"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