Season 2, Episode 9

Dr. DiRaimondo/ Michael

The Invisible Threads of Sibling Loss and Surviving Siblings: A Conversation with Dr. Dawn DiRaimondo

In this episode of The Broken Pack: Stories of Adult Sibling Loss, a podcast, psychologist Dr. DiRaimondo shares her personal experience with sibling loss with our host, psychologist and thanatologist, Dr. Angela Dean. Together the psychologists, both sibling loss survivors explore and share insights for surviving siblings to cope with their grief.

  • Dr. DiRaimondo noted that her heartbreaking loss of her brother Michael significantly changed her life and led her to specialize in grief and loss including sibling loss.  It also prompted her to write her book, Surviving Sibling Loss, the Invisible Thread that Connects us Through Life and Death in 2020.
  • She shares her experiences with working with a medium and how that has influenced her grief process and her work.
  • Dr. DiRaimondo  also describes how she and her sister have had to learn to grieve in their own ways in order  to support one another in their sibling loss.

Additional key points:

  • The two doctors emphasize the benefits of therapy for sibling loss survivors, such as providing a safe space to express emotions without judgment, normalizing their experiences of loss including intense emotions, and helping individuals navigate the challenges of grieving.
  •  Dr. Dean and Dr. DiRaimondo explore how having other siblings or not impacts sibling loss and family dynamics. They agreed that the experience of sibling loss is unique to each individual and that there is no right or wrong way to grieve.

To learn more about Dr. DiRaimondo please see:

Website: https://drdawndiraimondo.com
Book: https://a.co/d/7Qervml (the kindle version includes some updates!)
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100065513888713

For resources mentioned in the show:

When looking for a psychologist, therapist, or grief counselor, please ask them what their experience is with grief and loss when you schedule the appointment.
To find a psychologist in the US: https://www.findapsychologist.org/
To find a therapist on Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/
To find a psychologist in the UK: https://www.bps.org.uk/find-psychologist
To find a psychologist in the AUS: https://psychology.org.au/find-a-psychologist

Sibling loss survivor and psychologist, Dr. DiRaimondo, and her siblings including Michael
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. Did you ever wonder what it was like to hear two psychologists talk about sibling loss and psychology and grief and grief therapy? Well, if you have, this is your episode. I had the pleasure of speaking with another psychologist and sibling loss survivor, Dr. Dawn DiRaimondo. Dr. DiRaimondo is a clinical psychologist in private practice in California. She’s also the author of”Surviving Sibling Loss, the Invisible Thread that Connects us Through Life and Death,” which was published in 2020. We discussed not only her heartbreaking loss of her brother Michael, which prompted the writing of the book. We also discuss questions and answer questions submitted to us on social media. We discuss therapy, grief, demystify, and normalize the process of grief and getting help in therapy. Here’s the episode. Thank you so much for joining us today. I was wondering if you wanted to introduce yourself?

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

Sure, and thanks for having me. My name is Dr. Dawn DiRaimondo. I’m a Clinical Psychologist in Sacramento, California. I’ve been in private practice since 2003, and I specialize in grief and loss, depression and anxiety. I work with a lot of teenagers, young adults and adults. I also have two kids of my own that will be 13 and 16 this summer. So just a pretty, busy mama trying to balance, the home work life balance as best I can.

Dr. Dean: 

Thank you and you’re also a sibling loss survivor.

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

Yes, I am. I lost my brother Michael in 2004. And he was a flight medic in the army. I’m sure we’ll probably maybe get into more detail on that. It obviously changed my life significantly. I eventually started doing more grief and loss work in my practice, and so I ended up working with, parents who’ve lost children, individuals who’ve lost siblings. And, and it wasn’t until 2019 that I learned that there still was not a lot written on sibling loss. That was absolutely my experience in 2004, when I found only one book on the topic. And when I learned from a client that there was still not much, there was a handful of books, I decided it was probably time that I shared my story, and it did a combination of my own personal experience and my professional insights into grief and loss. Interviewed 14 people who lost siblings to get an idea of what should be in here, what do people want, what don’t they want? And then was really moved by their stories and experiences. So I ended up including a lot of quotes from them on what helped them grieve, what the, what was helpful, what wasn’t helpful. And so that came out in 2020. I wrote it pretty quickly and it’s, helped me now connect with a lot of surviving siblings, in a way that I didn’t, when I lost my brother. I have a sister who’s younger than me, so luckily I had her to help me, but at the time I didn’t know anybody who had lost a sibling, which is pretty common when people lose siblings young. I was 28. Michael was 22, and, nobody could relate to that kind of loss. And so I. It’s been helpful more recently to connect with, a lot of people. And now unfortunately I have a number of friends who’ve lost siblings, but that occurred, as I got older. it’s been an interesting experience, a very meaningful experience writing this book and connecting with people.

Dr. Dean: 

Mm-hmm.

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

I’m glad to be to talk about it.

Dr. Dean: 

yeah. Thank you. I’m so glad to talk to you too. I also had the similar experience, which is why I’m doing what I’m doing. And then I found your book, I think it was late last year, and, There was so much I could relate to both as a grieving sibling, but as a psychologist in your book. So, glad that we were able to have this conversation cuz I think, a lot of people were looking for us to have a chat and demystify some things about therapy and grief therapy specifically.

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

Mm-hmm.

Dr. Dean: 

I was recently at a conference for Thanatology, which was the study of death, dying and bereavement, and there was so little even mentioned there about sibling loss, which was validating, but also extremely sad.

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

It’s really unbelievable, to be honest with you, because of how profound of a loss and an impact it is. It’s really mind blowing to me that so little is written. It’s not researched well. It’s, it’s like really this unrecognized, loss. That’s mind blowing. So I’m glad that we are a part of changing that. I really believe that by writing books, doing podcasts, we’re a part of changing that so at some point when people lose a sibling, and I hope they already feel differently than, than maybe we did. There wasn’t, Facebook the way it is now. There, there weren’t groups for me to plug into on social media. There still aren’t groups in this area for just sibling loss that I know of. There are, are, I know in other areas specifically to siblings, but again, there really, there really isn’t enough.

Dr. Dean: 

Mm-hmm. Yeah, that’s true here in

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

we change it.

Dr. Dean: 

as well. Mm-hmm. Oh, I’m glad that we are working on that. Do you wanna talk a little bit more about what your loss was like?

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

So Michael was in Iraq and he had been there for almost a year. He was supposed to be home six weeks before we lost him. That was January 8th, 2004. And it was like a phone call, right? I was at work. My sister called me thinking that my dad had already reached me and he hadn’t, she had to tell me. And I just literally froze. Like I couldn’t even talk. and my sister’s did you hear me? You need to come home. And I was just like, okay. I, I was like in this frozen state

Dr. Dean: 

Mm-hmm.

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

then, it just shattered her family. he was the youngest of three, the only boy. It was just absolutely crushing, obviously to my parents, to my mom, to us. And it took years and years to recover from that. It was shocking. You know, it’s so sudden. Loss is so different if you lose someone more slowly to an illness. It’s still devastating, but in a different way. You have some time to wrap your mind around the idea that this person won’t always be here. and you don’t get that when it’s an accident or, a phone call. You don’t get any time. And so that was challenging. A lot of support went to my mom, which is, I think, pretty common with siblings. And that’s what’s really hard is that, not only do siblings typically not get a lot of support because people don’t understand what you’re going through. But, and in my case especially, I was very geared towards trying to support my mom as much as I could. I lived in northern California. They were in Southern California. I think I went home every two weeks or every three weeks for at least a year. I was talking to her daily. I think she cried for five years straight, like every day. Like it was, it was a lot and. So that was challenging. I did my own therapy, which helped a lot. I always encourage people to do therapy because a lot of times, people don’t all grieve the same in a family. I was in my twenties, my sister, was 26 at the time we were building our lives and careers and, we didn’t wanna always talk about the loss of our brother. We sometimes needed breaks. And

Dr. Dean: 

Mm-hmm.

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

My mom didn’t really want as many breaks. it was always devastating. And so it was trying to negotiate how do we do this? How do we grieve in our way and still support her and what she needs. And that isn’t an easy path sometimes. it, it took a long time to have it. I don’t even know. Feel okay is the right word, because you learn to live with it. I’m, preaching to the choir here. And we learned to integrate my brother into our family and still include him in different ways. Talk about him. My husband and obviously children, never got to meet him, but he’s referenced Uncle Michael as a part of their family story. I feel proud of how we’ve done that, and I think we did the best we could with a really, crushing experience,

Dr. Dean: 

I think in the book too, you mentioned that, your mom felt comforted when you had your daughter, that this was this new life that could somewhat be a healthy distraction and somebody else to love, but not in a replacement

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

Right. I think it became, she could hold her and cuddle her and buy clothes for her. And, she had a lot of fun doing that. when she would feel sad, she would go, shopping for baby clothes. And they would come up and visit a lot. And she loved being a big part of helping me with her. And it just gave her a lot of reason to smile again and laugh and, and even Christmas, she really, she didn’t want anything to do with Christmas for a long time until she really wanted to bring that back, the decorations and lights for Michaela, for my daughter, to see and enjoy. And so she was a really, and, and even for all of us, she became a, a really healthy healing experience to, to get, to love her and take care of her. And, and that helped definitely

Dr. Dean: 

I’m curious too, were you already working with grief in your professional work at that time?

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

I don’t think so. I was working at an agency that really served, children and families in Sacramento and then was invited to join this private practice and ended up doing that. It was pretty soon after losing my brother and I don’t think I had a lot of grief and loss clients. I, and I didn’t even talk about my brother for at least two years. absolutely could not talk about, I needed a lot of time with it before I could share it with clients. And, and I think what ended up happening is I, in private practice, you, you begin to get known in the community for who you work with, and everyone knew I worked with teenagers, but then it became, I actually do grief and loss too. And it’s like, oh, that’s good to know. And so I think

Dr. Dean: 

Mm-hmm.

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

people knew what I’d gone through. So I started getting more and more referrals. And that really has become a huge part of my practice. I talk about death every day, probably, which I know most people don’t do. I’ve become really comfortable with the topics of, death and dying and what do people believe happens, like topics that are really pretty taboo, people don’t wanna talk about, talk about a lot. And it’s, it’s also another really meaningful way, I believe, to honor my brother.

Dr. Dean: 

Mm-hmm.

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

use this experience to help other people. And that feels really important to me, that if he only had 22 years here, he’s gonna have the biggest impact possible if I could have anything to do with it. That’s, that’s felt really good to me to be able to do that. And it’s very soulful work. I actually really, to help people through the, some of the darkest, hardest times of their life feels incredibly meaningful.

Dr. Dean: 

And I think right, as psychologists, a lot of times our patients are curious about us and there’s boundaries around what we do and don’t share and how much that is or isn’t accepted by certain people. So I’m wondering, cause this book that you wrote is very personal, but you also include the professional in there, but what was that like for you if this landed in hands of patients?

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

I know well, and it has. Before I did it, I talked to friends of mine or colleagues that have written books. What, what do we do? Like people are gonna learn a lot about me. And I said, like everything else, you manage it, you talk about it, And I have, so I’ve told people, and I don’t mention it to everyone to be totally honest with you, because I don’t think it’s appropriate or I don’t think it’ll be helpful for everybody. If I work with clients that are very clear that they don’t believe in any kind of afterlife, I don’t, I don’t bring the book up. If I think it’ll be helpful to someone, I will. If I don’t, I don’t. And I am more open, I should say, about losing my brother. I find that I disclose a little bit more with grief and loss clients than I would with other clients because, obviously as therapists we’re always very thoughtful. If we’re gonna share something, why are we sharing it? What’s the intention behind it? And I found that it feels really helpful to them. I’m pretty open. This is the place I’m coming from. I have not lost a child. I cannot relate to that. I’ve experienced my parents losing a child and I’ve lost a brother. But this is where some of my suggestions or ideas or thoughts are coming from, when I’m working with you. So I’ll, I’ll say that to people. But I found with the book that I guess they like knowing more about you. I think they feel a little bit closer. I become a more of a real person and I’ll always offer, if there’s anything, you’re gonna learn a lot about me in the book that you wouldn’t have otherwise known. If you wanna talk about it, if you have questions, please feel free to bring that up and let’s talk about it. Overall, it’s been a positive experience. It hasn’t so far been problematic or that anyone’s told me that they’ve learned something that they can’t you know,

Dr. Dean: 

Right.

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

or it’s too uncomfortable for them. that hasn’t come up at all. So I think a lot of them think it’s cool, oh my God, you wrote a book. That’s amazing. They think it’s a kind of a cool addition. So

Dr. Dean: 

Yeah, I went through that a little bit with the podcast last season cuz I tried to manage, what do I say? What don’t I say? How am I not being a psychologist in these interviews? But then I had a couple patients find it or listen to my episode and I was, wasn’t like I told them all, so I was like, oh, that’s interesting. yeah.

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

Again, And I will say I wouldn’t have been in a place to do this, I think much younger in my twenties or thirties, I would’ve been much more concerned about even colleagues reading the book and learning different things or, obviously getting into some of the medium stuff I’ve mentioned in the book. I didn’t tell anybody about that for a long time because I was worried it would impact the credibility I had with people that they wouldn’t wanna refer to me. And I think I’ve gotten to a place in my life, I think, to be honest, that is the beauty of the forties. Aging gets such a bad rap, and I get why, but at the same time, there’s a confidence that can come from, your forties, that this is me, this is my truth, this is my story. I’m not the right therapist for you. That’s okay. I’m at a place where I’m okay if not everybody agrees or likes it. It’s still what I need to share. I don’t think I would’ve been able to do that a decade ago, for sure.

Dr. Dean: 

Mm-hmm. I think also, as your development as a psychologist, it’s not just age, but it’s also your experience that adds to that comfort that you have.

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

Right.

Dr. Dean: 

You’ve mentioned the medium a few times, and I know we had planned to talk about that. Why don’t we transition into that and, I’ll leave that open. What do you wanna say

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

for anyone who doesn’t know, a medium is someone who can see people who’ve passed. So they could see spirits, they can hear them, they could see them. I guess they can feel in their body. So if someone died from a head trauma, they’ll, they’ll feel pain in their head and, and they often will feel the, oh, I feel something, and they’ll describe it. Or if there was like a lung cancer, they’ll feel, I feel heaviness in my chest, that’s my understanding. And so part of what we did as a family is we did go to a medium a number of times because we had to know my brother was okay somewhere that he still existed in some dimension, that we would see him again someday. That felt like we had to do that to continue grieving and living. And, it was very helpful. We did get that validation. Not everybody is that talented. So I always tell people, you need to get a referral from someone who’s seen a medium because they’re not all good. I went to mediums that were not very skilled, that were not helpful, that can make it feel worse. It’s like a therapist, honestly, like it reminds me of that continuum. There’s some therapists that are not that skilled, that make people feel worse, and there’s therapists that are much more natural or they’ve done a lot of training. They’re better, they’re a better fit for somebody. When we finally found someone that was really good, we went a number of times and he validated, what my brother looked like, his personality, how he died, his name, like all kinds of information. And he would look at him, which was cool. Even though they do phone appointments, we were in person and we could watch him watching my brother and other people. Cause anybody you’ve lost can come through. They can’t decide who comes through. They just say, this is, and then look over your shoulder and nod and then look at us, and then look at him or them. And, and it was really interesting. He’d laugh and it, it’s like we saw him interacting and it just felt comforting. And, he’d mention different things about our current life. And so it was big validating to believe, that my brother still knew what was going on, knew that we got married and we had kids, or we went on a particular vacation. I mean, he would just reference this stuff. And again, this was way before, social media. it wasn’t like he could just Google and I go, oh yeah, you were just in Hawaii. I think I’ll talk about that. that was not, that, that was not a thing then. So it, it felt really validating and, I have mentioned it to clients, but not always. Again, I don’t think it’s appropriate for everybody. I don’t think everybody needs that or wants that, but there are some people that are so, stuck in their grief and or even contemplating. I don’t know if I can be alive. I don’t know if I could do this. I, I don’t think I can, And so I’ll say, there is this other thing that you could do. if you could get some kind of validation or reassurance that you know, your child is still aware of what’s going on with you and do you think that would help? Maybe you should do that. And it has been helpful. there have been a couple of people that, that ended up doing that and other people that just thought about it. I think they liked knowing it was an option. They read the book, but they didn’t necessarily choose to do it for themselves.

Dr. Dean: 

Mm-hmm. Did you always believe in this connection with mediums and their, their

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

Mm. So it’s interesting. So my aunt, Linda, who I talked about in the book, she really used to watch the John Edwards show used to be on tv. I don’t remember what it was called, he’d have a TV show and she’d watch it and talk about him. And so I know when we lost my brother, one of the first things I did was ask her, what was that show you were watching, that medium guy? And I went out and I bought the book, and then I thought, I wanna do this. And so it’s amazing to me, I got my family to do this. I got them to go to Miami because he was doing this huge convention. And I was like, I really think we need to do this and this will be good. And so we all went from like LA to Miami and we didn’t get a reading because it’s like thousands of people. But I think it felt like we needed to do something with our grief energy. And I’m glad we did it. We eventually got connected to, the medium we ended up seeing, which is a one-on-one experience, which is way better than going to a conference. and so after I lost Michael, I just threw myself into, I wanna learn everything about what happened. I wanna know what he went through. So I read about near-death experiences and different theories about afterlife. I wanted to know about the world he was in. It was like a second dissertation to me. I wanted to know it all. And I did, I did a lot of reading. I went to a lot of trainings, went to a lot of mediums. I learned a lot. I guess to me that felt helpful than not knowing.

Dr. Dean: 

Mm-hmm. So it almost sounds like it was an adjunct to the other things that you were doing. It wasn’t in place of,

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

Oh, no. I don’t, yeah. I, I think it is for anybody. I, I think it’s, you still have to, you still live with the missing and it doesn’t change that. And so I think, and it’s still, you know, most people, their family dynamics, it’s like a bomb goes off in your family and so you’re in recovery mode for years and, doing therapy, learning to live with the grief and deal with holidays without him, all of that still happens for sure. There’s so much grieving, You’ve just figured you’d always have them in your life and that they’d get married and have children and that, you lose this future you thought you were gonna have. And so you have to sort of grieve not only the present, but the future that is gonna be different than you expected it to be.

Dr. Dean: 

Yeah. And even the past to some extent, right? Because our memories, not that they change, but. The impact or the meaning of them can

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

right, and then I will, I guess I’ll put a voice to a dynamic that happens too, that I know other people have talked to me about. So the parents can sometimes, I don’t know if it’s idealized the child that passed, but, but a little bit like they’re an angel. And so then the reality is that it wasn’t all angelic, right? My brother was a normal human being who had his, normal teenage stuff or young adult stuff. And so sometimes it can feel like, are you always gonna be compared to the one that was lost in a way that you can’t possibly. And I think siblings go through that as well

Dr. Dean: 

sometimes. Mm-hmm.

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

Or all kinds of things. Or parents don’t wanna talk about the sibling and you do or vice versa. They wanna talk about them all the time and you need a break. There’s so much that can come up.

Dr. Dean: 

I think family dynamics and perceptions on that are so varied. It’s interesting that you mentioned that in respect to siblings. Cause as you were saying that, I was thinking, I think that’s true about a lot of grief and loss in general, that we somehow culturally don’t wanna say something bad about somebody that has passed.

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

Yeah. And, I get that. And I also think sometimes parents wanna remember only the good, right? They don’t wanna, they don’t wanna talk about the, the fights. They wanna remember the good and, and I get that but I think sometimes that can also be challenging for, remaining surviving siblings that are like, okay,

Dr. Dean: 

Mm-hmm.

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

It wasn’t all good and it’s not all bad now. Can we still find happiness or can we celebrate other stuff? Is there room for other stuff? And I think for a while, sometimes for parents, there really isn’t. And so then the sibling’s okay, I’ve lost my sibling and now I’ve lost my parent in a way for a while. Or you’ve changed in a way that’s, hard to be around for a while. In the book I called it like the double trauma because you’re not just dealing with the grief of your sibling, you’re dealing with the change of your parents too. And your family.

Dr. Dean: 

Mm-hmm. The whole family dynamic for sure, at which feels isolating because you’ve lost all of those secondary losses and they are harder to talk about.

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

I’m again grateful that I have my sister. We talk about that a lot, but a lot of people don’t have another sibling or they’re not close with their other siblings, And again, if you lose someone young, your friends can’t relate at all to significant loss. I hear that over and over. They feel really alone with it, wishing that their partners understood. And they often don’t, or they say the wrong things. And I think what’s so hard with grief is everybody wants different things. So one person maybe wants you to ask, how are you doing? How are you doing with your grief? And then somebody else doesn’t want you to ask. So it’s hard to know, how to support people. So I say to people, you can ask someone, how can I best support you? What would be helpful to you? Do you want me to do this? Do you want me to do that? Because people are different in what they want.

Dr. Dean: 

Mm-hmm. For sure. And I think that’s oftentimes the questions that I get are what can I say or what shouldn’t I say? And, I joke about some things that maybe you shouldn’t say that are blanket, but some people might welcome those statements and it’s a valid point that, just asking specifically how to support someone makes more sense.

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

I would say overall, what I’ve heard that people don’t wanna hear is you should be grateful for the time you had and things like that. That usually rubs most people, I think, the wrong way.

Dr. Dean: 

I think because people grieve differently, and I’m curious to see what you think about this, but, I’ve been working with grief and loss in some capacity ever since I was a doctoral student. I feel like as every loss is different, that there’s not one fit of therapy, not just the therapist, but one modality of therapy for the grieving person. So there’s the questions about, oh, what should I do about, should I have EMDR? Should I have ACT therapy or CBT or narrative therapy? And I think for me it’s one, what am I competent in doing and what does the person in front of me need and how can does that fit, if it does fit? But I don’t think there’s a one fit cookie cutter approach. And I was wondering what you thought about that.

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

Absolutely. I think, it’s why referrals are typically best. if somebody knows the person and knows a number of different therapists with different personalities and specialties, that’s always great cause it’s the better chance that it’ll be a good fit. However, I will say something like EMDR, which is like a trauma modality. Not everybody needs EMDR, right? So if there anyone’s listening who’s not as familiar, and I’m not an expert, I’m actually not trained in EMDR because it’s above and beyond regular graduate training. It’s stands for eye movement desensitization reprocessing is what it stands for, right? And it’s this left, right brain thing where, I get something with the finger and you look left and right, and it helps your brain process trauma differently than just talking about it. And so what I’ve done with clients that sometimes I recommend that they actually do something like EMDR there’s something called CRM, Comprehensive Resource Model, which is another trauma modality. If they continue to be stuck in grief, meaning we’ve been working together for months and they’re still feeling like they’re completely overwhelmed emotionally, still having what, whether it be a lot of panic attacks or crying a lot, or nightmares, flashbacks, like real, pretty significant trauma symptoms or avoiding a lot because they can’t handle it, right? These are numbing that these are all trauma symptoms. And if I’m not seeing. That there is movement or even baby steps of that symptoms are easing and less haunting. I’ll use the word haunting sometimes that people still seem very haunted and that I’ll recommend that they do that. And I have colleagues that specifically do that. And so I’ll still see the person for like, how is work and how are things going with your mom? Or like the everyday step and they’ll specifically do the trauma piece, which is different and it does help reduce the trauma symptoms. And so I think it could be helpful, but not everybody comes in with that. So I feel like not everybody needs that. So again, like you said, it depends on what does somebody need.

Dr. Dean: 

For sure. And there are different modalities even for trauma, right? and I think that our listeners may not understand that a lot of times we know that we need, oh, it would be helpful, I see on the internet X, Y, or Z, and so I should go find an e EMDR therapist. But again, that may or may not be what you need or the

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

Right.

Dr. Dean: 

modality, and sure, it might very well be the right one.

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

And I think so at least seeing a therapist that specializes in grief and loss is a great place to start. So whether they get a referral from a friend or a doctor, or go to psychology today.com and put in their zip code and their specialties, you could pick, that’s a good place because not every therapist is trained in doing grief and loss, and not every therapist is actually experienced significant loss depending on their age.

Dr. Dean: 

Mm-hmm.

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

I think that matters too.

Dr. Dean: 

Yeah.

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

If someone’s referred to me, my guess is they’re not coping well, right? it’s not just that they’re having a hard time, but this is significantly impacting their ability to work or to be present in their lives. That they’re maybe having a hard time even taking care of themselves, getting themselves to shower or eat, or, and my intake is actually the same. If someone comes in with a depression or grief and loss, I still have them fill out the same paperwork and I assess their levels of depression, anxiety, how much distress are they in so that I can make appropriate referrals. Whether I think someone suicidal, do they maybe need medication to help reduce some symptoms? Can we just do therapy? So I feel like I assess diagnostically, where are they? And I think what’s different when it is grief and loss is I’ll ask them obviously all about their story of who they lost, how they’re impacted, but also what are their spiritual beliefs? Where do they think their loved one is now? And we talk more about that than I normally bring up in regular therapy, that’s for sure. And then I help them have a place to talk about all of their fears and feelings because I think family and friends don’t know what to say. I think they feel people start avoiding them. And in therapy they don’t have to take care of me. They don’t have to worry about, I’m not gonna stop seeing them. And they can cry every time if they want, or talk about it over and over, go again if they need to. And it’s helping them, I think, manage their feelings or, a lot of people are worried they’re gonna feel less connected. And I think in some ways, and this is why I also share with people my experience of I’m 19 years in. I’m an example of what living with loss looks like, feels like, and sounds like. And let’s talk about whether it’s, Mother’s Day is coming up, what are you feeling about that? There’s a lot of commercials now about Mother’s Day. What’s that like for you? Or, change of season, holidays are around the corner. What’s coming up for you around that? And I’m a step ahead and maybe they’ve thought about it and maybe they haven’t. The anniversary of your loved ones passing- do you wanna do anything for that? Have you thought about that? so I help them with how do I manage these events that they have to go through and come up with. Maybe we talk about ideas of what they wanna do. A lot of what I do is normalizing symptoms. It gets normal to feel a lot of anticipation, anxiety before, actually, sometimes people say the actual day is not as hard as the weeks before, because I was anticipating it to be terrible, but really every day is terrible. It wasn’t any, it wasn’t any more terrible. And so helping them with things like that is what I, which is what I do.

Dr. Dean: 

I do the same thing with my patients, and oftentimes I will name for them or with them if they can’t have the words for what these feelings are, or also how many times do we hear, oh, I hadn’t thought of that. And I think that helps them in that anticipation, like you said. Robert Neimeyer, who is amazing, Jane Millman, and Lauren Breen define three types of grief and bereavement care as grief support, grief counseling and grief therapy. And so the differences are that grief support can be informal, right? It can be the friends, the family, untrained or trained volunteers, might be the chat groups or support groups. Those types of things fall into grief support and then professionals. They are identifying two separate categories. So specialized training, for grief counseling is professional care for the bereaved, and then it goes into everything else that we do, psychoeducation, reinforcement of care, coping skills, et cetera. and then by contrast they’re saying grief therapy is provided only by trained mental health professionals, and that’s typically what you and I are probably doing more of. Whereas grief counseling can be done by other trained professionals that it may not be as prolonged. Not that everything, everyone we see, sometimes we see people in that acute grief and it’s not pathological. but like you said, you’re getting referrals for, specifically for people that need a little bit more care.

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

Mm-hmm. and I’m so used to working with people with major depression, which I was gonna say it’s way harder. People could struggle for years and years with that. And so what I do find is that initially, grief can look like depression: wanting to sleep all the time or crying a lot, not having energy, not able to focus. The symptoms are almost identical. But actually people with grief and loss, especially if they’re getting the professional help where they’re regularly meeting with someone talking about their feelings and they get better faster. So sometimes they’re better within months and they go back to work and I don’t see, you know, or they come in less often, they stop coming in. Whereas like someone with major depression, again, their symptoms look almost identical. Unfortunately, those people don’t typically get better in just a few months. Like it’s more involved than that and takes longer. And, they often in general don’t have enough support. There’s a lot that goes into that, where sometimes with grief and loss, sometimes there’s a lack of support, but, not always. Maybe the people in their life don’t understand their loss, but they’re very close friends. They get together with them off, they can plug back into that. So yeah.

Dr. Dean: 

Yeah, for sure. There’s so many different grief theories and grief therapies, right? And so I think if we think about prolonged grief, that’s when we start to think that it’s even maybe something that should require attention. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that that’s even abnormal.

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

mm-hmm. I, I don’t know. I think it’s, it’s mostly like a space where you get to talk and someone listens to you in a very uninterrupted way. And I say this, the therapy office is like the last place probably in the world where you’re not sharing your. attention with a phone, right? we’re not on our phones, we’re not checking texts or messages like where else, anywhere. Even if you go to lunch with a friend, the phones are on the table typically, right? People are like, oh, let me, let me text my child real quick, or my husband or whatever it is. and so to have 50 minutes or however long the session is of someone totally focused on you, what you need, even if it’s, you need some pauses or some space to feel or talk, that’s rare. And I think we are trained to know. That we don’t tell you should be doing this, you shouldn’t be thinking that. Which is sometimes I think what people hear from people not professionally, but friends mean well by saying at least you had time with, I don’t know, at least you had 25 years with them and you need to focus on what you had. That doesn’t help people, that usually makes’em feel worse. so I think we have a better sense of what’s gonna not further trigger somebody. And there’s a term, name it to tame it. There’s something really powerful about naming a feeling, which of course we help people with. and so then I think what happens is the raw feelings that people initially come in with start to get more settled and processed. And so they’re not triggered as much by talking about their feelings or even feeling them. They don’t necessarily start crying, right? They feel more of a sense of control over their emotions eventually.

Dr. Dean: 

Exactly. Yeah. what would you want people to know about grief therapy if they were considering it?

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

I think if somebody feels like it’s just too hard, and I’ll say, this is too hard to do alone. This is way too hard to do alone, and you don’t need to do it alone. It’s so worth finding somebody because you could talk about whatever you want. you could talk about just your grief if you want, but chances are right, life is complicated and there are other things also happening that you might wanna talk about, whether it’s situations at work or family, or with your partner or with your friends, or you’re wondering now about your career. The one thing I think that can happen is that when we lose someone, it shakes our whole core and foundation. And I talk about this in the book, that isn’t all bad, right? People don’t wanna hear that initially, that something positive can come from this. But what happens is we get much more clear about life and I feel way more clear about not taking time and relationships for granted and make choices, I think, differently than some people who have not gone through significant loss. Cuz then you could stay in the sort of bubble that all of us were in before we lost someone that there’s plenty of time. We’ll get to this eventually, or we’ll spend time with someone eventually. And I think we lose that, the bubbles burst, it never gets put back together again. And so we’re more intentional and I see that with my clients. Big time too. They’re more clear. Even some friendships that maybe weren’t great for you, but you tolerated for a while. There’s no room after. I think after you lose someone, there’s no room for the stuff that really, it doesn’t make it to the next chapter of your life. And maybe it shouldn’t. Maybe you kept people around longer than you really should have. And again, it makes it more clear, I’m not doing this like you’re, whether it’s they’re too selfish or it’s all about them. I can’t take care of you. If you’re not healthy, you don’t get to the next chapter. And that can be actually a helpful lesson if that’s the right word for it. And I found that with the interviews when I interviewed the people for the book, people said that over and over again, you don’t sweat the small stuff as much.

Dr. Dean: 

Mm-hmm.

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

And so I talk about that with clients too, when they’re ready. Certainly not in the beginning. Nobody wants to hear that. You can’t hear that. But I do mention that as this is something that people eventually feel. And actually sometimes it can take three to five years to even feel it because it’s so intense and it takes a long time, I think, to get to the point where you’re like, you know what? This change I’ve made in my life as a result of losing my brother or sister, this change actually is better for me. Whether you have better boundaries with people or you change careers to do something that makes you happy, cause you’re like, you know what? Life’s too short to be unhappy. I, I get that now. And I always say, we all have a timeline, we just don’t know what it is. And so I think we have to be careful with what we do with our lives and use time wisely,

Dr. Dean: 

Mm-hmm. It’s a hard lesson to learn this way, but I think

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

Mm-hmm.

Dr. Dean: 

it’s so true that I see this with a lot of my patients and clients as well. There’s such change that happens, and a lot of times you don’t even realize that you made those changes until you can look back and say, oh, I’m no longer in X relationship or doing X, Y, and Z

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

Mm-hmm. Yeah.

Dr. Dean: 

of this loss. I just, spoke with someone, actually one of the other interviews and, she started just walking and running because she just needed to cope that way, but she also found such beauty and change in her health, and it’s a good metaphor for what happens for a lot of us.

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

Mm-hmm. I was never a big runner and I ran a lot after losing Michael. I felt like I just had to listen to music that kind of helped me feel connected to him and run. You’ve got all this energy in your body. It doesn’t know what to do. It’s like grief, sadness, anger, despair, right? Like all these feelings. And I think that’s how exercise can help so much because it lets your body do something with that energy that’s really, really helpful. And then of course you get all the neurotransmitters, dopamines and the endorphins that just give you a natural sense of feeling more at peace and more grounded. And that’s really helpful. But you’re right, there’s actually, with my clients, sometimes I’ll point out to them, this shift that I’m seeing that you’re saying this, this really feels different. I don’t know if you would’ve said this a year ago and they’d say, no, there’s no way I would’ve said that or felt that a year ago.

Dr. Dean: 

Or changing your work schedule or doing, there’s so many ways that people then prioritize relationships, as a result of the loss loss

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

Absolutely. So if someone’s listening and either hasn’t done therapy or isn’t loving their therapy experience, I would say like it’s worth trying to meet someone new, and sometimes you have to meet two or three people. Nowadays I’ll just, I don’t know about your area, but here, everybody’s full. It’s really hard to get in with somebody. I think that, I guess one of the positives of Covid is it helps normalize therapy and people are much more open to it. It seems like the stigma’s less so sometimes it’s hard to find someone. So I always recommend if people leave messages to give a little bit of detail. I’m calling because I lost, my brother or sister. if you have to use an insurance, A) don’t assume that everyone takes it. A lot of people don’t take insurance, so I’d leave that in the message, or that if it’s private pay, say I could pay privately, I’m happy to go on your waiting list. Those are the types of things that are helpful to get in and, but to meet a couple different people. Everyone has a different style. You might connect with one better than the other, and it’s important to be with someone you feel comfortable with. You’re talking about the most intimate personal topics of your life. It’s important that you feel comfortable with who’s sitting in front of you.

Dr. Dean: 

Yeah, I think that’s great advice. I will put in the show notes as well, some of the things you mentioned, like Psychology Today and, other links to find therapists. So one of the questions that came up a lot and when I posted what do you want us to talk about, was could we discuss sibling loss from different perspectives? And there was even a question on how would this be different for estrangement, or being the person that has to manage emotions in difficult relationships. So you hinted a little bit at this, I know I’ve talked about this before as well, but sometimes we end up being as the sibling, the person that’s in between a little bit of triangulation, if you will, the person that’s getting in between the relationships. I was wondering what your thoughts are on that.

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

Well, the first thing I’d say that comes to mind, and it’s probably something I should have talked more about, in the book, but because it wasn’t my experience, I was less in touch with it, that it should be in the book, I think, is that if you had a difficult relationship with your brother or sister, let’s say you were estranged and you haven’t talked in years, or it was abusive or toxic, or what happens when they die is that you lose the opportunity for that to ever get repaired. And that can be the hardest part. But the reality is that they were difficult, but that it now, it can never really get better. I think that’s where some of the grief comes up for people

Dr. Dean: 

Mm-hmm.

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

and, and there’s still work around. Maybe as a therapist, what I would be doing is grieving what was it ever better? Was it ever a positive relationship? What do you miss? What do you wish you could still say to that person? If they were here, what would you say to them? You could write to them, even though they’re not here. I still think writing to people that we’ve lost is, is still helpful to us. And so I think there’s that piece, or if they lost their sibling to suicide, sometimes people are angry with their sibling, and that’s hard for them to admit. They don’t wanna feel angry sometimes, but sometimes they are. So again, some people feel comfortable feeling angry, others don’t, but giving everybody the room to flush out and put a voice to all those feelings that come up around all of that

Dr. Dean: 

Yeah, I do a lot of that narrative work too. And writing is, I think, so helpful and healing. And depending on what their beliefs are about the afterlife, can you write a response or how can you heal this relationship? If it’s possible, if they believe it’s possible through that work that we’re doing in therapy, but also that writing.

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

And I don’t know, when you’re talking about the triangulation, if the surviving sibling feels like they’re having to manage, maybe the relationship between the parents. Parents really, a lot of parents separate after losing a child. It’s just detrimental to the marriage or maybe they’re already divorced or maybe there’s a lot of issue between the other siblings and the parents. and I think it’s important that siblings get to set boundaries. You don’t have to play family therapist to your family just because they need it. You are allowed to say, you know what, I’m not the person who you should be talking to about your marital problems with this is my, whatever it is, my father, or this is my brother or sister you’re talking about. you need to do that with a therapist or friend, but not me

Dr. Dean: 

Mm-hmm.

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

and feeling like that’s okay, that you have a right to take care of yourself, even though the poll might be to take care of whoever’s wanting something from you.

Dr. Dean: 

Yeah, for sure. And I was nonspecific in that triangulation cause I think it can happen in so many of those

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

right.

Dr. Dean: 

you for addressing that. But I do think boundary setting there is important.

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

Mm-hmm.

Dr. Dean: 

needed, also for ourselves. We don’t just set boundaries for the other people. And I think it’s important to realize that, for people listening, that these boundaries aren’t just to stop, whatever’s happening there, but also to keep yourself healthy.

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

Yeah, and I think that’s what therapy can help with too, is if people are feeling like, gosh, I don’t know, is, is this okay that my mom or dad wants me to do this or says this or that? We can be, someone says, No, I’m, that doesn’t sound very healthy or what’s that like for you? And you have a right to not be your parents’ confidant all the time. You don’t have to do that to be a good daughter or son. And so I think that’s validating for people. What is healthier, what their rights are, what’s gonna be good for them. We are their advocate, right? We’re our client’s

Dr. Dean: 

Yeah.

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

And I think that can be really helpful and empowering to the people we work with.

Dr. Dean: 

Yeah. Thank you.

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

Yeah.

Dr. Dean: 

One question that people asked was, could you discuss the experience of sibling loss from the perspectives of losing an only sibling like me versus losing one sibling when you have

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

Do you have any other siblings?

Dr. Dean: 

I do not.

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

Okay, so you’re in the experience of you lost your only sibling and I’m in the experience of I still have another sibling. I think what, what comes up for me around that, and you could maybe answer your experience with it, is that when the people I interviewed talked about losing their only sibling, they’re alone with taking care of their parents. not only literally around the grieving time, but now aging parents is all on them. Like they assumed that they would have a life and another sibling to share that stuff with and they don’t. And so people talked a lot about that, but then I feel like there’s other people that get angry if someone implies, you still have other siblings, so it’s not so bad. almost like you could afford to lose one, and that’s totally not true. I’m glad I have my sister that made it so much easier, but it’s still there’s nothing easy about losing a sibling.

Dr. Dean: 

Exactly. Yeah.

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

know,

Dr. Dean: 

I talked about this with my father who lost, his brother the year before they came to this country. There were four of them, and he lost a sister. I think she was 52. And so my dad and I have had this conversation, like with the. That’s been like, and he, he called me his only child one time recently.

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

Um.

Dr. Dean: 

And I was like, you can’t just erase Tony.

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

Mm-hmm.

Dr. Dean: 

and he’s supposed to be here as they are aging and figuring that out and cleaning up their house and doing all of those things, which hopefully isn’t for a while. But yeah, that’s been my experience. But you can’t replace siblings. And I think that this question is also something I wanna share is there’s so much comparison that happens in grief. It’s if I compare this, like at least I didn’t have this experience, or maybe my experience is worse, is like the attitudes that I think people are trying to solve the problem that way. But there’s no sense in comparing

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

It is so interesting that you say that because I only, I actually think it might be human nature to do it. Almost all of my clients and my own experience with my family have done the, it would’ve been worse if this had happened, or at least it wasn’t. I don’t know. Like this or that or, and it’s like, why do we, I don’t know why we do that. I don’t know, but people do it all the time.

Dr. Dean: 

And I think if we can normalize that it’s all hard,

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

Mm-hmm.

Dr. Dean: 

then we don’t build up these walls and we can support each other versus trying to compare it. Cause I don’t know what it’s like to have more than one sibling, so how could I could compare that to losing,

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

So.

Dr. Dean: 

right?

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

Yes, when I think what also people don’t like with comparison that I hear a lot is people say, don’t tell me you understand because you lost your friend or your best friend. Or I think people well-intentioned say I know what you mean. I understand. I lost my friend years ago or recently or what. And I think siblings end up feeling you don’t understand because losing your friend didn’t ruin your family though likely, And so the difference is like not only did you lose your sibling and the person you grew up with and you thought you’d have this future with, but you also then have to deal with how that’s completely shattered your family in a lot of cases. And your parents like that’s different. I feel like that’s, comments like that are often triggering to people,

Dr. Dean: 

Mm-hmm.

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

know, when they’re told, I understand because I don’t know. And they give an example. Grief is hard. It’s like super messy. And I think that’s why people avoid it. They avoid talking about it. They don’t wanna say something wrong, but we can avoid it. Literally, loss is a part of life, right? And everyone’s gonna go through loss and I think we need and can do a better job with it.

Dr. Dean: 

Mm-hmm. Yeah. It’s my dad will not listen to this podcast cuz he is not a podcast kind of guy. He will say, I was born dying. Like his, his thought is the second you’re born, you are one step closer to death and this is his way of trying to cope with his grief. And there’s some honesty in that that we don’t want to hear. That goes back to your or your statements around life’s too short

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

Mm-hmm.

Dr. Dean: 

miss out or waste our time with toxic relationships or whatnot. Mm-hmm.

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

I’d think I’d have a positive spin to that. Like Yeah, you’re right. but so if this is a limited opportunity, this human experience a window of time, then what are we gonna do with it? What do you wanna do with it? Like you have an

Dr. Dean: 

How can we make it a life worth living?

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

Absolutely. I’ve read different theories and one theory of, what happens after you die is that you literally review your life almost like a movie. And now it’s do you wanna enjoy that movie you’re gonna watch? are you gonna like to look back and look at the different memories you did and relationships you cultivated and create a life that you not only enjoy now, but you’re gonna be proud of?

Dr. Dean: 

Mm-hmm.

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

Even though you go through super challenging things, you still have an opportunity. And I, I think we’re meant to be here and we’re, I don’t know what the reason is, but we’re here, so what are we gonna do with it? And it doesn’t mean leaving our siblings behind, it means honoring them along the way. Mm-hmm. So hopefully

Dr. Dean: 

And possibly carrying them with us forward.

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

absolutely, absolutely right. Even if nobody else can talk about them, wants to talk about them. We do. They live in our hearts and, we say their names and we share it.

Dr. Dean: 

Yeah, Are there other things that you wanted to talk about today related to either sibling loss or grief therapy,

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

I certainly hope my book is helpful to people. I hope that it feels validating and they get ideas. I put different ideas, in the book of what to do with your grief energy cause literally people are what is grieving? It’s making room for your feelings, letting yourself feel things and I think whether it be writing to your sibling or exercising more or listening to music, that reminds you of your sibling or planting a garden. People talked about that. there’s all these different things that we can do to remember and honor our siblings. And, I like to believe that there is a way we can continue having a relationship. Like they’re physically not here, but we still emotionally feel connected to them. They’re still always a part of our family story. Typically our upbringings, our sense of self. and, and that we get to have that. And that, that there isn’t this, you have to move on. You have to almost like, in a way, leave them behind. And I don’t think that’s true. I don’t think that’s true. And I think we learn to live with it. And, my hope is that my book helps people see that, of what that can look like in a way to, to continue honoring, our siblings. And, it’s not in a way where you’re stuck in grief. It’s actually more fluid than that.

Dr. Dean: 

Mm-hmm.

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

I think it’s great that there are more Facebook groups or social media has really allowed so much more possibilities. And I think that’s great. And even posting about your sibling, I think what I do like about social media is people in general are totally uncomfortable talking about grief. not totally, but a lot grief and loss and, and all of this. But they are willing to like or heart a post. Or they’re willing to say, I miss your brother too or sending love. People are, they do seem like that is still in their comfort zone and I think that really feels helpful. So I do, I encourage people if they’re comfortable with it, do a post on somebody’s birthday or the anniversary of their passing. Let yourself get messages from other people, because I think that feels helpful, right? It feels like love and love feels helpful,

Dr. Dean: 

Yeah, for sure.

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

Mm-hmm.

Dr. Dean: 

Thank you for that. Are there those ways that you stay connected with Michael?

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

Yeah, definitely. I definitely do posts for his birthday, January 8th, the anniversary of his passing, and he was in the military. So Memorial Day I’ll do a post and, I think the book was a labor of love and a super meaningful endeavor. And, so me staying connected to anything I can that helps promote awareness about sibling loss. I’m now on a dissertation committee around research around sibling loss. I hope to do more of that. I really wanna be a part of changing this and helping this type of loss be better understood, better recognized, so that siblings don’t continue to be vastly under supported during one of the hardest things that’ll happen to them.

Dr. Dean: 

Mm-hmm.

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

That feels really meaningful. And to help other people honor their sibling feels really wonderful as, as well because it’s, it’s so hard. What we haven’t talked about is how American culture doesn’t help. There aren’t a lot of rituals or traditions to plug into beyond typically a funeral, which you know, often happens, the first week or first month or something. And then after that for a lot of people there’s nothing, right? Whereas when I. Looked into this for the book. Yeah. Buddhism, they have it, they have it down. I mean there’s, the funeral and then 49 days later and a hundred days later and everyone comes out for the memorial. It’s just what you do. A year later, three years later, or even annually, they have a lot of annual, that is amazing. And that actually is so helpful to the grief process because then the community keeps coming back for you. You’re not grieving alone, you’re grieving as a community, as a family. I wish we had more of that. It would be so much more helpful to do that.

Dr. Dean: 

I think you also mentioned the Jewish cultural traditions of the candle that they light every year.

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

Uhhuh, right? Absolutely.

Dr. Dean: 

And. In our family, the Italian-American traditions, were very different than the American ones. But still, even then, it’s very much you’re expected to move on after a certain amount of days. So I wonder if we have the power to start to change that and normalize that days was not

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

Oh no, not at all. I, I wish we could even coming up with more words. I say this all the time, there is not a big enough vocabulary around grief, so it makes it hard to even talk about an experience. We don’t even have enough words to use. so I don’t know how you make up new words, but we need

Dr. Dean: 

Yeah. I talk about that too. There’s What’s your grief? I think they have a whole, they surveyed people. What types of, words do you need? And they have a, like a list. I think it’s 63 or 64. for grief that people came up with. one day I kept typing sibling and it kept autocorrecting to sobling, and I was like, is that what we are? Sobling? But then apparently that has some other meaning on the internet, so I don’t propose that one. But

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

Hmm.

Dr. Dean: 

not even a word for this.

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

No, it, this does remind me of what some people talked about doing that I think is helpful if you lose someone to a health condition or even suicide. They have a lot of the walks, the fundraising. And I do think participating in that so that you’re around again, people who understand it, get it and are part of raising awareness, raising money, all of those things people say feel helpful, right? So again, it’s doing something with your grief, having a place, an outlet to channel it, I think can be really helpful. And I’d encourage people to look into different things in their areas that they can do. Again, there’s more community in it then that way you’re not alone with it as much.

Dr. Dean: 

Yeah. Thank you. Are there other things that you think about culture or grieving from different cultures?

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

I love the Day of the Dead again, that annual, making, the Latin cultures do that every

Dr. Dean: 

Mm-hmm.

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

October 31st to November 2nd. I might be having that wrong, but that time period, and I haven’t done that.

Dr. Dean: 

Mm-hmm.

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

but I wish that I did, cuz I think that would be, again, a neat thing to plug into, like having, the pictures and the food and candles and, it’s just so helpful to have traditions Yeah, I think it’s a good one. Any other questions people ask that they wanted us to talk

Dr. Dean: 

about? There was this question, I think we’ve touched on it. It says, what about how society disregards the depth of sibling grief and they expect the surviving sibling to move on?

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

Mm-hmm. Yeah, I hope that changes in time, but I think that like everything, things take time to change, and so that’s why it’s important that people try to connect with other surviving siblings, so that, whether that be a support group, listening to podcasts, participating in, groups, social media groups, that’s where you’re gonna probably get a lot of your validation because other people talk about it so vividly, so profoundly that you’re, wow, talk about validating that other people really feel a lot of what you’re experiencing and feeling and the anger that other people don’t get it really want you to move on. Like, why are you still talking about this after three months? Like I talk about grief time, is different than regular time because it feels like time can go by fast, but also slow at the same time, right? Which should be a total contradiction, but yet in the grief world, that’s just how it feels sometimes. Wow, how for me, how can it be 19 years? It’s just so weird.

Dr. Dean: 

Right.

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

Don’t even know how to wrap my head around that.

Dr. Dean: 

I wonder if it feels like for you sometimes that 19 years is a day versus like the 19 years, and sometimes it feels like 19 years,

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

I guess, yeah. I don’t know, because then sometimes, it’s been a while since I’ve had a dream, but if I’ve had a dream with him, it feels like I’ve spent time with him. And so then, which was cool when I would have dreams. And that’s the other thing I encourage clients to talk about is, oh, tell me about your dreams and, what did they say and what did you say? And, I think, I’d like to think that sometimes those are visits. I know not everybody sees it like that, but I, I like the idea that it’s an altered state of consciousness and sometimes it’s a way to connect.

Dr. Dean: 

And I think the importance of dreams too is realizing that all grief dreams doesn’t mean that there is someone present in the dream, but there can be other types of grief dreams, which is are helpful to talk about. I would say that the most comfortable, I’m talking about dreams with my patients is around grief and loss, whether it’s death loss or non death loss. and people are afraid to bring that up in therapy sometimes. So I would say bring it up.

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

You mean they’re

Dr. Dean: 

therapist asks yeah. yeah.

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

Mm,

Dr. Dean: 

They’re asked. A lot of times people will be like, oh yeah.

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

Right? I think people are worried that they’re crazy or something, or that they’re something really wrong with them because of their experiences. Or grief experiences, or thoughts or, and so again, I feel like a lot of normalizing, you’re not crazy, you’re grieving, your brain’s not working correctly. You’re not able to focus. Your memory’s not as good. You’re tired a lot. Your body hurts. That’s all part of grief. And that will eventually, in time get better, especially if you’re in therapy or talking about it or working out or not trying to avoid everything. Cause if you avoid, I think grief will wait a long time. And so sometimes then it will come up more in, in a form of a nightmare sometimes. Or if people are drinking, then their defenses are down and then they’ll, like they’ll, then it’ll come up more. So all the more reason to try to be with it consciously and not just avoid, but sometimes thinking about grief all the time is also not helpful because it’s too much, it’s too intense. And I’ll tell people you need breaks too. Sometimes going to work’s helpful cause it gives you a break from thinking that’s really important. It’s hard to be with us all the time. You do need breaks. and normalizing that. And people feel guilty if they stop thinking about their sibling. And I talk about. You do need, you need to pace yourself, And

Dr. Dean: 

Mm-hmm.

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

yeah. So I think just helping through the whole thing.

Dr. Dean: 

And I think also identifying that feelings around grief aren’t always sadness, right? There can be other feelings, like even joy has its place in grief. I think normalizing that for people that are like, oh, I felt happy today. What’s wrong? Am I, am I done?

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

Definitely. No, it’s yeah, you should have joy and happiness in life and you will A as you should like, you don’t wanna be sad all the time. It’s not good. It’s not healthy. And the other thing is, sometimes there is a relief if they’ve watched a sibling suffer for a long time, there is a relief in their passing that they’re not suffering. And sometimes people feel guilty about that, but that’s, That’s real. Not that you wanted them to die, obviously, but you didn’t want them suffering anymore,

Dr. Dean: 

Mm-hmm.

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

absolutely. I just encourage people to plug into whatever feels right for them. There are a lot of different options and even with my book, there’s audio, there’s Kindle, there’s the physical book. I wanted it in all formats so that it could serve all different kinds of people in whatever format they preferred or needed. I know it’s cliche, it’s, you gotta take it one day at a time. Like it’s too, like don’t think, don’t think too much about the future, especially in the beginning. It’s way too overwhelming. Just. Don’t do it, just one day at a time.

Dr. Dean: 

Thanks. And the question that I like to ask everyone is, would you like to share a memory or two or three favorite memories that you had of your brother? Mm.

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

I, I talked about this one in the book, but one of my favorite things we did together was I took him skydiving when he turned 18 and it was my second time skydiving. And we of course didn’t tell my mom who had, she worried a lot. And we went skydiving and I remember the first time I went I was 20 and at 20 it never occurred to me that maybe the shoot wouldn’t open. Like it just never crossed my, cause at 20 you don’t think about stuff like that. But by 24, All I could think about is maybe she, what, if something goes badly here, why am I doing this? Why can’t I be a boring person who doesn’t need anything like this in their life? And so I worried and I literally hyperventilated the whole way down. I was like, oh my God. please have this go. and, and he loved it. And we called my mom and we got to the ground safely and we’re like, guess what? We just did. We jumped out of an airplane. And, she’s like, what? so that was one of the funnest kind of memories I think that we had. And, but he came to visit me also. He’d come to visit me in Santa Cruz and he’d come to visit me in San Francisco when I lived there. And we went out and visited him in Colorado. And so e even though there was a six and a half year age difference, I tried to still have him, be a part of my life and come visit me and, and stuff like that. I wish I had more, more times that we, it would’ve been, I didn’t get to know him as an adult and I wish I could have. but I

Dr. Dean: 

Mm-hmm.

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

think of those memories fondly.

Dr. Dean: 

Thank you. Do you still visit the medium?

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

Let’s see, I did a phone appointment I think a couple of years ago and it was actually really good, because he’s in Southern California and so I didn’t wanna make a trip down there. And the phone appointment was good, although for someone who’s never gone, it’s really cool to see him because you see him interacting or a medium, whoever interacting with them. And I think that part is really valuable too. But because I’ve seen him so much, I could just imagine him doing that. but it’s been a little while. I’m sure I’ll go again at some point.

Dr. Dean: 

Mm-hmm.

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

No plans to do it again and again, other people come through also. And as I’ve, as I’ve lost other people, I’ve wanted to connect with them as well. So

Dr. Dean: 

Mm-hmm.

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

I don’t know. Can I ask if you’ve ever done it or if you think you would?

Dr. Dean: 

You can, I I was always a little bit skeptical then last summer… Right actually at the same place that I developed this idea for The Broken Pack™I. I was introduced to someone who was a medium and learned more about it, and I’m still somewhat skeptical. but hearing your experience and hearing hers and a couple other people starting to open my mind to it, I think.

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

Yeah, it’s interesting. you’ll have to tell me if you ever do it. I would love to hear what you think about it in your

Dr. Dean: 

yeah, I will. Well, thanks for having this conversation.

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

Yeah. Thank you so much for having me on and for having this podcast. It’s great.

Dr. Dean: 

Yeah, you’re welcome. And thanks for the book. It was one of the first books that I was able to connect with. So thank you.

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

Oh, thank you. I’m so glad. That’s always, of course, the intention and you never know where it’s gonna land with people, so it’s always nice to hear when it’s okay, that’s what I wanted, and that happened for at least a few people, right? so I, I hope that this inspires actually people listening to this. I really do.

Dr. Dean: 

I hope so too. Thanks again.

Dr. DiRaimondo: 

thank you for having me

Dr. Dean: 

You’re welcome. 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.

 

Dr. Dean: 0:12

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. Content warning: information presented in this episode may be triggering to some people. It contains talk of suicide. I’m so excited to share this conversation in which I spoke with Jen Hoy. Jen shares the story of losing her brother Teddy to suicide and how she’s been making meaning from that loss and learning to live with her grief. She’s a mental health advocate, a marathoner and a writer. She’s also currently serving on the board for the Massachusetts chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. We discuss how beginning to walk for her own peace has culminated in running marathons to honor the memories of others loved ones who have been lost for many reasons, primarily suicide. Enjoy the episode. Thank you for joining us today. I was wondering what you wanna tell our listeners about yourself.

Jen Hoye: 1:31

Thank you for having me. my name’s Jen Hoye. I am a passionate mental health and suicide prevention advocate. I’m a board member of American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Massachusetts chapter, and I’m a suicide loss survivor. My brother, Teddy, died in May of 2017 and the experience of losing Teddy and working through the grief and the trauma has really set me on a path, of purpose. And I, feel like I carry him with me every day.

Dr. Dean: 2:04

Mm-hmm. That’s beautiful. Is that how you got involved in the, A F S P,

Jen Hoye: 2:10

Yeah. A F S P. Yep. it, it is, I, I, I was having a particularly rough kind of grief night, well into the Covid pandemic, and I was up at late at night scrolling through the internet as we do at 2:00 AM. and I saw this thing about a marathon in a month, and I thought, Right now I’m walking about a marathon every couple of days, so this would be a really great way to honor my brother’s memory. and you know what? because I do a marathon every couple days, why don’t we commit to 300 miles? because my brother, he would’ve walked a million miles even if it,

Dr. Dean: 2:49

Mm-hmm.

Jen Hoye: 2:50

It meant he could help alleviate someone’s pain, even for a small moment. So I felt like that that was the right choice to do. And once I got involved with A F S P, I really found a community of, of like-minded people and people in this horrible club that we’re in, but who inspired me and brought me tremendous hope.

Dr. Dean: 3:12

Sounds like a good fit for you.

Jen Hoye: 3:14

Yeah.

Dr. Dean: 3:15

before we talk about the loss and your grief and all of those things, what do you want us to know about Teddy? I.

Jen Hoye: 3:21

Oh. so my brother Teddy was born four months early in 1975. he weighed half a pound. he’s a miracle. he had a twin who didn’t live much longer after they were born. My brother and I, Teddy and I were super close. we fought every single day, but I was always his protector. That was, that was my job, that I took it very seriously. and even into adulthood we were very close. We texted or talked multiple times a day. Usually just silly stuff because one thing about my brother is he was a clown. He was a clown from when he was a little kid, into adulthood. He helped my kids plan elaborate April fool’s jokes just to get me riled up. But he had so many friends and so many people who loved him, because he was just a kind and gentle soul. And that’s something that I was always amazed by because I was like the, the rough, tough sister. And he was this sweet and gentle, blonde-haired angel little boy. And I was like out beating people up if they made fun of him when.

Dr. Dean: 4:37

So you were the protective older sister,

Jen Hoye: 4:39

Yes. Yeah.

Dr. Dean: 4:40

so you really lost two siblings.

Jen Hoye: 4:43

Yeah.

Dr. Dean: 4:44

Hmm. Were you highly aware of that before you lost Teddy? That you lost his brother, or, your brother as

Jen Hoye: 4:51

well, we didn’t talk about his twin Joseph much, if at all, growing up. and my brother was a handful. Like we were punished probably every day, he would just do things impulsively, that we all found amusing, but probably not. Like he would spray the neighbors with the hose just to see what would happen when they were on their way to a wedding or, things like that. one Teddy was probably more than I. Than any of us could handle. But, after Teddy passed away, my, my youngest is named Joseph Edward and Teddy’s first name is Edward, and his twin was Joseph. And, I do think a lot about, what losing that sibling meant for my brother. I’m sure that he felt kind of lost sometimes. and my youngest, Joey is very much like his uncle in so many ways that sometimes when I, I go to yell at him to stop doing something, I accidentally call him Teddy. so I think it’s, it’s, it’s perfect that he has both of those names.

Dr. Dean: 5:58

Mm-hmm. How old is your son?

Jen Hoye: 6:02

my youngest is 12.

Dr. Dean: 6:03

Mm-hmm. So he knew. Your brother.

Jen Hoye: 6:07

Yes. Yeah. And they were, they were thick as thieves. my brother taught him how to spell the word, but, and how to sing all of the lyrics to baby got back and, Uncle Teddy was the funnest uncle ever. And anytime they were together, I usually ended up like, please just calm down. But now I think about that spark and that chaos and the mischief, and I don’t want to discourage that in my youngest. I, I encourage it.

Dr. Dean: 6:42

Mm-hmm. Because it reminds you of Teddy.

Jen Hoye: 6:45

Yeah. Yeah, for sure.

Dr. Dean: 6:47

That’s fun. what a way, it’s to stay connected, through your son. You said you have two kids?

Jen Hoye: 6:54

Three. my oldest Jimmy will be 25 in November. My middle Abigail is 21. And then Joey, and each of them reminds me of Teddy, for different reasons. Abby has his like sweet and gentle nature, and Jimmy, we used to joke that Teddy could be in the C I A because getting information from him was like, impossible. And Jimmy’s a lot like that. and we just, we laugh because it’s oh my God, it’s like Uncle Teddy. could you just give us an answer? I don’t need to know state secrets. I just wanna know where you’re going.

Dr. Dean: 7:32

Lovely. and you were about two years apart? Yes.

Jen Hoye: 7:36

A year and a half. Yep.

Dr. Dean: 7:37

and a half. Okay. Before we get into a little bit more, can you talk a little bit about your role with the volunteering that you do? The advocacy,

Jen Hoye: 7:47

Yeah.

Dr. Dean: 7:47

excuse me, advocacy.

Jen Hoye: 7:49

No, it started just with that marathon in a month. and during that time, during that month, each day was dedicated to somebody lost to suicide. and I had also. met with some of our, our local politicians and to talk about the work that I was doing. And I was invited to speak to the city council and asked Jessica Vanderstat, the executive director for the Massachusetts chapter of A F S P, to come with me, to share a little bit about what the purpose and the mission of A F S P was. And that was the first day that, that I met Jessica, was maybe almost two years ago. but I feel like that day really cemented what path I knew I wanted to take. Jessica and I walked together for about a mile after the City Council meeting and we talked and shared a lot. She offered me kind of some pathways to volunteering and it could be anything from volunteering at one of their out of the darkness walks or, hosting a fundraiser or applying to run a larger race, that has a fundraising commitment, to support A F S P. But there are so many different opportunities. I’ve also done some talk saves lives. It’s suicide prevention training just for regular people because we, we all have a role to play and we, we can prevent suicide.

Dr. Dean: 9:16

Mm-hmm. Yeah, sometimes I think we also feel like we can try to prevent it in ways that we can’t. I don’t know. Yeah.

Jen Hoye: 9:25

Yes, I, I agree with that. I think the stigma around suicide, people are afraid to ask, are you thinking of hurting yourself? And that really is the most important question you can ask somebody.

Dr. Dean: 9:40

I think, as a professional, I’m obviously a little bit more comfortable asking that question than some, but, I think the fear is that if, if you ask that question, that person will, oh, if they weren’t thinking about it, now they’re gonna think about it. Which is not the

Jen Hoye: 9:55

That’s not true at all.

Dr. Dean: 9:57

not how that works. Mm-hmm. Thank you for bringing that up. So what are you comfortable sharing about losing Teddy?

Jen Hoye: 10:05

I’ve written a lot about how losing Teddy, really shattered my family and my whole world. I think of my life before Teddy died and after, in the early days, obviously we we were in shock. and I remember my parents were thinking of not having a service. They didn’t think that they could do that, but one of our relatives was like, we want to, to honor him. so we chose to do a graveside service. And, I thought it was nice that we had an escort from the funeral home to the cemetery. I think it was state police because my brother was a ranger at the Massachusetts State House for 20 years. But what I didn’t realize is the reason for that is because his service had just about shut down the city. there were hundreds of people I, couldn’t even see people, like individuals. There were a few people I remember looking at directly, but just the masses and the number of people who showed up because my brother had touched their lives in some way. And, that really, really, I think, shattered my heart into pieces

Dr. Dean: 11:23

Mm-hmm.

Jen Hoye: 11:25

He, he had affected so many people so positively in so many different ways. You think you should tell people that you love them while they’re living because, after they’re gone, what can you say? And that was, I, I, it was just, it was overwhelming. as the days went on, of course everyone goes back to their lives and we were left to figure it out and honestly had no idea how to figure it out, and I didn’t, for a long time.

Dr. Dean: 11:59

Mm-hmm. It sounds like you think he didn’t know how many people touched his life or how many lives he touched.

Jen Hoye: 12:08

Yeah. He was just so kind all the time. Perfect strangers or somebody would say, Hey, could you help me move? And he only kind of knew them and he would be like, sure, I’ll be right there. He was one of those people and I think it was just who he was. So he didn’t ever expect, I think anything in return or, or any recognition. I know suicide is a, a complex event. And there are many things, many things that contribute to a person, choosing to die by suicide. But I, I do know that, he was, in a really difficult, like a, having a difficult time. He had lost his best friend just four weeks before. They worked together at the State House for the 20 years, and she died from cancer. And this was just months after we lost our grandma, who was our world. And so I, I think that those two deaths really contributed to his feelings of hopelessness. But again, I don’t know, and that’s one of those things that has been really hard for me to process and that I’ve struggled with all these years. And they always talk about, when suicide loss groups, the tyranny of hindsight. Like I’ll think, oh, I, I think he said this or I should have done this. And the, the why’s and the what ifs, those are the things that keep you up at night. And I’m working hard to accept those feelings, but keep moving.

Dr. Dean: 13:39

Yeah, it’s so hard with a lot of loss, but especially a suicide loss to, try to make sense of it. Do you live near where he lived or near your family?

Jen Hoye: 13:53

No, my whole family lives in Boston. I live about 30 miles south of the city. but he came to so many of my older sons games- baseball, soccer, everything. We spent every Sunday at our grandma’s. We saw each other a lot, probably a lot more than than most families.

Dr. Dean: 14:13

So where would you say that you are with your grieving now? We know grieving never ends, but I’m just wondering where you

Jen Hoye: 14:20

No, it certainly never ends. We just learn to carry it differently. I felt like I was in a really great spot going into this year. I had really done a lot of work to work through all of the complex feelings associated with suicide loss, and I’d built a, a network of other lost survivors or other advocates in the mental health space, and I had planned for. his day to spend it with a F S P A F S P, folks at one of their, bigger events of the year. Earlier this spring I had, a couple of moments where some of the feelings surrounding Teddy’s death were triggered. I don’t really like that word, but it’s really the only word to use.

Dr. Dean: 15:09

Activated

Jen Hoye: 15:10

Activated. Yeah. And I found myself spiraling into a really dark depression myself, until the week before his, and I don’t like the word anniversary either, his Memorial day. I, I finally said, I, I think I need some more support. And honestly, that was probably the best thing I could have done. But if I had not experienced all that I have, through the loss and through my advocacy, I don’t think I would’ve known

Dr. Dean: 15:42

Mm-hmm.

Jen Hoye: 15:43

to ask that question.

Dr. Dean: 15:45

Which speaks to this idea of, there’s such a expectation on timeline, especially for enfranchised losses such as sibling loss, but also suicides, another type of disenfranchised grief. And so it’s been how many years since he passed?

Jen Hoye: 16:05

Six.

Dr. Dean: 16:06

Six, which in the grand scheme of things, isn’t that long, and I wonder if, if that feels different to you? If people have been like, why are you still grieving or what your experience has been?

Jen Hoye: 16:21

Yeah, so the first three years, after Teddy died, I worked really hard to be strong, be the strong one, be strong for my parents, be strong for my family, and I, I essentially self-destructed. I, I went to work and I took care of my family, but I wasn’t living. I had severe insomnia cause I refused to sleep at night and I was, feeding my emotions. I gained almost a hundred pounds. I was unhealthy mentally and physically. And so I know that and people were like, why aren’t you over it? I’m not going to be over it, but until I like, actually I think said to myself I’m not going to be over it, that I wasn’t able to process a lot of those feelings. And so I, I think, milestones and anniversaries and birthdays will always be difficult, but then there could be a day where you hear a song and it reminds you of your loved one and you just start crying in the middle of a supermarket. it just,

Dr. Dean: 17:27

It’s always the supermarket. Not always, but yeah.

Jen Hoye: 17:31

But yeah, like I feel like, I carry it differently now and I feel I have found some purpose, out of this, this horrible tragedy. But sometimes it, it gets, it still gets heavy and there are moments in my kids’ lives that I wish Uncle Teddy was here to see or, I think about as our parents are getting older. We were meant to care for them in their old age, and even when I, I remember things I’m now like the memory keeper

Dr. Dean: 18:08

Yeah.

Jen Hoye: 18:09

He was always there to say that did happen, that happened and someone was, no you, that didn’t happen. Yes, it happened. But now I don’t have, so it’s hard cuz you think is my history still my history?

Dr. Dean: 19:38

Yeah. I’ve heard that from a lot of people. I’ve experienced that myself, including when my mother tells me something didn’t happen and I, I want, I want my brother to validate that it happened. So I get it. What would you tell yourself from either, three or six years ago?

Jen Hoye: 19:56

Oh

Dr. Dean: 19:56

about.

Jen Hoye: 19:57

Don’t be strong. There’s no reason there’s nothing to gain from being strong. Feel what you’re feeling. Let it go through you and let yourself experience it. Feeling sad and experiencing grief doesn’t make you weak.

Dr. Dean: 20:11

Mm-hmm.

Jen Hoye: 20:13

Living through it makes you strong.

Dr. Dean: 20:16

So it sounds like you’re almost redefining your perception of what strength was back then from this societal idea that we don’t cry. We don’t deal with emotions into what actually vulnerability

Jen Hoye: 20:30

Yeah.

Dr. Dean: 20:31

creates in strength.

Jen Hoye: 20:33

Yeah. And that’s, that’s one of the reasons I’m so open and my social media posts, because I feel like. I think if my brother had been able to read things like that, he would’ve been okay, I can ask for help or it’s okay to feel this. It doesn’t make me weak, or it doesn’t make me wrong. It’s just part of being a person.

Dr. Dean: 20:57

Mm-hmm. Did you wanna talk about the walking and the marathons and, and what that is?

Jen Hoye: 21:04

When my brother was alive, he was the most prepared person on earth. He packed for his July camping trip in March. Usually like it was, his bag was packed and ready to go. When I would think about the Covid pandemic, I would think of all of the people to live through this, he’s not here. Cause he would’ve been prepared. He would’ve told me what to do and he would’ve kept us all laughing through the whole thing. I was a remote worker, so I was used to being home alone, with just my dogs and suddenly everybody’s home and I have all of this unresolved grief and trauma and I just wanna be alone. So, you know, a hundred pounds overweight without sleeping more than an hour a night, I decide I’m gonna go for a walk. Took my dog, Penelope, and I made it to the end of our street, which is not even like a 10th of a mile, and I, I had to take a break. But I thought, I’m gonna try this again, and when I went out in my mind I would be talking to my brother, like, how could you do this? I am stuck here in this pandemic without you. I need you. And I would just talk to him. And initially I was so angry all the time. All the time. but eventually, I was a little kinder to him in my mind. And I would hear songs that reminded me of our free range childhood and memories that made me happy. And each day I went a little bit further. and as I walked further and further I realized I’m actually feeling a little bit more calm. That baseline anxiety and depression was, was lessening, and I, I, I felt better able to function. and so we were scheduled to do a walk in September of 2020, but everything was canceled. So I decided I would do the virtual walk, but I wanted to do something to honor my brother, and so I started doing these healing miles remembrance walks. And so the first 5K of every day that September, I dedicated to a different person. I met all of these people on social media. but within those first few days, my inbox was, was filled and I realized I could walk every day for the rest of my life and not even impact a fraction of people. And so I. I decided to keep going, but for my, my own mental wellness, I had to step back from doing every day, and doing as they, they came up and rather than filling every day because that’s a lot to carry. And so after the marathon in the month, when I did the walk, 300 miles, A F S P had sent out an invite to apply for the Boston Marathon, and I thought, why not? We’re from Boston, Teddy loved the marathon. Teddy loved everything about the city of Boston. the only problem was I hadn’t run since 1990 in high school and we were the worst cross country team ever. Our, our coach was, was a nun. She was amazing, but she would run behind us to make sure we didn’t like, ditch the course. So I was not a good runner ever. So I applied and I got accepted and my whole family was like, I I, I don’t think you, I don’t think you can do this, and what do you mean? And my Joey was like, you’re gonna win. I was not gonna win, but I’m gonna finish. That’s how I got started with running and my first Boston marathon was the October of 2021. It was the first time it had been run in October, and I remember I was at a mile 24 and I was thinking, I don’t think I can fit it. I think they’re right. I can’t finish. And I saw somebody I knew from high school in the crowd and she was like,”What are you doing here?” And I said,”I’m running.” and then I kind of like, in my head I was like, that’s pretty funny that I would see her after all of these years and I felt like it was my brother, being like, you can do this. Like you got this. You, you can do it, and I finished. And that’s how running marathons got started. But now every race that I do, I try to dedicate a mile to a different person, and always save the last mile for my brother, cause when I need it the most, I’m gonna be like, Ted, get me to the end please.

Dr. Dean: 25:27

So you started walking the marathons. You said a marathon in a month. Was it

Jen Hoye: 25:31

It was like a.

Dr. Dean: 25:32

like 26 miles to walk, but

Jen Hoye: 25:35

26 miles. Commit to 26 miles in a month and raise funds for A F S P. But because I don’t do anything the easy way, I thought, well, 26 miles in a month is nothing

Dr. Dean: 25:47

Mm-hmm.

Jen Hoye: 25:48

I, I don’t even know where I came up with 300. I just decided 300. It seemed like a lot. Okay, we’ll do that. And that, I was just walking at that point. And now, this morning, I texted my husband and I said, oh, I just went to the gym. He said,”What’d you do?” I said,”Just five miles.” And he’s”Just five miles? Most people can’t run five miles.” And I was like,”I’m not fast.” And I, I think that that’s the thing, I’ll never be like a fast runner, but I’ll never give up because I feel like I. A, I am too stubborn, and B, I’m carrying my brother. and I wanna get him to the end each time.

Dr. Dean: 26:28

So it sounds like you shifted, it’s almost metaphorical, like carrying the weight of the grief into this healthy, like shedding that and being able to carry him and the connection with you.

Jen Hoye: 26:40

Yes. Yeah,

Dr. Dean: 26:42

Yeah? And just five miles? I can’t run. I’m not a runner. You keep qualifying all of these things you did with like just, or in other ways it’s hard for

Jen Hoye: 26:50

I know and I know I shouldn’t do that like I run, so I’m a runner, but in my head, I’m still that high school student with the nun following behind me, threatening to tell my mother if I didn’t finish the course cause I was so slow. After I finished my run, I always like, share, whatever, and one of my husband’s aunts commented,”You’re always smiling at the end of a run.” And I feel like I usually am smiling like the very end of the run because I’m just so excited that I was able to do it, and prove to myself that I could do something that’s really hard. And so either when I’m running, I’m, I either have a horrible scowl or a maniacal smile there’s no in between.

Dr. Dean: 27:36

So are you doing fundraising during these, these runs? Is

Jen Hoye: 27:39

Yeah. The Boston Marathon in 2021 and 2022 I fundraised. for the Massachusetts chapter. I did the Los Angeles Marathon Charity, half Like the Half Marathon, and raised funds for, the Los Angeles chapter. This past fall did the same for Chicago Marathon. And. next weekend we’re going to Minnesota. My husband and I are both running. We raised, money for the Minnesota chapter, so my hope is to represent A F S P or raise funds for every chapter in the country at some point in my lifetime.

Dr. Dean: 28:16

Well if you make it to the Pittsburgh Marathon, let me know. We can connect. I won’t run. I’ll watch you. I will watch you. I’m not a runner, but apparently it’s hard cause nothing here is flat. yeah. Thank you for sharing that information. You have a great social media at, at least I follow you on Instagram. Are you anywhere else?

Jen Hoye: 28:35

Yep. I’m on Facebook as well and all of my posts related to mental health and advocacy, they’re all public.

Dr. Dean: 28:42

Do you wanna talk more about that?

Jen Hoye: 28:43

Sure. So I, I’m a writer by profession that, that’s what I’ve done for years and years, and so it’s easier for me to express myself in writing. And I, I found that sharing a lot of the feelings that I was experiencing, really helped me make connections with other people. I would receive messages that said thank you for sharing that. I needed to hear that today, and so that’s how that started. And then with Healing Miles, I always share about the person that I’m remembering a little bit about what their family loves most about the person and things like that. And then with the walks and the runs, all of these things I share daily and I try to share some resources or if I’m experiencing something, like sharing how I’m feeling so that other people know that they’re not alone. And I always try to share the suicide, crisis 9 88 number, for talk and text and, and things like that. And I think, a lot of times, it’s, it’s a lot to, to keep up with. but I feel like it’s an important piece of reaching other people and, and letting people know that it’s, it’s okay to not be okay.

Dr. Dean: 29:58

For sure, and I think there’s such shame and stigma around suicide loss. It feels to me like it’s opened up that space for people to be able to talk about it.

Jen Hoye: 30:08

Absolutely. And just from my sharing, several people have reached out when they were supporting someone in crisis or in crisis themselves, and felt like they could come to me as a safe person, which that is my goal. If I can help just one person know that I’m safe to talk to and I will try to connect them, with, with help or resources, then it will all be worth it. I would trade it all to have my brother back, but I feel like this is important.

Dr. Dean: 30:43

Yeah, I’ve said that too. As much as what I love I’m doing here. I. Give it all up. If I could have my brother back.

Jen Hoye: 30:50

I’m sorry.

Dr. Dean: 30:52

That’s how we connected. But that’s also, it’s like the hidden thing that I think we don’t say.

Jen Hoye: 30:58

Mm-hmm.

Dr. Dean: 30:59

Are there other things that you feel like people should know about losing a sibling or suicide loss in general?

Jen Hoye: 31:08

One thing that I wasn’t prepared for and you don’t read about anywhere, really is, is how you experience so many secondary losses related to the death. There were friends that I had or my parents had that just disappeared. We never heard from them, not even a text. And in the beginning I was like, why, like why would, but it’s really understanding that a lot of people are so uncomfortable with the topic and then they’re not sure what to say, and so they say nothing. And then over time that that kind of grows and they just disappear. And it’s not about you. It’s about how they feel about the topic. And so I think for people, Who know others who, have lost someone to suicide. You don’t have to know the right thing to say. Just be there. Probably one of the most helpful things that happened in the first weeks after my brother died was my best friend just drove down an hour from her house to bring me a cup of coffee and we just sat on the couch. I don’t even think we talked. Just being there is, is important and you don’t have to know the right thing to say cause there is nothing that’s, that can be said. And then the, the sibling losing a sibling. we’re supposed to, it’s supposed to be our longest relationship as your, your sibling. and so I, I think a lot about kind of what I’ve lost, in that respect, but also it changes the whole dynamic of, of an entire family. And so relearning, all of your roles in the family is, it’s a process and it’s not going to be the same. But it’s important that you find your path.

Dr. Dean: 33:02

Right. You had said, I felt. I’d lost my parents who had suffered the greatest loss so parents could endure. And then you do talk about losing friends and, that discomfort piece. But I, I wonder if you still feel like you’ve lost your parents or that that has changed in

Jen Hoye: 33:22

I lost the parents I had before my brother died. They’re, they’re irreparably changed. I, I can’t even imagine how a parent could recover from that. But our relationship has gotten stronger, over the last several years. In, in part, I think because of the work that I’m doing. I think initially it was difficult for my parents to, to see or hear about the stuff that I was doing and, and talking about my brother and talking about grief. I think it’s hard for people of that generation. Over time I, I think it has helped all of us as a family. I don’t feel like I’ve lost them forever, but I lost who they were

Dr. Dean: 34:05

Mm-hmm. It sounds like you’re normalizing grief, but also normalized talking about suicide loss within your own family, and that’s so key. Hey, I had this thought as you were saying that, and I, I’ve had this conversation with other guests and other people in my life where like our parents definitely change after this, and that’s understandable. I wonder, you said they’re irreparably changed you. Yes. I wonder, and neither of us are gonna have this answer, but I wonder if our parents feel the same way about us.

Jen Hoye: 34:43

I would say yes. I know I am a very different person than I was even three years ago. And I, I think, my parents are, have told me recently that how proud they are of the work that I’m doing, but also excited to see me passionate about something. I am, not the same person it was before Teddy died, or even the three years following. Even my entire world and circle of friends has changed. And I, I think in a positive way,

Dr. Dean: 35:18

Mm.

Jen Hoye: 35:18

I’m more like the protector of Teddy and the school schoolyard, that I was when I was a kid. and less concerned about do I fit in this box kind of thing. And I think that that is not lost on anyone. I think it’s pretty apparent.

Dr. Dean: 35:39

Mm-hmm. it definitely comes off in your media and even in this conversation, more so in this conversation, even that just how passionate you are about the work that you’re doing. Thank you for, for doing that work. It’s hard.

Jen Hoye: 35:52

Thank you. I feel like it’s important and I wish that, I wish that we were able to normalize it to a point where this is just a normal conversation that you have start with kids starting, at a young age. Cause I think if we normalize those conversations, it makes it easier for people to seek help.

Dr. Dean: 36:15

Absolutely. Yeah, for sure. I, I wonder what the right way is to start to talk about that with kids when we don’t have a society of adults that can even talk about this. So that’s a, that’s a huge vision. I think it’s needed, but I don’t know where

Jen Hoye: 36:31

It is, A F S P has a ton of resources available for kids, starting in early elementary with they have this Gizmo’s Possum Adventure and it normalizes talking about big feelings. one thing that I always did with my youngest, cuz he was only five when we lost six, when we, we lost Teddy. I just started asking him open questions, tell me everything that’s in your brain. And it, he could tell me something about Minecraft or Lego, but then he might say I’m nervous to go to sleep because when I went to sleep last time, Uncle Teddy died.

Dr. Dean: 37:03

Mm.

Jen Hoye: 37:04

And just making it, okay it to have big emotions, it’s, and not be like, oh no, don’t cry. Like, why don’t we talk about stuff? And I think that that’s, that’s key. A lot of. as a parent, like you want to fix everything for your kids. And I think not jumping to do that has been hard for me, but it has in part, fostered like open communication.

Dr. Dean: 37:31

Yeah, I, I don’t work with kids anymore, but I did have some training in play therapy and those are also some safe ways that therapists teach parents how to have those, conversations. So I’m glad that you are glad that you are working on that. So with your parents, it sounds like you’re closer now. Are there other people that surprised you? I, I know you mentioned friends, but are there other people or professionals that surprised you in their support or lack of support?

Jen Hoye: 38:03

Yes. some of the people that I’ve met on this Healing Miles journey. I count now among my closest friends. and the same with, these team, A F S P races, the connections that I’ve made through those, those races and the teammates I’ve run with it, it’s, I, I don’t wanna call them my family, but they’re like my family now. Some of these people I’ve never met in real life. And yet I feel closer to them than I do people I’ve known for, for many years. That said, I, I do have several friends who stuck by me, never left my side, and they always know, to ask, how are you doing today? My, my best friend, we were 13 when we met, and so essentially she grew up with my brother as well. She has been my rock. We’ve been through so much together in our lifetime. She has supported me through all of it and when I was applying to run for the first marathon, she was like, yes, you do this, you’ve got this, you can do this. And in the, my second marathon, I slowed down at mile 20, I had hurt my back and I had my phone on Do Not Disturb, but she’s one of the people that whose messages still come through. And she sent me a message in all caps like, I know you’re hurting, get moving. You’ve got this. Like she’s just, I feel like she, everyone needs like one of her in their lifetime to be their biggest cheerleader. and like I said, my circle of friends has changed dramatically, in the best possible way. I’m surrounding myself now I think with people who inspire me to be better, and to do better, and who understand all of this. We have a shared experience that we can support one another and just send a random text like, hey, thinking of you. And it’s really been just wonderful.

Dr. Dean: 40:05

Yeah, that makes sense. Thank you. Do you have any favorite memories of you and Teddy that you want to share?

Jen Hoye: 40:13

So many.

Dr. Dean: 40:14

many as you want.

Jen Hoye: 40:17

We had a pretty free range childhood, like most kids in the seventies and eighties. We were just like street urchins. and we lived in this neighborhood with tons of kids, and you just went outside and that was your life. Like you were outside, you couldn’t come inside for any reason. Even if somebody was bleeding, it didn’t matter. And we, we did everything together. We fought all, like when I say we fought all the time, like there was a period of time where our parents were like, okay, you cannot step foot in each other’s rooms, because we would just go in and just do stuff to annoy one another. But one thing that I love to do with him is, I had this like pretty big closet in my bedroom and my grandma would sneak us these big candy bars and I would keep them in a bag in my closet. And I loved to read. and so I would sit in my closet with my candy bars and my strawberry shortcake sleeping bag and a, a light, and I would read and my brother would come in and sit with me and he would play cars and we would just stay there for, for hours until somebody was like, where are you? A lot of times he was just, like you would be like, oh, Teddy, like all the time. what are you doing now? but it was so funny. It was so always so funny. and growing up we lived in walking distance of our grandparents’ house and a lot of our relatives and we have, set of cousins who, the girl cousin is 25 days older than me, and the boy is close in age, was close in age to my brother, and the four of us were raised like siblings. We spent a lot of time at my grandparents’ house with my cousins. And some of our best memories are just, us getting, I don’t remember what we did leading up to it, but we always got in trouble for something. And if one of us got punished, all four of us got punished and each of us had a different spot in my grandma’s house where you had to have your like, time out. But my brother had to be in a spot where he couldn’t see anybody because he would just make everybody laugh.

Dr. Dean: 42:23

Mm. Sounds like a really good brother, and that you were really close.

Jen Hoye: 42:32

Yeah.

Dr. Dean: 42:32

Yeah. Thank you for sharing all of this and this conversation. I’m so glad that we finally connected.

Jen Hoye: 42:40

Thank you.

Dr. Dean: 42:41

You’re welcome. Thanks for being on. 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 like, follow, subscribe, and share. Thanks again.

 

 

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