May 2017 Sneak Peek interview with Kellie Haddock

How would you respond if, in an instant, your perfect life turned into tragedy?

This was the experience of my guest for the May Women on Fire membership interview.

In 2004, 20-year-old Kellie Haddock was the victim of a horrific car accident. Her husband was killed on impact, and her 14-week-old son, Eli, suffered devastating brain injuries. The prognosis was grim.

Incredibly, thanks to the efforts of Orlando’s Arnold Palmer Hospital, Eli was eventually released to continue his rehabilitation at home.

WOF Sneak Peek May

As the 10th anniversary of the heartbreaking event approached, Kellie began efforts to track down all of those who had made Eli’s recovery possible.

The video of her quest to thank those who rescued her and saved her baby’s life has now been viewed more than 100 million times.

It was a long, difficult road, but it brought Kellie to an exciting new phase of her life. She is now remarried, the mother of three children and on tour in support of her third album.

In our conversation, Kellie, a Women on Fire member, for the first time, shares behind-the-scenes details of how she worked through grief to get where she is today.

If you’re not yet part of our Women on Fire membership, please be our guest and listen in as Kellie gives helpful suggestions for ways to support someone who is grieving:

In our conversation, Kellie and I discuss:

  • The dream that was handed down from her grandmother
  • How her faith was strengthened as much from asking questions as by receiving answers
  • Ways heroes respond in times of grief and despair
  • Learning to accept love — with all of its variations and complications
  • The moment she first envisioned her Thank You Project and the twists and turns along the road to making it happen
  • Cultivating gratitude to discover its beauty, power and miracles
  • Simple acts of kindness to support grieving family and friends
  • The roles music and songwriting have for Kellie in expressing her love and gratitude

In the After Interview, a very special guest surprises Kellie with a message of support for her brand new album, Wild Love.

If you aren’t yet a member and want to receive this Women on Fire exclusive, click here to join us today.

Only a few days remain for you to have access to this interview.

With love,
Debbie Signature

P.S. If you sign up now, in addition to receiving access to this powerful interview and other exciting benefits, you will be invited to attend the May Women on Fire Live Chat master class on Tuesday, May 16. Kellie Haddock will be joining us to answer your questions!

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3 Ways To Ease Your Grief

On any given day, loss can sneak up on you and grief takes over.  And what do you do when that happens?

In this week’s video, I discuss how grief can feel like an internal car accident. You may look fine on the outside. But inside you may feel as though you’ve broken your arms and legs.

If that had actually happened, you’d be in a hospital resting, healing and receiving medical attention. The same must occur if you’re grieving. You must take exquisite care of yourself and find the care and support you need to heal.

Recently, in one week, I lost two very wise women in my circle of inspiring friends, Trudy Taylor, 92 and Olga Hirschhorn, 95.

Nancy Aronie, the brilliant writer and Chilmark Writing Workshop founder, reminds us, “when you find a woman in your life who is just a few years older than you and has experience, it’s life-changing. You want to grab every bit of wisdom from her.”

That’s how I strongly I felt about Trudy and Olga. They were life-changers. I soaked up every bit of their wisdom, knowledge, and humor. And now that they are gone, the void hurts. I tear up at even the mention of their names.

This is not the first time I’ve lost someone precious to me in my life. And I imagined you’ve had your share of losses, too.

With each loss, we face a new grieving process we must lean into.

From experience, here are three strategies that have helped me and my coaching clients:

I hope you’ve found even just one of these strategies helpful as you heal from any of your own losses.

“Joy shared is doubled; grief shared is halved” is sweet relief that you may find comfort here in sharing your own road to healing from grief.


Debbie Signature

P.S. If you are in the New York City area, BookTheWriter is hosting a Women on Fire evening and workshop, 7:30-9:30PM Tuesday, November 3 for 20 women at a private home. Cost is $40. Only a few seats remain. Check out details and registration here. I hope to see you there!

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What to do when losses stack up?


Just when I felt I could take a breath, it happened again. After a string of losses last fall that included the deaths of my brother and seven weeks later his wife, our family has suffered another death.

Rob’s mom, our beloved MOTUS as she was affectionately called because she lived close to the White House, died April 22.

We are in grief again. Or, rather, we are in grief still.

What do you do when you have one loss after another? I wish I could tell you. Even though intellectually I understand and can even explain what happens when grief accumulates, it’s another thing to live it.

This week’s Pinspiration

Pin To ShareThe Love

Inspiration on grief from Women on Fire-

So, I’m wandering around in a fog, noticing it takes me about four times longer to accomplish anything.  Noticing I can sleep way past my wake-up time. Noticing that I’d rather sit and watch the otters play outside our bedroom window than do anything else.
Simple joys — Rob captured these wonders of nature today rolling around in the sand outside our window in Florida.Otters serving as Women on Fire inspiration

Right now, creative thought is gone. Memory is out the door. Concentration hardly exists. Everything from eating and cleaning to reading and writing feels effortful.

It took me nearly an hour to write the paragraphs above.

What I do know is that the paralyzing feelings from this accumulation of grief are real — and temporary.

They are nature’s way of slowing me down to heal. It is as though I’ve been in an internal car accident. Outside, I may look normal (well, that’s debateable 😉 Inside, I need time, patience, love, support and self-care to heal from the wreckage that is my sad and broken heart.

I want to imagine it all fixed. All OK. All right with the world.

And, it will be.  Eventually.

In the meantime, I take great comfort in every kind word, every hug, every sweet gesture of love and care that comes my way.  Women (and Men!) on Fire are particularly good at “being with” during times like this.

From Wanda Dillard sending me a CD that helped her through her grief to Maria Cannone delivering a big basket of Mrs. Field’s goodies with a note that said “sweets really do help” to Debby Edwards’ offering of prayers and Father Edward Beck dedicating a Mass to MOTUS.

This is what gets me through.  The tremendous love and support of our community. If you’ve been part of us for a while, I know you feel it too.

Over the years, ungrieved losses can stack up.  If unnoticed and ignored, losses from moves, divorces, serious illnesses, children leaving home, and deaths can add up to inertia, depression, illness.

The only way around grief is through it …slowly, lovingly, carefully. Unwrapping each loss in its own time, honoring and remembering, until we can breathe again.

So for now I will:

  • · Listen to my body — and give myself permission to rest as much as I need to, ignoring any past programming that shames me for resting and napping
  • · Listen to my heart — and lean into the grief and express my heart’s deep pain no matter what form that takes — crying, screaming, sobbing, whimpering
  • · Listen to my head — and if I find that I am stuck in my grief or making little progress through it after a period of time, I will not hesitate to seek professional counseling or reach out for help from experts in our community such as Rev. Andrea Raynor or Hospice nurse Mary Landberg
  • · Listen to my soul — and be very gentle and tender with myself; understanding that the nature of suffering develops us into more compassionate human beings; and that I am stronger and better for having known, loved and cared about so many dear people who have now passed.

Even though I know this bittersweet time is part of the flow of my life, I want to express my eternal gratitude to you for the love and support that surrounds us here and makes it possible for me to share my heart — and for you to share yours.

As always, the love and care of our Women on Fire community is extended to you — in your triumphs and in your losses too.

Wishing you all good things in the week ahead ~



March Book Of The Month

Welcome to Books To Live By! Our book choice for this month highlights one of our very own Women on Fire members.

Not only is this woman a beautiful writer and accomplished author, she is a dear friend and many of you know her.

In her newest book, Andrea Raynor will open up your heart and spirit to a new conversation between faith and identity that is sure to gratify your soul.

Our March selection is….

Incognito: Lost and Found at Harvard Divinity School (amazon link) by Andrea Raynor

Rev. Andrea Raynor received her Master of Divinity from Harvard Divinity School and was the Hospice chaplain at Ground Zero in the aftermath of September 11. She is a breast cancer survivor and also authored of one of my all-time favorite grief books— The Voice That Calls You Home: Inspiration For Life’s Journeys.

I’ve mentioned here before how Andie’s life and work has inspired my own journey, and her latest story has the power to do the same for you.

In this book, you’ll ride along with a bright young woman from Ohio as she embarks on a journey of faith that will take you back to the 80’s and behind the scenes at one of our most esteemed institutions in the country. Andie intimately shares her story of navigating the challenges, stereotypes and assumptions that follow women in the church.

With humor and penetrating awareness, she exposes the struggles she encountered with society’s beliefs, with dating, and with the religious institutions.

Incognito is a beautiful, coming-of-age story that will stay with you. Through Andie’s honest disclosures we are reminded that you don’t have to always know or have the right answers to lead your life in a deeply significant direction.

I hope reading Incognito rekindles your spirit as it did mine!

As always, I look forward to hearing about your own insights and awarenesses from exploring Incognito’s richness.

Happy reading!

Courage To Grieve, Part 2

I am grieving. The impact of three deaths in six weeks – my brother, my long-time yoga teacher and friend, and our beloved Women on Fire member Jane – has left me exhausted and sad.

Your wonderful notes, gifts and words of support during this time have meant the world to me. Thank you.

*This Week’s Pinspiration*

Pin to Share the Love


So, when my husband cheerily asked me what I was going to write about today, I drew a blank.  Nothing. Was. Coming.

And, I wanted to bop him on the head for even bugging me about it.

That’s how it is sometimes during grief.  I am not myself.  I’d never bop my husband on the head for being supportive! Except clearly when I’m grieving.

And to make things even harder, I can’t easily grab on – to plans, to thoughts, to what to do next.  Slights or perceived injustices that normally escape my attention can pierce my heart.

Having survived heartbreak from losing loved ones in the past, I know my current condition is temporary.  Yet I want these feelings to be gone now and my “normal” self to return.

If you, too, are experiencing the effects from losing someone you love or are expecting to lose, you know the struggle.  Sleepless nights, loss of concentration and perspective, fear, anxiety, physical and emotional exhaustion.

I want to think my way through – to make sense of the losses — but I can’t. And I know the only way around this sadness is to feel my way through it. Lean into my grief, which means to scream, cry, sob, whimper, whatever I need to do to express this hurt.  And, I want to dedicate myself to tripling my self-care.

It’s not even one day at a time for the grieving soul. It’s one moment at a time.

The French philosopher La Rochefoucauld said, “Neither the sun nor death can be looked at with a steady eye.”

Last week I took note of what gave me relief when I glanced away from death and stopped ruminating.  Even if relief only lasted a minute, an hour, or an evening, it was enough to keep me moving and let me know I will get through this. Grief has no timetable. It takes as long as it takes.

Here are seven things I want to share that brought me comfort. If you’re grieving, my wish for you is to find what might bring you some relief, too. So, here’s my list:

Thank you for the fun, sweet Chloe!

* Playing with an adorable, cuddly, giggling, 9-month-old baby girl for an entire evening.

* Lunch with a friend whose mother is dying. From our touching time together, she crafted this beautiful video.  If you have someone terminally ill in your life, make sure they know what their life meant to you. It will be your greatest final gift.

* Joining the Women on Fire Fall Cleanse group – having the support of holistic health coach Amy Marzluff and Women on Fire members to eat healthy and take care of myself is extra powerful and helpful during this tender time.

* Reading a short, inspiring, uplifting book.  Stay tuned for this month’s Book To Live By. I loved this book so much I’ve chosen it as our November selection.

Homemade pumpkin cookies 🙂

* Baking pumpkin cookies (recipe when you click!) from scratch. As a little girl, I loved to bake more than anything. Even though I’m on the cleanse and not currently eating sweets, it gave me so much joy to bake cookies and give them away!

* A two-hour nap, a walk and a romantic dinner with my husband (the same husband I had the audacity to want to bop today!) at our favorite restaurant the night before I started the cleanse.

* Cleaning out my closet! Clutter bogs me down and makes me even more tired when I’m grieving.  So I took to my closet and am happy to report two boxes full of gently used clothing, purses and jewelry are headed to Dress For Success in Columbus, Ohio.

(Thank you to Women on Fire book co-author Marilyn Brown for introducing me to this wonderful organization, which recycles clothes for women in need.)

* And, you.  You give me comfort by being here week after week. Thank you for walking through life together.  I cannot imagine it without you.  The way you are with me. The care and support you give to each other is truly inspiring.

Now, that is something I can grab on to.

Have a wonderful week and I’ll see you back here next Sunday!

With love to Jane

As you know by now, our beloved Woman on Fire member Jane Juergens of Columbus, Ohio died last week after she was brutally attacked by 16-year-old boy while jogging in a park.

I welcome the many members of her family and community who joined us in the past week because of Jane.

Today was her funeral.  Many Women on Fire attended, with remarks delivered by Jan Allen and a special dance performance by Jessika Ferm. You can read Jan’s beautiful and heart-felt eulogy here.

Knowing Jane as I did, she would have been so touched — and because she was so focused on others — I believe she would have been surprised by the tremendous outpouring of love for her.

During a candlelight vigil last week, hosted by Jane’s son Andy at the park where she was killed, Women on Fire from every corner of this country and from as far away as Africa and New Zealand celebrated her online.

Thank you, Women on Fire! And thank you, Kay Raypholtz who created exquisite collages from our candlelight tribute.

Jane was the very epitome of a Woman on Fire — a woman who listened, cared, cheered you on, and worked to be the best person she could be in this world. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Thank you, Jane, for living a life worth every single accolade you’ve received. We will move forward, honoring your memory, remembering your joy, and emulating your courage, spunk and spirit.

I’m thinking about all of you, those of you who knew Jane, and those who didn’t but who have been touched by our loss. The support this community has shown in this past week has been extraordinary, and you make me so very proud to be a part of it.

Thank you, too, for the way you’ve rallied around Jane’s family and each other. There is nothing more beautiful — even in this overwhelming sadness — to see than what the power of love and support can create in our lives.

I’d like to close by sharing with you a happy time from Jane’s Women on Fire coaching group from last year — and a quote by Fred Rogers.

Women on Fire members spent 2012 working together to further their dreams and goals in Jan Allen’s Life, Ignited coaching group. Pictured from left: Nicole Lovett, Mary Jo Hudson, Jan Allen, Keena Smith, Jane Juergens and Laura Tiberi.

If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.” ~
Fred Rogers

Thank you, dear Jane for leaving so many memories of your wonderful, sweet self with each and every one of us. Rest in peace, my friend. We will cherish you always.

Until next week …

Take extra good care of yourself.


Mustering the courage to grieve

“Death is not extinguishing the light; it is putting out the lamp because dawn has come.” ~ Rabindranath Tagore

My brother died last week.

On, of all days, September 11.

The picture above was our last photo together taken six months after he was diagnosed with lung cancer.  Inside, my heart was breaking and when I look at his face I know his was too.

After more than a two-year battle, his death wasn’t unexpected.  But when it happened last week, I couldn’t have been more stunned.

He vigorously texted family members on September 10.  How could he just vanish from the earth a day later?

Four days later, I’m still tangled in that part of grief that is shock, sadness and denial.

Reading obituary pages, I’ve always imagined that every person listed leaves behind at least a dozen bereaved people.  That would mean millions of grieving people every day trying to carry on with their lives. How do they do it?

Now I am one of them. Again.

I’ve been in this aching, haunting, surreal spot before.  I was 10 when my beloved grandmother died, 32 when my mother-in-law died, and 49 when my father left this world.

Each of these devastating losses profoundly reshaped me.  I tuned into the spirit world when my grandmother died; my faith deepened and I started to live life on my own terms after Libby died; and I sharpened my focus on love and my life’s work after my Dad died.

With Steve’s death, I feel too sad, too raw, too guilty, too distraught to know what will come from losing this loved one.

So for now I just need to be sad.  Sad that our precious original family of seven, reduced to six when my Dad died, is now pared to five.  Sad that my mother should lose her child. Sad that my brother leaves a gravely ill wife and two daughters in their 20s. Sad that he is gone.

Our last family portrait of the six of us. My sisters Susan and Lori and my brothers Steve and Scott with my mother at Christmas.

Intellectually, emotionally, spiritually and from my experience, I know if I have the courage to lean into the grief, I will move through it.  I do believe, as awful as it feels, the nature of suffering is to develop compassion. I believe, too, that great and unexpected things will happen because of this loss.

At the moment though, I can do nothing but let my tears flow, ruminate over what I said or didn’t say, wonder if I did enough to ease his suffering.  I grab onto every new detail of his final days imagining I could have intervened and changed the outcome.

This is all part of the “magical thinking” of grief that comes with the loss of someone you love so dearly.

“Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it.” ~ Joan Didion, Year of Magical Thinking

Rest in peace, my sweet brother. I love you forever.


Thank you so much for the tremendous outpouring of love and support I’ve received these past few days.  You are all so amazing and helps so much to move through this difficult time.

I know there are many of you grieving your own losses as well.  Let this powerfully loving and supportive community be there for you. I know I’m sure leaning into it.

Take good care and I’ll see you back here next week.

Perfect Parking Spots

Guest post by EMILY NEAL

Sometimes life gets so chaotic that it’s hard to find a moment’s peace.

Yet, opportunities to slow down and relax often present themselves in unexpected ways and at unexpected times. With a little concentration and awareness, you can almost always find your moment of peace.

Recently, Debbie and I were making a few quick errands in Oak Bluffs. While Debbie drove around and calmly continued talking to me I began worrying that maybe these errands wouldn’t be quite so quick as we drove through throngs of jaywalkers with no parking space in sight.

I hoped and prayed someone would pull out and give us their spot. I’m known among my friends to have very good luck with parking spots, but Debbie’s luck is uncanny. In fact, it’s miraculous.

Just as I was preparing myself for a good hike to the store, a spot opened up. Not only was this spot right in front of the store, but when we looked up, there was a sign that read “Phillips.”
Debbie pulled right into a perfect parking space at Phillips Hardware in Oak Bluffs!

Debbie smiled and said, “Thank you, Dad.” She then told me that since his death she has always been blessed with the miracle and gift of the perfect parking spot.

Though our loved ones may leave us, often they do not leave us empty-handed. They frequently pass down little miracles of peace to help us through our grief.

Woman on Fire Debi Lilly suddenly lost her father-in-law last August while alone in Paris with her children. To honor him and connect with family back home, they walked to every church in Paris to light a candle for Grandpa Carl.

Now, whenever church bells ring, her children look up and say “Grandpa Carl.” Debi often goes out of her way to find the comforting chimes of church bells.

Debi Lilly’s children Lilly and Parker in a Parisian cathedral. 

Wendi Knox experienced a miracle similar to mine after her father’s death. She said  “the first morning after he passed away, a beautiful little hummingbird fluttered onto my mother’s cement patio. There were no flowers around. Just me.”

Since then, she has encountered hummingbirds at some of her most important moments this past year without him. While meditating before a speech in front of 400 women, two hummingbirds flew by, certainly a sign of father’s love and encouragement.

Wendi has found solace in visiting a small hummingbird sanctuary consisting of one huge red bottlebrush tree with dozens of hummingbirds flitting from flower to flower. She has deemed her small place of refuge as “The Hummingbird Hotel.”

While Debbie, Debi, and Wendi were lucky enough to be given these little reminders, I have not been left with any. I have had to find my own way to relax. You, too, can find an escape from your chaotic life simply by going to your own “peaceful, happy place.” Whether you have faced a terrible loss or not, Wendi offers 5 TIPS for finding your inner peace.

  1.  Check in with your feelings.  Give yourself permission to feel.
  2.  Where’s your happy place? Close your eyes and imagine a place of pure joy.
  3.  How to “get there.” Picture yourself in that place with all the colors, textures, sounds, and smells of the place.
  4.  A trip to remember. When things go wrong, take yourself to your happy place.
  5.  Collect some souvenirs. Keep things around to remind yourself of your place. For example, if your place is the beach, keep a seashell on your desk.

Just as Wendi’s Dad left her with the gift of hummingbirds to inspire her sense of peace, Debbie’s dad left her the perfect spot and Debi the sound of church bells. They were left with these little miracles to remind us to slow down and live the life they are in.  Still, you can find peace no matter where you are in life. All it takes is to find your little place of happiness.

Happiness can be found anywhere, whether it is by walking to “The Hummingbird Hotel” or feeling the success of the perfect spot.

Personally, I close my eyes and picture myself lying on a sandy beach and reading the book that has been waiting for me on my nightstand. I slowly breathe in the salty air and imagine the crashing of ocean waves.

Reading at the beach during my summer internship on Martha’s Vineyard

Your place may be entirely different or very similar. It doesn’t matter as long as it makes you happy. And do you want to know the best part? There’s no limit on your happy places! You can have one or one hundred, as long as you find peace.

I’d love to hear how you find peace and happiness. Do you have a “happy place” similar to Wendi’s? Or, an audible reminder like Debi’s? Or something else that reminds you to slow down?



Emily Neal is an intern at Women on Fire®. A native of Greenville, SC, she will be a sophomore this fall at Vanderbilt University majoring in communications. Her favorite part of her job is meeting all the other Women on Fire and hearing their stories.


Caring for you and your loved ones

There are times when living the life you want may feel so far away that you can’t imagine how you’ll ever get there.

Today I want to talk about how to get through times like those.  And offer a few strategies and books that literally saved my life when I was going the toughest of times — feeling grief from loss or impending loss.

Many of you know that MOTUS, my sweet, 80-year-0ld mother-in-law is in the final stages of her once inspired and vibrant life as a professor at Vassar and world traveler.  She is now in a nursing home with round-the-clock care.

She is on our minds 24/7.  We are on the phone to her almost daily and jumping with dread and alarm when our caller ID shows her nursing home is calling. I know some of you know the scary feeling.

After sharing about my mother-in-law, I have received so many touching emails. It made me realize that caring for loved ones who may be ill or elderly is happening for many of you, too.

You may be responsible for elderly parents; have loved ones who are terminally ill; or loved ones affected by dementia, Alzheimer’s or serious illness.

I hear you loud and clear about needing strategies to get through the more challenging times.

If you are not currently affected by any of this, I am so glad.  It is hard to get through life unscathed by struggle so I hope what I am about to share can help you, too, if you ever face something similar in the future.

I also welcome you to share your wisdom with our community  in the comments section if you have gone through any of these situations and have thoughts or strategies that worked for you. There are some amazing women in our community who have and are forging a path for the rest of us.

The single most important strategy you need to cope is reliable, ongoing support.

Without it you are adrift.

Who is your support team?  Whether it is professional medical, social service or respite care support, family, friends or strangers, you must ask for help and line up a team to help you.

And, you need to identify them before the need becomes a crisis.

Stay close emotionally and physically, if possible, and provide hope.

In the book, Using The Power of Hope to Cope with Dying, the author, an internationally acclaimed expert in the fields of death, dying, grief, nursing, and hospice care, developed the four stages of hope.  In dying (and we are all dying, by the way), there can be great hope.

The very act of asking a loved one “what are you hoping for today” breaths life, light and love into every step of the journey.

Create guiding principles for care. Their care and yours.

I mentioned recently that my husband Rob and I promised each other and MOTUS that regardless of the situation, we would do our best to make sure she stays safe, comfortable, free of physical pain, and that her dignity is maintained.

From the time her health started to fail, these guiding principles have given us a way to focus our attention and resources for the best possible outcome. So far, so good.

Know that this period is temporary.  Nothing lasts forever.  And, neither will this experience.

There are often so many little joys, stolen looks, funny, touching moments — and memories that are created. Writing them down and sharing them with others is a way to lighten your own sadness.

Learn what to expect.

For most women, reading What To Expect When You’re Expecting is required reading for having a baby.  Similarly, my “bible” for understanding the needs of someone dying and practical strategies of what to expect is Final Gifts, written by two Hospice nurses.

I learned more about how to read behavior of someone in end-of-life stages and how to give comfort to someone than in any other single book ever.

If you have worked with me as your coach, you know I’ve likely given you or urged you to buy Final Gifts.  It’s a life-saver and important information to help your loved one if he or she is in the end stages of life.

And, finally, please take extra good care of yourself — and have a plan in place to do that. Your loved one is counting on you and grateful of your gift of love and hope. You’ve got to stay healthy.

Thank you for being a part of this community where “grief shared is halved; joy shared is doubled.”

Whatever you’re going through, we are stronger together.


When loss happens far from home

On occasion, I’ll read a blog post that stops me in my tracks.

In this exquisitely touching tribute, our own Debi Lilly, writing from Paris, shares a wife’s heartache, a mother’s fierce love, a photographer’s eye and a daughter-in-law’s deep and abiding respect.

Debi takes us on a hauntingly beautiful and emotional journey of how she faced the day when the awful thing we fear happening happens – and we are thousands of miles from home.

Click here for Debi’s post

Have you faced a similar situation? How did you cope?  What did you learn from the way Debi guided her children? Please share your comments below.