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I started InLieu Gifts to help people walk through the first weeks and months of grief after a loved one has died. The items in the gifts are things that held me up after I lost several important people in my life. Here's a bit about my experience.

DAD AND MOM

The last thing I said to Dad was, "I love you and I miss you." I didn't know it was the last time we'd speak. I was just calling him from college to say hello. He died unexpectedly that weekend. My sisters and I were heartbroken.

A few years later, I drove to my hometown to visit Mom. We gossiped with a neighbor over a pot of coffee. I felt so grown-up. When it was time to leave, Mom hugged me goodbye. It was a good, strong hug from a good, strong woman who had outlived her cancer prognosis by 10 years. It was our last hug, and I will always be grateful for it.

DAIN

I met my future husband at work. Dain was a creative, smart, fun, athletic man who usually had 25 projects going at once. One afternoon, Dain called to ask if I wanted to meet him at soccer practice or drive there together. A few hours later, I found myself in an emergency room crying on top of his lifeless body. We were 37.

Three months later, I received his autopsy report. Dain had sarcoidosis, a condition we'd never heard of. He was gone, and we couldn't talk about the most important thing that had happened to us.

THE DIFFICULT WORK OF HEALING

Through the years, I’ve avoided grief like it was my job, and I’ve walked directly into its path and looked it in the eye. I've poured coffee on my cereal, found my car keys in the freezer, and arrived at appointments days before I should have. They call it "widow brain."

I've listened to people compare the loss of my husband to the loss of a pet. And I’ve witnessed the best humanity has to offer. My amazing family, my oldest friends, and new friends who appeared out of nowhere. They babysat me. They included me in holiday celebrations. They mowed my lawn. They called. They listened.

They held me up.

And that's what I hope InLieu Gifts can do for others.