Permission To Not Be Ok | My Conversation About Grief On The Inner Monologue Podcast
The adage that life is short loses its euphemism and begins to take on a more profound meaning when you’re staring face-to-face with your dead mother whose just hung herself from your living room ceiling fan.
After living through an experience like that, you’re confronted with all the trivialities you used as armor for why you couldn’t get your flailing dream career off the ground, or never took that trip to Bali like you promised, or why you never told that crush you had in college that you liked him. Suddenly all those stupid hangups, self-doubts, and fears you’d been comfortably holding onto fly out the window when you’re staring at death in its greedy little pupils. Losing my mother to suicide at the ripe age of 55 gave me a deeper understanding of the universe and my place in it.
After her death, everyone from close friends to strangers on the internet wanted to know how I was doing. And my answer was always the same. “I’m fine.” But I wasn’t. Watching my mother’s memory reduced to a six-pound bag of coarse sand and sharp bone fragments made an impact. For my role as the grieving daughter, I brushed off the acting craft I’d honed in my earlier college days for the most convincing portrayal of steadfast resilience I could muster. But once the busyness of her final arrangements wore off and I’d moved out of the brownstone I loved so much to evade the memories of her last moments, the effects of her death began to take a toll.
In the midwest where I’m from, when someone dies, we don’t send flowers and condolences; we send casseroles and small talk. We don’t like to feel uncomfortable with the discomfort of death. It’s unpalatable like those same “death” casseroles that had taken up space in my refrigerator. I assumed after my mother’s suicide that what the people around me wanted was for me to bypass the topic that sat between us all together and instead focus on bite-sized conversations that felt a bit more appetizing.
Who wants to talk about what they’ve lost, or what they may lose? Who wants to listen about the hardest thing you’ve ever gone through when they could instead discuss the weather, or how many macros they’ve eaten since noon?
[Everyone who has ever lived through death raises their hand.]
How do you talk about grief? How do you articulate or put words to an experience like suicide? I’d never really experienced tragedy on that scale before my mother’s death, so I had no basis for how to judge what grief was supposed to look like. I spent that first lonely year after her death pretending I was moving on by concealing my emotions or coating them in campy worded Instagram captions. But the crushing solitude and empty space that remained after she left made me grow resentful. I was angry at how fucking unfair life was. I was angry at having to move and being humbled once again by street parking in the winter in Minneapolis; I was angry at my friends who still had mother’s to fight with and angry with my brides who still had mother’s that cried when they zipped their daughter’s wedding dresses up. I was angry at everyone who told me how I was doing so well for not seeing how her suicide had destroyed me, and I was angry at myself for making the most gut-wrenching experience I’d ever gone through look easy.
“I sat with my anger long enough until I discovered her name was grief.”
It took a long time and a D.U.I. to realize that I was not, in fact, fine and that I didn’t need to present my grief in such a way that other people could double tap through. Grief’s imprint taught me that life is precious and short, and while I didn’t believe that everything happened for a reason, I did believe that there was reason to be found in everything that happened. So grief led me to the desert. On my own personal quest to figure out how you cope with grief. How you experience one of the most alienating of the human emotions in a slightly more connected and compassionate way. Slowly I’ve learned that you never truly move on, but I was determined to figure out in Arizona how you move forward from it and how I could create meaning out of what had happened to my mother.
Part of the “reason” I’ve been able to surmise since moving to Arizona was creating meaning from my mother’s suicide by using my platform to talk about grief. To talk about how messy it is, and how you can experience all five stages in a single moment, and how it isn’t something you can simply unbox like a bag of dust. It’s a niche! But it’s growing. And Thomas Brown and Sharon Stelluto are also building awareness for this niche with their podcast, The Inner Monologue, which my story was recently featured on. The Inner Monologue Podcast is a weekly conversational podcast shining light on suicide, grief, and mental health with a bit of toilet humor sprinkled in-between.
Like myself, Thomas lost a family member to suicide-his brother, Marc Brown on August 20th, 2001. After Marc’s death, existential curiosity led Thomas on a cross country bike tour where he spread his brother’s ashes, and subsequently met and fell in love with Sharon on the last leg of his journey. And like myself, Thomas found a dynamic sense of purpose encoded within him when he lost his brother Marc. These days, he finds healing through the memoir he’s penning about his seven-month bike excursion through headwind and grief which should be released next year, and by starting the conversation about suicide and what it looks like to be a survivor on The Inner Monologue Podcast.
Thomas’s idiosyncrasy toward openness was the very thing that intrigued Sharon to him the very first time she met him on the final stretch of his cross country cycle. She felt an instant magnetism watching this lumberjack of a bicyclist melt with emotion at this sight of his mother waiting for him at the finish line. It’s now been seven years since that fateful seven-month bike journey which brought Thomas and Sharon together, but these two have synced into a partnership with their business ventures that blend their personalities and passions together. In addition to assisting with the Podcast, Sharon also runs Entelechy Visions a business that combines a variety of healing modalities including healing sessions, remote energy work, intuitive mentoring programs and readings, custom meditations, space cleaning and more. Witnessing them together throughout my podcast episode and their branding shoot I couldn’t help notice how Thomas has a knack for boldly blazing a trail of intense vulnerability for people to heal and connect, and Sharon has an uncanny ability to calm, welcome, and put anyone she encounters at complete ease.
Listen to my podcast episode
After my podcast episode, I got together with Thomas and Sharon for a photoshoot to showcase their love for each other and their passion for The Inner Monologue Podcast.
I’m still figuring out the direction this more profound meaning of life I have now is taking me, but I know that sharing about grief, suicide, and mental health are topics I want to continue to shed light on and normalize for other people. I’m grateful that Thomas and Sharon made my first podcast experience opening up about such a heavy personal subject feel really comfortable. You can check out more about The Inner Monologue Podcast, R.I.S.E. (revolution inspired by self-evolution) with links to support for mental health and survivors of suicide groups, and Entelechy Visions by visiting the links below.
Links and resources for mental health support: http://www.risephoenix.org/links.html