Finding Strength in Community Through Loss
In today's podcast, Molly talks with Megan about grief and the importance of having support. Megan is an incoming college freshman from Pembroke, New Hampshire. Following the deaths of two close friends, Megan dealt with grief at a young age. Megan asserts that it is healthy and normal to mourn, no matter how long that takes. Through these difficult losses, Megan has found support through her community and learned to value precious time with loved ones.
Disclaimer: the information shared here reflects the opinions of the speaker and do not reflect the views of the Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs.
Content warning: the following episode covers sensitive topics such as suicide, depression, and OCD.
Molly: So thank you, Megan, for joining us today. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself? Maybe your age, where you're from, anything like that?
Megan: Sure. I'm Megan, I'm 18 years old, I just graduated high school and I'm from a little town in New Hampshire called Pembroke. It's right near our capital of Concord.
Molly: So, I'm interested in learning a little bit about your story, I'm really interested in kinda ... What are some of the things you've faced in your life that you've really experienced and how they affected you? I know you talked a little bit about losing some really close people that are ... had a big impact on you. How does really shape who you are and your experiences in life?
Megan: Yeah, so when I was 13 years old, a really close friend of mine that I had as a child, she was diagnosed with Leiomyosarcoma. So that, I mean, is a lot as a 13-year-old kinda flips your life upside down when you realize that your best friend is severely, severely ill. And then when she was, or a little bit before her 14th birthday, I had just turned 14, she passed away after a 10-month battle with the illness. So that threw everything for a curve-ball at 14, like trying to understand mortality and just this whole idea that we can lose the people we love.
Megan: And then, fast forward two years. My sister's best friend was diagnosed with brain cancer and passed away a year later, so not only was I grieving again, but also watching my sister grieve, as a 12-year-old this time, really, really changed the way I think about things.
Molly: That's really interesting. How is that ... losing these people, how is that really ... do you memorialize them, how has it affected maybe your every-day life? Or is it something that's kinda subsided as the years have gone on?
Megan: It's definitely taught me how to be more appreciative of the people I do have in my life and the things I have around me. Knowing that, you know, I have friends that didn't get to make it this far and I mean, it makes each and every day a bit more worth it to know that you've been granted, you know, another day on this earth and take it all in and just be appreciative of every moment you have.
Molly: That's great. I really like what you said, where it made you more appreciative of each and every day that you have with certain people in your life. So if you knew someone else who was maybe going through a similar like struggle or difficulty, what would you, like advice for them or something that you would encourage them to help them get through loss at a young age? 'Cause that is something that maybe not a lot of youth deal with, so when they do it is something that is very difficult I can imagine.
Megan: Yeah, it was extremely difficult because, like the girl I knew didn't go to the same school as me, so I didn't have like the community to grieve with me. But, definitely still, what was really important was reaching out to those friends that I did have, and explaining to them how grateful I was to have them and they were able to like help me and be there for me.
Megan: But just reaching out and talking to people. Like, it's so easy at that point to just shut yourself in and be like, you know, the world is terrible and bad things happen, but it's also like, it's hard, but you have to try and look on that other side and be like, yes, there are bad things in the world, but there are so many good things, and there are so many people I still have who are with me. I'm going to take this time with them and cherish it and be thankful.
Molly: Yeah, that's great. I love the way you put that. So if we were to go, like, back to that time, is there anything you would do differently or would you maybe try to spend more time with that person? I mean, what would be something that, maybe if you wanted to change the situation if you could, what would you do?
Megan:When we were younger, we were very, very close, and then kind of as grew older we were in different school districts, we grew apart a little bit. I wish we had maintained some of that contact. She was such a good person and such a bright person to be around, I wish we had kept that communication like we did when we were younger.
Megan: And then in the case of my sister's good friend, I wish I had done a little bit more to be there for my sister. When she ... I watched her go through that same process. Like it was hard for me 'cause I was also grieving, but I wish I had done more to help her and just be there for her, and help get her mind off of things and keep her, like, busy and you know, thinking about the good things she still had.
Molly:Yeah, most definitely. Kinda going off that a little bit, do you have the advice for maybe a youth who, maybe they're not experiencing that grief, but someone they know is? I think grief is such a hard topic to talk about, especially when you're younger. But how can we, as youth, maybe and be there for adults and other youth that may be also going through grief?
Megan: Yeah. First off, it is extremely difficult, it's very, very difficult to watch a friend or a close one going through that grieving process. Especially when you can't, I mean you can't always imagine ... you can't imagine that feeling that they're going through. It's just different for everybody.
Megan: I think the most important thing, though, is just be very vocal about the fact that you are there for them, and yeah they might be like, I'm fine, I'm fine, I'm fine with everything, kind of make sure that they do know that you're there for them and you know, spend some time with them. They're going to want to like, in some cases, might want to close and be isolated, which is perfectly normal. Make sure they're still seeing people and knowing that they're loved by other people.
Molly: That's great. Well, Megan, is there anything else you'd like to share with our listeners?
Megan: Ah, yeah, I would also ... not only talking, but making sure it's important to talk to like friends and family members, but if it ever does, if you ever feel just so stuck in a rut, don't be afraid to reach out to counselors or, if you're in school, there's always great psychologists available and counselors and there's also really, really great resources to use if you're just really, really stuck in a rut that helps just get on the other side of the grief that you're going through.
Molly: Yeah, we also have some great resources on the Youth Engaged for Change website, which is engage dot youth dot gov. That is also stuff that our listeners can look into, too. But thank you so much for your time, Megan, this has been great and I'm really excited to share this with our listeners.
Megan: Thank you so much for having me.
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