As of April 29th, 2021 over 3 million people across the globe have died of COVID-19, including 575,000 in the U.S. What gets lost in these numbers are the actual people who leave behind family and friends, grieving without access to the rituals and routines we've come to rely on when someone dies.
Sandra McGowan-Watts is a mother, a physician, and a widow. Her husband Steven died of COVID-19 on May 8th, 2020. She and their daughter have spent the past year trying to figure out how to live without a husband and father who did so much to support them.
Read more about Sandra's story in The New York Times, "The Other Half of My Soul - Widows of Covid-19 Bond over Sudden Loss."
Dr. Jill A. Harrington grew up surrounded by superheroes on television and in comic books and movies. As a parent and a professional, she turned to superheroes as a way to connect with her children and clients around loss, grief, and transformation.
She recently teamed up with Dr. Robert Neimeyer to publish Superhero Grief: The Transformative Power of Loss in an effort to bring superheroes into the limelight of grief support – offering a cross generational, cross-cultural way to help all of us become more grief informed.
Just weeks before Adam Mansbach's wildly popular book, Go The F**K To Sleep, was published, his brother David died of suicide. In interview after interview promoting the book and talking about its success, Adam worried that someone would ask about his brother, would catch him off guard with a question about the grief that was raw and painful. In the years after David's death, Adam found himself writing about everything but that loss. Now, almost a decade after David's death, Adam's newest book, I Had A Brother Once, is a memoir in verse about David's life, death, and the confusing aftermath when someone dies of suicide.
Note: this episode contains some strong language.
Follow Adam on IG.
Sign up for one of his book events.
Learn more about his work.
On Valentine's Day of 2018, Fred Guttenberg rushed his two children, Jaime and Jesse, out the door to school. He had no idea it would be the last time he saw Jaime who was shot and killed later that day in the Parkland School mass shooting. Jaime was murdered just a few months after Fred's brother Michael died of as a result of being exposed to toxic substances when he ran into the World Trade Center as a first responder after the 9/11 attacks.
In his new book, Find the Helpers: What 9/11 and Parkland Taught Me About Recovery, Purpose, and Hope, Fred chronicles his grief, the people who helped him along the way, and his commitment to saving lives by fighting for gun safety.
Follow Fred on Twitter @fred_guttenberg
Orange Ribbons for Jaime
Meaningful Moments in the Aftermath of Gun Violence - Fred's TED Talk.
One day while driving between visiting her mom who just had knee surgery and caring for her dad who had a progressive illness, Priya Soni wondered, "Where are the others?" By others, she meant the other adult children caregiving for parents and family members. Years later, this question would lead her to start The Caregiving Effect, an organization dedicated to bringing adult children caregivers together through stories, support, and mentoring.
Breeshia Wade's new book, Grieving While Black: An Anti-Racist Take on Oppression and Sorrow, puts grief into a wider context. The context of our relationships and the larger systems that shape who has access to resources like time, power, and the space to grieve. Breeshia is an author, end-of-life caregiver, and grief coach.
How do we live with grief over the course of our lives? Hope Edelman, author of the groundbreaking book, Motherless Daughters, joins us again to talk about her newest book, The AfterGrief: Finding Your Way Along the Long Arc of Loss. The AfterGrief is what happens as we move out of the initial acute distress when someone dies and into a lifetime of learning to live with what that loss means for us.
The AfterGrief Facebook Group
Motherless Daughters Facebook Group.
What is collective grief and how does it affect members of communities with marginalized identities? Dr. Amber Nelson, PsyD talks about both her professional and personal experiences with recognizing and supporting collective grief. Specifically the collective grief of bearing witness to the highly publicized murders of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, George Floyd, and the others who were killed this past year, many at the hands of the police.
Dr. Nelson’s S.A.F.E.T.Y. Acronym for attending to the effects of collective grief:
Ask for help
Engage in social justice work
Tend to your whole essence
Yank the plug (engage in mindful isolation)
Mariyam was six when her father, Nurtay, died just before his 34th birthday. Over the next 14 years, she would experience the deaths of four more family members, including her mother, Bagitgul, and maternal grandmother, who both died this past summer during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in Mariyam's home city in Kazakhstan. Now 20, Mariyam is figuring out how to live without both of her parents. We talk about how COVID complicated everything about grieving these two new deaths. We also cover how well-intentioned phrases like "I can't imagine what you're going through," "You're so strong," and "I could never survive" can be painful to hear.
The poem Mariyam reads at the beginning of the episode is "The Mountain" by Laura Ding-Edwards.
Follow Mariyam on Instagram @marikoyes
When you think of the word "widow" what image comes to mind? When author Melissa Gould's husband Joel died, she didn't fit what she imagined widows looked and acted like, even if she felt like one. This dissonance led her to come up with the term "Widowish" which is also the title of her new memoir. Widowish is the story of her husband Joel, their love, and how she and their daughter Sophie found ways to grieve the heartbreak of his death.
What does it mean to train to be a death doula for your community? This is a question a group of Indigenous youth in Canada grappled with as part of the Death Doula Mentorship Program, created by Blackbird Medicines and the Indigenous death doula collective. Chrystal Wàban Toop, founder of Blackbird Medicines, joined us to talk about how early experiences with grief grounded her in the the work she does as a life spectrum doula and her commitment to helping people reconnect with traditional knowledge and cultural practices to guide individual, family, and community transitions throughout the life span.
Learn more about Blackbird Medicines and follow them on Instagram & Facebook. Read more about the Indigenous Death Doula Mentorship Program.
Even if you don't really celebrate it, Valentine's Day can be rough when you're grieving. This year, we decided to bring you a compilation of love stories from listeners. In their clip they answered one of these questions: How did your person love you? How did you love your person? How did you fall in love? Even though Valentine's Day is usually marketed as only about romantic love, this episode focuses on the love that exists in any connection. The idea for this episode came out of our conversation with Alesia Alexander, LCSW in Episode 162. Alesia and her daughter, Kahlo, join us to talk more about why love stories are important in grief, especially for children and teens. Thank you to everyone who contributed to this special episode!
Hear more from Alesia in When the Professional Becomes Personal.
For the past twenty years, the Native Wellness Institute has worked to promote wellness and balance for Native people throughout North America. Their Executive Director, Jillene Joseph, joined us to discuss how settler colonial policies outlawing funeral rights purposefully cut people off from traditional knowledge and practices. This trauma reverberates today as Native communities work to reconnect with those practices. We also talk about what it means to take a healthy risk in grief, the importance of attending to grief emotionally, physically, spiritually, and mentally, and how Native Wellness Institute is continuing to promote health and wellness with their Power Hours.
Learn more about Native Wellness Institute.
Tune in to Native Wellness Power Hours every M-F at 12 pm (PST) on Facebook.
Watch past Power Hours on their YouTube channel
Molly loves her life, but she didn't always feel that way. 18 years ago, on a rainy winter morning, Molly's life changed in an instant. The instant was her mom, who was also her best friend, dying of a heart attack while driving Molly to school. In the almost two decades since that day, Molly's worked hard to figure out what helps her feel healthy and grounded. Part of that work was realizing that grief is permanent - that it will continue to be part of who she is in this world. Now in her 30's Molly is discovering some peace in that permanence and in the knowing that her mom is always with her.
Please note, this episode contains topics that could be difficult or activating for some folks. We reference sexual assault, self-harm, and thoughts of suicide. If you decide to listen to this episode, do what you need to care for yourself – it might mean listening with a support person, or reaching out for help. If you want to skip these sections they are between 10:50-11:05 and 14:46-16:05. For additional support, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Line at 1-800-273-8255 or text Hello to 741741.
As of January 21st, 2021, over 400,000 people in the U.S. have been killed by the coronavirus. Globally, the number is over 2 million. Despite attempts by journalists and public health officials to put these numbers into context, what gets lost in tracking case counts are the stories of the people who died and their family members left behind. This is one of those stories. The story of Maria, beloved mother of four, who died of COVID-19 this past summer. It's a story told by Mariana, Maria's youngest daughter. At the last minute, the hospital allowed just one family member to visit and the family chose Mariana. She was the last person to sit by her mother's side, holding her hand and kissing her goodbye through a mask and face shield.
Resources mentioned by Mariana:
COVID-19 Loss Support Group for Young Adults
Losing a parent at a young age support group
Motherless daughters when young (0-30)
If you are a young adult grieving someone who has died of COVID-19, the COVID Grief Network offers free one-on-one and group grief support.
This is the story of how a random encounter led to a transformative friendship that's lasted for more than 50 years. A friendship rooted in the shared experience of grieving a parent who died of suicide. David Pincus and Rick Knapp met as high school seniors and they had a lot in common, including having a mothers who died of suicide. Prior to meeting it was something they rarely talked about, but in their friendship, they finally found someone they could confide in. Now, five decades later, they wrote a book, Sons of Suicide: A Memoir of Friendship, about how these early losses shaped so much of their lives and their ongoing friendship.
In this episode we discuss:
Learn more about David, Rick and their book here.
If you or someone you know needs support, please reach out for help. You can call the National Suicide Prevention Line at 503.273-8255 or text HELLO to 741741.
After her oldest son was killed in 2017, Julia Mallory had a sense that creativity was a place she could go in her grief. In that place, she wrote Survivor's Guilt, a collection of essays and poems about grief, joy, and the moments when they intersect.
In this episode we discuss:
The early days of grief.
What focusing on resilience asks us to ignore.
The concept of survivor's guilt.
The push to "get back to normal."
What it means to grieve as an individual and as part of a collective.
To learn more about Julia Mallory visit Black Mermaids and follow her on IG (@thejuliamallory), Facebook, (@blackmermaidsbrand), and Twitter (@thejuliamallory).
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.