Interacting with others while grieving can be wildly confusing and tricky. You’ve probably been there. You run into someone you haven’t seen in a long time, likely in a public spot, and this someone doesn’t know the person in your life died. Maybe they ask an innocuous, “How are you?” or more specifically, “How's your mom, dad, husband, wife, partner, sibling, or friend… doing?” On the spot, you’re charged with either telling this person that your person died or faking a sudden and urgent task - maybe yelling out a “Hi! Sorry, I forgot I left my keys in the car. Bye!” In this episode, we talk with Caitlin Sweeney about these potentially awkward social interactions in the midst of grief. Caitlin’s mom died of a pulmonary embolism in November of 2015. Caitlin is the youngest of two and until recently, lived in the same town as her older sister and father.
Just a note of acknowledgment that this episode is not meant to shame anyone who’s found themselves voicing platitudes in the face of grief. Platitudes are what we’ve been socialized to say and in a moment when we don’t know what else to say, they tend to jump out of our mouths.
John Mayer first encountered grief when his older brother Stephen suddenly died at age 29 in 2007. Nine years later, John's second daughter, River, died 90 minutes after her birth. John talks about how he keeps Stephen and River present in his daily life and the ways he and his family reached out to their community for support. John also describes how his older daughter, who was 2 when River died, is making sense of her sister's death.
Our guest is Darwyn Dave, creator and host of the Dealing With My Grief podcast. In 1978, when Darwyn was ten years old, his father was killed. 38 years later, in January of 2016, Darwyn turned to podcasting as a way to explore grief and how it continues to shape the adult he is today. With his unique mix of candor and insight, Darwyn illuminates the interior world of what it was like to be 10 and suddenly without his father.
Heather Stang, thanatologist, mindfulness speaker, and author of Mindfulness & Grief: With Guided Meditations To Calm Your Mind & Restore Your Spirit, joins us in this episode to talk about cultivating self-compassion as a powerful avenue for self-care while grieving. She shares an accessible technique that you can use anywhere to get connected to your emotional and physical needs and bring ease and understanding to the some of the most painful aspects of grief.
What do you tell children when someone in their life is diagnosed with an advanced serious illness? How do you support them and everyone else who is affected by this devastating turn of events? Mia Nyschens joins us to talk about her work with families who are faced with the knowledge that someone they love is going to die. Mia is part of The Dougy Center's Pathways Program, which provides peer support groups for children, teens, and their adult family members when someone has a life-limiting illness.
To learn more about Pathways, visit our website.
What happens when the term widow or widower doesn’t fit because you weren’t officially married to the person who died? This is often the case for young adults who lose their partners - especially in their twenties and thirties. They find themselves grieving their person, the one they were building a life with, and also dealing with the ramifications of not being an official family member in the eyes of the law. In this episode, we talk with Lynsey, about the power of words and the ways she judged her own grief after her partner Jared died in 2009.
Megan Devine joins us again, this time talking about another shadow aspect of grief - anger. Anger shows up in many ways, including being angry at the person who died, at ourselves, and at someone or something we hold responsible for the death. Megan shares her personal and professional insight on the importance of acknowledging this anger and finding ways to navigate what can often be a very uncomfortable emotion. Megan is a teacher, speaker, psychotherapist, and also the author of the book, It’s OK That You’re Not OK: Meeting Grief and Loss in a Culture That Doesn’t Understand, coming from Sounds True in September 2017. It's available for pre-order on amazon and you can order it here. To learn more about Megan's practical, no-nonsense approach to grief, and her ability to guide people inside some of the most devastating experiences of life and love, check out her website. Want to listen to our first conversation with Megan about dating after the death of a partner? You can find it here.
While we usually focus on the death of a parent or sibling, this episode explores what it's like for teens when a best friend dies. The best friend connection is unique, particularly in adolescence. It's the person a teen feels closest to in the world, the person who knows everything about them, even parts that are hard to show other people. Today's guest, Debbie, was 15 when her best friend died the summer before they were to start high school.
Jodie Brauer, founder of the annual Celebrate Silas Memorial 5K, joins us again as a guest to talk about the everyday rituals and routines that can be helpful in grief. These routines can be as unique as the relationship we had with the person who died. Head here to learn more about the Celebrate Silas Memorial 5K and to sign up or donate.
What does it mean when grief becomes part of our dreams? In this episode we talk with Joshua Black, a PhD student at Brock University, about his groundbreaking grief dream research. Joshua shares his findings on themes in grief dreams, how to better remember dreams, and suggestions for changing negative ones. To lean more about Joshua and his research, check out his website: www.griefdreams.ca
A lot goes into talking about the people in our lives who have died. Who do we tell? What do we share, not only about the person and what they meant to us, but about how they died? The words we choose - passed, lost, died - are heavy with meaning and emotion. Sometimes we choose words to make other people feel less uncomfortable. Sometimes the words we choose are the only ones we can make ourselves say out loud. How we talk about the death can be as personal and unique as our grief. Our guest is Sarah whose brother died just over five years ago. Sarah shares about her struggles with talking about her brother's death and what she's discovered in deciding to be more open with her story.
This episode's guest is Jill, a longtime educator who incorporates mindfulness and other strategies for emotional regulation in classroom settings. We discuss how grief, stress, and trauma affect our bodies, brains, and emotions. Jill also shares some easy to implement suggestions for both adults and children to increase awareness and ease in response to stress, grief, and trauma.
The term comfort food usually brings to mind mac and cheese, lasagna, brownies, and other combinations of sugar and simple carbohydrates. When someone dies, the casseroles start to arrive, even when grief can evaporate your appetite. In today's episode, we talk with Dr. Drew Ramsey - a psychiatrist, farmer, and advocate for using food to support our bodies and brains. Dr. Ramsey outlines what foods are truly comforting when it comes to grief. He also shares simple, affordable ideas for choosing foods that are nutrient dense. To learn more about Dr. Ramsey's work, please visit his website: www.drewramseymd.com where you can find great recipes and suggestions in his three books: Eat Complete, 50 Shades of Kale, and The Happiness Diet. Want to be part of National Kale Day on 10.5.17? Visit www.nationalkaleday.org
What does it mean to be a child, grieving the death of a parent, when you're technically not a child? Rachel Ricketts, author of the site loss&found, shares what it's like to grieve her mother, who died after a long illness. As a teen, she became her mother's primary caretaker, which meant Rachel grew up being both the child and a parent. She talks in this episode about how grief radically changed her, along with what she's found to be helpful in making her way through this life altering experience. Be sure to check out Rachel's site at www.lossandfoundxo.com
When someone dies, many of us are left with if onlys. Some are interwoven with thoughts that we could have somehow prevented the death, "If only I had asked him to pick me up later," "If only I made her go to the doctor sooner." Others relate to wishing we had connected more with the person - talked to them, asked in-depth questions about their life. We long to hear their advice and know how they would respond to events in our lives or the world. Sometimes though, we discover something about the person that we never expected. We learn information that leaves us shocked, disappointed, and angry. In this episode, Matthew shares his story of finding out a secret about his father, who died of cancer in 2009.
In this episode, the last in our 3 part series on grief after an overdose death, we talk with Liam who was just starting middle school when his brother died from a heroin overdose. Now a junior in college, Liam talks openly about what he experienced when the death first happened and how grief continues to be a part of his life. Liam shares suggestions for teens and their adults on how to talk about the death and provide ongoing support.
In part two of our three-part series on grief after an overdose death, we talk with Samina, whose son Ayaz died of a heroin overdose. The episode starts with Samina reading a poem that came to her while sitting on an airplane. She describes the poem as coming through her, as if Ayaz was speaking and she was the one with the pen. We discuss the heartbreak Samina and her family faced as they tried to help Ayaz through his addiction. Samina also shares insights from her experience and describes what helped and didn't help in the early parts of grief.
To learn more about their national networks of support groups for grieving parents, please visit The Compassionate Friends
Based on numbers from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, heroin overdose deaths increased by six times from 2001 to 2014. In one state it is estimated that heroin overdose deaths jumped by 85% in the last two years. With this huge rise in overdose deaths, there is little out there on how to best support those who are left behind. Parents, children, siblings, partners, family members, and friends are left with broken hearts and so many questions.
This episode is one in a 3-part series about grieving when someone dies of an overdose. We talk with Jessica whose younger brother died in 2011. In our conversation we discuss what it's like when you didn't know the person was struggling with substance use along with the challenges of talking about the death with well-meaning others.
Be sure to listen till the end for a special post-script by Jessica.
Jana is joined by Dougy Center staff member, Heather Dorfman, to talk about what helps (or might help) in grief, outside the realm of more formal support. As you listen to this episode, keep in mind:
To find more formal grief support in your community, visit our website to search for help near you.
Whether it is a murder, murder-suicide, or a being killed by a driver under the influence, violent death adds multiple layers of complexity to grief. Jana and Joan discuss what children and teens may experience, along with suggestions for how to help. For additional information, refer to our Tip Sheet: Supporting Children and Teens After a Violent Death and our interactive workbook for children. For help with talking to children about mass shootings and other large scale tragedies, we have two resources written by The Dougy Center's Senior Director for Advocacy and Training, Donna Schuurman, Ed.D., F.T. 1) Dear Lily: a letter to a 12-year old in response to America's most recent tragedy and 2) Talking with children about tragic events.
In the two years since his dad died, Mike bought a house, got married, and is expecting his first child. This episode explores what it means to grieve the person you would have turned to the most for advice and guidance on these major milestones in life. It's the story of a son whose father's values, principles, and personality continue to influence who he is and how he lives.
Dougy Center staff member, Joan Schweizer Hoff, joins Jana to talk about the top 5 things school administrators will want to consider when a student, teacher, or staff member dies.
Top 5 Things:
For samples of letters to send to staff/families and a school crisis response plan:
Tangible suggestions for teachers: