How I am coping with grief.

I have had a lot of people ask me lately how my son and I are doing after my husband was tragically killed. My answer is “We have found our new normal.” Tomorrow will mark 7 months since Jim was killed. It seems so surreal sometimes when I look back on how much we have gone through up to today. Jim and I were together for almost 10 years and would have been married for 9 years. We went through an 18 month deployment, buying our first house, infertility woes for 4.5 years, miscarriage, finally having a baby, and building a house – not to mention the every day things. Being a military wife probably prepared me the most for dealing with this tragedy. That is not an easy job, and any military spouse can attest to that. There were days when he was in Iraq that I didn’t hear from him so I had no idea if he was alive or not. I got used to having to do things on my own and being alone (yet married). Despite the hard times, it just made our marriage stronger. I relied a lot of him to do the “manly” things around the house and outside, plus he was a great cook. When he died, I had to learn how to do all of this myself. I didn’t know how to mow the lawn, cook (yes I know), fix the car, and even little things like change batteries in the smoke detectors. Luckily I have some awesome neighbors, family and friends who have helped me out with teaching me these things and/or doing them for me (like mowing the lawn). This would have been so much harder without them, so thank you to all of you wonderful people in my life!

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Photos by Sarah-Beth Photography

When coping with my own personal grief journey, there were 3 things that really helped me. My faith in God, my son Gavin, and exercising. Without my faith in God, I don’t know where I would be or what I would be doing honestly. There were days I didn’t want to even get out of bed in the beginning because I was so depressed and asking myself everyday “why him, why me?”. I did wallow in my own pity for a few months, but the whole time I kept my faith. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11. I just kept that verse close to my heart, knowing God had a plan for Gavin and I. This verse hangs in my living room to remind me everyday (thank you Casey).


Photos by Sarah-Beth Photography

Gavin, my 1.5 year old, was one of the coping methods I have used every day. He is the reason I get up every single day. He makes me laugh all of the time with his adorable personality. Such a happy kid despite not having his dad there to be there for him. I was very used to Jim helping me out with Gavin once he got home from work. Then poof! I was a single mom overnight, unexpectedly. How was I supposed to take care of him myself? I didn’t ask for this. Luckily my mom stayed for a few weeks in December helping me with him and keeping up on the house. I also spent a lot of time with family over the holidays and stopped working for a bit. My step-sister, Mariah, was gracious enough to move in with me to help me out when I needed it.

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Photos by Sarah-Beth Photography


Once I started working again, it was again another adjustment to try to muster up the effort to just work. Jim normally watched Gavin in the evening while I did a photo session, now I have Mariah or have to find a babysitter to watch him while I work. I have even brought him with me a few times if I couldn’t find someone to watch him for me. I have some awesome clients who don’t mind me bringing him because they understand my situation. Gavin is so friendly and loving that he can make anyone who is sad smile. I started out trying to find one thing a day that made me happy and feel blessed despite loosing Jim. One thing turned into multiple things, and day by day I became happier. I started surrounding myself with positive people and reading books on how to be a widow. Ugh… I do not like the word widow. I feel like an old maid when I have to tell someone my martial status. There really needs to be a new word for it. Anyway, after deciding to choose happiness over depression my life changed. I became a person that wanted to inspire others to be happy in their own life no matter what their situation. I remember reading on Facebook one day that someone was complaining about being stuck in traffic on their way home, and all I could think about is well at least you get to go home to your spouse because they are alive. I feel blessed to be alive every day, even when things don’t go according to plan. God gave me and my son one more day to live so we are living life to the fullest every single day. If that means that I want to take him to the zoo that day instead of working, then I will do so. I will still get that work done, just while he is asleep at night. I am fortunate enough to have built up my business to be able to do this when I want, but will admit it’s not easy. There used to be two incomes for this household and now I’m the main source of income for Gavin and I. It definitely put things in perspective for me as far as spending money and what I need rather than want.

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Photos by Sarah-Beth Photography

The third thing that has really helped me and is still helping me every day is working out. I originally started doing some workout DVDs I already had, then started pinning workouts on Pinterest to do. These were a great start and helped me get on the right track. When you exercise, it released endorphins which interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain. I was one anti-depressant medicine for one month then replaced it with exercise.  I workout every day to help with my grief journey and stay in shape. I am a much happier person that I was. The workouts I had been doing were great for about a month, then I started wanting more – craving more exercises and harder ones.  So I bought Focus T25 by Beachbody. What an amazing workout it has been for me!  I even decided to become a Beachbody Coach! I help others find a workout program for their specific goal and coach them along the way. Not only am I helping others, but it keeps me accountable too. I am on my 6th week out of 10 week program with T25. The great thing is, it’s only 25 minute workout so it doesn’t take hours nor do I have to leave my house. Gavin usually tries to mock me while I’m doing it too (haha). He is my inspiration to keep not only in good physical shape, but also in good mental shape. I am a better mommy to him because of it. After I finish T25, I am moving on to PiYo program to become more lean and flexible – great thing for a photographer who is always trying to get a different perspective. After I workout, I feel energized and happy!! Who doesn’t want to feel happy? I have a website where anyone can order a workout program like Focus T25, PiYo, Insanity, P90x, P90x3, 21 Day Fix, Body Beast, Turbo Fire, etc.  I highly encourage everyone, no matter your situation, to give exercise a try and just see how much your attitude will change. You will feel better physically and emotionally!

“Look forward with hope, not backwards with regret.”

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Photos by Sarah-Beth Photography


  1. Amazing and inspirational! May God continue to give you strength and be an example for others.

  2. You are an inspiration person god give you happiness always! For you and you baby forever!

  3. Jamie, what beautiful photos of you and Gavin. Thank you for sharing how you are doing. If you ever need anything please let us know.

  4. Wonderful insight, beautiful photos. Keep on keepin’ on, sister. There are a lot of people out here that are quietly supporting you 🙂

  5. I’m definitely reading… Pondered this whole eloquently… Compilation of your vision. I am trying to write while my tears are flowing from my heart…there are no word’s 2 describe anyone else who is going through the process. I am sacredly honored with the magnitude of the intuitive love that you both have. Sent with my soul knowing that your all a divine gift. Love Ms. Pamela V.L. Paseka 〰♥〰

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