Grief is something that we all must face; yet nobody ever wants to talk about it. According to the author of the only grief support book written by a teenager, Bridget Park: “death is the skeleton in the closet that nobody wants to bring out. It makes us uncomfortable. This is why it is always awkward when talking to someone who is grieving.”
During the TEDxUniversityofNevada 2014 talks, emerging from grief and pushing through to hope was a common theme. From Bridget’s painful account of losing her brother to suicide at age 12, to local Reno news anchor Wendy Damonte’s tragic experience losing her mother too soon to breast cancer, to Elizabeth Smart’s story about the loss of her innocence after being kidnapped at just the age of 14, there were at least three talks that focused exclusively on an initial shocking experience that subsequently led to deep sorrow, introspection, and eventually, emergence.
In listening to these talks you will hear three remarkable stories of how others have pulled themselves through the process of loss, dealt with their grief, and emerged out the other end as not only winners, but advocates for change. Through their work, all are making a difference in the lives of countless others today.
For example, when Park discovered that her brother had taken his own life after stumbling across her brother’s body, her world fell apart, and her family was broken. Through sorting out her own grief as a young teen, she turned to writing, and produced the highly acclaimed book Growing Young: A Memoir of Grief. In the book she details the last day she would see her brother alive, the process of accepting what had happened, dealing with her own sadness and anger, and feeling like nobody understood. In her talk she challenged the audience to “think about the way you comfort someone and to be more aware of the impact you really do have on them, because the way you comfort someone, can make a really big impact on how they feel.” Bridget Park’s talk is an important one, that no one should miss.
Next, Wendy Damonte shared the account of her mother’s harrowing journey through breast cancer. Because her mother wanted to document what the effects of cancer really look like to help others who are going through the process, Damonte followed her experience on camera and eventually created a tear-jerking documentary to show others what the reality of her mother’s true experience was like. Damonte did a beautiful job crafting the film, which went on to win awards and was even nominated for an Emmy. Despite losing her mother too soon, she was able to work through the grief to produce a film that would go on to eventually comfort, benefit, and educate others about the realities of breast dense tissue, also eventually leading to the passage of new legislation that would help others manage more positive health outcomes.
In Elizabeth Smart’s talk she outlined the horror of her kidnapping, how she was eventually returned to her family, and how the process of sharing her story with others has helped other victims through the process of healing. Smart opened her talk with the statement: “I know every single one of us have our own personal challenges and trials, and there are days when we wish that we didn’t have to get out of bed … but we all have a choice to make. We have the choice to stay in bed and keep the covers pulled over us, or we have a choice to move forward.” In 2013, she published the book entitled My Story. Nine years following her safe return, Smart has transformed from victim to advocate, traveling the country and working to educate, inspire and foster change. In addition to being a frequent public speaker, she has also created the Elizabeth Smart Foundation to help prevent crimes against children.
Now, no talk on grief would be complete without taking the time to listen to Neal Petersen’s inspiring talk about “turning your baggage into a treasure chest.” As an adventurer, award-winning author, and natural born storyteller, Petersen encourages us all to use our experiences to navigate through the toughest of challenges to build a treasure chest of hope for the future.