Local business uses own loss to help others through difficult time

FLINT (WJRT) (8/23/2019) - Death touches everyone at some point in life.

While it can be devastating, one Genesee County woman is working through her own loss by helping others.

The devastation of death can be overwhelming and many feel alone while grieving. Michelle Daniels is hoping she can change that.

"I remember when he passed away we we received so many flowers and it was just so overwhelming," said Daniels.

She never thought that she would be sitting in the front row at a funeral, receiving gift after gift and flower after flower. But in 2014, that was her reality.

"One gal said until you're at the front row of the funeral and receiving the casserole dishes you don't know," she said. "You don't know until you're there."

The pain of losing her husband Jim to cancer was almost too much to bear. But for the mother of three, it was the flowers that left a dark reminder in their home for days after the family put their loved one to rest.

Daniels said the flowers smelled of a distinct "funeral scent" for her children.

"They were crying the next day saying, 'Mom, please take the flowers out of the house. The scent is nauseating.' And that made me sad because some of the flowers were so special to me," she said. "But I looked at my mom and just said, 'I think we need to get rid of them.'"

Through her loss, Michelle had family and friends with her every step of the way. The support continued through the fight against cancer, as she transitioned from a dental hygienist to a career that let her stay home and care for her husband.

"I'm a dental hygienist by trade and always worked part time to help raise my family. In, 2012 I decided I didn't want to do that full time, so I talked to my husband and we got a license and built a business," she said.

That business being Homemade Chocolate by Michelle at 1479 W. Bristol Road in Flint.

"I wanted to do something I was passionate about and chocolate makes people happy, So that's where we started," Daniels said.

Five years later, she is still making chocolate with her friends, but it's turned into much more than just a small business.

"We make seven different chocolates a day. We never have to throw chocolates out. They sell before we have to," said Daniels.

But she still wanted to more to honor Jim.

"I wanted to do something in my business to keep Jim's memory alive," Daniels said. "I wanted to keep it alive for me and my children. You just never want those that are gone to be forgotten."

She and her friends designed a tray of chocolates specifically for those going through loss.

"One day we pulled out the Calla Lily, which is our best seller, and we just started placing it on the tray and boom we had a bereavement tray," Daniels said.

A tray not just for her or Jim, but for anyone experiencing the devastation of loss.

"People really attached. They could relate. The ones who had lost got it. Until you go through what I went through you don't get it," Daniels said.

Through the trays and delivering to countless funeral homes, she has also found peace and understanding.

"A couple months ago, I had a tray that needed to be delivered. I went to the door and met the person who had just lost their spouse. He hugged me with a big bear hug. It just hit my heart," Daniels said. "I turned to walk away and my husband was sitting on my shoulder."

While she knows he's been with her all along, she said this was the moment she knew she was right where she needed to be.

"That moment gave me so much clarity," Daniels said. "He just said do what you're doing. Honey, you're good. I think he's proud of me and I really wanted him to be proud."

While Jim can't be here to see all she's accomplished now, she said together they are still touching lives and leading others through loss.

"It's just really important that I have that gift I can give," she said.

A small gift and a reminder than just like Daniels, you can make it through too.

"Life goes on. I didn't know that. I will make the best of my next 15 years or whatever in business and hope that I can continue to make people happy," she said. "I'll just take it one day at a time and keep going."