November is National Children's Grief Awareness Month and as part of the effort to raise awareness about children's grief, the National Alliance for Grieving Children (NAGC) invited people to write a letter to their younger grieving selves. In this mini-episode, we share two of those letters. One by Brennan Wood, the Executive Director of The Dougy Center, to her 12-year-old self. The second letter is a compilation of suggestions and advice for the staff at The Dougy Center. To learn more about the NAGC and their work to support grieving children, visit their site.
On a random Monday morning in the Bay Area of California, Beth Duckles realized too late that she was in the wrong lane of the highway. A lane that would take her across the Bay Bridge from Oakland to San Francisco. This unexpected trip across the bay bridge would alter Beth’s life. Swerving to avoid a parked car, she watched a man walk to the edge of the bridge, climb onto the railing, and step off. She called 911 and somehow managed to drive across the bridge until she found a safe place to stop on the other side. In ways she couldn’t imagine at the time, witnessing this man’s death would become an experience that deeply connected her to long-standing family grief and her own mother’s sudden death four years later.
Check out Beth's powerful essay about this experience.
When someone dies, we often discover things about them we didn’t know before. Those discoveries can range from mundane preferences like realizing your dad didn’t love chocolate to huge revelations that alter your entire perspective on the person and the life you shared with them. What author Jan Canty discovered about her husband after he was murdered changed everything and left her shocked and angry. Now, 30 years after her husband’s death, Jan is working on a book entitled Till Death We Did Part: A Memoir of Deception/Murder and Recovery.
Ways to connect with Jan and find out more about her upcoming book:
What does transformation mean and how does it connect (or not) to grief? How can people make their way into everything that comes with this kind of loss and still keep track of themselves?
Phelica Glass is a Licensed Specialist Clinical Social Worker in Topeka, Kansas. In her private psychotherapy practice, Phelica works with children, teens, adults, and families who are facing major life transitions, including grief.
In this episode, we talk about :
As much as schools are places of learning, students don’t leave their lives at the door when they enter the building. They bring their whole selves to the classroom, and for many, that includes grief. We talk with school social worker, Kate Sherwood, LCSW, about how to support students and the entire school community when grief shows up. Kate shares ideas for acknowledging grief, notifying the school community when a death occurs, and the power of bringing students together in their grief.
For more information about Judi's House/JAG Institute's Childhood Bereavement Estimation Model (CBEM), check out their site.
In 1955 Jack was ten and living with his mother, who was raising him alone. She and Jack’s father adopted him when he was a tiny infant, which meant she was the only mother he knew. Jack’s mother and father got divorced when he was really young, so for the most part, she was also his only parent. One night, Jack’s mother died suddenly and unexpectedly of a heart attack, leaving him not only in deep grief but unsure of where he would end up and who he would live with.
Halfway through her junior year of high school, Lily's father died suddenly of a heart attack. In shock and angry about everything that would be different in her life without her father, Lily was devastated. As she made her way into this new landscape of grief, Lily sought to fulfill her father’s wish that she do what he didn’t have the opportunity to do - graduate high school, attend college, and grow into the powerful whirlwind of a woman he raised her to be. Lily shares tangible suggestions for teachers, counselors, family, and friends on how to show up and support a teen in grief.
Be sure to watch Lily's powerful documentary about her father.
Ryan's favorite person in the world is his older sister. Seven years ago he got one of those phone calls - the kind that changes your life forever. In that call, he found out his sister was dealing with an aggressive form of Multiple Sclerosis. Since then, he's learned a lot about how to be a support for his sister while also taking care of his own emotional, mental, and physical health. Ryan shares suggestions for what to ask (and not ask) when someone's family member is dealing with an illness and also what he's discovered about caring for someone while honoring their agency and independence.
Jana's dad's dad, Antonio DeCristofaro, died in 1963. She talks with her dad, Tony, about how his dad's death when he was 14 drastically changed the course of his life.
This is the third in our series looking at how the approach to supporting grieving children has or hasn’t changed over time. We’ll be talking to people who had parents die in different decades, starting in the 1940’s. We’re hoping to discover how parents, kids, and other adults such as teachers and coaches reacted to children after a death.
For more information on supporting grieving teens, check out our Tip Sheet.
This episode is part of a series looking at how the approach to supporting grieving children has or hasn’t changed over time. We’ll be talking to people who had parents die in different decades, starting in the 1940’s. We’re hoping to discover how parents, kids, and other adults such as teachers and coaches reacted to children after a death.
Cathy was just 5 and a half when her mother died of suicide. While she knew her mother died, Cathy didn't fully understand what happened because the death wasn’t clearly explained to her. As a teenager and into her early twenties, Cathy filled in the gaps of the story with new information. Information and that enabled her to make more sense of her mother's death and how the grief continues to be part of her life, 40 years later.
This is the first in a series on how the approach to supporting grieving children has or hasn’t changed over time. We’ll be talking to people who had parents die in different decades, starting in the 1940’s. We’re hoping to discover how parents, kids, and other adults such as teachers and coaches reacted to children after a death. Did they talk about it? Avoid them? Act like nothing had happened? We know that even today, in 2018, children are often shielded from the truth of someone dying and as a result, left out of the collective grieving process. Sometimes this happens because people think children are too young to understand and a lot of the time it’s because it’s really painful for parents and caregivers to be present with children’s grief.
Today’s guest is Dean Conklin. Dean is one of two volunteers at our program for grieving children and families that started over 30 years ago. That translates into thousands of hours spent listening to and playing with children and teens facing the heartbreak of a parent or sibling’s death.
Dean came to this work like many volunteers, with his own story of loss. In 1945, when Dean was just 8 years old, his father died in a work accident.
Is it grief or typical child or teen behavior? Most parents and caregivers will have this questions at some point in their grieving child's life. Dr. Kitty Huffstutter, LCSW joins us to talk about ways parents and caregivers can best support their child's grief while also setting limits and responding to big behaviors. We explore the idea of a recovery environment, finding the right time and place to problem-solve, and the importance of identifying natural and formal supports for both caregivers and children. Parenting and grief can be extremely hard work and if you're seeking more support in the form of therapy or counseling, please reach out for resources. You can email us at email@example.com or contact your county's mental health program. If you or your child is experiencing a mental health crisis, please call 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or text HOME to 741741.
To learn more about Dr. Daniel Siegel's work, check out his website.
When we are grieving there can be emotional hot spot days throughout the year. Some of these might be known quantities like a birthday or the anniversary of the death or diagnosis. Others are unexpected - random moments and days that catch you off guard and bring the grief into stark relief. How we approach these significant days can be as unique as we are. In this episode, we hear from a variety of people about how they navigate these days. It's not a recipe for how to do it the right way, because there is no right way, but just a variety of ideas and perspectives. Thank you to everyone who contributed to this episode!
Five years ago Sarah was 23, doing what a lot of 23-year-olds do - working, hanging out with friends, starting life as a "real" adult, and living at home with her mom and dad. Then on a totally average day in May, Sarah walked into the house to find that her mom had an aortic aneurysm. The paramedics came and she was rushed to the hospital where she died later that night.
How do you go from being in one world - the world where your person is alive and washing dishes and folding laundry and calling your name down the hall - to another where this person no longer exists in their physical form? How do your brain and body and spirit even begin to make sense of that?
Sarah talks about the extremely close relationship she had with her mother and how she worked to bridge this before and after world of grief.
Heat Smith's mother, Jan, died of cancer almost 18 years ago. Heat, who was 25 at the time, became her mother's full-time caregiver. We talk about their intense and complex relationship, how Heat honors her mother's memory, and what it's been like to become a brand new parent without her mom.
How do we hold intense joy and deep sorrow at the same time? This was the question facing singer-songwriter Licity Collins as she celebrated finalizing the tracks for her debut album, One Girl Town, on the same day her mother died from Alzheimer's disease. Licity talks about the complex relationship she had with her mother and what it was like to chronicle her grief in real time as part of her Open Diary project. To learn more about Licity's music, her Open Diary project, and purchase her album, One Girl Town, visit her website.
How do our early experiences with attachment and primary attachment figures inform and influence our grief? With her signature combination of humor and insight, Pearl Waldorf, MA, joins us to talk about the ways in which grief shows up in her counseling office and how an understanding of attachment states can support people in grief.
Pearl Waldorf, MA is an individual counselor in Portland, OR. To learn more about her practice, please visit Pearl Waldorf Counseling.
Who Died? was created by Aimee Craig to give voice to the memories of those we carry with us. Each episode is about one person's life and death as told by a loved one. Episode 5 is a conversation with Phyllis DeCristofaro about her father Filipo (Philip). More information at https://www.whodiedpodcast.
Just as she was on the verge of publishing her first book, Suzanne Anderson's husband died of suicide, tossing her into a very dark and difficult abyss. Her entire life was changed by this tragedy and she turned to the same self-care and support practices she taught as a writer, speaker, and leadership innovator. These practices enabled her to be present with each of the emotions and experiences connected to her grief. We talk about the shame and stigma associated with suicide and how she worked to dismantle both as she grieved her husband's death.
To learn more about Suzanne's work and her book, The Way of the Mysterial Woman - Upgrading How You Live, Love and Lead, visit her website, Mysterial Woman.
In Episode 4 of Who Died? host Aimee Craig talks with Brandi Maxell about her mother.
Music written and performed by Lida Husik.