Season 2, Episode 10

Stefanie Joseph / Jen

Coping with Sibling Loss: A Journey of Grief and Transformation with Stefanie Joseph

Stefanie Joseph shares her sibling loss experience of losing her sister Jen to bacterial meningitis during the pandemic.

In this episode of The Broken Pack: Stories of Adult Sibling Loss, a podcast, Stefanie shares her journey through grief, how she supports others in their experiences of loss, and how her grief has influenced her work as a business coach and grief support specialist.

  • Stefanie credits somatic work for allowing her to be present during her sister’s traumatic brain injury and cope with her grief in her sibling loss.
  • She shares how her own sibling loss has been grieved differently between family members and the effect it has had on family.
  • Stephanie shares how she has learned to move with her grief and ways in which she continues to connect with Jen.

Additional key points:

  • Stefanie and Dr. Dean discuss how many people do not fully understand the impact of sibling loss, making it important to raise awareness and provide support to those who have experienced it.
  • Stefanie also shares how despite the pain of sibling loss, she has found strength and resilience, which she uses to support others and create a meaningful life in her sister’s memory.

To learn more about Stefanie, please see:
Her website: https://stefaniejoseph.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/StefanieJosephBrand/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/_stefaniejoseph/
Her podcast (previously called Moving Grief): Stefanie Joseph Podcast – surrendering to life’s journey

sibling loss survivor Stefanie and her sister Jen
Transcript

Dr. Dean: 

Hello and welcome to the Broken Pack, a podcast focused on giving adult survivors of sibling loss, a platform to share their stories and to be heard. Something that many sibling loss survivors state that they never have had. Sibling Loss is Misunderstood™. The Broken Pack exists to change that and to support survivors. I’m your host, Dr. Angela Dean. Stefanie Joseph joined me for today’s episode about losing her sister Jen during the pandemic from meningitis. She shares how difficult losing her sister was and how her grief has influenced her work as a business coach and grief support specialist. We also discuss changes in family dynamics, her somatic work, and her Moving Grief Podcast. Take a listen. Welcome to the show. I was wondering if you wanted to introduce yourself.

Stefanie: 

Yes, I would love to. Hi, everybody, I’m Stefanie Joseph. Angela and I are meeting for the first time in the recording that we’ve been following both of each other on Instagram. And so thank you first of all for having me on here. I, first and foremost, am a Mom. and that definitely is the highlight of my world. But in that I’m also a multifaceted entrepreneur. We’ll get more into that, as the recording goes on. I live in Salt Lake City, Utah. I love the summer, so I’m enjoying this summer month and this, last summer was very different and so we’re enjoying just the slow. Just normalcy of of it. So I guess that’s what I’m feeling called to introduce, cause I know we’ll get into the meat of it as we get going.

Dr. Dean: 

Thank you for that introduction. Did you wanna say a little bit more about what you do with grief work?

Stefanie: 

Yeah. I do support people in grief. It was a really interesting unfolding of how it comes about. I’ve always been a pretty open book when it comes to my socials and sharing my journey and the entrepreneur world. Losing my sister took it to a whole nother level and I realized, all of the personal work that I had done up to the point of losing her last year allowed me to really be present in the experience while she was in her coma. And, I had a post go viral. 6 million people watched a video of hers and it really allowed me to see that there’s so many people hurting. There’s so many people in grief, and it’s also a very uncomfortable topic for most people. So I’m like, okay, I can do this. And it’s been a little bit of a journey because I also honor my capacity in being very active in my grief, I’m only the first year into losing my sister. I do have a program out there that, walks through the somatic side of it and processing grief from the somatic lens. And we also look at beliefs. I have a beautiful exercise that walks you through shifting your beliefs because I think that death in particular, it gives you the opportunity to look and say, what do I really believe in? So it’s a go at your own pace program. then in that I do a once a month gathering over Zoom that it’s not really grief support, it’s just a space that we can come together and talk. I’m shifting more into life after is what I’m calling it. I wanted to create a space where people can just talk about their loved ones because I noticed that as time goes on, more people move on in their life and I still want to just share everything and anything about her. And so that’s that space that we meet once a month over Zoom, and I’m actually gonna open that up publicly. Before it was going to be just those that participate in the program, but it’s gonna be open starting this month.

Dr. Dean: 

Thank you for sharing all of that. What would you like us to know about Jennifer before she died?

Stefanie: 

Jennifer was Jen, as I call her. She was a traveler, a world traveler. She liked to live in adventure. She had just got her MBA from the University of Edinburgh. You never can say that, right? When you’re out there, you say very differently, but. She, she truly lived life and this was an opportunity for her that she was doing it on her terms. She had gone through a lot of stuff. My dad passed away in 2014 and the same year she actually went through a divorce and she went through a lot and I, I remember talking to her before she took off. She’s I’m finally doing something for

Dr. Dean: 

Mm.

Stefanie: 

And that’s to be able to watch her do that through a pandemic. At that, she still made the most of it. And, she graduated and then was, had moved back to California and was working and then got sick. But she just lived, she lived, she had a, a puppy that was her baby. Mr. Jiggles was along for the journey. He actually ended up going to Scotland with her. He passed away out there. he was 14, 15 years old, so she had him for, it was her partner, her partner in crime.

Dr. Dean: 

So what was it like, what was your relationship like with her?

Stefanie: 

We really grew close over the last, I would say 10 years. We’re only three years apart, but there was six kids in the family growing up, and between her and I, we were the break between the big kids and the little kids. And so it was a lot of just that sibling, just sibling fighting and she was the kid that stole my clothes and all of that. But in our early twenties we moved in together and started creating that bond from the adult connection where it’s okay, let bygones be bygones. Let’s let the past go. We were kids. And I would say that was the beginning of really that connection. And she left Utah and was never going to return to Utah. And so she would come back. She was like the traveling Auntie and the favorite Auntie of my kids. They, loved having her here. But we built that bond really over the last five to 10 years you We were very different. Our personalities were very different. But I think that’s what worked for us because she could keep me grounded and she keeps me, kept me in like the realistics of life. I, I’m a dreamer and always chasing the dreams and she was more of a real realistic realism person, that, life kind of sucks sometimes. and I was always that let’s just sprinkle love and light on it. Let’s make sure, we’re just smiling through the pain and. it definitely changed a lot of my perspectives when I lost her and, realized that there is sadness and that there is suffering, and if we just bypass that and ignore it, it definitely finds its way out.

Dr. Dean: 

Yeah, for sure. I can see that that’s even hard for you to say right now. Mm-hmm.

Stefanie: 

Yeah.

Dr. Dean: 

So your relationship changed over time, and it sounds like you were pretty close when she passed.

Stefanie: 

Yeah, she actually, she came here. This was, is an important part of it is, so she graduated in December of 2021 and in between jobs she moved in with us. So she was here for about three months staying with us, the beginning of 2022. And it was, being able to look back and be so grateful that we had that time together and, the, what was going to be happening that year, that really solidified our time and also opened up like we drove her back to California. My kids and I, and the conversation driving back was really fascinating because we had opened up more than we talked in a long time, You know, you realize sometimes life just becomes surface, right? You’re just all going, doing your own thing. And, we had, 12 hours in a car, just the two of us talking. And, we were able to talk about my dad’s death, which we hadn’t done in eight years, and, I’m very grateful for it, and I’m grateful that my kids got to have that time with her.

Dr. Dean: 

Does she have children?

Stefanie: 

she doesn’t. Her puppy.

Dr. Dean: 

So what are you comfortable sharing about losing Jen?

Stefanie: 

June 23rd, we got a call that she was on her way to the hospital. She had been sick with Covid and I had talked to her a couple weeks before and then just text message here and there, from that time. And she was very independent and she definitely was my father’s child. He didn’t go to the hospital when he was sick. And ultimately, we lost, he had cancer. It was a very different, death. But, so yeah, she went into the hospital, just was complaining of some headaches and some backaches, thinking it was still related to Covid. She had talked to, a telehealth and they just said you gotta rest, drink lots of fluids. And, unfortunately it wasn’t just Covid. She had picked up bacterial meningitis, along the way. She made it to the hospital, made it to the ER, was checking herself in, and then, she got there between 12 and two. And then went into a, a coma by seven and, unresponsive. And, I was, I was here in Utah, just her best friend was with her and we were listening or getting in the updates, in real time. But I could already look back and say how just instantly went into that fight or flight, Just that trauma response of not knowing what was going on and thinking, okay, she’s intubated, she’s not gonna make it. Cuz that’s what you would hear from the Covid side, right? somebody got intubated, they were, not gonna make it. So I’m like, they can’t do that. And they’re like, no, we don’t really have a choice. and so anyway, I was working with the doctors overnight as they were doing emergency procedures to just ultimately try and save her life. And the emergency procedures helped. She was in her coma for five weeks and we were able to see some responses from her, some movements through the eyes and arms. And until you face a traumatic brain injury, you don’t really know what, it’s not really something people talk

Dr. Dean: 

Right?

Stefanie: 

trauma in general, but also it just becomes this waiting game of finding out what the damage was done to, the brain and ultimately the combination of all the infection and everything is what ultimately took her.

Dr. Dean: 

Mm-hmm. So you went out to California then?

Stefanie: 

Yeah, yeah. I was, I was able, thankfully, was able to be out there for the first 10 days while she was in the hospital.

Dr. Dean: 

Yeah.

Stefanie: 

Yeah, I’m a very spiritual person and I am one of those people that, I, I live in a life of surrender. I started that myself in 2021, where it’s you know what? I don’t, I’m just gonna,” Let, let go and let God” essentially was my mantra, and I got laid off in May of 2021. Which was very fascinating and also was not planned. And so then to be able to go down there and I have, two children, I’m married, I, thankfully had some family support that was able to come over and help while I went down there and was able to be by her bedside the first, 10 days that she was in the hospital. I realize the privilege in that and I’m also so very grateful that we, me and her best friend was also there and a lot of my family came down and we were able to tag team it the whole time that she was in the hospital. She very rarely, we missed a day of having somebody in there talking to her and, reminding her how much that she was loved. And I’m just very grateful that I was able to be there and watch it and be very present in it. and that it truly is where the somatic work, supported me. I took a class in the spring just for business. I wanted to just get more in tune with my body and bring somatic work in my business. And the last class was the week that she went into the hospital. And to have that knowledge and the awareness around being present in my body to sit. Her to sit with me and facing that trauma and was like, I don’t know. I’m glad to not know what it would’ve been like without that,

Dr. Dean: 

Mm-hmm.

Stefanie: 

if that makes

Dr. Dean: 

It does, and it’s, it’s fascinating when you have that awareness of just how much the mind and the body are connected. That,

Stefanie: 

Absolutely.

Dr. Dean: 

Do you wanna say more about that?

Stefanie: 

I would love to, because I come from, I’m not a trained. therapist or practitioner. I’m a more on the coaching side and the holistic coaching side. So if when I share, I’m coming truly from my own personal bodily experience through this. And for me, somatics allows me to be present with my body to really witness the emotions that would come through. And also when I was sitting with her, like feeling into her body, she couldn’t speak to us and couldn’t tell us. You know what direction we were going. She didn’t have a health directive. We had no clue from the logistical side of what we should be doing. It was truly just trusting, trusting my body, trusting, my family was involved in the decision making, but I being able to sit by her bedside and feel. What was going on with her and feel what was going on with me. That’s, to me, was the somatic piece that allowed me to be present in that whole time that I was there. And I remember it just came up on my time hop. I went to a coffee shop before going to the hospital, and I actually took time to enjoy the coffee and I got some, they had the most amazing avocado toasts, you know, Southern California and. I took the time, and just sat with it and had the, my coffee and then the toast, and then I called my friend and I’m like, I just wanna sit here. I just wanna sit here. And then the guilt came over of like, I should be at the hospital with her. But the somatic piece is what let me sit with that guilt and say, no, I deserve. I’m a caretaker right now. That’s what I need right now. And the nurses in her facility were amazing at letting us, or reminding us that we are caretaking and we have to keep caretake for ourselves first. But yeah, just processing that guilt and then being able to go to the hospital and be, okay, now I’m here. This is where I’m at. This is what we’re here to do. I, I don’t know that I could have done that without that awareness around. I’ve done a lot of work on, shadow work and emotional processing and all of that, but to physically feel it and to let it move through, that’s the piece that was really big for me because with my dad, he passed in 2014. I just shoved it down. We don’t talk about it. I don’t like, I’m okay, and over time I’ve ultimately, I’ve been able to process it, but it was a very different experience of him versus this loss of, no, I’m actually gonna feel it, because feeling is healing to

Dr. Dean: 

Mm-hmm.

Stefanie: 

And if I can feel it, I can allow for more of, all the emotions to come through.

Dr. Dean: 

Have you continued that work into your grief?

Stefanie: 

yes. yes. I’ve continued the work, so I, the, I follow holistic life navigation is, the person that I follow on the somatic side, and I’m now in a practitioner group and we’ve been in calls of what is your work? And I have this strange like I’m a business coach and then I’m, wanna support people in grief, which also includes supporting me through the grief cuz there’s no timeline of healing. There’s no. time that, let’s just get over this. This is very, very present and I’ve realized how much grief is present in my body. in fact, I just saw a friend posted that, cliche thing about your thoughts create your reality. And I’m like, oh, I used to be that. And I do think that there is truth in it. I don’t think it’s all the truth because. For me, my body shows me when my grief is very, very present and what my grief feels like. And in the past it would’ve been like, if I don’t think about the sadness, if I can bypass it and placate it or avoid it, if I can just let it go right then I’m gonna create more, more things to be grateful for. All of that, that stuff. And what the sematic piece has shown me is that it will pop up at very unexpected

Dr. Dean: 

Mm-hmm.

Stefanie: 

And I can’t just suppress it and bypass it because it changes like how I interact with my kids. It changes how I interact with others, changes how I interact with my clients. And so when it’s very, very present in my body, I’ve, I get to honor my body and I get to see where my capacity is on a day-to-day basis. Instead of just that typical like just push through mentality.

Dr. Dean: 

and I think that’s so important to acknowledge and something that’s so difficult. Especially, I think in our society to acknowledge that, any emotions are affecting our body physically. But then grief is many emotions. And I think what you’re hinting at too is you can’t really heal from it. We’re living with it forever. And so how, how do you learn to live with it physically? And I love that you’re aware that it’s impacting your children and your your family and your work.

Stefanie: 

Yeah. And I, I think that’s the piece that’s really interesting for me. Like I said, I wanted to sup, I support people in grief and then I’m also in

Dr. Dean: 

Mm-hmm.

Stefanie: 

and, and you’re doing the same thing. It’s like we we’re creating this community and creating connection to let people know that they’re not alone in their grief. And sibling loss has a whole, I, I never really thought about losing a sibling, right? I have lost my father, and, that is the natural timing, if there is any of death. But I, I really think it’s super important that to honor that peace in, especially for those of us that speak out about it, right? That we are going to have moments where I don’t have the capacity to hold space for else, and it’s my body that’s gonna show me that, and I can’t deny that part.

Dr. Dean: 

So what do you do with that when you start to realize you’re in a place where you can’t support other people?

Stefanie: 

I’m very open, those that work with me understand that part that there might be a rescheduling or a time that we, just, it’s really fascinating cuz it, it naturally comes out that way. I run a accountability group and we meet weekly and last week we all got on and there was just this energy of I don’t have this capacity, but I personally didn’t speak out about it because I was like, oh, I’m the one leading and it was really interesting cuz electronics weren’t working right. I couldn’t get my computer to work. It was just fascinating. And one of my clients, she’s like, wait, are we supposed to be doing something else? And just that, that one pause of wait a minute. We, we said we were going to do this, but what’s going on? So we all just took a minute of just okay, fill into our bodies, what’s going on? And then we just opened up the conversation, just talk. And I hadn’t really thought about it until you just asked that question, but I am creating an environment where each one of us can honor our capacity. And somebody might not be an active grief that I’m working with, but they know where I’m coming from and that’s why I intertwine grief, Like I said, it’s this weird combination of here I want to intuitively coach in business and oh, I’m gonna post about being sad over something and, thinking about Jen, but I, I will attract people and I’ve set the intention that people that are in my space will know this part about me. And as I grow and as I continue to move it, like you said, the grief is with me. And that has been a huge acceptance. And I talk about that all the time, that cuz I’ve had many people, well don’t you just like, why can’t you be present here? I’m like, oh, I’m 100%

Dr. Dean: 

Mm-hmm.

Stefanie: 

I went for a walk with a friend and he was sharing his experience of losing his best friend and he’s like, you know what I do is just, I’m here now. And I’m oh yeah, I’m 100% here now too. That doesn’t dismiss that a part of me and it moves in my body that a part of me is longing for her. Wishing that she can come on this hike with us doesn’t mean that I’m not present. It just means that I’m feeling it. I went off on a little weird

Dr. Dean: 

No, I think it’s a

Stefanie: 

through.

Dr. Dean: 

tangent and I, I love how the, you’re, you’re bringing grief alongside you, and sometimes that works. And sometimes that’s all right. We’re gotta take a break here. yeah.

Stefanie: 

Yeah, and I have a podcast. It’s been stagnant cuz it’s called Moving Grief and I don’t know where to move with it. It’s been really interesting because, it came through in, intuitively, it was definitely meant to be birthed, to come out. And I was sharing stories of grief like you do, of bringing people on and. Over the last couple weeks. I’m like, I don’t, I don’t know what it is cuz I don’t, I don’t know where I’m moving with my grief right now, And so I’m giving myself permission that I don’t have to know. And I’ve received feedback that they’ve loved the episodes and sometimes they’re the most random pieces cuz that’s what grief

Dr. Dean: 

Yeah, absolutely.

Stefanie: 

it’s so random.

Dr. Dean: 

Yeah, for sure. You don’t know what to expect or how it’s gonna show up sometimes and it’s adjusting to that. Yeah.

Stefanie: 

Yeah,

Dr. Dean: 

It sounds like you find a lot of support professionally. Would you say that personally you’ve also had a lot of support?

Stefanie: 

Yeah. I definitely have, a beautiful network. My family, like Jen and I, were definitely the closest in the siblings. I’ve learned to have compassion for others that are grieving her. And, sometimes it feels like I’m in this own, my own little world, right? Because I, I have my relationship with her and then so-and-so has a relationship and I feel a lot of times, especially in family units, it’s oh, you should be feeling this way. And. it’s been really interesting to just kinda let it go and be like, I can’t, there, there’s not a right way to do any of this. And I think that’s why I am so called to share from my experience, cuz this is my experience of handling it. Somebody could resonate with me and, and not resonate with what I’m sharing. But, through my family, we’ve, we’ve definitely become closer. We, were communicating a lot while she was in the hospital and afterwards, cuz we are very, I’d say a pretty disconnected family, like we’re on, on our own little islands. and so losing her brought us together. that’s like my extended my, my sibling family. And then my, my little group, my husband and my kids like, We definitely, COVID really got us centered into each other, so there’s another okay thankful for the timing of things. Because, we’ve spent the last three years really grounding into what our foundation is as a family. and then definitely the, the friend network and that I picked up some beautiful friends that were Jen’s and, spending the time in the hospital with her best friend. We now. are connected for life. And, so yes, 100%. I, I feel supported. And I, it’s interesting cuz sometimes, even as I’m talking, sometimes I feel like I need to do it alone. And I, I don’t know if that’s middle child syndrome, like I gotta be the, the strong one. I don’t know, there’s just something it’s just bringing up something as you were talking right now of I have such amazing support and I also still at times don’t reach out for that support, especially when it’s the heaviest times.

Dr. Dean: 

Is it that you feel you need to do it alone or that you want to do it alone?

Stefanie: 

ooh, I think it more is along the the, I want to do it alone.

Dr. Dean: 

And I think let’s normalize that. That’s okay that you can grieve with people, but it’s so personal. It’s a very personal experience that sometimes you don’t want that noise. You wanna be able to work through it.

Stefanie: 

Yeah. Thank you for that.

Dr. Dean: 

Mm-hmm. You’re welcome. It’s been true for me as well, but also people that I work with, I’ve seen that.

Stefanie: 

Why do you think that is?

Dr. Dean: 

There were times that you had a relationship with your sister that those moments where nobody else had them, and I think there’s this sense of how could you not need time to work through that? When that relationship is so unique and to you and her Also, for me, I think personally it’s been, there’s some people that just don’t understand what my relationship was like with my brother. Cause it it, waxed and waned over time or ages and phases and, but there was a, a solid thread through that that people may or may not have seen depending on when they met us. And so I don’t wanna be invalidated, and sometimes I just need to validate myself and the way that I need to. So I don’t know if that’s true for you as well

Stefanie: 

Yeah, that does resonate. I was, I’m just, I was talking to my daughter today about siblings cuz they got in an argument. My, my son and daughter got in an argument

Dr. Dean: 

as

Stefanie: 

she’s like, mom, did you guys. Yeah, I know. And she says, did you guys fight when you were kids? I’m like, yes, all of the time. And so we were just talking through that and I said, there’s something about your sibling. You don’t choose them. Right? Like you would a friend and they’re with you for life, whether you know you, I know siblings can separate and like you said, it, it can, and go through its natural ebb and flow. But I, there’s like this innate bond and I also said I sometimes the people that you love the most are the ones that drive you the most nuts. Right? And Jen and I’s relationship was unique and I catch myself not giving myself that permission to really celebrate the uniqueness because I know I wasn’t her only close person and she’s not my only close person. So I love that you brought that in because that is, it gives me permission to really celebrate that thread that we had. And I, I’ve said it before on my social media and to friends, that parts of me died with her, and it’s not something you can plan for. And also, I’m still figuring out what to do with that.

Dr. Dean: 

Yeah. and you’re still very early in the grief. We both are like, a year is not that. When is the anniversary? It’s coming up, right?

Stefanie: 

July 30th. Yeah. I feel that, she chose to go. that’s actually something I not, I don’t talk publicly about, but I do want to begin sharing that. Because I, I remember when we, when I first got to the hospital and seeing her in the state that she was. So five weeks of yes, little responses, but ultimately in a coma for that five weeks. And I remember going into her room and sitting with her after the initial shock of it all and just saying, SIS, you get to choose this. You have a team of doctors that know what they’re doing from the medical standpoint. She was in an amazing hospital with great care. Like state of the art, literally no stones were not turned. Like she, she truly had the best care. And ultimately, I said, just you make the choice because I don’t know if I’m strong enough to make that choice for you. And ultimately she did, like her different organs started shutting down. I remember I saw her on a video cause I had come back home. So I went back and forth in the five weeks and we, we were able to FaceTime while she was in the hospital. And, just seeing her, I’m like, Ooh, something’s different. Something she’s more restful. She looked very peaceful, but it was more restful. And then it was July 22nd. there was just so many. I’m really big into signs and synchronicities and, and there was, a random guy that my friend and I ran into that his, his. TikTok account was primal and he had a shirt on that I didn’t even notice until a few weeks ago if my sister-in-law pointed out it says, something about, let the music, come out, just these interesting signs. And I came home that day after being out and seeing her on the camera and wondering if, and we had also been told by the doctors that they were starting to, not see the same eye movements and the signs from her pupils. And I was in the shower and I just said, Jen, just show me where you’re at. Show me give me something to just understand where you are. And I saw a field of yellow flowers and her face and she said, I’m happy. That’s all that was said. And it gave me the peace. And then also just this oh no, this might be the time. And I went outside and was sitting on the deck. And within 30 minutes her best friend texted me and she was showing me a picture of a tattoo that she wanted, that Jen wanted to get. She wanted to get a bouquet of flowers of all the people that were close to her. And and I said, oh, that’s really interesting. I just had this vision of her in these yellow flowers. And she goes, oh, like this. And she sent me a picture that they had taken years ago of Jen in these yellow

Dr. Dean: 

Oh wow.

Stefanie: 

And it was like, I get chills even talking about it now. And I was like, she really is happy. And you know that yes, the grief lives within me and I feel the sadness of the loss of her. And then there’s also this part of me that knows that she chose and that she is happy. Like I, I don’t know what’s gonna happen after we all die, but I. I believe in my heart that we don’t physically die, it’s just the next phase. but just to have those confirmation and even like a Dove, one single dove, it was about a teenager, she was a smaller bird, came up on her fence and my husband was able to almost touch the dove. And I was like, she was letting us know, like it just, yeah.

Dr. Dean: 

What a beautiful connection and story. it’s more than a story, right? there was definitely, I don’t even know what you call that, but thank you for sharing.

Stefanie: 

Yeah,

Dr. Dean: 

Yeah.

Stefanie: 

I have lots of them. And one day I’m writing a book. It’s no words were spoken yet. So much was said. And it, it’s yet to be written because I’m still processing and like you said, it’s only been a year. So I’m like, okay, I want like really the correct message to be

Dr. Dean: 

Yeah.

Stefanie: 

because when you watch somebody transition out of this world, for me, there was a lot of peace around it. And then there’s, there’s also this, the part of the heaviness and the sadness and so to literally, it’s this, this juggling ball, I’m like, this juggling match my head of I know she’s okay and yet dammit, I’m here without her like, Yes.

Dr. Dean: 

In that moment, you are not okay. Even though you know she is. She is. Yeah. So were you there when she passed?

Stefanie: 

Yeah. When we went back down, my mom went down and, my best friend came as well. You could tell. You could tell. and like I said, I, I said, just make sure that we all know, right? Don’t leave us questioning if we’re making, any the health decisions on her behalf. And, one of the nurses that we worked with at the end, Peggy, I’ll never forget Peggy, because she was just as real as they come, as real as they come, and she was just, she’s look at your sister. She’s, she’s gonna be okay. And she’s also not okay in this form, cuz when you’re dealing with the coma, right? There’s the thought of are they gonna be a paraplegic? What is the, the outcome that can come from a brain injury and so it could be this gamut of possibilities. I know for her, and I love that you asked about the Jen before she passed away, was the adventure Anything short of her being able to travel and live independently was the Jen. Peggy reminded us that, you know what, sometimes life just sucks and there’s no answers and you pick up the pieces and you keep moving. It’s not moving on. Cuz I’ve definitely been through that. It’s just moving with it. You pick up the pieces and you just move.

Dr. Dean: 

Yeah. And I think that’s also a conscious choice, right? Like you could stay stuck, but it’s not really a choice that we have. and moving on isn’t, that seems dismissive. So I, I do think, I like how you said it, just moving.

Stefanie: 

Yeah.

Dr. Dean: 

Has your relationship with your siblings, you said you’re closer now. How about with your mom? You hadn’t mentioned her until just a few minutes ago, and feel free to not answer any question.

Stefanie: 

Yeah, no. it goes back to what you were saying, you ha grieving can be an individual thing and let’s normalize that conversation because my mom lost a daughter and the old version of Stefanie would be like, okay Mom, what does Mom need? Because Mom got the biggest pain, right? The biggest heartache. Mom’s surviving and she’s working through, we are closer. We are, I think, death, for us death reminded us how close it can be, right? And how unexpected any, any one of us can go. She’s more of the Grandma that stays on the sidelines, Grandma. And I’ve seen her come around a lot more and I’ve seen her wanting to be involved and I don’t know if it’s from the perspective of she’s 78 and her health isn’t the best. And so I’ll just speak for myself. I, I feel like. Her coming more around is that, I’m sorry and I want to make the most of what we have and there’s still parts of me that I know I can be better. But then, so there’s the parts like, I’m hurting too, and I can, I can be okay with that.

Dr. Dean: 

Yeah.

Stefanie: 

I definitely took on a lot of the mother type duties while Jen was in her coma. But I didn’t really give anybody a choice, and I’m gonna own that because I, that was, that was where I needed to be. And I, it was like no questions asked. I just get to be here. I’m doing it right. And, was some things that happened at the very beginning, which I won’t share publicly, but there was some stuff that happened that changed the way that my role. But then I also look, I’m like, I don’t know that I would’ve done it differently because I am the take charge. I was the kid that took charge of all of the siblings, like being the one that rallied us all together to, I remember when I was probably like 10 years old, my little brother was in the hospital and maybe even eight. Rallied us all together and we walked to the hospital while my mom was there. I was always that kid. And we’ve had a beautiful conversation where she thanked me for being there. And, I don’t know that she, I don’t know that she would’ve made some of the same decisions, in honor of Jen. It would’ve been maybe more of what she wanted, and she acknowledges that.

Dr. Dean: 

Yeah. it sounds like you’ve been an entrepreneur since you were a little kid, so it makes sense that you would take charge in difficult decisions.

Stefanie: 

Yes. And I, my uncle passed away, a couple years ago and I was able to be there during that as well. And I know that there’s a part of my work here is not only in grief, but also in the support

Dr. Dean: 

Mm-hmm.

Stefanie: 

because I do feel like there’s a lot of forgiveness and there’s a lot of surrender and letting go that can happen around death. I don’t know where that’s gonna lead for me, and I’m just allowing the path to unfold. I’ve looked at going back to school, I’m like, oh, do I wanna do that? But it’s more of it’s more from the spiritual side of it that I, I have witnessed it now a couple times, and, I feel like we can, as a society, we can do better around death.

Dr. Dean: 

Yeah, for sure.

Stefanie: 

Yeah.

Dr. Dean: 

May I ask if the Uncle you lost, was that your Mom’s brother?

Stefanie: 

Yes.

Dr. Dean: 

So it’s interesting, were you able to connect with her on sibling loss at all?

Stefanie: 

It’s the first time I’ve ever put those two together. It’s really interesting. No, not yet.

Dr. Dean: 

I’m just thinking from my experience that has actually actually forged the relationship with my dad closer, cause we both can relate on that. So I’ll be interested to follow up with you on that at some point to see what happens.

Stefanie: 

I definitely am going to, Yes. Talk to her about that. Strange. That has never even crossed my

Dr. Dean: 

Mm-hmm. it’s also, you said earlier, we don’t think about losing siblings and you have, five siblings, right?

Stefanie: 

There’s six of us total.

Dr. Dean: 

Yeah. So it’s out of order, right? Like we’re

Stefanie: 

Yeah.

Dr. Dean: 

not at the age where that normally happens yet. and that’s hard to think about.

Stefanie: 

And she’s one the baby, not the baby baby. I have a younger brother, but she’s our baby,

Dr. Dean: 

Yeah.

Stefanie: 

And like I said, there was that gap when we were growing up of the big kids and the little kids. And her and my, my youngest brother were the little ones, and so she’s not supposed to go.

Dr. Dean: 

Yeah, that’s hard. I would love to connect with you on this journey that you’re on and figuring out how you can support people in, in grief and death and loss. So we should chat sometime other than this podcast.

Stefanie: 

I would love that It’s so interesting cuz I’ve always connected with your work. I love the idea of the pack. that’s such an interesting, I’m very big into animals and, I said I, I love signs and synchronicities. Animals are one of those that play out and. The pack. There’s just something there of, now there’s been this piece removed from the pack, And I don’t know, there’s something yes,

Dr. Dean: 

So I, I’ve shared this before on the podcast, and it’s on the website too. But the reason for that is my brother loved wolfs. And wolves grieve their sibling mates when they pass or, or lost. It’s actually pretty fascinating to read some of those stories, yeah. Are there other things you wish people knew about grief or loss or sibling loss in particular that you wish you had known a year ago?

Stefanie: 

I think the thing that’s coming is you cannot prepare for it. And the relatability comes after it happens. That’s where when that post went viral, it was a lot of people connecting on, oh, I lost my sister. And there was also her puppy that was in it. That was Where’s the puppy? Like People cared about where the dog was. So it’s an interesting question of what do I wish people would know is I hope you never have to

Dr. Dean: 

Mm.

Stefanie: 

And when you do know that you’re not alone. It’s not something you can ever plan for. And there’s, there’s no right way to figure it out either. She’s not the first person I lost, and that’s why it’s been interesting, like, why now talk about this? My dad will come through every once in a while. I’ve, I’ve really, I’m at peace with my dad. I don’t know if I can be at peace with her being gone. I don’t know that that’s possible, but you can’t ever plan to know what this feels like. I guess also what comes with that too is I wish more people would really think about what they say to somebody in grief somebody, especially at the first aftermath We’re so uncomfortable with it that we just put these placated statements out there and without any thought. And I don’t think people are, they mean Ill intent by’em. We just don’t think about it. Multiple people say, I can’t imagine losing my sister. Well, don’t freaking imagine it. Cause

Dr. Dean: 

Cuz we couldn’t have either.

Stefanie: 

Exactly. And I can’t imagine not having her now here now, and that’s, I think that was the beginning of me speaking out about my grief is because I was getting frustrated and, that, let me know if you need anything. Stop saying that period. if I could give anybody advice, stop saying that cuz somebody that’s in grief doesn’t know what they want. And if they do figure out what they want, it will be hard for them to

Dr. Dean: 

Exactly. Yeah.

Stefanie: 

And are you also gonna be willing to do anything Cuz anything is a

Dr. Dean: 

Right,

Stefanie: 

But that was what I began speaking out because I was like, what is this? people they not, they don’t think about what.

Dr. Dean: 

Yes, for sure.

Stefanie: 

So maybe just think about it and then also there will come a time where others will move on from your

Dr. Dean: 

Mm-hmm.

Stefanie: 

I feel like I’m getting at that point now. I think that there will, I’ll be having that anniversary coming up, but I definitely have been feeling that people will move on with life. So find the few people that you really can connect and reach out to just saying, I don’t know why, but I’m just feeling this. And then if you want to be that friend and, and really, I had a, a person on my podcast that shared this advice and I loved it. She said she put the death date in her calendar of like anytime anybody would die, that was close to her. And she goes, I put it in the calendar and then I forget about it cuz they weren’t close to me, but I’m close to the person that lost’em. And so then on the anniversary she reaches out and I’m like, that’s huge.

Dr. Dean: 

Yeah, that is huge. Yeah.

Stefanie: 

I have, somebody in my life that has done that with my dad every single year without fail. I think more check-ins, like if I can invite people to do more check-ins, I don’t know why it’s such a hard thing to talk about and we all go through it. We’re all gonna experience loss and death in some form, but we’re also awkward around it. I’m generalizing.

Dr. Dean: 

No, I think, I think cuz I’m, I’m pretty involved in this work elsewhere, not just in my personal life and, for fun, I was just reading the history of Death and Dying this past weekend. And that has changed the history behind that is actually rather fascinating about how the industrial age had a lot to do with our changing beliefs and approaches to and attitudes around death. But, it wasn’t always this way, when people died in the home and. Wakes were like traditional in the house, and there was a lot more comfort and care and support in talking about that than happens now.

Stefanie: 

Makes

Dr. Dean: 

and then that’s also a cultural general statement that’s not true everywhere. Like in our family, everyone talks about death. That’s just fact. My husband. But one point I was like, oh, you guys all that, that’s all you talk about. It’s not all we talk about. Yeah.

Stefanie: 

Yeah.

Dr. Dean: 

Thank you for sharing that. I was wondering if you wanted to share some favorite stories of you and Jen.

Stefanie: 

Oh. I think for me definitely always the things that stand out is our traveling together. We had an annual girls trip and that we were in Chicago and she wanted to karaoke so bad. She wanted to karaoke so bad, and the group, that wasn’t like the consensus of what activity they wanted to do, and she was just such a dis pissed and like moping around. And then we finally, we didn’t end up karaoking, but we found somewhere and she just had this, you know what, screw it up type attitude. I’m gonna just make the most of it. And that was her common thing. Once she finally put her heart and mind to it, she had a blast anywhere she went. No matter if it’s the most pathetic crowd or we ended up in a place where there was, I mean by this time we were in probably early thirties, I guess she’s three years younger, but a bunch of 21 year olds. Not our crowd of demographics, right? And just made the most of it. But then she also didn’t take crap from people. She was the type, we would be somewhere and she was always the single one. in, in the group when we’d go on these trips and, these guys would come up and hit on her and she’s are you really talking to me? And she would blatantly say that, and you, we could see it in her face, and they wouldn’t be like, come save me. She could handle herself. that, that friend, she could handle herself. There was this one time when this guy actually even came to her celebration of life. We were, at a friend of mine’s house and Jen had come with us and this guy came up and he’s like, oh, I know you. She’s like, no, you don’t. He’s no, I do. Jennifer Eberhardt. And she’s yeah. She’s we went to high school together, and she’s like, Oh, oh yeah, I think I was too cool for you back then. And so then he came like afterwards and he came to her celebration of life and now we’re Facebook friends. Cuz he is like, yeah, your sister was too cool for me, but she had no problem saying it, lots of adventures. She was always up for going the adventures when she would stay with the kids. One of my last favorite memories of her, she came out in the summer 2021, and we went and floated the river and she was very cautious during the covid times that my family was too. So it was, a little bit like, it’s can we get out? And I live in Utah, which is a very conservative state and not as many precautions here. And I remember earlier she’s like, okay, the, the river’s the safest place that we can be in cuz we can be in our own little bubble just going down the river. We had an amazing time. We had a little cooler that came with us and yeah, I share those videos quite often. Cuz that’s the last real just fond, fond memory of us just being fully present and just having a great time. We shared a lot of binge watching silly shows, me falling asleep. I loved seeing her when she was in Scotland. I feel like that was a time she really was able to come alive. She went out with the intention. She didn’t know anybody, so she was going out alone and she loved Scotland. She loved not having to drive a car. She was in California for most of her adult life, so you can imagine the complete opposite of California LA traffic. And then she goes out to, Scotland, the UK and, but she was, she became this little leader, mom type person in the group doing the party planning. She was an excellent party planner, excellent party planner. That girl could throw something together and she never could just do it simple like costumes. And, she sewed a lot, so she’d make things for friends and they’d, do themed parties and stuff. Yeah, just I was able to go out for her graduation. And just seeing her in that space where she really, it was like one of a year and a half of her life that she just didn’t have responsibilities except for getting her MBA. And so she was able to really just live it and enjoy it. Oh I could probably go on and on.

Dr. Dean: 

Thank you. Do you have ways that you plan to spend the anniversary?

Stefanie: 

No, I have realized I’ve let go of expectations. In fact, I was giving that advice to one of my clients, because she was gonna be going back and traveling and like that they’re stomping grounds. And I realized her birthday was May 20th and we had done, went to a ice cream place here and it was a beautiful day and also it it didn’t meet expectations and it also did So it’s that I’ve learned to really let go of expecting what it’s going to be like that day. It’s strange cuz it’s only a few weeks away, but from now until that time there was a lot of highs and lows. My body’s holding onto a lot of that, that I don’t, I don’t know right now that I have the capacity to really think ahead of what that day is gonna

Dr. Dean: 

Right. So actually you have a lot of anniversaries between now and then.

Stefanie: 

Yeah. Yeah, a lot. And it started a few weeks ago. This just was a time of, unexpected it last year. It feels like a freaking lifetime ago, and yet it was only a year ago. So I think what’s on my agenda is to just be present each day and, allow the moments, talk through the moments and we’ll see.

Dr. Dean: 

Sounds like a good plan, to take it as you need it. Thank you so much. I really enjoyed talking to you.

Stefanie: 

Oh, thank you. Me too.

Dr. Dean: 

Thank you so much for listening. Our theme song was written by Joe Mylwood and Brian Dean, and was performed by Joe Mylwood. If you would like more information on the Broken Pack, go to our website, the broken pack.com. Be sure to sign up for our newsletter, Wild Grief, to learn about opportunities and receive exclusive information and grieving tips for subscribers. Information on that, our social media and on our guests can be found in the show notes wherever you get your podcasts. Please follow, subscribe, and share. Thanks again.

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