Our family received an amazing, unexpected Christmas gift of a very cool new TV. We went about shifting, rebuilding, figuring out cable connections, and placing the new gadget in the place of our old big screen. Somehow amidst the chaos, the daunting task of moving the old machine out to the garage ended up happening when the kids and I were home alone.

As I stood looking at the old television, I remembered the day Phil and I brought it home. He was so excited. We bought the new big screen as a part of the house remodel that we did the year before he died. After months of scraping ceilings, removing wall paper, redoing floors, and repainting walls the house was finally ready for new electronics. Phil and I made a deal; I could do whatever I wanted with the home decor as long as he got to choose the new TV. Boy did he take advantage of that deal….his set of choice was huge. So moving it out of the house was no small feat.

I called the kids into the room and said, “We need to move this TV out to the garage.” They looked at me, looked at the monster set, and then we started discussing how to make the move. As we stood in our living room together brainstorming what to do I realized how many times over the past five years the four of us have needed to work as a team. Because we’ve been here before, the four of us, facing a task that usually is done by two adults collaborating, deciding, and then acting.

But when Phil died, I needed my kids to step up when one set of arms was not enough. I needed help when the plumbing overflowed, or the fence fell down, or the shingles were flying off of the roof in the rain. When I couldn’t call out, “Honey!!” I instead called “Kids!”

One or more of them would come to my aid, and somehow between us we solved all kinds of everyday problems. This seemed especially true during the holiday season when decorating, buying presents, purchasing and transporting a tree, hanging lights, and just making it through the hustle and bustle was so much harder in our single parent home. Whenever I reached the end of my rope, I counted on the only other hands in the house to tie a knot for me.

Grief has definitely stolen a portion of my children’s innocence. They make statements now and then that cut me to the quick with their honest observations of life in the aftermath of loss. More than once, I have wished I didn’t have to count on them to be older, wiser, and sometimes braver than their years might suggest.

The scars that grief has left on my kids are visible, and life changing, but as we took that huge television over the last step of our porch and smoothly delivered it into our garage I realized what a good team we have become since death walked into our lives. We are resourceful. We can count on each other. We know our team’s strengths and weaknesses. We believe that we can solve problems together. Everyone has a voice. I would like to say that all of this was true before Phil died, and maybe it was, but we didn’t know for sure until we were tested.

So this year, as we walked out of the garage high-fiving and celebrating another challenging task completed, we spontaneously started singing….we will, we will ROCK you! Five minutes later my daughter walked through the kitchen still humming the tune and I thought to myself…yes, yes we will.

Michele Neff Hernandez 2010


Michele Neff Hernandez

Michele Neff Hernandez is the founder and executive director of the Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation. SSLF is a non-profit organization committed to providing resources and support to people grieving the loss of a loved one. In addition to her work with the foundation, Michele inspires people as a motivational speaker and freelance writer. Through speaking to service groups, faith communities, Universities and hosting community seminars she has shared her thoughts on loss and hope with a variety of audiences. She is the creator of the Widow Match program. Since the death of her husband in 2005, she has made reaching out to other widows her personal mission. Ms. Hernandez’s various projects have been featured in the Ventura County Star, the Simi Valley Acorn, and the Riverside County Record. She is a contributing author to several websites and is chronicling the interviews she has done with widows across the country in a book called, The Healing Power of the Widow’s Bond. Currently, she is planning a national widowhood conference scheduled for the summer of 2009. Ms. Hernandez is a resident of Simi Valley, California where she lives and laughs with her three amazing children. An avid runner and outdoor enthusiast, she actively encourages others to embrace the life we are given.

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