How Do You Go from Grief to Joy?
Issue 206 — September 12, 2022
I’m writing this on 9/11 as the names of those who lost their lives are being read, and the commentators point out that people born less than 21 years ago would not be able to answer the question of where they were on September 11, 2001 when the nation came together in grief.
Where were you? I was awaiting a breakfast appointment in New York when suddenly cell service stopped, my appointment didn’t appear, and, not knowing exactly what had happened, I walked home to a changed world, little knowing just how changed it would be.
For so many, the wounds of loss, injury, and consequential aftereffects still remind them every day of what they lost on that day.
This week, if you’ve turned on television or checked your social media, you know that grief is the story of the day. Since Queen Elizabeth II’s passing on September 8, news of her life, her family, and her leadership have saturated the ink and airwaves. Many people in the United Kingdom and around the world are mourning the queen, whereas others see the expressions of grief as much more complicated, given British history of colonization and the anachronism of monarchies in general.
Each of us processes grief differently and in our own time.
For me these musings are raw and personal right now. The July 17 death of my husband Alex Barbanell is fresh and sharp for all of the family. I am experiencing a depth of mourning for which one cannot prepare; this makes me realize just how personal and individual grieving is. Even though he was only a few years younger than Queen Elizabeth, many of our friends and family have said he seemed so much younger than his almost 92 years, and we can’t imagine a world without him.
Yet as with Queen Elizabeth, there is a measure of joy in appreciating that her long life brings with it reasons for celebration, even joy, as people consider her legacy of service to the country and in Alex’s case to his many social justice causes and tour guiding at the American Museum of Natural History.
I’ve been blessed with the kindest condolences from so many people. And there are many who have spent time with me, fed me (food being a high form of love among my family and close friends), and checked in with me frequently. It has been helpful to have my meaningful work for Take The Lead, the mission and movement for gender parity that I am most passionate about.
A phone call that helped me turn my grief into joy through legacy.
My dear friend Dede Thompson Bartlett called me to say that she wanted to honor Alex by making a donation in his honor and challenging others to do the same. We discussed the use of these funds and agreed that naming Take The Lead’s annual Leading Man Award for Alex would be a start. This touches my heart, especially because it was set to be presented at the Power Up Conference on Women’s Equality Day, August 26, by one of his best men friends Leon Silver to another of his best men friends Vada Manager.
Then we considered how to expand on that legacy by expanding our programs for men, whose engagement we agreed is essential to the achievement of intersectional gender parity in leadership.
I’m grateful to Dede and excited to give all our friends and supporters the chance to join her in helping to fund a much needed enhanced program to engage men in the mission. We provide what I call “Gender Bilingual Communication” and aim to ramp that up. We plan to convene a group of male partners in parity to envision a program as effective as our 50 Women Can Change The World cohorts.
I know Alex would absolutely love this initiative. He was extremely proud of having received the Martin Abzug Supportive Spouse Award from the National Women’s Political Caucus. I told Dede how he had bolted up in his hospital bed and said, “You absolutely can’t cancel something like that,” when I suggested that I could cancel the Power Up Conference, scheduled for just six weeks after his hospitalization for what we already knew would be terminal.
But one of the many things he taught me was never to give up on something you have committed to, something you want, something you believe in. It’s your legacy, and delivering on it brings joy.
“Grief is the price we pay for love,” wrote Queen Elizabeth II, in her 2001 message to the American people in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.
To which I would add, joy is the result of creating of a worthy legacy for our loved ones. Thanks, Dede Thompson Bartlett for enabling us to create such a joyful legacy in memory of my beloved Alex.
You’ll all be hearing more about this initiative. Feel free to message me if you want the joy of being part of it.
GLORIA FELDT is the Cofounder and President of Take The Lead, a motivational speaker and expert women’s leadership developer for companies that want to build gender balance, and a bestselling author of five books, most recently Intentioning: Sex, Power, Pandemics, and How Women Will Take The Lead for (Everyone’s) Good. Former President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, she teaches “Women, Power, and Leadership” at Arizona State University and is a frequent media commentator. Learn more at www.gloriafeldt.com and www.taketheleadwomen.com. Tweet Gloria Feldt.