It was August 2018 when 47-year-old Wayne Reid died suddenly and unexpectedly of a heart attack.
He left behind his beloved wife Natalie and their three young boys – Joshua, Austin, and Brody.
The Reids were a God-centered family filled with love but, after Wayne’s death, Natalie joined the approximately 700,000 women who become new widows each year. Her three sons joined the nearly 1.5-million kids who live in a single-parent homes due to death.
Fortunately, the fog of grief slowly cleared from Natalie’s brain with the support of her faith, friends, and family. Her heart remained painfully bruised but she found the strength to decide she would not spend the remainder of her life (and her boys’ lives) as a sad widow.
“I had a close friend living in New York,” Natalie explained. “Christmas was approaching, and I knew we couldn’t stay in the house through the holidays without Wayne. She invited us to visit her, and she would be our personal tour guide. Accepting her invitation was one of the best decisions I ever made.”
The time away made it clear to Natalie that she wasn’t the only widow/mother (or widower/father) trying to find her way through the confusing maze of often scary changes. She decided one of her new roles was to extend a light to others in her position. She would do for them what her friend did for her – provide an exit from their grief. She named her dream Broken Halos Haven.
“One of the hardest things to learn is to not feel guilty when you have flashes of fun and hope again,” Natalie said. “I envisioned young widows traveling to Broken Halos Haven, learning they can travel with their children and be independent. They learn it’s okay to have fun, and that it’s the only way they can move forward for themselves and their kids. There’s a feeling you should always be sad, but that is not what the person who loved us wants.”
Natalie later met Kjell Knutsen, who shared her values of God and family. They had fun together, fell in love, and married. Wayne would always be held in reverence, but it was also time to move forward.
Natalie shared her dream of Broken Halos Haven with Kjell. He agreed. They searched for a home for the dream, eventually standing in front of an abandoned, 100-year-old, boarded-up farmhouse in Lewisville’s Historic District.
Natalie, Kjell, the boys, and scores of friends and volunteers they’d never met learned of the project and donated time and effort. They gutted the house and put it back together, salvaging much of the old wood and reusing it.
“It took a year,” Natalie said. “We have three bedrooms and three baths. We added 400 sq. ft. for a bunk room, a kids’ attic hideout, and a covered porch. Everything is fresh, new, clean, cozy, and inviting but we also kept some of the old elements. We also planted a tree as a memorial to Wayne.”
Widows/widowers can register on the website for Broken Halos. Once approved, she/he creates a Grief Getaway Gift Registry and lists what she/he (and the kids) would like to do – sporting events, restaurants, museums, etc. A link is generated and shared with a family member/friend who can distribute the list for contributions.
“Broken Halos opened on August 14, 2021, and our first guest arrived the following week. Ironically, she was from New York, where my dream was born,” Natalie said.
Man Camp, for boys four to 18 with deceased fathers, is an addition to Broken Halos. Each month, they meet with “mentor dads” to learn the simple things dads teach – how to start a lawn mower, how to have a firm look-you-in-the-eye handshake, manners toward women, and more.
Shift, a faith-based grief support program for kids, begins in January 2023.
“We bought another dilapidated house near Broken Halos and, eventually, it will be the place for Man Camp, Shift, and a secondary grief retreat,” Natalie explained. “Those programs are at Broken Halos currently, while we gather funding to renovate the second house.
“Kjell was in the restaurant business for years, and I was a public speaking trainer. COVID interrupted so, now, we’re committed to Broken Halos.
“We both want people to know there is always hope, regardless of how dark things may look. I’m proof! This isn’t my story. It’s God’s story. He just chose us to tell it.”