December 2023

The Life And Death Of A Father From A Son’s Perspective With Alexander Fornwald

WRT 48 | Death Of A Father

  For this year’s final episode, let’s hear from a son’s perspective of his father’s life and death. Alexander Fornwald recounts his memory with his father, Mark Fornwald, and his experience after he passed. Tina explains how helpful it is to have trusting relatives and friends to help you through the grief process, and Alexander shares his perspective about asking friends to be at the funeral. He describes how his father was a man of the community and a man’s man. Let’s join Tina and Alexander in this beautiful mother-and-son conversation. Thank you for viewing this post. I am not a licensed therapist or professional life coach. I am sharing my experience of loving the same man for 32 years, a mother to two adult children, a retired military officer, a breast cancer survivor, and my connections with others. Anyone experiencing suicidal thoughts should reach out to a suicide hotline or local emergency number in their country: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/suicide/suicide-prevention-hotlines-resources-worldwide — Watch the episode here   Listen to the podcast here   The Life And Death Of A Father From A Son’s Perspective With Alexander Fornwald This is our last episode for 2023. Whether this is your first episode of watching the show or you have been with me for this entire 2023, thank you. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your life, and thank you for taking value in what it is that we have to share. The conversation is with my son, Alexander Fornwald, talking about his grief journey, his experiences with his dad, and where life is for him now. Let’s get into the conversation.     Alex, thank you for doing this with me. This is my son, Alexander, and this is our last episode for 2023. I thought it was a good opportunity because, in 2024, I want to have more conversations with children whose parents have passed. I appreciate Alexander’s willingness to do this. I’m going to go to the day that your dad passed. Was I the first person to talk to you or did you receive a message from USO or somebody? Ms. Bloom was the first one to call me. I remember I was out with my friends or I was going to go out with my friends. You had said that he had a heart attack or somebody. It was a text message at first. It was between you, me, and Katherine. It was like, “Your dad had a heart attack,” or something. I might’ve called you and I was like, “I was going to go out with my friends. Should I still go out?” Somehow, I got on the phone with Ms. Bloom. I feel like she was the first one I contacted. I don’t know. I can’t remember exactly who I was talking to at the time, but I think it was Ms. Bloom. What were you doing in your life at that point in time? I was in the Navy. At the time, I was in a school, which is the school that you go to before you get your actual job where they teach you how to do your real job. Where were you stationed? I was in Pensacola, Florida. That day, I and my friends had planned to go out to see a movie and then go to this Brazilian steakhouse. That’s something your dad would like, a Brazilian steakhouse. That’s where I was when I got the call. Do you remember the day before when I was sending you pictures that your dad wasn’t feeling well and he was having gas? I sent you and your sister a picture. In one picture, we were in a restaurant eating. Do you remember that picture? Yes, I remember that picture. I sent you a picture of your dad sleeping and sitting up in a chair because he was saying that he had gas. He wouldn’t lay down in the bed. Do you remember that picture? Not specifically. The Chinese food, you remember? I do. Do you recall the conversation with Ms. Bloom? I remember I was in my dorm room and I was contemplating if I still wanted to go out or not because you guys had told me that he had a heart attack and that he was in the hospital. Things were still happening and everyone was like, “It should be fine. He’ll be okay. Don’t worry about it. Go out and have fun with your friends.” I was like, “I’ll go have fun with my friends.” That’s what we were talking about. It was like, “He’ll be okay. Go ahead and go out,” so I did. That was the conversation with Ms. Bloom. Who is Ms. Bloom to you? Ms. Bloom is the first lady of our pastor’s wife of the church that we went to growing up. It’s the church that I went to for my entire life that I can remember growing up until I left high school. She’s a pastor’s wife. My mom was a part of the leadership at the church so we had a very close relationship. She was also a disciplinarian at the school that I went to as well until fifth grade. She’s sweet to you. She may have been a disciplinarian. She wasn’t much of a disciplinarian to me. For you. Let’s be clear about that part. That’s why. You had the conversation with Ms. Bloom about going out and that your dad’s going to be fine. Do you recall the next conversation after that you had with anybody? As far as I can remember, I’m pretty sure it was you who called me. We were at the steakhouse. I was sitting there eating dinner with my friends, and then I got the call that he had passed away and it was final. I was eating dinner with my friends at the steakhouse. What happened after that call? I went outside and started crying. I sat on the sidewalk and started losing …

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Two Floors Above Grief: The Untold Story Of A Funeral Home Family With Kevin O’Connor

WRT 47 | Funeral Home

  Life’s precious moments emerge from the dance between joy and grief, proving that even two floors above, we’re never alone. Join us on a heartfelt journey through the pages of life, grief, and the enduring bonds that shape us. Our special guest, Kevin O’Connor, former educator and author of the book “Two Floors Above the Grief,” shares the tales of growing up above a funeral home, offering a unique perspective on death, life, and the wisdom passed down from one generation to the next. Kevin explores the complexity of grief not only from the perspective of grieving families but also from the eyes of the funeral home director’s family. Through the experiences and valuable lessons he shares, Kevin shows how grief journey is not linear; it’s an ever-evolving process. Tune in now and remember that through life and loss, we are never truly alone. Thank you for viewing this post. I am not a licensed therapist or professional life coach. I am sharing my experience of loving the same man for 32 years, a mother to two adult children, a retired military officer, a breast cancer survivor, and my connections with others.  Anyone experiencing suicidal thoughts should reach out to a suicide hotline or local emergency number in their country: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/suicide/suicide-prevention-hotlines-resources-worldwide — Watch the episode here   Listen to the podcast here   Two Floors Above Grief: The Untold Story Of A Funeral Home Family With Kevin O’Connor Our conversation now is with Mr. Kevin O’Connor. He is the author of Two Floors Above Grief, and it’s like, “What is that about?” It’s not a self-help book. It’s not the steps of grief. This is a book that Kevin is sharing about his family and their experience of living above the funeral home. It’s unique. Let’s get into the conversation now.     Our guest is Mr. Kevin O’Connor, and I will let him introduce himself. My name is Kevin O’Connor. I’m the author of the book Two Floors Above Grief. I am thankful for this opportunity to be talking with Tina. We will talk more about the book and some of the premises of the book as we get into our discussion. Before we get into the book, which is still part of who you are, where are you from originally? I’m much more than the book, although the book is a memoir of my life. I live in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I have been here since 2007. Before that, I was involved as a teacher and school principal in California, in the Bay Area and outside of Chicago, in McHenry County. I was a principal there for eighteen years. I then came here in 2007 after I retired from the Illinois system. I did some volunteer work and helped here and there, and before I knew it, by 2011 or 2010, I was working full-time for the school system again. I spent another 8 or 9 years working in the Department of Diversity in Broward County Public Schools in Fort Lauderdale. My job there was in the curriculum area, working on curriculum and support for LGBT students and families. I was also heavily involved with the writing and professional development for the family life and sexual health curriculum that had been provided to the students in Broward County Public Schools, but I retired there in 2020. That’s when I started, “Now is my time. Time to write this book I have been wanting to write,” but I worked in the Biden campaign first. After I retired in August 2020, I went right from there into working as a field organizer for the Biden-Harris campaign. At the start of 2021, I started to focus on giving the book some legs and getting going with the writing and things. That’s where I was and a little more about me and where I came from. There is so much there. I’m not quite sure where to jump in, but I want to be clear that he said near the Chicagoland area, which is different than being from Chicago. You are in Chicago. That gets back to the book a little bit. The location of the book is mostly set in a town called Elgin, Illinois, which is about 35 or 40 miles Northwest of Chicago, and that’s where my dad and my uncle operated their funeral home. My mother and her family had been longtime residents of that town back to my grandfather. My mother was raised there and she and my dad met in high school there in Elgin. I was very much a part of Elgin until I went to college back in Loyola, Chicago. I spent a year of those four years in Rome, Italy, at their campus in Rome. Eventually, being an educator in California for six years, I came back to the Elgin area in 1978 and I was employed in McHenry County. I worked in McHenry, Illinois, as a teacher, and then I worked in Cary, Illinois as a principal. I was also a principal in Mundelein, Illinois, which is in Lake County. These are all on the Northwest collar of Chicago, and that’s where I retired from in 2007. It was the school district in Cary, Illinois, and then I raised my family. I was married at the time with two kids. I raised my family in Crystal Lake and another town in that area. The cat over there. What’s the cat’s name? It’s a dog. It’s a chihuahua. Thanks for asking. It’s so small. She weighs about eleven pounds. She’s bundled up in her blanket there. She keeps me company quite a bit, and she had her morning walk, which we have to temper a little bit because now she has a congestive heart condition. She takes a lot of meds. We know her time is coming, but we don’t know when. Who knows? That’s part of what I talk about in the book. There is no schedule. We are doing …

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Why Widows Do Bounce Back With Your Favorite Widow Coach, Maya Tyler

WRT 46 | Widow Coach

  Being a widow coach isn’t just a career for Maya Tyler. It’s deeply rooted in her own painful experience – an experience that she weaponized to help other widows navigate this tumultuous transition. Widowed at 27, Maya had her own share of what young widows typically experience, with all the judgment and prejudice attached to it. The fact that she is a woman of color only served to intensify it all. Join in as she shares on the podcast how she overcame the external and, more importantly, the internal obstacles to healing and how she uses those lessons she learned to help others through her life’s work, Widows Do Bounce Back. Tune in! Thank you for viewing this post. I am not a licensed therapist or professional life coach. I am sharing my experience of loving the same man for 32 years, a mother to two adult children, a retired military officer, a breast cancer survivor, and my connections with others.  Anyone experiencing suicidal thoughts should reach out to a suicide hotline or local emergency number in their country: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/suicide/suicide-prevention-hotlines-resources-worldwide — Watch the episode here   Listen to the podcast here   Why Widows Do Bounce Back With Your Favorite Widow Coach, Maya Tyler Our conversation is with Ms. Maya Tyler. She is the CEO and Founder of Widow’s Do Bounce Back LLC. I am so glad that I connected with her on LinkedIn and was able to bring her to the show. This conversation is so dynamic. She has a lot to share buckle up and let’s get into this discussion.     Our guest is Ms. Maya Tyler. Welcome, Maya. Thank you so much for having me. She says that like I didn’t stalk her on LinkedIn to get her into this conversation. As you know, I am always looking for someone to come to this conversation and make it value-added. Sometimes, people talk from different perspectives, but Maya can talk with us from a lot of different angles. Let’s get into this conversation right now. Maya, where are you at this moment? I’m at home in my office in Maryland. What do you do in your home office? This is where I coach with my coaching program for widowed women. This is where I coach for book coaching because I also have a company that coaches people who are producing and publishing new books. Now and then, entertain my daughter who thinks this is her office. What led you into coaching widows? Someone once said to me therapy and healing come from giving the thing that you didn’t have, from helping people with something that, once you got it, was an epiphany for you, but it was something that you went without for a while. You know exactly where they are and you can meet people right at their needs and provide a solution that is the aha moment for them. For me, having an IT background, the aha moment is something I’m always chasing. Coaching seemed to be a shoo-in for it. You said the idea of providing something you didn’t have. How does that relate to you personally? I am widowed. I was widowed at the age of 27 and my husband passed away doing routine daddy things. We were at a picnic on Easter Sunday, and he was running back in a relay race and tripped and fell and was gone. That devastated my life. It turned it completely upside down because, at the time, we had two children together. I was 27, our children were 6 and 18 months. That completely made my life a different story. What I was looking for was when people were normally widowed and referred to places for help, I was referred to places that did not provide a lot of the needs that I specifically had as a younger mom, as a mom of color, and as a mom in general. I’ve asked a million people this question, not literally, but lots of people this question. They don’t think of a woman of color. What do you think of when you think of a widow? You don’t think of a woman of color, under the age of 60, or a mom. You think of somebody opposite of those circles and needs. That is what I found when I was in those circles and that’s not what I needed. I needed help with grieving children. I needed help with financial stability and figuring out adulting and who I am at this stage in life as a woman. There were things that I did not have, but I figured it out eventually and decided, “I thought there needed to be a blueprint. I’m sure somebody else does.” In creating the blueprint, in writing the book that I wrote back in 2015, the demand seemed to grow for, “We need this one-on-one. I need you in my life. Please come sit next to me and do this with me for me, and together.” That’s what it’s been ever since. There’s a lot to go back and circle. When you say you figured it out, can you maybe expound on one particular area that you identified you needed and what figuring out looked like? The easiest subject and the most forefront in my mind was parenting. Parenting grieving children was a completely new area for me because I was already a new mom. My children were babies. I just so happened to have a parent. At that time, my mother was the head of special education in Prince George’s County here in Maryland. What I didn’t understand and didn’t know already, even though she’s been in education forever my whole life, was that schools do provide plans in place for grieving children. There is a 504 plan for children who have special needs. Learning disability doesn’t have to be a physical special need. It could also be a counseling special need. You can create this plan and most schools around the US do provide this, but …

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Becoming A Death Doula: The Beautiful Journey Of Living With Death With Stephanie Dawson

WRT 45 | Death Doula

  What does a death doula do? Today’s guest will enlighten us on the path she walks. Stephanie Dawson is a retired nurse turned death doula turned grief coach. Stephanie takes us into her journey from a career-ending injury death of a loved one to becoming a death doula. The tragic events may have been painful, but they did not close her doors and, instead, opened her mind to believe that death becomes our friend that we take with us. Let’s take a moment to listen to this beautiful journey of Stephanie Dawson today. Thank you for viewing this post. I am not a licensed therapist or professional life coach. I am sharing my experience of loving the same man for 32 years, a mother to two adult children, a retired military officer, a breast cancer survivor, and my connections with others.  Anyone experiencing suicidal thoughts should reach out to a suicide hotline or local emergency number in their country: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/suicide/suicide-prevention-hotlines-resources-worldwide   Social Links: LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/stephanie-dawson-955948183 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/deathwithsteph — Watch the episode here   Listen to the podcast here   Becoming A Death Doula: The Beautiful Journey Of Living With Death With Stephanie Dawson In this episode, our guest is Ms. Stephanie Dawson. I found her on Twitter because I wanted to know what a death doula was and she is one. This conversation is so interesting. She drops some gold nuggets in here. I’m going to give you one. She said that death becomes our friend that we take with us. I want you to know how she talks about this.     In this episode, our guest is Ms. Stephanie Dawson, a death doula. I believe I tracked her down on Twitter and reached out to her. With the idea of a death doula, I didn’t have a clue but the more that I read about it, the more interesting it became. It’s morbid but here we are. We’re on a whole widowhood conversation. As you know, one of my intentions is to always have guests who are interesting. I never heard of a death doula so here we go. Welcome, Stephanie. Thank you for having me. Thank you for being here. I know that you’re more than a death doula so we won’t start right there but it is something that I do want to get into. Where are you from originally? I was in Michigan until I was six and then I moved to Black Hills of South Dakota. I grew up in Deadwood, South Dakota. Those were two different places. At what age? How do we get to South Dakota from Michigan? My mom was a hippie. She went out to the Black Hills on vacation. She was a single parent. I was six and my sister was one at the time. She fell in love with the Black Hills so we moved there. It up and moved us. Did you take on some of that hippie atmosphere? Where would you put yourself in the placement of that? Almost everything about me as an adult is directly related to my childhood. I’m a strong advocate for women’s rights and people of all colors and dispositions. I have a queer daughter so I’m very active there. I was rabid about the environment. How does that show up in your everyday life being rabid about the environment? I was always trying to lower my footprint with reusable silicone baggies, beeswax paper, bar shampoo, and bar soap. One is partly water. Also, laundry sheets. I used to make my laundry soap. My daughter never thought it worked as well. She didn’t like it. Now, they have so many ecological options. I have magnets that I have in my washing machine. I found them on Amazon. I have balls that are made of wool or some material. I use that in the dryer. We have those too, the Woolzies. My grandsons like to steal them from my laundry when they’re around. It’s a ball and they’re boys. I can relate to that. My husband has a garden in the back where he does his compost. It was interesting. The trash went out and we did not have much trash to go out. We have more recyclables but most of the food products go into the compost besides fruit and meat. We have a dog so he’s trying to make sure he gets everything else. I never thought about being rabid for the environment but to some extent, we are doing the same thing. When I get grocery store bags, the little plastic ones, we have reusable grocery bags but we always get some of the plastic because I use them for garbage. I don’t buy garbage bags. I don’t think I’ve bought garbage bags in many years. We do have garbage bags. We recycle so much that it’s not worth it. We don’t have that much garbage. We have a grocery store bag every other day. It’s just me and my daughter. We don’t have all that much. How did we come from the six-year-old to this woman who’s a death doula? There’s a lot of story in between there. How do you want to unpack some of that? Going back a little further, even when I was four, my sister died. I told you that. I grew up in a grieving family. My first memory of a funeral is my sister’s. She was a week away from turning three when she died. We were dressed alike. First of all, I am sorry. That is a very young age. Thank you for sharing that. We may have talked about some things in the pre-conversation but thank you for bringing that to this discussion. When you say you and your sister were dressed together, was it at the time she died or at her funeral, Stephanie? At her funeral, we had matching dresses. We were fourteen months apart so we dressed alike often. I’m sure they were our newest best dresses. …

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