I never knew National Grief Awareness Day was a thing until last year. I’ll be honest, grief is something I never fully understood before I experienced it firsthand. In fact, it’s something I’m still not sure I understand, even after living with it for over two years now. One thing that I’ve learned is that the only way to survive it, and live with it, is to expect the unexpected.

That is the thing about grief – it’s hard to understand. Hard to really comprehend and appreciate until you live it. Although through awareness and understanding there are ways to make the journey a little softer for those experiencing it.

While the emotions of grief continue to evolve and change with every day and month that passes, there is one thing I am finding will remain one of the most comforting remedies for the aching pains of grief.  And that is when someone will say his name.

I’ve found over the past two years that not a day goes by when I don’t mention Seth’s name.  It may be a story about him I’m telling the kids.  Or a comment about something happening that he would have loved to see, or that I believe he sent for me to see. I’m always mentioning his name.  Always keeping his memory and spirit with us. It brings me comfort, joy, and reminders that my grief is due to the deep and profound love I have for him and will continue to have for him regardless of how much time has passed. And nothing helps me feel closer to him than to say his name.

A few days after Seth died, I was dropping the kids off at daycare and found myself surrounded by the families that we were closest to. We were all crying.  I was sobbing and rambling about what had happened and how I was feeling.  I remember looking at each of them and saying, “If you have any memories about Seth, please write them down and send them to me. These kids need to always know how amazing their dad was and how much he impacted each of you and your kids.” I had mentioned it hoping I would get some stories, hoping that people would answer my call.

And they did.  I received cards and letters documenting what these daycare friends loved the most about Seth. And I learned things about Seth I hadn’t known.  Learned he told a knock knock joke to one of the little girls every day. He would bring my daughter into my son’s classroom and swinging her back and forth to make the kids laugh.

I received two letters from neighbors documenting Seth’s last day and the fun we had at our neighborhood pool that day.  And learned of things he did to make the kids laugh that I hadn’t even been paying attention to.

I received an excerpt from a book that his childhood friend was writing that beautifully documented a special memory of them together as kids.  One that Seth hadn’t told me, but when I read it, could feel him telling me the same story.

We had a celebration one year after Seth passed and I had cards out for people to write down their favorite memories of Seth. I now have a book of special memories and words about the amazing father that my kids were lucky enough to have for just a few short years.

I even receive these memories from my kids when we hear a particular song on the radio and my son says, “Daddy used to play this song loud in the car! Turn it up Mommy!” Or when my daughter will point to the last store she went to with Seth and say, “Mommy remember when Daddy took me there and got me a lollipop?”

Hearing Seth’s name, reliving the beautiful memories and stories, reminds me of the love we shared. Of the beautiful person he was and the spirit that I hope to continue to embody each and every day.

So, while these memories I’ve received have filled me up, some of the deepest hurt I’ve felt during this journey is when people will not mention his name, will avoid telling stories about him, or will turn away when his name is mentioned.

Hard to imagine, but some people are just not comfortable hearing or saying his name.  I imagine it’s because they don’t want to say his name and make me sad or upset me if I’ve been happy and laughing.  Or maybe it’s because they aren’t comfortable with or experienced with grief to even know what to say or how to feel when his name is mentioned.  Or maybe it is because they are too sad to face the emotion of his loss and would rather leave his name and stories unspoken.

I can tell you confidently, though, I have not met one widow who doesn’t want to hear their spouses name, her his stories, hear how much people loved him. Hear about his impact on the world and the people around him.

So, the next time you hear a widow say his name, ask about the story. Smile, and laugh, and remind your friend how loved their husband was and still is. And share a story of your own.  An say his name.


Dena's life was forever changed on June 25, 2018, when she became suddenly redefined as a widow. A title she never thought she would have, or not have for at least another 40 years or more. Her healthy 43-year-old
husband suddenly and unexpectedly passed away, leaving her shocked, heart shattered and left, at age 41, to raise their precious 5-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter without him. Since gaining this new title, she is continually trying to figure out how to live this new life, and have
leaned into her faith, has focused on being brave, and has taken head on all of the challenges she is now faced with in this new life. Dena is here to share her story as she is living it and to be honest and raw, providing insight into the life of a sudden widow with a full-time career and two young children. Dena learned the importance of what she has gained through living a life well lived with her beloved spouse, and she has been writing what is on her mind and in her heart, everything from the pain of losing a spouse suddenly, to focusing on gratefulness and being brave in this journey. She hopes to give others insight into what this journey looks like and provide thoughts on how she is managing through it all. And hopefully inspire some of her hope sister's along the way.

You can read more and follow me on Instagram @suddenlyredefined or on her Facebook page Suddenly Redefined.