Renee: I feel silly. That's what I should say. I feel silly.
Keith: I can't wait to figure out what TV show.
Renee: I'm not going to say it because I don't want to pay any royalties here. Hashtag cheap podcast. I don't know. Okay.
Keith: Please don't use that hashtag.
Renee: Please edit, edit cheap in production.
Keith: No, it didn't work.
Keith: Thanks for joining us for another episode. I'm Keith.
Kate: I'm Kate.
Renee: I'm Renee. And it's okay if you're not. Okay.
Keith: Today we're going to talk a bit about grief. Before we do, I want to invite you all to be sharing this podcast with your friends and join us on our Facebook group to get some exclusive content from us hosts and to connect with other listeners. You can find it at facebook.com/groups/ it's okay. Podcast. Okay. So talking about grief, so for the winter of 2020 edition of the best times magazine, that's the Johnson County government magazine that goes to residents 60 and older. The editor reached out to me to, to write about grief. And so thinking particularly about this 60 plus crowd of, of our County, uh, what might be some signs, how that might be experienced and things. And so I sat down with Liz Wirth who is the director of adult services here at Johnson County Mental Health Center. And I'll tell you what, we just sat and talked about grief in my office for, I don't know, 45 minutes. And it was one of the most astounding and rewarding processes I've ever had writing an article. And then after we got that done, I wrote this up and out in Best Times and winter 2020. But just that experience of talking through how people experience grief there is, there is something that just like was moving about about that process. I know in episode two it was our episode around suicide prevention. We talked about grief after death by suicide. And I remember Renee, you mentioned that we talked about grief. We rarely are really talking about the stages of grief anymore. I wonder if we might start there about the stages of grief and where we've moved from there, but then just kind of reflect on what grief is like as we experienced that, how we might see in other people how we might respond to somebody experiencing grief. Yeah. Um, I just hoped we can kind of recreate that experience I had with uh, Liz in that writing process.
Renee: Those are big shoes to fill. Keith.
Renee: Liz Worth is amazing.
Renee: Thanks Liz for sparking such a great combo. Um, so it is a theory or a theorist that came up with the five stages of grief. I think it became really just societaly acceptable and welcomed with open arms to have a framework to talk about grief or accept grief in. And so while I'm not mad at that at all, I think it gives us the doorway in. Um, I don't think it exists as structurally sound as maybe we thought it did at one point in time. And so the five stages that is as structurally sound as this theorist proclaimed it to be. So if I, I just wanna remind our listeners at the five stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. In no way, shape or form, am I saying that you can't feel those things? It's just not as linear as this. I don't believe it is as linear as this theory claims it to be. So the theory is right, you move through these five stages, phases of grief in this order.
Keith: and then you end in acceptance.
Renee: Correct. Correct. And there was, you know, there's a big, um, again in my, just my line of work that it usually is over 18 months. These, these stages and phases come about. You've lived through every milestone at least once you've lived through every anniversary at least once. And again, I think all of all of that structure around grief, I think it was just kind of getting, um, washed away, if you will, because we know that there's just, it's such a personal thing. Grief is so personal and everyone really experiences it differently. So I'm excited that, um, this theory in theorist gave us something to talk about so we can truly talk about either how we are experiencing something like he suggests or, or, or we're not. And it's okay to talk about that.
Keith: Yeah. I'm excited to dive into this, but before we do, let's stop for our disclaimer. The views and opinions of this podcast are not necessarily represent those of Johnson County Mental Health Center or Johnson County government. I think that one of the things that is, is so true about this is that it does give us language to talk about grief. And I think that anytime when you have a difficult subject that is hard to talk about, hard to express what you're thinking or feeling about it, hard to identify pieces of it, that when someone comes along and provides language that resonates with what you're experiencing in any way, shape or form, you just latch onto that.
Keith: I think we also, even way back in episode two talked about how you can literally be experiencing all of those stages at exactly the same time. And that can be completely normal.
Speaker 3: [inaudible]
Keith: It doesn't, it's not the linear experience.
Keith: Or it can be, but for most it's not.
Renee: Yes. And, and it's, it doesn't have to be a, I've moved through this and I will never experience bargaining again. I will never experience anger again. Um, you can ping pong throughout different, um, emotions, different feelings and that is your grief.
Renee: It's, it's really, I would like to talk about grief in the since of it is my personal way of moving through the feelings that I'm experiencing while still loving and honoring or paying tribute to someone that is a loved one to me. But also recognizing too, there are people, um, I think this is the tough part in grief, to talk about that there can be also positive feelings. There can be joy, there can be relief. Um, and so I don't know, I hope that comes up somewhere in some spaces that no emotion is off limits. None.
Keith: Yeah. You think about the times when people experienced loss and that loss has in some ways been long time coming. And so there's like a caretaker or a family member, maybe you've been taking care of a person for a long time and their whole life, their whole time has been dedicated to that person. And then when that person finally passes there is, there's sometimes that desire, I'm going to go on vacation and that is how I'm going to grieve because now I can breathe.
Keith: Now I can enjoy this and not feel like, not feel guilt for being away from my loved one. And that is a totally fine way to, to process that.
Renee: Absolutely. Yeah, 100%. And I think there's also, um, I think the caregiver role is, makes grief profoundly complex, uh, and, and, and different, right? Very different than five simple stages. Quite honestly. I also think too, when you've walked along, um, walked alongside someone through their pain and then it's over. Um, I think that has a different, I have a different way of emotionally expressing myself through that grief because I'm going at the end of the day, I don't believe they're hurting and I don't like to see people hurt. That's really hard for me, you know, and I carry that weight of emotion. Um, and so I letting go of that can be a bit cathartic, but it can also feel like, gosh, am I, am I letting go of the them? No, I'm letting go of the, the feeling the weighing down on me. Um, the, the Hospice Association of America, I don't know if I'm doing that justice, I apologize if I'm misspeaking, but there was a sweet segment just on their website that I found that said like, don't, don't sell yourself short in thinking like you're doing better than you should be. Like, don't do that. Don't because you desire to go on a vacation or because you desire or because you feel relief or joy. Don't count yourself out or down because you feel better than you think you should. Be in the moment. Experience what you're experiencing and feel and that's okay. I think it's tough to talk about sometimes, especially if maybe we're with loved ones and we are demonstrating our grief differently.
Kate: That's a big one because as I'm hearing you talk, I am like thinking back to like my own history and family dynamics and the importance of letting yourself grieve how you grieve but also letting other people do the same and not passing your judgment on that. Like I'm like he, as you're talking, I'm hearing my dad and I, I am someone who holds on way longer than I would say. Then you're supposed to, but then that's again putting on those norms, but the example that comes immediately to mind for is when I lost my first grandpa when I was nine years old, has been a number of years since that and I still will go through times now where I cannot let go as if it happened last year. Yeah, and at all. Like don't make changes to things that he had been involved in. Don't nothing. Whereas my dad will, has an approach of, you know, they're in a better place. You know, you need to live life. That's what they would want for you, kind of a thing. And I would almost sometimes hold that resentment against him of, well, why, why can't you think that? Why aren't you sad? And showing your sadness the way I do, which is sit and cry, ugly tears, but because it's not shown the same way, I would put that judgment on him and as I'm hearing you talk, I just have to share my own vulnerability and say people don't do it. I am saying that I, I do. Because if you don't know what they're showing outside of that one space, you don't, you know,
Renee: I think it's human. It's so human.
Renee: I appreciate you saying. Yeah,
Keith: because I, the more and more I learning about grief in the way people grieve, the more I'm realizing and understanding that it's so different from every person and their, I don't know that there's anything
Keith: that's quite like that. I mean, you think about the other things that we experienced as humans. You know, you think about joy or sadness or all these different things and there's certain body language and actions and behaviors that you would associate that. But with grief, it's just so broad and you could literally be thinking about these wonderful memories and have a smile on your face and be crying and deep sadness at exactly the same time. And it's so confusing, uh, when you're experiencing or seeing someone else.
Renee: Yeah, I love the two sides of it. It is confusing for ourselves going through it and it's confusing watching others do it or having others watch us judgment can just go in both directions. And I hope this conversation again just allows people to be more in tune and insightful and, and, and perhaps open-minded to how you are grieving and how you allow others to do the same.
Kate: Well, gosh, you're seven minutes in roughly probably for this. And I'm already saying, right. Ooh, Ooh. I need to be more, more aware just, and you know, we're just getting started. So I want to thank both of you for already as someone sitting in the room, I've already had that aha moment of wow, what am I doing personally and with others and how does that make them feel? So I wanted to say thank you to both of you for helping raise that awareness. So I appreciate it.
Renee: Your thanks for the insight, right? I mean, you being an insightful person, I'm sitting here going, okay, I can think back to people I have lost in my life in different ways and what would I like to do differently next time? But guys, I can plan and plan and plan and plan. How do I want to respond? How do I want to give space and grace to others? And when I lose someone to death next in my life, I'm just going to respond to the way that my, my body's going to respond. Uh, and, and, and to be mindful in that moment is hard sometimes.
Kate: There's no script, no books.
Renee: no script to this. And if I could, I know we're talking about the differences of individual. I also want to talk about, because Keith you brought up this magazine is really targeted for a specific age range, age range. Just to throw that out there. Folks in different phases of their life. Also are,are could look different. So I really want to kind of talk about um, maybe folks that are, that are, um, in 60, 60 plus. I don't know if I would necessarily put that that bookend on it, but folks that are, you know, nearing a typical end of life, um, someone who is maybe right smack in the middle, middle of that. And then also talking about our youngsters, kiddos who guys, we know our brain is developing into our early twenties. That is scientific fact. Um, so I guarantee that folks younger than early twenties, experiencing grief will, will experience and display that differently, right? As they grow and learn and develop. We have to know that as adults as well.
Keith: Yeah. I've, I've had some really interesting conversations with my kids. Um, you know, 27 of them
Renee: hashtag listen to other episodes.
Keith: So I lost my, my grandfather a few months ago and it's been really interesting having the conversations about grief myself and thinking back through that experience. But then also the conversations I've been having with my kids and then the times in which they are thinking about it is always been very surprising to me. In fact, it was just a few weeks ago and we're months past, um, funeral and everything. Uh, my three year old had come into our room in the middle of the night, some point, which is, you know, typical and is sleeping on our floor. And we started talking about, uh, my grandpa who, whom he barely knew cause we don't live close and death and why, why do you have to die? And I don't even remember the specific questions, but it was just so surprising that months after that experience of going to this funeral and this graveside service that he was still processing what that meant himself and him processing death is probably slightly different than grief generally speaking. But there's still like those ties about how like there's all these new categories that he had never new categories of experience of life that he had never experienced before that point. And it didn't know where to put those in his brain and what to do with those. And so just asking questions that he wasn't even sure what really, what he was asking.
Renee: Well it says that he was, I mean again, kids ask why I think.
Kate: and adults ask why.
Renee: that is the most. I think kind of when we go back to that child, like why when it comes to death? Why, why now? Why this person? Why? And so I love the reference to the three year old asking why processing. Cause guys it didn't go away. It just, it just doesn't go away
Keith: Weeks and months later, It's still coming to mind. All my kids have, have come back to that at some, at some point since then of just like asking questions. And then for them it was a different experience. Um, to see me cry in the way that I did when my grandpa died. They don't ever see me cry, but they don't see me cry like that. Yeah. And uh, and so they, they had to figure out what do we do when dad is this sad? Um, and just like that's just an experience we had together what had it. And then I had to talk about it because I work at Johnson County Mental Health Center and we talk about our emotions. And so I had [inaudible] I had to tell them that I was very sad and it's okay. Like both those things were true. I'm really sad and it's okay.
Kate: Can I say thank you for being willing to share that with us as well as to share that vulnerability with your kids. Because I am, whether it's a mom or a dad or whatever role you're in, there can be a sense of I have to be that rock and I have to show quote strength. And that stereotypical strength means I don't show emotions. And I personally believe it's the flip side, that that strength is when you can show people what you're truly feeling.
Keith: And it's been interesting, you know, go back to stages of grief. I could not go back to a single minute a time and say, I was in that stage at this time ever. In the midst of that, in a lot of my processing was thinking about parts of my life and my relationships with the family that had nothing to do with my grandpa at all. But it just, that's where my brain space was and that's how I processed it. And I found myself doubting decisions I wouldn't be making about unrelated things, thinking, am I just making this decision about this other relationship over here because I'm grieving about my grandpa, you know, like, and so like just how complex that was for months and they're still, you know, I having less of those moments on a regular, but there's still moments that come back to some of those thoughts and some of those feelings and um, just, just how much that, that fact of it's different for everybody just resonates with that experience that, that I've just so recently had,
Renee: this is in, in no way, shape or form to take away from that. Your example, please just watch a TV episode. Okay. And I feel silly that this is where my mind went in that moment of your, again, super insightful. I appreciate your story. So the episode, um, an hour long drama, if you will, and uh, revolved around three main characters, one who had lost a very significant person in their life and the other two were desperately trying to make the best space for that person to grieve and invite them to grieve and like, um, none of life that resolves in 60 minutes with commercial breaks. Okay. Ha ha ha. Um, it, it, the most profound moment was the two individuals who are trying to make the space because that person wasn't grieving in the way that they thought they should. Right at the end of the episode they were able to say out loud, wow, he is grieving. We were just not looking for it. We weren't allowing him to do it his way. And again, that is so silly to think of it, a TV episode. Um, sometimes I, I need to pull away from it personally, right. To be able to kind of ingest some of this stuff. But that was the best picture of me. This person actually, um, started committing themselves at work a little more. So they're kind of being a little more productive at work, starting some new projects, getting involved in, in some things. And everyone around him was going, Whoa, dude, time out. Yes, you're not grieving and really not to his face either. So that was kind of the cruddy part. And then finally the, the big picture aha moment was yeah he is. Um, and so we did, it just brought me back. This was, that was not right. It wasn't planned. I had no clue when I watched that episode that we would be talking about this on this episode of the podcast. So how cool, how life intersects as well. But for me to be reminded while I talk to people and work through my own grief and all of these levels and depths and great, um, summed up in a nice little 60 minute episode is cut it out. Renee, do not judge how other people grieve and do not judge yourself in how you grieve. Let it happen. And it's okay. Support one another as we do this and literally, and I want to say it's okay as long as you're not hurting yourself or someone else. Okay.
Renee: Because grief can be a debilitating, I know I probably said that in a couple episodes about emotions, but uh, when grief, um, comes against, um, I'm going to lose my job, I'm going to lose my home. I might be losing some of my health or health care. I would really encourage someone to reach out for some assistance or what. Yeah.
Keith: So we want to affirm that grief comes and is experienced and complex and different ways for folks and it is okay to experience grief. It is okay to be sad. What's the point where I should be worried for myself or somebody else? You started it. There's harm, some functional impairments of some kind. So work school, um, those things are, are falling. Um, are there other warning signs we should look at when it, when it's moved beyond, um, that realm of normalization and grief and it's now into something that's more concerning?
Renee: I think it's hard for me to answer that outside of the, again, looking at harm, uh, looking at functional impairment and again, being cautious. If I'm putting my judgments on someone's functional impairment, they might be extremely ready to lose a job over it. And that's okay. Right? That doesn't impact their life as it might mine, and that's okay, but it's taking an inventory of that because what I don't wanna do is, um, if their grief is three years, it's three years. If it's three months, it's, it's three months. So I would, um, I would tend to not try to assess or or find other risk factors if I feel that there is um, safe behaviors to self and others and safe functioning. Um, because also too, um, I think, uh, you know, culture, religion, family of origin, all of these things can play into, they'd be how you grieve, how you've have you been taught to grieve, right? How your, how your family models that. Going back to you Keith, great job. Talk to your kids. Model. We're going to ask why forever and ever and ever. He's using. Your kids are using all of these experiences to make their own decision. One day of how do I, how do I do this the best for me? Grief is complex or grief can be simple though really is being, if I'm mindful of yourself working on insight, reaching out when you need help. Um, also, I don't know if you guys find this, but I was as, as we're all sharing our stories, the cliche statements that we make to other people around the time of grief is something that just me as a, as a person, Renee, right? No, no. Johnson County. Go back to Keith's disclaimer, okay. I would rather a hug or a handshake or a high five. And the phrase, I don't know what to say to you right now, Renee, rather than they're in a better place. I don't believe that. Right? At least their pain has stopped again. What if I don't believe that? So I think sometimes we, um, respond to other people for our own grief, not for theirs. And just, I encourage folks to be mindful of that.
Kate: Not using the word, 'at least' like that is just cringe worthy. Just cringe worthy. Um, back to Rene's point with, well, at least he's in a better place because then that shows you this, okay, I'm not supposed to feel the way I am feeling.
Renee: because if you are, if I'm truly reaching out to Kate, right to console, I need to say to Kate, how can I help.
Kate: and mean it. [Inaudible].
Renee: right. Instead of giving her my, Oh, at least at least they're out of pain. Well, I mean, I really just prescribed to you how you should feel right now. And that is, you know, the, the, the mental comparison game, um, becomes super detrimental and in that space, um, so, right. Say what you mean you always, that is a life mantra in grief or not say what you mean. Please, uh, mean what you say don't be mean. But in this, in, you know, in this pace of grief, um, are you saying some, are you saying something to the other person to mitigate your grief or to their grief and really be mindful of that.
Kate: No matter what you say, you're not going to be able to take that pain away and you have to be okay and comfortable with that knowing that you can't do that. So I always cringe and I have been guilty of this, I was saying this cause I'm going to be human, the, you know, given everything, how are you well, how do you think I am doing right. You know, it's like, Oh, I'm guilty of that. Absolutely. And so it's just being there in that moment and being there more than just, I always say when there's been a loss, reach out two months, three months after. Cause that first initial, you know, week or a couple of days, even a month after there's, you know, the meal trains and all kinds of things going on. And I know with both of my grandmas, you know, seeing it play out where it's the months that follow that when people start, everyone else around you starts to get into the new normal routine. And then the person who has experienced that loss is still trying to fathom what has happened.
Keith: For everyone else. Like it normally was. And this person's not hear anymore.
Kate: Yeah. And then there's not that support. It's not there cause it's been a month after. So people start, stop reaching out. And so to genuinely keep that conversation going and use names like they were, they meant something to you say,
Renee: and lived a life. Right. We're here and are now not and right. Like to give them a name to talk and yeah. Present past time. It's okay. It's perfectly wonderful to do that.
Keith: I want to acknowledge something that you were just saying about, you know, you have that support right up front and then there's time he goes after. And I think that, uh, and, and, and I talked about us in our article the first time you experienced some significant life moment after losing somebody. All of those firsts can be really difficult. Uh, first grandchild is born, first kid graduates from high school. First it's the first fall and someone has to clean out the gutters and my loved one used to do that and now I don't know. I don't know how to do that. Right. Like all of those, it's just be mindful of your, your friends and relatives who've lost somebody on those first, but then also if that's you experiencing those first, just also having hope that each first builds on the other and so the first time you experienced this makes the next one a little bit easier maybe to experience and they just, they're hard. They're hard, but each time you're just a little bit better equipped to know that next one, that next one, the next one.
Renee: Especially if you make the promise to yourself to continue to be insightful, to continue to be mindful. How am I feeling right now in this moment? I birthdays, anniversaries, wedding anniversaries. I mean if you celebrate holidays, that can be be difficult as you go through each one of the ones that you celebrated with your significant other or family member or friend without that person. Right. So all of those things exist. Is it a right, if I share again another kind of tidbit from, from hospice that I got that I, that I hope.
Keith: Ya, I thought you were going to say that TV show, but.
Renee: Well, I mean that too. Cause I really, really enjoy my TV dramas. Um, and they usually give me a lot of life lessons. I am not saying that facetiously either.
Keith: I know.
Renee: I love my like, Aw man, I should know that better.
Keith: Ah man, all the little cheesy kid's shows that my kids watch. I find myself crying over those more than anything.
Kate: Oh yeah.
Keith: Watch cause they got me every time, every time life lessons.
Renee: Um, so this was just one of the things that I was, I was thinking about this episode thinking about grief, um, and just kind of found myself just reading through some information on, gosh, Renee, how do you talk about this? Um, professionally and, and personally, how do I find a good balance in that? Um, and I really found this, this sweet space about kind of the rule of the three C's: choose, communicate and compromise when it comes to how do I navigate a big event? Is that a holiday? Is that a wedding? Is that a celebration of some sort? How do I do that? And it was giving you permission to choose, communicate and compromise. Choose the people you want to be around, choose the events you want to attend. That is your choice and yours alone. And that's okay. The second C is communicate, communicate to others what you might need. Um, communicate to uh, yourself. How you might want to honor, um, that the loved one that's no longer here anymore during that event or holiday.
Keith: Can I affirm right there. So that can be really hard, right? Both those, yeah, to another person, what you need. Cause sometimes you just don't know exactly if something's wrong. Yeah. No one's gone.
Renee: Absolutely. Absolutely agree. And being able to say right now, guys, I'm going to show up. I don't know how long I will stay. And that's communication. Yeah, absolutely. And then to compromise, which, which I think kind of, I just gave an example of in that, in that communication, go and leave yourself an exit strategy. Right. Um, maybe I, so a lot of the times, you know, it's, it's leave, um, maybe in your personal space you would leave memorabilia of your loved one and then you would go enter into a bigger space event, holiday expression of that. And so I, I just, I loved that. And this will probably be just something that I, I choose to bring into my life a little more is the, the choose, communicate, compromise.
Kate: I'll add one on to that and say that it's also okay to let go. And that is even just saying that causes me some discomfort. And so I'm sure it will for listeners as well. So hear me out before you turn this off. Letting go doesn't mean you're letting go of the person in that you can make a new normal that is happy and healthy and still involve that individual just in a different way. Because even if they're not there with you in that present moment, they can be there with you in other ways. And I'm saying that as someone who still hasn't figured out how to let go. Like I said, both of my grandpas are no longer with me and they had more impact in my life than I could ever even thank them for. And so I haven't figured out how to let go. But I've seen my family around be able to let go and have new traditions and meld those with old traditions. And you can see them enjoying those times more so because they've been able to embrace the family and the new traditions and still bring that loved one into it just in a different way and see them learn and grow from it. And so I just have to just validate and say if you are struggling to feel like by letting go, you're being selfish or that you're showing that person that you don't love them anymore, that's not the case. It's just setting healthy boundaries and you're creating your new normal with that individual who's no longer with you. Cause they can still be very much involved just in a different way.
Renee: Kate, I want to validate you as well that just because I'm going to use your phrase, let go to speak as you're not letting go at the same pace or timeframe as other family members. It's okay.
Renee: You'll, you'll find that way in that space. And that's just the most important. Um, family, family dynamics can be tough. Okay. Yeah. Family dynamics can be super rewarding. Family dynamics can be really tough.
Keith: and both at the same time.
Renee: And then put grief in the mix.
Renee: Right. So, um, nobody has the answer where all the three year old asking why, um, I think that's always going to be there around grief because we don't, um, it's not black or white guys. There's not this, this perfect answer. So we ask why it's okay that we ask why differently with every different loss or every different moment of grief that we have. Um, and it's okay to find our own answers in our own space and time and we also need to give that to others.
Keith: Yeah. I want us to do a wrap up statements here a second. I want to tell one more story and that will give you both a chance to think of your wrap up statement. I was, this is a memory, I haven't, uh, I haven't thought of it in a long time. It's probably 10 years ago, I was a pastor at one of your roles as a pastor is officiating funeral services. And I remember I've actually, I've only ever done one. I will always remember what it was like to sit with that family around their kitchen table and have them tell me about their loved one that they had lost that I'd never met. Probably some of the greatest joy I've ever experienced. Most meaningful just sitting with folks and hearing them talk. However, the good and the bad that like these are the quirks, these are how he was really rigid and you know, and cranky and all of these things and just, and those family members all dealing with their loss differently and just being in the midst of that and then being able to retell those stories at the funeral service to everybody else who was there. Uh, one of the greatest honors I think that I ever had from when I was pastor that was just to be invited into life in that way. Yeah. So I think my wrap up statement, I, I just can't over state how much it's okay. That we all experienced grief differently and it's so crazy and wild. Man, just like how complex it is and how you can feel multiple emotions at the same time and they go back and forth and all over the place and how all of that is completely okay.
Renee: I'm going to go back to the beginning of the episode. I think it was one of the first things that I shared, and that is don't cut yourself down for doing better than you think you should be doing.
Kate: My take away, I would say that goes along with both of yours is the importance of letting others grieve the way that they need to grieve as well, and the power of giving grace in that.
Keith: I'm Keith,
Kate: I'm Kate,
Renee: I'm Renee, and it's okay if you're not okay.