Issue 16

A deciduous tree glows with white ice in the night.
A tree post ice storm on the Allendale campus of GVSU. Photo by Michael Tuccini.

How to Speak to Grief

By Kathleen Schenck and Rev. Linda Knieriemen
February 21, 2019

Nothing can fill the gap left by someone we love. —Dietrich Bonhoeffer

We struggle as a society to find words to say when someone we know experiences the death of a loved one. So we often end up saying the wrong thing.

From an email coversation with Rev. Linda Knieriemen, First Presbyterian Church of Holland, we offer here some ideas of what to say, as well as a few things to avoid.

It is not the time to bring up your own grief, however recent. This not only robs the person mourning of her/his moment to be able to speak about the pain, but it puts her/him in the incredibly awkward position of summoning empathy that is simply not there. “It’s also completely unhelpful to say, I know just how you feel,” Rev. Knieriemen adds. “Everyone’s experience of grief is unique. The best words are simply, I’m so sorry and I’m here and How terribly sad. My heart is breaking for you.”

It is also not the time to ask for details about the death. For one thing, you can likely get that information from the obituary. For another thing, the actual death is the last thing the mourner wants to think about, let alone talk about.

No matter how well-meaning you may be, the mourner does not need to be told what to think, feel, or do. Do not, please do not, find it necessary to display some kind of tough love with those who are grieving. “What a grieving person needs more is a hug, a lunch out, a call in mid-evening when the house is quiet. A quiet cup of tea and an open ear and a buttoned-up mouth. A tangible sign of care. Of presence. Of love,” advises Rev. Knieriemen. One of the most loving things to do is to sit with someone while they cry.

Rev. Knieriemen continues: “Folks are often at a loss for the ‘right’ thing to say when a friend is looking into that newly empty space. Assuming your intention is to offer comfort, rather than be an interviewer, avoid asking How are you doing? every time you see them. They feel crappy. Avoid the platitudes, like God must have wanted him now, (well, so does Mom) or He’s in a better place (what’s wrong with Holland?).”

It cannot be emphasized enough how valuable it is to just listen. We want to do something, we want to fix. But grief is an unreliable narrator, pulling those who grieve through what feels like a never-ending nightmare. Those left behind go from This isn’t real to This can’t be real. Talking helps ground the grieving while also strengthening the bonds desperately needed during this time.

Rev. Knieriemen concludes: “One of the things grieving people most want to do is have someone to talk with about their loved one. So speak of him, use his name with Mom. Keep telling her you remember. A note six months from now that says, I miss him, too, isn’t a cruel reminder, but an affirmation that someone else remembers and cares enough to still walk in that painful emptiness, too.”

Want to share your story of what helped you in a time of grief? Email


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An abstract painting in light blue with flaxen round shapes and dark turquoise
Pause by Meridith Ridl. 14×11 Acrylic, ink, and watercolor on panel box. Photo by Meridith Ridl.

Practicing an Act of Care: An Interview with Artist Meridith Ridl

By Kathleen Schenck and Meridith Ridl
February 7, 2019

Holland Weekly (HW) was so fortunate to connect via email with Meridith Ridl, an artist and educator living in Saugatuck, Michigan. Here is the interview, lightly edited.  

HW: What type of art do you most like to do? What is your choice of medium/materials?
Ridl: I have a background in printmaking/drawing, fibers, and installation work, and am currently working mostly with painting/drawing/collage. I find that I am drawn to a tone more than a particular medium, subject, or style. I’m really drawn to the delicacy and ephemeral nature of pencil (erasable), paper (tear-able), and paint (stain-causing and spill-able). I also think a lot about fragility and space…so even a blank piece of paper makes me pretty thrilled…and then to see the way a line or a drip can change everything…a tiny mark can be lovely or awkward or heartbreaking …these subtle shifts are really engaging to me.

A pencil drawing of string.
Two III by Meridith Ridl. Photo by Meridith Ridl.

HW: When did you become interested in art? What first drew you to it?
Ridl: For me art emerged quietly, amid the ordinary, where I was allowed to touch things, move things, stare, and notice the textures, tastes, and spaces around me. I was also lucky enough to have people around who let me make my mark. Growing up I spent countless hours making things with my Grandmother Esther after school and had a bed surrounded with tacked up paper so I could wake up in the night and draw on the walls.

HW: On your Artist Profile Sheet, you write that your work suggests impermanence and loss….intimacy and connectionWould it be too personal to ask if you could take us into that moment when you are creating a new work? If you could walk us through your process, either externally (materials, radio on/off, lighting) or internally (mindset, what occurs or doesn’t occur)?
Ridl: Often when I begin, especially if I haven’t been in the studio for a while, I feel excited but sort of scattered. I’ll walk around, stare a lot, look at collections of objects or unfinished pieces. I literally will just move objects around on my shelves and walls, look at a plant. I write a lot of lists. Titles and ideas appear written on walls and scraps of paper in my studio space.

For abstract pieces in particular I’ll often begin with a loose, gestural mark—just giving the paper or canvas an interruption. Then comes this tension between wanting to add layers and more and more or needing to be more restrained. A real back and forth happens…sometimes I just have to let things sit, walk away before I know what to do next.

That moment of thinking, I don’t have a clue what to do next, and then (often later) having a sudden burst of some kind of knowing—for example: I want an irregular blast of blue here! is one of my favorite parts of working.  It sounds almost made up—but sometimes (not all the time) there is this moment where my arm just juts out and makes a weird scribble or smoosh of paint in a way that feels almost out of body (I’m almost sheepish/embarrassed saying this).  I’ll think, Where did that come from? I’ll get really excited—egotistical even—IT’S WORKING!!!! Often that’s right when I wreck a composition. So in best cases I’ll pause—that waiting and stopping takes some awareness and discipline. Often I’ll miss it.

Abstract painting featuring shapes in poppy, black, and teal.
With a Kick by Meridith Ridl. Photo by Meridith Ridl.

HW: How do you communicate that the world can be delicate and compassionate? How is that accomplished? Like, wow!
Ridl: Phew! I wish I knew that I could!

I do think that if a person can pause and look thoughtfully, even for a brief moment, he or she is practicing an act of care and quietly protesting dismissiveness. Looking and seeing can reveal all sorts of connections, reveal that relationship matters…I am ever hopeful we can build from there.

I personify a lot of things. I have felt compassion for a whisk alone in a drawer (oh my). I love to notice edges, angles, tilts, gestures, and the spaces between things. These relational elements take on an emotional quality for me. This shows up in my representational work, such as drawings I’ve made of highly rendered snips of thread, as well as in abstractions where ambiguous figures, shapes, or lines lean toward one another, away from one another, cluster, or stand alone.

I’m interested in gestures that might suggest tenderness, humor, gentleness, loneliness…arrangements that might have a wobble, or that aren’t quite right. My work ranges from meditative, delicate, and quiet to more tipsy and quirky. (I have always struggled to reconcile the two…do I need to? Could both be welcome?) I think this may be where intimacy and connection, even compassion comes in—like when we form deep relationships where we accept, even celebrate, contradictions and differences.

Meridith Ridl is an artist (with a BA from the College of Wooster and MFA from the University of Michigan) and an art teacher (at Holland Christian High School). She grew up between New Wilmington, Pennsylvania and Holland, Michigan. She now lives in Saugatuck. Her work is represented by LaFontsee Galleries: She can be contacted directly at

Abstract painting with flowing smooth shapes in seafoam green with gray pebbles.
Depths and Shallows by Meridith Ridl. Photo by Meridith Ridl.


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A redheaded young man holding a stick of Chorizo.
Mark Hanner with some spicy Chorizo. Photo by Mark Hanner.

Creamy Chorizo Pasta

By Mark Hanner
February 21, 2019


Box of small bite sized pasta (Rotini works well)
1 pound of Chorizo
1 can diced tomatoes
1 bag of spinach
1/2 cup heavy cream
Parmesan cheese
Cilantro for garnish


Prepare pasta. Salt your water! I cook for two, so you can use half a box as well. (It also makes the meat/veggie mixture thicker!) If you need this recipe to stretch for more servings, please use the whole box. Prepare al dente according to the instructions on the box. RESERVE 1/2 cup of pasta water (trust! This helps!).

Brown 1 pound of chorizo and drain on paper towels. In same pan add can of diced tomatoes and cook down a spell. Add reserved pasta water. Salt and pepper. Add bag of spinach and let wilt. Add 1/2 cup of heavy cream. Dump in a generous amount of parmesan cheese to taste. Combine with cooked pasta. Serve it UP!  Garnish with more cheese! Leftovers heat up like a dream.

This is kind of something that I play around with and you are able to add any vegetables that you may like (peas, zucchini, corn, it’s your world!).  ALSO, try other types of sausage, too. Hot spicy sausage is good in this, and who doesn’t like a good hot sausage? Chorizo tends to taste great with many types of cheeses, so please try any combo of cheese that you may like. Cheddar, Cotija (YUM!), Chihuahua or any white mild melty cheese would be awesome. YOU’RE awesome.

Mark Hanner is married and lives in Wisconsin with his husband.  Mark works in the Cheese Industry because you kind of HAVE to when you live in WI.

Have a recipe to share? Email us at and help your neighbor cook something different tonight!

Madam puppy dog astrologer, Sylvia. Photo by Michael Tuccini.
Madam Sylvia. Photo by Michael Tuccini.

Sylvia Reads The Stars

Week of February 21, 2019

Pisces Feb 18 – Mar 20

Pisces, Can you feel it? That’s the earth telling you it will thaw itself out. Soon.

Aries Mar 20 – Apr 20

Ram, remember what the (other) good book says: Good grief, Charlie Brown! And if you listen closely, you can hear that beagle laugh.

Taurus Apr 20 – May 21

Taurus, you’re my heirloom tomato.

Gemini May 21 – Jun 21

Gemini, what gives? Even if you can’t go anywhere this spring, spring for a staycation. Go to a restaurant you’ve always wanted to. Order dessert first.

Cancer Jun 21 – Jul 23

Cancer, stay awhile. Don’t move to the next thing so quickly.

Leo Jul 23 – Aug 23

Leo, Leo. Someone else may have won the prize, but you did the most good just by being in the running.

Virgo Aug 23 – Sep 23

Hello, Virgo! Are you organizing seeds for the windowsill and backyard? I love it so much, I’ll help dig!

Libra Sep 23 – Oct 23

Libra, when it next snows, catch a flake on your tongue. Then proclaim your love to the sky.

Scorpio Oct 23 – Nov 22

Did you hear about the ice volcanoes on Lake Michigan? What are you going to do to impress someone this week?

Sagittarius Nov 22 – Dec 23

Predicting good behavior has nothing to do with tea leaves. Do something obvious that needs doing. No one else will do it like you.

Capricorn Dec 23 – Jan 20

If you could write a song, what would it say when played backwards? Those are your words to live by this week.

Aquarius Jan 20 – Feb 18

The great 20th century philosopher Madonna said to get into the groove. How can you accomplish that this week, Aquarius?


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