The Rules of Inheritance

At age fourteen both of Claire Bidwell Smith’s parents are diagnosed with cancer. By the time she was twenty five they had both died. Rules of Inheritance is her memoir – her own tragic and beautiful journey through her grief.

Claire and Her Mom

Claire and Her Mom


Claire tells her story using time, but not chronologically. This allows the reader to see her grief through a variety of lenses – all authentic. Grief is such a difficult emotion to explain, but this authenticity takes you through these dark places as she manages to let the reader feel her pain, feel her grief. She shares everything from her failed relationships to her struggles to discover who she is all while trying to cope with the loss of both parents.

I admittedly cried in this book. A lot. But there were also moments of real happiness as you see Claire rediscover feeling and joy. In her dad’s final moments, he told Claire, “death and birth are such sweet sorrows, he continues. If there were no death, you would never know how sweet life really is. Somebody was smart enough to put that down in writing one day.” When Claire allows you into the sweet moments of her life now, you believe her appreciation for them.

The fifth and final section of the memoir is titled acceptance and opens with the following quote.

“In a strange way, as we move through grief, healing brings us closer to the person we loved. A new relationship begins. We learn to live with the loved one we lost.”  - Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

Claire’s journey of acceptance is evident in the letters that she writes to her mother after she has passed. I believe it captures the difficulty of learning to “live with the loved one we lost.” You also see this in the letters she writes to her daughters on her blog.

Claire’s memoir is being made into a major motion picture that will star Jennifer Lawrence – a chance for her story to reach even more people. I will close in Claire’s own words, “all I ever wanted when I wrote The Rules of Inheritance was the chance to help a person or two, to make someone out there feel a little less alone in their grief process. And now all of this (the movie)…I couldn’t dream of a better group of people to help me take my message to a wider audience.”

You can learn more about Claire’s story by visiting her website or reading her memoir.

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New Possibilities

Here we are…2014!

Nothing like early January to ponder what another year might hold.  Perhaps you are considering the possibility of dating again in the new year.  If so, check out this very honest, inciteful NPR article in which widows discuss ways they explained new relationships to their friends and family, their kids and themselves:  Widows: Getting Your Kids on Board with the Dating Game


2014 New Years

In Celebration of Their Children

When a child loses a parent they become an orphan. When a spouse loses their partner, they become a widow/widower. There is not a word to describe a parent who loses a child. A mother simply known as Sofia’s mom says it is because there is not a word to describe the pain. A year ago parents of the twenty children who were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary joined the this club that none asked to be part of.

Anniversaries are hard. So on this first anniversary, we honor the parents, families and friends of those who grieve by sharing the stories of parents who did not let evil win.

“Evil Did Not Win”

The parents of Emilie Parker, Robbie and Alissa felt “paralyzed”  over how much power evil had on that day at Sandy Hook. This week they shared a video that has shared all of the unexpected good that is in their life now and celebrates the joy and good of their daughter.

“Evil didn’t win that day. We’ll carry on that love that she had”

Giving Back Life

Liz and Steve Alderman ‘s son Peter died on 9/11. They turned their anger into good by founding the Peter C. Alderman Foundation (PCAF) to heal the emotional wounds of survivors of terrorism and mass violence by training indigenous mental health care workers to treat their local traumatized populations.

Peter's Parents

Peter’s Parents

“When you get involved in something bigger than yourself, you no longer grieve all the time.”


The mention of my child’s name
May bring tears to my eyes,
But it never fails to bring
Music to my ears.

If you are really my friend,
Let me hear the beautiful music of her name.
It soothes my broken heart
And sings to my soul.

~ Author Unknown

No Need to Be Afraid: Ben’s Story

As we prepare for this year’s Memory Walk on November 16 and National Grief Awareness Day on November 21, we will be sharing personal grief journeys, tools to better understand and cope with grief, and inspirational stories. Many thanks to Ben Yin  for sharing his story today. 

Kids, especially ones that have experienced a loss of a parent or sibling, scare me.  Because I lost my dad at age 5, I have placed undue pressure on myself; as if I should automatically be able to relate to the kids at Kate’s Club.

Ben with the kids at Camp Good Mourning

Ben with the kids at Camp Good Mourning


I didn’t want to get stuck in a situation where a kid wanted to discuss his loss and I would have nothing to say.  Thus, I’ve been more behind the scenes at KC as opposed to working directly with the kids.  But that all changed once I faced my fears and volunteered at a Clubhouse day.  These kids aren’t scary.  They’re just looking for a safe place to hang out and be themselves.  They just want to feel normal and know that they’re not the only ones who have lost a loved one.  Each kid has different stories, different backgrounds, and different circumstances.  But what they do have in common is strong enough to sustain friendships for years.

Nowhere is that showcased better than at Camp Good Mourning, where some of these kids don’t see their KC friends for a year.  At camp, these kids serve as each other’s therapeutic counselors; they laugh together, cry together, and remember together.  All I do is play basketball with them and there’s nothing scary about that!

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Comfort Food

Monet is a writer, mother, sister, daughter, baker and friend. For someone so young, she and her family have experienced more grief than most. Yet, she moves onward with grace, love and joy. Through her writing and her recipes she heals not just herself, but those around her.

Monet, Ryan and baby Lucy

Monet, Ryan and baby Lucy

Like Monet, for many, recipes are passed down from one family to the next and remain a connection to loved ones who are no longer here. This rings true especially around the holiday season. One of Monet’s favorite holiday treats is Apple Cardamom Cheesecake. (You can find more of her musings and recipes on her blog.)

Apple Cardamom Cheesecake

Apple Cardamom Cheesecake

We share that recipe with you today. Bon appetit!

Apple Cardamom Cheesecake

From McCormick Gourmet


  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon McCormick Gourmet Collection Cardamom, Ground

Glazed Apples:

  • 4 medium apples (2 pound) peeled and cored
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon McCormick Gourmet Collection Cardamom, Ground


  • 2 packaged (8 ounces) each cream cheese, softened
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons McCormick Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel
  • 4 eggs

Preheat oven to 325°F. For the Crust, mix all ingredients in medium bowl. Press firmly onto bottom and 1 inch up side of 9-inch springform pan. Set aside.

For the Glazed Apples, cut apples into thin slices (about 1/4-inch thick). Add remaining ingredients to apples in large skillet. Cook on medium heat 5 to 10 minutes or until apples begin to caramelize, turning frequently. Arrange apples on bottom of crust.

For the Filling, beat cream cheese in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy. Gradually beat in sugar, vanilla and lemon peel. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating on low speed after each addition just until blended. Spoon evenly over apples.

Bake 60 to 70 minutes or until center is almost set. Turn oven off and allow cheesecake to cool in oven 1 hour with door slightly ajar. Run small knife or metal spatula around rim of pan to loosen cheesecake. Cool in pan on wire rack.

Refrigerate 4 hours or overnight. Store leftover cheesecake in refrigerator.

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