Yesterday I met up for coffee with someone who may very well be a colleague as a fellow grief-counselor, to ask her some questions about doing this work and all the tiny details involved. We sat there, two strangers both affected and changed by loss in completely different ways (she is a Buddhist, a minister, a doula, and a grief-counselor who specializes in working with the elderly and even runs a group for senior LBGTQ community. Now THAT is an underserved population, so she might be my new hero.) – both of us wanting to change the conversations surrounding death and loss.
I never would have imagined, in the years before loss crashed its way into my life, that helping others through their grief tsunamis and talking about death, would be the thing that makes me feel the most alive. I never would have thought that guiding others through processing their way through loss would put such a huge smile on my face, or that leaning into all the ways that death and life merge together every second of every day would fill me with such purpose, but it does. Life and death merged into my world on that ordinary Wednesday back in 2011, and things will never be the same. Life is strange, death is not as powerful as love, and here we are.
The dreams that I feel I was born with in my heart – acting, performing, doing comedy, writing, being on TV and on “Saturday Night Life” one day – they have not gone anywhere. Im still that person, and there’s always a part of me that longs for those dreams to still somehow happen or come true. But the realities of living and paying bills and no longer being broke as hell in NYC took over, and I had to shift my lifelong dreams into something different. I had to leave NYC and leave the life I had built there since I was 18 years old. It was HARD. It’s still hard sometimes. I havent seen my friends there since before the pandemic, and Im aching to go back for a visit. Ive done some stand-up comedy here and there, but not like before. Sometimes it hurts to feel left out of that world, where the auditions are taking place, where the people I became friends with in comedy classes at Caroline’s Comedy Club and Gotham, are now doing incredible things in the world of comedy, some of them getting their big breaks after so many years of working hard in the business. I’m so happy for them, and also it hurts at times to no longer be part of that world. I don’t regret my decision to leave though. It was time. I could no longer sustain that dream and that life. It had to be done. Sometimes things have to be done, and sometimes those things are really really hard to do, but you do them out of survival and exhaustion and in the hopes of a less stressful life. So here we are.
Now I’ve been back in my home state of Massachusetts for almost six years, and in that time I finished and published my book, I performed and now have a TEDx talk about loss that has gone viral with millions of views, I’ve done many talks on grief and loss; including my favorite one to do which is my comedic presentation at Camp Widow, I run 2 support groups/social groups for widowed people, I’m a Grief Facilitator at Circles, and now I’m studying the program that will give me my much anticipated certification in grief-counseling, and hopefully be on the path to a new career in my 50’s. I still do comedy, just in a different way. In April, I’ll be putting together and hosting a comedy night fund-raiser for “Alyssa’s Place”, a wonderful organization that supports the Recovery community. I’l be taking part in some virtual presentations about loss, and hopefully getting back to doing more Book-signing events and things of that nature soon. Im making a name for myself in the widowed community, but also the grief community. It’s weird. It’s exciting. It’s life.
And on the personal front, I spent the first five years or so after my loss just simply trying to put the pieces back together. Trying to learn how to live again, figuring out the WHY of living again instead of existing, and telling myself that Don was the love of my life and I will never ever want to be loved by anyone else. Until, of course, I did. Things changed. I changed. This version of me wanted to be loved, and to give love back again. So I went out there and dated, and it was terrifying, and sometimes fun, and always bizarre. And in the end, which is also the beginning, I found my next great love story. We fell in love fast, moved in together during a pandemic, bought a house in the weirdest real estate market of all time, and got married on New Years Eve, a day that had forever been so depressing for me in many years before. These days, I feel lucky enough to have been loved by two incredible men; one who is no longer here in physical form but whom I will be connected to in all things love forever, and one who is my husband right here in this beautiful life that the two of us have built together, and continue to build. Loss is so difficult, and sometimes life is too. But I love the idea of always growing, always evolving, and always shifting into new adventures, better communications, and more ways and more people to love.
I’m so excited for this next adventure, and to find more ways to help more people.