WPP 025: Kris Marsh on struggling after losing her mom at age 19

My whole life I had heard people say, oh, you’ve been through so much, you’re so strong. You’re so amazing that you were able to move past that and rise above it. But what they didn’t understand — and I didn’t understand myself at the time, really — was that was my coping mechanism, to keep moving so that you didn’t have to think about it.
— Kris Marsh
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I had such a great discussion with Kris Marsh for this episode. I’ve had listener requests to hear from some people who really struggled after losing a parent at a young age. Kris lost her mom to suicide when she was just 19 years old, and she didn’t get the support that she now realizes she needed. She became, in her words, a “classic overachiever” in order to avoid dealing with her pain and loss. This continued until she approached the age her mom was when she died, at which point she couldn’t avoid dealing with it any longer. I’ll let you listen to Kris tell her story in her own words. She now feels strongly that grieving kids need support, and that just because they seem ok doesn’t necessarily mean they are. I’m so glad Kris was willing to share her story with us.

I hope you enjoy my discussion with Kris Marsh.

Links & resources for this episode

Motherless Daughters: The Legacy of Loss, by Hope Edelman
Motherless Mothers: How Losing a Mother Shapes the Parent You Become, by Hope Edelman

More links for listeners

Get my guide “What I’ve learned about widowed parenting”
Widowed Parent Podcast discussion group - sign up here (free) - next meeting June 2


What is your biggest challenge as a widowed parent right now?

Call our voice mailbox at (669)257-3434 and leave a message. Or, answer this quick one-question survey. I’ll pick the most interesting questions and challenges, and hunt down experts to address them on upcoming episodes.

WPP 024: Emily Irwin on mindfulness

One of the things that’s really difficult with loss is staying self-regulated, and being able to take care of ourselves and knowing what it takes to take care of ourselves. And mindfulness can have a really big impact on self-regulation.
— Emily Irwin
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I had such a great discussion with Emily Irwin for this episode. Emily is a therapist and a mindfulness expert based here in Seattle. It seems that mindfulness is all around us these days, so I thought it would be interesting to explore how it might be useful for us as widowed parents, as well as for our kids and teenagers.

Emily and I covered a lot of ground in this discussion:

  • What is mindfulness, and what it is not;

  • Some common myths and misconceptions about mindfulness;

  • How mindfulness can be beneficial for widowed parents and their kids/teens;

  • Ideas for practicing gratitude, such as a gratitude jar or the gratitude toss;

  • Considerations for trauma-sensitive mindfulness;

  • What is neuroplasticity, and how it is something that benefits us through our entire lives, not just when we’re young;

  • How some early research shows that mindfulness has the potential to help improve teens’ resilience to stress; and

  • Tips for practicing self-compassion, and why it’s so important.

I hope you enjoy my discussion with Emily Irwin.

Links & resources for this episode

Mindful Schools
Hoberman Sphere
YouTube: Soul Pancake gratitude letters
YouTube: Mindfulness is a Superpower
10% Happier with Dan Harris Podcast
University of Washington’s Center for Child and Family Well-Being
University of Massachusetts Medical School’s Center for Mindfulness
UCLA Mindfulness Awareness Research Center
Susan Kaiser Greenland - website and Mindful Games activity cards
Episode 11 with Lane Pease
Episode 13 with Dr. Lisa Damour
Widowed Parent Podcast discussion group

Books discussed
10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works--A True Story, by Dan Harris
Alphabreaths: The ABCs of Mindful Breathing, by Christopher Willard and Daniel Rechtschaffen
Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body, by Daniel Goleman and Richard Davidson
The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma, by Dr. Bessel van der Kolk
Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankyl
Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics: A 10% Happier How-to Book, by Dan Harris
Mindful Games: Sharing Mindfulness and Meditation with Children, Teens, and Families, by Susan Kaiser Greenland
The Self-Compassion Workbook for Teens, by Dr. Karen Bluth
Trauma-Sensitive Mindfulness, by David Treleaven
Under Pressure: Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls, by Dr. Lisa Damour
Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood, by Dr. Lisa Damour
Books by Shawn Achor
Books by Dr. Dan Siegel

Where to find Emily
Psychology Today profile
Facebook: @margaroad
email: contact@margaroad.com

More links for listeners

Get my guide “What I’ve learned about widowed parenting”
Widowed Parent Podcast discussion group - sign up here (free) - next meeting June 2


What is your biggest challenge as a widowed parent right now?

Call our voice mailbox at (669)257-3434 and leave a message. Or, answer this quick one-question survey. I’ll pick the most interesting questions and challenges, and hunt down experts to address them on upcoming episodes.

WPP 023: Tamarack’s Dr. Tina Barrett on Mother’s & Father’s Days and outdoor grief support programs

As activities or writing projects come up, gift-making for parents around these days, we can help prepare our children for what is the language you want to share. And even help a child come to an understanding that, yep, you’ve still got a mom, your mom’s not walking on the earth, that her body has stopped working. She died. And it’s okay to honor that she’s your mom, and what she looked like, and how darn much she loved you, and that she really liked Skittles and daisies and whatever it might be, that you all used to sing this one song together. It’s okay to still call her your mom and it’s okay that you cry when those activities come up and it’s okay to make her a card, and it’s okay to include her in pictures where you’re drawing a family picture. In the same way any of us claim relationships, you can still claim these relationships. It’s still your relationship.
— Dr. Tina Barrett
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I had such a great discussion with Dr. Tina Barrett of Montana’s Tamarack Grief Resource Center for this episode. Tina is a nationally recognized specialist in outdoor-based grief support programs. She co-founded Tamarack, and has run grief programs and camps for over 20 years. With Mother’s Day and Father’s Day right around the corner, I invited Tina to speak with us about ideas for approaching these holidays, and so much more. We talked about:

  • Tina’s dissertation and research findings on how outdoor-based grief support can be beneficial for grieving youth and adults;

  • Programs offered by the Tamarack Grief Resource Center, including grief groups, youth overnight and day camps, Women’s Rendezvous, Men’s Retreat, and Family Camp;

  • Why both Father’s Day and Mother’s Day might be hard, whether it’s mom or dad who died;

  • Practical ideas for honoring Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, whether you have young children or teens;

  • Tips on approaching school activities around Mother’s / Father’s Day, such as writing assignments and art projects;

  • Different grief styles, and how important it is to understand and recognize that people, including kids, grieve in different ways; and

  • The difference between self-care and self-indulgence.

I hope you enjoy my discussion with Dr. Tina Barrett.

Links & resources for this episode

Tamarack Grief Resource Center - Missoula, Montana
Tamarack’s A Camp to Remember info, 2019 youth camp schedule, and 2019 Family Camp schedule
Darcie Sims - Does Grief Come in “One Size Fits All?”
Camp Widow
Tamarack on Facebook and Instagram

More links for listeners

Get my guide “What I’ve learned about widowed parenting”
Widowed Parent Podcast discussion group - sign up here - next meeting June 2


What is your biggest challenge as a widowed parent right now?

Call our voice mailbox at (669)257-3434 and leave a message. Or, answer this quick one-question survey. I’ll pick the most interesting questions and challenges, and hunt down experts to address them on upcoming episodes.

WPP 022: Riley Elliott reflects on losing her dad at age 7

The one thing I would have to say about giving a parent advice on what to tell their child is that they don’t have to live with this guilt for their entire life. I would advise parents to still encourage their kids to be happy, and not make their parent’s death their identity. But I would also say that they need to acknowledge it because it is a part of their life. And they don’t have to be sad forever if they don’t want to be. Giving them that freedom, and that encouragement, is something that I was kind of told, and I think that hearing those words really did help me.
— Riley Elliott
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I had such a great discussion with Riley Elliott for this week’s show. Riley lost her dad to brain cancer when she was just 7 years old. As a widowed parent, I always think it’s helpful to hear the perspectives of people who are now adults and who lost a parent when they were a child or teenager. It’s not like it’s going to tell me exactly what my kids will go through, but it gives me a lot to think about and be on the lookout for, and helps me figure out how to support them better.

Riley and I discussed:

  • Wanting to feel “normal” growing up and not wanting to be treated differently because her dad died;

  • Finding it difficult to know what to say to new people about her family’s situation;

  • Gaining perspective, including wanting to get more out of life from an early age;

  • How her family has turned grief into action by getting involved in the brain cancer world;

  • and so much more.

I hope you enjoy my discussion with Riley Elliott.

Links & resources for this episode

The End Brain Cancer Initiative

More links for listeners

Get my guide “What I’ve learned about widowed parenting”
Widowed Parent Podcast discussion group - sign up here (free) - next meeting May 5


What is your biggest challenge as a widowed parent right now?

Call our voice mailbox at (669)257-3434 and leave a message. Or, answer this quick one-question survey. I’ll pick the most interesting questions and challenges, and hunt down experts to address them on upcoming episodes.

WPP 021: Marni Henderson: health educator, Life Reentry practitioner, and widowed mom

“To newly widowed parents: be very tender, kind, with yourself and give yourself what you need in that moment to be where you are. There’s nothing to fix. So often our culture and community tries to have us bypass and to get better and to function and to do well. Give yourself some tenderness and be kind to yourself and really honor where you are.”
— Marni Henderson
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I had such a great discussion with Marni Henderson for this episode. Marni is the founder of Coalesce Discovery and Sunrise Retreats, is a licensed health educator and a Life Reentry practitioner, and is a widowed mom herself.

Marni and I discussed her journey as a widowed parent, including:

  • How her husband told her before he died that it wasn’t her time to go, and this kept her going in the early months;

  • The decision to send her boys back to school after homeschooling them while her husband was sick;

  • How deciding to move became her first early step back into life;

  • How a school trip to Belize became a big “aha moment” for her and her boys;

  • Some tools in the Life Reentry Model; and

  • Developing Sunrise Retreats to create a space for widows to connect and to feel a flicker of hope – including retreats specifically for widowers and for those widowed by cancer.

I hope you enjoy my discussion with Marni Henderson.

Links & resources for this episode

Marni’s blog post: “What is your launchpad to creating life after loss?”
Coalesce Discovery - Belize retreats
Sunrise Retreats - Idaho retreats
Second Firsts, by Christina Rasmussen

More links for listeners

Get my guide “What I’ve learned about widowed parenting”
Widowed Parent Podcast discussion group - sign up here (free) - next meeting May 5


What is your biggest challenge as a widowed parent right now?

Call our voice mailbox at (669)257-3434 and leave a message. Or, answer this quick one-question survey. I’ll pick the most interesting questions and challenges, and hunt down experts to address them on upcoming episodes.

WPP 020: Randah Taher’s reflections on losing her dad when she was in college

My dad didn’t see the best of me, and he didn’t get the chance to see what I was capable of. How I can use my stubbornness to be better. And so I decided — I said, I’m going to show you. Wherever you are, you’re looking at me, I’m going to show you that I am going to be better. That I will work in a different way. I will enjoy life. I will not be sad for long. I am angry, and I stayed angry for longer than I expected, but I am not going to be angry for long and I’m not going to be just helpless. I’ll figure it out. So I think it turned me 180 degrees. And I know it’s hard to say, but when my dad died, I became better. I became stronger. I was more focused. I started to make better decisions. I started to look at building my career in a different way, to build my life in a different way.
— Randah Taher
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I had such a great discussion with Randah Taher for this episode. And, today marks a first for the podcast -- the first global episode – as Randah joined us from her home in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates.

I loved hearing Randah’s journey and her perspective on losing her dad when she was in college, including the impact that has had on her life. She says that after her dad died she became motivated to be a better person and to show her dad what she was capable of. Some other topics Randah and I discussed include:

  • How missing her dad’s funeral made her grief process harder;

  • How she ultimately forgave family members for their actions around the time of her dad’s death;

  • Realizing who her real friends were after her dad died; and

  • The analogy of the egg, the carrot, and the coffee bean, and how she chose to transform after her loss.

I should add, the audio quality of this episode is a bit, shall we say, “variable.” Maybe that’s what happens when you talk with someone halfway around the world. You may hear some loud-and soft variation in the beginning; stick with it, it does get better later on.

I hope you enjoy my discussion with Randah Taher.

More links for listeners

Get my guide “What I’ve learned about widowed parenting”
Widowed Parent Podcast discussion group - sign up here (free) - next meeting May 5


What is your biggest challenge as a widowed parent right now?

Call our voice mailbox at (669)257-3434 and leave a message. Or, answer this quick one-question survey. I’ll pick the most interesting questions and challenges, and hunt down experts to address them on upcoming episodes.

WPP 019: Buffy Peters and Sasha Mudlaff from Hamilton's Academy of Grief and Loss with advice for parents on children's grief

One of the things I love to say to children, no matter what their question is, is that is a great question. Thank you for asking that question. Even if my next words are going to be, “I don’t know either.” And it’s okay. It is hard for parents to say “I don’t know” sometimes. But if I am constantly saying, wow, what a great question — I just think it’s keeping that door open so that the child knows they can ask me more questions.
— Sasha Mudlaff, Hamilton's Academy of Grief and Loss
Buffy Peters (left) and Sasha Mudlaff with mascot Hamilton

Buffy Peters (left) and Sasha Mudlaff with mascot Hamilton


Today we’re going to really focus in on the grief piece of the widowed parenting puzzle. It can be really hard for widowed parents to know how to help their children with their grief, because most of us don’t have much experience, nor any education, in this. And so, I’m really glad to share with you today my discussion with  Buffy Peters and Sasha Mudlaff, from Hamilton’s Academy of Grief and Loss in Des Moines, Iowa. Hamilton’s is Iowa’s largest funeral home, and 20 years ago they decided to start providing grief and loss support to their clients and to the broader community as well. And if you’re not in Iowa, not to worry – they have fantastic -- and free -- resources available on their web site. I’ll link to them in the show notes.

I learned so much from talking with Buffy and Sasha. Some topics we covered include:

  • Handling questions from kids, including when you don’t know the answer;

  • The importance of telling kids the truth about tough situations;

  • Language to avoid when talking with kids about death;

  • Secondary losses experienced by kids who have lost a parent;

  • Undue burdens that may unintentionally be placed on kids;

  • Misconceptions that adults may have about children’s grief

  • Why it’s important for kids to see the adults around them grieve, and modeling healthy grieving;

  • How children’s grief differs from adult grief; and

  • Why it’s important for adults to validate kids’ feelings of grief.

I hope you enjoy my discussion with Sasha Mudlaff and Buffy Peters.

Links & resources for this episode

Hamilton’s Academy of Grief and Loss (Des Moines, Iowa) - web site and Facebook page

Printable resources (free):
Avoiding the Cliches of Grief
Children's Understanding of Death - Developmental Stages
Why Adults Must Validate Children's Grief Feelings
Important Considerations of the Grieving Child
Helping Children Express Their Grief
Explaining Death to Children
Explaining Cremation to Children
Children and Change
Assisting Children to Live with Death
Tips for Grieving College Students and Young Adults
Top 10 List for Helping Grieving Children & Teens
Basic Needs of Grieving Teens
Symptoms of Bereavement
General Guidelines for Helping Children Cope with Death
When a Parent Dies
How to Tell if a Grieving Child Needs Extra Help
Effects of Grief
…and many more here.

More links for listeners

Widowed Parent Podcast discussion group - sign up here (free) - next meeting April 7


What is your biggest challenge as a widowed parent right now?

Call our voice mailbox at (669)257-3434 and leave a message. Or, answer this quick one-question survey. I’ll pick the most interesting questions and challenges, and hunt down experts to address them on upcoming episodes.

WPP 018: Will Owens on his journey as a widowed dad

I would tell anybody to find some sort of group of people to speak with. People who are somewhat similarly situated so that you can kind of lean on each other as you navigate these waters of uncertainty, because it’s rough and it helps having someone you can lean on. Especially with dads who are dealing with other guys who may not be as open to talking about it.
— Will Owens
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Today I’m so pleased to be sharing with you my discussion with Will Owens. Will is a widowed dad and he has an 8 year old son. It was great to hear his perspective on widowed parenting, and what he finds to be unique challenges as a dad, and also what parts are similar in all of our journeys, whether we are moms or dads who lost our spouses.

Some topics Will and I discussed include:

  • What it’s like being in a grief group for dads, and whether he finds it worthwhile (spoiler alert: he does!);

  • Enlisting the moms of his son’s friends to help him navigate school & kid activities;

  • Taking over household and schedule management, which his wife used to do for their family;

  • Getting through the first year milestones, including grief triggers that he didn’t expect; and

  • Trying to be a “good enough” parent, which is a concept that Justin Yopp talked about in episode 9.

I hope you enjoy my discussion with Will Owens.

Links & resources for this episode

The Group: Seven Widowed Fathers Reimagine Life, by Justin Yopp and Donald Rosenstein
My discussion with Dr. Justin Yopp (episode 9)
Camp Kesem
Grief care through Transitions of Wake County (Raleigh, North Carolina)
UNC REX Healthcare KidsCan program
Cook with Amber - cookbook and website
Raddish kids cooking club
Alexa

More links for listeners

Widowed Parent Podcast discussion group - sign up here (free) - next meeting April 7


What is your biggest challenge as a widowed parent right now?

Call our voice mailbox at (669)257-3434 and leave a message. Or, answer this quick one-question survey. I’ll pick the most interesting questions and challenges, and hunt down experts to address them on upcoming episodes.

WPP 017: Positive psychology coach Pam Garramone on how to be happier

Research shows that if you take one of your top five strengths and use it in a new way every day for seven days, it’s been shown to lift depression for up to six months.
— Pam Garramone
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I’m so happy to bring you my discussion with Pam Garramone. Pam is a positive psychology coach who teaches people how to be happier.

It’s important to note that Pam is not talking about ignoring or minimizing the pain and difficulty of losing a spouse, and being a widowed parent, but rather about some ways to gradually move the needle and to work some happiness into our lives in spite of this.

Pam and I talked about so many interesting topics, including many practical tips for how to be happier — and — how to help our kids be happier. We talked about:

  • What is positive psychology, and how does it relate to ‘regular’ psychology;

  • Some tools of positive psychology that can help us become happier;

  • The VIA character survey, and how to use your signature strengths to lift depression;

  • Fostering a growth mindset in our kids;

  • How helping others helps us to feel better;

  • How social connections can boost happiness; and

  • The benefits to our lives of increasing our happiness.

I hope you enjoy my discussion with Pam Garramone.

Links & resources for this episode

Thrive Now Boston
Penn Positive Psychology Center - Dr. Martin Seligman
The Wholebeing Institute - Tal Ben-Shahar
VIA Character Strengths Survey
Amy Cuddy TED talk - “Your body language may shape who you are”
Greater Good Science Center - UC Berkeley

Books recommended by Pam:
Mindset, by Carol Dweck
Solve for Happy, by Mo Gawdat
Books by Shawn Achor

Connect with Pam:
pamgarramone.com
Instagram - @pamgarramone
Facebook - @pamgarramonespeakerandcoach
Twitter - @pamgarramone
Linked In - /pamgarramone

More links for listeners

Widowed Parent Podcast discussion group - sign up here (free) - next meeting April 7


What is your biggest challenge as a widowed parent right now?

Call our voice mailbox at (669)257-3434 and leave a message. Or, answer this quick one-question survey. I’ll pick the most interesting questions and challenges, and hunt down experts to address them on upcoming episodes.

WPP 016: Katie Barrows-Rempe’s reflections and tips on widowed parenting

To newly widowed parents, I would say to give yourself a break. Please take care of yourself. Whatever it is that gives you joy or peace or rest, please do that for yourself, and recognize how hard you’re working. You are on 24/7 right now. And you deserve a break, you need a break, you’re working hard, and if you’ve made it through today, then congratulations and give yourself a pat on the back, because making it through each day is not easy right now. And it does get easier. It takes time. But it does get easier.
— Katie Barrows-Rempe
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I had such a great discussion with Katie Barrows-Rempe for this episode. Katie is actually a very good friend of mine in real life, and I’m so glad she was willing to sit down with me and share her perspective and tips from her 8 years as a widowed parent.

Katie and I talked about so many topics, including:

  • The importance of lining up help to give yourself a break, and designating regular times to get out of the house;

  • Cave days for yourself, and hooky days for your kids;

  • Tips on communicating with kids’ schools, both in the early days and as they get older and change schools;

  • How her family celebrates birthdays and anniversaries;

  • Supporting kids through milestones;

  • Connecting with other widows;

  • Deciding to start dating after loss; and

  • Her youngest child having special needs and what that has meant for his grief process.

I hope you enjoy my discussion with Katie Barrows-Rempe

Links for listeners

Widowed Parent Podcast discussion group - sign up here (free) - next meeting April 7


What is your biggest challenge as a widowed parent right now?

Call our voice mailbox at (669)257-3434 and leave a message. Or, answer this quick one-question survey. I’ll pick the most interesting questions and challenges, and hunt down experts to address them on upcoming episodes.