E99: No One Talks About Grief.
Questions for Reflection
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Beth Demme (00:03):
Welcome to the Discovering Our Scars Podcast.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:06):
Where we share our personal experiences so we can learn from each other. I'm Steph.
Beth Demme (00:09):
And I'm Beth.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:10):
I've been in recovery for 15 years and I am the author of Discovering My Scars, my memoir about what's done in the darkness eventually comes to light.
Beth Demme (00:17):
I'm a lawyer turned pastor who's all about self-awareness and emotional health because I know what it's like to have neither of those things.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:23):
Beth and I have been friends for years, have gone through a recovery program together. And when I wanted to start a podcast, she was the only name that came to mind as co-host.
Beth Demme (00:30):
I didn't hesitate to say yes because I've learned a lot from sharing personal experiences with Steph over the years.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:36):
We value honest conversations and we hope you do, too.
Beth Demme (00:38):
On today's show, we're going to have an honest conversation titled: "No One Talks About Grief."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:43):
Then we'll share a slice of life and the show will close with Questions for Reflection where we invite you to reflect on the conversation in your own life.
Beth Demme (00:51):
So I kind of want to change the title of this episode now.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:54):
Beth Demme (00:54):
To "Good Grief."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:58):
What does good grief mean?
Beth Demme (01:00):
I'm not sure.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (01:02):
Are we talking about good grief today or bad grief?
Beth Demme (01:04):
Well, I think grief is perceived to be a completely bad thing. And it's not necessarily. It's a really natural thing. It's a really normal thing.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (01:14):
I think it's an important thing. And it's a part of humanity. It's part of life. It's a part of living. I can't imagine there are people that haven't experienced grief in some way. Maybe not put the term to it but even ... I think there's so many fluctuations of what grief can look like.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (01:37):
And actually, that's brings me to why we started this episode, why we decided to have this episode. What is significant about this date, Beth?
Beth Demme (01:45):
So the day this episode comes out as the 31st anniversary of when my oldest brother died. And it is the first anniversary of when my next door neighbor was murdered in a home invasion. And so, it seemed like a good opportunity to reflect on something that people really don't like to talk about.
Beth Demme (02:05):
People don't like to talk about death. They don't like to talk about sadness, and grief is both of those things.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (02:11):
Well, when I hear something so heavy as the two things you brought up, I think the first thing that I think of is this is huge, how do you even begin to tackle these two? Take one of them, how do you begin to even process that in your life? And I think it's a ... I know for me when somebody tells me something like that, I think I don't even know what to say to that. I don't even know what I would do, so how can I be there for that person?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (02:44):
That's my first selfish thought when I hear that kind of news. So, I'm curious, are you willing to talk a little bit about these two situations?
Beth Demme (02:53):
I will. I am definitely willing. And I will say that with my next door neighbor, that was the situation that affected us primarily because of how he died because as I mentioned, it was a home invasion and he was murdered as part of the home invasion. And we don't live in a high-crime area. And no one else has died in our neighborhood. That was really hard. And it was a big deal in the news and all those sorts of things.
Beth Demme (03:20):
But he and I were not close personally. We were neighbors at a distance even though we were next door to each other. But, of course, losing my brother, that was much more personal. And I was really just a kid. I was 13. And I have other experiences with grief too that we can talk about. My dad died about seven years ago. That was really hard.
Beth Demme (03:42):
And my freshman year of college, my childhood best friend died. So, I have a lot of experience with grief. And as a pastor, I have some experiences with funerals and that kind of thing. So, I've been around grief a lot.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (03:59):
So you were 13 when your brother passed away?
Beth Demme (04:02):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (04:03):
Was that the first experience you consciously remember dealing with grief?
Beth Demme (04:08):
It was the second because I had had an uncle who was like a grandfather who had passed away two years before that. But this obviously was completely different. I mean, the grandfather figure was an old man and he had been dealing with dementia, and you can see it coming.
Beth Demme (04:26):
And my brother's death was completely unexpected. I'm chuckling because he was ... he was a lot older than me, so he was 27 when he passed away. So he's 14 years older than me. So there were things ... I was almost like an observer of his life. And I think it's pretty typical that a younger sibling looks up to an older sibling even when they're kind of goofballs. And he was kind of a goofball.
Beth Demme (04:51):
And he had been in a lot of trouble at different times. He had a drinking problem that had led to multiple DUIs. And he had gotten his driver's license taken away for a long time. I mean, for a long time. He used to ride his bicycle because it was all he could ... it's his only mode of transportation. And I grew up in Pensacola. And he would ride his bicycle from our house all the way to Pensacola beach which is two bridges and many, many, many, many miles. But it was his way of getting around.
Beth Demme (05:23):
And actually, just a few months before he died, he had actually gotten his driver's license restored which was a huge turning point. My perception even looking back on it was there was a sense in our family that things have turned around for him. He's paid his dues for all the mistakes that he made. And he never injured anyone or anything, thank God. But he had dealt with the punishment, the consequence of having lost his license.
Beth Demme (05:58):
And he was able to get his license back. And it was like, okay, things are turning around. This is going to be a really good time for him. And he had been out with some friends and he was taking a shortcut home. And to get from Downtown Pensacola to where we lived, the best way that if you are walking, the easiest way, the fastest way was to walk on the train tracks. And he was hit and killed by a train at about midnight.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (06:24):
He was driving on the train track?
Beth Demme (06:26):
No, he was walking.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (06:27):
He was walking.
Beth Demme (06:28):
So he had his license back, we didn't have a car yet. He was walking home.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (06:29):
Oh, okay, he was walking.
Beth Demme (06:29):
So he was walking. And I know that sounds like a crazy thing. But there were multiple places along the tracks where there were staircases that were built so that you could get back up the bluff. It was sort of done. It was 1989. I don't know that it's still done, but--
Stephanie Kostopoulos (06:55):
How did he not hear it coming?
Beth Demme (06:58):
I don't know.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (06:59):
So it like came up behind him?
Beth Demme (07:01):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (07:03):
So no one really knows?
Beth Demme (07:04):
No one really knows.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (07:04):
Did the driver of the train see him?
Beth Demme (07:07):
He says he never saw him. He didn't see him until right at the moment. And the people who live right there because there are some houses right there, they ... if anybody's ever been to Pensacola, it was right at the Graffiti Bridge which is sort of an iconic landmark there.
Beth Demme (07:27):
Anyway, the people in the houses never heard the train blow the whistle or anything.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (07:33):
So, I guess it's quiet. A train is quiet when ...
Beth Demme (07:37):
I don't know. I don't know. I have no way to know.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (07:40):
Yeah. Oh my gosh. How long was the train like cargo train?
Beth Demme (07:46):
I have no idea. I have no idea. So that was on a Sunday, Saturday night, Sunday. And I was supposed to start high school on Monday.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (07:57):
Oh my gosh. Yeah, because it would have been in August.
Beth Demme (08:00):
Yeah. So I missed the first three days of high school.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (08:05):
Just three days?
Beth Demme (08:06):
Three days. And by Thursday, it was like, "Okay, you're done grieving. We got to pick up. We had to pick up the pieces."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (08:20):
When was the funeral?
Beth Demme (08:22):
I think it was on Wednesday.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (08:23):
Okay. So you were good on Thursday?
Beth Demme (08:25):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (08:26):
You're good to go.
Beth Demme (08:27):
Yeah. And I had two or three friends who came to the funeral. That was really special. But it was mainly his friends, of course, and my parent's friends. But I remember I was asleep in my bed, it was 2:00 in the morning. My mom came in and turned on the light and said, "There's been an accident. Donnie's at the hospital."
Beth Demme (08:53):
And she and my dad were crying. And I said, "Okay. Do you want me to go with you?" And my mom said, "Yes," so I went with them. My older sister stayed home. I went. We entered at the ER, of course. And then, they took us out of the waiting room and put us in a small private room. And I didn't know what that meant, but my parents knew what it meant. That means really bad news.
Beth Demme (09:17):
And the doctors were apparently really busy. When the nurse came in to try to give us an update, I remember my dad saying, "Can't you just tell me if my son is alive?" And I remember the nurse saying ... at first, she said she couldn't say anything. And then I remember my parents called our pastor which I was shocked at. I was like, "Church is in a few hours. You cannot call the man." They called him and he came. He came, he was with us.
Beth Demme (09:51):
And then the nurse came back and my dad said it again, "Can't you just tell me?" And she said, "I'm so sorry. He did not make it."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (10:05):
Why couldn't they say before?
Beth Demme (10:07):
Well, I think she kept thinking that the doctor was going to come, but the doctor kept getting tied up with things.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (10:17):
Did he die on the scene or did he die in the hospital?
Beth Demme (10:19):
And I think he died in the hospital.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (10:20):
Beth Demme (10:20):
Yeah. What I remember is that they definitely tried to revive him at some point. And so, I don't know what his exact condition was when he got to the hospital.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (10:33):
So, who called 911?
Beth Demme (10:34):
I think probably the train operator did.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (10:35):
The train operator?
Beth Demme (10:36):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (10:36):
Oh my gosh. Yeah. And so the train just kept going?
Beth Demme (10:40):
No, the train stopped.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (10:41):
It did stop?
Beth Demme (10:42):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (10:43):
Beth Demme (10:43):
It didn't stop before it saw him. But it stopped once he saw ...
Stephanie Kostopoulos (10:47):
Beth Demme (10:48):
And I don't know how far it got. I don't know any of that. And I wouldn't want to know any of that. And I've never gone back to that part of Pensacola. The rest of my family is fine. They drive by the bridge. I get it. That's fine for them.
Beth Demme (11:05):
So I have an older sister and then an older brother and then the brother who passed away. My other brother, the next day, he had to go down and see it, he had to see the scene and I just have never wanted to see it. And I respected that was part of his grieving process. And I get that. And they can all drive by it now and I just can't. I just don't go down there.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (11:30):
So, how did you begin as a 13-year-old to process this, and did you?
Beth Demme (11:35):
I didn't. I have learned that grief will wait for you. And my grief waited a long time to be processed. And I thought that I processed it. I thought, "Okay. Well, I am moving on with my life therefore, I must have processed this."
Beth Demme (11:51):
Because I remember my mom saying something that in retrospect, and I've talked to actually several pastors about this because looking back on it, I can see how this was a platitude and it probably shouldn't have been helpful but it was so helpful to me because my mom said ... my brother had been a carpenter. He had been a fisherman and a carpenter. Those were the main jobs that he had.
Beth Demme (12:13):
And I remember my mom saying, "I guess God needed a carpenter," which of course God doesn't need ... I mean, like what does God need? No. And why would God need a carpenter in heaven. But it was so comforting to me just to feel like, okay, well, my brother is with God. And that is a good place to be. And so, he's okay so I'm okay.
Beth Demme (12:36):
Remarkably, my parent's marriage survived. Most marriages don't survive the death of a child. There are some pretty solid statistics about that but they did. And probably watching them grieve was harder than trying to process my own grief at that age. In some ways, I almost felt like there wasn't emotional space for me to grieve because their grief was so heavy, understandably so, understandably so.
Beth Demme (13:09):
So yeah, so my grief waited for me a good long time. And it presented itself later as anger and fear. Then I understood, okay, well anger is really a presenting symptom of something else. And all of this came with the help of a lot of counseling.
Beth Demme (13:30):
So what am I really angry about? I'm angry that my brother is gone. I'm angry that he was allowed to make life choices that ultimately led him to that kind of an end. So, I had to unpack all of that, spent a couple of years angry at different people about it until I could work through that.
Beth Demme (13:50):
I was angry at, still am honestly, angry at CSX that runs the railroad. And I'm like, "Toot the horn and stop the train." I know it's a big machine. I know it's hard to stop. But no bit of cargo or whatever it was being transported on that train is worth a life.
Beth Demme (14:13):
So yeah, I don't think I processed it at 13. I think it came up later. And I think each subsequent experience with grief pulls a lot of that back up even 30 years later.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (14:25):
Was the anger, was coming out but were you even processing that? Were you connecting it to your brother? Or were you just living in this anger and not knowing where it was from?
Beth Demme (14:35):
I was just angry and didn't know why. And it was when I started working with a counselor. And it started in the present and then went way back in the past and then worked to have those two points meet, and that's where it all converged for me.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (14:53):
So what age do you think it was that you sort of processed it?
Beth Demme (14:57):
So, I was 32. Yeah, I would have been in my early 30s for sure because I was really angry at my kids. It was coming out as mommy anger. And that had to be dealt with. I knew that wasn't okay. And that was how I unpacked it.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (15:21):
Was the anger more fear for your kids?
Beth Demme (15:25):
Yeah, exactly. It was fear that if I wasn't controlling everything, this was going to be the natural result. And the reality is you cannot control everything.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (15:37):
Yeah. So, do you feel like you have processed that grief of losing your brother at 13 and you have moved on, there's no longer grief there?
Beth Demme (15:53):
I wouldn't say it that way. I do think that I've processed it and I'm in a much healthier place with it than I was 10 or 12 or 20 or 25 years ago. But I think it will just always be a part of who I am. And I think that's okay.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (16:10):
I think it's self-awareness that you have now that you maybe didn't have when you were a child understandably. So, being aware that it's still there but being able to recognize it I think is huge.
Beth Demme (16:25):
And people say, "Time heals all wounds." And I think there's some truth to that because I do think that I have experienced healing. And I don't ever say this to anybody because I would be such a jerk to say it. But as I have watched, especially like on social media, friends who have experienced tremendous loss ... I mean during COVID, people have experienced unspeakable loss.
Beth Demme (16:49):
So I think particularly about a friend who lost her mom to COVID. And she's posting things like, "It's been six months. Why don't I feel better?" It's been 30 years and it's still hard. So, yes, it is going to get better. But that idea that it will go away, I don't know. I don't know.
Beth Demme (17:14):
And maybe it's different with a parent. I guess I do feel a little bit differently about my dad because that's sort of normal that our parents will predecease us. So maybe that is different. But for people who've lost a sibling or a child or a best friend, I just think that just stays with you.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (17:35):
It makes me like the visual I have in my head is like an old tree, like trees, they get marks on them, they get bark falls off. And that just becomes a part of them. And that just is part of their beauty and their age. I have big old live oaks in my backyard that those suckers that we have, had so many hurricanes, and they're here to stay. But they have broken limbs and they have these things, but they're still surviving and they're still thriving.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (18:02):
And that's what I think of when we talk about grief and things that we all go through is that's how I've ... that was a big part of my journey with Celebrate Recovery was learning that my stuff is not just going to go away. It's always going to be with me. And that's okay. That's okay.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (18:23):
And once I accepted that it wasn't just one day I wake up and all my problems would go away, once I realized there'll always be new problems, there's always going to be things that will remind me of things in the past, but what's different now is I'm aware of it and then I deal with it. My scars are there but they're not what define me and what destroy me.
Beth Demme (18:43):
Yeah. I mean, the scar is proof that you survived.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (18:45):
Beth Demme (18:46):
Every mark on that live oak is a reminder that it has survived a storm.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (18:52):
Beth Demme (18:52):
And we have those marks. Just like you were saying, we have those marks in our lives, too. But we have survived. We continue to survive.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (19:00):
So that's 30 years ago. But a year ago, you had an unthinkable thing happen to your neighbor. So, can you unpack that a little bit?
Beth Demme (19:14):
So, a year ago, it was late at night and my husband and I had just gone to bed. And our daughter, let me just say that sometimes Hannah really loves drama. So, she comes in our room like almost breathless, "There are so many police out there."
Beth Demme (19:33):
And I was like, "What?" I got up and looked out of the front of the house and for sure, our whole street was just covered in blue lights. And put on some clothes, went to the end of the driveway and realized pretty quickly that they were just next door neighbor.
Beth Demme (19:52):
So, next door to us is an intergenerational family. So, the grandparents, the parents and the kids live there, adult children. So like three generations live in the house. And I thought, "Oh, no, Grandpa must have had a heart attack or something." And the police wouldn't tell us anything.
Beth Demme (20:14):
At first, they told us that we had to go back in the house. So we did for a little bit and then I went back out. And at some point, we were standing at the end of our driveway and I saw the dad come out. And he had a head wound. He was bleeding from his head.
Beth Demme (20:33):
At the same time, I'm getting text messages from someone who lives in the opposite direction down the street, on the same street but the other direction whose daughter is a police officer. And so I was getting information on the scanner and he's knowing what's happening. And they're trying to feed us information. And I'm trying to tell them what I'm seeing.
Beth Demme (20:52):
Once we had assessed that the actual imminent danger was over, that was when we went back out. So we go back out and I can see that my neighbor has this head wound. And I see them bring somebody out who is obviously deceased like completely under the sheet. And I had no idea what had happened.
Beth Demme (21:17):
And then the family started to gather at the end of their driveway which is right next to ours. And another neighbor came over and the family that had the home invasion, a lot of their family from in town started to gather. So, another neighbor and I tried to get drinks and stuff together for them because it was really hot. I mean, it was late August in North Florida, it was hot, humid.
Beth Demme (21:39):
Anyway, the mom told me what had happened that someone that they didn't know had come to the door and knocked on the door. When they open the door, he forced his way in and was waving a gun around, hit her husband in the head. And then, their adult son obviously tried to come and protect his father. And that's when he was shot and killed.
Beth Demme (22:12):
They had no idea who this person was or how he knew anything about them or why he was in their house. And they have since arrested someone and charged him with the crime. He ended up fleeing. So we had helicopters searching the neighborhood. And anyway, it was just a very traumatic night especially for my neighbors who lost their son.
Beth Demme (22:39):
And then when I realized the date and put the two together, it was really an impactful moment. And that family has been very resilient. And they have obviously been dealing and will continue to deal with their grief in their own ways. I mean, they'll just never be the same.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (23:02):
So how did you and your family, was there a grieving process for you all for this?
Beth Demme (23:07):
It was such a strange time for us because literally the day after it happened, we moved our son into his first dorm room. So it was this time of celebrating that he was doing the next great thing for himself. And also, it removed us physically from the situation. So it was a very strange time and it felt so strange to be celebrating with my son knowing the grief that was happening next door.
Beth Demme (23:37):
And it was COVID. They did have a service for him. And my husband and I did go to the visitation for him. And they're a Hindu family. And so, it was this really interesting blend of American visitation with some Hindu rituals mixed in which was really ... it was lovely, actually. We all got rose petals. And we actually got to place rose petals in the casket with him which I thought was a beautiful, tactile thing to be able to do.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (24:17):
Have you talked to the family since then?
Beth Demme (24:20):
Yeah. I go over and check on them every couple of months. We've lived next door to each other now for a long time, but our families were in completely different phases. And this is really true of everybody in my neighborhood. It's not like we're the fun neighborhood. We're not the fun neighborhood where everybody gets together and hangs out.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (24:40):
Well, to clarify, I am about five feet on the side. My neighbor's about five feet to their house. That's how I'm close to them. I can see their house very easily. What's the distance between the houses?
Beth Demme (24:54):
Sixty feet. Everybody has to have a 30-foot setback from their property line.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (24:59):
So, just to clarify. She lives in a neighborhood where there's neighbors but they're not right next to you. I live in a neighborhood where ...
Beth Demme (25:06):
There's distance, yeah.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (25:06):
Yeah. This is a pretty typical standard neighborhood nowadays where I live. The houses are close. We don't have a lot of big yards.
Beth Demme (25:15):
Whereas in our neighborhood, we have big yards and like I pull into my driveway, I open my garage with the garage door opener, I pull in. I turn my car off. I close the garage. I go in my house.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (25:26):
But even if you were in your driveway, I mean, I honestly had never seen that house before coming to your house. And I still haven't really seen it because you have to drive way past your house.
Beth Demme (25:36):
Yeah. And our driveway is on the left side of our house and their driveway ... I mean I'm sorry. Our driveway's on the right side of our house and their driveway is on the right side of their house. So, we don't even meet at our mailboxes because we're far apart.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (25:50):
Yeah. So do you feel like you went through a grieving process with the neighbor? And it may not be the obvious grieving process. My first thought goes to was there a process of realizing how almost losing your security, realizing ... because I know when it happened, I was a little nerve-racked like, "Wow, someone could just come to my door and murder me."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (26:21):
So I didn't know if there was some process that happened with that or if it was also the realization of the date for you that brought things back?
Beth Demme (26:32):
I do think there was a loss of a sense of security. That's a really good question, though, about whether or not I grieved that particular loss. It was interesting how the neighborhood itself reacted because it seems to be a group of people who are used to getting things done.
Beth Demme (26:54):
I mean, to be less charitable, we're a group of people who are used to getting our way. And so it was, okay, what are we going to do to make sure this never happens again?" We are going to act like this is within our control. And what are we going to do? Are we going to put up a gate and convert all these public roads into private roads because we think we can do that, whatever?
Beth Demme (27:16):
Where are we going to put cameras? What signs are we going to put up to discourage people? I mean, it was really like, "We need to take action because we need to feel like we're doing something."
Beth Demme (27:27):
So Steph, I've shared a lot of my grief experiences in this episode but what about you? I mean, you experienced actually the loss of both of your grandparents during COVID.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (27:39):
Grief is really an interesting topic to me because I feel like there are different types of grief. And grief is such a, I feel like it's something that is accepted in a lot of ways and understood in a lot of ways, the idea, the word but then the execution of actually going through grief or helping someone with grief, I feel like those things aren't as accepted.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (28:12):
And I think there are socially acceptable griefs. I think an easy go to for understanding someone going through grief is when a grandparent passes away. Of course, they're going through grief. How can I be there for them? I think those are very acceptable forms of going through grief.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (28:33):
And yes, I mean, I have definitely dealt with grief specially this year with both my grandparents passing away. But there's other types of grief that I feel like I've gone through that aren't necessarily easy to understand.
Beth Demme (28:49):
I definitely want you to unpack that. But before you do, I wonder when you lost your grandparents, if you felt like there was an expectation of how you would grieve because you said it's sort of the socially acceptable type of grief, "Oh, yes, of course, or sad when our grandparents die." But did you feel like people expected you to react in a certain way or maybe within a certain amount of time?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (29:16):
With my current grandparents that passed away, I truly loved them. Well, my [Pappo 00:29:26] had been sick for a long time. And it had almost become this point where it's like we had almost said goodbye to him for the last five years. It was one of those things where it's like, "Is this the last? Is this the last?"
Stephanie Kostopoulos (29:38):
And so, I had almost been grieving for five years at that process. And it almost been like, "Okay. Now, it's here. Now, it's officially here." But I didn't feel like there was anything socially that I had to connect to because I really cared about him. And he was just a very special person. And I felt like I did what needed to happen. I got to see him actually before he was gone. All these things, I felt good with that.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (30:11):
And same with my grandmother, I didn't feel like I needed to follow any social norms for that. And also, this all happened during COVID. And so, there was enough other stuff on top that there was nothing social that I was going to ... well, I didn't follow the social norm. I didn't go to the funerals. These are the processes. You go to the funeral. You do this.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (30:31):
And I didn't do that because it wasn't safe. And it wasn't smart to do. And so I grieved in my own way. And I didn't allow society to tell me this how you grieve. But when you say that, it reminds me of when my first sets of grandparents passed away. My grandmother on my dad's side passed away in '09, I think. And that was the first grandparent that had ever passed away.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (30:57):
And that was the first time where I really felt the social convention of how we grieve. I was working at Apple and you get a week off, bereavement pay, your get bereavement pay. And I flew there and went to the funeral. And that was the first time where I really felt like this is the process that I'm supposed to follow. But I had not seen her in a very long time.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (31:25):
There are some very complicated stuff with that, too, that we don't need to unpack today. But that just felt more of this is the process.
Beth Demme (31:35):
Like going through the motions kind of thing?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (31:37):
Yes, this is the emotions I'm supposed to follow because this is what you do when someone passes away. And it was easy to do those things because I wasn't super connected to her at that time, if at any time.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (31:54):
And so, I did feel very like these are the social things. But then again, with my current grandparents recently, it was easy. It was easy to feel the things and go through the stages in the sense not that it was easy, but in the sense that I really did feel them. I really did feel sadness. I really did feel all those emotions.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (32:16):
And I still feel sad. My grandmother stayed with us for two weeks before she passed away. We didn't know it was the time. But my mom set this table up for her to eat meals at because it was easier to get to the other table. And that's still sitting there.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (32:36):
And still, every time I see them at my mom's house, I just remember my grandmother sitting there. And it's still like, "Oh."
Beth Demme (32:43):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (32:45):
Because it was a very important time. It was a very hard time. And just a lot happened at that table. But I don't ask my mom to move it because I still feel like as much as it was hard, I still feel like that is something ... I think those emotions are important to remember and to live in when I see that because I think that's part of the grieving process, too, is just have those memories and to remember that and all of that. I think that's all part of it.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (33:18):
I think I've gone well through the grieving process with that. I recently went to their old home and my Pappo had, in the garage, put together this ... in his garage, he had built the tiny room in his garage where he would work on stuff in the garage. It was this whole little cute little room he had made. I mean, he wouldn't call it cute but it was cute.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (33:41):
And that room needed to be disassembled because it just took up too much room in the garage. And so, I took down this room. And as I was doing it, I was realizing like, wow, the last time this was touched was my Pappo was putting it together. And now, I'm taking it apart.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (34:01):
And I just thought I was like, "I feel like he would be happy knowing his granddaughter took this apart." I think he'd be proud of that because he was very proud of what me and my mom do. So, that was a cool connection to him that I didn't even realize was going to come about during that time.
Beth Demme (34:23):
So you were saying how when your first grandparents died that that was your first opportunity to learn some of the going through the emotions and what we do when people pass away. And I remember that when my brother died because I remember my dad sitting at his desk and calling people to tell them what had happened. And telling the story over and over and over again and giving them information about when the services were going to be, visitation and funeral and all that.
Beth Demme (34:48):
Also, I went with my parents to make all of the funeral arrangements. So, I was there for picking out the casket. I mean, I was just dumbfounded how much things cost, learning that you have to bury a casket inside a vault which means you have to buy the vault. There's just all of those things that a 13-year-old would not normally know or need to know.
Beth Demme (35:12):
And then also, the way people came to the house and brought us food. And I'm not an adventurous eater. And I don't like potlucks. And so it was like, "Oh, no." All these strangers are bringing food and I don't want to be rude. And also, I'm hungry. And also, I don't want to eat any of this.
Beth Demme (35:34):
It is interesting what that process looks like when someone has died, the ways that we interact and the ways that we memorialize their life and things that you don't know until you go through it.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (35:51):
So does grief have a process? Is there a process we can follow for grief?
Beth Demme (35:57):
Well, people who have studied it have identified different stages of grief. But the more that we study it, the more we realize that it's a really individualized process, but there are some commonalities to it. So, probably people have heard of the five stages of grief, the research by Kubler-Ross. She was really working with people whose death where they were terminal. So, it was their grieving process.
Beth Demme (36:23):
And she found that the stages were sort of denial, "This isn't happening to me." Anger, "I can't believe this. I'm angry this is happening to me." Bargaining, "Well, maybe if I eat only organic vegetables from now on, this won't happen to me." And then depression, being sad about what's happening. And then acceptance, "Okay, this has happened and I can accept it."
Beth Demme (36:51):
Now, they sort of describe the stages differently. We learned all this when I was working at the hospitals as part of what we are learning was. So, there's shock comes before denial. And then after denial will come anger and frustration, and then depression. And then what they call testing which is sort of like bargaining but a little bit different.
Beth Demme (37:22):
And then people make a decision. And then it gets integrated into their lives. And I know that I described that like it comes one after the other, but they don't necessarily flow in that order and they're not necessarily linear. So, I shared about how my grief for my brother just waited for me.
Beth Demme (37:42):
So, in some ways, I had moved to acceptance but then, went all the way back to anger, depression. I had integrated it into my life but not in a healthy way. So I had to go back and redo some of that. And so, it's not neat and tidy. It's not like, okay, you have 30 days of denial. And then you have 45 days of anger. And then you have six minutes of bargaining. It doesn't work that way. It's different for everybody.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (38:17):
Do you think it's helpful for someone to know the stages or do you think it's more frustrating to be like, "Well, I'm supposed to be at this stage."
Beth Demme (38:27):
I think for me, it is helpful because I like to be able to label things and know, okay, other people have gone through this. And also, this is a process that leads to acceptance or integration. This is a process that if I move through it in a healthy way will result in healing.
Beth Demme (38:47):
So, I like knowing that but if people tend to be rigid about things or we might say legalistic and they think, "Okay. No, I can't go back to bargaining because I thought I was closer to acceptance," then that probably isn't helpful.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (39:07):
Yeah. I can see both sides of it. I can see it being helpful that when you're angry about something, you could realize, "Oh, okay, I'm going through the grieving process." And that could help settle your thoughts but I could also see it where, "Oh, I'm not on the stage I'm supposed to be," or, "I've already dealt with that stage so I'm not doing it right." I could see it being a hindrance for fully processing something.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (39:35):
So I think it's kind of a love hate knowing that there are stages. It almost becomes like a to-do list than actually fully feeling and going through it, moving through it.
Beth Demme (39:45):
Right. I remember after my dad died, my mom, she had always been pretty resistant to the idea of counseling. But after my dad died, she realized that she really could use some help and so she went to a grief counselor. And the grief counselor worked with her for a few months and then suggested that she find a grief group that she would meet with some other folks who were recently widowed. And that she could go through the journey with them.
Beth Demme (40:11):
And it makes me chuckle because after she met with them just once or twice, she said, "I got to tell you, I'm doing a lot better than those other widows." I was like, "Mom. I get that you're very achievement oriented. I totally get that. I love that about your personality. However, this is not really that kind of thing."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (40:31):
Beth Demme (40:31):
And they're allowed to grieve at their own pace. And you're allowed to grieve at your own pace. And it's not a race. And there's no prize for moving to acceptance faster than somebody else. So, different people definitely do approach it different ways based on their personalities.
Beth Demme (40:49):
You mentioned earlier about grieving different things that we grieve not just in times of death but that there are other times when grief can really hit us. Why don't you say more about that?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (41:00):
Yeah, it's hard to think of a perfect example. So back in my 20s when I learned about the abuse that had happened to me as a child, that was a whole process on its own, getting to that place and learning about the non-suicidal self-injury being attached to that.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (41:20):
But I do think there was a process I had to go through, a grieving process of grieving for the childhood, the innocence that was taken from me, grieving for the life that I could have had if this hadn't happened to me. And then there was just a lot of processing within that.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (41:39):
And I don't think that's a typical thing you think of with grief. I think it is usually tied to losing a person or something like that. But I think there's a lot of things that we can grieve that aren't necessarily socially acceptable things. I really feel like I've been grieving for over a year for the life I had before COVID.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (42:04):
And I feel like I'm at the acceptance place with it, with everything. I just recently went on a trip to Colorado. And that was a big, big step for me for accepting the life that is today and for learning how to live now, and not waiting for the day COVID has gone but how to live today. This is life. And not waiting for after but this is today.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (42:35):
And so, I feel like I have gone through that process which is interesting because I feel like I'm not solo in that. I feel like that's something that we as a society is probably grieving whether we're conscious of it or not. I feel like a lot of us are going through that process.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (42:54):
I think everyone's grief comes out in different ways. I do feel like that's where it's such a divide amongst us with so many issues and things that should not be issues, and I should own them because they should not be issues. And there's in some ways I feel like this is all part of that grieving process.
Beth Demme (43:15):
I hadn't thought of it that way, but that does make a lot of sense that we had this time of bargaining, that we have had different forms of denial, that all of that is a grief response to the collective trauma that we've experienced. And so, I think that makes a lot of sense.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (43:33):
And I think there's people that are unwilling to accept this and are fighting the wrong fights because of it.
Beth Demme (43:48):
We have so much fun making this podcast. And we've heard from some of you that you're wondering what is the best way to support us. So we've decided to expand the podcast experience using buymeacoffee.com. You can go there and buy us a cup of coffee or for Steph a cup of tea.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (44:03):
Beth Demme (44:04):
Or you can actually become a monthly supporter and that will give you access to PDFs of the questions for reflection, as well as pictures, outtakes, polls and more.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (44:13):
The kinds of things that we would put on social media if we had a social media channel but we actually don't for the podcast because we decided from the beginning that we didn't want to add to more white noise in your life.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (44:23):
So, one of the great things about Buy Me a Coffee is that you'll be able to actually get an email when we post new content. You can go straight there and you don't have to deal with ads or being bombarded with other content. You see exactly the content you're looking for without a bunch of distractions.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (44:36):
We plan to post probably once or twice a week. And we're excited to get your feedback as members on our Buy Me a Coffee page which we are lovingly calling our BMAC page.
Beth Demme (44:46):
BMAC. BMAC page.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (44:47):
So you'll be able to find a link in our description to find out more and to sign up. Today's dog whining was brought to you by Mac. Yes, if you have heard any whimpering or whining during this episode, that is not Beth, it is not me. That is Mac.
Beth Demme (45:06):
It is not Steph.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (45:07):
I have gotten a great kids' sofa for my office because I thought it'd be so fun to have the dogs right next to me at my level so I could pet them. And I found out that it just makes Mac louder when she whines. She doesn't need a thing by the way. She's totally fine. She just whines when she wants attention and I gave it to her. So there you go. Win for Mac.
Beth Demme (45:31):
I got to say. I think that the whining distracts you way more than it distracts anybody else.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (45:37):
It distracts me plenty because I have to edit this and then I'm like, "Oh my, she just whined," because she knows.
Beth Demme (45:42):
She heard you.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (45:43):
Yeah. Number two, I wanted to mention that during this episode, Beth actually took a pretty big break to order her daughter a Chick-fil-A. So, my question for you, is that mother of the year or is that, "Oh my goodness, put your phone down?"
Beth Demme (45:56):
It's totally oh my goodness. It's totally oh my goodness.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (45:59):
What did you get for your daughter and her friends?
Beth Demme (46:02):
I ordered them some Chick-fil-A so they could just go and pick it up. I know, Mac. I know. I get it. I hear you.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (46:10):
Give me one example of the meal for the friend because this is the meal that if your friends say, "Hey, my mom will buy us lunch," this is the meal that you would order. Tell us what it was.
Beth Demme (46:20):
No. One friend wanted number one, a Chick-fil-A sandwich or whatever. Well, and then another one wanted a spicy chicken sandwich. But they all want milkshakes. They all want milkshakes so they get milkshakes. Milkshakes for everybody.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (46:34):
Soda and milkshake?
Beth Demme (46:36):
No. Come on, I'm not that ridiculous. You get one beverage.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (46:39):
Are you kidding? Is a milkshake considered a beverage or is that an add?
Beth Demme (46:42):
Yes. You can do it for a slight upcharge.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (46:44):
Oh my goodness. Wow.
Beth Demme (46:46):
But you know what? She's a senior. How many more times am I going to get to do something like this?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (46:52):
The rest of her life. She will be in school and be like, "Mom, could you ...
Beth Demme (46:56):
No, she can't be at school the rest of her life.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (46:58):
No. I know a bit like next year or when ... yeah, she's senior so next year, she's going to be in school.
Beth Demme (47:04):
She'll be in college.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (47:04):
And she's going to text you, "Mom, could you want to meet at Chick-fil-A? And you'd be like, "Of course, daughter."
Beth Demme (47:09):
That's right. And I might do it.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (47:10):
You will do it.
Beth Demme (47:12):
I did think that we would be done recording by the time she had lunchtime today, but I just talked so much that we weren't.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (47:18):
Beth Demme (47:19):
But we'll put a picture because Steph, of course, took a picture of me being distracted during recording. We'll put that on our BMAC page. And also, you get to see Mac too, the whiner.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (47:29):
The whiner. And I also want to mention, today is our 99th episode. Oh my gosh, we're pretty excited.
Beth Demme (47:39):
Wow. We have said so much.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (47:42):
A lot of words. And I don't like talking. So, it's a little much. Is there a way to quickly finding out who has said the most words? Would that take forever?
Beth Demme (47:50):
I think that would take forever.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (47:52):
That would be such a good assignment for you though.
Beth Demme (47:54):
No, I have another assignment. Thanks.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (47:56):
Who has said the most words? I don't know. It'd be interesting. Probably Mac.
Beth Demme (48:03):
Mac is the ...
Stephanie Kostopoulos (48:04):
I think Mac won, yeah, which is also Mac is my dog Greyhound, a Greyhound dog of the Greyhound variety.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (48:11):
So what I wanted to say, today is our 99th episode. We talked early on about doing something special for our 100th episode.
Beth Demme (48:16):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (48:16):
And we have made it happen. We are actually headed to ...
Beth Demme (48:23):
The happiest place on Earth.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (48:24):
... the happiest place on Earth. We are going to Disney World. So, we've been planning this for a little while now. And I'm very excited where we'll explain more when we're down there but we're going to take all equipment. And we're going to record, not in the park.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (48:39):
By the way, my nephew asked me. He was like, "Which ride are you going to do it on? It's going to be loud." I was like, "No, no. We'll record it in our hotel room." Don't worry about it. So we'll give all the detail when we're there.
Beth Demme (48:51):
That's right because we respect the people who listen to our podcast and we do not want it to be an audio mess.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (48:55):
Beth Demme (48:55):
You always do a really great job with that. So, the recording will still be on all those nice equipment. It just means we have to take it down there, but it will be fun. I'm really looking forward to it.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (49:06):
I'm excited. I'm very excited. We're going to leave Wednesday, go to Magic Kingdom. And then the next day, we're going to record the episode, a couple of episodes probably.
Beth Demme (49:14):
Right. And so, if you haven't joined our BMAC yet, you probably will want to do that now because we're probably going to put a lot of pictures and fun stuff on there.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (49:22):
We might even make a vlog, a vlog of our whole trip.
Beth Demme (49:26):
Whoa, but we're podcast which is an audio format.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (49:30):
I know. So we can do video.
Beth Demme (49:32):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (49:33):
I know. I know. In our mask the whole time.
Beth Demme (49:36):
Yes. Except in the room. Maybe not. I don't know. I don't have to wear mask when I'm sleeping, right?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (49:41):
No, you do. You're going to need to. Yeah, we'll discuss when we're there. Also, we're both vaccinated. I think we've made that clear.
Beth Demme (49:48):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (49:48):
And we're also both smart, as smart as you can be in today's day and age. So we're excited to do that. That is coming up. The next episode that you hear will be us at Disney. Not in the park. Again, we're not on a ride when we'll be recording the episode.
Beth Demme (50:05):
That's right because the next one is number 100. Triple digits.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (50:09):
At Disney, they have these buttons that says, "I'm celebrating." So we need to get an "I'm celebrating 100 podcast episode," when we get this when we're at Magic Kingdom.
Beth Demme (50:16):
Totally, I'm all for it.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (50:18):
Beth Demme (50:19):
I'm especially excited to go to Disney with you because I think you're like a Disney pro.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (50:23):
Yeah. She thinks that and yet I feel a lot of pressure because I'm like, "I am no pro."
Beth Demme (50:28):
Also, I haven't been in a long time, so I'm pretty easy to impress.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (50:32):
Okay, good. That's what I was waiting for. Easy to impress, I can do that. I'm going to make that happen.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (50:40):
At the end of each episode, we end with Questions for Reflection. These are questions based on today's show that Beth will read and leave a little pause between or you can find a PDF on our Buy Me a Coffee page.
Beth Demme (50:50):
Number one, who or what do you turn to for support when you are grieving? Number two, do you feel society places a timeframe on grief? Number three, have you ever found yourself feeling fatigued by someone else's grief? And number four, do you feel like the COVID experience has been one of collective trauma? How have you personally experienced grief?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (51:16):
This has been the Discovering Our Scars Podcast. Thank you for joining us.
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Mental Health Advocate. Author. Podcast Host. DIYer. Greyhound Mom.
I'm a mom who laughs a lot, mainly at myself. #UMC Pastor, recent Seminary grad, public speaker, blogger, and sometimes lawyer. Learning to #LiveLoved.