Baking Feelings Into Pies

There’s no wrong way to grieve.

At least, that’s what a therapist told me six years ago when my mom passed away.

Upon the death of my mom, I grieved by not grieving. I didn’t have the time for it. I kept myself busy and plunked along. Ironically, I was a church secretary who helped plan funerals. I never did take any time off from work after her death and even worked at a funeral just days after. When I first started this job, people would ask me if I was going to seminary. I always chuckled and answered, “no.”

“Never say never!” they’d respond.

I’d reply, “In six months, when you know me better, you will laugh at the fact that you ever said this.” Sometimes I did remind them and, indeed, they did laugh.

Funeral ministry is so important and I greatly respect people with hearts for working with those who grieve. I was not one of them. A large part of our congregation was aging and we sometimes planned two to three funerals in a single week. My role included receiving death calls, attending funeral planning meetings, ordering the funeral meal, printing bulletins, and preparing the sanctuary for the services. When my mom died, I discovered I was literally unable to sit with my own grief. How effectively could I sit with others?

In our day-to-day work lives, we talked about death all of the time and relied on humor to cope. My coworker and I loved to play pranks on the Sr. Pastor. We took his children’s sermon puppet hostage and held it for ransom. One winter, I transformed the display of Christmas dolls located in his office into a scene straight from a Tim Burton movie. The dolls had these red velvet smocks and removable foam heads with beady felt eyes. Nobody noticed the scene until he hosted a meeting in his office that included the Bishop.

The Sr. Pastor always responded to our pranks by saying, “I don’t get mad, I get even.” We always waited for him to retaliate and he never did. One year later, the church laid-off their little secretaries due to budget cuts and it was the best thing that could have happened to me.

It wasn’t until three years after I left this job that I could bring myself to visit my mother’s resting place at the mausoleum. I forgot to bring flowers so I left sprigs of asparagus from the farmers market, instead. They were all I had and I’m sure whoever found them was confused.


I know there are many stages of grief, but I don’t remember exactly what they are. Until Amy’s memorial service, I wallowed in disbelief. I felt too sad to write and wrestled with a great deal of anger. Last week, I may have cursed at everyone driving along 4th Street SW. I wanted to shout fury at everyone who tailgated my vehicle and dismissed them with waves of my hand. I yearned to have words with one of our local news companies (still do) and had to shake my head when I found myself seething over a disappointing rotisserie chicken breast I had brought home from a grocery store that week.

Anger’s a stage of grief, though, right? It’s exhausting and I’m not sure it looks good on me, so I pray for peace. The silver lining on my dark, angry cloud is that I’m never so deep into a rant or flood of tears that someone can’t make me laugh.

Upon the loss of our friend Amy, I’m trying to ride the waves of grief and feel things as they come. For the first time in years, I didn’t feel like writing. So, I didn’t write for a few days and it felt good. I think I’m ready now.

Stephen King Quote

One day I cooked up a frenzy and baked my feelings into a homemade apple pie, with Patty Griffin’s song “Making Pies” on my mind. Griffin sings about a woman who lost her loved one in a war. In his interpretation of the song, Jim Beviglia writes, “It doesn’t even matter which war, because the loss felt by those left behind is always the same.”

He adds, “Her choice tells it all: ‘I’m making pies.’ . . . making pies becomes an act of seemingly limitless courage.”

It’s hard to sit with these feelings of grief. It’s uncomfortable and it’s scary and it’s overwhelming. To grieve is to be courageous. Take heart in this and remember that there really is no wrong way to grieve.


The North Iowa bloggers gathered the night of Amy’s visitation to take a selfie with that selfie stick she was so fond of. She was the only one I knew who had one and she knew how to rock it!

My heart is filled with gratitude for you, my dear readers. During this week of loss and heartbreak, you have shown not only me, but my other North Iowa bloggers a great amount of care and encouragement. I’m so humbled by your kind words, emails, comments and other expressions of support in remembering our friend and grieving with our community. You are so very special to me. Thank you for also keeping her family in your thoughts and prayers. 


  1. Beth Ann Chiles

    I wish we would have been church secretaries together. We would have had some great times. Your post, as always, left me speechless because of the depth and honesty that you shared. That, along with your humor, make me so very happy that we are friends because I am so blessed by your words. Thank you for sharing your grief story with us. It has been so hard but we all will get there. We are all riding the wave together, friend. I love you.

    • Jeni

      We would have gotten into too much mischief together! I love you too.

  2. Katy

    I’m amazed at your honesty as well as the depth in your writing! I feel as though I haven’t been able to truly verbalize or write what I’ve been feeling! I loved reading this and am proud of you for putting yourself out there! Hugs to you! Love you!

    • Jeni

      Hugs and love to you too. Words come when they are good and ready:) I think you always express yourself well in your posts.

  3. Jennifer schmitt

    thank you for this post! You are so right there’s no right way to grieve and I still don’t want to believe that the last week has even happened, but at the same time I am so thankful for Amy’s life and blessed to be a North Iowa Blogger

  4. Dianna

    As a follower of Beth Ann’s blog, I’ve been saddened by Amy’s tragic death. I think it’s wonderful that all of you are so close and have so much fun together. I’m sure having each other to lean on has helped in a small way with the grief that you all feel. All of you, as well as Amy’s family, friends and fiance continue to be in my thoughts.
    Very well written post!

    • Jeni

      Thank you for your love and support.

  5. Mary

    Very insightful. I think your thoughts on grief (there being no right way) can apply to most things in life. I know I spend a lot of time trying to do things the way I “think” they should be done, but instead would be much better off if I just followed my heart and trust life is going to be what it is. My heart ache this past week has helped me see this, Especially in my writing. There is no right way to share yourself. There is only your way. So continue being you and being with your grief and feelings as you’re able. It is what it should be.

  6. April Fiet

    Thank you so much for this piece. Grief is a strange and difficult thing. We all process it differently, and when we lose someone we love, it can bring all of our other grief back to the surface. Big hugs!

    • Jeni

      It really is a strange thing. Thanks for the hugs:)

  7. Tracy

    This was a lovely and thoughtful post. I feel for you in this time of loss and pain. As we grow and change we probably grieve in different ways as well. I say scream at the top of your lungs when you feel the anger and when the mood strikes you, bake those pies. Whatever it takes to get you through the sorrow. Sometimes we just need to feel it.

    • Jeni

      I needed this encouragement! Thanks Tracy.

  8. Sara

    What a touching post. We don’t all grieve the same & there is no right or wrong way. Death is hard, no matter the circumstances, but when it’s sudden & out of nowhere, I think anger is a natural 1st reaction. Thinking about you. ❤️

    • Jeni

      Thank you for your kind words and thoughts:)

  9. Donna Hup

    This is so beautiful! I tend to craft in my grief. I love that we have been able to be there for each other. Love you!

  10. Val - Corn, Beans, Pigs and Kids

    Beautiful and honest post Jeni. I think this last week shows exactly how all of us grieve differently. Hugs!

    • Jeni


  11. Lindsay P

    Jeni, I am so sorry for the loss of your friend. I unfortunately did not know her but she sounds like one amazing woman!!
    You got me thinking, from November to this month I’ve lost a handful of family and friends. The grieving process is an amazing one but ultimately you come to acceptance, it just takes time.
    Thank you for continuing your blog as I look forward to it every week!!

    • Jeni

      Thank you for your kind words. I am so sorry for your losses too. Still working through the process. It’s good to have the support of others like you.

      • Lindsay P

        Always here with an honest ear.

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