What a delightful young woman! She came online for one of my classes a week or so ago and, at her request, we met again individually a few days later. It turns out we have much in common, despite the generational difference between us. We are both grief advocates, women that know that through the struggles of grieving the loss of a loved one, and helping others on their grieving path, we receive immense gifts of wisdom and strength that become useful to our future lives.
Melanie is a slender 20’s something woman whose father died suddenly and unexpectedly from a heart attack a couple of years ago. She had been living and working overseas at the time the tragedy occurred and she seemed to know instinctively that grieving should not be done alone. She interrupted her own life and moved back to the states to be closer and more helpful to her family. Other family members made life changes as well. Her mother retired, sold her house, and moved in with a sister who needed her help.
Grief’s need for companioning makes it important to also connect with people who share the type of loss you have experienced, but for young adults, that isn’t easy to find. Melanie shared how losing a parent seemed to separate her from many long-term friends, and new people she would meet who hadn’t had her experience. “No fault of their own,” she said. “It was hard for them to imagine or understand what I was going through.” This led her to a program that seemed tailor made for her, and others of her generation-The Dinner Party. She became dedicated to hosting gathering and helping others. https://www.thedinnerparty.org/
The mission of The Dinner Party, according to their website, is to transform some of our hardest conversations and most isolating experiences into sources of community support, candid conversations, and forward movements using the age-old practices of gathering and breaking bread. Since the pandemic, rather than holding actual dinner parties, Melanie and other trained young people host online gatherings of grieving 20 and 30-somethings like themselves, helping them to find peer support and build lasting relationships. Since 2014 The Dinner Party platform has connected more than 13,000 grieving peers to one another including 2000 since the pandemic began.
One in three young adults ages 18 to 25 is grieving a close relative’s terminal illness or death
according to another social support program for young adults, HealGrief. This non-profit technology app maintains that “no one should grieve alone,” providing community support and connection “when everyone else goes away, and the real grieving begins.” Young people are invited to use their phones to access programs like, “Let’s talk about death” encouraging end of life conversations and taking the taboo out of death. Participants are encouraged to create an online memorial for their person and invite friends and family to add photos and comments to it. https://healgrief.org/amf-app/
My new young friend and I talked about how grieving rituals in our country became such private matters after the last pandemic 100 years ago and with modern medicine death became so removed from people’s daily lives. We promised to stay in touch and share resources and discoveries we make as we go about helping ourselves and others with what I call The Art of Grieving. It seems we were both in agreement with the vision for the future expressed on the Dinner Party website – “that there will be a day when grief is free of stigma and silence and finding friends who’ve shared your experience is as easy as finding an AA meeting or a yoga class.” I’m not sure I’ll live to see that day, but my friend most surely will.