Hands down the best grief book I have ever read is Megan Devine’s It’s OK that You’re Not OK. What do I like about it? It validates your feelings. Truly. I find that often when we are grieving, we end up babysitting other people’s feelings. When they ask if you’re OK…do they actually want the truth or do you find yourself saying “Oh, I’m doing OK, thanks for asking”, but really you just want to say “Today sucks. I got an email from Target reminding me that my baby registry isn’t complete, and it was a slap in the face because there isn’t a baby to get gifts for!” Megan is a psychotherapist that has experienced her own loss, and has firsthand knowledge how uneducated our American culture is when it comes to grief and death. I highly recommend this book and have gifted it many times to friends and family. So here is my review of the BEST GRIEF BOOK!
I’m on Week 2 of training for my first ultra marathon 50K…and it’s been full of high highs and low lows. Some days I find my training runs easy and great, and some days it sucks. While a lot of training is mental, outside environment can sure affect how difficult your run will be. This week alone I’ve had: my earbuds quit 8 miles in to a 10 miler, a skunk chase me off the trail, terrible weather, and blisters. But it is what it is.
Also, my coach wants me to track my elevation gains on my runs. Bless her. On my run yesterday it was zero. Today, I ran 10 miles and it was 10 feet. Welcome to the Midwest, where the most elevation I get is jumping over a culvert mid-run. Onward and upward to week 3!
If you saw my post from yesterday, you know I started a new adventure in ultra marathon running. Since I am completely new to this, I thought I would start sharing things (products, training elements, etc) that are working (or not working) for me.
Every Wednesday I’ll do a “What works Wednesday”.
And since the reason I started this blog is to share my knowledge of mental wellness resources, I’ll be doing a “What works Wednesday” for that too!
First, let me start by saying that I’ve been a “runner” for most of my life. But picture this
I ran through middle and high school to stay in shape for team sports, college and graduate school to cope with stress, and in adulthood to well, get away. Like literally to have an hour to myself away from work and mom responsibilities. I usually run daily and I run until I’m ready to call it good. I have previously run a couple of full marathons, half marathons, and 5K’s, but certainly do not have a decorated record of races. Running maintains my mental wellness, much like an oil change is to car maintenance. The research overwhelmingly points to the mental health benefits of exercise and I can vouch for that personally.
Second, most of the most enriching things in my life have come from things I did on a whim. Now, if you knew me personally, you’d find that hard to believe. I research the shit out of every purchase I make, every trip I plan, every thing I endeavor to do. And if you want to annoy me, force me to make a big decision on the fly with little warning. I mean, as an 8 year old I remember making a pro/con list in my head of whether I should get jelly shoes… you know the cheap, sparkly plastic shoes that every little girl wore in the early ’90’s that have since made a comeback (sigh). I later regret buying them as they cut the back of my heel every time I ran in them on the playground. I digress. Attending graduate school, changing career fields, going on a date (with my now husband) were all things I “acted on a whim”.
And now I can add applying for my first 50K and having my training tracked on a podcast, to the list. So here we go! I am going to figure out how to mother two little humans, work my full-time job, and train for my first ultra marathon!
If there’s one thing I’ve learned with age, is that my intuition knows me better than any research could.
Why the heck did I name my blog “A thief called grief?” Yes, it rhymes. Yes, you have to remember that golden rule of “i before e except after c” when you are typing in the name to the search bar. But although “thief” conjures up a negative thought, the idea behind the name is simply this–once you have grieved, whether it’s a loss due to death, loss due to divorce, loss due to whatever crap life throws at you, the old you is gone. At least for me it is and was. The old you was stolen, and now you’re on a new journey. This site is not just for someone who is grieving due to death. This site is for anyone trying to find their way after the theft of their “old life”. Welcome! I hope you learn something while you’re here.
For most people, if you or a loved one have ever been diagnosed with a chronic health condition, then I guarantee you know how important self-advocacy is. Learning about your health condition becomes a full-time job…in fact, the more rare your condition, the more time you will spend learning. My parents taught me early on (in high school) how to advocate for myself, so I was shocked when I started working in healthcare, to discover how little patients knew about their own health. And not only did they not know about their own health, they never questioned anything and often had little input when asked if they had questions.
I accompanied my grandma to one of her doctor visits when I was in my early twenties and embarrassed the shit out of her when I asked the doctor questions about his plan of care. I’ll never forget when he left the room to grab something and as soon as the door shut, she turned to me and said “what are you doing?! Why are you asking him questions? Just be quiet!” and I said “but you told me you had questions, so why don’t you ask them?” and she said “it doesn’t matter if he answers my questions, he knows best”. And I was stunned. I learned then just how much privilege I had that 1.) someone had taught me early on how to talk to a healthcare professional 2.) I knew I had the power to speak up and felt that I could without being punished for it. Here’s the thing, whether it’s a the doctor’s office, at the car repair shop, or on the phone with insurance, you deserve to have your voice heard and to get what you want. Now obviously, there are constructive ways of doing this and I’ll show you how.
Mental Health Recovery https://mentalhealthrecovery.com/info-center/how-to-self-advocate/
Patient Education vs. Patient Experiences of Self-advocacy: Changing the Discourse to Support Cancer Survivors https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4598253/
Why is it important to start taking care of your mental health as a college student? Because statistically, the transition period between high school and college is a time when young adults are at risk for mental health challenges due to stress and significant change.
Finding good care early on can teach you the coping skills and resiliency that you need for college and as an adult.
The JED Foundation has a wonderful website with so many great resources. I encourage you to check it out https://www.jedfoundation.org/
In my real-life grown-up job, I run a suicide prevention program. This means I spend quite a bit of time researching resources about grief, suicide loss, mental health, wellness, etc. If I recommend a resource, it means I have not only read it, but I probably use it and refer people to it regularly.
Here is a current list of my top 5 grief books:
- I don’t hide the fact I love Nora McInerny. She’s as real about grief as it gets. If you have ever experienced grief in your life, I encourage you to read No Happy Endings https://amzn.to/2UyhU01
- If you are a widow (no matter your age), I encourage you to read The Hot Young Widows Club by Nora https://amzn.to/2MO2vo0 and while you’re waiting for your book to arrive, join their group at https://www.hotyoungwidowsclub.com/
- It’s OK That You’re Not OK by Megan Devine. https://amzn.to/3cOPhSr This book is for EVERYONE. Whether you are grieving or you are supporting someone through grief, this book is a must read. I run a suicide prevention program and we include this book in our grief kits. She also has an amazing website that has fantastic resources https://refugeingrief.com/
- If you are a suicide survivor of loss, this book, No Time to Say Goodbye Surviving the Suicide of a Loved One by Carla Fine https://amzn.to/2YlYvQP speaks specifically to suicide grief.
- My favorite grief book for children…but really anyone grieving can find value in reading this gem, The Invisible String by Patrice Karst https://amzn.to/2UwMdnD
This page is under constant revision since I am continuously finding great material. Check back here for updates!
*Please note, the links on this page are affiliate links and I do earn a commission on each sale. I appreciate your support for A Thief Called Grief.*
How to do I adequately convey my love for podcasts? It’s just not possible to sum it up in words. I started listening to podcasts years ago when a colleague, who is an ER doc, shared with me his favorite podcast he listens to while running, cleaning, etc. I pretended to know what the hell a podcast was, but retreated to my office to type in the words “What is a podcast” in Google. Oy. Anyway, fast forward to now and I not only listen to podcasts daily, but I listen to so many that I have categories. I love podcasts because A.) they allow me to easily explore my various interests. I listen to medical podcasts, business podcasts, running podcasts, and grief podcasts to name a few. B.) you can get valuable information in easy-to-digest sound bites. Some podcasts are hours (shoutout to Armchair Expert https://armchairexpertpod.com/) or less than 20 minutes (https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-simplicity-parenting-podcast-with-kim-john-payne/id1407320921). C.) you can listen while doing other tasks like cleaning your bathroom or cooking supper.
Today, I want to share one of the first grief podcasts I subscribed to, Terrible, Thanks for Asking https://www.ttfa.org/. Terrible, Thanks for Asking or TTFA for short, was started by a fellow native Minnesotan, Nora McInerny. I first learned about Nora when her husband’s obituary went viral https://www.startribune.com/obituaries/detail/51565/. I had a brand-new, still smells like a newborn, newborn and found myself reading Aaron’s obituary while nursing my baby at 3 AM. Perhaps it was the hormones, or the fact that I am a Highly Sensitive Person (it’s a real thing, seriously), but I found myself drawn to Nora and her story. Nora lost her dad, her husband, and had a miscarriage in less than 2 months. I mean, I couldn’t process that information, let alone be the one to live it. That is a tremendous amount of grief to throw at one person.
TTFA is a weekly podcast that introduces the listener to stories of real people, going through real shit. Sometimes the stories hit home personally, and sometimes they don’t. But every time I listen, I gain perspective on what people are going through on a daily basis. I also cry every episode. You’d think I’d stop crying after 100 episodes, but alas I will always be.that.person.
Why do I recommend TTFA?
- If you are someone who feels like you are struggling alone in your grief or life, you will come away understanding that there are many people grieving and living, just like you.
- You will learn about other culture’s and how they grieve. Nora interviews people from all walks of life and as someone who works in behavioral health, I find it interesting to hear how other culture’s support or don’t support grief.
- Shit gets real. There is real talk about grief. There’s no let’s-make-it-fluffy so others don’t feel uncomfortable. If you are someone that get’s super-duper squirmy when people talk about real emotions, I encourage you to listen. This will make you a better human. And friend. And colleague.
One last thing: if you are someone who is in the midst of grieving and suffered a recent loss, I encourage you to watch Nora’s TED Talk https://www.ted.com/talks/nora_mcinerny_we_don_t_move_on_from_grief_we_move_forward_with_it?utm_campaign=tedspread&utm_medium=referral&utm_source=tedcomshare
I’m annoyed. It’s Memorial Day and my inbox is filled with emails from stores saying the same thing in various ways…”Happy Memorial Day! Take 75% off your order!”. Two things strike me about this subject line:
- What about MEMORIAL Day says “happy”?
- What about MEMORIAL Day says “let’s shop!”
Maybe this is the difference between my “millennial” generation and Gen Z, or maybe it’s just telling of our grief culture or lack thereof. Like many millennial’s, I grew up with grandparents that served in WWII. I spent every Memorial Day placing little flags on graves of those my grandpa served with in the Navy. I remember as a preschooler going to a Memorial Day ceremony with my family and hearing TAPS for the first time. Even as a 4 year old I knew that that somber trumpet call was something I should pay attention to. Many years later as a 22 year old attending my grandpa’s funeral, I would associate TAPS with a personal loss.
Why have we as American’s lost sight of the real reason for Memorial Day? The fact that many large retailers sent out hundreds of thousands of emails on Memorial Day wishing their patrons a “Happy Memorial Day!” tells me that we’ve lost touch. National retailers with –I’m assuming–a pretty big marketing team…not one person thought it was inappropriate to send happy wishes? If just one of those companies had written “Today we remember and for that reason, we’re having our biggest sale starting Tuesday!” or something like that, I would have not only bought something from them, but you can bet your ass I would have spread the message to all my friends.
I’m not saying that family’s have to dress in black and sit in a cemetery on their day off, but I do think it is our responsibility as Americans to not only recognize why Memorial Day exists, but to also recognize that their are millions of people that do grieve on this day. And to have a flood of marketing geared toward the public that says “on this day of remembrance, let’s buy sweaters for 75% off” kinda slaps them in the face. Am I wrong about this? Am I just old-fashioned? Am I too sensitive? Perhaps. But to me it says “Your dad died in Iraq for my freedom, but hey I got these designer sunglasses for HALF OFF”.
So I’ll continue our family tradition of placing flags on graves and I’ll pay more for my shoes, but you can be sure my 5 and 2 year old will understand what Memorial Day is about…
Thank you to the active military, veterans, and their families. We cherish you.
Mental health resources for veterans:
- Military & Veteran’s Crisis Line 1.800.273.8255, Press 1
- Crisis line text 838255
- Vets 4 Warriors 855.838.8255
- Military One Source 1.800.342.9647
- Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) 1.800.959.8277