How to 'Be There' When Grief and Loss Overcome the FarmA young professor Marsha Harris from Brandon University speaks softly to a group of mostly over 60 women explaining the keys to a truly lasting relationship. She tells us that most people just want their lovers to answer one question:

Are You Really There for Me?

Let that one sit for a moment.

In what ways does your spouse or partner show you practically that they are with you in good times and in bad?

Recently I presented a new seminar called “Planting Hope Amidst Grief and Loss on the Farm.” A young dairy farmer daughter-in-law who was grieving the losses of her father-in-law’s death wrote me a very long email describing her journey of thankfulness and tears. She was definitely thankful that the succession plan was well in place before cancer consumed the founder of the farm. Her father-in-law was truly there for his spouse and family as he collaborated with his daughter-in-law and his children to have his affairs in order before he knew he had health issues.

This season of love messages and romantic sentiments can be brutal for new widows and widowers.  This was the first Valentines “alone” for young farm widows who wish they had more time to plan before the goodbye.

Wow, Elaine, you sure aren’t very cheery in this message! My message is that sometimes love means doing the tough things right before you die.

Maggie Van Camp, Associate Editor of Country Guide, lost her husband Brian at age 47 three years ago. The experience prompted her to create the “Because I love u list” and you can request it HERE. Maggie lists the computer passwords, key locations, suppliers, trades people, mentors, advisors, standard operating procedures, and a whole host of other things to help us be ready to transition with tears when our beloved spouses are not there for us.

I also found a treasure in my files from 1998, which proves that hanging on to paper can be delightful when you need more tools for life.

What follows are questions that I answered in January 1998 at a grief seminar when I was exploring working with palliative care as a volunteer. What I did not know that in 8 short months that year, my mom would leave this world to meet her maker, just 6 weeks after our family meeting for succession. I still miss her.

Reflect on how you would answer these grief questions, then make plans to have tea or coffee with someone who comes to mind that needs you to be a visiting angel of love this year.

1. Consider a loss experienced by you or your family.

  • How did you react?
  • What did you hate to lose the most?

2. Grief and mourning involve a “permanent absence.”

  • How do we grieve?
  • Is the ability to grieve a gift of God’s mercy?

3.Are there positive avenues of venting sorrow which are helpful?

  • E.g. Going to a movie, having coffee with a friend, or going out for supper?

4. Has life taken on new meaning as a result of your loss?

5. Do families go through the same grieving process when a member is killed or dies unexpectedly?

  • What emotional support can we give to the families of someone who has died suddenly?

6. Tell about your experience of coping with sudden death: numbness, shock, denial.

  • What kind of approaches for dealing with your grief are most helpful?

7. Have you suffered from guilty feelings?

  • E.g. “unfinished business” in your loss?

8. How has the grieving process affected your self-worth?

9. What factors or relationships help to give you a sense of dignity?

10. How long a period of time is needed to grieve?

  • We sometimes hear comments like “it’s time they snap out of it and go on with life.”

11. What methods of consolation did you find most helpful?

12 Do the tears of others increase your sense of grief, or do they assure you of genuine concern?

13. How does judgment differ from understanding?

  • How can we avoid judging a reaction to grief and loss?

14. What is the meaning of compassion to you

15. What has been your greatest source of strength and comfort?

16. Can separation or loss ever bring triumph?

  • Consider the types of losses you are facing on your farm:

[Tweet “How #farmers can ‘be there’ for loved one during times of #loss or #grieving.”]

Many Types of Losses

  • Business loss and changes create trauma (e.g. selling dairy cows).
  • Death: loss of intimacy and stability
  • Divorce: loss of family and status
  • Disability: loss of independence
  • Mental illness: loss of dreams for a better future
  • Failure: guilty psychological losses
  • Identity crisis: loss of purpose and direction with retiring farmers

Now consider what stage of loss you are in and what could help you


Loss has Many Stages:

  • Denial, isolation, and shock
  • Anger, confusion, and strong emotion
  • Bargaining and begging for more time
  • Depression and guilt
  • Acceptance of reality and pain
  • Hope and recovery


This Helps:

  • Physical presence
  • Decision making
  • Express emotions and feelings
  • Listen and get help if suicidal
  • Be patient with your friendship
  • Encourage dreaming and planning


Ask for Help

It is not a sign of weakness to ask for help and receive it. Financial transparency with family and creditors is important to deal with money losses. Let go of pride and stubbornness. Share your feelings and ask for help. Educate others, e.g. suicide prevention awareness. I know a farm woman whose son committed suicide and she transfers her pain of loss to educational efforts for suicide prevention with emergency response teams. Have a learner mindset, not judger attitude. Use positive attitude to listen patiently to those who are grieving. Learn from their situations and experiences.

When your spouse asks “Are you really there for me?” What will your answer be?

Fixing Your Time Stress Mess

60 minutes

Workaholics will discover helpful strategies for managing their time stress. Gain understanding for the tensions of your age and stage on the farm. Learn why some problems are not solvable, but just need to be managed as polarities. Self-renewing people are joyful and productive producers.


Rave reviews

“A joy to work with, heard loud and clear. When the farmers laughed or asked a great question, I knew they were listening and really wanted to learn from her. Her tips were easy to understand. It was just about understanding that conflict happens, and to have the confidence in yourself to ask for what you want. In the glowing review from farmers after her presentation, I knew they had heard that loud and clear.”
Maddy Berner, Event Planner & Communications Coordinator, National Milk Producers Federation National Milk Producers Federation
“I wanted to say a HUGE thank you for your virtual kitchen table chat with Arlan Academy. My wife and I signed up as it was exceptionally relevant to our current journey with potentially transitioning to her parents’ farm. The session was able to cover so many aspects of these crucial conversations and hearing you speak to both sides of the conversation was eye opening for my own perspective on this topic. It seemed to be very well attended and sounded like there were many other people who would echo my thoughts and feelings on it.”
N. Oakley, Farmer, Ontario
“Elaine helped me allocate $1 Million of assets the night I listened to her. Elaine’s presentation brings value to the use of my services in my office.”
Don Forbes, Forbes Wealth Management
“I recently joined in and listened to your Healthy Farmer Agriwebinar for FMC. I truly enjoyed hearing your perspective and even went and grabbed my Mom, away from her work, to come and listen in on some of your main points as well! One area that really stood out for me, both personally with our own succession plans and with our clients, was your discussion involving "Instant Influence" and how ready are you to change? I loved this concept!”
Annessa Good, FCC Transition Specialist, Alberta
“Elaine Froese truly is the Farm Whisperer. With her big heart and stern resolve, she guides families through uncharted waters and helps them arrive safely at their desired destination. She has been there, done that, and has helped hundreds of families come out on the other side. With your family and your farm legacy on the line, you owe it to yourself to start this conversation. You do not need to do it alone. Let Elaine Froese guide you through. Your legacy is being written day by day. How will you be remembered?”
Tracy Brunet, Host of The Impact Farming Show & CEO of Farm Marketer
“You speak like you’ve been sitting at our kitchen table! You know our family issues well. I am feeling more comfortable understanding what we now need to do. Elaine Froese is real.”
Audience Member,
“I attended the meeting you spoke at in Stratford Ontario recently. We held an emergency family/farm meeting today because of issues that I had enough of. We used a 'talking stick' like you recommended and wrote a chart of rules. The rest of the family thought the idea that we needed a meeting was worth rolling their eyes over, until we got started. The younger ones were quick to clue in that they now have an opportunity to be bluntly honest. The older ones took a bit longer to believe they could truly say what they think. In the end, the meeting needed two sessions because there was so much to talk about… and so many things people didn't realize were a big deal to the others. Your lessons and encouragement have given us the tools we need to get to a better place in our relationships and our business. Truly thankful.”
Kim Martin, Dairy Farmer, Ontario
“Helped me develop my framework to start having constructive and meaningful conversations around the farm.”
Tennille Wakefield, Farm Partner
“Some great lessons, Elaine! You continue to do some remarkable and potentially life-changing work.”
James Mitchell, Principal, Conversations Consulting
“Our family had a good farm meeting yesterday afternoon. Your Fairness video was a great topic of discussion. One of the action items after the meeting was to have my two non-farming siblings watch the video before the next big meeting they are involved with on the farm. It will be a great conversation starter as we catch them up on our current plan. As they are younger, we also hope it will help them to ask new questions that may not have been on their mind.”
G.G., Farm Family Legacy Coach, Alberta
“Elaine gives me excellent tools that help me work with my clients!”
Laurianne Osmack, Financial Planner / Partner, Doell Osmak Wealth Management
“She has a sense of “knowing” quickly what is happening in the family dynamic. Her messages to her audiences drive home what needs to be done next to solve the complex issues of farm transition and conflict resolution.”
Audience Member,
“Eye-opening. Excited to open the door of communication with my spouse and farm family.”
Ashley Hoppe, Farm Partner
“The Strong Farms, Strong Families session gave farm families an opportunity to meet face to face with Elaine Froese... hear her own story, experiences and skill set. From this information packed session and related materials, families could identify areas of success in their journey and other places they need assistance. The greatest take away was that participants could see that Elaine Froese is someone they can trust with the things that they hold most precious.... their family and their farm.”
Nancy Atkinson, Nobleford Ag Society, Alberta
“Elaine’s real-life scenarios help her audiences know they are not alone, knowing there are creative solutions to help them get the life on the farm they have always wanted.”
Audience Member,
“A long time female client who had refined the art of procrastination was so moved by the end of your presentation that she accepted your permission to “drop the bananas.” She contacted me soon after for an appointment to do some planning which included the selling of the family “Century Farm.” A very, very emotional decision on her part that was not likely to have occurred without your presentation.”
Don Forbes, Forbes Wealthy Management
“I just have to say… that your work is amazing and I have never forgotten your teachings from our session in Williams Lake at TRU. It is super important work. I know so many people going through the trauma of succession. I hate to use that word, but I was an “out-law” and know it can get terrible. I continue to forward your emails on to others. Keep doing what you do! You are amazing. You kind of walk into the fire regularly… and with a smile. Proud to have met you.”
Megan, BC Rancher
“As my husband and I eagerly started the course we were optimistic and excited to be taking this next step in our Farm Transition. We were starting to question ourselves and whether or not we were just being selfish and greedy, and if this Farm Transition was still an option for us. We barely got through the first Module and were already having such a huge relief. As we moved through the modulus there were so many times that we just sat back with our hands in the air and thought YES. My husband and I would smile with relief because all of the concerns that we have been struggling with were relevant and came up in the modules. We really enjoyed the course and are excited to move on to the next stages to find our farm resolution.”
Shannon Gilchrist, “Get Farm Transition Unstuck” online course participant
“My hubby farms with 2 brothers and parents, and it’s become a really toxic place. No communication, no respect, etc. Twelve months ago, my husband’s brothers told him they don’t want to work with him anymore and offered him a pay out. His parents did nothing to stop it! He had no choice but to leave. Three months later, we moved off the farm and into town. He has been offered heaps of jobs and is now truck driving and carting hay and grain. We have tried communicating with his parents about what happened but they are not interested. So basically my hubby has lost his family. Very sad but we as husband and wife are overall in a good place and moving on to create our own life. Please continue on with all your wonderful work in helping families on the farm. I continue to tell any farmers I know about you, that they must ‘google’ you, and read your books.”
Donna, Farmer, Australia

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