Discussion Questions for Jayson Greene: The Language of Grief
1. Kate begins her conversation with Jayson by asking him to read, rather than tell, the story of how his daughter, Greta, died. What did you hear in listening to Jayson’s opening reading from his New York Times op-ed? What do you know about sharing a story too tender for words?
2. Jayson describes the moments leading up to his daughter’s death—when the impossible becomes possible—as being imbued with a strange clarity in which “you can hear every thought landing.” Have you or someone you know experienced this kind of clarity in the wake of calamity? What was it that became clear? How did the body see, hear, smell, taste, or experience this clarity?
3. There is no word in the English language for parents who have lost their children. Jayson wonders whether that speaks to a religious or magical belief that naming something gives it power. Why do you think such a word does not exist? What do you think would happen if one did?
4. Immediately after his daughter’s accident, Jayson begins searching for something or someone to blame. Can you remember a time when you turned to blame as a balm for sorrow? What was re-assuring about the blame? What was limiting about the blame? What came after the blame?
5. Kate notes the different expressions of grief in Jayson’s memoir, Once More We Saw Stars. For instance, Jayson’s grief took on words while Stacy’s, his wife, took on a color. What have the expressions of grief looked like in your life? If you’ve shared grief with someone else, what did you notice about the differences in your displays? Did the differences make you feel more/less connected?
6. Grief is a language of love, Jayson says, but so too is it a language that requires listening to the non-verbal. What is the language of grief in your family/cultural/spiritual tradition? What aspects of your traditions feel most life-giving? What new traditions would you want to introduce?
7. Jayson defines first responder friends as the people who drop everything for you when the sirens are still blaring. Do you have friends like these? Have you been a friend like this? Share a short story about showing up for someone in a major way.
8. Although Jayson and his wife Stacy grew up in secular homes, after the death of their daughter they engage in what he describes as a series of “spiritual stumblings.” Have you ever experienced a season of spiritual stumblings, where something less like belief and more like overwhelm, compelled you to search for meaning? What did you try? What did you find? What found you?
9. The decision to have another child came from a soft place, Jayson says, not a hard or defiant one. What do you know about the soft place of love after loss? How did hope sneak up on you?
10. The most powerful letters Jayson received after writing his New York Times op-ed piece on Greta’s death were from adult children who were born after their parents had suffered the loss of a child. Through them he learns that “your fear is meaningless” to children, and that our job is to make them believe that although the world is a dangerous place, it is also a welcoming one. Do you believe this to be true? How does this belief compel you to make brave choices when there is no going back?
Bonus: After listening to this week’s podcast, what part of Kate and Jayson’s conversation resonated with you most? What insight will you carry with you?
Discussion Questions written by author, editor, and facilitator Erin S. Lane (ErinSLane.com).
For more discussion questions and helpful resources, visit KateBowler.com.
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