Living Through and Supporting Grief

Nobody gets out of this life without dying, yet death is one of the least talked about topics in the western hemisphere. Why is that? Grief is a natural and healthy response to death, but we often shy away from this too.If you or someone you know is experiencing the loss of a loved one and seeking a support group; https://lnkd.in/d9UW-e75 is one option. If you prefer reading, we suggest It’s OK that You’re Not OK by Megan Devine.Join JJ and Melissa for a very special podcast reflecting on one woman’s personal journey and what she’s learned so far.

January 25, 2022
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Melissa Albers  0:01  
Hey everyone. Welcome to the self awareness Journey podcast. I'm Melissa Albers.

JJ Parker  0:06  
And I'm JJ Parker. This podcast is for seekers, seekers of happiness and joy seekers of a centered approach to success in life. Seekers of their true authentic selves.

Melissa Albers  0:17  
Get ready for some real talk on everything from anxiety, emotions and habits to love, compassion and forgiveness. We know you'll be challenged and enlightened by this conversation. We're so glad you're here. Let's dive in. JJ, Hello, good morning.

Unknown Speaker  0:36  
Good morning.

Melissa Albers  0:37  
Today, I am very pleased to introduce to you, Mary. But that's funny because you already know Mary, Mary. Hello. Mary Bodvarsson is our special guest today. And I'm really, really looking forward to the conversation. I was gonna say I'm excited to talk with you, Mary. But that doesn't really feel like the right words. Probably, yeah, probably not. But just for everyone's benefit. Today, Mary will be here talking with us about grief. And just a little history. Before we get started, Mary and I have been good friends for decades. I just thought I would throw out decades instead of actual years, because that would be very depressing in and of itself all old we're getting. Let's just say that when Mary and I first met each other, we had 80s hair. Right? Hair. Yes, we had hair, we had really big air. Mary has also participated with JJ night for a number of years in our previous business, cardiology. And Mary is an extremely intelligent, adult learning specialist, PhD highly accelerated person in many, many regards of her personal life. Yet today's topic isn't about any of that today's topic is actually about grief. And a couple of years ago, Mary lost her son, five weeks after she brought him to college at UCLA as a freshman in a freak accident. And it has thrown Mary into a completely different kind of research life a different kind of period of her life completely. And as Mary listens to our podcast, she reached out to JJ and I, and she said, You know, I really think that you guys ought to be talking about grief. And I was surprised that you were wanting to do that Mary, on one hand, and then another way I wasn't at all. But as you began to talk, it really made sense. And I was I began to get very, actually, I got really excited about what it could do for other people in this topic. So thank you for being here. I probably did kind of a botched introduction for you. But you're used to me making egregious errors. So let's just talk a little bit why I'm curious as to why you reached out and wanted to talk about grief.

Mary  3:05  
Yeah, that's Well, thanks for that introduction. Yeah, you know, there's there is one interesting thing that you said in the introduction that you saw me make a note about. And it's something that we'll probably talk about at some point during this call. But you said a couple years ago. And technically, I guess that's correct. Because Hans died in 2020. But it's just 15 months. Yeah. And for me, that's a huge difference. But that is something that even the transition from 2122 2021 to 2022. It comes with minefields that I didn't expect. So anyway, I just got to point that out. Thank you. But the reason I wanted to talk about grief, and thought your platform was a natural spot for it is because, you know, grief is really all about the human experience. And everybody will experience intense grief at some point in their lives if they haven't already. Yeah, so it's just a natural part of being human. Yet we don't talk about it. Right. You know, you can even think about the fact you know, we're still in the midst of this pandemic. And we get the reports of the number of people that die in a particular day. And you can just do the math and multiply that by by 10s and hundreds to be quite to the number of people grieving those individual losses yet we don't talk about the grief.

Melissa Albers  4:38  
Yeah, you're right, you're right.

Mary  4:41  
Now, so you know, I mean, we have a we have a pandemic, and we have a grief pandemic right alongside it, but we're not talking about that. So I, you know, I really wanted to talk about it because, you know, while for me and for everybody going through some sort of grief it It's exceptionally painful. But, but it's actually the healthy response to loss. You know, it's kind of like, you know, the analogy would be if somebody is running a fever, that's the healthy response to an infection. Grief, grief is the healthy response to to loss. Right? Right. Yeah, we try to ignore it, we try to we try to rush our way through it, we try to, we try to just make it go away. And I'm learning for myself personally. That's, that's not healthy. Yeah, to do to do those things.

Melissa Albers  5:36  
That's such a good perspective. And I'm in complete alignment with that. And I would say that as human beings, it seems that we lump anything that has negative connotation or negative emotion. We try to shove it out of the way too, because who wants to deal with that? You know, right. That's not pretty. That's not easy. That doesn't feel good. Right? So there is a natural, and I think, as a society, we haven't been educated about how to manage our experience or feel right grief at all, particularly when it's around loss of because of death.

Mary  6:11  
Right. Yeah. And I, I wholeheartedly agree with that. And I would I would add to it that yes, we we don't know how to navigate grief as the Griever. Nor do we know how to navigate grief as the supporter of somebody going through? Yeah, a tragic loss. Yes. So yeah, so one of my, one of my reasons for wanting to to talk today is that I, you know, is that to kind of open people's minds to just additional ways they could support someone, but also, you know, additional ways they themselves might find a ways to comfort themselves or something like that. Right.

Melissa Albers  6:59  
Yeah, I love that. And it kind of leads me to a question, and that's one piece. But what do you hope can happen as a result of today's conversation in in alignment with that, so not only hoping to show someone grieving ways in which to do that? What are some of the other things that you're hoping?

Mary  7:22  
I'm, you know, thinking about the person who's experiencing significant loss? i The Griever. I'll call that person the Griever. I hope that if somebody is listening to this, who is a Griever, that they realize they're not crazy? Because Holy Cow in an intense grief experience? There are times where you think I have lost my mind. I, I will not recover from this. I am, I am certifiably crazy. So just to help people who are grieving, understand some of the the natural twists and turns that come in a grief experience. Yeah. And then at the same time to help the supporters, those people who really want to help someone, actually even provide, you know, tactical ideas. I mean, you know, concrete things they could do, but also ways that they could be. That's the difference. I think

Melissa Albers  8:37  
that's a really good, I'm really looking forward to that part of our conversation. Because even in our experience, me and you knowing each other for as many years as you have, there are so many moments where I feel completely speechless, you know, and I know that so many share that where it's like, I so desperately want to say the right thing I so desperately want to be of support. And then there's like a little fear that pops up. Oh, my gosh, what if I say the wrong thing? What if it's terribly wrong? And, and so yeah, I think I think that's that's a really, really poignant part of our discussion. Yeah,

Mary  9:12  
there is. Excuse me, there is one more thing that comes to mind relative to just what I hope people might understand as a result of this podcast. And that is that the grief experience and again, this goes for both the Griever and the supporters but the grief experience is not this linear path. You know, so many people think that okay, the tragic event happens, and over time, one gets better and and the grief just gets right gets gets better. And it just happened. Yeah, this straightforward

Melissa Albers  9:50  
pathological logic. Yeah, yeah.

Mary  9:54  
And I was thinking about this yesterday. And well actually, this thinking about this for a while, I received a cartoon or something at some point during this journey where the visual was like a ball of yarn. And it was it was that was illustrating the real grief journey. And so Melissa, I'm going to make you How will allow I'll warn you of this. But imagine if there was a ball of yarn on my kitchen floor and Cinder, my hat. got ahold of it. And so that volley yarn just gets ripped, pulled apart. There's pieces that are just, you know, flopping down. Yeah, that, yeah, that's, that's what the actual grief journey is, you know, in your moving, hopefully, in a good direction. But holy cow, there are times where you are just sucked right back into Yeah, the moment you learned, and there are things that that make it, you know, set you back. So it is not this just straightforward path. And I think, you know, I when, when Hans died, you know, I went, I saw therapist right away, and I remember I would go and meet with her, and I would come home, annoyed, because I wanted her to tell me exactly what I needed to do to feel better. And I wanted her to just say, Do this, do this, do this, and you will progress on this path. Yeah. And, and it just doesn't work that way. And and, yeah, in our society, we we've heard of the stages of grief. You know, Elisabeth Kubler Ross came up with these back in the late 60s. And what people need to understand is the research she did to come up with the denial and the anger and whatever the five are, ultimately, ending and acceptance. That was a completely different subject pool that she was she was researching. She was researching people who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness. And how do they come to grips?

Melissa Albers  12:01  
Oh, I never do that. That's fascinating. Yeah. And, and so you can't

Mary  12:05  
translate that to somebody losing a spouse, right, somebody losing a child or a couple of suffering a miscarriage is it's just not, you can't do that.

Melissa Albers  12:17  
Before we get too far down that path of like that part. Let's let's just for one minute, I want to ask one question first. Because you talked about really wanting a linear line. And that that that is a logical thing that makes complete sense to me when you think about it like that. But you said, you know, you get sidelined by all sorts of things, right? Because it isn't logical, and it isn't a straight line. So can you talk just a little bit about the effects of grief in all of the different bodies like in your physical body, your emotional body, your mental body? Like? How does grief manifest ongoing or even as a surprise attack? Like? Can you talk a little bit about that part?

Mary  13:00  
Sure, sure. Um, you know, physically, I can report that there is such a thing as a broken heart. Because when Hans first died, I and you can hear it in my voice, you know, my voice has changed. So there was another physical manifestation of times my voice isn't as strong because I'm not physically feeling as strong. Right, right. Right, right. But when he first died, probably for at least the first three months, if not longer, because it was well into the new year. And he died on October 24. I truly felt like my heart was broken. I mean, I literally felt a physical kind of stabbing pain in my heart. And then there were times where I felt like somebody had put a brick on me, and was pushing down on it. And, and bear in mind, this was in the the height of the first round of COVID meeting. This was in the winter of 2020 2021. So I would, I would think, Oh, my God, I've got COVID now and and, and, you know, we weren't going anywhere. We weren't, you know, it, it just it wasn't COVID it was a broken heart. Yeah. So I can I can absolutely attest to the fact that that that is a legitimate physical response to intense loss. So so it, but I think the big thing about grief, relative to all three components you asked about, yeah, is grief is utterly exhausting. I mean, there could be a word that really describes exhaust to the nth degree that's the word that should be used. It is it is so exhausting. You know, you just, you have such you know, mentally, like we all have heard of chemo brain or chemo fog, I would argue there's a very similar thing that should be called Greek brain or Greek fog. It's in, in sanely hard to concentrate. You know, and if you can't concentrate, you can't pay attention. You can't, you know, retain memories. So, it's really hard to remember things. I mean, I think back to last winter. And, you know, it's almost like, I'm looking back at a video that's kind of blurred, I can't quite remember I remember distinctly things like what you did on Christmas Day, but but the whole day is a bit of a blur. You know, it's, it's so mentally it's, it's, it's very hard. You know, and speaking about our brains, our minds, our, our thought processes can be both kind and cruel.

Melissa Albers  16:00  
Yeah, I was gonna say, I betcha. There's a bunch of sneak attacks too, when it comes to race. Ongoing. Yes. And that's how I feel they should be called a sneak attacks. Because when I when I lost my grandmother who raised me, like my mother, that's what happened with me, I had like these moments where I would start to feel slightly better over several months. And there was a whole bunch of emotions with that, too. But I remember the sneak attacks where I would drive by something and see something or I would have a memory that would shake me to my core. And it was just it brought everything so immediately back to the present that it felt like a sneak attack.

Mary  16:36  
Yeah, yeah. And I think I think I think people who lose somebody through some sort of a tragic event or a car accident, you know, Hans's accident, you know, somebody who, who is in the joys of giving birth, and something goes horribly wrong, you know, all sorts of just tragic types of losses. What I have found happening for me, is, I will relive the accident. And then I wasn't there, Hans fell off of the roof of his apartment building, though, basically six storeys, so I wasn't there. I know the circumstances to how that came about. And one thing that both my husband and I experienced from the get go, was constant replaying of that in our minds, where it was just constant, and you couldn't shut it off. And, and, you know, in particular, at night, when you wake up at night, you know, I used to teach a class on the psychology of sleep, I know exactly what happens at night, when you wake up in the middle of night, your prefrontal cortex is offline, the amygdala, the emotional center of your brain is firing on all cylinders. So people who go through something like this, it is completely normal that when you wake up in the middle of night, you go right back to that most horrible incident, and you replay it, because your brain is still trying to make sense of it. And it's in the emotional center. So that's the that's the, that's the, the mean side of the brain. The you know, the other side of the brain that helped me in the first first two, three months, and still helps me today is I don't look to future events. I don't even look at to them, I don't think about them, I don't let my mind go there. And so I'll give you an example and going are our other son or older son, he and I were sitting in the basement last December and I said to him, you know, I just really, you know, when you lose one son, you become super paranoid about the health and the, the, you know, the other one. So I was sitting with Connor and I was just trying to talk with him about how he was doing. And he said, you know, Mom, I've heard you tell people what, what you're doing to get through, you know, each minutes or each hour each day. And he said, I do the same thing. And that is you know, I don't think about GUNNARs wedding. Because Hans won't be there to be his best man.

Melissa Albers  19:22  
I do all the significant events, right? I go

Mary  19:25  
about you know, June of 2026 for whatever whatever it for the year that Hans would have graduated from UCLA, you know, I don't think about those significant events because if I did, I would swirl into LA Yeah. A bad moment. So So the brain is the brain is is good and bad. Emotions. As you guys know, so well. are so much a driver What we do and and how we experience things. My big thing with emotions relative to this, and Melissa, you'll probably laugh at this. But as you know, I'm pretty stoic, you know? Yeah. So we don't, yes. And you don't generally see my emotions on the outside at least the sad ones you do now. But the other thing that's really, really fascinating for me and I am cerebral, so I am constantly trying to figure it out. Is I still get asked a lot. How are you? That's one of the questions that drives me crazy. Because I don't know. I literally I literally sit there and I think, Okay, on the outside. I know everybody thinks, wow, Mary's strong married. Yeah. It's like how great she is. Yeah. Like, she can sit here and have a conversation about this and everything. Yeah. And yeah, I can do those things. But how am I really? How am I on the inside? Yeah, I still have nights where I can't sleep at all. And I just cry?

Melissa Albers  21:06  
I sure do. Sure. Right. So it's like,

Mary  21:08  
I don't know how I am.

Melissa Albers  21:11  
This brings me to a question I would like us to sit on for just a moment. You know, I think that well, meaning human beings oftentimes do and say completely the wrong things. And I know you and I have talked over the months that there have been some more challenging responses to your loss. And I wonder if you could just, if you can't, you're laughing out

Mary  21:39  
saying names without

Melissa Albers  21:43  
my entire family? Just kidding. Yeah, but what are some of the more challenging responses that you've heard in people? Well, meaning and trying to be supportive?

Mary  21:54  
Yeah, you know, and I will actually start this response with an absolute true statement of, I feel so so lucky. I am one of the luckiest people I know. Because I have had so many people do the right thing. And I know we will come to that as well. But I had a really unlucky thing happen. I had a really sucky horrible thing happen. But, but I'm a very lucky individual. And so with that said, I have some, you know, I have some things I can share of things that that people have done extremely well meaning so well intentioned, so want to help, but it's not helpful. And, and some things I might share actually didn't happen to me. I just read about them or heard about them on podcasts, because of course, I've dug into the literature on this. But But the big thing that people have done for me for us that, that there, I know, your listeners are going to be like, well, then what the heck are we supposed to do?

Melissa Albers  23:15  
Well, that's okay. We'll get to that. Next, give us some examples of maybe these are well meaning, but probably don't do these things. Yeah.

Mary  23:21  
Don't ever, ever, ever. Write in a card, say in a phone call, text, whatever. The statement, let me know what I can do. Hmm. Don't ever do that, again, to somebody who has truly had a significant loss. And here's why. That person who is in the throes of that significant loss, barely has the bandwidth to get out of bed, barely has the bandwidth to stand upright. And now you're putting the responsibility on them to tell you what to do. Yeah. And they you will never hear back from them. They will never respond to that text with. Yep, we're out of toilet paper. Right? You know, right. It just won't happen. And as you know, if you're the first one who says that, then they're like, Oh, that was so kind when you're the 800 and 92nd person who says that it pisses them off. Yeah. And I don't know where you are in that range. So just don't say it because it puts the onus on them. And really, the person who's grieving has no idea

Melissa Albers  24:33  
and no extra bandwidth whatsoever to even consider.

Mary  24:37  
No, no. And then the other thing, and Melissa, you and I've talked about this as well, it it's it's natural for us as humans to want to connect with one another. And so when somebody suffers a loss, the natural response of people is to say something about a loss that they had happened to them, right to build that connection, right, try not to do that, or acknowledge that it's different. So don't compare, you know, your this person's loss to, you know, the loss of something that you experienced 1020 years ago, unless it happens to be a very similar loss. Like I have friends who have lost a child. And those people reaching out is wholly different. But somebody reaching out to say, you know, how sad they were because they lost their cat. That's not the same. That's not on the same level, even though to them. It probably was that that that animal may have been a significant part of their lives. Right, right. It's not gonna land that way. Part of the Griever.

Melissa Albers  25:50  
Yeah. So yeah. So comparing, like that comparison piece is so important. And and it's so funny. I was just talking to JJ yesterday, I ran into London, one of my really good high school friends, is runs a big part of London, and she was there and I was so happy to see her. I hadn't seen her for months and months, and, and she too, lost a son. And now she is on your seven. And I always just say, and what's new with you? And you know, her what's going on with you? And she had found a new grief group in Monticello. And she is so on it. Yeah. And she said, she said, what's so interesting is I couldn't find a grief group. Because the last one I was in, she said, there were some people in there who had lost a child, and there were people in there who had lost their pets. So she's the exact same analogy. And she just said, I sat there, and I just couldn't feel a connection. And part of me felt a little guilty about that. And part of me was kind of mad. And so she said that she was feeling so much better, because she had found a particular group that was specific to parents losing children. Right. So she made that exact same analogy that you just did right now, which is a synchronistic thing. Yeah.

Mary  27:12  
Yeah, that that group is international. So interesting. Yeah. For one of the others, who cares, compassionate friends, that org. So

Melissa Albers  27:22  
okay, thank you for that. Um, one of the other things that you had talked about, that I think is significant, and we should bring it up is a problem to solve. You know, one of the things that you had commented on is that people treated this. Yeah, in a way that was very quite, you know, very specific.

Mary  27:41  
Yeah, yeah. And, and, you know, again, I was on the other side of this equation, you know, up until October 24, of 2020. And so, you know, we oftentimes look at grief as something that needs to be fixed. And so again, going back to my first meetings with the therapist, I wanted her to tell me how to fix it. And it's, it's not something that we can fix. And so, you know, people want to help, but oftentimes, they want to figure out a way to solve that problem of grief. And, you know, and interestingly enough, I, it was almost 11 months into my journey of having lost Hans, and I was meeting with my oldest brother and his wife, for the first time, because of COVID, and yada, yada, yada. And my sister in law, we were walking to a restaurant and my sister in law started crying. And she, she looked at me and she said, I am so so sorry for what you're going through. And I know I can't fix it. And that, to me, was a lightbulb moment. That, you know, all the reading I've done all the all the conversations I've had, I realized, you know, I was like that's, that's it that and I told her then and I told her later, that was the first right response I'd gotten. Well, wasn't the first right that's not fair. Okay, but a really significant one that stuck with it was a significant Yeah, it was a significant one that stuck out stood out because it's just, it's the reality of the situation. Like another another, like harder response that I didn't get as much I got it and kind of subtle tones, but I know of people who, you know, get the types of platitudes like, well, he's in a better place. It was God's will. You know, you've still got Ghana, or you know, for people who lose a baby or a miscarriage, you can have another child. You know, those do not

Melissa Albers  30:00  
Help. They feel so dismissive. It feels so dismissive. Yeah, not intentionally, I'm sure but Right. Yeah,

Mary  30:08  
right. It's just and again, it's, you know, the biggest thing about being empathetic and supportive, is to, it's not. It's not to put yourself in this other person's shoes. But it's to, it's to listen to the experience from that other person. So, so take clues from the person grieving, and know that that is their legitimate experience. So don't rewrite their experience to say, well, you know, God needed another angel. So he snatched Hans up. Because that's not that, that that just You're right. That's, that's a diss. It feels dismissive. And it feels

Melissa Albers  30:55  
dismissive precisely, I don't think people are trying in any way, shape or form at that, but it's sure I can feel that way. Well, let's, you know, since you're talking about this, let's talk about what are some really helpful responses like, and you know, I always, JJ and I always like to try to offer some suggestion for people because this is something and honestly, more and more people are going to be in this space, because of COVID people that we know and love, more and more. And as we age to it's more and more, there's so many, there's so much of that. So what are some helpful responses that people could learn to have? Someone that's grieving?

Mary  31:33  
Yeah, I think I think probably the umbrella statement, I would make for everything I might suggest, is just show up. Just Just be there. And again, I'll I can talk from personal experience, you know, when when we lost Hans, you know, yes, it was in the middle of COVID COVID was at a peak. So nobody could come over. And, and be with us. And, and actually, I'm gonna backtrack a bit and talk is something else. I know, I wanted to share about being a Griever and, and help grieving people not feel crazy. Experiencing a significant loss like this is without question, the most isolating experience of my life. I have never in my life felt so alone. So kind of lost. So yeah, it's just it's isolating. Yeah. And so you, you, and for people who might lose somebody, you know, in a non COVID environment? Yeah, then you have a house full of people doesn't matter. That grief, yep, they feel so isolated, and so alone. And even when you have a partner, I mean, I have a loving husband, who's on this journey with me. You know, it's still isolating, he feels isolated, I feel isolated. It's not like we're not supporting each other. We are, of course, but it's still such an isolating experience. So with that said, show up. I totally get it. Because, again, I was on the other side of the equation, you don't know what to say, you worry about saying the wrong thing. So you don't say anything. I mean, I, you know, we all know, like ghosting means I have been ghosted by a lot of people, and still haven't heard anything. And, and I understand, I understand that they're paralyzed with not knowing what to do, and now they're paralyzed with, it's been 15 months. Oh, my God, is it gonna look stupid if I all of a sudden show up? Sure. Sure. And that's fine. I'm, I'm, that that is what it is. On the other side of the equation, I had people who have shown up for me for us, that I, you know, they were, they were friends of, you know, friends through sports, meaning, you know, Hans played sports with their son or something like that. And they have been there with consistent, you know, just a text thinking of you a chest with a picture of a cardinal on their bird feeder and saying, Hans visited us this morning. You know, and it's those sorts of things. So show

Melissa Albers  34:29  
up. And I should also say, right here, Cardinal represents Heinz for you. Yeah, the

Mary  34:34  
eagle. We see eagles on our walks along the Mississippi River quite a bit. But, but so, so, but to show up, especially if you're going to physically show up. You have to be willing and able to sit in intense pain. You just have to be able to do that. And so whatever you can do to bolster your ability to sit and witness intense pain, you need to be able to do that. And again without trying to fix it just

Melissa Albers  35:08  
sit, just be like just be just be.

Mary  35:11  
Yep. I had a two girlfriends show up the night, we started telling people, and I remember standing in the kitchen. And I was just I was just, like, frantically doing things. I was just I don't know what I was doing. But I was frantically doing things. And I remember just looking across at them, and they were both just standing there with tears. And that's it. Yeah, they were there. Never forget that they showed up.

Melissa Albers  35:37  
Yeah, yeah, I love that. So there's no so so show up. And the other thing that you didn't use this phrase, but I heard it in my head is there's no expiration date in being with someone in their pain. So even if people have stayed away from someone, because they didn't feel emotionally strong enough to be in that pain with someone, but they still love that person. They still want to be there for that person. As soon as they're able to, to show up for that person.

Mary  36:03  
Yeah. Yeah. And, you know, and you can state the obvious. I mean, you can just say, you know, this hurts. Right? You know, it Yeah. And, and that, and that, you know, again, part of going through this grief process is because we're not well educated on it. In on either end of the spectrum, you do feel kind of crazy. So somebody's sitting with you, and just saying, this sucks, this hurts. But you know, and, and crying alongside you, helps to normalize what you experience 24/7 It helps to, to witness that, okay, I'm not crazy, for not being able to stop crying, you know, I'm not, you know, so it helps to normalize some of those some of those experiences. And we did have, you know, how to add Hans had friends, all over this country, he was an amazing connector. And so he had, he had true best friends in multiple areas. Many best friends here in St. Cloud. And but the two of them, he had done a senior road trip, the summer before, before they all went off to college, and their parents were like, COVID be damned, we are coming over. And so they would come over and just sit on the couch. And, you know, the four of us if it was just earning me and one of one, one of the sets of parents, we would just sit there and talk and you know, laugh about something goofy that happened. And, you know, a half second layer, all four of us be crying. Yeah. And and that's that, that's that be there a person who's really grieving needs? Yeah. And, and you know, and it was funny, because like, like, you know, one of the one of the moms Andy would always apologize. And I was like, Don't apologize, because it helps somebody who's grieving a loss to know that other people are grieving that same loss.

Melissa Albers  38:04  
Right. Right. Which brings me to another point you and I have talked about a few times over the last several months, and that is still talking about the person. Oh, my

Mary  38:14  
gosh, yeah. You know, isn't that? Yes, that that is a helpful response. So you're right in the same kind of bucket of what we're talking about. Don't do not think that if you bring up that person's name, you're going to all of a sudden, have them say, Oh, my God, I forgot I lost that person. And now you're reminding me of it.

Melissa Albers  38:36  
means that, okay, as for the listeners, this is a side note, this is a perfect marry moment, right here. Let's talk about something really, really hard and throw in a good joke.

Mary  38:47  
Because it because it is it's, you know, I do not go through, I probably don't go through 20 minutes where it doesn't quite get you. Sure. Of course, I'm sure it's even less than that. So you will not remind and again, like you said earlier, Melissa, there's no end time for this. You know, I have a friend who lost her son, I think it's 30 years ago now. You know, we could talk about him with her and and it's not that she's always going to be like, Oh, darn it, you know, right? I forgot about that. Right? Right. Yeah. So so do talk about the person because here's what happens when you don't, if you don't bring their person up, you are making that loss feel worse, again and again and again. So not talking about it. Or my husband refers to it as the elephant in the room. There is this huge elephant in the room and it is that that person we lost when that person can't be talked about or a part of a conversation. And and, and you guys know because JJ you would have heard so many stories too when we were working together at chronology. I mean, Hans was my house was my favorite. He was my source for every funny story I had. Thankfully, and ours was pretty good at it too, while urns really good at it. But um, but you know, I love talking about hearts. I love talking about hearts. I love telling Hans stories. Yeah, you know, and I will always love talking about hearts. Yeah. So

Melissa Albers  40:31  
he was your Jimmy Dean. He was your Jimmy Dean. Yeah.

Mary  40:36  
James Dean. For those of you are thinking sausages.

Melissa Albers  40:41  
James Dean. Sorry. Yeah. But yeah, rabble rouser.

Mary  40:46  
Yeah, exactly. So so. So really helpful response. Talk about the person who died. You know, a loss like this is always present. So you're not bringing something to light that the person magically forgot about. But so for some tangible things, because I know, I know, one of your hopes was that, you know, the listeners could come up with some ideas, or here's some ideas. Actually, I'm going to preface this with a message to the Griever one thing that was hard for me was to accept offers of support that were the more tangible types, because I would say, Oh, we don't need that. We don't need that. And then as it turned out, they were absolute godsend, which I refer to as nonsense. And so set up a meal train. And, and, you know, do ask for permission, obviously. Right? But, you know, just say, you know, you may not think this right now, but having a meal show up every third night might be something you like and if you don't, we'll stop it, you know, anything can get stopped. But so do things like that, send frequent texts. Do you know send a note with a favorite memory? Listen, learn how to be a good listener. Just listen and and allow the person to talk and grieve and cry and don't try to stop their tears. Tears are normal. Explain I you know, if you had a relationship with that individual who passed away explain what they meant to you. What what did you know we got we got and again, this is where we were so lucky. We got texts from young man, we got letters dropped in our mailbox, from friends of Hans's who told us what he meant to them. And I will I pull those out everyone smiling. Yeah, they make me cry because you are to be that person for them. But they are so they are they are so

Melissa Albers  42:57  
nice. lettable Yeah, price.

Mary  43:01  
I've had people my friends up here No, I'm an Aldi freak. I've had people text me from Aldi and say I'm at Aldi, what do you need? And I've learned to say, yep, half and half bagels, eggs, you know, and right. So again, exactly, except on the Grievers side, except, you know, and and one thing in those those days of really intense immediate grief is, and I didn't, I didn't have anybody necessarily do this for me, again, probably because we were in COVID More than anything, but just just show up. And like, like, I've heard of people having done this where like, like, show up, be sitting in your car outside their house and just say, I'll be outside your house for two hours. If you need a hug. You need a shoulder to cry on. Just come on out. You know, and just sit there, just be there. So make those those effortless effort. Yep. And make those experiences where you are showing up? Yeah, easy for them. So, you know, if somebody's at the hospital, and again, this isn't a non COVID world, but you know, yeah, just just show up in the lobby, and send them a text and say I'm in the lobby, you know, they're there because they're their parents is on hospice. I'm, I'm in the lobby, come down if you need a hug, don't if you don't, I'll be here for two hours. And I bring a book and read. So So you know,

Melissa Albers  44:28  
those are really really great ideas. Wow. Yeah.

Mary  44:31  
And it's just, it's the not showing up that is really painful. So just Just do what you are capable of doing. And do it.

Melissa Albers  44:46  
Yeah. Even if even if you may not feel totally equipped to do a good job with it. Just do it anyway. I mean, yeah, yeah. Yeah,

Mary  44:57  
I mean, we all have we all have an ability to do something thing, right, exactly right. Yeah, you know, I remember, you know, as we're as we're recording this, I'm sitting in my office and I have two windows that face the front. And I remember I was sitting here working. And all of a sudden, I saw a car stop out front, which hadn't been unusual during those first couple, three months after Hans died. And somebody comes running up the steps and then runs back down to the car. And it was it was winter. So I had, you know, we're in Minnesota, I had no idea who this person was, right? Because they were so bundled up. And so I finished what I was doing, and I went to the door and, and there was just a bag with two bottles of red wine. And a note saying, I knew you liked red wine. And I was it. I, you know, it's those sorts of things that are meaningful I have in this again, these, these stories just illustrate. You know, my particular situation, but I did the Peace Corps and I had a Peace Corps friend, send me a card where she said, you know, in this country in the Western society, we don't know how to grieve, right and support Grievers properly. And so she said, I remember in my village when a mother lost a child, and all the mothers from the village gathered around her and they wailed on my lawn. They just wailed. And they just were in a circle doing this. So what happened? Oh, I don't know. It doesn't matter what happened after that. All of a sudden, there was a day where I got like four cards, and they were all the exact same card. And then the next day, I got like two or three more. And they were a card that a bunch of pisco friends of mine had all bought at Trader Joe's. So it was all the exact same card. And it was these hands all coming around a circle. And they all wrote a message of, of support. And and they said we're, we're surrounding you, and your grief. Wow. You know, it's things like that. I had another I had another again, some Peace Corps friends. They knew I love burning candles, and Hans had had taken on that habit. He loved burning candles. So they set up a candle train. And every two to three weeks, I got another candle. And most of them are handmade. And that's yours for you. I mean, like, like I could make a candle. Actually, I have one sitting here. One of my friends made this one see the whole

Melissa Albers  47:28  
get out. Yeah. Wow. Okay, so everybody, it looks like a rain. It looks like a rain stick.

Mary  47:34  
Yeah, well, there it is. Well, he's actually he's got a PhD in meteorology. But in the note that came with us, he said, I wouldn't recommend burning it inside. I have no idea how

Melissa Albers  47:48  
that would be the reason why the wick is still white. Thank God for that. Yeah, so Oh, well, I think this has been such a wonderful conversation, and I just marvel at your ability to translate your feelings into words and helpful, specific words that are really able to paint a picture of how it feels to grieve and, and further to illustrate ways that we can help those that we love, that are in a grief time, you know, period of grief. I would just ask, is there anything else that I didn't ask you about Mary or we didn't get to talk about that you would like us to touch on before we end today's podcast?

Mary  48:41  
Um, well, you know me, yeah. Well, you said something, you know, your experience of running into your friend in law. Yeah. You know, and it's been seven years. That's what I would love as a takeaway for people. And again, you know, the caveat is, you know, I'm going to talk about me personally, but but people have lost a significant a significant person in their lives. The grief will never end. It's true. You never stopped grieving. There's no timeframe, you know, it's like, oh, it's been a year she should be doing better, she should be good. And so understand that for some people. There are like, I'm finding your two to be harder. Probably because in your one, I was in such a fog. And, you know, you worry so much when you are coming up to a milestone. Yeah, coming up to Hans's birthday on April 14 Last year, you know, brought about again, that mind body emotion connection, a lot of anxiety, a lot of fear, a lot of trepidation and then earn and I navigated that well, really, in a great way to honor him. But, you know, as as you move into the second year, and I am anticipating because I talked to people, you know, years out third year, fourth year, fifth year, we're still grieving. But the but the reach outs, the questions

Melissa Albers  50:19  
are Yeah, begin to diminish,

Mary  50:21  
very diminished, extremely diminished. So, you know it again, it this whole process is such a, you know, it's such a dichotomy, because, you know, on the one hand, it's like, you know, it's still ask me how I'm doing. And then on the other hand, I'm like, don't ask me how I'm doing. I'm sure. I'm sure people that know me who may be listening to this are like, Okay, seriously, what are we supposed to do? Be willing to talk about it? Like, yeah, I was on a walk with my walking partner yesterday. And, you know, she was just acknowledging, I was telling her that we were going to record this podcast this morning. And she was like, she said, You know, I still think of you, I think of Hans. All the time. Yeah. Well, telling me that is really helpful. Because again, there's always this feeling of isolation and loneliness that comes along with a significant loss. And so if you can tell someone how you're still sharing in their journey, even though the journey is further out, you're still a willing and able participant. Yeah, that is a huge thing. Yeah. So that, that's, that's probably one thing. And and, you know, if I were to think of anything else, I think, you know, there's, when you do have a significant loss there, there is such a thing that I would call secondary loss. And it is the loss of those relationships, that, you know, for whatever reason, that people couldn't show up. And I don't have the ability to try to fix that. I just, I still don't have the bandwidth. Right? You know, there. There are eight. Yeah, that's one thing that I think I would like to add is just that understand that people who are grieving no matter how far out from their brief, will still probably have some limited bandwidth for certain people or certain situations and earn an IRA. Very true, in that, you know, it's like, if if we were, if we were to, like, be in a social situation, we would need to be sure to drive there so we could leave. Yes. Yeah.

Melissa Albers  52:39  
I remember that, too. Yeah. We exhausting to be this people.

Mary  52:45  
Yep. And, and along, along with that, we don't want people to stop talking about their, yeah, like, you know, we have so many friends who have boys that are Hans's age. I don't want them to stop talking about how their young men are doing in college or, but it hurts. It hurts because I will never have those stories related to Hans. Right. And so there's, there's a component of it, that hurts, but I don't want them to stop. Yeah, don't because if I if I stop hearing those, I lose the connection I have with Hans, right. Because my connection with Hans is with those buddies, uh, his. And thankfully those his really close friends know that his five UCLA roommates that he knew for five weeks, reach out to us regularly.

Melissa Albers  53:36  
Yes, I know. It is extraordinary young men and their families and their families.

Mary  53:42  
Yeah, their families have been amazing. We have a UCLA Family that we will have for the rest of our lives. Yeah. And I am so thankful for that I have so much to be thankful for in this journey. And I am. I am. You know, I sit every morning and I just think what am I thankful for? And I literally have a little journal where I write down you know, what am I grateful for? More often than not, it's strong coffee, a good night's sleep. Because those those are what helped me get through a day. But it's beat. Here's, here's what I would end with. Be that person. That helps that Griever to say I am so thankful. My got you.

Melissa Albers  54:28  
Thank you, Mary. Thank you. Yeah, thank

JJ Parker  54:31  
you. Did you enjoy this episode? Please go to your favorite podcast platform to subscribe rate and leave a review so others can discover it as well.

Melissa Albers  54:41  
Growing self awareness is a lifelong journey and there's always further to go. And it's better when we're all in it together. Please think of someone you know who could benefit from hearing today's conversation and share this episode with them. We can't thank you enough for listening. Until next time, happy exploring seekers.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Discussed in this episode

Let's get real

Meet your guides

JJ Parker

JJ Parker is a serial entrepreneur passionate about building creative strategy, efficient operations, and unique marketing perspectives. Parker got his start as a student at The Minneapolis Institute of Art, and soon after launched his first company Tightrope Media Systems (TRMS) with a high school buddy in 1997.

Melissa Albers

Melissa is passionate about developing people’s self-awareness and ability to positively interact with others. She focuses on the importance of building influence, and highlights the most important relationship we have is with self first. Ms. Albers speaks on leadership and self-awareness, and has shared the stage with John Maxwell (Leadership Author and Speaker), Lee Cockerell (Exec VP of Disney) and Les Brown (Motivational Speaker) to name a few.

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