In America, there are approximately 700,000 new widows each year. And nearly 1.5 million children live in a single-parent home due to the death of a parent. Local resident Natalie Reid and her three sons—Joshua, Austin, and Brody—became part of that statistic in August 2018 when their father, Wayne, unexpectedly died of a heart attack at the age of 47.

Natalie and her boys navigated through the unplanned “new norm” in the weeks and months following Wayne’s death.

“But as our first Christmas quickly approached, I knew it would be too difficult to be home,” Natalie said. She had a friend who invited her and the boys to come stay in her three-bedroom apartment in New York for Christmas. All they had to do was show up, and they would have their own personal New York City tour guide. Seeing that they needed a distraction, Natalie packed up the family and headed to The City That Never Sleeps.

“That led to an amazing week of distraction from our grief and the making of new memories,” Natalie reminisced.

This trip was the seed in which the idea for “Broken Halos Haven” emerged.

In the heart of Old Town Lewisville lies a 100-year-old, three-bedroom, two-bathroom farmhouse that is being refurbished and rebuilt to become a non-profit grief retreat getaway. Natalie and her new husband, Kjell, purchased the home in June of 2020. Once complete, this home will serve three main goals: to allow grieving families a stress-free getaway at no cost, empower and build the confidence of widows who are now parenting alone, and lastly, helping widows realize it is okay to have fun and find joy again.

“It will be a place where widows, widowers, and their children can stay at no charge to get away from their new norm and be distracted by all that there is to do in Dallas-Fort Worth. We even provide admission tickets to baseball games, amusement parks, museums, and more,” Natalie said.

Natalie and Kjell have spent week after week working with contractors, volunteers, community supporters, and sponsors to transform this home into the vision that they have. They have added an additional 400-square feet to the home for a bunk room, kids’ attic hideout, and a covered back porch.

“Kjell and I have both been through home renovations in the past — but never a project this big. It’s basically a new build, with an attempt to save and refurbish some of the 100-year-old elements of the house,” she said.

Shortly after purchasing the home, they discovered a gold mine of shiplap and beadboard that they were able to bring back to life along with the new elements they have incorporated.

Broken Halos Haven will be open and accessible to anyone in the country. When it is not being used by grieving families, it will be available as a short-term rental on Airbnb. The rental income will help offset their operational costs.

Broken Halos Haven works in three easy steps. Widows can view all available dates and register directly on the website. Upon approval of her registration, she can create a Grief Getaway Gift Registry based on what she and her family need and desire for their time at Broken Halos Haven. For example, she can register for tickets to sporting events, gift cards to several restaurants around the area, or admission tickets to a museum—whatever she feels like the family needs during their time of distraction and healing. Lastly, once the registry is complete, a URL will be generated so she can share with a close friend or family member who will then serve as her coordinator and distribute the link to those wishing to contribute to gift items on her wish list.

Natalie and Kjell are hoping to have the house completed and ready for guests by the end of June. Until then, the project is ongoing, and they welcome volunteers, individuals, or groups. Additional information and the opportunity to donate is available on their website at BrokenHalosHaven.org.

photos courtesy of Bruce Latimer.

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