Ultimate Bittersweet

I have news to share that is the ultimate bitter and truest sweet. There’s no easy preface, other than dancing around it as I am right now, so I’m just going get right to it. We’re friends, we can do these things.

It’s time for me to step away from Whistling & Company.

Those are hard words to say. Phew. Let me explain.

View More: http://megankernsphotography.pass.us/whistlingandcostyledshoot

Megan Kerns Photography

A few weeks ago, I had to get my appendix out. My dad came into town to keep me company and make sure I was following my surgeon’s orders: No heaving lifting and no intense physical activity, blah, blah. Being a couch potato requires reinforcement.

Amid my lounging and between episodes of This Is Us and Netflix movies, my dad and I had conversations that I think were divinely orchestrated during our four days together. At one point, we both sat back and wondered what life might look like if my mom were still around. What race would she be training for? What vacations would we plan together? How would she be preparing for my brother’s college graduation this May? (Never mind, we know that one. She’d be super proud. And simultaneously freaking out: “How is my Adam old enough to be graduating!?”) What new song (or old song, for that matter) would she have on repeat in the car? What would we be doing with her? What new recipe would she insist I just HAD to try? What conversations would we be having?

In that conversation, I was struck by an idea. It’s highly likely I wouldn’t be talking or thinking or writing about suicide and depression daily as I do now since my mom passed away. I thought back to a few weeks ago. I was asked to speak at an event about my experience of loss. It’s such an honor to even be considered for opportunities like this. But my first thought was, “You know? I can talk about other things. I’m interested in other things, too.” That was my first hint that my heart was shifting.


My Grief, My Muse

My grief has been a muse of sorts. The whole whistling story has been a personification of grief.  As grief evolves and shifts, it’s natural for this project to follow.

This blog was born just months after my mom passed away, essentially documenting my grief journey since I was a young grasshopper griever. After nearly 18 months together, we’ve shared grief and loss together. But now there is a stirring in me that acknowledges I am more than the daughter of a mother who ended her life.

First, I am Emily. I love my family to the ends of the earth. I love the art of words and language. I sometimes like songs more than I like people. Honesty and authenticity are the first traits I seek in a friend. I like to travel but get antsy on planes. If I could eat pizza and ice cream for every meal, I’m not convinced I’d grow tired of it. I’m not Type-A. Like, at all. I’m a sister, daughter, friend, niece, cousin, granddaughter. I believe in a God that I often don’t understand but believe in, just the same. I am more than the last 18 months of my life.


In the same thread, my mom was so much more than her depression. My mom had a whole fifty-five years of life that hardly condemn her legacy to be solely suicide and depression. She was a sister, a daughter and a friend. She could listen in a way that made you know you were important to her. She had a huge heart.

My mom and I loved to sing in the car together. Madonna’s Borderline and Celine Dion’s Power of Love were some of our favorites. So was Three Dog Night’s version of Joy To The World. My mom would drive with her left hand on the steering wheel and with her right hand as our joint microphone. Jeremiah was a bull frog! dun dun dun! She had clinical depression her last year of life, yes, but throughout her life she was alive in ways I aspire toward. 

“Moving Forward”

I’m still so glad I left my job in January. I’ve loved focusing on Whistling & Company these last few months. I think this time has given me perspective and time to catch my breath and consider. While it’s so hard to turn down great opportunities that might lie ahead for Whistling & Company, I’m relieved that moving forward isn’t the scary next step that it has felt like. I’m eager to see what life is like further outside the veil of my mom’s passing. I know that moving forward is a way of honoring all of my mom and the life I have left on this earth.

Em and MOm

I’m a firm believer that some of our stories are meant to be only chapters, rather than comprise the whole book. It’s hard to let go of something that is extraordinary. While I wish it wasn’t so, I know in my gut that it’s time for this chapter to come to an end. This has been an exceptional chapter.

Ya’ll, I Love This Community

I love this community like a best friend on speed-dial. For this chapter, I’ll celebrate its existence and grieve its ending. This has allowed opportunities for me like I never could have imagined: Radio show interviews, speaking engagements at universities, even an invitation to THE White House. But more importantly, a community has come into existence that spans our nation, made up of people committed to a hopefulness that defies fear. A community that knows our most defiant act against the dark is to stare it down, call it by name, and act in hope anyway. This is such an inclusive, accepting group and I am grateful to be in your company.

View More: http://megankernsphotography.pass.us/whistlingandcostyledshoot

This chapter is ending but what we have created and learned and all we stand for are preserved forever. (Amen!) Just as the love of loved one does not suddenly disappear, this doesn’t change the whistle around your neck or the whistle on your key chain. We are still hopers, change-makers, and safe places for conversation. You all are what have made this happen. 

What’s next for me? You know, I’m not entirely sure. But even in that, I feel like I know myself, my interests, my limitations more than I’ve ever been aware. I feel hopeful. I’ve learned that if you want to start a movement or have a side-hustle, just do it! (As you all know, the majority of Whistling & Company happened while I had a full-time job.) I’ve loved meeting so many of you. I’ve loved the way existing friendships have grown. I’ve appreciated every conversation. I’ve learned the power of social media. I’ve been so grateful I was required to take that Public Speaking class in college. I’ve been shaped by new perspectives and ideas. I’ve learned that so many of us struggle and that there is absolutely no shame in admitting that. I’ve been reminded that I can muddle my way through finances and spreadsheets if I really love the mission that put me there in the first place. I’ve been humbled to know I still have plenty to learn. The next chapter might be a revamped blog and theme. It might be a return to a regular 9-5 job. It might be a move and a new city. Regardless, everything I’ve learned here, with you all, will be a guiding force.


You know? Maybe there is freedom in this for all of us. We are not solely our triumphs and tragedies. We are an evolving culmination of our experiences. We are allowed to grow and change. Thank goodness for that.

And, so, here we are. The last blog post for a while. What’s that? No, there’s just something in my eye. My eyes are just watering, funny how they do that. No biggie. Happens all the time these days.  No, I’m not listening to this song. Or this one.

It has been a pleasure and honor, my friends. Whistling with you all ❤

P.S. Logistics: The Etsy shop will remain open through April 15 for any last-minute orders. The Facebook group, Instagram, and blog will stay up. I’ll post any updates there (new job, new city, new blog, any or none of the above!). Feel free to reach out if you have any questions (or know anyone hiring!). 🙂





18 Replies to “Ultimate Bittersweet”

  1. God bless you, Emily. I’m glad you are listening to yourself and trusting what you need in the moment. This cause will always be near and dear to you but it is wise to recognize that there are other interests which are near and dear to you also. There is a wonderful future ahead for you. As a mom, I can tell you that your mom can’t wait for you to go after it. Take care of yourself and good luck!!


  2. Emily,
    Moving forward is such a positive step, but one that can only be made with God’s hand guiding and keeping you. The one thing that I know is His Love for us will always be there no matter what mistakes or missteps we make. He allows us to make our own choices. whistlingandco.com has inspired many and will continue to do so. I look forward to seeing your next chapter. We Love You, Uncle Paul & Aunt Marilynn


  3. Emily,
    I have to say that I am blown away by your writing. It flows like poetry and is insightful like philosophy. I have dealt with smaller losses in my life, but how you have been able to approach the loss of your mother has me in awe. You are something special. Thank you.


  4. Wow, Emily. Do give me assistance in ordering and paying for a whistle, before they are…gone. I am touched by your writing…


  5. Emily,
    Your writing is inspiring. You have roads yet to travel and roads I’m sure you never thought you would have to travel. Please keep your blog going if you can so we can keep up with you. I always think of Mary when I see the whistle on my keychain. I always smile. I can still hear her screaming from the soccer field sidelines. I even have it on a video of one of the games! Gary and I just laugh when we hear it. Keep bringing people smiles, and tears and peace. You will see your mother again and there will be no more tears, or mourning or death. Just life and life in abundance. Love you sweet girl!


    1. Thanks so much, Mrs. Nifong. I’m sure the blog will stay alive in one way or another. I’ll be sure to keep everyone posted as things evolve. I love that memory of my mom from our soccer games! Makes me smile. Hope you all are doing well!! Love you guys! Em


  6. Hi Emily, it seems we’re the same age and lost our mothers the same way, the same month. I have another friend too– same thing. We met totally by coincidence two weeks after it happened. I’d love to be in touch and be one of those people to “compare notes” with. It truly is a loss unlike any other and impossible for others to understand. Find me on facebook. Valerie Lia. Much love to you
    (If you can’t find me– I’m not sure what my privacy settings are– let me know and I’ll request you or something)


    1. Hey Valerie —

      Thanks so much for your note and thanks for reaching out. I’d love to connect! I couldn’t find you on FB so maybe trying finding me at the Whistling & Company FB page. Thanks!


  7. Emily, I knew your Mom in high school. I LOVE this website, have followed you for a year…this post blesses my heart because to every soul grief has it’s own path, and I don’t even know the right word to use here, the course if our path to healing, being able to place the loss in a safe place within our soul so that it allows us to move on with life is a good thing…although an inconceivable thought when we first are place on this path. You still have a voice that God will use for those who have lost loved ones in this way…you have gained a new kind of compassion, no other moment in your life would have wrought…and even though this season is passing…there will always thread throughout your life a voice that will speak into the lives of others. You will be used of God *to comfort those, with which He has comforted you*. I pray peace, comfort, joy, and love fill your life as you live life for all its worth. And if I may be so bold..I’m sending you my Mama Love DearHeart.


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