What does it mean to integrate grief into your life? To respond to it as something that doesn't need to be fixed or eradicated? Mari Gonzalez is the co-founder of the Grief Rites Foundation and creator of workshops and classes for those dealing with grief. We discuss how grief shaped so much of Mari's life - from her career choices to how she engages with the world. We also talk about what's coming up in her grief related to the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Paula Becker is an author and mother of three. Her memoir, A House on Stilts, Mothering in the Age of Opiod Addiction, chronicles how she and her family navigated her oldest son, Hunter's, struggles with substance use. Paula and her husband Barry braced themselves, many times, for the reality that Hunter's addiction might end his life. Then, in 2017, while riding a bus from their hometown of Seattle to the Bay Area of California, Hunter was hit and killed by the driver of the bus, as he attempted to re-board after a rest stop. Paula and Barry filed a wrongful death suit which, after two years, led to a jury declaring the bus driver and company were responsible for Hunter's death.
Paula talks about Hunter, the grief she faced throughout his struggle with substance use, how she and her husband learned to make space for one another's grief, and what it was like to be so public with that grief during the trial.
In Ep. 143 we talked with Paige about step-parenting grieving children and in this one, we talk with one of her children, 17-year-old Chloe. Chloe was 14 when her mother Danielle died of colon cancer. After Danielle died, Chloe and her younger sister moved in full-time with their dad and Paige. Chloe talks about honoring her mom on Mother's Day while also celebrating Paige, what it's like to help her younger sister carry on the legacy of their mom, and why sometimes talking about grief with the people we are closest to can be overwhelming.
Want to join us on Friday, May 8th at 6 pm (PST) for Reflection, our annual Benefit? We're going virtual! Learn more here.
This mini-episode shares two emails from listeners and how to participate in The Dougy Center's annual Reflection Benefit & Auction. This year, Reflection is going virtual which means everyone can participate from around the globe! Reflection funds nearly half of The Dougy Center's peer support group program and allows us to create resources like our Tip Sheets and this podcast.
The virtual livestream program is May 8, 2020 at 6:30 p.m. PDT and the event will culminate with the drawing of the winning Porsche Boxster Raffle ticket. Join us early! The pre-cast will begin at 6 p.m. and you can make sure everything is working smoothly before the program starts at 6:30 p.m.
Step 1: Before the event, you will need to register. Here's how.
Step 2: On May 8, you will need to join the event on two devices — one for the livestream and one for the online bidding platform. Watch the livestream program on The Dougy Center’s public Facebook page. The online bidding platform can be found here.
How would the world be different if grief was universally understood as a natural reaction to loss and not something that needs to be fixed or taken away? Lindsey Whissel Fenton is working to create that world through Speaking Grief, a public media initiative designed to raise grief awareness. The initiative is a multi-element project that includes a one-hour documentary, Speaking Grief, that debuts on public television on May 5th, 2020. Lindsey talks about the project’s inspiration and how months spent interviewing grieving people from across the country now influences how she sees her own grief and how she shows up for those she cares about.
Speaking Grief website & trailer.
Want to watch the full documentary? Check your local public television station listing for air dates!
In May of 2015, Jayson Greene's first child, Greta, had just turned two and was spending the day with her grandmother, Susan. While she and Susan were sitting on a bench in Manhattan, a piece of masonry fell from a building, hitting them both. Susan survived, but Greta did not. From the first days of grief, Jayson turned to writing, documenting all that was unfolding. These initial writings became his stunning memoir, Once More We Saw Stars. We talk about Greta, grief, and parenting Jayson's second child, Harrison.
Being a step-parent is complicated under the best of circumstances, but what happens when your children's other parent dies? Paige Smith was just settling into her new family with her husband and his two children that he co-parented with his ex-wife, Danielle, when they got the news that Danielle had been diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. When Danielle died and the girls moved in Paige and her husband, Paige found herself entering the new role of full-time mother, but without the support and guidance of Danielle. We talk about how Paige and her husband, together with their girls, are working to honor Danielle's memory and navigate grief individually, and as a family.
Dr. Tashel Bordere has spent years researching the grief experience of black youth affected by homicide and gun violence. While many grieving people can relate to their grief being disregarded, for black youth and youth with marginalized identities, their grief not only goes unacknowledged, but is often penalized. Their behaviors and reactions, which are normal responses to grief, are met not with support and understanding, but with negative labels and punishment. This results in a concept Dr. Bordere has identified as suffocated grief and is rooted in systems of oppression and discrimination.
Dr. Bordere, PhD, CT is a Certified Thanatologist and Assistant Professor of Human Development & Family Science at the University of Missouri. She is also a Robert Wood Johnson Forward Promise Fellow and the author of numerous research papers and publications focused on black youth affected by homicide, gun violence, and race-based trauma.
To learn more about Dr. Bordere's work:
Recent Publication: Bordere, T. (2019). Suffocated grief, resilience, and survival among African American families. In M. H. Jacobsen & A. Petersen's (Eds.), Exploring grief: Towards a sociology of sorrow. New York: Routledge.
Recent Presentation: Grief, Bereavement, and Death at a Distance: Perspectives on the impact to the community (COVID-19). Presented through the Association for Death Education and Counseling.
What happens when a crisis affects everyone, including those who support others? Who is left to show up and care for those who need it the most? Grief professionals are faced with finding answers to the question, "How do we care for ourselves so we can care for others?" Megan Devine, founder of Refuge in Grief, author of It's OK That You're Not OK, and creator of Writing Your Grief online classes and communities. We delve into these questions and explore how the pandemic is affecting Megan, the people she supports, and her colleagues in the grief world.
The COVID-19 global health crisis is an unprecedented time of uncertainty, change, and concern - three things that often accompany grief. For those who are already grieving, elements of this pandemic may feel familiar and bring us back to times when we had to readjust everything in our lives. Leslie Barber is a grieving widow, parent to a grieving child, and the founder of Grief Warrior, which creates gift boxes for grieving people. We talk all about grieving in this time of COVID-19 and how she and her daughter are navigating the disruptions to daily life while carrying their grief.
Leslie's company - Grief Warrior
When Your World is Already Upside Down - Supporting Grieving Children & Teens During the COVID-19 Global Health Crisis - a Tip Sheet from The Dougy Center.
This is an encore episode that originally aired on February 25th, 2019.
When grief enters our world, many of us expect to cry and feel frustrated, but we aren’t as prepared for the intense fear and worry that can also be part of loss. Someone being 10 minutes late getting home sparks visions of a car crash or getting a call from the hospital. Maybe sleep eludes us as we spin over how to do day to day life without our people. Sometimes the hardest part about anxiety is how it can catch us off-guard, either because we’ve never dealt with it before, or because the anxiety we already knew well has grown to an untenable level.
Claire Bidwell Smith, a licensed counselor, author, mother, and grieving daughter recently published her new book, Anxiety, the Missing Stage of Grief, that delves into all the ways anxiety can be part of grief. Before Claire was 25, both of her parents died of cancer. Her adolescence and young adulthood were deeply etched with their illnesses, treatment, and deaths. Out of this devastating grief grew her desire to help others facing similar situations.
Self-Care Planning Tip Sheet
NASP (National Association of School Psychologists) Tips on talking with children about coronavirus/COVID-19
It's OK That You're Not OK by Megan Devine
Katie Arnold is a writer, mother, grieving daughter, and ultra-marathoner. After her father died of cancer, Katie developed intense anxiety about her health - every headache and muscle pain felt life-threatening. A runner from a young age, Katie took to the trails and started running longer and longer distances, eventually becoming an ultra-marathoner and running 50K, 100K, and 100 mile races. She recently published her memoir, Running Home, where she interweaves memories of her father and the present day maneuvering of grief.
Be sure to check out Running Home - A Memoir & Katie's website.
Listen all the way to the end of the episode for a clip of Jana's interview with Danny Koordi on the Screwed Up Moments podcast!
Kevin is a previous participant in the L.Y.G.H.T. Program - Listening & Led by Youth in the Foster Care System: Grief, Hope, and Transitions. We discuss how a random vending machine trip prompted him to join the L.Y.G.H.T. Program, the support he found in the group as he grieved both death and non-death losses, and how he carries what he learned into his daily life.
To learn more about the L.Y.G.H.T. Program, be sure to listen to Ep. 136: L.Y.G.H.T. - Supporting Grieving Youth in the Foster Care System.
This episode first aired in July of 2018. Since that time, Eidan's brain tumor began growing again in early 2019. On October, 26, 2019, just a few weeks after her 35th birthday, Eidan utilized Oregon's Death With Dignity and died surrounded by a small group of her family and friends. Eidan is deeply loved and missed by her wife, Michelle, their baby Gemma, her family, and everyone who had the opportunity to know her.
In December of 2014, Eidan was a young professional moving up in her career as an engineer. In the last year and a half she’d gotten married, started a new job, and she and her wife Michelle were busy doing what they loved - going to live music, doting on their five animals, and spending time with friends and family. Then, on January 13th, 2015, everything changed. Eidan went for an MRI and before she made it back to her car, the doctor called and asked her to return to the hospital. They had seen a mass in her brain. The eventual diagnosis: a grade 3 astrocytoma wrapped around her brain stem.
Three and a half years later, Eidan is living with cancer. We talk about what it’s like to be a young adult with this diagnosis that has no cure and no definitive course. We also discuss how she and her wife are making decisions about finances and the intentional way they choose to spend time and energy. Eidan shares suggestions for supporting those dealing with a cancer diagnosis, including what questions to ask (and not ask) and ways to show up that really make a difference.
The First Descents program we talk about provides life-changing outdoor adventures for young adults (18-39) impacted by cancer. Be sure to check them out!
Paul Denniston grew up with rigid cultural, religious, and gender expectations for what was appropriate when it came to expressing grief and emotions. This translated as, "Don't express anything besides happiness." There was no room for sadness, fear, grief, or vulnerability. After years of pushing these feelings aside, Paul turned to movement as a way to start expressing them. He began a yoga practice and then trained to be a teacher. From this start, he went on to create Grief Yoga, a program for transforming grief through sound, breath, and movement. We talk about finding emotional fluidity, sobriety, grieving the deaths of his sister and beloved dog, and the positive effects of cute raccoon videos.
You can connect with Paul and his teaching at www.griefyoga.com
Just over four years ago, Jenny Lisk's husband Dennis died of glioblastoma - brain cancer. This loss propelled her into a new world of solo-parenting their two children who were just 9 and 11 at the time. Jenny went searching for a guidebook to help navigate this new reality, but when she couldn't find what she was looking for, she decided to create her own. She started the Widowed Parent Podcast, interviewing other widowed parents, professionals, and people who had a parent died when they were children, and is currently working on two books - a memoir about her family's experience and The Widowed Parent Handbook.
We talk about being a caregiver, telling children difficult news, parenting solo, and what Jenny's learned over the past four years. Be sure to listen to the Widowed Parent Podcast and check out her "What I've Learned About Widowed Parenting" guide.
David Kessler is a renowned author, speaker, and retreat leader. He co-authored two books, On Grief and Grieving and Life Lessons, with another grief and loss icon, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. As with so many who are drawn to working with grief, David’s professional path started with the personal. At 13 he witnessed a mass shooting while his mother was dying in the ICU. In 2016 he became a grieving parent when his younger son, David, died at 21. David's newest book, Finding Meaning - the Sixth Stage of Grief, was inspired by his search to continue finding meaning in his own life and work.
Be sure to connect with David at www.grief.com
In 2013, Shelby Forsythia was barely into her twenties when her mom died of cancer. This loss propelled her into a search for information, understanding, and community. In that search, Shelby wrote Permission to Grieve, created a podcast, Coming Back: Conversations on Life After Loss, and started a grief coaching practice. We talk about grief as rebellion, stolen wallets, and queer identity and grief.
Shelby's website: www.shelbyforsythia.com
The Coming Back episode we did on supporting grieving children and teens: www.shelbyforsythia.com/podcast/jana-decristofaro
It's a New Year's Eve encore episode and we're bringing back Ep. 11: Who Am I Now?
Brendon and Jana delve into the many layers of loss that we grapple with when someone dies and how that loss can change us. When we grieve, we miss the person and who they were in our lives. We miss who we were with them. Often we miss who we were in general before the death. As we think towards the future, we grieve for the events and occasions that we won’t share with the person.
Over time, people in grief may start to see themselves differently. What they value, prioritize, and want in life can change radically.
These changes occur on many levels:
As you sort through what is different, it can be helpful sit with a series of questions:
This episode first aired in December, 2018. Nothing says end of the calendar year holiday stress like grief. Dougy Center staff member Rebecca Hobbs-Lawrence is back with more suggestions around planning for and making your way through the December holidays when you and your family are in the midst of grief. We recognize too that for families who don't observe the December holidays, daily life can become very stressful in the midst of the frenzy that gets created by those who do.
Naomi and Chad had a whirlwind start to their relationship. They were both in their 20's and got engaged less than a year after they met. Then, a few months before their wedding, Chad died in a skateboarding accident. Naomi tried her best to push the grief aside, but 8 months later it came rushing out. Everywhere. This forced her to change up her life and reach out to friends and family for support. Through engaging more fully with her grief, Naomi's found a way to honor Chad by living in the world the way he did - eager and open to new experiences.
Leslie Barber is the founder of Grief Warrior, a series of gift boxes designed for those in grief. The items in the boxes are informed and inspired by what Leslie most needed when her husband Steve died. We talk about grieving a spouse vs. grieving the parent of your child, effective and compassionate employer bereavement policies, and how to show up for the people in your life who are grieving.