The Candle Ritual


I knew the first holiday season without Duane would be difficult. I knew I needed to prepare myself for whatever feelings or emotions that might surface during this time.

I made a decision to seek out help in order to prepare myself. I went to our local hospice for a Holiday Grief group. It was so sad and almost unbearable. But there was a great take away from it. 

The Holiday Candle Lighting Ritual.

The first I read it I cried my eyes out. I loved it immediately. I brought it to my sisters house for Thanksgiving and then again at Christmas. It is a tradition that has been carried out over the passed few years at every holiday. I absolutely love it! It provides a few minutes for you to think about your loved one and focus on the love you shared. It gives you a moment to think about your growth and your journey since your loved one passed. 

I know a few people who have lost loved ones this year. Because this has been so helpful for me I wanted to share it with them. I gave them a little card with the ritual on it and 5 candles. Everyone seemed to really like the idea. 

It’s such a simple thing. But something the simplest things make the biggest difference. 

– xoxo Victoria

Holiday “Rules” With a Terminal Spouse


Everything changes when there is a terminal diagnosis. Daily life has new challenges, everything takes longer and is harder to execute. Holidays can be exceptionally difficult, emotionally and physically. Here are a few ideas I came up with when I looked back on the last few holidays we shared. 

  1. Don’t have any expectations. Well actually, expect that if something can go wrong it will. This is the best piece of advice I can share when discussing holidays and expectations.
  2. Don’t go anywhere – have people come to you and have them come in shifts. Having a home full of people can be great, warm and loving. But is can also be stressful, overwhelming and a lot of work. 
  3. Don’t cook – order in, or have someone else cook at their house and bring it over. 
  4. Disposable everything. Plates, silverware, cups, napkins. Everything. You can get serving platters and utensils at the dollar store. The expense is worth is it. 
  5. Traditions. Past traditions may no longer be possible so this is the perfect time to create new ones. Add something you have always wanted to do or try. 
  6. No gifts. The exception is young children.
  7. Don’t put any pressure on yourself or anyone else. The holidays are hard even in the best of situations. You have to be prepared to just go with the flow. This is hard for everyone. 
  8. SOAK IT ALL IN. This could be the last one. 

– xoxo Victoria 

P.S. The picture is our tree for our last Christmas, funny, Duane asked me to get one – it was the first time we had had a tree in 10 years! 

5 Things You Can Do To Help A Caregiver That Tells you They Don’t Need Anything


Surviving as a full time caregiver is hard. Nothing prepares you for it and there are very limited resources to help you navigate this new world. There are no books that describe the daily struggle. There is nothing that shows you how to adapt to your new normal. It is mostly trial and error and error and error and then ohhhhhh that’s how it works.  

Having good people around you makes a world of difference. We were so lucky. We were constantly being visited by friends, firemen and family. We had a ton of support and I still do. I can’t imagine what our journey would have looked like had we not be surrounded by these people who were willing to jump in and do anything we needed – anything! 

Even though we had all these amazing people around us offering to help I never asked. I hated feeling like I wasn’t capable of doing it alone. Hated feeling like I wasn’t doing a “good job”, feeling like I was disappointing people and not living up to what a real caregiver was. It’s a mind boggling experience. 

People always ask me what they can do to help their friends, siblings, neighbors … any one struggling through caregiving. I always say the same thing – show up. The main thing is to show up. Actually SHOW UP. That means, you grab your bag, get in your car, drive over to their house and show up. You don’t call and ask what they need, because more than likely they’ll tell you nothing. You show up and you do. You show up and you listen. You show up and you hug them. You show up and you sit with them, sometimes in silence.

When I look back at my experience these are some of things that really helped me, when people just showed up. 

  1. Food and Drinks. If you know them you know what they like. Bring food. Drop off food. Don’t always expect to stay but if you do, help serve and clean up. Cooking for guests is an added stress that a caregiver doesn’t need. I was very lucky. We were surrounded by people who brought food and came into our home and cooked for us, fed us and cleaned up. Food is something our people are very good at. (If you bring food – also bring disposable plates, cups, silver wear and napkins. – No one wants to clean up when they have a belly full of great food).
  2. Walk The Dog. Grab the leash and take the dog out. Pets are also struggling during this time. The family dynamic has changed and they are just as affected by the new normal. They appreciate the walk around the block. And I know I appreciated it too. It gave me a minute to clean up the dog hair and I loved knowing that Buddy was getting some fresh air and doing his favorite thing.
  3. Take the vacuum for a spin. Seriously don’t worry about offending them. The floor needs to be vacuumed and swept and mopped. Cleaning the floors is at the bottom of the list for a caregiver, there are so many other things that need to be done that actually matter – the floors are last. (Just make sure no one is sleeping when you whip the vacuum out).
  4. Wash their car. Such a silly little thing. Something we all take for granted. Our car got so dirty. We went every where with Buddy, our dog, I fed Duane in the car, we carried boat parts, his wheelchair, extra clothes, supplies. It was always a mes. I never left the house with out him, so there was no chance to do it then. I couldn’t maneuver him and out just for a car wash and where we lived we weren’t allowed to wash at home (water restrictions – but there was no time anyway). So when people asked for my keys and brought me back a clean car I couldn’t have been happier. The car was my safe place. I could make my phone calls and cry and let it all out in the safety of those four doors. Having my safe place clean allowed me to sit and let it all out with out worrying about one more thing I needed to do. 
  5. Take the kids to the park. I don’t have kids. But I’m guessing it would be amazing. Just 30 minutes to have to yourself and to also let them burn off some energy. Caregiving is stressful for the whole family and I have seen families where the children take on some of the caregiving duties and I can only imagine it’s nice or them to sometimes forget about all the responsibilities and just climb and play and be a kid, even for 30 minutes.

I’ll probably revisit this list an make some adjustments as we near the holidays. Are you a caregiver? What have people done that you appreciate? What do you wish people would do to help? 

Let me know if you have any questions or need anything!

– xoxo Victoria

Why I Decided To Go Down The Doula Path?

If you’ve been following me or talking to me lately you may know that I recently finished my training to become a Death Doula or more gently called an End-Of-Life Doula. Most of you are probably wondering what it is, why I’m doing it and if I’m crazy! hahahaha

First, yes I probably am a bit crazy. But this is what I know how to do. This is the only work I truly know how to do. This is the service I can provide to people because I know it. I’ve done it. I’ve lived it and I’ve come out on the other side. I believe that having a Doula would have been so beneficial to Duane and I, and our families. Hospice was amazing, but Hospice is overloaded, they have so many patients they can’t spend an extended amount of time with any of them. They are running from patient to patient, often times putting off certain patients to run to the more critical ones. 

I have been trying to figure out how to help in a way that makes sense to me. I have always said I never wanted anyone to feel the way I did. So I started working with caregivers. I started the Young Spouse Caregivers Alliance. I answered calls and emails, I talked to crying caregivers, dealing with their spouses impending death, talked them through family problems, caregiving problems and really just listened to them cry and vent and offered anything I could. I LOVE doing that. I love being the person I wish I had. 

One main thing was missing from all those conversations, the elephant in the room. Death. No one asked me about death. We all knew it was coming, and coming soon. But we didn’t discuss it. It was avoided, always. I was willing to share and talk about it, I really am an open book. I think when you are so deep in the caregiving process all you can do is focus on the now. The now takes all your energy, plus some. The now is so intense you can’t let your mind wander to what will happen next. For survival purposes. 

I have always been willing to share about my experiences, caregiving and death. I was Widow of the Week last year over at the Hot Young Widow Club. I shared our story and pictures of the good, bad and ugly. I still get at least one message a week from someone who randomly found me on there and wants to talk about death, ALS or caregiving. They message for guidance and mostly for me to confirm what their doctors already have … that they don’t have ALS. 

People are obsessed with death – obsessed with avoiding it at all costs! We eat healthy, exercise and try to get enough sleep. Unfortunately those things are not always enough. People die, healthy people get terminal disease and die. 

I struggled with how to help people at the final juncture of their caregiving journey. How do I help them and their person transition in mindset? How do I help people accept that death is going to happen, sooner than they originally planned, but that you can still have a good life? How do I help at this level?

I googled and googled and saw so many people suffering at the end of life. Caregivers and families and the patients themselves. They struggled with giving up, conceding to death and still living the best life possible. There are no guide books, no one wants to talk about it. I remember sitting on the couch late at night trying to figure out how to keep Duane loving his life, living the best life he could, managing his pain, trying to ignore the disease progression all while knowing he was dying. I remember being scared and feeling so alone. I hate that there are other people feeling like that. I have to help them.

So for right now this is part of my journey. I don’t know how long it will last, or what direction I will ultimately to go in, but for now I’m here to help in caregiving and death. Reach out if you have questions. 

– xoxo Victoria 

P.S. Tomorrow I will go into detail about what a Death Doula does and how I plan to tailor my business to fill a need.

“When you’re weak, I’ll be strong When you let go, I’ll hold on When you need to cry, I swear That I’ll be there to dry your eyes When you feel lost and scared to death, Like you can’t take one more step Just take my hand, together we can do it I’m gonna love you through it.” – Jimmy Yeary / Sonya Isaacs / Ben Hayslip

Screen Shot 2019-10-18 at 7.09.01 PMScreen Shot 2019-10-18 at 3.17.22 PM

This is hot topic right now. I am seeing and hearing about it in multiple groups and forums. It is never talked about and no support is given to the spouses who make the unimaginably hard decision that they don’t want to/ or can’t care for their spouse.

This is the link to the above article (  and I will all so cut and past it in its entirety below … just in case Facebook finds away to disable the link. I hope they don’t. I can only guess the people that reported this article as abuse have never been in this horrific situation. 

Caregiving for your spouse is hard. When your partner is diagnosed with a terminal illness or suffers a life altering accident your entire world changes. It is almost always assumed that the spouse is going to take on the primary caregiving role. Many people, more than you can imagine, do not want to do this. Some didn’t have great relationships before the incident, some have their own health problems that make the physical job of caring impossible, some have dreams and desires they don’t want to give up to become their spouse’s caregiver. We are not in their situation and we do not get to judge them.

Total care for your spouse. This is not the life either partner every dreamed of. Neither of them went into the relationship thinking they would end up caring full time for their spouse. In our wedding vows we say “to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part”. But how many of us let our minds wander to the worst case scenario? How many of us think about a life full of doctor’s appointments, hospice care, hospital beds, pee, poop, meds, insurance claims, medicare, wills, POA …. when we say those vows? We never think the unimaginable will happen … and sometimes it does. 

It doesn’t make a person horrible when they are not capable or not willing to be a caregiver. It doesn’t make them selfish or mean. We can’t judge someone else’s choice. An accident or diagnosis doesn’t just affect the person, it affect ALL of those around them. 

Some people start caring and the decided they can’t do it anymore. They want to life their life, they have dreams and desires. They have immense pressure from the outside. People telling them they are doing everything wrong, not doing enough … There are money struggles, intimacy struggles, family issues that are more intense than anyone can imagine. 

There are so many reasons that people decide to take a step back. And it’s ok. I support you. If you ever want to talk reach out. I’m here and had my own very complicated caring situation. 

– xoxo Victoria


I don’t want to be my husband’s caregiver

Yes, we both said our vows. But how many of us break them? Most of us, at one point or another.

Would he do this if our roles were reversed? Absolutely not. He’d be out of here in a minute.

He was cheating on me when his spine was crushed in a car accident. I have no idea where he was going that afternoon. He was supposed to be at work. It could have been a work meeting, a lunch time errand, whatever. But obviously I’m going to believe it was to meet her.

I had just found out, but hadn’t let him know I knew yet. I was deciding what to do; deciding if I should leave him or not.

And then I got the phone call.

It’s just assumed that I’ll take care of him. No one asked. I’m not sure how I would do it, though. I’m told it’ll take months for his disability to through. It’ll be years before we see any money from the lawsuit, if we ever get anything. I’m out on FMLA for now, but we can’t survive without an income. We were just barely getting by before.

I try not to think about the medical bills that are accumulating at this moment.

They keep talking about how they’ll be sending him home with me once he’s stable. As if I should be excited. I wasn’t sure if I wanted my husband home with me, but this isn’t really my husband. He’s like an ornery child. The personality changes could be temporary or permanent. He could regain the ability to do certain tasks on his own, depending on the severity of his TBI and how much his body heals.

This is not what I want for my life.

Before the accident my friends were telling me he didn’t deserve me. That I should pack up my bags and go. Or kick him out and fight him for the house in the divorce. Now those same friends are acting as if I should end my career and spend the rest of my days wiping his ass and fetching things for him. As if that was God’s plan for me.

Is it even an option to say no? How will I support us if I have to be here with him around the clock? Where will we live once we declare bankruptcy? What will happen to him if I leave.

It’s funny how once someone gets themselves smashed up they are made a saint. No one can say a bad thing about him now. But I will. He was a terrible husband.

And I don’t want to give up my life for his.