When Carmel Breathnach was 11, her mother died of cancer. While she felt supported at home by her father, she didn't feel that way at school. Now as an adult, Carmel’s carried this grief though graduations, through moving from Ireland to the U.S., through getting married, and now through a pandemic. We talk about the role anger played in her grief, what she needed from her teachers, how she honored her mom at her wedding, and how working on her forthcoming memoir, "Briefly I Knew My Mother," has affected her grief.
Read more of Carmel's writing on her blog, A Lovely Woman and follow her on Facebook @CarmelBreathnachAuthor Instagram @carmelbreathnach and Twitter @authorCarmelB
Amber Jeffrey is the creator and host of The Grief Gang, a podcast by and for young adults who want to normalize the conversation about loss. Amber was 19 when her mom died suddenly, throwing Amber into a period of questioning and reworking so much in her life, including her friendships and relationship with her older brother. We talk about what inspired her to start The Grief Gang, the solace she finds in the online grief community, navigating the winter holidays, and what to do when a grief activating song comes on during a manicure.
Be sure to follow Amber @thegriefgang and don't miss an episode of The Grief Gang.
When Dara Kurtz was in her late twenties, she was excited. Excited about being pregnant. She was also devastated. Devastated that her mother was recently diagnosed with stage IV cancer. As Dara’s baby grew, Dara’s mother grew closer to the end of her life. Two weeks after Dara’s daughter was born, her mother died – sweeping Dara into a whirlwind of diametrically opposed emotional states: the thrill of being a new mother and the heartbreak of being a grieving daughter. Decades later, Dara rediscovered a collection of letters and cards from her mother. In those letters she also rediscovered just how connected she is still is to her mother. The letters inspired her new book, I Am My Mother’s Daughter: Wisdom on Life, Loss, and Love.
It's our third annual holidays & grief episode with Rebecca Hobbs-Lawrence, Pathways Program Coordinator at the Dougy Center. We share updated ideas for navigating the winter holidays while grieving, during a pandemic.
For more ideas on holidays & grief visit our website, listen to Ep. 27 & Ep. 98, and follow us on Instagram (@thedougycenter) & Facebook (@thedougycenter) to catch all of our Dougy's (a very different) December Tips.
For Allison Hite, two questions sparked a community project called Never, Ever Give Up. The first question was, “How do I be grateful in grief?” The second was, “What’s the hardest thing you’ve had to do?” These questions became part of Allison’s life after her mother died in a traffic accident when Allison was in her mid-twenties. Answering them, publicly, led to Never, Ever Give Up, which at its core is a conversation between those who write letters of struggle and those who respond with letters of hope.
How do you go on living after your child's life ends? How do you continue to find connection, beauty, and meaning when someone we can't imagine living without dies? This is the question Margo Fowkes faced when her son Jimmy died of brain cancer at the age of 21. Margo barely had a moment to grapple with this devastating loss when just a year later, her mother also died. This led Margo to search for information and connection with others who were also grieving. When she couldn't find what she was looking for, she decided to create it. Her website, Salt Water, is a collection of writings, by Margo and others, about how people are continuing to engage in life after losing the people they love most.
We talk about:
BJ Miller is a Hospice & Palliative Care Medicine physician who works with patients facing the end of their lives. When BJ's sister Lisa died of suicide over twenty years ago, he did what so many of us do, he pushed his pain aside. It was his work, supporting patients with advanced serious illnesses, that helped him realize the importance of reckoning with his own grief.
Watch BJ's TED Talk, What Really Matters at the End of Life.
Listen to his OnBeing interview with Krista Tippet.
Check out his new organization, Mettle Health, which offers online counseling and support for both patients and caregivers.
Shelby Forsythia returns to Grief Out Loud to talk about her new book, Your Grief, Your Way, a secular daily devotional for anyone dealing with grief. She pairs quotes with routines and practices that people can do in any order. We talk Your Grief, Your Way, what grief means during this time of COVID and a reckoning with police brutality and racism, the effects of cumulative grief, and what’s currently helping her (spoiler alert: cue the dance party playlist).
Listen to Shelby’s podcast, Coming Back
Explore her website
Check out her new book, Your Grief, Your Way
When Derrick Kirk was six years old, he and his two sisters were removed from their home and placed in the foster care system. For Derrick, growing up in the orphanage gave him a window into a different way of life. Now a successful entrepreneur, Derrick started the Derrick Kirk Foundation and his podcast, My Thoughts With Derrick Kirk, to help other youth growing up in the foster care system.
In this episode we talk about the LYGHT program which provides peer grief support groups, based on the Dougy Center's model, for youth in the foster care system. To learn more about the program, listen to episodes 136 & 137.
Paula Fontenelle is a journalist turned therapist who specializes in suicide prevention and supporting those who have had someone die of suicide. Paula's professional interest in this work is deeply rooted in personal experience. Her father died of suicide just over 15 years ago and his death set her on two parallel trajectories. Professionally, she studied everything she could about suicide. Personally, she spent hours interviewing friends and family, uncovering stories and details about her father's life and the pain he carried that she never knew about.
Listen to Understand Suicide
Read Understand Suicide: Living With Loss, Paths to Prevention
Learn more about her work
Follow Paula on Facebook
Many of us grew up believing that some emotions are good, some emotions are better, and some (most) emotions are bad. When it comes to grief the list of emotions we'd like to not have can be long: guilt, anger, shame, regret, etc. What would happen though if we stopped ranking emotions? Stopped thinking of them as problems that need to be fixed? It was this shift that changed things for Krista St. Germain after her husband was killed by a drunk driver. Krista is the host of the Widowed Mom Podcast and a life coach who specializes in working with widows.
Mira Simone is a writer, mother, and grieving wife. Her husband Brian died of cancer in the winter of 2019, just seven weeks after a diagnosis of stage IV melanoma. When Brian died, their daughter Davida was about to turn three. Brian's death created a huge crater in their lives - leaving Mira to figure out how to live without Brian, who was the biggest love she'd ever known, while also supporting Davida in her grief.
Writing has been a constant for Mira, both throughout Brian's illness and in the months since he died. You can find her published writings here. She posts regularly about grief on her Instagram (@newmoonmira).
For the past three decades, Kevin Carter, LCSW, has worked as a clinician, administrator, and educator. He currently serves as the Clinical Director at the Uplift Center for Grieving Children in Philadelphia, PA. Kevin's work focuses on how grief and trauma affect youth, and particularly the African American children and families he works with. We discuss how the combination of COVID-19, protests against police brutality and racial violence, and the rising rates of homicide and gun violence in Philadelphia is impacting children and teens who are already carrying grief. Kevin also shares how the Uplift Center is serving families virtually and what he and his staff are learning about providing support in this new realm.
Here are the resources we touch on in our conversation:
Dr. Tashel Bordere's work on suffocated grief
My Grandmother's Hands by Resmaa Menakem
#upliftathome - Uplift Center's COVID-19 resources
Speaking Grief initiative
When Brianne Grebil’s mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at the age of 62, Brianne packed up and moved from LA back to northern Idaho to help care for her. Over the course of her mother’s illness, many of the moments Brianne dreaded the most ended up being the ones that shifted her understanding of love and what remains when we lose everything we knew to be true about the people in our lives. We talk about Brianne’s book, Love Doesn’t Care if You Forget: Lessons of Love From Alzheimer’s and Dementia, and the complexities of planning a memorial during the COVID-19 pandemic.
For the past two decades, Alesia Alexander, LCSW, has worked with grieving children, teens, and families. The original inspiration for doing this work was very personal. Alesia's father died of cancer in 1994 and before he died, he asked her to find a way to give back to the community that gave so much to them throughout his illness. From this death bed promise, Alesia went on to focus on supporting those in grief through therapy, consultation, education, and writing. She is the author of two children's books: Sunflowers and Rainbows for Tia: Saying Goodbye to Daddy (1999), A Mural for Mamita/Un Mural Para Mamita (2001), and a resource for professionals: Tapestries: A Creative & inclusive Approach to Grief Support with Young People & Communities (2013).
Recently, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, grief has come home for Alesia again. Her daughter's father recently died of brain cancer and Alesia stepped into a new role of supporting her daughter, while attending to her own grief.
To heal you have to feel it and to feel it you have to be present with it.
When Ashley Jones’s infant daughter Skylar was diagnosed with SMA (spinal muscular atrophy), she wasn’t unfamiliar with grief, but she had no idea how Skylar’s illness and death would propel her into a new world of supporting others. What started as a photo session for a family grieving the death of their baby, has grown into Love Not Lost, a non-profit that provides free portrait sessions for families facing a terminal illness. Love Not Lost also offers tools and training for family, friends, and employers who want to provide useful support to those they care about.
Follow Love Not Lost (@lovenotlost) on social media for updates on their events and opportunities.
Children’s books transport us – sometimes to places of imagination and sometimes to places rooted in place and culture. A children's book can also be doorway to emotional understanding around complex topics. Kao Kalia Yang is a Hmong American writer and grieving mother who recently published The Shared Room, a brave and tender book for children (and adults) about a family grieving the death of their daughter. The Shared Room is at once a book about memories, sorrow, joy, and the ways grief is carried individually and collectively.
Listen to Kao Kalia Yang & Shannon Gibney, co-editors of What God is Honored Here - Writings on Miscarriage and Infant Loss, By and For Indigenous Women and Women of Color on Grief Out Loud, Ep. 127.
To learn more about Kao Kalia Yang’s writing, teaching, and speaking, visit her website.
Watch Kao Kalia and illustrator, Xee Reiter, discuss The Shared Room.
This episode is a little different. Rather than an interview, we are sharing information from the Dougy Center's most recent Tip Sheet - Back to School with Grief and the COVID-19 Pandemic. With how tough it can be to focus long enough to take in a lot of text when you're grieving, we wanted to offer the information in this format. We'll be bringing you more Tip Sheet episodes over the next few months, so stay tuned!
Check out the Dougy Center's full Tip Sheet collection. It includes Tip Sheets for parents and caregivers wanting to supporting children and teens in their grief as well as ones for teens, young adults, teachers, and school administrators.
In this episode we mention When Your World is Already Upside Down, a Tip Sheet specifically on how to support children and teens who are carrying grief into this time of COVID-19.
What does it mean to grow and grow up with grief? Aliya, a recent high school graduate, spent the past three years reckoning both with her mother's death from cancer and the intricacies of their relationship. As Aliya confronted the more painful aspects of their connection, she created space for remembering the other parts -the ones that were loving and joyful. As Aliya heads off to college this fall, she does so with a new confidence in her ability to navigate the ways her grief continues to unfold.
Sign up for BetterHelp's online counseling and support www.betterhelp.com/grief and receive 10% off your first month.
How do historic and present-day death rituals and funeral practices in the Black community serve as acts of resistance? Dr. Kami Fletcher is a historian and death scholar whose research focuses on the history of African American deathways and deathwork. She is an Associate professor of American & African American History at Albright College and the President of The Collective for Radical Death Studies. We talk about a lot in this episode, including the oldest African American cemetery, Mt. Auburn, the ways the institution of slavery suppressed African American death rituals, how funeral practices in the Black community serve as acts of resistance, and how the modern-day practice of RIP t-shirts played a role in Dr. Fletcher’s personal grief after her cousin Willie died in 2017.
Follow Dr. Fletcher on Twitter (@kamifletcher36)
The Collective for Radical Death Studies
Dr. Fletcher’s most recent book - Till Death Do Us Part: American Ethnic Cemeteries as Borders Uncrossed
What does it mean to choose joy and gratitude when you're in the depths of grief? For Ty Alexander, joy and gratitude became her two main survival strategies after her mother died of cancer when Ty was in her 20's. Now, as a wellness blogger, podcast host (Self Care IRL), and author of the book, "Things I Wish I Knew Before My Mom Died," Ty helps others struggling with grief (and life) find ways to make room for joy and gratitude, while still honoring the people who have died and the pain of the loss.
Have you found yourself wishing you could hear from your person one more time? Wondering what advice, wishes, or words they would share about events big and small? When Art Shaikh's father died, he was charged with delivering letters his father wrote to various family members on important days like birthdays, weddings, and anniversaries. His father's legacy inspired Art to create CircleIt, a digital generational platform for creating, sharing, and preserving memories. CircleIt is a way to stay connected to family and friends, even after someone dies.
Sign up for BetterHelp online counseling at www.betterhelp.com/grief
Jenny Delacruz is a family therapist and author who specializes in working with children and families. Her newest book, "Momma, Can I Sleep With You Tonight?" is about the big and overwhelming emotions that so many children are experiencing during the COVID-19 pandemic. We discuss how Jenny sees grief show up in her clients, related to COVID-19, the media coverage of the murders of Black people, often at the hands of police, and the ongoing traumatic effects of racism and racist violence. Jenny provides some easy to implement strategies to support children in processing the grief and other emotions connected to these events.
To learn more about Jenny's work:
Momma, Can I Sleep With You Tonight?
Counseling practice: https://www.restorativetherapy.info/
StoryTime with Ms. Melange on Facebook, Instagram, & YouTube