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Remembering a Life Podcast


When a loved one dies, honoring their memory is one of the most meaningful ways to ensure their legacy lives on. Join host Holly Ignatowski and end-of-life experts for thoughtful and meaningful discussions about ways to remember a life, grieve and support others. New episodes are released the second Wednesday of each month.

Claire Bidwell Smith, therapist, grief expert and author of three books, returns to the Remembering A Life podcast to talk about her book The Rules of Inheritance, a memoir about the years before and after the deaths of both of her parents. In this episode we explore the unique grief that follows the death of a parent and how Claire, having lost both parents by age 25, began and continues on her complicated grief journey. We’ll also talk about how she keeps the memories of her parents alive for herself and her children who were never able to meet their grandparents.

Doug Middleton, a free agent safety in the National Football League, played college football at Appalachian State and signed with the New York Jets as an undrafted free agent in 2016. Following the death of his best friend AJ by suicide, Doug embarked on a mission to raise awareness of the importance of taking care of one's mental health, concentrating on the African-American community and student athletes. To that end, he founded Dream the Impossible (dreamtheimpossible.org). The work he does is inspiring and is making a difference in the lives of thousands of people.

We often think about to whom we will leave what we consider our most valued possessions – our jewelry, books, artwork, or other meaningful items – after we die. But what about our personal values, the lessons we’ve learned, and our dreams for others? Dr. Barry Baines invites us to consider how writing an ethical will can help us put our values on paper and leave a lasting and meaningful legacy.

Inspired in the early days of the pandemic by the image of refrigerator trucks in Queens holding the remains of people who had died of COVID-19 and haunted by thoughts of who would be helping the survivors begin to cope with such unfathomable loss, Teresa (Terry) Schreiber Werth set out to give them a voice. Terry collected their stories, and little more than a year later, the compilation of essays was published. The stories resonate today as much as they did in early 2020. Most importantly, these stories give us hope. Terry joined us for a discussion about love, life and loss during the pandemic.

Young mourners can often feel a bit lost at a funeral, but there are meaningful ways to help them say goodbye to their loved one and to honor their grief. Funeral directors Lanae Strovers and Melissa Posey Loose experience first-hand how the death of a loved one can affect children, and how involving them in the funeral or memorial service can help them move forward on their unique grief journey.

When neurosurgeon Dr. Joseph Stern’s sister, Victoria, was diagnosed with leukemia, it turned his world upside down – both personally and professionally. In his book, Grief Connects Us: A Neurosurgeon’s Lessons on Love, Loss, and Compassion, Dr. Stern invites us on the journey through his sister’s illness and death, eloquently capturing the hope, uncertainty and heartbreak experienced by so many families when faced with the terminal illness of a loved one. The incorporation of Victoria’s journal entries throughout the text gives the reader additional insight into not only her renewed bond with her brother, but also her own fears and vulnerability. Throughout, a strong thread of hope weaves throughout their individual experiences, further strengthening their relationship and, ultimately, connecting them in their grief.

Personal Effects

As a recovery expert, Robert Jensen has the unimaginable task of recovering human remains and personal effects at the sites of the world's largest mass fatality events, including terrorist attacks, natural disasters and fires. He joins us to talk about his unique career and how his work has taught him how recovering the dead can teach us how we can better care for the living. His book, Personal Effects, is an unsparing, up-close look at the difficult work Jensen does behind the yellow tape and the lessons he learned there. The chronicle of an almost impossible and grim job, Personal Effects also tells Jensen’s own story, how he came to this line of work, how he manages the chaos that is his life, and the personal toll the repeated exposure to mass death brings, in becoming what GQ called “the best at the worst job in the world.”

Faith and Grief

It's not uncommon for people to struggle with their faith after the death of a loved one. This month's podcast episode invites us to explore our grief through the lens of our faith and how our faith may be tested during this difficult time. Shelley Craig from Faith & Grief Ministries also encourages listeners to consider how they can honor their loved ones through faith-based practices and traditions.

Grief During the Holidays

The holidays can be difficult when we’re grieving – or supporting someone who is. Alex Mammadyarov, a writer and psychotherapist specializing in grief, joins us for a conversation about the challenges of grieving during the “happiest time of the year” and how we can continue to move forward in our grief during a time when family and friends are gathering to celebrate.

Remembering A Life is honored to share the stories of four funeral directors who, with scores of their colleagues, helped families, communities, and our nation begin to heal after the September 11 terrorist attacks. Whether they supported families, helped identify remains or held services for loved ones, funeral professionals are among the humble, unsung heroes of this unfathomable tragedy.