HOW TO PROCESS GRIEF & LOSS

By: JESSICA RICE & MIGHTY PURSUIT

When she was 26, Jessica Rice's life got turned upside down. She tragically lost her husband Jarronn in a motorcycle accident, just two and a half months after they got married. Few things are more tragic than losing your spouse instantly. In this episode of the Mighty Pursuit Podcast, we talk about grief, tragedy and navigating the complexity of moving forward. Mighty Pursuit: All right. Well, Jessica, thank you for being with us today. Jessica Rice: Thanks so much for having me. Mighty Pursuit: So I wanted to start by going all the way back. So you grew up in DC? Is that right? Jessica Rice: I actually grew up in Pennsylvania, the suburbs of Philadelphia. And then I ended up going to college in the DC area at the University of Maryland, and then did my master's at Georgetown. But my roots are in PA. Mighty Pursuit: So how did you originally meet Jarronn? Jessica Rice: So after graduating from college, I moved to the New Jersey area. I was living in central New Jersey, working my first corporate job out of college. And, my mother actually worked at that same company, and she had told me before I even came to work at that company that she had met this young man named Jarronn, that he had reached out to her. My mom had been at the company for decades, like 25 years. And this young, ambitious guy named Jarronn had reached out to her and wanted her to be one of his mentors. And she was asking me if I knew who he was. I had interned at the company prior to going to work there full time, and I was like, it kind of sounds familiar. But when I actually ended up getting to the job, I got to meet this guy. But it's kind of funny the circumstances around it because, my mom would tell you that, when she did meet Jarronn, she was thinking, man, this is the kind of guy that Jessica should be with. But she never really said that to me. Never shared that with me. Just kind of like, tucked that away in her mind. Jessica Rice:So anyway, when he and I met working at this company, my boss and a lot of the other ladies in the company, you know, like that lunchroom chatter, they were talking about how handsome he was and how ambitious he was and all these different things, which is pretty funny. So I initially got introduced to him by hearing different things about him, but then we were just fellow young people. I had friends again who knew him. And so we connected just as friends initially, working in the same company. But it wasn't long before I realized Jarronn and I, we lived really close to each other. And so, just as friends, we would hang out a lot. We were both kind of in our early 20s, trying to figure out how to cook for ourselves and be full adults. And so a lot of times we would cook something and then invite the other person over to watch The Apprentice, which was in its first season, and share whatever, I know way back, and share whatever food, and attempt something delicious that we had made. And so we really just started out as friends. And, it was probably about a year of us being friends and kind of doing that whole thing of I like you and you like me, but nobody's saying anything that we actually did start dating. And that was, we met in 2004 and started dating in 2005. Mighty Pursuit: And so what was the whole proposal story? Jessica Rice: Wow. So the proposal story was that in 2008, we had gone on a trip to Jamaica. We were visiting, I guess, in the summertime of 2008. And, it's funny because before we went on that trip, I had a coworker who was asking me, "oh, so, like, you think maybe Jarronn is going to pop the question?" And that hadn't really been on my radar because we were going on a trip, maybe that would be a time that he would propose. But then that coworker kind of put that bug in my head. And so we were there and we had been there for maybe a week. And I remember us being on the beach and me thinking, okay, there's been no proposal. What is going on? Mighty Pursuit: So you were like waiting? Jessica Rice: So I was all of a sudden now waiting and thinking like, what is going on? But I was like, you know what? It's fine. If it's supposed to happen, it will happen and it's fine. So anyway, that very night, we got home to my mom's house and we were just in her living room, and we were looking at photographs, actually, of the previous year that we had been there. And there's this incredible lookout that you just see so much of the Caribbean Sea. It's up on a mountain. And we'd been there multiple times in our trips and like been there when it was a crazy full moon, been there when it was the most outrageous sunset. Mighty Pursuit: So like a special spot? Jessica Rice: So it's a special spot. And we had tried going there during this particular trip, but it was overcast and it was just not as great. So we were looking at pictures of the previous year of that amazing sunset and being up there, and how it was just this perfect moment. And as I'm looking at the screen, I kind of turn around. My mom turns around and he's down on one knee and he's just kind of talking about how perfect of a moment that was and how much he wanted to create more perfect moments together. And so he proposed. My mother was over the moon that she got to be there and witnessed the whole thing. She didn't know it was going to happen. But with it happening in her house in Jamaica, it just was the icing on the cake for her. And so, yeah, we were just excited. Just excited. That was 2008. Mighty Pursuit: So, what made you fall in love with him? Jessica Rice: That's a great question. I think. Jarronn was an incredibly magnetic personality. He was charming. He was funny. He was confident. He was.. he had just a zest for life. He loved food. He loved to travel. He loved music. He played the saxophone when he was... Or the drums. The saxophone when he was younger. He was, if you look in his high school yearbook, engaged in every single spirit week, like he took it seriously and went all in. And it was kind of funny because you would think that this guy who's kind of cool would not engage in that kind of thing, but he was just full of life. And so I think what I really loved about him was just how, I guess, multidimensional he was, that he could kind of move between different circles of people and find connection with all of those different people. And, yeah, in many ways, he kind of reminded me of the best qualities of my father, my own dad, and I think I was a little bit wowed, honestly, that I could feel so strongly about a person and really not just care for them, but really be more deeply invested in what his future and long term relationship, with a person could be. So, I guess up until that point in my 20s, I was like, yeah dating is cool and whatever, you know, we'll see. But then it was meeting him and I was like, oh, I really like this person. I really connect with this person. And I really would love to see this relationship flourish in a way that I hadn't felt before. Mighty Pursuit: So what was the wedding like? Jessica Rice: So the wedding was very picturesque, if I do say so myself. We were in Chevy Chase, Maryland, and we were at this Audubon Society mansion, a historic home. And they have a grove that's off to the side of the mansion. And so I walked down from the main house, and as I was coming down the aisle, it's set outside. We had 175 of our dearest friends and family. It seemed like on cue, the deer popped out from the forest to take it all in and observe us as we recited the vows that we had written, to each other. His uncle officiated, and it was just a really beautiful ceremony. I didn't get to eat the food that I had picked out, because I was just dancing, talking, all the things. And, we just had people coming up to us over and over just saying how beautiful it was. How much purpose there seemed to be in our union. How beautiful it was for the two families to be blended together. So it was, it was a great day. Mighty Pursuit: So what were those first two months like? Jessica Rice: Yeah, those first two months were great because he worked as a pharmaceutical sales rep. And so he would drive around and call on doctors, visit different doctors. But he had a pretty flexible schedule. And I worked in DC. We lived in Maryland. I would take the train in and out of the city for our commute. But generally, he would usually be home when I would get home. And so I would come through the door and he would kind of run into view and greet me. And it was such a sweet time of being excited to see each other at the end of the day. It was great. Mighty Pursuit: So he had a motorcycle, right? Jessica Rice: Yes. He loved riding his motorcycle. Mighty Pursuit: And so you originally rode the motorcycle with him? Jessica Rice: I did, yeah. So when he and I were just friends all the way back in 2004, 2005, he told me about how much he wanted a motorcycle and that it was a dream of his that he'd always had. He loved riding his Schwinn bicycle when he was a teenager, and he could not wait to get a motorcycle as an adult. And so I knew him as he went and did his road test, his like training, how he found the bike. At one point it got stolen. Then he got it back, I know, so there was just like a real thing with this motorcycle. And then he fixed it up. He would order parts. He was an electrical engineer so he could work on cars and bikes. And he had his candy shell painted in this bright orange. And he loved that motorcycle. And we would ride on it. We'd ride out to the Jersey Shore and we'd ride to friend's places on the weekends. And he loved that bike. What was interesting, though, was when we got engaged and we were leading up to our wedding, he usually would garage the bike in the winters. Anyway, where we live, we didn't have a garage. Our cars are parked outside, so he would go riding on the bike for the winters at a cousin's house and the weather was getting warmer. We got married in May and he hadn't brought the bike out and so I was asking like, "oh, so are you just not riding or what's going on?" And he was like, well, "I don't want to take it out until after the wedding. "Which in hindsight or even in the moment, I was like, well, this is kind of you're acknowledging that it's dangerous and you're trying to -- Mighty Pursuit: So he didn't want to take a chance. Jessica Rice: He didn't want to take a chance. He was like, this is the biggest day of my life that's coming. And I don't want to take a chance, and I don't want to bring it out and whatever. So I'll bring it out after the wedding. And I remember thinking at that moment, okay, on one hand, that's great that you're protecting this day. But I'm also thinking, well, what about all the other days that come after that? And so, yeah, but he loved that bike. And his friends, one of his best friends rode as well, and they had just their crew.

THE NIGHT JARRONN DIED

Mighty Pursuit: So there was this night in late 2009, July where he went out on his bike. Tell me about what happened that day. Jessica Rice: Yeah. So I came home just like any other day. He was there, greeted me excitedly. His godson and his best friend were there. They were playing on the Nintendo Wii in the living room. And, I was just kind of relaxing and decompressing from the day, and they said, oh, well, we're going to take my godson home, drop him off, and then we're going to hang out like a mile from where we live. In the shopping center where, you know, people just hang out and meet up with the other biker bros or whatever you want to call them. And, so he kissed me goodbye, said, I'll see you later. We'll have dinner. We'll have the cheesecake that he had brought home that was in the fridge. I didn't feel great, like physically my stomach was kind of upset and I was just thinking, I'll just take a nap and maybe I'll feel better when I wake up. Jessica Rice:So it was a little after 9 p.m. and the doorbell rings and I'm curious, who could that be? So I hop up and I open the door, and when I do, it's the girlfriend of the friend who had been over at our house earlier, and she tells me Jarronn had been in an accident. And immediately, I'm feeling that rush of panic kind of coursing from the top of my head down to my toes, and she quickly reassures me that. It's okay. He's fine, he's fine. He rode in an ambulance to the hospital, but he's fine. And she's like, if you put on your shoes, I'll give you a ride and I'll take you over there. So I am like, okay, great. Hop in her car. We're riding to the hospital, you know, and I'm kind of just. Trying to stay steady. I'm cracking jokes as I do, and we get to the hospital. We're first in the parking lot. And that friend again, who had been there at our place earlier, meets us, and he has tears in his eyes, and he tells us that, you know, he's in bad shape. He has, I think, a broken foot. And he was complaining about some chest pains. But he's going to be okay. He's going to be okay. And so I'm like, okay, well, let me just get into this hospital and check in and see what's going on. And, when I do, they quickly introduce me to a nurse, and that nurse shows us to a family waiting room. So, as opposed to the general waiting room, they take us through some doors and into a private room. And I'm kind of confused as to why we need a special room. There's a couple of his other biker friends who are there too, in that room. And the nurse, he's telling me, "I really just need you to be strong right now." And I'm like, okay. Yeah, I can be strong. That's fine. You know. Mighty Pursuit: The nurse was saying this? Jessica Rice: The nurses said that to me, and I'm like, yeah, I can be strong, no problem. He's like, yeah, just need you to be strong. And so then I'm like, okay, but I can be strong, but what do I need to be strong for exactly? Because my understanding is we're talking about a broken foot and we're talking about, I don't know, maybe a broken rib. What do I need to be strong for? And the nurse said, well, they're doing everything they can to keep him alive. And at that moment, I'm in that room. I am overwhelmed, of course. And I call my mom and I tell her mom, Jarronn's been in an accident. We need to pray, and we pray and,I hang up that phone and I say to the other people that are in that room, I say, Jarronn is going to be okay, because I am just so confident that he has so much to live for. And I mean, he just got promoted. He just got married. His whole life is ahead of him. Like he wants to do so many things. He wants to be an amazing godfather to this little boy who was just in our living room playing the Nintendo Wii. He wants to have kids of his own. Like he has to be fine. And I am just so confident of that. And a couple of minutes go by and we're just kind of sitting in silence in the room. Jessica Rice: And this time when the door opens, it's a doctor, the surgeon who comes in and he asks for me, and, I raise my hand and he tells me that Jarronn had a lot of internal bleeding, a lot of internal injuries, and that they had drained the blood out of his body and tried to give it back to him. But the stress of that and the strain had been too much for his heart. And the doctor just said, I'm sorry. And at that point, I just jumped out of my seat and I was like, no, no. I was saying no. Like I was a broken record. I couldn't stop being a broken record. Just saying no, no, no, that can't be true. You have to go back. And I'm like, pleading with the doctor, like you have to go back. You have to try again. You have to try to do something. And the surgeon just said, I'm sorry. And he leaves the room. These men in this room, his friends are covering their faces and crying. And I am just like, what is happening? And at that point, I had to make the hardest phone calls I've ever made in my life. I had to call his parents. I had to tell them. And the shock, you know? You know how? how? And so it's like my heart broke two more times. And then slowly but surely, I called some friends who came to the hospital, and his parents came to the hospital. And eventually I was even in this place of trying to decide, do I want to go back and see him? Like I just didn't know what state he was in. I didn't know what I wanted my final memories of him to be, his parents had gone and they had been with him and finally I felt like, no, I definitely need to go. And so I went in there and he looked like he was sleeping. I mean, he looked peaceful, but I also just had this overwhelming sense as I was standing there and looking at him, that both he and I, the best way I can describe it, were communing at the same time and being like, how in the world did we get here? Like, what is happening? And so eventually, I mean, more people were showing up at the hospital, and I had to leave. I had to leave the hospital. I had to go home. And I was 26-years-old and widowed, and it just felt like everything had shattered. Mighty Pursuit: I'm so sorry. How long were you married for at that point? Jessica Rice: We had only been married for two and a half months. Mighty Pursuit: And so you go home and what happened when you were at the house? Jessica Rice:That night I had a dream that I came downstairs into the living room and Jarronn was sitting there on the couch and I said oh my god, you're here. You know, like we thought you died last night, but you're here. This is just amazing. And then I woke up from that dream and realized, no, that is not reality. And my mom arrived. She had driven down from New Jersey, and my father arrived. He drove up from Virginia, where he was living. And. I mean, the next few days in some ways are a blur. In some ways I only remember this because I have looked at photos of this like we had a vigil, with a lot of friends, for him, close to where his accident had happened. There were always people at the house. They were trying to find a location where we could have a memorial service and figure out when that was going to happen. There were moments of me just not being able to eat. I think I lost 10 pounds in a few days. And there were even tense moments of really trying to navigate how to make sense of it all as a family. Like me, what I believed about the world and faith and our relationship in general. His parents having their own experience, his brother having their experience, aunts and uncles of his. And so it was just a lot. It was a lot of trying to figure it all out. And there were moments of tremendous sadness, a lot of tears. And then there were also flashes in that first week of moments of hope and clarity, like I would be there at the dining table, trying to pull together documents and figure out things for life insurance and all kinds of things. And I would just have this overwhelming sense of, this is crazy, but you are going to be okay, Jessica. Mighty Pursuit: Even in the first week you were feeling that? Jessica Rice: Even in the first week, it would last for 10 seconds. And then I would be back down into the depths of what is going on and why do I have to do this? And, you know, having been married for such a short time. We had hardly gotten to the place of even putting our house into both of our names. The house was still in his name. You know, I think I had maybe barely even changed my name legally. In terms of figuring out where paperwork and certainly not having conversations about what would you like your memorial service to be like? So it was just a whirlwind of time trying to figure out what am I doing and what would he want me to do in these moments? Mighty Pursuit: You started having recurring dreams in that time period too, right? Jessica Rice: It was like my subconscious. My conscience, I don't know. Everything was out of order and trying to make sense of what was going on. And so I would have these dreams, pretty regularly. And the scenarios or the details would kind of change. But the overarching storyline was kind of always the same of realizing Jarronn wasn't, in fact, dead. He was alive. He just had been on some business trip for six weeks, or he had been stuck in a remote place, like a cave in the middle of nowhere. And then I'm discovering, oh, he's not actually gone. He's here. And I'm grappling with like, okay, so how do we pick the pieces back-up and how do we continue and go on? And it was always that feeling of waking up in the morning and being like, no, that is not the case. And man, it was hard. I mean, waking up in the morning, having the reason to get up and get out of bed was a struggle. Because I guess, in my early moments, like my cry out, I can remember laying in the bed and just weeping, my mom standing next to me and trying to comfort me, and me really being like, I don't know who I am in this moment because so much of what I hoped and dreamed for, was wrapped up in this person, right? This was my person. We had made this vow to each other. We were going to do our life together. We were going to build dreams together. We were going to enjoy all the things together. And suddenly he's gone in an instant. And it just felt like the pieces, you know, we're all broken. And it's like, where do I even begin to put this back together? And who am I in all of this? When this future that I've imagined had this person in it, that person is gone. So what is the future for me? Jessica Rice: And, I was so grateful to have a really dear friend who, for the first several months, would call me in the morning, just to check in on me and give me almost a reason to wake up and talk to someone and get out of bed. We didn't have to talk about anything consequential, but just to have the rhythm of somebody calling me at 7 a.m. and saying, like, "Jessica, hey" was the impetus I needed to just even get out of bed and and and keep going. I mean, I was so blessed and fortunate to have a workplace that was very understanding and put no pressure on me to come back to work. I took a trip to Jamaica and probably within ten days after, once the memorial happened, I took a trip to Jamaica and there was something therapeutic about getting in an airplane, going up 30,000 ft in the air, and kind of almost getting above everything that was happening in the chaos of my life. From a metaphorical standpoint or whatever. I was like, nothing's really changing, but just even that elevation to get above it all was healing for me. But I remember also being on that plane and having a window seat and just crying the whole time, and that was my safe place to just lean against this window, look out this window, cry. And I imagined that the people in the row next to me were imagining I was going through like this lady who's crying for four straight hours on a plane, and then got to Jamaica and just went to the spot. Went to our spot, spread some of his ashes at our spot. Went on the water, cried in every place, doing all the things that I knew he loved and we had done together. Jessica Rice:And then came back and really went back into work because I felt like I needed to. I needed something to kind of put myself into so that I wasn't just lost in my thoughts and silence. But it was definitely this really rough journey of having to excuse myself and go into the bathroom stall and lock the door and cry. There were coworkers who would come up like, hey, do you have the... oh, and then they'd be stopped immediately, seeing that I was in the middle of a moment. And they were very understanding. But yeah, there was just it was moment by moment. It was just a moment by moment thing of, I'm just trying to get through this day and sometimes even the next 60 seconds, where I just feel overwhelmed. And it was also this crazy feeling. I remember riding the Metro in DC, walking to work, in DC, and feeling like people are going by me. People are picking up their bacon, egg and cheese sandwich. People are going to meetings. Doesn't anybody know that my world has just collapsed? Like it's such a weird feeling. I think when you go through such a significant loss like that, it's fully consuming. And yet the world is still moving. The world is going on. It's nobody's fault. It's not like the world should stop, but it's just this crazy feeling of how is everybody going about their business right now when the love of my life just died? So it was a wild time. Mighty Pursuit: People process grief in all different sorts of ways. But you started a blog like, very soon after that. Jessica Rice: Yes. Mighty Pursuit: So why did you do that? Jessica Rice: Yeah, a big reason was because I was getting a lot of calls and text messages from different people checking on me to see how I was doing, and I was grateful for that love and care and concern, you know, to be in your mid-twenties. Both me and Jarronn and a lot of our friends are the same age. For many of us, no one had experienced a loss like this, even a close friend or whatever does dying suddenly. And so, there were a lot of people who were reaching out and just worried about me, but it was to the point where it was overwhelming and I knew that I couldn't respond. I'm not good at responding to text messages on a good day, so I knew I couldn't respond all the time. And so I had actually read a blog, followed a blogger before all of this who was a widower and really was inspired by his writing. And so that kind of inspired me like, oh, this could have some good, some good aspects to it on multiple levels. One, it's a place where I can update people. If people can't reach me, they can just go to the blog and they can see this is how Jessica is doing today. But I always liked writing as well, and I was feeling like I just had so much swirling around in my head and I needed an outlet to get that out. And so what writing on the blog did was it forced me to kind of pluck one idea out of my brain and sit with it and process it a little bit, and put it out there and not try to sugarcoat anything. You know, I really tried to be clear from the jump that this was not going to be a space where I wrapped up every blog with, but everything is going to be okay or this is the good thing. It might just be the bad thing. It might just be the fact that I went to pick up the dry cleaning, and the woman who loved Jarronn asked, where's your husband? I haven't seen him. And I had to tell her that he had died. And, you know, just like the sadness of those moments. But what it did was it just gave me such a release, and I felt like once I did pull one thing out and spend some time with it, I made a little bit more space, and I got a little bit clearer in my brain to kind of navigate those days, that were just so hard.

PROCESSING COMPLEX EMOTIONS

Mighty Pursuit: So why do you feel like for a lot of people who are grieving, it almost feels just intuitive to kind of try to stuff your emotions? Because it seemed like you had kind of more of an opposite outlet to that. What would you say about the whole idea of stuffing your emotions and how that interacts with the grief process? Jessica Rice: My natural bend for most of my life was to rationalize my feelings. To say, does this feeling, which is really hard, like grief, sadness, anger, frustration, does this serve me? If it doesn't, why would I spend time sitting in it? Why would I spend time reflecting on it? Why would I invite that in? Wouldn't it be much better to think positively, to focus on the good, to keep it in, to keep going forward? And this particular loss was one that I just couldn't do that with. It was so traumatic. It was so great that I had no choice but to just kind of be devastated by it. And I think it was so overwhelming that I just didn't even have a choice. I didn't have a choice to stuff it down. I was like, it's here. And I can't deny it. But I think there were things that were perhaps less traumatic. My parents divorcing, for example, or other things that I definitely had feelings of grief around, friendships that maybe didn't work out. And those for sure. My tendency was just to say, well, yes, there might be grief, but if it's not going to serve me, I think we tend to compartmentalize and assign value to our emotions a lot of times. And those things that are difficult, again it's not that they're good or bad, it's just more so that they're challenging. But a feeling, whether it's a happy emotion or a sad emotion is just a feeling. And I think all those feelings are part of what makes us human. So if we can, I guess, perhaps get away from trying to assign value and judgment to our feelings, I think it becomes a lot easier to not stuff grief and sadness and pain and anger and frustration down so much. Mighty Pursuit: How would you prevent grief from crippling you? Because I think a lot of people in your situation like, I don't know, drinking or just going to drugs or almost anything to kind of take away the pain. How do you prevent grief from crippling you? Jessica Rice: I understand that too. I identify with the feeling of numbness and the desire to just continue that numbing. When the pain is just so real. I think one of the best solutions truly is community. I don't know how to navigate things that are this great grief that is that painful without some kind of connection to another person. Because I heard someone say whenever we turn to a substance or some kind of thing, it's not that we have a drinking problem or a drinking or a drug problem. It's that we have a drinking solution, or we have a drug solution. Like we are trying to fix the pain that we really feel. And I think what it is, is finding the healthier solution. I also think man to normalize the pain is really important. So I think too often people can feel the pain and assume something's wrong. It shouldn't hurt this bad. And so I've got to do something to fix it because it shouldn't hurt this much, when in fact, that pain is an indication of the beautiful thing that once was, and perhaps is no longer here. And so we can honor that and hold it and normalize that. It's going to hurt. It's going to hurt really bad. But there is this real value in sitting in that and not trying to rush past it, because all those emotions, we try our best to bury them. But buried emotions don't die. They just get buried alive and, and then they seep out into other interactions and other relationships. So just trying to make space and normalize that. Yes, it hurts. But I'm sure others have said this before. Oftentimes the best way is not around it and under it and over it, but like through it, and knowing that you actually might even expedite your process a little bit by facing that thing that scares you so much head on. Mighty Pursuit: You said that burying emotions will just kind of seep out. What did you mean by that? Jessica Rice: For example, if I am angry at Jarronn for riding his motorcycle, but I can't even get in touch with that emotion. I'm just like, it's not right to be angry at a person who's no longer here, for example. I've talked to a lot of people who wrestle with those negative emotions directed at a person who they love, who has died. Like, how do I do that? But the truth is I am angry. That bike was so dangerous and was this thing that he loved and was really committed to riding. I mean, but I'm like the story would likely be different if there hadn't been a bike there. And he was smart enough to recognize the danger of it and yet still was out riding. And so if I just bury that emotion of anger and don't acknowledge it and sit with it and wrestle with it, I just think that that builds up inside of me and it pours out in maybe not necessarily anger at somebody else, but bitterness or snarkiness or a chip on my shoulder or whatever it may be. Or the way that I judge other people. I just feel like those emotions, when not processed, someone is going to kind of feel them in some way, or my own thinking is going to experience it in some way. So the better thing is to look at that, put a magnifying glass to it and say it's okay to be angry and to make space too, for the range of emotions that we feel that I can still deeply honor and cherish Jarronn and who he was and also reconcile with that like he wasn't a perfect person. And there are things that I'm also upset about, you know? If anything, I'm just living more in reality when I do that. It's not that I'm dishonoring who he was or how special he was to me. Mighty Pursuit: You wrote in the blog, I often wish I could just jump out of my body and jump out of my life. I don't ever seem to get my wish. How long did that type of feeling last? Jessica Rice: It was probably very acute in the first couple of months, and then I think I would just have flashes of that throughout the first year, but maybe kind of tapering or coming in waves at different times. And yeah, just that feeling of wanting to run away from all of this. I don't want to have to be the woman, even, who walks into the room and gets the sad eyes from people because it's like there goes the widowed girl. I don't want to be the one who has to navigate the paperwork and figure out what I'm going to do with this house. Am I going to stay here? This was going to be our house. Am I going to stay? Am I going to leave? You know, so just so many things. And then and even holding space for all the people around me who were also grieving in their own way. His parents, his brother, his closest friends. I think more than any other season of life, I was presented with a whole bunch of things that I did not want to do, but I had to do, and the result was just feeling like, can I run away from it all? There's so much. Mighty Pursuit: You wrote a whole post on this idea of like, when nothing helps and so the idea that sometimes when you're grieving, you might get strength from hearing other people's stories. Then there's other times when you're just completely numb and literally nothing helps. And so, yeah, what would you say about the acceptance of those moments that there isn't always going to be some sort of comfort in the grief? Jessica Rice: I think probably when I was even writing that in that moment, it was a little liberating. And it was a little empowering for me to teach other people about what I was going through, because I felt like there were so many attempts, which were all well-meaning to comfort me. And there were words of encouragement. But I just also wanted to underscore for people, sometimes words are not enough, and sometimes this is just really hard. I found it to be, like I said, liberating for us all to recognize our limitations when something really bad has happened. We are such fixers, and we love a solution. And we love a bow to tie around things. And we love finding meaning in every single situation. And sometimes those things are just not there. And I think we would all do well to embrace those moments of mystery, of cloudiness, of lack of definition and real form and shape and I will do my best to comfort someone. Of course, this is not to say like, don't try to comfort the friend who's grieving, because sometimes things just won't help. Absolutely comfort the person who's grieving, but also recognize that that person has a journey to go on on their own, a wrestling to go on on their own. And sometimes words will fail. Sometimes that person, even though they got the gift basket or the fruit basket or whatever, will still be crying on the bathroom floor that night, and that's okay. It's the tension of it all.

SUPPORTING SOMEONE IN GRIEF

Mighty Pursuit: It makes me think of I think we have right brain, left brain, and both of those things go together, even kind of what neuroscience has revealed about that. But just the kind of reasoned, logical side. And then you have that kind of emotional side as well. And it's kind of like a dance between those two things. First of all, it's like when you're going through grief, you don't really know what to do. But then when you see somebody else going through grief, you don't know what to do with them. And so what would you say about how to help somebody walk through that process? Jessica Rice: Oh, yeah. It is such a hard thing to be present to a person who is in the depths of grief, and I don't know if we do enough to even acknowledge that. You know, I think we're always so focused on showing up the way we should and to be helpful, but we don't often just say, I'm sure it was very hard to be around me when I hadn't eaten for a week. I'm like, on my couch just crying. People are trying to give me positive things to say. I generally had to be in bed by 9 p.m., otherwise I would really go to a dark place. I mean, like, there are just things about me that were hard. I've had a friend who said, like, when you're grieving, you're kind of jagged around the edges, and then people are kind of trying to push up against you and be there to comfort you. But they might get sliced a little bit in the process. So I think it's worth acknowledging that. But then I do think we can often get so caught up in being perfect in how we respond to people that we miss the true heart of what it is that we need to do. Most of the times when people are experiencing a really significant loss. It's so incredibly isolating. I was describing walking down the street and kind of being like, yeah, does anybody know what's happening? Everyone's in their own world. And like, the world is still spinning even though mine is crumbling. Does anybody know what's going on? Jessica Rice: And so to just have the person who sits with you and doesn't have to have the right thing to say because, again, sometimes nothing helps and the words aren't really the thing. That means a lot to just have the person who will sit and be a presence and listen, maybe ask stories because you're thinking about that person nonstop, or bringing up memories that they might have with that person, like to just be a presence and sit there, and not feel like things so much need to be done, or said perfectly, but just to be there. I think that's tremendous. Jessica Rice: I also think meeting practical needs is so important, and I think, it's become kind of standard. We hear somebody going through a hard thing, a tough time. We say, oh, my gosh, I'm so sorry. I'm praying for you. Let me know if there's anything I can do for you. Let me know if there's any way I can support you and what we do. When we do that, it's good, but we've just put the onus on the grieving person to articulate what their needs are and kind of, again, sort through the muck of what their brain might be, the fog that they're living in and say, oh, I need help with XYZ. And so what I've tried to encourage people to do, what was most helpful to me was when my friends or loved ones, they just took a swing at doing anything. And so it was the friend who just took a swing at putting together a whole meal train for me, and scheduling people to show up at my house every other night, giving them the instructions that they shouldn't expect to come in my house and sit down with me if I was not up for that kind of interaction on that day. It was my guy friends who just decided they were going to come fix things around the house, trim the shrubs, and hang curtain rods. And they didn't know what they were doing. Like they barely knew how to do any of those things, but they were just trying to be helpful and do those things that they knew Jarronn would have done for our home. And so a lot of times people will ask me, well, what's the best thing to do? And I say, well, just take a swing at something. I mean, you could offer up, hey, I would love to send dinner to you on Tuesday night at 7pm. And let the person kind of say, no, thank you. That wouldn't be good for me. Or they might say, yeah, that would be great. Or, you know, just give a specific thing or just send the flowers, whatever it is. Sometimes I've gotten an Edible Arrangement and I didn't necessarily want melons or whatever in the house, but did I feel so loved? And did I feel the presence of that person who thought of me in my moment? Absolutely. And did I feel less alone and then have more courage to enter into those moments of grief? Absolutely. Mighty Pursuit: Do you feel like there's any people in your life that are trying to put a timetable on your grief of, okay, it's been 2 years now or stuff like that? Because I feel like that's something I've encountered or experienced or heard about often is people feeling that way. Jessica Rice: Yeah, I think there's definitely some pressure from folks, in both directions though. I mean, I think that sometimes there were people who thought I should get to a certain point in my grieving or my recovery. And then there were some people who were maybe surprised that I was out having a good time at a restaurant in DC, and maybe they expected me to be under the covers in bed and still in deep mourning with tissues. So, it's just so interesting. I think I've learned for sure through the process, that there's no one way to grieve and there is no timeline. There are these moments where I am incredibly sad. There are moments where I am experiencing joy because I got to catch up with a friend or a family member who had a baby. And do I want to stuff those emotions down too? No. I want to lean fully into both things and both things can coexist. So I think, I really tried to tell myself, if you feel happy, Jessica, if you want to feel happy in this moment, you can feel happy. Give myself permission to do that. You don't have to wait a year before you can laugh again. So I tried to do that, just to give myself permission. If I wanted to feel happy, I could feel happy. I didn't have to wait to feel good again. And I also think, though, that there were some timelines that I gave myself. So I think grieving people can often impose timelines on themselves, too. I felt like if I could just get through the first year, I'm sure I would feel much different. Or would you even try to imagine five years from them and say, like when being widowed is not the centerpiece of my identity as it is right now? Like, what will that feel like? And how well will I be doing and all the things. And what I found was there was no finish line to my grief. 15 years later, there are still these moments of wrestling and sadness and reflection. And so I don't know where we get these timelines from. They're all very arbitrary. And none of them are helpful, particularly as grief comes in waves. And I think the biggest thing is the waves just kind of spread and stretch out. Mighty Pursuit: One big thing you've talked about is kind of letting go of what you thought life would be like, and I feel like that's a universal thing for people in the sense of not just losing someone, but even something, losing a dream of something that you had set in your heart. So how do you accept what you've lost when you so deeply want to hold on to that? Jessica Rice: Culture today has told us that anything we want, if we work hard enough, if we want it, if we're diligent enough, we can have it. And I think the experience of losing Jarronn was just like a smack in the face to that notion. There are just certain things that I can want it all I want, and I can do all the things, but I am not in control, and there are just certain things that I cannot or will not have. And if I can't figure out how to navigate that, where does that leave me in life? I think it's a reality that is very hard to accept because we are all trying to have control. And it's hard. I don't want it to make us feel sad or depressed. That, oh, some of the things that we all want, we're not going to get. Or some of the things that we have, we're going to lose. But I do think what it's meant to do is make us sober about the things that we do have. And to recognize that I have to live present with what I have. Jessica Rice: And I think one of the biggest things for me and my journey of acceptance was, again, in that first week, even after Jarronn died, I remember thinking, God, I don't know what you're doing in all of this. I don't know what you're doing in all of this. It felt like you brought us together. It felt like we had this amazing story that you yourself had authored and pulled together, and the deer were coming out of the bushes, right? Like it felt magical and meaningful and purposeful and I had to ask myself now that the story was not going the way that I wanted it to, did I want to say it was no longer God's plan? Because what I said to myself at that moment was, if I say now that things have not gone the way I want them to, this is not God's plan, I have to throw everything that happened before this moment. Out the window, too. And I wasn't willing to do that. I really believed it was all purposeful. And so I had to still believe it was purposeful, even though it didn't make sense to me. And so that was a huge part of me coming to a place of acceptance. I think so many times, we can accept those things that are going the way that we want them to and feel like this is how life is supposed to be. Then the pain comes in and it's like this is an alien invasion. This is not the way it's supposed to be. Something is wrong. The matrix is broken like something is wrong. And really, what is happening is we're just not getting our way.

WHY WOULD GOD ALLOW THIS?

Mighty Pursuit: It really makes me think of the idea of, and I don't want to conflate the idea, but manifesting is like a very popular idea today. And I think it in some ways causes us to be blind to like this whole other part of life. And then something like this happens and then you can't manifest coming back from the dead and stuff like that. And so, yeah, there's a whole nother side of life that I feel like we live almost in an illusion that it doesn't exist or that it can't happen to us. But you mentioned the word God, a lot of people watching this right now might not believe in God. Obviously you do. So how do you make sense of God? Or even the sense of God letting a 26-year-old become a widow two months after getting married? How do you make sense of that idea? Jessica Rice: Well, first, the tendency for anyone who does believe in God, a higher power, I think. Or maybe even not. I think when bad things, what we call bad, painful things happen to us, I think our tendency is to ask why? Again, we're always kind of leaning into a reason. I guess maybe that's the left side of the brain. Why is this happening? And what I found in my journey was why it was not a very helpful question. And honestly, when I think about it, even if God had downloaded some deep revelation about why Jarronn, a 29-year-old, had to die, I don't know that I would have been satisfied with the answer. So I stopped asking why. But what I do think is important is to ask to what end or what perhaps could be produced from or come from this experience. And so some of those things that have come from my grief, have been a deeper presence. Like a deeper kind of abiding. And this is the moment that I have. And this is the time I have. And I'm going to try my best to be right here. Not in the future, not in the past, but right here. It has been, a greater sense of humility, that I am not as in control, nor am I the center of the universe, as you might have thought. It has been a deep investment. I believe in my humanity and my ability to connect with other people. I mean, I believe that pain is the great equalizer. It doesn't matter how much money is in your bank account. It doesn't matter what country you were born in. It doesn't matter the color of your skin. It doesn't matter your gender. Anything. Like we all as humans experience pain and suffering. It is the thing that almost binds us together more than anything else. And so my ability to be present to another person, to enter into their world, understand them, hear their heart sit with them has grown exponentially as a result of the things that I've gone through. Mighty Pursuit: Yeah. I mean, it kind of goes back to the right brain, left brain thing because "why would God allow suffering" is a philosophical question. And so I think it's one thing to wrestle through that question like when you're not grieving. And it's almost a simpler way of doing it, but you could still be offended by the presence of suffering or evil in the world. But then when you're actually grieving, it takes on like a whole nother meaning. And kind of the philosophical reasons that kind of go out the window. So what would you say to someone who is wrestling with that question of like, why would God allow this? Or how could there even be a God that exists that would allow this? Jessica Rice: I would first honor the question. It's a very valid question to wrestle with. And. I don't know. My relationship with God is not one where I feel like anything is off limits to ask God. I think he invites that. So honoring that question. I think at the same time, it's trying to resist the tendency that we sometimes have when we're in our painful moments, to be myopic in our focus and to erase all the other things that are happening outside. So I gave that example of like, I couldn't just focus on Jarronn having died and not focus on all the goodness that had come before then. And like all the amazing things I had experienced with him before then and all the ways I had grown before then, I kind of felt like I had to look at everything in totality. And so while I could choose to say, well, it's really messed up and it's the worst thing that you would give me something good and then take it away. I felt like the better thing was to say like, there is goodness, there is sadness, there is joy, there is pain. I don't really know why God gave me the joyful times when he did, you know, as I just don't know why he gave me the painful moments, you know? But I choose to have this idea that, ultimately, that God is good. I mean, this is just my personal belief that God is good. And so even in the midst of the pain. There is some good that God intends for me and his creation. And sometimes I have to be patient enough just to see what that goodness might be. More times than not, it's not an immediate reveal of what some of that goodness might be. 15 years later, I can definitely speak to some of the goodness I've seen. But again, it's not like all buttoned up either. It's not like “and I'm so glad it happened to me”. Right. I don't want to put it in that light at all either. But I do believe that we're all part of this bigger story. And sometimes if you're looking at one chapter or one line or one paragraph, you get one perspective as opposed to like, let me step out and, and perhaps kind of wrestle with a bigger story. Mighty Pursuit: Makes me think of, I don't know if you're a fan of the Marvel movies. Jessica Rice: I am not, you know, I'm not. I don't have anything against them. It's just that I'm like, oh, I'm so out of my realm. So I just leave it to other people who actually know about those. Mighty Pursuit: And so, yeah, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has had all these phases of movies that all connect to each other. And leading up to kind of the biggest film they've ever done, which is Avengers Endgame. There's this moment where one of the superheroes, Doctor Strange, he's able to kind of see into the future and these basically like 14 trillion different possibilities of how things could go. And he realizes that there's only one way for the universe to be saved. In kind of that final film and just kind of put things in perspective always. I've always watched that movie and I was like, oh, that's what's interesting to think about is kind of, intelligent being or a creator holding the weight or the possibilities of trillions of scenarios and how all of our stories weave together. And I think from our limited human mind we only experience the world through ourselves. Mighty Pursuit: And so it's almost a little bit irrational to argue that we would know a better path. But again, even if you're in the midst of that, grieving like that philosophical paradigm doesn't really matter, right? But I think one thing you've talked about a lot is you wrote a blog post on ungrateful days. And gratitude for what you do have and this other the idea of the paradox of grief, which you wrote a follow up blog post on, because people didn't understand how to apply that practically. It’s like you had time with Jarronn, like you were blessed with that to begin with. And it's not like you didn't love to begin with and have that person. And so that in itself is a gift, but that we completely overlook. So how do you apply the paradox of grief? Jessica Rice: Yes. I think it might have been one of these Marvel shows or one of these superhero shows. There is some quote that I saw tons of people posting on social media about things like pain or grief being some kind of nod to the person that you love or something, the connection between grief and love. Yeah, I'm butchering it, but people who watch that stuff will know what I'm talking about, probably, anyway. I do find that. The grief points to something. And I really did just find this place of moving even from grief to gratitude that I was able to frame and see it took time but like to to go from, "I'm really missing this thing. I don't know how I'm going to live without this person. This relationship." To wow but how grateful I am that I experienced that, how grateful I am that I experienced that thing that I know some people have never experienced. And so I do think that this paradox of grief is one where you do have to kind of stop for a moment and say the thing that was lost pointed to something. You know, my father passed away four years ago and I miss him deeply. You know, anyone who's lost a parent, that's like a significant loss. And that relationship was far more complicated than mine with the Jarronn. But I still, in all of that, like the missing and the longing that I have, I'm grateful for the role of a father and those things to miss. Because, man, they've helped shape me. They helped impart love into me. So many key things that I don't want to let go of. Even as I acknowledge the parts that hurt. I want to spend time acknowledging those parts that were really good, too. Mighty Pursuit: And I imagine part of your kind of spiritual belief, obviously, is that this is not the end. So how does that factor into your whole grieving process? Jessica Rice: I think I have seen my life as temporal and really as this a thing to steward. And in many ways like even losing Jarronn, it gave me this new opportunity to kind of carry on his legacy and think more thoughtfully about the kind of life I wanted to live. Knowing that there's certain people, I'm of a certain age, some might call it middle age or whatever. And some people are really freaked out about hitting their 40s or whatever. Mighty Pursuit: I don't know if 40s is middle age. Jessica Rice: Well, thank you. I mean, 40 is the new 30 or whatever they say. Anyway, there's a lot of people who feel certain feelings about getting older, and I very much see aging as a privilege. And so anyway, I just see this time that I have as a gift and temporal and something to steward. And I want to live the very best story that I can while I have the time to do so. And I do believe that again that idea of eternity helps me zoom out. It's that going in the airplane 30,000ft up above and literally being up there in the sky and seeing the worlds and seeing the little dots on the ground and like the lives that are represented down below. Knowing that I am just a dot in the midst of all of that. That there is just something so much deeper and greater and beyond and my grief for Jarronn, I think, has just been soothed by that as well. I mean I used to tell people, he's in a great place right now, like he is not in a place of suffering. He is in a place, I believe, of eternal peace. And it's us down here who now have to wrestle with that. I read a quote the other day that said sometimes we think we're humans trying to be spiritual, but we're actually spiritual beings all trying to figure out how to be human. And that's the thing that's more foreign. And that's why it hurts. Because we're actually created for much more.

AN UNLIKELY ENCOUNTER

Mighty Pursuit: When you talked about him being in a better place, one of the biggest scientific discoveries of the latter part of the 20th century was this field of near-death studies that has emerged is pretty incredible. And the experience of someone being clinically dead and floating outside their body. Being able to recount everything that's happening in the room and with such pinpoint accuracy that by some sort of miraculous condition ended up going, coming back to life. And yeah, I think obviously maybe not exactly when you're in the height of grief, but just even seeing something like that being like, well, science essentially confirming the idea of like a soul or a different dimension. But kind of in the next parts of your story, some people, depending on what they believe, might say that this is, I don't know, coincidence or luck. So you end up meeting Jordan in 2012. Tell me about Jordan. What happened there? Jessica Rice: So, 2012, I am home living in DC, and I got a Facebook friend request from this guy named Jordan Rice. And I kind of looked at his profile and thought, oh, do I know this person? Because we have a lot of mutual friends. Yeah, I must know him. And then I'm like, no, I don't think I know. Who is this person? So anyway, I looked at his profile as one does, and saw that in his relationship status, it said that he was widowed and I thought, oh, I get it. He must have found my blog at some point and read it. And that had happened before. Like fellow widowed young widow people in particular, we would connect online. So he sent me that friend request. I don't think that I actually accepted the friend request at that moment, I think I got distracted and went off and did something. So a couple days later, one of my friends, her name's Christina. She was messaging me, reaching out to me. Whatever she said, oh, my husband and I, who I know, we were in New York a couple weeks ago and we had lunch with this guy named Jordan. And, you know, you guys have really similar stories. You were both married in your 20s and widowed in your 20s. I think his wife may have passed away from cancer. And I was like, oh, Jordan, like the Facebook friend request. Let me go back. Right. So I go back and I accept it. And then he sends me a message that says, hey, thanks for accepting a friend request. Your name came up. And just thought it would be cool to reach out to somebody who was a young widowed person and hope life is cool for you. And I was thinking, oh, that's so nice. And like, let me give him a word of encouragement, because I could see that his late wife had passed away maybe about a year and a half before. This was now three years for me since Jarronn had passed away. And so I just kind of encouraged him that you don't really move on. But things do get better and hang in there and that kind of thing. Jessica Rice: And he was probably like, yeah, okay, cool. That's not why I'm really reaching out to you. But he humored me. And so anyway, we kind of just started exchanging messages back and forth. The backstory to it, though, was that when Jordan had been at lunch with my friend Christina and her husband, he was meeting Christina for the first time. So he went to college with the husband. I had gone to college with Christina. I knew both Mousa, the husband, and Christina, but Jordan's meeting Christina for the first time, and so he's asking her, well, what do you do? And she's telling him. And she had actually been contracting on a freelance project with me at the time. So I was kind of top of mind on her brain. And she said, yeah, but, I'd really like to have my own kind of freelance consulting thing like Jessica. And Jordan in that moment said, that's cool, but who is Jessica and why should I know who she is? So they both say, of course, you know, Jessica, you guys know a ton of the same people, and you both have these really similar stories, and you both even had blogs where you wrote about your experiences. Jessica Rice: So Jordan kind of said some stuff. This is making sense. This kind of sounds familiar. He goes home that day, he opens up Facebook. He goes through his messages and finds another mutual friend of ours, who had sent him a link to my blog right after his late wife, Danielle had passed away, and she had sent him that link. Not to really connect us, but really just from this perspective of, I don't know what it's like to be in your 20s and widowed, but my friend went through this and has a blog, and this might be helpful. But at the time, a year and a half previously, when Danielle had passed away, Jordan was like, I'm not reading anything. I don't care about anything. He had never opened the link. So here we are. Fast forward to 2012. He opens that link and as he tells it, he reads through the entire blog. And that's when he decides to send me a Facebook friend request. And we kind of exchange messages back and forth. We talk about Jarronn. We talk about Danielle, we talk about the interest that we have, and we have a lot in common. And then a couple weeks later, he told me he was living in New York. He tells me he's going to be in D.C., and it would be cool to meet up for coffee or something like that. And he says, I know I'm relatively an internet stranger, but there's people who can vouch for me. So is it cool? Jessica Rice: And I'm like, yeah. So we met. And unbeknownst to me, he had no intention of being in D.C. when I said yes to the coffee date. That's when he hopped in the car and called his friend and was like, bro, I need to sleep on your couch. I'm on like this dummy mission, as he would call it, to meet this lady. And so, we met up at a restaurant near my place in D.C., and we sat and we talked for five hours and talked about it all, talked about Danielle, talked about Jarronn, talked about grief, talked about a lot of what we've been talking about in terms of how do you make sense of it all? How do you come to a place of acceptance? How do you come to see it all as a gift, not the pain, but just like what I have is a gift, and I'll be grateful for whatever it is that I have. I will be present with whatever it is that I have. And kind of coming to the end of ourselves because of that grief. And he had a different story because his late wife was diagnosed with an extremely rare form of cancer. And so he had that different experience of having to care for her and see her succumb to that illness. Whereas I had the kind of immediate shock. And so we kind of compared notes about all those things. We shed tears listening to each other share those stories. Mighty Pursuit: That's interesting on a first date. Jessica Rice: On a first date. Super light, super light. And then we hung out again the next day and talked for another six hours and I left that second conversation truly being blown away because I can't even fully articulate what happened in the moment, but in us just talking about some random thing, I just felt this intense connection to Jordan and I couldn't quite understand it, but I was like, wow, this is amazing. And I just kind of felt like we were finishing each other's sentences with the words that we were using, and it was kind of next level. And so yes, it was fast forward ahead from there. Mighty Pursuit: That's so interesting because I imagine, you're obviously a few years into your grieving process, but dating in general I think would probably be very hard. You mentioned kind of off camera that some people, when they knew you were a widow, what type of response would you get? Jessica Rice: The dating process after Jarronn died was interesting for sure, because I was numb to the whole thing, ambivalent to the whole thing. And then even if I was kind of open to it, I think the big driver was I did want to have a family, and it felt like I needed to meet somebody to do that. And, so let me just see what it is. But there would be these moments where I'd be in a conversation with a guy, and the moment I mentioned I'm widowed, it's like I feel like his eyes looked towards the door and was like, I think I could probably get to the door in 7 or 8 paces if I really pushed my stride. And I think what that was more than anything was people were really not wanting to feel in competition with somebody else. I get that. I feel like it's unfair to a person in my circumstances, but I could understand what the hesitation was for people there. So I had those moments, and then I even just had moments of trying to figure out what I would want if I were to be in a relationship with someone else. Jessica Rice: You know, I think most of us who approach dating, you go on dates, you meet different people, and every interaction you're having, you are assessing that person and saying, I like this about this person. I like that about that person. And we're kind of building an archetype of this is the kind of person I want to be in a relationship with, based on all these experiences or what I've seen in my family, whatever it may be. Where I found myself when I was widowed was well now I have to go backwards. I have to deconstruct. So because the archetype has a name, a smile, a laugh, a shoe size, a favorite food, you know, all these different things. He is a person like he was the ideal. He was it. And so now I have to go backwards and say, but what was it about Jarronn that I would want if I were to be in a relationship? Like, what are the qualities that I'm looking for? And I can't be so tied to the specifics of who he was as a person. I have to really just kind of get clear about what it was that drew me to him. And so the dating process was just really fascinating. But also it was hard to navigate because I often didn't know if I had a hesitation about a person. Was it that I was comparing them to Jarronn? Was it that my grief was kind of clouding my discernment? Or was it that maybe it wasn't the right fit? And so really having to kind of comb through and get in touch with what it is that I'm doing. Mighty Pursuit:The ability of you and Jordan to hold each other's grief is kind of remarkable. The other day you shared a story about visiting Danielle's grave. You want to share that again? Jessica Rice: From the moment we first met in person, being able to share each other's stories and and shed tears, like really to feel the the weight and the pain of what everybody when in our for some kind of experience in those moments was so unique and then the winter, the December right after we met, a couple months later, Danielle's birthday had come around. And Jordan has this tradition of visiting her gravesite on her birthday. And so I had been visiting him in New York that weekend when her birthday came around. And we drove to her gravesite, and I waited in the car as he got out. It was cold and windy and snowing, and he was trying to find her gravesite, because the snow had kind of covered over a lot of them, and he's kind of brushing them aside and brushing the snow off. And he was there. It was like he had all of his grief in the moment. And then there's this whipping, bitter cold kind of coming at him to just kind of elevate all of that. And yeah, he was there just crying. And, I just felt all of that for him. But I didn't feel at all threatened by that. Jessica Rice:So he got into the car and I didn't have to say the right thing. I mean, I asked him how he was feeling and he shared some more with me. But I was able to just sit with him and give him space for that moment. And I think that that's been the pattern of our relationship, ever since, of just being able to hold space for each other. And he is always so good at saying when people ask him, "you don't feel weird if Jessica is sad about Jarronn, or whatever." And he's like, "well, let's think about it for a moment. How would it be if she loses her best friend, the person she cares about more than anybody and then just never talks about that person?" Is that the kind of person I even want to be in a relationship with or married to? Like it's a beautiful thing that she grieves that person and cares so much for that person who meant so much. And so it's really been a sweet grace, honestly, that we have in each other to understand what it means to, not wish that we were married to Danielle and Jarronn, but to understand what it is to grieve the loss of both of them. Mighty Pursuit: So, Danielle and Jarronn still come up in conversation, right? Jessica Rice: Yeah. They do. I think a lot of it for both of us is just imagining what they might have been like or what they would have enjoyed. Danielle, her 40th birthday was just a couple of weeks ago, and so even she was a big birthday person. And so on our family group chat, we were all, I mean, I was listening, but everyone was just talking about how she would have made it a month long celebration. So it's moments like that, and then sending pictures around of her holding our now 14-year-old niece when she was a baby. And just really thinking about how she would have enjoyed that moment and how she would have made everybody celebrate her and smiling and thinking about that. But then, I mean, so much of it to so much of Jordan's story in particular, all of that was happening here in New York City. So it's going past the hospital where she spent many months, or where doctor's visits were, or any kind of, you know, I remember when we did this or ate this meal at this place, all those things can trigger memories. And we really enjoy hearing those from each other. We feel like it gives us a window to get to know Jarronn and Danielle better. And, yeah it's nice to have the space to kind of share those moments with each other.

CAN YOU REALLY "MOVE ON"?

Mighty Pursuit: It makes me think of, I think the word moving on can be triggersome for people. Not just losing a spouse, but a parent. I mean, especially a child. What would you say about that? The idea of moving on. What does that mean? Jessica Rice: Yes. I hate that phrase too. I hate that phrase of moving on because I guess it just feels like you're saying you left the thing behind. Moving on feels like if I move on, I move on to a new apartment and I leave the old one behind. But these pivotal relationships, these defining relationships, you don't move on from them. And, you know, if anything, you're carrying those people, I believe with you. There's so many things I wanted to do with Jarronn. And I remember having this moment, being on vacation in the Cayman Islands and seeing this beautiful place and being on this boat, and the sun is setting. And I was very sad that he couldn't be there. But I was also like, you know what? I'm carrying a piece of him with me. And so part of me carrying on his legacy is like, in a sense, he's going to like, experience these things through me. Like I carry him with me and we're doing these things, not in the same way that I imagined it would be. But, I just carry a piece of him with me. There's no way that I can get around that. Jessica Rice: And, it was also hard. Jordan and I also talk about when people would refer to our late spouses as our ex-spouses. That would also be triggering for us because it's like it's not an ex. It's not like we chose to end this relationship. We had no choice in the matter. And so, yeah, this whole idea of moving on, I think gets used so much, but it really doesn't capture the actual experience that people have. I liken it to if I were to lose an arm, like if my arm was amputated, there's a hole there. There's a space that's left there. But what happens is I learned to navigate the world differently. Like, I learn how to compensate for what's missing in other ways. I get stronger with my left arm and I judge my spatial awareness in a different way. It's like I just adapt to what is missing. But there's even times maybe when I forget until I look down and say, oh, there's no arm there. Like there are some times when I might not even really be aware of the fact that I no longer have an arm there. Sometimes I'm very aware of that fact, whatever. But I've learned how to move through spaces and through life differently. But this is a reality that that arm is gone. And so I think grief is a lot more like that, that you don't move on. It's that you are learning to navigate the world differently. I've seen a great illustration that shows a circle, in a diagram, and that if grief is the circle, a lot of us think that the circle shrinks over time and that the grief gets smaller. But actually what's happening is the circles around that, the circle stays the same, the grief circle stays the same size, but there's circles being added around that. And so there's just more life, there's more experiences, there's more things happening around that circle that never changes in size. It just becomes less dominant, though, because of all the other things that are being built around it. Mighty Pursuit: Kind of related to the idea of moving on. Like what would you say to someone, the idea of remarrying or in itself. Some people might have a conviction to never get remarried. Other people have a strong connection to get remarried. Like, how does that fit into the whole idea of moving on? Because I imagine that is probably the key difference between someone, maybe that lost a parent or a child or someone else, and then actually, there's another person coming into your life. And what would you say to that? Jessica Rice: Yeah, it's a great question. I mean, I think it's interesting, even for Jordan and his experience with Danielle, because she had cancer and they knew she was in a terminal state, it gave space for them to have conversations, even about what it would look like for him to remarry. And that was definitely something she expressed she wanted for him. She knew that he wanted to be a father, and she was like, I wanted you to get married. I want you to have children. And he very much felt like he had her blessing in that, like that he gave space to feel his feelings and grieve. But then when he felt ready, that he was able to kind of move into a new relationship. And then in my circumstances, with Jarronn we never had those conversations, so there was constantly this questioning of, would he be pleased if I were to marry again? Or would he be like, no, just stay single forever? And I mean, ultimately what I felt was, there's no way I could imagine him being opposed to me meeting someone who cared for me, that I cared for, and building a family with that person. And so I think I was open to it, but I did feel like, I don't know that I'm gonna find somebody that I'm as excited about as I was with Jarronn. Like, I thought maybe I would marry someone and I would love that person, but I wouldn't be, like, madly in love the way that I was with Jarronn. So meeting Jordan really blew my mind more than anything because I was like, this is what it feels like. This is it. And I can't believe that I'm finding it again. I cannot believe it. And man, when I think about what I would have missed out on if I had applied some kind of blanket statement of like, nope. To show my faithfulness, I need to stay single for the rest of my days. It just saddens me to think of missing out on all the things that I've gotten to experience with Jordan, with our children. It's been a really beautiful journey. And I think the biggest thing is to not prescribe one way or the other that it needs to look like this, or it doesn't need to look like that. Mighty Pursuit: Kind of the agency to choose because some people, and that could be a totally fulfilling path, they might never get married to begin with. And they might be single, other people will get married and then go through what you went through and get remarried. Other people might not get remarried. And so I think the big thing obviously, is just not putting a stigma on whatever that decision is, which can be a big thing in this type of conversation. Jessica Rice: In the early days after Jordan had passed away, I think there were some people who said, well, you're pretty young, you're going to meet somebody else. And that's just not helpful, I think, to the person in that moment. So I think sometimes, people are kind of like rushing you on to whatever, like you'll find somebody again and whatever. And we really don't know if that's the case. So just making space for whatever may be. Mighty Pursuit: You wrote, in your blog, kind of right after he died. I wonder how it would be possible for me to function. So I think a lot of people watching this right now might have the feeling like nothing's ever going to get better. What would you say about that? Jessica Rice: That feeling is so real. It's so real. I once wrote a reflection seven years after Jaron died, like a letter to my newly widowed self. The biggest thing I think, is I tried to encourage my newly widowed self that in those moments of deep, deep grief like, just please hold on and and know that. It won't always feel this hard. And in those moments where you feel that little glimmer of hope. Like, soak that up and hold on to it. It might only be for 10 seconds. But it's significant. And if you just hold on to that, those moments will become greater and stronger. And like, the the hardest moments and pain will ease over time. But I think the biggest thing is we our culture does not encourage patience. You know, we live in the era where the microwave meal can be done in four minutes and the Amazon package can be delivered in 24 hours, and the streaming is at your fingertips and I think life just doesn't work that way. And so to see something different, we often have to wait for it. And so, this is not to minimize the real pain that people feel. My heart breaks for anyone listening, watching who is in that place. The crucible of the pain and the suffering. But also, patience really can yield a different perspective, a different outlook that's different. And perhaps even beauty that you never would have expected. So yeah, to just try to have patience.

FINDING PURPOSE IN PAIN

Mighty Pursuit: That's good. You also wrote "I have to believe there's purpose in the pain and so I do". What would you say about that now? Jessica Rice: I think that's one of the greatest comforts of all. If we can actually hold on to it that it's not again, that the pain is not significant, but there's a difference when we know it's not meaningless. And again. I don't know why. I don't know why my life has gone the way it has. The things I should have gotten as a child that I didn't get, or the trauma I've been through that I had to experience or the losses I've had to experience. Whatever. I don't know “the why” to those things. But I do believe that none of it is meaningless. And I've seen, many of those circumstances that are the hardest have yielded something of virtue and value. Again, I'm not trying to simplify and say just there's purpose. And just like it's all good. It hurts. That's one of my biggest things is like, let's not gloss over the fact that life can be really hard and it can really hurt. But I just choose to believe, and I've seen even that none of it is meaningless. Mighty Pursuit: Are there tangible examples in your life of that from your story that you feel like, wow like that wouldn't have happened otherwise? Jessica Rice: I certainly know that my ability to be empathetic towards other people would look completely different outside of not, I mean outside of losing Jarronn the way that I did, like that grieving process enlarged my heart and soul in ways that other experiences in my life had not. I think, even my tendency towards intellectualizing my emotions and kind of saying, yeah, I want to feel this because it serves me or this one. No, no, no, I'm going to just, all of that. I was forced, I didn't have a choice. And I had to confront really difficult emotions. But then what it allowed me to realize was, "oh, all this time I've spent not getting in touch with my own emotions means that I haven't really been able to enter into or understand the emotions of other people." Right. Because we can kind of only be present to somebody else to the extent that we're present with ourselves. And so, one thing for sure, is my ability to not only receive love from people, right? Because I was in this place of need and people were doing all kinds of things for me, that was humbling. But it was also incredibly encouraging that, oh, there's a community of people who love me. And outside of this, I wouldn't have really been able to experience the overflow of that love. And now, as other people are going through things, my empathy towards them, my desire to not rush them past their feelings or rush them towards the solution, or rush them to seeing the logical, buttoned up answer to all of this, is borne out of my own experience. So I definitely feel like I haven't always gotten the answer to the why question, but I have been able to say, to what end? And, there's definitely been things that have been produced as a result. Mighty Pursuit: That's good. Jessica, thank you for being here today. Jessica Rice: Thank you. Thank you so much.

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