Kelly Wilson knows what happens when you take grief, put it in a box, tie it up with string, and put it on a shelf — the pain only gets worse.

by: PHOTO BY ELLEN SPITALERI - Gladstone author Kelly Wilson holds all three of her books, including her newest, 'Caskets From Costco.'So once the Gladstone resident began going to a counselor to deal with the death of her dear father-in-law, she began digging in that box and realized she had to approach grief in a circular way.

Now Wilson has published a book, “Caskets From Costco,” that she calls “a funny book about grief that demonstrates the certainty of hope and healing in an uncertain and painful world.”

As for the title, she was joking with her writing group about how Costco sells caskets, although only online and not in the stores, and one of the members of the group suggested the title.

She came to the realization that she could make this memoir funny, while at the same time sharing her method of dealing with the grieving process. And yes, she did get permission from Costco to use the title, and is exploring the possibility of selling the book in local Costco stores.

Stages of grief

Wilson jumps right in and tackles the stages of grief in the book’s first chapter, titled “Grief Journey: GPS Not Required.”

“When I was in college, I learned that there were five stages in order to appropriately process grief. They are locked in my memory as the acronym DABDA, which stands for Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance, terms coined by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross,” Wilson wrote.

“I bought into this concept with my whole being, interpreting the process as set-in-stone directions for grieving — a Grief Positioning System, if you will. I was going to navigate quickly and efficiently through my past trauma, happily leaving it behind me. There was nothing I wanted to do more than ‘get over it,’ whatever it happened to be,” she said.

So Wilson wrote out a list of difficult experiences from which she wanted to be free, “greatly anticipating the person I would become once my checklist of grief was completed. That was over 20 years ago. Currently, none of the items are crossed off.”

She added, “I had missed a fundamental principle: While there may be a Grief Positioning System with directions for navigation, there are often several ways to get from point A to point B.”

“Caskets from Costco” is her “messy, circular, spiraling-up-and-down grief journey navigated with large doses of humor. And without a map.”

Death of a loved one

Part of Wilson’s grieving process began in 2006 when her father-in-law died. They had enjoyed a close and meaningful relationship, she said.

But even before that, both of Wilson’s children, now 8 and 11 years old, nearly died at birth.

“It was a life-changing trauma, and the only way to process it was to write it down,” she said.

The target audience for “Caskets from Costco” is anyone who has gone through grief or a traumatic experience and doesn’t know how to cope.

“They need someone to laugh with them, and not look at them with pity. Death and grief are not funny, but there are some darkly funny things that happen when you go through those processes,” Wilson said.

“The more you keep things inside, keep them secret, feel shame, it feeds on itself. But if you bring light into the darkness, it brings healing and freedom.”

‘The New Beginning’

Wilson said she has always been a writer, and has published two earlier books, “Live Cheap and Free” and “Don’t Punch People in the Junk.”

She taught elementary school in the North Clackamas School District for 10 years, and her husband, Jeff Wilson, is the band director at Rex Putnam High School and Alder Creek Middle School.

She currently is a freelance writer for an educational website, but is looking at branching out and doing comedy.

“I started wondering if I was funny, and I decided to find out,” Wilson said, noting that she has taken stand-up comedy classes and done some performing.

In fact, she will appear at MamaCon, a conference for mothers, in Seattle on May 17, where she will do some stand-up and read from her books.

The final section of “Caskets From Costco” is titled “The New Beginning,” so it is not surprising that Wilson is thinking about new beginnings for herself — she might go back to school to pursue writing, or she might look into putting together another book.

“I feel the winds of change, and I am waiting for them to blow me in a direction,” Wilson said.

“Caskets From Costco” was released on March 1 and is available as an ebook from Barnes & Noble and Amazon. For more information, visit

She is available to speak at book clubs and church groups. Contact her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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