Emerging from Darkness: MN woman builds care packages to help others through tough times

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Inside her beautifully quaint St. Paul home, Catherine Hinz, 33, loads her care packages with support and practicality in mind.

“Every box has something to eat, something to drink, a remedy… things that promote rest and sleep,” she explained.

As Hinz prepares the boxes, she reflects on the very things she needed when she experienced the unthinkable.

“It was Memorial Day weekend of 2016. I was on a trip with my husband and six-month-old baby at the time and through a series of events, I’d discovered and learned my husband had been in another relationship that I was completely unaware of actually for over five years,” Hinz said.

Shocked by betrayal at the hands of the man she'd devoted her life to loving she admits the ordeal brought with it a rollercoaster of emotion.

“Throughout the time we’d been dating, engaged, cross-country move, married, pregnant and a child… it was really the discovery of a second life of my husband that just turned my world upside down,” she said.

Through the pain, Hinz became intimately familiar with grief - especially during the holiday season. 

“People don’t know what to say, and so their default is to not say anything at all, and that can be really isolating and I also understood the importance of knowing how amazing it was when someone did send a token of their thoughtfulness,” the single mother nodded.  

But it was what she learned healing from divorce that in May compelled Hinz to launch her new business, Beyond Words Co

“It was really in the midst and in the thick of those support groups and therapy groups with others [I learned] there’s an unmet need here and I can really do something about that,” she smiled.

Running a nonprofit by day and Beyond Words Co. by night, Hinz now receives at least one order for her service daily.

“The most common reason we ship is death of a loved one. The second reason is the pregnancy loss, miscarriage, or infertility difficulties, cancer or some sort of medical diagnosis,” she shared.

Each box is tailored to a specific stage of grief and each is custom-packed to support someone through a particular loss.

“We’ve had pet loss, people laid off from their jobs… friendship challenges and difficulties; we've sent boxes for a variety of other circumstances, as well.”

As Catherine Hines knows first-hand, the small gesture of a care package can go a long way, especially when you want to help someone hurting, but aren't quite sure what to say.

“What got me through it really were family and friends who reached out on the side. I got a card tucked in a purse, something in the mail and knew that I wasn’t alone.”

Hinz also offers personal tips on how to best help loved ones enduring loss during the holiday season. Below are a few suggestions she found helpful during her grief process.

Five Ways To Support Loved Ones Through Grief: 

1.    Let sadness be; don’t pressure positivity or try to fix it
•             Don’t assume that providing a fun distraction is what’s needed. Allowing the space for sadness, pain, anger, or other complicated emotions that come along with grief can be both healing and healthy.

2.    Be present and patient for your loved one
•             It’s OK if you don’t have the perfect words. Simply admitting you are uncertain of what to say opens a door for conversation. “I didn’t know what to say, so I didn’t say anything at all” leaves a grieving person isolated. Potential awkwardness is better than silence. 

3.    Take the cue from them
•             They may not be up for a lot of crowds, activities, or events. Try not to put any pressure on visiting with the out-of-town relatives, attending the play or concert, or bringing the appetizer. Conversely, keeping busy or visiting family and friends can be helpful for coping through hard times. So, take the cue from your loved one to understand what will be helpful on a day-by-day basis. Be prepared for last minute plan changes as moods shift, and try and be gentle and flexible to accommodate if that’s the case.

4.    Offer to help in specific ways
•             Holidays can be overwhelming, especially if your loved one is trying to keep up with certain traditions in the midst of grieving. You become so helpful and appreciated as you offer practical and specific help, like decorating, running errands, wrapping gifts, cleaning, walking the dog.

5.    Let them know you are thinking of them
•             Isn’t it amazing when you know that someone has thought about you and cares about you? That wonderful feeling is magnified when you are suffering from grief or loss. Knowing that others care is powerful. Let them know you care.