National Grief Awareness Day

National Grief Awareness Day is on August 30thIt is a day to draw national attention to those grieving a loved one.  Those grieving need to feel supported.  A grieving person often feels like nobody understands what they are going through.  Oftentimes, I wonder why grieving people feel so alone and isolated in their grief.  Perhaps it is because our culture brands showing emotion as a sign of weakness, especially sadness.  However, I am not an expert, so I don’t know the answer.

If every time someone asked me how I was doing after John died, and I had replied, well I am sad, that answer probably would have made some people uncomfortable.  My hope is that National Grief Awareness Day will bring attention to allowing our friends and family members who are grieving to heal within their personal time frames and be supportive through that process.  What support means to me is listening without judgment, but support can be offered in multiple ways.

Navigation of Grief

I am still learning how to navigate through my grief process in order to fully heal my mind and body.   

I am still learning:

  • Who I am without John.
  • That healing from grief cannot be rushed.
  • How to handle being overwhelmed.
  • Ways to continue resolving grief.
  • That it is OK to love again.

The process of re-discovering who I am without John has been an interesting and sometimes difficult journey.  I am not the same as before I married John, but I am also different than when I was married to him.  John and I lived in my house for 17 years and all my memories associated with the house can be really overwhelming sometimes.  Being at home for months during the pandemic has exacerbated these overwhelming feelings for certain.  Currently, I am making changes so I know this is my house with just me and my daughter living here now.

Music is Calming

Music soothes me when I am overwhelmed.  I have been listening to some older songs lately.  Alanis Morissette was one of my favorite musical artists in the 90s.  John was also a fan.  She wrote a song called, Hand in My Pocket.  My personal interpretation of her song is that there is always going to be a sacrifice for everything in life.  There is no perfect balance, but you need to hold on to your true self and stay steady with ‘one hand in your pocket.’

Nobody has the secret to life in their pocket, it is up to you to shape your life into what you want under the circumstances you have.  It is inevitable that life’s circumstances will change multiple times as you move through life.  Part of the lyrics from the Hand in My Pocket song say, I’m sad but I’m laughing, I’m brave but I’m chickensh*t.  And then she sings, and what it all comes down to is that everything’s gonna be fine, fine, fine.  Generation X readers might have been singing that song to yourself. 

Morrissette’s lyrics are relatable as I continue to learn how to resolve my grief.  I am still sad about John’s death, but I am happy with a new love and he makes me laugh.  I am brave for surviving all the trauma I have faced, but at the same time a chickensh*t fearing all that I have yet to handle.  Being a widow has brought out fears that I never knew I had.  I am working through all of this and I will continue saying everything is going to be fine, fine, fine, because I always have hope for a future full of happiness and love.


Northern Virginia has been Jennifer Carstens’ home since she was a teenager. She met John when she was working at the D.E.A. Headquarters in Arlington, VA, during the summer when she was in college. Honestly, it was love at first sight for both of them. He had a way about him that made her feel like everything was going to be okay. They were married 4 years later and lived happily for the next 21 years. While their lives were not
flawless, they were close to perfection. Their daughter had just turned 16 when tragedy struck on March
11, 2017. John was healthy and happy, but suffered a massive brain stem hemorrhagic stroke. Much to
their horror, he slipped into a coma, and would never wake again. He was 49-years young. Their daughter
is now 18 and they are still piecing together their ‘new normal.

Jennifer believes he would be proud of the ways they are moving forward. They continue to seek peace and healing through humor, love, and sometimes tears.