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Q&A | grief over what could have been + durable kids shoes

Our two questions today are super-duper unrelated to each other. First up, the one on grief:

Hi Kristen, how do you manage/ overcome the “what could’ve been/ should’ve been” thoughts and the sadness that ensues? Are you one of those people who are naturally good at it or did you learn to manage it better? If the latter is true, please share what worked (and what didn’t). I did read the wistfulness post :). Thank you.


This is a great question! I have two answers to offer.

1. Make peace with the pain

I would say that I don’t really try to overcome woulda/shoulda/coulda thoughts or the sadness that inevitably accompanies them. Rather, I’m trying to coexist with them and make peace with their presence for now.

In Maggie Smith’s memoir about her divorce, she mentions the idea of metabolizing grief, and I like that metaphor.

It’s as though there are all of these feelings of sadness and loss and trauma that need to be digested.

book cover.

If you ignore the hard feelings or push them down, they will just sit there, like rocks in your stomach, weighing you down.

But if you are willing to digest them, then they can move on through and you can be free.

The metaphor breaks down (as all do!) because one does not digest pain and trauma in 24 hours. It’s a bit different than digesting pasta. 😉

And that’s why I say I’m trying to make peace with the presence of these feelings for now. I know it’s going to be a slow digestion process.

BUT, I trust that every time these waves of anger/sadness/grief come over me, it’s just part of the process of digesting it all. I might not feel like I’m making progress, but I trust that I am.

I trust that these moments are getting me closer, closer, closer to the end of metabolizing the hurt and letting it go.

And that makes it way easier to lean into the pain when it shows up.

I know the pain isn’t pointless or endless. I’m just…metabolizing.

2. Look at the possibilities you have now

There is a lot that I am grieving; there are things I have lost that I will never get back, and things I will never have the chance to experience. 

There are dreams that I will never see fulfilled.


…there is still time for life to be beautiful, now and in the future.

You know how I often say that there are many ways for life to be beautiful? Well, that’s important to remember in times like these.

Life may not have turned out the way you thought it should; it didn’t go according to plan. But the good news is that there’s more than one plan that leads to a beautiful life!

Kristen wearing a backpack.

We can grieve that our first plan got blown to pieces, AND we can also make a new plan for life to be beautiful, even though it’s gonna look different than we thought it would.

So I ask myself, “What is currently good in my life? And what can I do now to make my life more beautiful/good/meaningful?”


I like this combo of strategies because it allows me to:

  1. Grieve the past
  2. Look at now/the future

Both of those things are important, and I don’t think you have to choose one or the other!

(Nor do I think it would be healthy to choose. You don’t want to be dwelling solely in the past, but also you don’t want to completely ignore it either.)

I have found that it is possible to have space for both in my life.

Kristen smiling.

It is true that I often look like this. But it is also true that sometimes I am angry or sad. There’s room for all of it.

And while I am obviously still in the thick of dealing with all of my mess, I do see progress and healing in my heart, and I do experience quite a lot of peace, even in the midst of all of my troubles.

So. I’m not an expert, but this is what has been helping me. I hope it helps you too!

My kids (2&5) are finally at the stage of wearing out shoes before outgrowing them. Do you have any recommendations for finding durable, affordable kid sneakers? Everything seems to be knit uppers with vegan leather trim; the knit gets filthy, the trim peels, and washing doesn’t help much. My parents just cleaned scuffs off of white leather school shoes, but I’m struggling to find anything that will last more than a few months.


An overhead view of four children wearing Converse.

I share your frustration with faux leather; I find it to be generally way less durable than real leather, and once it peels and flakes, there’s no reviving it.

It’s not just shoes either; there are a lot of faux leather backbacks, purses, belts, and couches too. I know people are working on developing better faux leather options, and I hope they are successful because the current offerings are rather dismal.

And I hope they can come up with something that’s a little more eco-friendly; a lot of the current faux leather options are usually petroleum-based.

Anyway! Back to the topic at hand.

My youngest child is nearly 18, so I’m not very well-schooled in the current children’s shoe offerings. However, I do remember that my kids got a lot of wear out of their Converse, so if those fit your kids, they might be worth a look.

converse are better than vans

we had better luck with kid Converse than kid Vans

A really nice thing about Converse is that they are quite washable (we’ve thrown ours in the washing machine many times), and a Magic Eraser cleaning pad does a great job of removing scuffs from the sides of the soles.

That said, I know there are a lot of readers here who are in the thick of raising small people, so I hope that they will be able to share some more kid shoe suggestions for you!

Readers, do you have kid shoe suggestions for Dawn? And feel free to address the first question too if you have tips to share.

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Wednesday 20th of September 2023

My kids have been wearing Plae forever. They've never fallen apart; we've always needed to size up (and I think they have a short term fit guarantee so if you buy them and your kid immediately outgrows them you get a new pair). They are velcro and open very very wide--one of my daughters has trouble with fine motor skills and these shoes are super easy to get into. They also get a pair of Natives each summer (I've gotten knock offs but they do wear out and Natives don't) and usually a pair of summer sandals (to wear with dresses and such) and winter dressy boots (for church). That plus boots (and the occasional hand me down dress shoes) is it. So 99% of the time you'll find them in Natives or Plae and we've had zero issues. They're pricier but my dad loves gifting so "they" ask for them for Christmas and birthday when they need a new pair.


Monday 4th of September 2023

I think this may have been the best post ever. Thank you Kristen.


Thursday 31st of August 2023

Thank you, Kristen, for posting my shoe question, and to the readers for so many good suggestions! I've never heard of Tsukihoshi and was only vaguely familiar with Keen. Cost hasn't always correlated to durability in other brands, so it's helpful to know so many other value shoppers think they are worthwhile! For the other question writer and everyone who commented, I've often felt very alone (and unlucky) in my grief. It's helped to know that almost everyone is grieving their own losses, and that I don't need to explain or shove my feelings down based on others' expectations or comfort. Sending good thoughts your way.


Thursday 31st of August 2023

Such wise words about “digesting’ the grief and sadness.Our family has had some set backs in expectations due to illness in a grown son. So many dreams not possible now.But I have always been an optimist (sorely sorely tested this past 2 years..) andI tend to see beauty everywhere I go.. and all around me, most of the time. With the help of a kind and wise therapist,I’ve been able to stay steady and continue to find beauty and Joy in the days, the moments, and to make plans for MY future.. it took a year of being very lost to get back to that point, but we can.. it usually takes support and help from others, I tried too long to do it alone.

I am SO PROUD to see your first week of joining the “NURSING TRIBE!!” CONGRATULATIONS!! I am a retired N.P. and I know you are an asset to this profession and will gain so much satisfaction from your choice. Those evening clinicals will fly by and hopefully next semester you get something better in terms of days/hours.

Some small things I do to stay centered and to hlp me keep digesting and moving forwards:

1. I buy fresh flowers for my kitchen counter every 2 weeks at trader Joe. 2.I watch my own nutrition and exercise daily. 3.I pray,meditate, I keep a gratitude journal, and I see a counselor once a month now (was weekly for a year!!) 4.I make quality time to hang out with my spouse: we play cards,hike,swim, go to the library, and have quiet dinners with candles sometimes. 5. I CONSCIOUSLY pay attention to what is good and beautiful in my life.

As you know,some days it’s easier than. others, but I am determined to use the time I have been given to appreciate and enjoy life on this planet, while caring for our son and helping his life be the best it can be.




Thursday 31st of August 2023

Aww, thank you for your encouragement!


Thursday 31st of August 2023

Life may not have turned out the way you thought it should; it didn’t go according to plan. But the good news is that there’s more than one plan that leads to a beautiful life!

THIS is spot on. And you, and your blog, are living proof of this sentence. Thank you for your writing, Kristen!

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