Connecting Through Grief When a Child Dies is a podcast created at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital by parents who have experienced the death of a child. Each episode in this first series focuses on a different aspect of early grief. Bereaved dad, Andy McCall, leads rich conversations with parents as they share their grief experiences. Justin Baker, MD, Chief, Division of Quality of Life and Palliative Care, and other St. Jude experts provide observations, reflections and resources. Music for each episode is generously provided by Stanton Lanier, Copyright, Music to Light the World, Inc.
Episode 1: What Now?
Three parents reflect back on what the first days and months were like after the death of their children. Andy, Penelope’s dad, lost his first and only child. Lisa, Thomas’ mom, lost her youngest but still had eleven-year-old twins to care for at home. Wendy, Nick’s mom, also lost her youngest while her surviving children were in high school and college. The early grief experiences of these three parents were quite different in many ways, yet they share similarities in their struggles to figure out “What Now?” Dr. Lisa Clark, psychologist and former St. Jude bereavement coordinator, comments on early parental grief and offers resources for listeners.
Episode 2: Who Am I Now?
Andy and Sean’s mom, Katie, share openly about the difficulties they faced during their early grief. On any given day, grief made thinking about the future challenging. Katie and Andy discuss how some grieving parents seek to surround themselves with people, while others retreat from the world. They reflect on how they felt hearing others say their child’s name. They discuss how talking about their child and sharing their grief with other bereaved parents impacted their lives. St. Jude chaplain Brent Powell, drawing from several decades working with bereaved families at St. Jude, comments on finding meaning in life after such profound loss.
Episode 3: What Am I Looking for?
When you are alone and feeling vulnerable, how do you find help? Who do you go to? Where do you turn? In this episode of Connecting Through Grief When a Child Dies, parents Andy and Catie’s mom, Christine, discuss how feelings of vulnerability, confusion, and bewilderment that come with grief make seeking help difficult. They share what they learned about looking for help and support in honoring their child. Brittany Barnett, manager of Patient & Family-Centered Care at St. Jude, offers her thoughts on how differently people grieve, and how important it is to offer support to bereaved families in multiple ways. For more bereavement resources visit Grief and Bereavement Support or the Together website.
Episode 4: Grief is Normal
In this episode, three parents discuss their longings for their children who are physically absent from them. They consider the longing for their children, and the tears that come with it, to be part of the normal grief process—though tears come easier for some than others. Andy openly discusses crying as a man. Thomas’ mom, Lisa, and Sydney’s mom, Tasha, share examples of ways they long for their children in everyday life. They all agree that grieving parents need to give themselves permission to cry and feel other deep emotions. Jenn Allen, PhD, a psychologist, offers expert commentary and reassures listeners that having mixed emotions during grief is all part of the normal grief experience.
Episode 5: Staying Connected – Friends and Strangers
Why is it that strangers can become friends and friends can become strangers after the loss of a child? In this episode, Andy speaks with Breydon’s mom, Brenda, and Trevor’s mom, Lisa, about their experiences navigating the outside world after the death of their children. Everything changed. Some friends and family they had always counted on were no longer there, while others who were previously strangers, stepped in and began filling the void. St. Jude social worker Traci Adams explains that most people are well-intentioned but often don’t know what to say to a grieving parent. As a result, they may avoid the parent altogether or say the totally wrong thing. Unfortunately, responsibility often falls on the bereaved parent to let others know exactly what they need.
Episode 6: What About Dad?
Grieving dads share their feelings and talk about their daughters in this episode of Connecting Through Grief When a Child Dies. This is a special episode for all bereaved fathers and for anyone in a relationship with a bereaved father. Penelope’s dad, Andy, and Sydney’s dad, Dean, talk about their little girls and how their lives transformed as they worked to find meaning, purpose and physical wellness after their daughters died. Dr. Mike McNeil, St. Jude palliative care fellow and grief researcher, believes in the importance of hearing the voice of grieving dads. He shares that grieving dads are significantly underrepresented in research studies. Still, current research is showing us that the grief of dads remains more consistent throughout their lives as compared to the grief of mothers. How do we encourage dads to share their voices?
Episode 7: Couples: Grieving Differently Together
The final episode of this series focuses on ways couples can support one another even though they are likely grieving very differently. Andy speaks with Keenan’s parents about ways they supported each other following their son’s death from Sickle Cell Disease. Each had their own timeframe for getting out of the house and returning to work, to the store, and to church. Tammy and Kelvin, married for 26 years, each grieved differently and still do—but together they find ways to remember their son and bring awareness to Sickle Cell Disease. St. Jude oncologist Erica Kaye, MD, who has written extensively about grief, explains how families can find comfort, resilience, and hope as they continue to honor their child’s life and legacy.