When grief enters our world, many of us expect to cry and feel frustrated, but we aren’t as prepared for the intense fear and worry that can also be part of loss. Someone being 10 minutes late getting home sparks visions of a car crash or getting a call from the hospital. A random ache or feeling extra tired leaves us thinking we must be dying. Maybe sleep eludes us as we spin over how to do day to day life without our people. Sometimes the hardest part about anxiety is how it can catch us off-guard, either because we’ve never dealt with it before, or because the anxiety we already knew well has ratcheted up to untenable levels.
Claire Bidwell Smith, a licensed counselor, author, mother, and grieving daughter recently published her new book, Anxiety, the Missing Stage of Grief, that delves into all the ways anxiety can be part of grief. Before Claire was 25, both of her parents died of cancer. Her adolescence and young adulthood were deeply etched with their illnesses, treatment, and deaths. Out of this devastating grief grew her desire to help others facing similar situations.
Be sure to visit Claire's site to learn more about her work.
When someone dies, many of the people left behind seek out formal sources of help like a therapist or traditional support group. What happens though when those avenues don’t feel like the right fit? This is what Carla Fernandez and Lennon Flowers, co-founders of The Dinner Party, ran into after they both lost a parent to cancer in their early twenties. Since their first gathering in 2010, The Dinner Party has grown to over 275 hosts in 100 cities. It is a community made up of those ages 21-40 who are seeking connection, friendship, and meaningful conversations about grief and how it affects our lives.
Check out The Dinner Party to find a table near you or start one in your community.
The list of things that are hard to do when you’re grieving is long - eating, sleeping, focusing, surface-level chit-chat, remembering where you left your phone, planning for the future, or forgiving yourself for the past. Throw work or school into that mix and it gets really tough to feel like you can show up and function at the same level you're used to. When Alica Forneret went back to work after her mother's sudden death, she found the opposite of what she needed in terms of support. That experience inspired her to explore ways companies and organizations can better support their grieving employees as well as small things each of us can do to attend to our grief in the workplace.
Alica Forneret writes for a number of publications and websites, including, SAD Magazine, Modern Loss, and Vancouver Magazine. She also created the Dead Moms Club lapel pins as a way to express grief more publicly and connect with others who are grieving their mothers. Check out Alica's website with articles, resources, and even recipes for supporting yourself and others who are grieving in the workplace and beyond.
In grief, having the opportunity to tell your story can be vital. Grieving children and adults want the chance to talk about the people they are grieving and express how these losses have altered their lives. StoryCorps, a non-profit working to preserve and share the stories of people from all backgrounds, recently launched a new project in partnership with the New York Life Foundation called Road to Resilience, Memories That Move Us Forward. As part of this project, StoryCorps is partnering with children's bereavement programs across the US to offer grieving children and their adults the opportunity to record a conversation and tell their story. The Dougy Center is honored to be one of those partnership sites. Our guest, Modupeola Oyebolu, is a national facilitator with StoryCorps and she joins us to talk about what it's like to grieve both in the US and her home country of Nigeria, the power of storytelling, and resilience she's witnessed in recording conversations with grieving families.
Check out Olivia's featured Road to Resilience story.
What is it like to grieve for a father you know only from stories and photos? In August of 2018, Joy Wallace traveled to Tinian Island to see the place where her father, Kenneth, died when the plane he was flying as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Army Air Corp in World War II crashed. Joy's father died three months before she was born and she grew up with a longing to visit the place where he died. Her trip, which was filled with synchronicities, broke open the grief she'd been carrying for over seven decades.
Okay, so it’s not really a grief party, but it is Grief Out Loud’s 100th episode. When we started this show four years ago in January of 2015, we weren’t sure we’d do more than 10 episodes, never mind 100 and we have you, listeners and guests, to thank for helping us reach this milestone. In the past four years, we’ve had the honor of hosting 99 storytellers - people coming forward with the emotions and thoughts that may never have been spoken aloud before. For many of us, grief resides in the shadows. It’s tucked behind, kept quiet, and told how to behave. And by behave what most of us mean is please stop existing. Stop tugging on our hearts and taking up space in the vacancy left behind by the people who have died. But what we’ve learned is grief doesn’t take kindly to being told what to do and it really doesn’t love being told to shush. So that’s what we hoped to create with this show - a place where people can talk openly about the swirl of thoughts and feelings that come with grief. A place where those who are feeling lost can come for connection and flashlights of hope. A place to feel less alone and maybe a little less lonely.
As a way of thanking listeners and guests for making Grief Out Loud what it is, we wanted to turn the show over to you today. We asked you to tell us what the show has meant to you. Thank you to everyone who helped make this episode happen!
In 2000 Doreen Wiggins, MD began having vivid dreams that her husband was going to die. These dreams, combined with a session with an intuitive healer who confirmed her fears, prompted Doreen, who was already an accomplished surgeon, to seek out training in supporting grieving children. Then in 2009, while skiing in Colorado, her husband died suddenly due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Doreen’s fears had become a reality. Devastated and still needing to parent their 5 children, she first turned to therapy and then yoga, finding a lifeline in what would become a daily practice. This overlap of her medical training and the benefits of yoga sparked her interest in researching how grief affects us physiologically, emotionally, and spiritually.
If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, please reach out for help.
24/7 Crisis Text Line: Text Hello to 741741
24/7 Crisis Phone Line: 1-800-273-8255 (TALK)
Nothing says end of the year holiday stress like grief. Dougy Center staff member Rebecca Hobbs-Lawrence is back with more great tips on planning for and making your way through the holidays when you and your family are in the midst of grief. We also share some new activities to try that can be done solo or as a family.
Listen to Ep. 27: Grief And The Holidays
For Camila, death came barreling into her world with zero warning. When she was 21 her world shifted on its axis on an average morning in September. She woke up in the house she shared with her mother in the Bay Area expecting just another day. Then, she went to check on her mother, only to find that she had died in her sleep. There were no warning signs. No indicators that anything was amiss. Her mom was there and then she wasn’t. In the 9 years since that morning, Camila has grieved intensely and intently. She’s searched for connections with her mother, finding an outlet for expression in writing.
Check out Camila's recently published book of poetry: The Progression of Grief.
Full text of the poem Camila reads at the end of the episode:
November is National Children's Grief Awareness Month and as part of the effort to raise awareness about children's grief, the National Alliance for Grieving Children (NAGC) invited people to write a letter to their younger grieving selves. In this mini-episode, we share two of those letters. One by Brennan Wood, the Executive Director of The Dougy Center, to her 12-year-old self. The second letter is a compilation of suggestions and advice for the staff at The Dougy Center. To learn more about the NAGC and their work to support grieving children, visit their site.
On a random Monday morning in the Bay Area of California, Beth Duckles realized too late that she was in the wrong lane of the highway. A lane that would take her across the Bay Bridge from Oakland to San Francisco. This unexpected trip across the bay bridge would alter Beth’s life. Swerving to avoid a parked car, she watched a man walk to the edge of the bridge, climb onto the railing, and step off. She called 911 and somehow managed to drive across the bridge until she found a safe place to stop on the other side. In ways she couldn’t imagine at the time, witnessing this man’s death would become an experience that deeply connected her to long-standing family grief and her own mother’s sudden death four years later.
Check out Beth's powerful essay about this experience.
When someone dies, we often discover things about them we didn’t know before. Those discoveries can range from mundane preferences like realizing your dad didn’t love chocolate to huge revelations that alter your entire perspective on the person and the life you shared with them. What author Jan Canty discovered about her husband after he was murdered changed everything and left her shocked and angry. Now, 30 years after her husband’s death, Jan is working on a book entitled Till Death We Did Part: A Memoir of Deception/Murder and Recovery.
Ways to connect with Jan and find out more about her upcoming book:
What does transformation mean and how does it connect (or not) to grief? How can people make their way into everything that comes with this kind of loss and still keep track of themselves?
Phelica Glass is a Licensed Specialist Clinical Social Worker in Topeka, Kansas. In her private psychotherapy practice, Phelica works with children, teens, adults, and families who are facing major life transitions, including grief.
In this episode, we talk about :
As much as schools are places of learning, students don’t leave their lives at the door when they enter the building. They bring their whole selves to the classroom, and for many, that includes grief. We talk with school social worker, Kate Sherwood, LCSW, about how to support students and the entire school community when grief shows up. Kate shares ideas for acknowledging grief, notifying the school community when a death occurs, and the power of bringing students together in their grief.
For more information about Judi's House/JAG Institute's Childhood Bereavement Estimation Model (CBEM), check out their site.
In 1955 Jack was ten and living with his mother, who was raising him alone. She and Jack’s father adopted him when he was a tiny infant, which meant she was the only mother he knew. Jack’s mother and father got divorced when he was really young, so for the most part, she was also his only parent. One night, Jack’s mother died suddenly and unexpectedly of a heart attack, leaving him not only in deep grief but unsure of where he would end up and who he would live with.
Halfway through her junior year of high school, Lily's father died suddenly of a heart attack. In shock and angry about everything that would be different in her life without her father, Lily was devastated. As she made her way into this new landscape of grief, Lily sought to fulfill her father’s wish that she do what he didn’t have the opportunity to do - graduate high school, attend college, and grow into the powerful whirlwind of a woman he raised her to be. Lily shares tangible suggestions for teachers, counselors, family, and friends on how to show up and support a teen in grief.
Be sure to watch Lily's powerful documentary about her father.
Ryan's favorite person in the world is his older sister. Seven years ago he got one of those phone calls - the kind that changes your life forever. In that call, he found out his sister was dealing with an aggressive form of Multiple Sclerosis. Since then, he's learned a lot about how to be a support for his sister while also taking care of his own emotional, mental, and physical health. Ryan shares suggestions for what to ask (and not ask) when someone's family member is dealing with an illness and also what he's discovered about caring for someone while honoring their agency and independence.
Jana's dad's dad, Antonio DeCristofaro, died in 1963. She talks with her dad, Tony, about how his dad's death when he was 14 drastically changed the course of his life.
This is the third in our series looking at how the approach to supporting grieving children has or hasn’t changed over time. We’ll be talking to people who had parents die in different decades, starting in the 1940’s. We’re hoping to discover how parents, kids, and other adults such as teachers and coaches reacted to children after a death.
For more information on supporting grieving teens, check out our Tip Sheet.
This episode is part of a series looking at how the approach to supporting grieving children has or hasn’t changed over time. We’ll be talking to people who had parents die in different decades, starting in the 1940’s. We’re hoping to discover how parents, kids, and other adults such as teachers and coaches reacted to children after a death.
Cathy was just 5 and a half when her mother died of suicide. While she knew her mother died, Cathy didn't fully understand what happened because the death wasn’t clearly explained to her. As a teenager and into her early twenties, Cathy filled in the gaps of the story with new information. Information and that enabled her to make more sense of her mother's death and how the grief continues to be part of her life, 40 years later.
This is the first in a series on how the approach to supporting grieving children has or hasn’t changed over time. We’ll be talking to people who had parents die in different decades, starting in the 1940’s. We’re hoping to discover how parents, kids, and other adults such as teachers and coaches reacted to children after a death. Did they talk about it? Avoid them? Act like nothing had happened? We know that even today, in 2018, children are often shielded from the truth of someone dying and as a result, left out of the collective grieving process. Sometimes this happens because people think children are too young to understand and a lot of the time it’s because it’s really painful for parents and caregivers to be present with children’s grief.
Today’s guest is Dean Conklin. Dean is one of two volunteers at our program for grieving children and families that started over 30 years ago. That translates into thousands of hours spent listening to and playing with children and teens facing the heartbreak of a parent or sibling’s death.
Dean came to this work like many volunteers, with his own story of loss. In 1945, when Dean was just 8 years old, his father died in a work accident.
Is it grief or typical child or teen behavior? Most parents and caregivers will have this questions at some point in their grieving child's life. Dr. Kitty Huffstutter, LCSW joins us to talk about ways parents and caregivers can best support their child's grief while also setting limits and responding to big behaviors. We explore the idea of a recovery environment, finding the right time and place to problem-solve, and the importance of identifying natural and formal supports for both caregivers and children. Parenting and grief can be extremely hard work and if you're seeking more support in the form of therapy or counseling, please reach out for resources. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact your county's mental health program. If you or your child is experiencing a mental health crisis, please call 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or text HOME to 741741.
To learn more about Dr. Daniel Siegel's work, check out his website.
When we are grieving there can be emotional hot spot days throughout the year. Some of these might be known quantities like a birthday or the anniversary of the death or diagnosis. Others are unexpected - random moments and days that catch you off guard and bring the grief into stark relief. How we approach these significant days can be as unique as we are. In this episode, we hear from a variety of people about how they navigate these days. It's not a recipe for how to do it the right way, because there is no right way, but just a variety of ideas and perspectives. Thank you to everyone who contributed to this episode!
Five years ago Sarah was 23, doing what a lot of 23-year-olds do - working, hanging out with friends, starting life as a "real" adult, and living at home with her mom and dad. Then on a totally average day in May, Sarah walked into the house to find that her mom had an aortic aneurysm. The paramedics came and she was rushed to the hospital where she died later that night.
How do you go from being in one world - the world where your person is alive and washing dishes and folding laundry and calling your name down the hall - to another where this person no longer exists in their physical form? How do your brain and body and spirit even begin to make sense of that?
Sarah talks about the extremely close relationship she had with her mother and how she worked to bridge this before and after world of grief.