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A year after husband Stephen 'tWitch' Boss's death, Allison Holker Boss talks about grief and her inspiring new book for kids

Dancer and TV personality Allison Holker Boss. (Photo illustration: Yahoo News, photo: Getty Images)
Dancer and TV personality Allison Holker Boss. (Photo illustration: Yahoo News, photo: Getty Images)

Welcome to So Mini Ways, Yahoo Life's parenting series on the joys and challenges of child-rearing. Read past interviews with celebrity parents here.

From joyful times to heartbreaking moments and everything in-between, dancer and choreographer Allison Holker Boss has always taken pride in sharing her family’s journey with the world through social media and TV over the years. That’s why it was a no-brainer for the mom of three — to Weslie Renae, 15, Maddox Laurel, 7, and Zaia, 4 — to “put it on paper” in the new children’s book Keep Dancing Through: A Boss Family Groove, co-written with late husband Stephen "tWitch" Boss before his tragic death by suicide in December 2022.

“What's really special about it is you're really following a day of our lives, and it's a chance to be able to see how our family has always processed the good, the bad and the ugly sometimes,” Boss tells Yahoo Life of the book, which centers on "the power of dance."

The book also highlights how important it is for her kids to not only use positive affirmations to get through life’s challenges but to lean on one another. “I've been teaching all my children, since they were really, really little, how to use the power of affirmations to encourage themselves to get them through hard times or difficult times,” she says. “But then also to not rely on me as their parent or my husband, Stephen — to [also] really trust in each other, to lean on each other. So that's really what the book is encouraging.”

For years, she adds, Boss and the kids have started their days by saying, “I'm strong, I'm smart, I'm beautiful and I’m kind.” The So You Think You Can Dance judge says, "Every year, I add new [affirmations] for them to learn."

For example, last year, Boss would say, “We do …” and the kids would finish the sentence with “the hard things.” They’d also say, “Our words become our reality.” That one is tied to the idea that “you have to advocate for yourself,” she explains. “You have to talk kindly to yourself. You talk to yourself more than anybody else is going to talk to you. And you have to believe in yourself and encourage yourself and learn that those things are really important.”

Tools like these have been especially useful as Boss and her kids have processed Stephen’s death and worked through their grief. “We just experienced something so big, and I think that they have become such strong individuals through something that I really wouldn’t wish upon a lot of people, but it did happen to us, and we must own that,” she says. “And my kids have handled themselves with such grace and positivity and kindness. They really are huge advocates for helping other people. They just do it with such ease. And I'm so proud of them.”

She’s also impressed with how her kids have embraced a variety of coping mechanisms to work through big feelings. “I really believe communication is key, and I feel like sometimes words are necessary,” Boss says. “We have to talk things out, but there are also other times where words are not the way. And I truly believe sometimes you either need a hug, a little cuddle session on the couch during a movie night and/or a good dance.”

To that end, she’ll often ask herself if a particular emotional situation is “worthy of a conversation” or if her kids just need “a laugh, a little bit of joy [or to] just kind of groove out for a little bit.” “Sometimes I'll just put on music, and it throws this energy of freedom into our home where everyone's dancing on tables or somersaulting on the couches, and we're just running around like crazy humans,” says Boss. “And it feels nice to let loose.”

When it comes to working through heavy emotions herself, the former Dancing With the Stars pro is grateful that she’s always “been a really strong cookie.” “My strength is my strength,” she says. “And I've only gotten stronger. Sometimes I'm sad that I have to lean into so much strength. But I'm really grateful I have it. And I'm really grateful I've got God on my side, picking me up and giving me these little angel wings that I have, helping support me and carrying me through this time.”

But in the midst of being such a rock for her family, she’s also working on tending to her own needs — something her friends have been encouraging her to do. “I had a friend say to me the other day, ‘When are you just gonna do something for you?’” she recalls. “I was like, ‘What do you mean by that?' I was like, ‘I cold plunge. I work out. I hang out with you guys.’ And she was like, ‘No, you're always taking care of everyone. You're always making sure the kids are taken care of. You're always making sure you're working on your wellness. But when are you just gonna go out and do something just for you? When are you going to go dancing again? Go to a concert?’ That's really when I was like, ‘Oh, you're right. I should have fun again.’”

After that conversation, which was a couple of months ago, Boss has taken her friend’s encouragement to heart and started hanging out with her social circle “in more of a lighthearted tone.” “It felt really nice to enjoy music and dance and laugh with my friends and be out and about a little bit more in life, and it really helped with my healing,” she says.

And when it comes to healing, Boss is planning to stick with what feels right to her. “Especially being a public figure, you're always going to have opinions of time frames and how it must be done and how it must be shown,” she says. “But at the end of the day, it's my experience, and I must be true to who I am, my time frame and what I feel.”