn’t really related to grief at all – it’s that they find themselves in a new role as the “only parent” for their kids, and they need to handle everything alone. So, I figure the more information and insights we can get, the better, in terms of helping us with this job. Our discussion is also relevant, however, for your friends who are not widowed parents – so please share with them it you find it helpful.

Some topics Lisa and I cover in our discussion include:

  • What parents most want to know about raising their kids during the older teen / young adult years;

  • How parents can tend to feel isolated when their kids get older and face problems that can be more difficult to discuss with other parents than little-kid problems;

  • Signs you might be overparenting your teen or young adult;

  • The four main things your child needs to know to manage their health when they’re living away for the first time;

  • Four key academic lessons that your teen should learn before college;

  • Tips for getting through the 11th grade;

  • Tips for parents to stay sane during the college search and application process;

  • Tips for college drop off day;

  • Ways to support struggling college students without taking over; and

  • What surprises Lisa most about the late teen / early adult years.

I hope you enjoy my discussion with Lisa Heffernan of Grown and Flown.

Links & resources for this episode

Grown and Flown: How to Support Your Teen, Stay Close as a Family, and Raise Independent Adults, by Lisa Heffernan and Mary Dell Harrington
Grown and Flown website and Facebook group
My interview with Dr. Lisa Damour
Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions Into Adulthood, by Dr. Lisa Damour
Under Pressure: Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls, by Dr. Lisa Damour

More links for listeners

Get my guide “What I’ve learned about widowed parenting”
Widowed Parent Podcast discussion group - sign up here (free) - first Sunday of each month
Jenny’s interview on the Life Through Transitions podcast


What is your biggest challenge as a widowed parent right now?

Call our voice mailbox at (669)257-3434 and leave a message. Or, answer this quick one-question survey. I’ll pick the most interesting questions and challenges, and hunt down experts to address them on upcoming episodes.

WPP 033: Meredith Polsky and Arlen Gaines on autism and grief

When I brought my kids books after the death of my grandmother, they asked, “Why are you bringing me these books that are about animals? Why are you bringing me books that are about leaves falling off the trees? We are talking about my grandmother, what does this have to do with anything?” So it really got me thinking, and I realized that most of the books that we use for children try to cushion it by using animals as the main characters, or metaphors that can be really out of reach for many children, including children with autism spectrum disorder.
— Arlen Gaines
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I had such a great discussion with Arlen Gaines and Meredith Polsky for this episode. Meredith and Arlen are social workers who have written a book series called “I Have a Question” for kids with autism. One of their books is about death; another is about cancer. I heard them present on a webinar for the National Alliance for Grieving Children on the topic of grief and kids with autism, and realized that would probably be of interest to some listeners.

Some of the topics we cover in our discussion include:

  • the fact that there’s a lack of literature on death and dying for kids who are concrete thinkers;

  • some common features of autism that we should keep in mind when we think about how to help our grieving children/teens;

  • developmental responses to grief that we see with typically developing kids in each age group, and how might that be different for kids with autism;

  • tips for making participation in a peer grief group or camp a successful experience for a child with autism;

  • some thoughts on how to deal with the loss of routine and schedule after the loss of a parent;

  • some of the euphemisms that our culture has around death that can be confusing to people with autism; and

  • strategies for helping kids with autism remember and honor their deceased parent.

I hope you enjoy my discussion with Meredith Polsky and Arlen Gaines.

Links & resources for this episode

I Have a Question web site
I Have a Question About Death, by Arlen Gaines and Meredith Polsky
I Have a Question About Cancer, by Arlen Gaines and Meredith Polsky
How People with Autism Grieve, and How to Help, by Deborah Lipsky
National Alliance for Grieving Children

More links for listeners

Get my guide “What I’ve learned about widowed parenting”
Widowed Parent Podcast discussion group - sign up here (free) - first Sunday of each month
Jenny’s interview on the Life Through Transitions podcast


What is your biggest challenge as a widowed parent right now?

Call our voice mailbox at (669)257-3434 and leave a message. Or, answer this quick one-question survey. I’ll pick the most interesting questions and challenges, and hunt down experts to address them on upcoming episodes.

WPP 032: Actor & author Tembi Locke on food, grief, widowed parenting, and her beautiful new memoir

For children their grief marches forward in a different way, meaning that as they grow and develop, they will have to revisit it at a new developmental stage. It’s going to continue to change so that it’s going to keep moving forward in time. Whereas for the adult — the partner, the wife, the husband, let’s say — we’re always looking back at our loss, where she’s looking forward at her loss. We’re looking back to the events that we had, the marriage I had — you know the time we first did this, the time we first did that. She’s looking at the time that she won’t be able to do that. It’s like you’re looking at the timeline in different directions.
— Tembi Locke
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I had such a great discussion with Tembi Locke for this episode. I met Tembi at Camp Widow years ago, and I’m so glad I did. She’s an actor and now a New York Times bestselling author. Her first book – From Scratch: A Memoir of Love, Sicily, and Finding Home – was recently published by Simon and Schuster and is one of Reese Witherspoon’s picks for her book club.

Tembi and I sat down to talk recently about her journey, including:

  • What she learned as a caregiver to her husband for 10 years;

  • Her service and advocacy work through The Kitchen Widow;

  • What food and connection at her mother-in-law’s table in Sicily has meant to her and her daughter in their grief;

  • Tembi’s tips for incorporating food into celebrations and memories, including simple tips for when cooking from scratch feels out of reach;

  • Her thoughts on showing up for her daughter, even when she wasn’t necessarily convinced that she could show up for herself;

  • Her a-ha moment in realizing that she and her daughter – though they both lost the same person – have very different experiences based on their different relationships to that person;

  • The idea that kids’ grief is primarily looking ahead at what they’re missing while adults’ grief is looking back at what they lost;

  • How helpful it’s been for her to talk with friends who lost their dads when they were young;

  • The relationship between anxiety and grief, and her experience with this; and

  • Her desire to continue to show her daughter the world, both literally and in terms of preparing her for the world she will be living in.

I hope you enjoy my discussion with Tembi Locke.

Links & resources for this episode

From Scratch: A Memoir of Love, Sicily, and Finding Home, by Tembi Locke
Tembi’s web site
The Kitchen Widow
Tembi on IMDb
Tembi’s TEDx talk – What Forty Steps Taught Me About Love and Grief
To commemorate a loved one’s death, some turn to the comfort and memories of food, The Washington Post, June 3, 2019
Red wine infused sea salt recipe
Camp Widow
Reese Witherspoon’s book club
Anxiety: The Missing Stage of Grief, by Claire Bidwell Smith

More links for listeners

Get my guide “What I’ve learned about widowed parenting”
Widowed Parent Podcast discussion group - sign up here (free) - first Sunday of each month
Jenny’s interview on the Life Through Transitions podcast



What is your biggest challenge as a widowed parent right now?

Call our voice mailbox at (669)257-3434 and leave a message. Or, answer this quick one-question survey. I’ll pick the most interesting questions and challenges, and hunt down experts to address them on upcoming episodes.

WPP 031: LGBTQ youth and grief with Bridget Hughes and Lizzie McAdam from the Hetrick-Martin Institute

Just like your child needs to be with other teenagers who’ve experienced parental loss, a death in the family, your LGBTQ teenager needs to find other LGBTQ teenagers. And that connection is the thing that’s going to not just get them through, but make them whole.
— Bridget Hughes
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I had such a great discussion with Bridget Hughes and Lizzie McAdam of the Hetrick-Martin Institute for this episode. We talked about LGBTQ youth and grief. I’m so glad we covered this topic for a couple of reasons: first, because there are some unique issues for parents to be aware of in case they have an LGBTQ teen who is grieving; and second, because having a kid come out can feel like unfamiliar territory, like a whole new challenge for the surviving parent to handle alone, without their parenting partner. It can feel overwhelming to figure out how to support your kid when you’re already dealing with so much on your own.

Bridget and Lizzie and I talked about so many things, including:

  • The importance of identity development during the teen years and how losing a parent affects that;

  • What other types of losses LBGTQ youth face that are important for parents to understand;

  • Mental health issues that LGBTQ youth are more at-risk for;

  • How LGBTQ youth are more at-risk for social isolation;

  • Challenges in coming out to straight peers and navigating social environments such as school, camps, sports, and other youth activities that tend to be sex-segregated;

  • How social or family pressure to live a hetero-normative lifestyle can affect LGBTQ youth;

  • Ways the LGBTQ community has developed over time to deal with community-level grief;

  • The importance of LGBTQ youth getting support from other members of the LGBTQ community; and

  • Where parents can find support for themselves in understanding and supporting their LGBTQ teens.

I hope you enjoy my discussion with Bridget Hughes and Lizzie McAdam.

Links & resources for this episode

Hetrick-Martin Institute
National Alliance for Grieving Children
New York Life Foundation
Andrew Solomon
PFLAG - resources, information, and support for parents
GLSEN: Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network

More links for listeners

Get my guide “What I’ve learned about widowed parenting”
Widowed Parent Podcast discussion group - sign up here (free) - first Sunday of each month
Jenny’s interview on the Life Through Transitions podcast


What is your biggest challenge as a widowed parent right now?

Call our voice mailbox at (669)257-3434 and leave a message. Or, answer this quick one-question survey. I’ll pick the most interesting questions and challenges, and hunt down experts to address them on upcoming episodes.

WPP 030: The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards with Tendo Mutanda and Darius Atefat-Peckham

Exploring grief through creativity provides a really valuable experience. Students can learn more about themselves through the creation process. And it does take a certain level of bravery to submit the work for evaluation because that might not necessarily be the reason why you created it. But I invite creative students who are coping with grief to do that very thing, which is to submit their work to us. By participating in the program, by opting your work in for the New York Life Award, you expand the community of teens openly discussing and coping with grief.
— Tendo Mutanda
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This week I talk with Tendo Mutanda and Darius Atefat-Peckham about the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. Tendo is with the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers, which runs the program, and Darius is one of the student winners for poetry, and is winding up his term as one of just five National Student Poets before heading off to college in the Fall. Darius lost his mom and brother in a car accident when he was just three years old, so we talked about his experience with grief and what poetry has meant to him over the years, including how his poetry style has shifted over time to incorporate joy along with grief. Tendo and I talked about the awards program for both artists and writers, including who can participate, and how. We also talked about the New York Life Award, which creates a space for teens to explore grief in their art or writing.

I hope you enjoy my discussion with Tendo Mutanda and Darius Atefat-Peckham.

Links & resources for this episode

Scholastic Art & Writing Awards - website, Facebook, Instagram, & Twitter
Darius Atefat-Peckham - Instagram
The New York Life Award
Find your local affiliate partner for details & deadlines on how to enter
National Student Poets Program - website and Facebook

More links for listeners

Get my guide “What I’ve learned about widowed parenting”
Widowed Parent Podcast discussion group - sign up here (free) - first Sunday of each month
Jenny’s interview on the Life Through Transitions podcast


What is your biggest challenge as a widowed parent right now?

Call our voice mailbox at (669)257-3434 and leave a message. Or, answer this quick one-question survey. I’ll pick the most interesting questions and challenges, and hunt down experts to address them on upcoming episodes.

WPP 029: Megan Lisk reflects on losing her dad at age 9

If you have kids, ask them questions about it, talk to them. Don’t just like leave them to grieve and mourn on their own. Especially if they’re really down, you might want to ask questions and ask if they want to go through some therapy or something like that.
— Megan Lisk
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I have a very special guest in the podcast studio with me today: my daughter, Megan Lisk. Megan is 12, and her dad -- my husband -- died when she was 9.

And for what it’s worth, it was Megan’s idea to be my guest on the podcast this week. I was lamenting the fact that various circumstances had left me with no episode ready to go this week, and she said, “you can interview me!” I figured, why not? It was great for me, personally, to be able to have this sort of in-depth discussion with her. The kind we don’t normally have in the day-to-day busyness of normal life. It reminded me of my discussion with StoryCorps and the New York Life Foundation last time, about their Road to Resilience project, and the space that it opens up for parents and kids to talk about their loss and their loved ones. I hope that our discussion today might inspire you to sit down with your own kids and talk about your experiences, too. You can even record your conversation in the StoryCorps app if you’d like. You can listen to episode 28 for more details on that. And, I hope that hearing first-hand from a 12-year-old who lost her dad might be of use to you as well.

I hope you enjoy my discussion with my daughter, Megan Lisk.

Links & resources for this episode

Megan’s Cards for Cancer
Swedish Medical Center Foundation
Naomi Wadler’s speech

More links for listeners

Get my guide “What I’ve learned about widowed parenting”
Widowed Parent Podcast discussion group - sign up here (free) - first Sunday of each month
Jenny’s interview on the Life Through Transitions podcast


What is your biggest challenge as a widowed parent right now?

Call our voice mailbox at (669)257-3434 and leave a message. Or, answer this quick one-question survey. I’ll pick the most interesting questions and challenges, and hunt down experts to address them on upcoming episodes.

WPP 028: The StoryCorps Road to Resilience Project

Road to Resilience is a project in partnership with the New York Life Foundation to record the stories of kids grieving the death of somebody who is important to them. It’s really meant to give them a space to talk about who they are and share their grief stories and grief journeys, and memories of the important person in their lives.
— Perri Chinalai, StoryCorps
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I had such a great discussion with Perri Chinalai of StoryCorps and Maria Collins of the New York Life Foundation for this episode. StoryCorps is a nonprofit based in New York, and basically, they bring people together – regular people like you and me – and have them talk with each other to record and preserve their stories and their life experiences. And when I say “preserve their stories,” I really mean just that – anyone’s recordings can be archived at the Library of Congress and available for generations to come.

I invited StoryCorps to talk with me for this episode because they have a special project right now to bring together grieving parents and their kids to talk about their loved ones, and their experiences of loss. New York Life – which has a longstanding and deep commitment to the field of children’s bereavement – partnered with StoryCorps on this project. I’m so happy they were able to join this discussion to talk about the Road to Resilience project, as well as many of the other projects they are partnering on, and the childhood bereavement resources available on their web site.

Some of the things we talked about include:

  • What is the StoryCorps Road to Resilience project, and who are their current partners;

  • What it means to families to be able to have these conversations with each other;

  • How families near New York City, Houston, Portland, Louisville, Baltimore, and Traverse City, Michigan, can get involved with the first 6 organizations partnering on this project;

  • The toolkit that StoryCorps will have available in Fall 2019 for additional organizations to utilize;

  • The StoryCorps app that anyone can download to record their own stories;

  • Tips for conducting a StoryCorps-style conversation in your own home;

  • Why it is so important to New York Life to support the field of childhood bereavement;

  • Additional bereavement resources that New York Life offers free of charge on their web site;

  • The Coalition to Support Grieving Students and their Grief Sensitive Schools initiative; and

  • Some results of the recent childhood bereavement study conducted by New York Life.

We also have a special treat for listeners: we get to listen to two of the StoryCorps Road to Resilience recordings, including the new animation just released this week in honor of Father’s Day. I think this project is fantastic, and I’m so happy to highlight what they are doing and how you can get involved.

I hope you enjoy my discussion with StoryCorps and the New York Life Foundation.

Links & resources for this episode

StoryCorps
Find StoryCorps Road to Resilience recordings and animations here
These segments were produced by StoryCorps for the Road to Resilience Project, in partnership with the New York Life Foundation.

New York Life Foundation
achildingrief.com - Bereavement support resources from New York Life

Coalition to Support Grieving Students
National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement
Alliance for Young Artists and Writers
National Alliance for Grieving Children
Judi’s House - Denver, Colorado
The Dougy Center - Portland, Oregon
Bo’s Place - Houston, Texas
A Caring Hand - New York, New York
Hosparus Health - Louisville, Kentucky
Roberta’s House - Baltimore, Maryland
Michael’s Place - Traverse City, Michigan
The Tristesse Grief Center - Tulsa, Oklahoma

More links for listeners

Get my guide “What I’ve learned about widowed parenting”
Widowed Parent Podcast discussion group - sign up here (free) - first Sunday of each month
Jenny’s interview on the Life Through Transitions podcast


What is your biggest challenge as a widowed parent right now?

Call our voice mailbox at (669)257-3434 and leave a message. Or, answer this quick one-question survey. I’ll pick the most interesting questions and challenges, and hunt down experts to address them on upcoming episodes.

WPP 027: Haley Brown on Camp Kesem for kids affected by a parent's cancer

The purpose of Kesem is that we’re creating a space for kids to be kids and have this opportunity that they don’t have throughout the rest of the year, because they’re not necessarily connected to anyone else that’s going through what they’re going through. With that in mind though, part of what’s special about camp is that it’s really truly a summer camp in the essence of all of those outdoors experiences, all those really fun activities. But there’s one of the days in the week where we really acknowledge why we’re there. And that’s called the empowerment ceremony.
— Haley Brown
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I had a great discussion with Haley Brown for this episode. Haley is the outreach coordinator of the Seattle University chapter of Camp Kesem, and she lost her dad when she was 12. Camp Kesem is an organization with chapters at college campuses all across the US, and these chapters run free summer camps for kids and teens with a parent affected by cancer. This includes kids with a parent who died of cancer, a parent who survived cancer, or a parent currently being treated.

We talked about:

  • What Camp Kesem is, and who it’s for;

  • Activities at camp, including “typical summer camp activities” such as boating, swimming, and crafts;

  • The counselor-in-training program for older teens;

  • How college students can get involved in organizing or being a counselor at camp;

  • Programs other than summer camp that Camp Kesem chapters run throughout the year;

  • How to find a Camp Kesem chapter near you;

  • Haley’s experience and reflections on losing her dad to cancer at age 12; and

  • What it means to her to volunteer with kids affected by a parent’s cancer.

If you have a kid ages 6-18 and your family has been affected by cancer, I’d encourage you to check it out.

I hope you enjoy my discussion with Haley Brown.

Links & resources for this episode

Camp Kesem
Seattle University chapter of Camp Kesem

More links for listeners

Get my guide “What I’ve learned about widowed parenting”
Widowed Parent Podcast discussion group - sign up here (free) - first Sunday of each month


What is your biggest challenge as a widowed parent right now?

Call our voice mailbox at (669)257-3434 and leave a message. Or, answer this quick one-question survey. I’ll pick the most interesting questions and challenges, and hunt down experts to address them on upcoming episodes.