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
"Are we going to be okay?" This was one of the first questions Amy Choi & Rebecca Lehrer, co-founders of The Mash-Up Americans, posed in their new podcast series, Grief, Collected. Throughout episodes with folks like adrienne maree brown, Dorothy Holinger, and Linda Thai, Rebecca and Amy explore what grief is and how it impacts us emotionally, physically, culturally, and collectively. Rebecca & Amy talk about the questions they posed in this series and how the answers they uncovered are shifting their personal, familial, cultural, and collective responses to grief and loss.
Listen to Grief, Collected
Check out The Mash-Up Americans
Many of us end up working in the grief world because of our personal experiences. We want to give others what we most needed. This is especially true for Melody Lomboy-Lowe and her niece Gracelyn Bateman, who co-founded Luna Peak Foundation in the hopes of supporting both those affected by cancer and those grieving a death. Melody was diagnosed with cancer when she was 6 and went through intensive treatment until she was 9. Gracelyn's dad, and Melody's brother-in-law, died of a cardiac event while running in 2016. Through their books and social media channels, Luna Peak provides multicultural stories of survivorship and hope.
Places we go in this episode:
Grieving during the holidays.
What Melody needed from adults while she was going through treatment.
How interviewing those affected by cancer and those grieving a death has impacted them.
Their hopes for Luna Peak Foundation going forward.
When your parent is one of six people in medical history to be diagnosed with and die from a rare disease, the phrase, "The odds are one in a million" takes on a very different meaning. This was true for Rebecca Hobbs-Lawrence, Pathways Program Coordinator at Dougy Center, who was 11 when her father died of heart cancer. At that point, she decided that if something tragic could happen, it would most likely happen to her. This worldview informed so much of how she approached school, dating, family, and becoming a parent.
In this conversation we explore:
Other Grief Out Loud episodes with Rebecca:
Ep. 18: Grieving the Death of a Sibling - Tips for Supporting Children
Ep. 20: Grief & Developmental Disabilities
Ep. 27: Grief and the Holidays
Ep. 67: Creating Legacies in the Face of a Terminal Illness
Ep. 98: Under Pressure - Grief & December Holidays
Ep. 174: Holidays, Grief & a Pandemic
Ep. 240: The (Not) Most Wonderful Time of the Year - Holidays & Grief Mini-Episode
For a lot of us, the end of year holidays + grief = the (not) most wonderful time of the year. Rebecca Hobbs-Lawrence, Pathways Program & Group Coordinator at Dougy Center, is back for our annual Holidays & Grief episode. We discuss negotiating with family and friends around how we want to celebrate or not celebrate and how the past few years have shifted our priorities. Rebecca also shares how she and her family are approaching the holidays with a new type of grief, her mother having Alzheimer's.
If you missed our past Holidays & Grief episodes, be sure to listen to Ep. 27, 98, and 174.
Tips For Getting Through the Holidays & Holiday Plan Worksheet.
Register for our "Navigating Grief During the Holidays" webinar happening on Thursday, 12.1.22, 10 am - 11:30 am PST.
Have you found it difficult to read anything longer than a paragraph since your person died? It's a phenomenon familiar, both personally and professionally, to Eleanor Haley, MS & Litsa Williams, MA, LCSW-C. Eleanor & Litsa started the What's Your Grief community back in 2012 as a way to create the kind of grief resources they most needed in their own lives and for the clients they supported. They just published their first book, What's Your Grief - Lists to Help You Through Any Loss, and it will come as no surprise that it's filled with lists designed to help you better absorb information about grief from death and non-death losses.
If you missed Eleanor & Litsa's first appearance on Grief Out Loud, go back and listen to Ep. 22: Grief & Becoming a Parent.
We deliberated for a long time about whether it was appropriate for us to do an episode on pet loss. We know from those grieving the death of a person that it can hurt when someone tries to relate to their loss by sharing about their pet who died. We also know that grief is grief. Pets bring us joy and laughter and frustration and tears and love - just like humans do. In the end we decided to do this episode because we want to honor that for many people, their pets are family members, and the grief when one of them dies is real and valid and worthy of recognition and support. As our guest, Debrah Lee, Veterinary Well-Being Program Director for DoveLewis Veterinary and & Specialty Hospital, says, "These relationships matter."
Mentioned in this episode:
DoveLewis's Pet Loss Support Program
Día de Los Muertos, or “Day of the Dead,” is a two-day holiday to remember family members and friends who have died. Día de Los Muertos has origins throughout Mexico and parts of Latin America, and is celebrated on November 1 and 2. The holiday is not a version of Halloween, but rather an enduring ritual celebrated since ancient times. Valenca Valenzuela, MSW, Volunteer Coordinator at Dougy Center, joins us to talk about the history of Día de Los Muertos, her personal connection to the holiday, and how people from all traditions can respectfully celebrate Día de Los Muertos by honoring and acknowledging its cultural origins.
More about Dougy Center's Día de Los Muertos celebration.
Valenca's previous Grief Out Loud appearance - Born For This Work.
Movies mentioned in this episode: Coco & The Book of Life.
History of Día de los Muertos.
Día de Los Muertos, es una celebración de dos días que tiene como fin recordar a miembros de la familia y amigos que han muerto. Tiene sus orígenes en diferentes regiones de México y partes de América Latina, y se celebra el 1 y 2 de noviembre. Esta festividad no es una versión de Halloween, sino un ritual perdurable celebrado desde la antigüedad. Valenca Valenzuela, MSW, Coordinadora de Voluntarios del Dougy Center se une para hablar acerca de la historia de Día de los muertos, su conexión personal con esta celebración, y cómo la gente de todas tradiciones puede celebrar este día de manera respetuosa, honrando y reconociendo sus orígenes culturales.
Más sobre la celebración del Día de los Muertos del Dougy Center.
Participación previa de Valenca en Grief Out loud – Born For This Work (Nacida para este trabajo).
Películas mencionadas en este episodio: Coco & The Book of Life (El Libro de la vida).
Historia del Día de los Muertos.
Charlie Tull has two lives, but he's not deceiving anyone. There's his civilian one that he lives with his kids and family and there's his professional one that he spends with his firefighter family. In 2018, one of his fire family members, Eli, died of a heart condition. Three years later in 2021, another member of his fire family, Scott, died of COVID. Charlie's first reaction to both of these shocking and unexpected deaths was numbness. Then, he went underground with his grief. Over time though he realized he needed and wanted to honor Eli and Scott by talking about them - and about the grief and pain of their deaths.
Mark Chesnut is a NYC-based journalist, editor, and public speaker. His book, Prepare for Departure, Notes on a single mother, a misfit son, inevitable mortality, and the enduring allure of frequent flyer miles, is about love and care and acceptance – not the infamous acceptance from the 5 stages of grief – but the acceptance that can happen between a mother and son when one of their lives is coming to an end.
This episode travels to a lot of places, including:
What Mark learned about grief from his mother after his father died.
How those lessons shaped the way he approached caring for her and grieving her death.
How Mark moved into a place of acceptance with his mother for the ways she responded when he came out to her as a young adult.
The ways he dealt, and continues to deal with grief, even during the height of COVID, when he was unable to access his usual outlet, travel.
This was meant to be a story about grieving in a foreign land. A story about navigating cancer treatment and funeral planning in a different language. And, it is that story, but it it's also the story of the accumulation of loss and grief.
Rebecca was 22 when her mother died of cancer. She was 23 when her fiancé died in a car crash, leaving her with their two young children. In the 8 years since she's also had a number of family members and friends die. In talking with Rebecca, you would think she is decades older based on the number of deaths she's experienced.
This ended up being a story of grieving in a foreign land, of explaining death and grief to children as they grow older, and of finding ways to live with both joy and grief.
Note: thanks to long-distance recording and spotty internet, the sound is a little wonky at times.
This is a story about the people behind the numbers. A new study came out this week (September, 2022) estimating that 10.5 million children, across the globe, are grieving the death of a parent or caregiver from COVID-19. Lissa and Bryce's children are four of those. Bryce died in late December, 2021, after weeks in the hospital, receiving treatment for COVID-19. Throughout Bryce's illness and since his death, Lissa has done everything she can to answer her children's questions honestly and let them know they are in this together. She's also had to find ways to make space for herself to grieve her husband and all that they shared as a family.
Here's that new study estimating the number of children impacted by COVID orphanhood/caregiver death.
Adam Stevens, RDT, (he/they), knows grief. He grew up in a family of five. A family that is now a family of one. Adam brings this deep knowing of grief to his work as the Program Manager for Bereavement and Mental Health Services at the Hetrick-Martin Institute (HMI), where he supports primarily BIPOC queer & trans youth in transforming grief & the pain of loss through creative arts therapy.
We talk about:
Note: this episode mentions suicide. If you or someone you know is struggling. Please reach out for support.
Crisis Text Line: text HELLO to 741741
The Trevor Project: text START to 678678 (for LGBTQ youth)
The Trans Lifeline: (877) 565-8860
The word complicated came up a lot in this episode with Joe, whose dad died in 2017 after a decade of failing health. Joe's dad was a complicated guy. Joe’s relationship with his dad was and continues to be complicated. So, it's unsurprising that Joe's grief since his dad died has been equally complicated.
That grief has evolved over time, from numbness at the start to beginning to feel and express a full range of emotions. These days, Joe continues to reckon with the complexity of his dad and their relationship, while also making space for remembering the times and places where humor and happiness also lived.
Everett's spent the last few years trying to access and process the emotions that come with grief. Emotions that he learned to push aside when he was 12 and his father died. Emotions he didn't know how to make sense of in his early twenties when his brother died. Emotions he was better able to feel and express to when his grandmother died just this past winter.
Grief doesn't happen in a vacuum and that is particularly true for those who have aspects of their identity that are marginalized by others. For Everett, growing up poor and being trans are two of these aspects that add layers to his grief. Layers that those who don't carry these aspects never even have to think about.
Note: this episode mentions suicide. If you or someone you know if struggling, please reach out for support.
National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline: 988
Crisis Text Line: text HELLO to 741741
Valenca Valenzuela, MSW, was born on Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) which seems fitting for someone who grew up to hold space for people before and after a death. Valenca is the Volunteer and Group Coordinator at Dougy Center, supporting children, teens, young adults and their adult family members who are grieving a death. As a death doula, she supports people who are facing the end of their lives. She is also an instructor for the Going with Grace program, readying others to do similar work.
Valenca comes to this work as someone with a lot of lived experience. When she was 16, her father died of cancer. As an adult, she was with her grandmother at the end of her life. A trip to Ireland to connect with her maternal lineage solidified her passion for working as a death doula and starting conversations about end of life.
Valenca shares about what it was like to be 16 and grieving for her father, what she’s learned from working with kids and families in our peer grief support groups, what it means to have a "good death," and ways we can all be better prepared for end of life.
Amanda Drews is the founder of Buzzy’s Bees, the organization she started after her son Hudson, who was 13 months old, died of SUDC (Sudden and Unexplained Death in Childhood). Amanda started Buzzy’s Bees with a mission to provide financial support to families dealing with the unexpected loss of a child. Over time, Amanda realized what families really needed and wanted was a chance to talk about their children. So she launched the Give Grief a Voice Project where families meet with professional writers and artists who capture the essence of their child and their life in a unique piece of art.
In this episode we talk about:
The stories we tell ourselves about death & grief.
What Amanda's older son needed in his grief.
How Amanda navigates her season of grief - the time between Hudson's birthday and anniversary of the day he died.
What is it about dark humor and why are we drawn to it when wrestling with painful life events? Laughter, especially the kind that wells up from a shared understanding of heartbreak, can be a surprising aspect of grief. Harry Jensen's father died of stage 4 colon cancer in January of 2017. Harry turned to stand-up comedy as a way to put his grief into words that often spark discomfort and uncertainty, but also serve as inspiration for people in the audience to open up about their own grief.
We discuss prompting uncomfortable laughter, Father's Day, and how the intersections of identity can affect grief.
Dr. Micki Burns, Chief Clinical Officer at Judi's House and Dr. Laura Landry, Director of Evaluation & Research at the JAG Institute join us to talk numbers. They, along with the team at Judi's House/JAG Institute, created the CBEM, the Childhood Bereavement Estimation Model, which estimates how many children and teens will experience the death of a parent/caregiver or sibling before they turn 18.
For years that number in the U.S. was 1 in 14. For 2022, it's increased to 1 in 13, reflecting the rise in deaths across the country due to
COVID, substance misuse, and other causes.
Laura and Micki talk about why it's important to quantify grief, the risk factors children who are grieving face, the disproportionate death rates in communities of color, and what adults can do to support these 1 in 13 children.
Visit Judi's House & the JAG Institute to learn more about their work and download information about the 2022 CBEM findings.
Rebecca Soffer, co-founder of the Modern Loss Community, started becoming an expert in grief the moment she learned that her mother Shelby was killed in a car crash. Her expertise expanded when four years later, her father Ray died of a heart attack while traveling.
As a single woman in her early thirties, Rebecca needed to talk about her grief, and she really needed to hear others talk about theirs. It was this longing for an ongoing conversation and led her, along with co-founder Gabi Birkner, to start the Modern Loss Community.
Nine years later, Rebecca just published her second book - The Modern Loss Handbook: An Interactive Guide to Moving Through Grief and Building Your Resilience. It's the kind of book that many people are looking for in their grief - filled with prompts for writing, drawing, and movement practices to help people stay connected to themselves, their people who died, and the world around them.
Follow Modern Loss and Rebecca on Facebook, IG, and Twitter.
In grief land, lots of groups are talked about as invisible or forgotten. Children, parents grieving a miscarriage, ex-partners, and siblings. For siblings, their grief often exists in the shadow of their parents – or it’s at least treated that way by others.
Jordon Ferber ran into that when his younger brother, Russell, died when Russell was 21. While Jordon’s parents recognized that Jordon needed support just as much as they did, the rest of his sphere started where most people do, with the question, “How are your parents?”
Jordon is the host and creator of the Where's the Grief? podcast. He's also a longtime facilitator for a sibling grief support group through The Compassionate Friends.
Follow Jordon on IG & Facebook.
**Note: this episode contains salty language.**
Meghan Riordan Jarvis, LCSW, is a trauma-informed psychotherapist with over 20 years of clinical experience who harbored the same secret wish. A wish which imploded when her mother died in 2019, just two years after her dad died of cancer. While Meghan’s training and clinical acumen didn’t prevent her from experiencing grief, they did enable her to recognize when she started to develop PTSD – post traumatic stress disorder – and that she needed additional help.
In our conversation, we talk about:
- What was different about grieving after her father’s death vs. her mother’s.
- How she recognized the signs of PTSD and the treatment she sought out.
- The concept of “meaning making” and how it’s important to clarify what types of meaning are supportive and which can be harmful.
In addition to being a trauma therapist, Meghan is a fellow grief podcaster and her show is called Grief Is My Side Hustle. Her memoir is due to be out in the world in 2023.