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.

 

WRT 45 | Death Doula

 

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. It was weird. It impacted me oddly. At that point, I knew that we could do death better.

We could do death better. Share on X

I know that it isn’t a present situation but I’m thinking about being that four-year-old child and what that does to you. I can see how that started shifting your mind as far as how that could be done. Maybe that four-year-old Stephanie didn’t have a concept of what to do but you knew it could look differently.

I knew we could do better. I also knew I wanted to be a nurse when I was four. I got my first little nurse’s kit when I was four. It’s a little plastic stethoscope and plastic bag that looks like a crocodile.

I remember that. My parents had that. The stethoscope was yellow and the little pieces that went in our ears were blue. We would go and check each other’s hearts and have a little clear bag to do that. Where did we go from four-year-old Stephanie?

I got married at eighteen. I had my daughter at 19 and then my son at 22. By the time I was 23, I was divorced with 2 little kids. I got married again when I was 24. I worked at a battered women’s shelter. I went there first as a client and came back later as a volunteer. They liked me so much as a volunteer. They gave me a job in the office without a college degree at all so I did that. I wanted to be a nurse since I was four. I always wanted to be a nurse.

Until I was 27, I worked in the shelter. When I was 27, I took a job as a church secretary. I moved to Minnesota with my then-husband. I worked at a bar on my weekends and at the church during the week. I had one parishioner who used to call me sometimes at the office and I often saw her at the bar too. She would call me sometimes at the church office and say, “Which one are you, my church secretary or my bartender?” I’d say, “What do you need?” She’d say, “I heard a good joke.” I’d say, “I’m then your bartender. I don’t care if I’m in the church office. I got to hear this joke.”

I went to work as a nursing assistant. I quit both of those jobs to go work as a nursing assistant and see if my body could handle being a nurse. I had back surgery when I was a kid. I worked as a nursing assistant. A year later, I went to nursing school and graduated from nursing school when I was 30. My kids were 11 and 8 when I graduated from nursing school.

Thank you for that timeline. In the concept of this conversation, you and I both know that grief extends past and beyond the loss of a loved one. When you were talking about the divorce at a young age, do you consider any type of grief that you dealt with in life regarding that?

Definitely.

Can you share a little bit about that or how that looks like for you?

I do work with people in grief that way because divorce is huge. You can grieve a career change and I did. You can grieve divorce and I did. I’ve had clients who grieved over their trans child. They love whatever shape that child is in but you’re still going to grieve the child that you gave birth to. It doesn’t mean anything bad. It’s not anything negative. It’s just a grieving process.

We get through it and move on. That’s all the same thing to me. I grieved. I was eighteen when I got married. We were married for three and a half years. We lived in the same house for eight months. He was in the service. One of us had to grow up because I got pregnant and he didn’t want to. He wasn’t ready. He was 55 and I don’t think he’s ready yet.

I can understand that maturity does come differently for different people. When you have little people to take care of, it changes your priorities and what becomes important. You made a choice to start taking care of these little human beings that you made.

I volunteered at a school. I was a Thursday classroom mommy and I worked in parents and education. The precursor there was called Project Charlie. I taught that at my daughter’s kindergarten and I coach soccer. I kept pretty active when they were little.

Stephanie, thank you for being willing to talk about the impact of the divorce. If you wouldn’t mind, you also spoke about a couple of other different types of grief as far as the career change. In this day and time that we live in, you as a parent to be able to talk to it from your perspective, as you mentioned about people dealing with grief or expectations with a trans child or different set than what their expectations were. I’ll leave that open to how that can go if that’s fair enough.

That’s the same grief that you have from a divorce. You’ve got expectations that you’re going to live the rest of your life with somebody. They’re going to love and cherish you and you’re going to love and cherish them. That doesn’t always happen. Maybe you love for a while and then it gets bad. Maybe they’re not the person that you thought they were. It’s hard to say but something happens and that ends. That’s a form of grief because you have to adjust to a different lifestyle, a life different than the one you planned on having. It’s a change.

 

 

That is good to make the idea that something you thought was going to happen end and you have to make that change. That is very basic of what grief looks like. What changes is different in every scenario, whether or not it is a spouse that dies, a child that dies, a pet, or an expectation of a job but it is the coming to terms with what has ended and how do I continue life in the absence of what is no longer here. The gravity of it and how it impacts us is going to vary depending on what it is that has ended or who, unfortunately, has ended.

I never thought of it in such a simplistic form but you can take that statement and place it with about anything that ends. If you got in a car wreck and the car is towed but you’re fine, you get another car. There’s a little bit of grief there. You got this whole car payment thing that you need to do. You have to start this over and find something. If you have a spouse that dies, it’s ended. That process is so much more complex but it is still the same basic construct, I’ll say. Thank you for that.

I have this thing that I wrote. I haven’t published it yet but I’m going to give you a little excerpt from it. I do have a Substack and I write on there sometimes, like random thoughts about death and grief. Grief initially is like being left alone at the bottom of a hiking trail that you’ve never been to at nighttime. You don’t know what’s out there, where you are, and how to find your way to the end of the trail. You know you’ve got to get there but you’re in the dark. You’ve never been here. You have no idea where to go.

If you’re lucky, a friend who’s been on that trail shows up with a flashlight and snacks. If you’re not lucky, you have to stumble around in the dark until you find your way out. Usually, those of us who stumbled around in the dark to find our way out are the ones who come back with the flashlight and snacks because we know.

We got a whole rope. We lasso on somebody.

There are so many of us. The death and grief movement is beautiful. I have seen some of the most astounding people. I’m so impressed in the world and I know them. There are so many beautiful souls out there doing this. Deathwork has been around for a long time. There was always that neighborhood lady that showed up when somebody in your family was dying. She sat at the bedside, gave comfort to the family, and told people what to expect. She put ice chips into the dying person’s mouth and fluffed their pillow. In the end, she washed that body and sat with the family and grieved.

Sometimes she got paid. Sometimes she got maybe a chicken. Sometimes she went home with some eggs. There was always that neighborhood lady. We don’t have those neighborhood ladies anymore. We’ve lost our neighborhoods and those communities. You have to pay somebody to do what used to always just happen. They were there for the burden too.

The whole concept of death taking place in the home shifted so the impact of what that looked like shifted the need for the neighborhood lady to be able to show up. It shifted into a more commercialized setting and that changed the dynamics of things.

You can go full-on alternative deaths back to where they were 150 years ago, where you don’t use a mortician and a funeral home. You use an alternative method and bury them in a silk or linen shroud in a natural cemetery. There are thousands of different options. There’s water cremation, cremation, and different ways to do it that are so different from everything we’ve ever been taught like with miles and miles of cemeteries instead of a forest, gently decaying bodies covered in mushrooms and flowers, or having somebody turned into a tree and having a tree in your yard forever. That was once Uncle Hal. There’s a lot of different options that way. Everybody is different and has to make their own decisions.

Before being a death doula, I was a nurse. That’s a different kind of grief because I got injured on the job in 2009. I’ve always had a bad back and in 2009, I injured my SI joints on the job. I developed ankylosing spondylitis. I had to retire from nursing when I was 42 even though I was not ready to retire. I was brokenhearted. I wanted to be a nurse all my life. It’s all I ever wanted to do. I didn’t know who I was without being a nurse.

I had no concept of Stephanie as a person without being KK and David’s mom and being a nurse. I didn’t have one. I was at my wit’s end and I didn’t know what to do. I wrote for a little while for a job and edited it. I went back to school for nursing home administration. I thought, “If I can’t be a nurse, I can be the boss,” not realizing that my health was never going to be good enough to work 40 hours a week. It can’t be helped. I ran out of money. I then learned about death doulas and I went, “How is this a thing? No one ever told me. This is a job made for me.” I went to training in 2018. I went back to Ann Arbor, Michigan, where I was born, for training.

What made you select that location for your training?

I looked at a few different ones and they’re all beautiful, amazing people. Part of it was that they were in Ann Arbor, Michigan. My sister at the time was in Michigan and I thought I could go see her. I liked everything that they said. Following them on social media and looking at everything that they posted, I was like, “These are my people,” but then as I got to know more and more people who teach death doula training, I saw that they’re all my people.

Some of the people that I went to training with, I still consider friends. I will talk to them very often. We celebrate each other’s successes. I see them on social media. It’s an intense training. It’s three days. A lot of feelings come out. A lot of us go into the work because we’ve had a bad death experience and we want to make it better. I spent most of my nursing career in long-term care and hospice. The dying are so often alone because you don’t always have the staff to sit with them and hold their hands.

We should make a bad death experience better. Share on X

Sometimes I even did it off the clock because I didn’t want people to be alone. I sit, sing, pray, or hold their hand. There isn’t always the staffing for that. This was a while ago but the hospice movement was starting to get big then. It has grown exponentially. That is much better where you can call somebody and they do have people to come to sit. That does help. It can be very lonely dying in a nursing home. There isn’t the staff. There’s too much to do but too little money and time.

When you think of your life working in hospice and your life working in a death doula field, how are they similar or different?

Being a doula, there’s no medical so you’re not administering morphine or preventing bedsores. You can always prevent bedsores. There are as many different types of doulas as there are people. Everyone varies on what they’re willing to do. Some people are very willing and able to get right in there and do hands-on care. They’ll help you reposition and fluff their pillows. There are other people who will hold your hand but won’t touch anything else.

There’s me. I have physical limitations. I don’t help other than fluffing a pillow and holding a hand because I can’t. There are people that will come to your house and clean it. They’re still a death doula. That’s what they do. They’re cleaning your house so you can hold your mom’s hand while she’s dying. There are people who answer questions. I’ve had doula clients online due to the pandemic. That’s what I call it because it’s a bad habit.

Were you able to support people? Thank you for rolling into that.

Yeah, mostly through phone calls, video, and constant texting. I had a friend whose mom was dying in New York and I’m in Minnesota. I offered to set her up with a doula there and she was like, “No. I know you. This is good enough.” You do what you can.

When you thought about the training in this regard to become a death doula, what did that look like compared to what you thought it would be?

The spiritual holistic aspects can’t be visualized until you’re doing it. You have a thanatology choir come in and sing as if they were singing at someone’s death bedside. One of our classmates lay down as if she was the dying one and we all sang to her and bawled. That was so emotional. You get into small groups and work through things like what your priorities are in life. You narrow down the six things that you want at the end of your life. What’s important to you to have there? All of that is so helpful.

It’s very emotional and hard at the time. It’s so condensed because it has to be but then later when you’re expanding your practice, it’s a tool. You can use it to help people figure out what their priorities are and what’s important to them at the end of their lives. Women and men our age are facing the death of spouses and parents. It’s one more responsibility on an already overworked group but it’s also a once-in-a-lifetime chance to be there. Being with somebody and giving them peace during the most painful time in their life is a great gift. It’s an act of service but also an act of gratitude for life and everything that it has.

It is a great gift to be with somebody and give them peace during the most painful time in their life. Share on X

I want to circle back to something. In the training, you mentioned identifying what is important at the end of someone’s life. How was that relevant or important in the process of your services as a death doula for someone to come to terms with that?

A lot of times, people haven’t maybe talked to a sibling in 5, 10, or 20 years because they have a falling out. At the end of your life, do you want them to be there? Do you want to kiss and make up? Do you want your family and friends in and out? Do you want your pastor? What would comfort you? What’s too much noise? Do you want a thanatology choir to come in and sing to you as you die? Do you want your family surrounding you?

If you go into different types of training from there to jump off, you can also help with end-of-life caretaking decisions. If people want feeding tubes or what end-of-life measures they want and don’t want, that’s a class beyond the doula class but it all leads into there. I did take that class. From one of my End-of-Life Care Plan facilitators, I took her end-of-life certification class.

I use my mom for practice. A year later, my mom suddenly got sick and died. I was so grateful that I had done that. My mom and I didn’t always get along. We were not close but I knew what she wanted. My sister called me and was like, “Mom’s sick. I need you in South Dakota. Get here.” I’m the nurse. My sister takes care of the business. She’s business-minded. I’m compassionate. We’ve always had clear roles in our family. She said, “You’re the nurse. You have to get here.” I said, “Okay.”

I knew what she wanted from doing all that. It made it a lot easier. I didn’t think about it that way but her best friend was with us, in the room when my mom was dying. She said, “Every time you read, she died surrounded by friends and family. This is what I always picture.” We were all making a joke. My daughter, my sister’s kids, and the cousins were joking around while their Nana was dying, trying to lighten the mood for a second. She wasn’t always a great mom but she was a good Nana.

Grandparent life is different than parenting life.

You’ve learned so much.

If you learn so much, you’re older. In that learning, you have a different sense of how things will work out eventually, more often than not. Instead of when you’re that parent, you are trying to make it happen and buffer the good and the bad and allow your child to be on a road to success. It’s like two people trying to fight for the steering wheel of the car like, “Go ahead. Do what you want to do with it.” You’re trying to do that. The awesomeness of every conversation that you had with your mom under the vise of training became a real-life application. You’ve talked a little bit about different things but let’s have a conversation with someone that goes, “You’re a death doula. What is that?”

A death doula in its most basic form is education and support at the end of life. We can tell you signs of impending death, when they’re getting close, when you want to call other people to come, when it’s okay to go to the movies or maybe you shouldn’t leave the house. We can help with that a little bit but there are people who are private in death. They won’t die until they’re left alone for a minute. It’s hard to say. It’s support in whatever way you want to be supported. We will work that out with you like how best to make your life easier, the dying and the dying person’s loved one.

A death doula's basic form is education and support at the end of life. Share on X

What does that look like when you say signs?

If somebody’s dying from say cancer, old age, or any disease process, often, there’ll be a skin change at the end of life. It’s called mottling. They get grayish or greenish-blue spots on the end of their legs. I believe that people of color often get very ashy and almost white. They’re cool to the touch whereas the rest of the skin might be warm. Those spots are cool. It’s a circulation change as circulation is starting to leave the body. There’s often a pattern of breathing changes. They call it a death rattle, which I don’t think sounds like a rattle at all. It sounds like the heaviness of this might be the last one. That’s what I think it sounds like. “Is this might be my last one?” They’re not sure if they’re going to breathe again.

From a trained ear perspective, that is much different. That person who’s in the room, they’re engulfed with emotions. This person and everything else, their recall of that is very different to be able to assess the situation. Thank you for that clarity.

In the days beforehand, there’s a lack of desire to eat and drink anything. You need to keep their mouths moist for comfort.

Why does one generally have a lack of desire for food or eating?

It’s because your body is shutting down. You don’t have a need for food anymore. Your body’s processes that take care of food for you are no longer working. Food is fuel. It’s what keeps us alive. If your body is checking out, you don’t need fuel. You don’t put gas in a broken-down car.

Because your body is shutting down, you don't need food anymore. Share on X

Thank you for explaining that. I’ve been in situations where people were not aware of that. There becomes tension between the loved one and the facility or the medical staff.

They’re letting my mom starve.

Can you unpack that a little bit and educate people? You already know where I’m going with that.

They’re dying and they don’t have a need for food. They’re not hungry. You can force them to eat and keep them alive but then aren’t you robbing them of some of that dignity for letting them go when their body’s ready to go? You keep them alive for an hour.

Can they digest it?

It doesn’t always digest. Sometimes they can get pneumonia from it. They aspirate. Is it good to die being prodded and poked holes because we are not ready to say goodbye? We’re never going to be ready. You are never going to look at somebody you love and say, “Check you on the other side.” It’s never going to happen. We want them to stay but we don’t want them to stay in the shape that they’re in. People say that about my son. “Couldn’t you have kept him alive?” “Why? His body was in so much pain. I don’t want him here like that. I don’t want him here sick and miserable.” I miss him every day but it doesn’t mean I want him back the way that he was.

What’s your son’s name?

David.

Let’s talk about David a little bit if you would and if that’s okay.

He was the best boy. His son was seven months old when he died. He has three daughters who are older. His son is a miniature him, as hyper, off the wall, and still has a mad love for Spider-Man, the Hulk, the color green, dinosaurs, and anything with a motor that can make him go faster than he should be going. It’s so funny. I said something to my daughter-in-law about that when I got there. She said, “I met him after years and years of being on meds for ADD and going through therapy. I never saw this in the raw.” He was a lot.

He was born with a defective heart. When he was twelve, I took him in for a football physical. His blood pressure was 190 over 110. He was a healthy twelve-year-old boy or we thought healthy. We went right from the football physical to pediatric intensive care. We were there for two weeks. Usually, if a child has unspecified very high hypertension, there’s a renal tumor somewhere. Somewhere in those kidneys, you’re going to find something bad.

We went through every test in the book. They were so thorough. They couldn’t find anything. They put him on blood pressure medication, two different ones. Two months later, we were back. He was in seventh grade and he didn’t want to be sick. He thought that if he took medication, that meant he was sick. We went back for another two weeks.

He lived as long as he could. What they eventually found was that his heart valves were too small and his heart was enlarged. I always said David had a heart as big as Texas and he did. They weren’t capable of pushing enough blood in there. They told me when he was 12 or 13, in this whole mess here, that he probably never lived to be an adult because his heart wouldn’t support an adult body.

When he was nineteen or so, he met Carrie, his widow. They fell in love and had four kids. They had a marriage of struggles because they were young but they loved each other very much. He then died. He was supposed to have open-heart surgery but he delayed it until summertime. He wanted to be home when his girls were home from school and recover with them around so they could play video games and stuff.

He worked in a freezer. He did things that were not good for somebody with a heart condition. He drank energy drinks. He lived hard and drank too much. He had ADD and bipolar. He self-medicated. A lot of times, young men in their 20s and who’ve been on ADD meds for 10 years, perfectly well-meaning doctors will say, “You’re going to sell those.” They take them off. They need them to feel like they belong in the world.

He was on three different heart medications but couldn’t get anything for his ADD so his mind was always going and going. If you already have high blood pressure and you’re running 90 miles an hour to slow your brain down, it’s not a good combination. The night before he died, he went running in the snow and cold. He died on January 5th.

The next thing I knew, the police knocked on my door. I wasn’t answering my phone because my phone rang from a number that I didn’t know at 4:35 in the morning. They said that there’d been something with my son. I don’t remember what they said exactly. I grabbed my shoes and started putting on my shoes. He ever so gently put his hand on my shoulder and said, “Ma’am, you don’t need shoes. There’s no rush.” I then knew.

I said, “What do I do?” He said, “Can you take your grandkids?” I said, “I can.” They brought me and my four grandbabies at 5:00 in the morning. I had to stay with them all day until their mom got home. She didn’t want me to tell them without her and I didn’t want to tell them without her. They kept saying. “When do our mom and dad come in?”

How old was David when he died?

He was 29.

What year was it?

2020. I said the world loved David so much that when he died, it all fell apart because the pandemic started in March 2020.

Thank you for sharing that. What is your perspective briefly about the death doula and Stephanie, the mom, and reconciling that?

I jumped right into my death groups for help and said, “I know how to do this from the other end but I have no idea how to do this.” Everybody kept saying, “You do. You can handle this.” I did it. We talked a little bit about whether or not you’re blessed with support and I was not. That’s when I took grief coaching classes. I became the support I needed because I did not find it. A girl that I worked with at the VA when I was a nurse had lost a child. She invited me to a parent loss support group.

I noticed by the third day that I was in there that I was doing way more giving of support and advice than I was getting any. I still felt like I was lost and floundering. I was on that dark path. I had my daughter, daughter-in-law, and four grandchildren for a literal lifeline. All I could do was hang on until I found my way out. I took the grief coaching classes. My mom went and died. Can you believe it? She died in November of 2021. I took a break from all my classes for six months. I finished my certification for grief coaching and counseling in May 2023.

Congratulations.

Thanks.

How would you say grief coaching is different from the role you facilitate for people in the death doula field?

Honestly, in addition to being a death doula, I also call myself a death coach. With the coaching training, it’s so much the same. It’s education and support for wherever people are on their journey. You have to meet them where they’re at. There are people who don’t need my services. They’re so mentally healthy that they don’t need me but for the people who are in the dark on that trail, I’ll show up with a flashlight and bring snacks. If not, I hope that they’re on the trail with you.

I love to bring snacks.

You got to have a bottle of water.

The reason why I love that is it’s so hard to eat when you’re on the road and don’t know where to go. Your mind is foggy. You can’t figure out where to go. It’s like someone had a little piece of cheese or something. Your brain is trying to comprehend what has taken place. I’ve gone hiking. I retired from the Army for many years. Most of my hiking experiences are not pleasurable.

I can think of going up this hill, trying to navigate the loose rocks, not knowing where to place your foot, and grabbing a branch that feels like it’s going to hold you, you slip. You have to get to the top of that and have someone to come along and help navigate that. Let’s go back to the part where you were giving more than you were receiving but also knowing how important community is. When people are trying to do this and they say they don’t need anybody, what would you say to a statement like that?

Don’t you, though? I have a support group on Sundays. I belong to a group called Gen X: Left of the Dial on Facebook. It’s left leading political people from Gen X. There were a few of us with major losses. The groups became big during the pandemic because we were all at home with nothing to do. One of them, I went through her mom’s death with her and she said, “We should start a support group.” I said, “We could do that.”

Once we started the group on Facebook, I said, “Let’s open up a grief chat and have a meeting once a week.” We don’t always talk about death. We talk about dating, especially after being widowed or divorced. We talk about school and work. Sometimes we talk about death and grief. It’s whatever you need that day. What I would say is, “We’re here. You can talk. You can not talk. If you want me to just sit here next to you in the dark, I’ll do that. I’m comfortable in the dark. Dark doesn’t scare me anymore.”

The craziest thing about grief is you can find your way out of that trail and get to the other side. A year later, you’re halfway back on that mountain and you don’t know how you got there. Some little things can trigger you. There you are out there in the dark again. You’re like, “What the crap? I made it through this,” and you didn’t though because the love is still there. The love doesn’t die. That doesn’t go anywhere. As long as that love exists, that pain is going to come back and bite you. That love is going to last as long as we last.

One of my favorite movies is The Matrix. I don’t know if you saw the first one.

I’ve seen the first one.

What you describe sounds like Neo in the train station where he was trying to figure out how to get around. He runs out quickly and he’s right back in the same train station. He thought he found his way out. Not until his friends came that he got out and they rescued him. They went through everything to get there for him. The thing about grief that you talk about, it doesn’t go away but I do think it changes.

The trigger that would have knocked me out for 3 weeks the first year that my husband died, 6 years later becomes where I go, “You see that coming. Let’s get the photo albums out. Let’s embrace and lean into this emotional wave that’s coming because I cannot avoid it.” I expend more energy trying to divert it than accepting, “This is what love looks like.” When it’s ended, that life has ended. It’s back to what you made in the beginning and what it takes for us to try to do that. What would you say to this statement where someone says, “They’re dead. Why do you keep looking at those photo albums and talking about them? Why don’t you move on?”

Have you moved on from the people that are living in your life? Your children who are alive still, have you moved on from them? You don’t. It’s not weird. You raised them or if you’re married, you’re with them day in and day out in intimate moments. You know what they sound like on the worst day when they feel like crap and the sound that they make when they’re super happy. You know everything about them. That hole in your heart is shaped like them but it’s big.

I always call it a cavern. When people would ask me how I was, I was like, “I can’t believe I’m not bleeding. I hurt so bad. I can’t believe I’m not gushing out blood everywhere because this is ridiculous and an insane amount of pain.” It does change. It does not get smaller because the love is still there. You become friends with it and bring it with you. You’re like, “Come on, Pain. We’re going for a walk.” You might as well get along and play checkers, whatever you got to do. You don’t.

 

WRT 45 | Death Doula

 

If you don’t know what it’s like to hurt so bad for the rest of your life, I hope you never do. That’s the price that we pay for love and it’s so worth it. I never got angry at God that David died. I thank God every day for letting me be David’s mom for as long as I had him. I pray for mercy on his soul from when he was naughty. My daughter and I joke about it.

They came out with Mountain Dew Four Loko and made a live-action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. I was like, “Your brother’s so mad that he’s missing this.” We made a joke one day about leaving the house and our house burning down. I said, “I would like your brother’s ashes out of it first.” She said, “It’ll still be in there.”

That’s a point that we get to laugh about stuff. It’s not always sad. Sometimes it’s a little dark and morbid. It is what it is. You make friends with it. I like that term. It’s like, “Come along with me because I’m still alive.” The question I want to ask you is how have you learned to embrace life in the continuance of death.

It’s a big period of personal growth because I’ve seen a lot of things that I would have liked to have done differently but I’ve also seen a lot of things that I did well. Even looking back, I posted a picture to Twitter of me and my son leaving the gym the year before he died. He was married and at that time, he had three kids. He had a job and was going to college. He was busy.

On Fridays, we tried to go to the gym together. That was our thing. Every once in a while, we’d have a lunch date. I’d always say, “I have a lunch date with a very handsome and much younger man.” People would say, “Tell David we said hi.” I was like, “I could have a date with a handsome guy.” There was so much joy in being his mom, even as an adult. I know that I did something right that we stayed close as adults. When your grown kids wanted you around, you did something right.

What if a person came to you and made a statement to the extent of, “Am I grieving? Is it okay if I’m laughing and I’m happy or am I supposed to equate my sadness to my love and that grief looks like that always?”

I don’t think there’s anybody who dies and wants you to be sad. They don’t. Life is meant to be lived forward and that’s what you have to do. You move on with what you’ve learned. You carry your love and pain with you. This is who you are now. Maybe a little bit more compassionate and less apt to judge people in similar situations.

For example, my daughter-in-law thought I would be mad at her for being in a new relationship. I was like, “No. You are young and beautiful with four small children. If you are lucky enough to find love again, I’m so happy for you.” He’s not my son and he’s not ever going to be my son-in-law but he’s my family because he lives with my grandkids and he’s my daughter-in-law’s partner. He may not be related to me but he’s my family and their child is my family. He’s not my grandson but he’s my family. He calls me Bama like my grandkids do.

For a parent who is struggling, whose child is deceased, and whose remaining spouse is continuing to live, what advice would you give someone who came to you and said they were struggling with that?

It is hard. There’s no way it’s not going to be hard. Still having that person in your life can get difficult. It can get so difficult that they write laws about it like grandparents’ rights and stuff. I up and moved next door to them early in their married life and babysat all the time. That helps. I came back from babysitting. We had all five kids, my daughter and I. I can’t do it without her because I can’t lift even the baby. He’s too heavy for me at this point. He’s starting to toddle but he’s still a baby.

I can see that it would be hard and people are maybe going to judge like, “He’s nothing like my son or daughter was.” No. You can’t replace somebody who’s gone. You can’t get a new one. If you’re a parent who loses a child, you can’t give birth to another child to replace that dead one. It’s the same thing. It has to mentally be enough different for you to adjust to it. I don’t know because I married very badly. That’s not a skill that I possess. I passed it on apparently to my son.

It sounds as if you chose to love what was available to love. You chose to love those grandchildren. David was no longer here but you can’t extend that love to those children and the woman that you know David love. It wasn’t her fault. What I also hear you saying is in choosing to live, death is a part of living and is inevitable in every aspect for all of us. Embracing that reality, you’re choosing to continue loving while you have the breath to do that.

When I came out of my grief coma, I call it, my grief shell, the reason I did it is because I had a dream that I was talking to my son. I know that I’m going to see him again someday. We’re going to hang out and chat. I’m going to tell him about everything that I did after he left. I’m going to show him how great it was, how I didn’t just survive but thrived. I turned all my pain into something beautiful because that’s what I do.

That’s so intentional. That’s making some choices there. That is just not letting life happen to you. You are choosing to impact what life gives you.

My mantra is if life throws you in a hole and you manage to climb out of that hole, you have a moral imperative to throw a rope back for the next person.

What would you say to the person who is stuck in a place of grief? Everybody’s throwing ropes and they don’t even have the energy to grab that rope and get out. They are just there.

I’ll climb down in the hole and sit with them. I told you I’m not scared of the dark anymore. You look for glimmers. I’ve been seeing a lot about glimmers and it’s funny to me because I didn’t call him that but I’ve talked about them for as long as I can remember. Those little sparks of joy are like the way a perfectly done hamburger tastes when you take that first bite of it.

Is there bacon on the hamburger? I want to make sure.

There’s bacon.

I see a slightly toasted potato bun. I’m sorry.

With red onion. A good hamburger tastes good. To hear a little kid laugh about anything like their toes, there’s a moment of joy for you. Run into one of your best high school friends who brings up something that you did that made them laugh many years ago. “Remember this time?” “That girl that killed me.” You grab a spark like a well-written book or a well-crafted Twitter story. Whatever you can grab, grab that little spark and hang on to it. The Bible talks about mustard seeds. If the faith the size of a tiny mustard seed can move a whole mountain, then a spark of joy this big can get me through the day.

Light piercing the darkness. Also, being able to accept and receive that that happens. Grief is hard. I will not even try to diminish what that looks like but it does not have to hold us captive. Grief can transition into celebration and memories. I don’t know how it happens but I know that it can. I have seen it for myself and other people. It still pulls at your heart but it is possible to transcend that.

The main thing I tell people when they’re stuck is to go volunteer somewhere.

Why is that?

It’s because acts of service change your whole mainframe. We are designed as human beings to make another person feel good to make us feel better. That’s the way our brain is designed. People say, “You do nice things for yourself.” It’s not the only reason. You can have altruistic reasons but yes, it increases your dopamine. If you don’t have enough dopamine and you have to get it from a store, people do. A store-bought dopamine is okay. You can also get it by doing something nice.

 

 

In moderation. You don’t want to overkill them.

Don’t buy too much of that stuff. Make sure it’s the quality you want.

It’s just a disclaimer.

If you can get out of your head to be a blessing to someone else, it helps even if you’re doing it anonymously. I had a friend who went and paid off lunch tickets at her child’s school. I know someone who buys a birthday cake every year at the grocery store on her dead son’s birthday. She leaves it for the next family that comes in for a birthday cake. She pays for it. My grandkids and I do this and I encourage other people to do this too.

Have birthday cake boxes where you can take a cake mix and a can of soda in case they don’t have eggs and oil. People who are poor and are getting food from a food shelf don’t always have eggs and oil. You take a can of soda, a cake mix, a can of frosting, and some candles. Put it in an aluminum throwaway pan. Cover the whole thing in cellophane. You can do 6 of them for $20.

I did not know that you could make a cake like that.

Isn’t that crazy? My sister’s allergic to eggs so I’m used to making them with applesauce and chia seeds. I learned that. Somebody else was doing it for a show and I was like, “That is brilliant.” If you need to get your food from a food bank and you have a child with a birthday, how heart-rending for a parent to not be able to provide a cake on your child’s birthday? I want to get forward enough financially that I can put a gift card in there. People always say, “Don’t do that. They’ll spend the money on whatever.” I’m like, “Me giving them money is my karma. What they do with it is theirs.”

You cannot make that assumption. There are so many people who have fallen on hard times with intentions and good moral values to do things. To make that assumption is out of pocket.

If 1 in 100 people would do the wrong thing, is that a reason not to give 100 people money? No. It’s never a good reason to not help.

One in a hundred people would do the wrong thing, but that is never a good reason not to help. Share on X

What we’re doing here in the show is the concept of meeting people with that flashlight and the snacks where they’re at because someone will read this episode or one of the clips from it when they are struggling, dealing with grief, and needing to know that they are not alone and that someone out here understands what they’re going through. There will be a mom who will read this and go, “I can figure this out.”

If Stephanie is able to get to the other side of this, maybe she’ll reach out to you. Maybe they’ll message you and say, “I need some more details on what this looks like.” Sometimes you’ll hear these broad strokes of statements. You need to understand the day-by-day unpacking of that and how to get there. It is a day-to-day process. We’ll look back and go, “That was a few years ago,” but remembering each one of those days, moments, and seconds that built up to start seeing more and more light created that opportunity to be where you’re at but it doesn’t keep you from still having moments of grief. It just shows up differently in life.

I cry sometimes talking to my doctors. I had to go to the doctor in a wheelchair because I had to have a procedure done. My daughter was pushing me in the wheelchair. The nurse said, “Is she your only child?” I said, “She’s the only one left. I have one earth side and one on the other side.” She said, “I’m so sorry.” I was like, “Me too.” I thought, “What a stupid thing to say,” but that is always what I say. “Thanks, me too. “ It’s because I want to change the subject.

I’ll talk about David’s life all day. When he was 4 years old, he ate 6 ears of corn. This little boy was starving. I don’t know. He always knew how to talk to women. My mom did elder care. She had a 94-year-old woman who lived with her and a 70-year-old woman. My son would rub their hands and he’d say, “Nana, I don’t want to sit in the kitchen with my sister. I want to stay here with my darlings. They’re my darlings.”

David was smooth.

They would take him to their room and give him candy. He knew. I would get so mad and say, “David Jack Carlisle Dawson.” He’d say, “Mommy, you’re so beautiful.” I get so flustered that I forget what I was mad about. I’ll talk about David all day but I don’t like talking about the day he died. I’ll talk about everything else like his funeral. I wanted my mom to do the service for his funeral. We did it at a hotel instead of at a church rather than getting a pastor’s way.

The hotel was owned by the company that he worked for so they offered us a comp room for the night. They gave us Room 420. When my son’s high school friends went to his funeral, I said that David was there and they said, “Do you think so, Mama?” I said, “The hotel gave us Room 420.” He started laughing like, “That’s your son, Mama.”

What was the significance of 420?

It’s a marijuana joke.

I don’t know. I’m a Federal government employee. I should know it anyway.

Most people don’t. The people that know, know. In the school, 4:20 was light-up time and the kids would light a cigarette so they say 420. David had hypertension and ADD so he had to self-medicate. That’s a good self-medication for that. Honestly, my parents were hippies. I was twelve years old before I knew not everybody’s mom and dad smoked pot.

There’s something to be said about what grows out of the ground and has a purpose versus things that we have created and how it impacts the body. I’ll leave it at that. 420 was a rater. That’s pretty cool.

What grows out of the ground has a purpose. Share on X

Your body is built with cannabis receptors that are for pain. I live in Minnesota where it’s legal and that’s all I can get for pain because I go to Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic doesn’t do pain medication so I get legal marijuana. I don’t smoke it. I take tablets or chew gummies but that is what I get for pain relief.

It’s better and healthier.

It is better for you. If I get enough to help with the pain, I go to sleep. I’m so dull. I take a nap. The pain is gone so your whole body relaxes. It’s like, “I need a little nap.”

Thank you for not being nappy while we talk.

I took one beforehand, which is probably why my hair is terrible. I was with my grandchildren. They all have straight hair and I have curly hair so they have to comb it. They try to get it smooth. They try so hard. They said, “Bama, I can’t get your hair smooth. It won’t get smooth.”

I’ve asked a lot of questions. I want to give space for maybe something I didn’t ask that you felt we should speak about or was important in your mind to cover.

It’s awesome that you do this. This is your act of service, giving back to the grieving community. I married badly so I don’t know what it’s like to be a widow. I watched my daughter-in-law grieve so I know from the outside how hard that is. I learned a lot about sibling grief. My kids’ birthdays are January 25th and 27th. They always celebrated their birthdays together, their whole lives. That’s so hard on my daughter to not have her birthday buddy and best friend.

David would always say, “KK is my best friend.” His wife was his best friend and his daughter. My son probably had 90 best friends and he meant it with every single one of them. He was a lover. His heart was huge. Every one of his best friends was his best friend, so was his wife, and so was his sister. Watching her grieve her little brother was heartbreaking. Her act of service was taking care of her brother’s kids while we all healed.

My daughter-in-law had to go back to work. She stopped working after they had the third child. He dropped out of school somewhere in there too. They were more of a traditional family for a while that way but then when David died, she had to go to work. She asked us to move in with them and we took care of the kids. She had the baby because I couldn’t lift him. Her act of service for her brother was to take care of her brother’s kids. She’s still super attached. It is nice that we get those whole weekends with them together.

She graduated from college in 2019. She needs to start grad school but the pandemic happened, her brother died, and a lot of bad things have happened so we’re not there yet. My health greatly decreased with grieving. We talked about how you can’t eat when you’re grieving and I didn’t. The first 3 weeks after my son died, I was living on 1 or 2 protein shakes a day.

My daughter-in-law couldn’t eat either and she was breastfeeding a baby. I was encouraging her to drink protein shakes too. Neither one of us was eating. In those first 3 weeks, she lost 20 pounds and I gained 20 pounds, drinking 2 protein shakes a day. I gained 20 more pounds moving to Minnesota and everything. My back is so bad that that extra weight has put me in a bad way. I have to walk with a walker all the time.

I had COVID too. It did a number on my lungs. I masked all the time, except on the plane. I took it off on the plane for two minutes to have some water and got stinking COVID. She took care of her brother’s kids and then me. Hopefully, she’ll get to grad school eventually. That’s a gift too for us to be able to rebuild our lives together with my son and my mom dying so close together. I have a growth in my chest right here. I had bronchitis. I had an X-ray for that and they found it.

It’s 2×2.9 centimeters, I believe they said it was. They don’t do surgery until it gets to be 5. They don’t think it’s a tumor. They think it’s a cyst. We don’t know unless it grows and they decide to take it out. It’s a very intense surgery. It’s 4 to 5 days in the hospital and then 6 weeks of recovery time. My daughter’s like, “You’re not going to die, are you?” I was like, “No. You and my sister could not handle that. With your brother dying and then Nana, no, we couldn’t do that. I can’t die yet. We’re not up for another one.”

It becomes a lot to bear.

I’m less scared to die with David dying. Isn’t that the weirdest thing?

It’s not. I can relate to that. When my late husband, Mark, died, I was like, “We’ve all got to go this way.” It wasn’t like I was jumping up like, “Here’s my ticket. I’m done.” I embraced the reality of it in a different way that was never possible before. This is part of the human experience. One day, I will not be here, and thank you. What I want you to do and the board members and everyone that supports widowhood is to be those people helping those on that road and showing up with a snack and a drink 3to know that you’re not alone.

We are pointing the light to other people to help you get through this journey. It is something we all have to experience in one form or fashion, either we are going to be grieving the loss of a loved one or we will be the loved one that someone is grieving. It is the way life goes. I love my husband and still love him dearly. We were together for 32 years.

 

WRT 45 | Death Doula

 

We lived in Pennsylvania and they had this Bloomsburg Fair every year. I thought we were going to be in our 80s in double scooters going to the fair, having grandkids on the back of the scooters, and doing that. He died at 54. That is not what I thought was going to happen. You’re right. My community showed up in a way that I expected but as I continued on this journey and spoke with other widows and widowers, they showed up in a phenomenal way that is not normal what most people receive but what we should receive with that level of support.

The reason why I wanted to have this show and conversations is for friends of people who had a loved one lost so they would read one of these conversations, know that it’s okay to show up, sit there in the hole with them, and be quiet. You don’t always have to talk about death. We may need to talk about the grass that needs to be cut or other different stuff.

I don’t need you to ghost me and not say this person’s name that I love. I need you more than ever to be here not to slip away. This is hard. When I talked to some of my siblings about how lonely people were during this time, it boggled their minds to think that we didn’t know how to do better and I want to help educate people to do better, show up, and be there.

We have lost something beautiful with the loss of our small-town communities and even small church families. Everything’s mega-churches. I was thinking about this and it’s weird. We both have a social media presence and try to help as what we can from there but most people are on social media for the likes, clicks, and laughs. We’re not. We’re there for support and education.

I’ve connected with so many people. When I first started doing this, my daughter said, “Mom, you’re running widowhood like a business.” I was like, “That’s how my brain works.” She goes, “You got to make people laugh sometimes.” Some of that has connected me with people who have a huge presence that I had never even thought of.

On TikTok, a number of widows and widowers are there. If you go to some of these social media, and I’m learning this, what you put in is what you start seeing more of. If you’re reading this show and you go, “The people on this particular platform are all my family members and they don’t know how to show up,” I encourage you to switch to a different platform.

Put in the topic you’re looking for and you will start to connect with people who are looking for some of the same things you’re looking for, whether you’re looking for Pinterest to get better food recipes or like your support group that you mentioned that was on Facebook. It becomes what we make it to be and that is what we learn to get out of it. Some people say, “The whole internet is bad.” It’s like, “What do you use it for?” It’s the ability to see that changes.

I love my clicks and likes. I love the people that I’ve gotten to talk to and stuff. It’s just weird. It’s not my main goal. I love that I get them and the shares but my goal is if somebody needs it, that’s the only reason I want clicks and likes. If somebody needs it, I want it to flash across their screen. I get so many emails and they’re like, “You do this so you must want to do these ClickFunnels.” I’m like, “No. I don’t want to do that.”

I want that one person who says, “I read this and I have an emotional support dog. I see a therapist. I participated in the Walk for Love event. I know I’m not alone.” That is why for me.

They see your posts twelve times but that thirteenth one is like, “I needed that. That is the message that needed to cross me. That’s what I’m there for.” I might never know. Sometimes people are kind enough to tell me, “You made a difference in my life. Thank you.” Most of the time, you don’t know and I’m okay with that. My intention is to spread love and support. If I did it, then yay. I succeeded. I don’t need to know that I did it. I know in here. Love is always a gift, even when that love is on another side.

Love is always a gift, even when that love is on another side. Share on X

If you put it out there, it’s going to stick somewhere. You may never know about it. Going back to that person who can be so tired, they can hardly grab that rope. People are apprehensive about writing or responding but you know that it impacts someone. I have asked you a lot of questions. Any questions for me?

I’ve had so many and I wish I would’ve written them down as we went because I thought, “I wonder how she got interested in this.” I don’t at the moment but I reserve the right when I finally get my show started, I’m going to call you. We’re going to do it on the other end.

Thank you. I don’t mind someone else driving.

The only reason I haven’t started yet is the weight gain from the COVID. I know it’s stupid but it has halted me. I don’t want my face out everywhere.

Everybody does have COVID weight. I’m just saying.

I used to have this neighbor and she would always say, “You girls are always worried about your weight.” I was like, “You are a girl.” She’s like, “You are beautiful. Don’t you know you’re beautiful?” I was like, “I didn’t say I wasn’t beautiful. I said I was chubby.”

One has nothing to do with the other. I have two final questions for you, Stephanie. If you were to pick any age range or portion in your life, what age would you pick? What would you tell yourself?

I would have to go back to pretty small just to know that some bad things were going to happen but I was going to be okay and hold tight to that mustard seed. I don’t think I would try to change anything because I don’t think that I can. Part of being religious for me is learning about other religions. I don’t think any of them are all right and I don’t think any of them are all wrong. They all have some moments of essential truth. There’s one school of thought that says, “Everything that happens to you in this life, you ordered before you came down.” I’m like, “I didn’t. I know me pretty well. This is not what I was looking for. I’ll take it since this is what you gave me but I didn’t order this. I’m sending this sandwich back.”

Everything that happens to you in this life you ordered before you came down. Share on X

Do you say 4 or 5-year-old Stephanie when you say young?

Yeah. My mom had a hard time dealing with my sister’s death and then I had another sister. Lisa died in June of ‘72. My sister Jen was born in April of ‘73. It was close in there and she wasn’t ready. That was to the detriment of me and my sister. It was 1973 and I wanted more than anything in the world. I want a Baby Alive doll more than anything and I didn’t get one. My mom said, “No. I got you a real alive baby.” Jenny became a box baby. I used to carry her around in a cardboard box with a blanket.

I have pictures of me dragging her around the house in a cardboard box and she’s got a sheet or a blanket in the bottom. She was always my baby. I used to tell my kids, “Your Aunt Jen was my first kid.” I was only five. I wasn’t ready. I made some mistakes but she turned out okay. I made mistakes with the other ones too. It’s important to know that love is going to be okay. I didn’t always feel loved as a child. My mom was very emotionally absent. When she died, her best friend said, “Your mom was such a mom. She was so motherly.” My sister and I looked at each other and said, “To whom? It wasn’t to us.” I loved her the way she was but she wasn’t a mom.

It’s interesting how we put a different spin on who someone is when they’re no longer breathing instead of accepting them for who they were.

I honestly think that having my mom die healed my relationship with her a lot. I was freaking out, thinking how old she was. I’m older than she was when I thought that she was so old. I remember thinking that she was so old when my kids were little. I became a grandparent at 43 and she became a grandmother at 40. She was younger than I was when she was doing stuff with my kids. She didn’t know how to be a mom. Boomers were born to a whole different generation. They left their kids alone.

What you told younger Stephanie shows up in your life every day from what I hear.

I try. Sometimes I try harder than others. Sometimes I have to stay alone in my room because I’m not worth talking to. I do make a concerted effort that what I put out in there is love. I don’t like when I get frustrated and I do with my grandkids. My time with them is precious to me. I only had two kids and they were a lot. Being around 5 kids for 2 days can get to be a lot. Sometimes you’re trying to make it short.

It’s doses. We don’t need everything in one. What gives you joy?

It’s all the things that I mentioned before, my little glimmers of hope, like a good burger and a well-made margarita on a hot summer day, which I have not done yet this 2023 and I’m running out of time. My grandchildren are the joy of my heart. Also, my daughter and my sister. With life being the way it is, we don’t talk every day and everything but we play a game together on Facebook. Whenever I get a thing from her, I know she’s thinking about me. I play the game back. My life is full of moments of joy. My life is so joyful. I only can be sad for moments and I’m still sad for those moments. I’m one step away from a Pollyanna but it’s a pretty grumpy step.

Thank you for shedding some light and having this conversation with me. I appreciate it.

Thank you very much for having me. I enjoyed being here very much.

You are so welcome.

I will talk to you soon.

I told you it was a good conversation. It’s Stephanie’s ability to reconcile life and death. I cannot even fathom being four years old and seeing my sister in a casket wearing the same clothing that I’m wearing. If that was not a pivotal moment in her life to change how she thought people should show up during death, I don’t know what is. I am so grateful for every person’s life that she has impacted.

I am sorry for the person that you have lost that has driven you to this conversation but I appreciate you making us part of your hood and allowing us to be with you on this journey. You are not alone. I am open to hearing from you. Please email me at WidowhoodRealTalk@Gmail.com to share your journey or make a suggestion for a topic. You are more than welcome to give a donation because we are a 501(c)(3) registered nonprofit. Thank you for being here with us. Talk to you soon.

 

Important Links

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