Katie Cosgrove experienced the death of someone close to her every year between the ages of 15 and 21. The first was her father, who died of brain encephalitis. For the next five years, Katie did what so many teens do - she didn’t talk about her grief. Until she did. Now, she's the founder of Grief is Good and the author of new children's book, "I'll see you in your dreams tonight," which invites children (and adults too) to find ways to make new memories with their person who died.
What Katie needed when her dad died and how that changed over time
Why she stopped talking about her dad and how she learned to start again
The nonverbal ways she started to engage with grief
How her dad’s death shaped who she is
Living a death-centered life
How she continues to make new memories with her dad
What it will mean to make a hole in one on the golf course someday
"How do I help someone who is grieving?" This is the perennial question when it comes to showing up for people we care about after someone dies. Zack Wheat, a Board Certified Chaplain, knows more than most about what people who are grieving need - and don't need. Professionally, Zack knows about this from his work as a hospital chaplain for an inpatient palliative care team. He also knows about it from his time volunteering as a facilitator in peer grief support groups at Dougy Center. But, long before he was a hospital chaplain or a grief group facilitator, Zack learned about how to be there for others when he was 21 and his friend Leanna died in a car accident.
In this episode we talk about:
What it was like for Zack to speak at his friend’s funeral
His draw to working as a chaplain
The difference between hospital and hospice chaplaincy
How the pandemic impacted Zack and his hospital colleagues
What people who are grieving need – and don’t need
How to be human with other humans who are grieving
What keeps people from showing up for others
The value of acknowledgment, empathy, and presence
What Zack’s learned as a facilitator in a peer grief support group
Lionel Irving is the founder of Love is Stronger, an organization in Portland, OR dedicated to supporting gang-impacted families and communities in building healing, accountability, and safety. While Lionel and Love is Stronger focus on interrupting gun violence, this work is also rooted in grief. Lionel's uncle was shot and killed by the police in 1975. His cousin Donald was killed in 1999 by a rival gang. His mother died of a sudden illness when Lionel was 20. In the last two years, he went to over 40 funerals, many of those for young people killed by gun violence.
We talk about:
More information about Lionel & Love is Stronger.
What does it mean to be a cultural kinkeeper and how does that idea relate to grief? These are two of the questions we explore with Anika Chabra, co-founder of Root & Seed, a platform meant to inspire people to collect and document family stories, recipes, and traditions. When Anika’s mom died suddenly in 2019, she realized just how much she didn’t know, not just about her mom, but also about their family history and cultural traditions. Root & Seed is Anika’s offering to help others have meaningful conversations with their family members in the hopes of recording those important stories and legacies.
As more opportunities for non-traditional grief support arise, it's no surprise that many of them are happening in historically marginalized communities who have not felt relevantly supported in those settings. The Grief Garden, co-created by Julia Mallory, a multidisiciplinary artist, and Tiana Zabala, the garden manager at Goggleworks Center for the Arts is the perfect example of this type of offering. The Grief Garden was designed to bring people together, in relationship with the outdoors, where they could engage with rest, movement, medicine making, and sound.
Julia Mallory is a storyteller, writer, and artist who after the death of her eldest son Julian in 2017 also became a community grief worker. Through her words, images, and offerings, Julia invites others to acknowledge and express their own grief.
Tiana Zabala is passionate about growing food, medicine, and building community. In her role as garden manager at GoggleWorks she focuses on urban farming and developing opportunities for collective healing.
Pierce Freelon is a GRAMMY® nominated musician, author, and educator. He is also a son, a father, a husband, and an astute observer of life and grief and everything in between. Pierce was a caregiver for his father, Phil Freelon, a renowed architect who died of ALS. He's also the author of the new children's book, Daddy and Me: Side by Side, a beautiful rendering of the times Pierce and his father spent in nature, and how Pierce is doing the same with his own son. A few hours before our interview, Pierce got word that a beloved professor from his time in graduate school, Dr. Micere Githae Mugo, had just died. In connection to both of these influential people, Pierce shares his unique and nuanced perspective on grief, legacy, and the power of artistry.
We talk about:
Listen to our episode with Pierce’s mother, Nneena Freelon, Ep. 202 Grief Wanted My Attention.
When Kelly S. Thompson and her older sister Meghan were children, they were close. Meghan was Kelly’s protector and constant as they moved around as a military family. Things shifted when Meghan hit adolescence and started using substances. Their connection disintegrated and they spent years barely in touch. When Meghan stopped using, they came back together and worked to rebuild trust and repair their relationship. Then, on the same day Meghan gave birth to her second child, she was diagnosed with a cancer that would end her life in less than two years. Kelly became her primary caregiver, going with Meghan to treatment and being with her in the hospital up until the last few moments of her life. Before she died, Meghan made Kelly promise to write their story. Kelly kept that promise with her new memoir, Still, I Cannot Save You.
The arc of Kelly & Meghan’s relationship
The process of repairing that relationship
What it was like to care for Meghan after her cancer diagnosis
Kelly’s relationship with survival mode
Why the grocery store kicks up her grief
The ways writing helps Kelly cope and stay connected to Meghan
How Meghan loved Kelly (without condition or hesitation)
The ongoing heaviness of grief
Answering the question “How do I keep moving in a world that doesn’t have this brilliant human being in it?”
Jamie Thrower is a Queer death doula, end-of-life educator, and grief guide in Portland, OR. She is also the founder of the Queer Grief Club which provides inclusive non-traditional grief support offerings for those grieving both death and non-death losses. Jamie knows from her personal experience of grieving the deaths of her parents and her daughter, Birdie, who she and her wife lost in the second trimester, just how important it is for grief support to be reflective of identity, relationships, family constellations, and community.
We get into:
Even though most of us know and accept that grief doesn't have an end point, it can still be surprising to witness how much it impacts almost every aspect of our lives, including our relationships. This was true for Daniel, who was two days away from his 8th birthday when his father died of a brain tumor. When he was a kid, grief impacted Daniel's relationship with a sense of safety and security. As a young adult, it affected what he was looking for in his dating relationships. Throughout his life, it's shaped who and how he feels safe and comfortable connecting with.
What happens when you take a year away from your income generating work to focus completely on grief? This is the question Rebecca Feinglos faced at the end of 2021. Grief wasn't new to Rebecca. She was a teenager when her mother died of brain cancer. On the same day her state shut down due to the COVID pandemic, she got a call that her father had died suddenly. In the ensuing months, she ended her marriage. So, by the time she got to the end of 2021, she was exhausted and empty and unwell. It's common to wish the world would stop and give us a break when someone dies, but we usually dream of escaping from it all. Rebecca did something different - she took a year to delve fully into her grief and along the way she wrote about it on her blog. This experience inspired her to start her organization, GrieveLeave, a community to support others in learning to grieve all of their losses.
It's generally accepted that there's no official end point to grief, but what happens when there's also no end point to the questions about someone's death? Charlotte Maya's life changed drastically when she came home from a hike with her two young children to find two police officers and a priest at her house, waiting with news that her husband Sam had died by suicide. In those early days of grief Charlotte dealt with sadness, anger, confusion, and the endless tasks that come when someone dies. She also faced the question, "Why?" Why did Sam do what he did? What was he going through? Why didn't he ask for help? Almost 16 years later, Charlotte and her children have more understanding about suicide, but they've mostly had to accept that they'll never truly know the answer to a question that only Sam could answer.
Charlotte's new memoir, Sushi Tuesdays, chronicles the first few days, weeks, and years of grief and how she learned to take care of her children and herself in their grief.
If you or someone you know is struggling, please reach out for help. You can call the National Crisis Line at 988 or text Hello to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.
"What was your dad like?" It's a simple question that's not easy to answer when you had a complicated relationship with the person who died. Claire's dad died of a stroke almost four years ago and one of the first emotions she felt was relief. Relief that she wouldn't have to worry if he would want to walk her down the aisle when she got married. Relief she wouldn't have to wonder how he'd act in the future. She also felt deep grief and sadness about the relationship they never got to have. Claire's dad was brilliant. He loved music. He was extremely active. He was also emotionally abusive to Claire and her mom. This reality adds layers of complexity not just to her grief, but to navigating other people's assumptions about what their relationship was like.
We talk about:
When her father died of cancer, a few days before her 18th birthday, Laurel Braitman started running. Running towards the academic and professional accomplishments her father pushed her to achieve and running away from the intense shame and guilt she carried about their last conversation. It wasn’t until her 30’s that Laurel stopped running long enough to face her greatest fear: feeling her feelings.
Laurel’s newest book, What Looks Like Bravery: An epic journey through loss to love, chronicles her quest to connect with grief and how it led to the biggest adventure of all - opening up to love.
In our conversation we delve into:
Growing up with her father’s illness and the threat of him dying
Running from guilt & shame in grief
Overachieving as a coping mechanism
Wanting to be a “geriatric kid” at Josie’s Place, a peer grief support program for children & families
What Laurel learned about grief from being a volunteer facilitator in that program
Learning a new way of being in the world & staying open to love
Having a “cosmic do-over" in helping her mom at the end of her life
At the age of 27, Dr. Peg Sandeen faced an impossible request. Her husband, John, who was dying from HIV/AIDS, told Peg that he couldn’t stand the pain anymore and wanted her to help him end his life. It was the early 1990’s though and there was no legal avenue for Peg to help John in his wish to die with the dignity he had in life. Peg went on to get both a Master's and Ph.D. in social work. Throughout that time, the memory of John’s last wish motivated her to work towards changing the landscape for people facing the end of life. Dr. Sandeen is now the Executive Director of Death With Dignity, working in end-of-life advocacy and fighting for medical aid in dying laws across the U.S.
In our conversation we discuss:
Dr. Sandeen's HuffPost article: My Husband Asked Me to Help Him Die. I Couldn't Do It - and My Life Changed Forever
Meet Me Where I Am, a new film by Grant Garry, explores the topic of grief through individual stories of loss, love, and hope. The film aims to normalize grief in our culture and explores how we can actively participate in helping others through grief. Grant has always been curious about grief, from his first experience when his grandmother died when he was a teenager to his most recent loss, the death of his uncle. Meet Me Where I Am is the culmination of that curiosity, and a dedication to ensuring we all feel better equipped to talk about grief.
Colin Campbell is a lot of things - writer, husband, friend - but the role he identifies with most is being a father. So, when his two teenage children, Ruby & Hart, were killed by a drunk driver in 2019, Colin was lost and terrified. Who was he without his kids? How would he survive the intensity of grief? Soon after their deaths, well-meaning friends and family would say, "There are no words," but for Colin, this phrase wasn't comforting. It left him feeling more alone because what he really needed were words. Words so he could talk about Ruby & Hart. Words to help articulate his pain. And words from others who shared what they remembered and missed about his children.
Colin's book, Finding the Words: Working Through Profound Loss With Hope and Purpose, outlines the words and actions that helped him stay close to Ruby & Hart while learning to live in a world without them.
Topics in our conversation:
Colin's article in The Atlantic - What Losing My Two Children Taught Me About Grief
When Jessica Schaffer's partner of 25 years, Patrice, died in March of 2021, she found herself untethered. In the early days of grief, Jessica went within, needing to find her orbital pattern in this new solar system without Patrice. During this time she also germinated seeds of creativity. Seeds that were planted by Patrice when she gifted Jessica an iPad, just days before she learned she was dying. In the fall of 2021, Jessica picked up the iPad and started drawing. This process inspired her to start The Chrysalis Imagery, a company where she offers a line of greeting cards and other inspired imagery.
In this conversation we discuss:
It's rare for a story to have just one side, especially in grief. This is true for Eddie, whose father died of suicide in 2021. One side of the story is how Eddie's father was in the world - extremely successful and well-regarded. Another side of the story is how he was at home and in his relationship with her. In grief, Eddie has had to reckon with missing her dad while also being confused about why she is missing him. She's also had to navigate living in the world without a dad who was such a force in shaping everything she thought she wanted in life. Eddie is committed to talking openly about grief and mental health and wants to ensure there is room for her and others to tell both sides of the story.
When Tida Beattie's Thai immigrant parents died in 2019, she went from being a long-distance caregiver to an overwhelmed & grieving daughter. In her search for support, she found what so many do, a lack of culturally specific or informed resources. This experience motivated her to change this for others by creating spaces for immigrant families to receive support before and after a death. Tida is a Thai-American end-of-life doula, grief support facilitator, immigrant advocate, and co-founder of MESO, dedicated to supporting caregivers and those in grief with compassion and a cultural lens.
In this episode, we discuss:
The list of things to do when someone dies is long and burdensome. If one of the things on that list was, "return to work," then this episode is for you. If you're a manager or co-worker wondering how to best support someone when they get to that item on the list, this episode is also for you. In a world where most companies provide woefully inadequate, if any, bereavement leave, many people have to return before they are ready, and when they do go back they are usually met with awkward comments or outright silence. Margo Fowkes, founder of Salt Water, an online community for grief, published her book, Leading Through Loss - How to Navigate Grief at Work, with the hope of easing this transition, both for employees and employers.
We talk about:
Listen to Margo's previous interview on Grief Out Loud. Ep. 172 Living After Your Child's Life Ends.
After her mother died in 2013, Charlene Lam faced the daunting prospect of dealing with all of her belongings. Making decisions about what to keep felt impossible, so Charlene turned to her skills as a gallery curator and asked herself: “If I was to do an exhibition about my mother, which 100 objects would I choose?” This experience transformed Charlene's understanding of how to interact with the objects of people's lives. It also inspired her to create the The Grief Gallery and become a grief coach.
Topics we talk about:
Follow Charlene & The Grief Gallery on Instagram.
We wanted to release this episode at the beginning of the new year, because it hits on a topic we haven’t explored much before – psychic mediumship. It’s something that comes up in our groups at Dougy Center and the people who bring it up usually do so with a lot of trepidation and concern for how others will respond. We figured if it's coming up in our groups, many of you out there might also be curious about this kind of work. Patty Montoya is a psychic medium, energy healer, anticipatory grief coach, Reiki practitioner, and death doula. She came to this work from her personal experience. When she was 18, her younger brother died of leukemia. A few years later, her mother also died, from a fast-moving disease. Patty turned to this work in the hopes of providing others with the support she most needed in her grief.
We get into:
Common misperceptions about psychic mediumship.
What kinds of messages Patty receives and how she translates them.
What to expect in a session.
How she responds to skepticism about her work.
Examples of messages Patty's received from her family members.
How she cares for herself in this work.
Follow Patty on IG & FB