Occupation: Principal of Curriculum and Instruction for Springport Middle and High Schools Residence: Albion Family: Sons Luke, 12; Stone, 4; Daughters Jana, 10; Hope, 6 Hobbies: Single mom to four — no time! Tanya Overweg’s husband was only 40 years old when he was diagnosed with a rare heart disease. After struggling with the illness only a few weeks, he passed away in 2009. Overweg and her four children have relied on Ele’s Place in Lansing to help them through their grieving processes, and show them hope for the future. Q: What kind of help did you receive at Ele’s Place? A: Support systems. People who understand what you are talking about, not just people who can imagine it. They have similar stories, challenges. Early on, I listened so closely to anticipate what was going to come next. Later on, I was the one people were listening to because I was further down the path. Q: How has Ele’s Place impacted how your children look at their father’s death? A: They feel the same comfort and security from being around people who are in a similar situation. We talk about him all the time … We talk to him in our prayers, we remember his funny stories and the things he did. We also know that life is not forever. Q: How has your husband’s death impacted how you look at life today? A: Well, I don’t complain about putting the toothpaste cap on anymore. I think I am a more loving and giving person. Do it today because you might not have tomorrow …. I am still very structured, but I want to enjoy life. Sometimes (it’s) busy with entertainment, sometimes it is floating in the middle of the lake on the boat … Don’t sweat the small stuff. Life is too short. I smile more. Q: What advice would you give to someone going through what you and your family have gone through? A: Find support. Group or individual or a trusted friend even. I don’t think I could have held myself up, held my kids together without a lot of support from counselors, friends, our school and community.
Ellen Dowling is a student at Lansing Community College. She plans to transfer to a university where she intends on studying journalism. She loves photography, poetry, art and exploring the city she loves with her dog by her side.