March 29, 2023

Janice Jernigan - Growing up with Grief

Janice Jernigan lost her sister Julie when she was only 3 years old, and this major loss ignited a cascade of secondary losses. Janice lost the opportunity of sharing milestones with her sister, receiving advice from her growing up and even beauty tricks....

Janice Jernigan lost her sister Julie when she was 3 years old, and this major loss ignited a cascade of secondary losses. Janice lost the opportunity of sharing milestones with her sister, receiving advice from her growing up and even beauty tricks. Janice tried to hold on to her sister Julie through many ways, and it showed up in her relationships, and eventually, in her body. These are some of the reasons she decided to write her book Opening Up to Grief: A Surviving Sibling's Journey with Loss and Love.

In this week's episode, Janice and Maya talk about how it was growing up as an only child while knowing that she had an older sister. They also discuss what life was like for Janice as a child and adult without opening up to her grief or experiencing her grief journey, and how comparison can be the biggest thief of grief. They also talk about stories from Janice’s book in detail.

Episode sponsored by Janice Jernigan, author of Opening Up to Grief: A Surviving Sibling's Journey with Loss and Love.

Season 3 is brought to you by, a virtual platform to commemorate and honor your sibling relationship. Create your free profile and start building beautiful commemorative web pages that can include photo and video galleries featuring you and your sibling.

In this episode I’m covering:

  • Intro [00:00:00]

  • Growing up with grief [00:02:37]

  • Multiple losses when losing a sibling [00:12:12]

  • Holding onto Julie [00:18:01]

  • Janice’s grief manifesting [00:26:07]

  • Life after high school [00:33:00]

  • Releasing your grief [00:35:18]

  • Comparing herself to her “perfect” sister [00:41:34]

  • Grief showing up in her body [00:46:57] 

  • Comparison, the thief of grief [00:59:11]

  • Advice for parents of surviving siblings [01:04:58]

  • Connecting over sunflowers [01:14:43]

For full episode show notes and transcript, click here 

Connect with Janice Jernigan

Instagram | @innertrailblazer | @janicejernigan

Janice’s Book | Opening Up to Grief: A Surviving Sibling's Journey with Loss and Love


Connect with Maya 

Website | The Surviving Siblings 

Instagram | @survivingsiblingspodcast | @mayaroffler 

TikTok | @survivingsiblingspodcast

Facebook Group | The Surviving Siblings Podcast

YouTube | The Surviving Siblings Podcast 

Patreon | The Surviving Siblings Podcast

Twitter | @survivingsibpod

✨Get The Surviving Siblings Guide HERE


[00:00:00] Maya: Welcome to the Surviving Siblings Podcast. I'm your host, Maya Ruffler. As a surviving sibling myself, I knew that I wanted to share my story, my brother's story. I lost my brother to a homicide in November of 2016, and after going through this experience, I knew that I wanted to share my story and his story. It's time to share your stories now. The Forgotten Mourners, the Surviving Siblings. The story that is not told enough. Season three of the Surviving Siblings Podcast is brought to you by SIPS, a virtual platform for you, the surviving sibling. To commemorate and honor your sibling relationship, visit sips today. To create your free profile and start building beautiful commemorative webpages that can include photo and video galleries featuring you and your sibling. Now let's dive into the episode

[00:01:08] Maya: today. I have another incredible guest. She is actually back from season two. Her name is Janice Jernigan. She is the author of Opening Up to Grief. Janice, welcome back to the show.

[00:01:23] Janice: Hello. It's wonderful to be back. Thank you, Maya.

[00:01:26] Maya: Yeah, I'm so excited to have you here. If you guys have not heard Janice's first episode, make sure you go back to season two and listen to episode nine where Janice shares her entire grief journey, and today we're gonna continue that conversation in talking about the loss of her sister, Julie.

[00:01:45] Maya: Janice, you were very young. I wanna talk about this right at the beginning. You were extremely young, baby, baby when you lost Julie. And that is a big topic that has come up as you've seen in our, our tiny community that we're growing and it's getting a lot bigger. But I've heard it on TikTok, Instagram, all these different places.

[00:02:03] Maya: That is something people wanna talk about. So I wanna touch on that first and tell us a little bit about, a little more in depth than we went last time. Cause I know we were telling like the whole journey about what it was like to be, and this is a loaded question and we're gonna get into in the book what it was like to be three years old and going through this experience and kind of give some hope to our listeners that are potentially like they have children that are this young or maybe they experience this and they are realizing they haven't processed it.

[00:02:31] Maya: So I'm gonna turn it over to you to kind of share some insight on that because I think that's a key key point in your story.

[00:02:37] Janice: Yes, thank you for asking that question. You just asked. I was not asked that question until I was in my early thirties, and so it was very difficult being a three-year-old. Growing up with grief at that age is very common, as was true in my case, for children to not understand how permanent loss is. And so when my parents told me about Julie, well, I have no memories of that. I do know that based on all that I've researched, that I thought, well, that just meant she went out to dinner somewhere, went away, and she's gonna be coming back.

[00:03:22] Janice: And I was really trying to process that. And so in that one blink of a moment when my sister Julie died and she was seven, she had leukemia. That was a big loss, but it also ignited this cascade of secondary losses. The kind of losses that come as a result of a primary loss. And it changed my relationship with my parents immediately.

[00:03:50] Janice: I mean, how could it not? Right? I mean, Julie brought things outta my parents that was unique just as I bring things outta my parents. That's unique. And I also lost my identity because I had, for the first three years of my life, I was the youngest of two, and suddenly I became an only child. Not really an only child, but I was the only remaining child for my parents.

[00:04:18] Janice: And my status was invisible because most people would see our family of three and just assume it had always been a family of three. So, you know, all of those things. And growing up, I've come to realize more recently that I lost my sister when I was three years old. I lost her when I was four years old.

[00:04:40] Janice: Five every year that I have been on this earth since, because my loss and grief evolves right along with me. And so more recently, I, as my parents are getting older, I have this feeling of loss with my sister because I don't have a sounding board as, you know, thinking about, you know, care with my parents.

[00:05:07] Janice: And I miss the childhood memories that we would've had, or, I, I have a feeling what I know about Julie and what I know about myself, we would've had a lot of inside jokes. Mm-hmm. , you know, things that only sisters or siblings would, would know. So it was definitely a unique experience growing up as a surviving sibling from such a young age.

[00:05:31] Janice: I've learned since then, it's not that uncommon. At the time I didn't know anyone else who had had the same experience that I had. So I love to hear, and as you mentioned, people you know with books and on Instagram and other places too. I love to hear that people are really focusing on young Grievers as well, and there's a lot more resources than there were back in the mid 1970s.

[00:05:57] Maya: I agree so much. Unpack here, Janice. I agree completely. I mean, there's even more resources than when I lost my brother six and a half years ago. So I can't even imagine. As I was reading your book and you're talking about resources and you give resources, which is great in your book, I was like, oh my God, there was probably zip zero, nothing.

[00:06:15] Maya: And then for a three year old, oh my gosh, like mind blown. But I really love what you just said and I hope that you guys connect with this and can understand this. I think you will. How you said it like each year it's like you're losing Julie again and it's kind of like a process and a journey and. I really connect with that because every single year, even though I'm six years in, it still felt like a loss.

[00:06:40] Maya: But it's different every year. Right? It kind of changes as you mature and start to go through your brief journey. So I can't even imagine , what you've gone through in the time since Julie has been gone. It's been a really long time for you, but she's still so much a part of you and we're talking about her today.

[00:06:58] Maya: I think another big thing you brought up too, Janice, Your parents getting older, and I hear this a lot from people as well. So I think a lot of you guys will connect with this too, especially when someone becomes the quote unquote only child, which you said that perfectly and beautifully, what you do in your book as well, that you're not an only child.

[00:07:16] Maya: You have a sister. You have a sister, however you're comfortable referring to it. I like to stay present tense. That's just my preference. And I think everybody else, you know, you guys as surviving siblings will find what feels good for you, which we're gonna talk about in the book in just a second. But I think that's a big thing, Janice, is when your parents are getting older, you're like, oh my gosh, like this.

[00:07:37] Maya: You know, I don't have Julie to kind of go through this with me, cuz no one else is gonna understand your experience of your parents other than your siblings.

[00:07:45] Janice: You're exactly right. Exactly right and what she said about resources and how, of course there probably wasn't many resources back then. There was also a mind shift, or there's slowly being a mind shift because back then people thought, well, a three-year-old, how could they be impacted by this?

[00:08:05] Janice: Thank goodness she had this loss at such a young age cuz she won't be, you know, impacted at all. And it was also the approach to loss and grief was, don't talk about it. If you don't talk about it, just move on. You know, life is for the living. You don't need to talk about someone who's no longer here. And I mean, that wasn't just in my small world, that was in the world at large.

[00:08:30] Janice: So I, I'm so happy to see that slowly but surely shift.

[00:08:36] Maya: I agree. I feel the same way. And I think you said something really important too, for those of you surviving siblings that lost a sibling young, that there was a lot of diminishing that happened to your grief in that kind of statement. Right. James? I mean, we all experience it as surviving siblings, but this is a very specific one to being young.

[00:08:56] Maya: At least you were so young, or you know, people probably said this to your parents too. Well, she's young, she might not remember some of this. And like just things like comments like that. And it's gr, it's diminishing your grief and we've talked about this, but reading it in your book, for me, I was like, I felt that, I really felt that to my poor because What do you mean?

[00:09:15] Maya: I mean, loss is loss. Grief is grief. I mean, you had three years with your sister, that is significant and you're not going to ever have that interaction again with Julie. There's a one and only Julie in the world. So I think that's one of those things that you'll see unlike social media where people are like things not to say to siblings or surviving siblings.

[00:09:40] Maya: Right. At least you know, at least you were young or the other ones are at least you knew them. Like what? Like what is that? What is up for that one? Right. like, yeah,

[00:09:49] Janice: as a general rule, anything that starts with at least. Probably doesn't need to have that sentence completed.

[00:09:57] Maya: Yeah, absolutely. I agree with you.

[00:10:01] Maya: We hope you're enjoying this incredible episode of the Surviving Siblings Podcast. I'm your host, Maya Ruffler. We'll be back in just a minute after hearing from our incredible sponsor, do you have any siblings? For surviving siblings? This question can spark an emotional and complicated response. Imagine facing this question as a young child in the US alone, this is a reality for five to 7% of children.

[00:10:30] Maya: Yet it is rarely thought about, spoken about or otherwise. Acknow. This happened to Janice Jernigan, a surviving sibling since the age of three, and bestselling author of opening Up to Grief. In her courageous and heartfelt memoir, Janice shares her journey of growing up with grief and her path to hope and healing.

[00:10:51] Maya: Her story resonates with surviving siblings from teens to adults, and with parents, teachers, and mental health professionals who care for them. I encourage you to check out opening Up to Grief on Amazon in our show notes or through Janice's website or Instagram account Inner Trailblazer because no one gets a pass on grief.

[00:11:18] Maya: Well, I really want to dive into the book, but one additional thing that you were touching on a little bit is, you guys have asked to talk about this, and we can talk about this with Julie's story. Janice, you lost Julie, but you also feel like, you know, every year you're losing, you know, you've lost her.

[00:11:35] Maya: You're going through that experience, but I know that there feels like a loss of other things that have happened in your life. Can you kind of explain that journey a little bit to, I, we're gonna talk about it in the book, but I, it's kind of our segue into it because you're so open and you're so raw in the book with experiences.

[00:11:52] Maya: I mean, you're talking about your first love. You're talking about, you know, getting married and fertility and like, I mean, there's so much there and I think it's really important to share that with individuals and siblings that have lost at such a young age because it's a theme in your life. So I really wanted you to touch on that, if you don't mind.

[00:12:12] Janice: There were so many losses that. You know, came as part of losing Julie and, you know, it, it was one of those things that the memories that we would've had and all the things that I would've learned from my sister, I actually, there were certain things like plucking my eyebrows. I didn't even need learn about that until I was much older and if I would've had an older sister involved in there, , you know, something as simple as that could have been different.

[00:12:46] Janice: And, you know, even as I grew up, I would say at every milestone, you know, when I got married, the, my first marriage at that, at my wedding, I really missed my sister. And when that marriage ended in divorce, I asked myself, what if my sister would've been around? Would she have seen some. You know, signs that I didn't see, would she have, how would she have been there to support me?

[00:13:13] Janice: Would I even, would she have talked me out of getting married in the first place? All of those things. And you mentioned infertility and that was something that, you know, being the only child living for my parents, I am their only opportunity to become grandparents. Yeah. And so there was that added pressure, or you know, even self-imposed pressure that I'm the only link standing between them and having that experience of being grandparents.

[00:13:46] Janice: So a lot has been lost and I didn't become an aunt until I married my soulmate. So all of these things that I don't think we really realize sometimes until we're at that point in our lives, how much it really, this loss. One loss is actually a multitude of loss.

[00:14:11] Maya: Beautifully said. Once again, Janice. Yes, and a great segue for us to dive into all my tabs that I put in the book as I read it, but I just wanna comment on a couple things.

[00:14:20] Maya: One, I thought about that too, going through and reading your story and when you said plucking your eyebrows or doing things like that, I think about my sister who's saying, you're younger than me. and not being there for her. What if I wasn't there? Like I think of like, you know, your perspective and also Julie's perspective and like there's so many things that you just don't think about and their losses and I we're not saying this to scare anybody, but I think it's to give validation, right?

[00:14:49] Maya: I think that's a really important part here. Like it's okay that you feel like you missed out because your sister wasn't there to help you get ready for homecoming or prom or your wedding. And I think it was really interesting that you said, you know, what would Julie have maybe vetted this guy for me a little bit?

[00:15:03] Maya: Or told me like, what are you doing girl? Right? Like, you know, but you'll never know and it's okay because this is your journey. But I can totally connect with that and understand that because even where I'm at right now in my grief journey and losing my brother at 30 and, and him 27, I think all the time I.

[00:15:21] Maya: Oh my gosh, what would it have been like if he had gotten married? What would it have been like if he had kids and next, you know, next chapters in his life and what would that have looked like? And those are losses to me. So this is so impactful, even to me. I, I connect with it. So if you've gone through the majority of your lifetime after this loss, there's a lot of losses.

[00:15:43] Maya: And I think it's validating to hear somebody give you permission to feel those. And I, I think that's what you do very well, Janice, in your book and also in this conversation. Thank you. I think it's really important. So let's get into the book. Okay. So when you lost Julie, a lot was going on. You lost Julie, of course, to Leukemia.

[00:16:02] Maya: Again, we talk about that in detail in season two. If you guys haven't listened to Chance episode, episode nine, but so many things just stood out in your book to. And if we're gonna do a clip on this one, here you go. You guys can see the book and we'll put it in the show notes. But I love the title opening Up to Grief because that's truly what you do through this book.

[00:16:24] Maya: And at the end I just felt so open. And it was interesting because I got choked up a couple times, but at the end is like when I cried and I was experiential for me because I felt like I was opening up to grief. I'm serious, I waited to tell you this cuz I wanted your reaction. But that's what it felt like to me.

[00:16:41] Maya: It felt like I was opening up to grief, like literally reading the book. I don't know if you intended to do that, but that's what it felt like. So I had to start with that.

[00:16:50] Janice: Wow. That that means so much to me. I was really writing my story and it was a story of opening up to grief. So I love that it resonates with you and with others and that it, it did feel like it's that process of opening up to grief.

[00:17:10] Maya: Mm-hmm. . Yeah. It, it totally felt that way for me. And one of the things that really stood out for me, and this is a, a cute story, I think, is that you had Julie's purse after she passed away and you kept that with you. Can you tell us, I don't wanna tell everything about your book, but I do wanna talk about this story because it stood out for me.

[00:17:29] Maya: Because here you are, this young, young child, right? Like three is young, I mean, I call them babies, right? Like three is young and you're kind of coming into your own at three, like, you know, and you wanted to have this item of Julie's with you and also I, her teddy bear, right? So can you tell us a little bit about that and reflecting back and what that was like?

[00:17:51] Maya: Because I. You're not alone in that. I think there's a lot of young surviving siblings that probably did something very similar to hold onto their sibling, but I'd love if you could share a little bit on that.

[00:18:01] Janice: Yes. So just as context, this was a purse. A purse that was made by a lady that we knew. She made a purse for Julie and one for me.

[00:18:12] Janice: And I could tell you in detail what Julie's purse looked like, but I have no idea what mine looked like because as the story goes, I, once Julie passed away, I stole her purse and made it my own. And so, you know, that was something I took everywhere with me. Whether I was sleeping, playing, whatever I was doing, eating, I always had her purse with me.

[00:18:40] Janice: Any picture of me from age like three to about five, I had that purse with me and. So it wasn't until after, you know, I had come to terms with, Hey, wow, this is my loss. And I had done a lot of grieving, a lot of intentional grieving with support, and I was into my, my thirties, well into my thirties by this point.

[00:19:06] Janice: It was on Julie's 40th birthday that my parents and my husband and soulmate and I, we got together and really to honor Julie and my parents brought two packages for this event. One was, they gave me an, an album of pictures of Julie and me. And it was just powerful to have that because as when you read in the book, you'll see having family photos very accessible was not something that was a reality in my life.

[00:19:46] Janice: So having that was very powerful. And it was, it was healing for my parents, putting that together. And so, but what they discovered when putting those pieces together, they found that I did not steal Julie's purse. In fact, Julie gave me her purse before she died. That was so powerful for me.

[00:20:12] Maya: Yes. That was huge.

[00:20:14] Maya: That was huge. Yeah. When I read that, I was like, oh my gosh. Jan like, oh, the tears were yes. I mean, the tears were coming. I was like, whoa. What?

[00:20:25] Janice: Yes. The photos uncovered that truth. And for all my life, you know, in hearing the story of I had stolen her purse, it really made me feel like I was a taker, like someone who takes things that doesn't belong to me, that I was kind of underhanded.

[00:20:44] Janice: And so, To learn to be vindicated all these years later, that Julie in Fact gave me that purse, and as you said, it became a part of me that was, and even more so because she gave that purse to me, because at the time I'm sure I knew that was the case, and it became a physical representation of Julie. So of course it, I would take this purse everywhere with me.

[00:21:13] Janice: Julie had been everywhere with me, so, yes. Love that you enjoyed that story because it's powerful for me.

[00:21:21] Maya: It's so powerful for me reading it. I can't imagine going through it because, you know, it comes full circle in the book. And again, that's why you guys have to, I'm gonna say this 50 times probably in this episode.

[00:21:32] Maya: You have to read it because you, you know, you talk about it, you talk about carrying the purse around. I took her purse, or I took her purse, and then this beautiful moment that happens with you and your parents and your, your family. And it's, you know, so many different things. I'm sure, you know, people always ask is, is it cathartic?

[00:21:50] Maya: Is it healing? Is it, it's all of those things, right? It's sad, it's happy, you know, when you do something like this and for Julie's 40th birthday, but you uncover that. She gave it to you and it's like, That, like you said, perfectly vindicated to you, but also like I'm sure you look back and you were like, oh my gosh.

[00:22:07] Maya: Like no wonder it was even more of a thing that I wanted to hold onto and keep with me cuz she gave that to me. That's something special, which you said very well. Two, that she was always with you. So this was coming with you too. So what a beautiful thing that your, your parents did for you as well, like getting the pictures and going back and, because in the book you do talk about the fact that it was slides, you guys had mostly slides that you would put up and that's how you would see the pictures.

[00:22:37] Maya: So it wasn't pictures all around all the time. And so you wanted to see these pictures and that, I thought that was a really interesting thing too, that I have down to talk about was the fact that you wanted to know, you wanted to see pictures of Julia. You wanted to kind of keep her alive in the, you know, the mind and heart and soul of a child.

[00:22:57] Maya: But for your parents it was quite painful to have those pictures around so you didn't have them around.

[00:23:02] Janice: Right, right. And the conundrum, I asked my mom about that as an adult and she said, you know, it was too painful to have pictures of Julie and our family with Julie. To have those around the house because every time, you know, we would see those.

[00:23:20] Janice: And yet it was also, we didn't even have pictures of us or me or my family, even after Julie died because my mom said on the flip side, it felt disrespectful to show pictures of all of us without Julie and them.

[00:23:38] Maya: And you know, I, I kind of really got it as I was moving through your story, I was like, oh, I get this.

[00:23:43] Maya: Like I really get this. And I really fell in love with your parents in the book too. So hopefully they listened to this episode because your parents, I just really fell in love with the journey that they went on with you and like the support right, that, that happened through the story, which you guys will hear as well when you read the book. Or hopefully, you know, you listen to our episode nine too and read the book so you get the whole story. But yeah, I just really fell in love with them because support is huge and we don't always hear those stories, but. For you. It was, your story's so interesting, Janice, because your grief manifested at different times and you share the so again, vulnerably in your book, and I think that's why we connect so well.

[00:24:26] Maya: But the next significant point for me in, in your journey is when you're kind of going into your couple different things here. Preteen teen years and you have your first love. And this was interesting to me and I'd love for you to share like with us, kind of, you know, cause it's in the book, but hearing it from you is just incredible.

[00:24:44] Maya: So that was an interesting thing for me to read about because you almost identify yourself as being a little co-dependent and really dependent upon this person that you have a relationship with. You also talk about your first friend and you had a similar, like a first friend that was kinda like a sister and you had a similar type of relationship.

[00:25:04] Maya: And I immediately was like, oh my God, that's, that's, that's her grief. That's her grief coming out and manifesting because right after I lost my brother, my producer, for my very first podcast, MaYapinion, which is still in existence, but I was with him all the time and we weren't a couple, he was just around me all the time and I talked very openly about it.

[00:25:24] Maya: In season one, I don't think I would've gotten through the first year to two years after my brother's passing. Had I not had that codependent relationship, it wasn't the healthiest situation in the world, but I totally was like honing in on your relationships in the book because I was like, oh my God, her friend is her sister.

[00:25:42] Maya: Yep. I get it. And then, oh my gosh, your first love. So those were really monumental and pivotal moments in the book for me. But I wanna hear from you cause this is your story. Let us like talk us through that a little bit and what that was like for you and when did you realize, was it many years later that, oh wait, that was actually kind of my grief.

[00:26:03] Maya: Manifesting a little bit. I would love to hear more about this because I think people can relate.

[00:26:07] Janice: Yes, thank you. So, yes. My first best friend after Julie was this, you know, I met her when we were five years old. So two years after Julie died, I met this friend and we were friends for over a decade. and I mean, we dressed alike.

[00:26:28] Janice: We spent time, you know, together. She went with us on our family vacation. There were so many things. And then when she started getting closer to other friends, I had been taught the context just based on my experience growing up was, you need to do whatever you can not to lose someone. Loss is something to be avoided.

[00:26:52] Janice: I don't care how hard you have to hold onto somebody. And so that's what I was doing. But it didn't work because I did lose that friendship when I, when we were in high school. And then not too long after that, I had my first love and we were very close. And you know, he got me, he understood me, and he became my best friend.

[00:27:16] Janice: And again, I wanted to make sure that didn't change, you know, I wanted to hold on to him and. We ended up, we would be on again, off again, like people often are, especially in your teenage years. Oh yeah. . It wasn't uncommon for us to have a breakup and, you know, get back together. And so that was what happened.

[00:27:38] Janice: And there was at one point that we had broken up and I had decided we wanted to get back together. We're on this kind of, yo-yo, you know, on and off. So I just thought, okay, all I gotta do is let him know I'm, I'm ready to get back together now. And he had moved on, he had a girlfriend, and so I was crushed.

[00:27:58] Janice: I thought, oh my goodness, what in the world? And I thought my life was ending because what I didn't remember at the time, or realize at the time was I had lost Julie and then I had lost my friend and then now losing my first love. So I was distraught. And it ended up at a, at a point where it was my junior year of high school.

[00:28:30] Janice: It was halfway through junior year when our classes changed and my ex-boyfriend was going to be in my class and I just lost it. I knew I couldn't function at the time, I didn't know it was grief. I just thought there was something wrong with me. Because you often hear, especially when you're in high school and you break up with someone, it's minimized as well.

[00:28:56] Janice: Cause

[00:28:57] Maya: yes, this is why I wanted you to talk about this. Yes. It's totally random. Minimized.

[00:29:01] Janice: Yes. Oh, there's other fish in the sea and Oh, you know, you have your whole life ahead of you. But that's not how I felt because this first love we had talked about getting married like five years down the line. So we were in it.

[00:29:17] Janice: And that's what I thought my life would be like. So when I found out that, when he told me he had a girlfriend, like I say, I ended up, I couldn't be in the class with him. I dropped out of high school. Looking back, I'm amazed my parents allowed me to do that, but it really shows they were at the end of their rope.

[00:29:37] Janice: They did not know what to do. There were not resources out there for us. And so that's what I ended up doing. And there was a time with my first love when we were in that, off again point, this was actually a little bit before I dropped out of school, when I thought there was hope that we would get back together.

[00:29:59] Janice: I really thought my life was over and I was ready and prepared to take my life. And that's something that I was on the phone with him. And I don't know how he and his mom got to our house as quickly as they did cuz I was about to take some over-the-counter pain meds because that's what I had heard, that you could do that and you'd be out of pain.

[00:30:30] Janice: And so they spent the rest of the afternoon with me. But that's something that I didn't truly want in my life. What I wanted to do was end my pain and I didn't know how else to do that. And so that's what got me to that point.

[00:30:50] Maya: Yeah. Thank you for sharing this. This is exactly what I wanted to bring up and in your book, Janice you go, into, into great detail about all of this.

[00:30:58] Maya: So again, I encourage you guys to read this in detail. We're kind of just giving you the behind the scenes and the snippets here on this episode, but I think it will be extremely impactful for those of you who can relate to this. I. Recognized as I was reading your story, I'm like up, there's her loss of her friend up, traumatizing up.

[00:31:16] Maya: There's the loss of her first love, who was also your best friend and what, you guys will read this in the book if you haven't read her book already. You were very close. This was not just a boyfriend. The boyfriends are important, you know, I'm not gonna say that or significant others, but like this was your best friend too.

[00:31:32] Maya: And so like you had a lot going on in this relationship and that was a very significant loss. And I wanna just thank you and I hope all of you can appreciate the vulnerability that you have in sharing that you didn't wanna go on, because I think all of us have felt that at least once. I'm gonna admit I've felt it many more times.

[00:31:53] Maya: I do not feel that today, but I felt that in the past. And so I think telling that story, Again, just sharing so openly, opening up to grief Right. Is huge because, and, and this is playing into what we talked about earlier too, Janice, with multi loss. Like it's not always just, you know, it has to be defined as death.

[00:32:15] Maya: It can be losses in life. And this was a loss. And I think it's important to know for any, any parents listening or if you guys are thinking about dropping outta school. Janice ended up doing very well, and so she's all good. And you'll read that in the book. And I didn't know that we had this much of a connection too, but I worked my way up through retail as well.

[00:32:32] Maya: Janice, and you share that in the book and I think that's, you know, you went to work and that was kind of your next outlet and kind of, you got your strength back in a lot of ways that way or were able to move forward. It, it felt like when you kind of directed yourself into making money and working in the shop that you liked, that was kind of your transition.

[00:32:52] Maya: I, I felt in the book. How was that experience coming out of high school cuz you were so young and going straight to work.

[00:33:00] Janice: Yes. I think at that moment working, it saved my life. It gave me a purpose. It made me feel like I could add value. And I'll say, as we were talking about my friend and my first love, you asked earlier about, you know, did I know I was going through grief at the time?

[00:33:23] Janice: And like I say, I, I thought something was wrong with me. And I knew I was very manipulative at that point in my life. That was my coping mechanism. And I have carried that shame for years that I was that person. And it was not until I was writing my book that I was able to release that shame. It was when I had these puzzle pieces of my life coming together, really doing that timeline of my life that it clicked.

[00:33:59] Janice: And I realized I was doing the best I could do at the time based on the resources I had.

[00:34:09] Maya: Wow. Like, wow, that's huge. Because your book has recently come out and you were writing it. Remind me what year you wrote this in Janice.

[00:34:18] Janice: I wrote this it it was released last March. Right, in March of 2022. Yes.

[00:34:24] Maya: Right. So that's many, many years. And I wanna touch, because you brought this up, I wanna touch on shame for just a second because I think a lot of us surviving siblings go through this. We go through shame in different, I mean, we all have our own story, but wow, yours went on for decades. And I think shame. It's like guilt, right?

[00:34:46] Maya: If we carry that around, it can be so destructive. For us, especially in our grieving journey and moving forward, as we know we don't move on, but moving forward, and I just have to ask you your opinion on that of course. But also what did that feel like to release that after all of that time? And I wanna give everyone permission listening on behalf of Janice that you can release it.

[00:35:13] Maya: But if you could share that with us, I think that's huge, huge in this story.

[00:35:18] Janice: Yeah. So it feels so liberating to give myself that permission and to see myself as human and have that compassion extended to me. You know, certainly it's great when other people can extend compassion to us. And I have been very fortunate because I've gotten that from people, especially as I've gotten older and, and looking back, I could see where.

[00:35:44] Janice: People did express compassion to me. Just, it may not have been at the level or to the extent that I needed. So that's been powerful to me. And as far as with coping mechanisms, I mean, it is not uncommon for people to turn to something. Again, we don't have good coping mechanisms so people can turn to all kinds of things that become addictions or addiction.

[00:36:12] Janice: Like anything that really takes you away from who you are is not healthy. And for me growing up, you know, I was working, I'd worked more and more, I got rewarded for that, and that gave me more money. And especially when I was in high school and I didn't have adult responsibilities and, and expenses, that was a big sum of money.

[00:36:34] Janice: And so I would go shopping, that's what I did. I would find sales and I would shop, shop, shop. You know, I mean, you think about, people joke about retail therapy and that's what I was doing as a teenager and on into my twenties even.

[00:36:50] Maya: Yeah, and I connected with that as well in the book. I'm like, oh my gosh. I, I did the same thing.

[00:36:55] Maya: I remember sh, I remember buying stuff like right afterwards and it would feel good. So I was like, oh gosh, Janice, I know the feeling that you're chasing with that. And a month or two later, I would look at that shirt or that outfit or that, you know, big sale live shop. I'm like, I don't even like any of this.

[00:37:12] Maya: Like, why did I buy them? You know what I mean? Like, there's stuff like that. So I agree with you completely. There's definitely, you know, some people use substances, some people throw themselves into work. Some people do a combination of things. I understand the work aspect as well. I think a lot of you guys can too, because sometimes we want to distract ourselves as much as possible because we don't wanna feel that.

[00:37:32] Maya: And here you just, you lost Julie. You lost your best friend, and you lost your best friend and boyfriend. And so it's like three losses in who wants to feel that? Especially as a junior in high school. So let's throw ourselves into work. Let's throw ourselves into, you know, oh, we got a paycheck, let's shop, let's feel good.

[00:37:51] Maya: Like that's a huge thing. So I think, again, sharing that is, is really important. And just, I think because we carry shame with that and that's why this conversation is so important. And I, I see so many people talking about this. I'm sure you do Two Jadas where they're like, oh gosh, I did this right after the laws.

[00:38:07] Maya: I drank too much. I shopped too much. I gambled, I did, you know, I didn't get outta the house. I didn't shower. Like I think giving ourselves permission here today as we're doing this episode, to forgive ourselves and understand that we went through something very traumatic. And it's okay as long as you recognize it and move forward in a much healthier way.

[00:38:27] Janice: Yes. And along that line, I will say, I've heard I was. Only three, but people who were older, whether they were teenagers or on into adulthood, I have known people who feel guilty for maybe the last thing they said to their sibling, or an argument that they had, or they had drifted or there was something that they felt bad about.

[00:38:55] Janice: And that is, as humans, we have conversations, we have disagreements. It's just that when the music stops, sometimes it ends up that way, but it doesn't mean that there's anything wrong with us. We're human. And so I would encourage your listeners if they're feeling that way to. Do what they can to extend that compassion, that empathy to themselves.

[00:39:20] Maya: I love that you said this, Janice. I love this because I hear about this all the time and even in my own family unit. That is something that is said about what was last said to my brother. This is the last time I saw him. This is the last time. And I went through that personally. So I connect with that. So again, we're getting a lot of permission here today, Janice, permission to let that go.

[00:39:40] Maya: Permission, because I don't know if you really wanna go back in time and and change that, because that's what was going on. That was the environment. We all make mistakes and I truly believe that your sibling, your person that you've lost or you know, if you're in a multi law situation, multiple siblings, they know.

[00:40:00] Maya: They know that you love them. They know that was like a human experience and. You didn't. No. You didn't know. Most of the time, you didn't know you. That was gonna be the last thing you were gonna say to them. So I think us giving them permission today, Janice, you guys, it, it takes some time. I don't think you're gonna listen to this episode and go, okay, I'm over it.

[00:40:20] Maya: But just knowing that you're not alone regardless of age. Like you remember some of the last things that you said or you might fixate on that. So love that you brought that up. So I wanna get into your journey and like the evolution of your grief and how you started to really tackle it is really how I

[00:40:39] Maya: I read it and, and head on. But before we go there, I wanna go back for just a second. I think there was something that you talked about throughout the entire book and then you, you evolve, which I think is really interesting. I think this would be helpful for people who have lost a sibling, very young, who have become an only sibling, which you're not really, or you have a sibling that you feel like you compared yourself to all the time.

[00:41:05] Maya: And I noticed throughout your book there was a lot of comparing. I thought this was so fascinating, Janice, because you were three when you lost your sister, three years old. Yet you carried this for a very long time. Like I'm not, fill in the blank as Julie. I'm not like this as Julie. Can you speak a little bit on that, because I think this is huge, that you were so young in this loss, but this carried throughout life for you.

[00:41:34] Janice: Yes, it did. We had sibling rivalry even though she died when I was three, and it was one-sided, but I certainly had some arguments with her and was very upset with her, even though she wasn't walking alongside me on the earth. So yes, even though I was three, the people around me were older. And even adults.

[00:42:04] Janice: And so I would pick up on and hear what other people would say. And of course when you're thinking back in, let's say you're a parent or someone who lost a young person in your life or any person, suddenly they become perfect because who wants to talk negatively about someone who has passed on? That's just not something that we do.

[00:42:32] Janice: And so that was certainly the case in my situation. And so I felt like I was having to compete with someone who was perfect, and of course I'm always gonna fall short with that. And so it did. It brought up anger and resentment and all these things that if you're supposed to have nothing but love for this person, that's perfect.

[00:42:55] Janice: Then that's yet another expectation that you're not living up to.

[00:43:00] Maya: Yeah, it's, it was that like I could feel it like weighing on you as I'm reading your journey. I'm like, oh my gosh. But then, correct me if I'm wrong, I have this marked, but I, I referenced it. It was a picture that kind of finally released you from that when you were seeing that picture where Julie didn't seem so perfect, you were, see you said she was kind of like in a goofy picture.

[00:43:22] Maya: Yeah.

[00:43:23] Janice: Yes, yes. So when I was much younger and my family, my mom and dad and me would wa would look at slides, you know, the ones that you had to have a projector to look at. We would go through and, and my mom and dad especially my mom would talk about, you know, my, my sister and all the great things about her.

[00:43:45] Janice: And then this picture would pop up where my sister was pouting. She was outside, like leaned over the back, the trunk of our car and just pouting. And I loved that picture. Because it was the only physical proof I had that my sister was not perfect. And so I would do my best as this like very young child.

[00:44:10] Janice: I would do my best to ask questions and just try to get my parents talking so that picture would stay projected as long as possible. .

[00:44:24] Maya: So we're laughing now, and I will tell you, I was reading the book in the car. My, my husband and I were going to see my in-laws and I laughed like I giggled out loud when I saw that because I can understand that, like I can understand and I really love that part of, of the book.

[00:44:40] Maya: You guys will, I hope you laugh a little out loud too when you see that because it was so cute and the way that you wrote it. Wonderful, because you're like, I was just trying to get my parents to hang out on that picture for a long time so that I could just see that she wasn't perfect and it's all good that I'm not perfect and like that's the vibe I got from it and I thought it was just so relatable and so sibling relatable, right?

[00:45:01] Maya: Like you want your siblings to win, like you want them to be great in life and you can be critical of them, but no one else can be. There's all these like things that are true of our siblings, but like you also wanna humanize them and if they're always perfect, you're like, oh, I'm not as good. But like it's not true at all, which I think is a great takeaway as well.

[00:45:22] Maya: For all of you listening, you know you're gonna find those pictures or those moments or those memories and your parents or other, you know, people that are older that remember can kind of bring you back down to earth with that. That's why I thought that was such a important moment to bring up because that's throughout the book and the, and the theme.

[00:45:41] Maya: And you kind of come to these realizations throughout your grief journey. You're like, oh, you know, I'm me and I'm. Perfect in this way, you know, because you are perfectly Janice and we're perfectly ourselves and I think that was a really beautiful message. So I wanted to make sure we talked about that. I wanna kind of go into your like adult progression with this because yes, you, you got married and divorced, which we touched on a little bit and it's in your book.

[00:46:05] Maya: And again, encourage you guys to read that part. But I really wanna dive into the part where it manifests physically for you. And I know we talked about this a little bit on your previous episode, but after reading the book and really getting into the thick of your struggle, I think this is huge. Really, really huge in your journey of opening up to grief and you were experiencing physical pain, even though you were happy, you had met your soulmate, you were in a good place in life, great career.

[00:46:35] Maya: But your body was like giving up on you. You explained it as like an 80 year old woman . You were like, oh my gosh. I'm like, and so I would love if you could share a little bit of that with us, Janice, how you finally realized like, oh my gosh. Like I can't, I can't get up. You, you've talked about it a little bit with us, but, and then you found your therapist, Mary.

[00:46:54] Maya: So can you tell us a little bit about that journey? Yeah.

[00:46:57] Janice: I love that you call her therapist Mary, because I do that. That's, I have a lot of Mary's in my life, and so that got me started calling her therapist Mary. Yes. So I had learned that working could help me to mask my pain. I didn't, I had been doing it so long, I didn't know I was masking anything.

[00:47:17] Janice: And so I was working and I started having this horrible, horrible pain. And it didn't come all at once. It came over time, but I wasn't in tune with my body. And so even though it came over time, I didn't realize it until I was sitting on a tour bus in another country with my husband's family and the only two people that didn't go walk up this tall man monument were this 80 year old relative.

[00:47:50] Janice: And me, and I wasn't staying on the bus to be kind and friendly. I knew I could not make the climb and there were 70 year olds making the climb. So that was kind of a, what is going on? And it just got worse and worse and worse. My physical just all over pain. And so I didn't know what to do. I'd spent a couple of years going to different doctors, different specialists, anything from, you know, a rheumatologist or any kinda ologist all the way to natural healing and.

[00:48:27] Janice: The thing that all of them had in common is that they really couldn't pinpoint exactly what my ailment was, even though I did get diagnosed with quite a few different things. But the commonality was you couldn't pinpoint it, and there was no known cure. And so here I am having this horrible pain. At the time where my husband and I lived, our bedroom was upstairs, so I would crawl, literally I had to crawl up the stairs to go to bed.

[00:49:00] Janice: I could barely work my, you know, corporate office job. Luckily, I had a very understanding boss who allowed me to work from home, which that was unheard of at the time. And so finally with these different doctors I went to, there were two separate ones that said, You know what? You need to go see a pain management specialist because you are going to have this pain for the rest of your life.

[00:49:33] Janice: And at the time I was in my early thirties, and again, I was distraught. Of course, this time, unlike the other stories we've talked about, where it was emotionally, I was in pain this time. I was in physical pain. You cannot deny physical pain, at least not for too long. I tried to deny it for a long time and it didn't work.

[00:49:57] Janice: It just kept getting stronger. So I realized if I was gonna have this pain for the rest of my life, I knew I needed emotional support. And so that's what led me to seek out therapy. And I was not looking for a grief therapist. I had no clue that that could be anything to do with my physical pain. But when I went to see therapist Mary, the very first session, It was a common question you would be asked if you go to a therapist.

[00:50:29] Janice: And she asked me, you know, Hey, what brings you here? And I told her, Hey, you know, I'm, I'm happy. I have a great husband, great life, great parents, my, you know, great job house. Everything is wonderful, except I have this horrible pain and I need help dealing with the emotional side of that. So she continued to listen and then she said, tell me about your parents and any siblings.

[00:50:59] Janice: And so I got into this kind of robotic place as if you're reciting your ABCs. I got into this place of the story that I'd always told, which was, I grew up as an only child. My sister was seven when she died from leukemia, and I was three. And most of the time I would get a reaction like, oh, At least you were too young.

[00:51:23] Janice: That must have been hard on your parents, all of those things. So, but this time therapist Mary, had a very, just wildly different response. And she asked me what you asked me earlier, which is, what was it like growing up without Julie? And I honestly didn't know how to respond. Yeah. And at the end of our first session, she said to me, Janice, I cannot promise you anything with your physical health, but what I'd like to do is do some grief work with you to help kind of come to terms with your sister.

[00:52:03] Janice: I feel like you are suffering from stuck grief. And in that moment, I had never heard the term stuck. Right. Yeah. It seemed a bit far-fetched because something that happened 30 years ago, how could that be impacting me right now and causing this? But I was out of hope. I was facing the rest of my life needing to be on some sort of medication or something to manage my pain.

[00:52:35] Janice: So it was a low risk to go back and, and see her. And so that's exactly what I did. And over, I would say the next six weeks, it was as if my sister, Julie had just died. My grief was so raw, I cried, I wailed. You know those sounds that you make that you don't even know your body can make those sounds. Oh, yeah.

[00:53:04] Janice: All of that. It was 30 at the time, it was 30 years of grief waiting to be unleashed.

[00:53:13] Maya: Yeah. This is why I wanted you to, to talk about this and touch on this in this episode, and we're gonna go a little longer in this episode, but it's because there's so much to unpack. I feel like that was when you first were like truly opening up to greed as the reader, right?

[00:53:28] Maya: And hearing your story and reading your story. But I just thought that was such, and is such an important story to tell because I think there's not a lot of people out there telling this story that you're telling Janice about stuck grief. And I mean, it's there, but again, like let's demystify this stuff.

[00:53:46] Maya: Let's talk about it. And I think it's really interesting that you opened up to Therapist Mary and went through this process and really grieved, really felt all the things that you. Had three. I mean, how would you know? But then also through life. And so yeah, I really fell in love with therapist Mary too, because I was like, you go girl

[00:54:10] Maya: I was like, that's awesome, but that she was able to do that for you. And I think it's really important that people understand your quote that you always say, and it's in your book and you guys can get more context around it and we'll close with a little bit of this too. But no one gets a pass on grief.

[00:54:25] Maya: And for you, you say not even a three-year-old, and this is when you were really getting into the trenches. So for six weeks it was really intense. Like we're not trying to scare you guys off, we're trying to, to motivate you guys to really forge your path in grief and open up to it is really the the goal and the hope for this podcast and definitely for your book.

[00:54:44] Maya: So six weeks were really intense. When did you start to feel, I know you talked about this in the book, but wanna give a little tid, but when did you start to feel the physical relief, Janice? And also, you know, coming out of that, was it after the six weeks? Like things were really pivotal for you? Can you share that with us?

[00:54:59] Janice: Yes. So even at that point, I still wasn't good at tuning into my body. And so I was going to therapy. I was going once a week to begin with, and at the same time, my husband and my parents and I, we had planned a trip to Disney World and that was coming up in the next summer. And I remember when we booked the trip, we thought, how is Janice gonna be able to do this?

[00:55:28] Janice: Because Disney World, there's a lot of walking involved. And when I couldn't even walk up the stairs to my bedroom, how was I going to make it around Disney World? So we even talked about having a scooter or something so I could get around. But what happened is I started seeing Mary in November, and it was six months later that our Disney World trip came up and my pain was gone.

[00:55:58] Janice: I was able to walk around Disney World, like a 30 something year old like you would expect, and I was just amazed that my pain just evaporated. And what I've realized is my pain had served its purpose, so it no longer needed to stay in my body. And I can honestly say my all over grief pain, if you will, has not returned because it's an ongoing, lifelong process of opening up to grief.

[00:56:33] Maya: I am just blown away by this part of your story and reading. It was amazing hearing. It is amazing. And I think it's a really great message once again to all of you listening, that it will catch up to you. Nobody gets a pass on grief. I love that you say that, and I just think it's so fascinating that once you allowed yourself, like our bodies store stuff and we don't realize it, and grief has taught me that too.

[00:56:59] Maya: And you definitely learned that lesson a while ago, Janice, you're ahead of me on that. And that's why I think it's so important to talk about this. But our bodies know, and if you're not going to go through your process, whatever that looks like, it's gonna manifest itself and it did for you. And I think it happens for other people.

[00:57:18] Maya: And again, this is not something to scare you. This is something to tell you. It's kind of, it's kind of beautiful actually. I mean, I hate that you went through such a physical trauma, but. I think it's something that, you know, if we're really, we connect with our mind, body, soul, all of those things, we realize that they're interconnected.

[00:57:36] Maya: And it's, it was kind of giving you an alert, Janice, Janice, you need this, you need this, you need this. That's what I got out of that part of the story.

[00:57:45] Janice: Yes. And you know, I, I can understand what, because I hear it too, where people are afraid to lean into grief, afraid they'll get swallowed up by their grief. But it's one of those things that it's there whether you acknowledge it or not, I mean, grief, I mean, it's footprints were all over my life and I didn't even realize it, you know, it was showing up and how I showed up. And so by leaning into my grief, I've been able to, you know, learn and grow and heal all along the way.

[00:58:23] Maya: Yeah, absolutely. I just, that part of your story, it blows my mind when we first connected and then reading it and talking about it again. And I hope you guys find that really helpful too. An another thing I wanna bring up from your book, so many things. Oh my god, we could do another episode. Janice, I love that you say that comparison can be the thief of grief.

[00:58:44] Maya: Do you wanna talk about that a little bit? Cause I think that's really, really helpful. And I talk about this sometimes on social media and stuff, but this is like one of your mega quotes in your book. Just like no one gets a pass comparison can be the thief of grief. And I love when things kind of flow too, so you guys can remember it easily.

[00:59:01] Maya: But tell us a little bit about that part and like how you came to that realization and in your journey and how people can apply this to their own brief journey.

[00:59:11] Janice: Yes. So for decades, all those years I compared my. Loss my grief to others. And because my parents were very present and right there in my life, and every time I would tell someone that I lost a sibling, the response I got was, that must have been hard for your parents.

[00:59:35] Janice: So as a child, I took that as well. I guess that means it wasn't hard on me because you can't, it can't be hard for both of us. So their grief had to be a lot harder and worse than mine. And so we often get in that, you know, comparison or we feel like, oh, well they were just my cousin, or they were just my aunt, or, you know, we weren't, or maybe they have a sibling that they weren't in their life, maybe they had grown apart.

[01:00:05] Janice: So they feel like they don't have the right to grieve the loss when we do. So comparison, The reason I say it, it can be the thief of grief, is because when we're focused on, let me see, whose grief was harder, is it harder to lose someone unexpectedly or is it harder to lose someone when you have plenty of time to say goodbye?

[01:00:28] Janice: The answer I'm here to tell you is yes, it's harder. It's the hardest when it's your loss. And when we focus on comparing our grief, we're focusing on the wrong things. We're trying to measure something that one can't be measured, cuz every relationship is different. And two, it takes us away from what really matters, which is our loss and feeling, our losses and grieving for our, our lost loved one. Our sibling

[01:01:00] Maya: perfectly said. Love it. Absolutely. I agree. And I, you know, I, I think this is gonna be so helpful too, again, with us focusing on losing at such a young age because. I think you've probably unpacked all of this with therapist Mary, but for those of you who ha maybe have not unpacked this or are having some moments where this is clicking, you know, you're hearing all of these messages, oh, it must be so hard for your parents.

[01:01:26] Maya: It must be like, that's getting ingrained at a very young age. Oh my gosh. So of course, you know, you're seeking other outlets or not validating your own grief and you're doing your own comparing, like you said, so perfectly, because you're like, oh, it's much worse for my parents, or it's, you know, I love your answer.

[01:01:45] Maya: Yes, all grief. Is, it's your grief, it's your journey. And don't let anybody else dictate how difficult it is or when you want to stop grieving, or I don't think you ever do. It's a journey. And so accepting that and embracing that, and you know your relationship, you said this very well to Janice, you know your relationship with that particular person, but it doesn't mean just because you didn't talk on the phone every single day or whatever you could you think is close, or what defines closeness for you doesn't mean that that's not a significant loss for you.

[01:02:17] Maya: And you have to define that for yourself. And you touching on, you know, sudden loss and, you know, watching someone go through, you know, I mean, Julie had leukemia of course, and then, you know, we've had people on that, watched brothers, sisters go through cancer. It's all a different experience when I connect with, with some people that, you know, have gone through experiences where they've watched their sibling or anybody, like you say too, right?

[01:02:42] Maya: And it's been a cancer or a sickness or an illness. I feel just as much empathy because I'm like, I can't imagine watching my brother go through that. It was hard enough just for the few days in the hospital when he wasn't technically alive and he was on life support because he was pretty much gone.

[01:03:00] Maya: Right. So, and then people will come to me that experience, you know, leukemia, cancer, different, you know, pancreatic, all these different things and they're like, I can't imagine it just being all of a sudden. And I'm like, that's because our grief is our own grief and that's why we don't compare. And I think that's so important.

[01:03:15] Maya: And I will have people say all the time, they're like, sudden is so much worse. Suddenly it's so I'm like, no, there's no comparison. No, no, no, no, no. It's all grief. It's all our own unique experience. And identifying that is so important. So that's why I really wanted to touch on that. And it's a, another really important quote in your book, because this happens all the time, the comparing.

[01:03:39] Maya: I wanna talk about your parents for a second too, because I just, again, love the 40th birthday and everything they did to keep Julie alive and bring those memories back in the purse. You guys have to read this. It's just like, oh my God, touch my heart so much. But I wanna talk a little bit about your parents and from your perspective, what, and I think this will help parents that listen to the podcast, right?

[01:04:05] Maya: Cuz I get this question a lot. Like, what do I say? How do I have conversations with my young daughter, my young son? In your eyes, in your view, what are some things that your parents did that were, were helpful for you? What are some things you wish they would've done? I think this is so important, Janice, because I hear this all the time and I get these questions and I can't answer that.

[01:04:25] Maya: I lost my brother at at 30, which is super young too, but it's not a child, right? And so this is only something that you can speak to. And of course all of you who have lost at a young age too, so would love to hear. That what, what your parents did well, which we already know. The birthday is a beautiful tribute and by the way, you guys, it'll be Julie's birthday tomorrow when you hear this episode, it comes out so March 30.

[01:04:49] Maya: So happy birthday to Julie, but definitely wanna hear the, those kinds of perspectives from you, Janice. I think that will be so helpful for everyone listening.

[01:04:58] Janice: Yes. Well, great question and thank you for those of you who are parents of surviving siblings or others who are close and supporting surviving siblings.

[01:05:10] Janice: First of all, thank you for being here and showing up for us. That is powerful in itself and that is something my parents did and have done and are doing for me in the way that they are able to personally do so. I would say it's less about what you say and it's really about. Going where your child needs to go or your teenager needs to go when they need to go there.

[01:05:44] Janice: I know as humans it's hard not to say, ah, I wanna ask this question, or I want to kind of force this timeline, or force this agenda. And children grieve differently than adults. They grieve in spurts. They can be really distraught, really sad and grieving. One minute they could be crying the next minute they could be playing with their toys.

[01:06:11] Janice: Grief in children looks very different than grief in adults or even grief in adolescence. And children haven't gotten the coping skills yet. And so my guidance to parents and others who support Young Grievers is do what you can to extend their sphere, that place that they, where they can speak and act without filters, which.

[01:06:37] Janice: I will tell you, as a surviving sibling growing up with grief, that is a place where you as parents are not, because as a child we worry about you. We don't want to see you in any more pain than you're already in. We don't wanna add to that. So if there's a way that you can find person, a therapist, someone who can be there for your child, you will be giving them lifelong skills.

[01:07:06] Maya: Yeah. This is exactly where I wanted to go with this, Janice. We're so in sync again with this. It's interesting because I get this question, and again, I'm, I'm with you. So grateful for the parents and supporters who listen to the show. You guys are incredible because. Genuinely wanna know how to be supportive to your children or your friend or whomever is going through this surviving sibling, you know, process that we go through for life.

[01:07:32] Maya: And I think that's something I hear a lot is, you know, what can I, what can I do for my kids? Like how can I help them during this? . But on the flip side, you said it perfectly, I hear from the children, oh, I don't wanna burden my mother. I don't wanna make my father more sad. I don't want to trigger them.

[01:07:51] Maya: That's a big one too. Like, I don't wanna trigger them. They're going through enough already. This is the worst thing they could possibly go through. And all of that is valid and true and it's real. But your own pain and your own loss is real too. So I think what you said is just incredible. And I was really looking forward to your answer myself, because I don't always know how to answer that when people ask me, because I, you know, I do the best that I can, especially with my sister, who's someone's younger than me and watching her grieve in a very different way too, which I think is something to point out as well.

[01:08:23] Maya: And I, we've talked about this before, people all grieve differently, so accepting that too. But I love your advice about just being open and there for them and giving them resources like therapy, you know, groups, whatever. All these things are coming out now, which is really great because. You know, you didn't have 'em after Julie passed and they were kind of still in infancy in even in 2016, which is kind of crazy.

[01:08:47] Maya: But I love that we're bringing awareness to this, but that was a huge, huge thing that I wanted to touch on because I think a lot of people wanna get advice about that and like what to say to their children. And don't you think every child is a little bit different too, Janice? So like it's kind of just meeting them where they are?

[01:09:05] Janice: Yes. We all have different personalities and we all have different relationships with the person who died. So you combine that and grief is definitely not a one size fits all thing. So you know, and there are a lot more resources. If you follow me on Instagram at Inner Trailblazer, I encourage you to look at the accounts that I follow.

[01:09:31] Janice: Because there are quite a few about loss and grief and specifically, there's some incredible ones about helping young Grievers, and I cannot stress that enough. I read that I, as a 50 year old woman now, it's been 47 years, I get comfort from some of the things that they suggest on there. And one recently was talking about be careful telling someone or telling a child, don't feel bad.

[01:10:04] Janice: Think if they were having a happy moment, would you say, don't feel good ? No, they wouldn't. Yeah. And so it's letting those emotions, letting them feel what they need to feel. And when you talk about their sibling, try to give an all around view of their sibling. You know, talk about something they did that was quirky or less than perfect.

[01:10:32] Janice: That will go a long way.

[01:10:34] Maya: Yeah. I, I love that. Yes, of course. And your, all your information, Instagram will be in the show notes guys. So connect with Janice and I love that tidbit right there. Go into your accounts and who you're following. That's, yeah. And who follows you? Because there are accounts out there supporting young Grievers, like you said, and I just, oh, I get so excited when new ones pop up and follow me.

[01:10:54] Maya: And like, we start like all these different groups that are supporting in kind of like the sub niche of. Sibling loss. I think it's beautiful and phenomenal and so happy we're talking about it, but we're kind of circling back a little bit to what we talked about with Julie and kind of glorifying her.

[01:11:11] Maya: And you know, I at first found myself glorifying my brother. And so when I came to do season one, I wanted to be totally honest about the good, the bad, the ugly, the sad, everything. Because this is a person. And so I think it's really, really key, what you just said, Janice, about the parents being like, yeah, you know, Julie was really great at this, but Julie also remember that one time where she forgot to put on her shoes for church, or, I don't know, I'm making something up.

[01:11:37] Maya: Right? Silly stuff. And it humanizes them because I think it, you said it perfectly earlier too, I think sometimes we think, oh, they're not physically here in this world with us anymore. They've passed away. Like, let's just talk about the positive. Let's just talk about the things that will glorify them as a person.

[01:11:53] Maya: But they were a person and that deeply impacts. The surviving children. So again, beautiful piece of advice and knowledge that I think will be helpful for parents and also for you if you lost a sibling at a young age and you're moving through this process just like you did, Janice, you have lots of experience decades now, which is wonderful to bring to the show.

[01:12:15] Janice: Can I mention one other thing that Absolutely, this is one of the biggest gifts my mother gave me, so I was way too young at the time for her to tell me all about Julie. I could only comprehend so much, and it would've been overwhelming, even if I could have comprehended it. What she did is she wrote about Julie, she wrote about Julie, about our relationship, about what Julie was like, and that has been invaluable to me, and I can only imagine how therapeutic it was for her.

[01:12:54] Janice: So it was not just thinking about what I would need in that moment, but I'm saying this to the parents of surviving siblings, especially very young ones, right? It can help you now and it could be the gift that keeps on giving when you're able to give that to your child, your surviving sibling in the future.

[01:13:14] Maya: What a beautiful gift. Yes. Thank you for bringing this up. I loved learning about that as well. And again, that's why I just give your parents so much credit on going on this journey with you. I, I truly feel like, you know, you get that outta the book and supporting that. So again, if you guys are curious about how to best support not only this episode, but your book, Janice, I think gives some beautiful examples just like you just shared about your mother.

[01:13:39] Maya: And again, it's a gift not only for the sibling or siblings surviving, but also for the parent writing all of that down and it's with you for, for life. And I think that's really beautiful. I love that. So one thing I wanna talk about before we close and we'll talk about where to find you and of course the book, everyone has to get opening up to grief on the front cover.

[01:14:00] Maya: You have sunflowers, we've touched on this before, but I'm gonna go a little bit deeper. And we connected like instantly When we saw that, you know, I was like, oh my god, sunflowers my brother, I have a tattoo of a sunflower on me. It's on your book. But in reading your book, it was really beautiful how I learned about, and you guys will too, oh, I'm not gonna tell everything, you gotta read it, but your connection with sunflowers, because you were describing it in a way that sunflowers need a lot of darkness and then go to the light.

[01:14:31] Maya: Can you kind of give a little bit of your perspective on that? Because I was like, oh my gosh, this is so beautiful and I love that a sunflower is representative of my brother and this is representative of your book opening up to grief.

[01:14:43] Janice: Yes. So I was first attracted to sunflowers when I was going through the darkness of divorce.

[01:14:50] Janice: And I just loved how vibrant they were and how when you see them in a field, they're standing so confidently and I mean, they're just so unique. They're unlike any other flower, in my opinion. And so, boom, I, I was attracted to them before I knew it. When I was in my, what I call single again years, I had sunflower, knick nags all over my house.

[01:15:15] Janice: And then I started thinking about their behaviors and watching their behaviors and how they would, they would follow the sun, they would focus on the light, and by focusing on the light, they were turning away from darkness. And so I admired that and I made that my mission to emulate them and to focus on the light, to focus on the positive to, you know, forget about the darkness.

[01:15:44] Janice: And so I, I did that for many years as we've talked about. And it wasn't until later, much later that I really deepened my knowledge of sunflowers and my understanding, and that's when I had this personal revelation where sunflowers, they actually, what I had been noticing is they're above ground orientation.

[01:16:08] Janice: What I had no clue of is that underground, they are actually spending a lot of time in darkness, and that's where they're soaking up the nutrient soil, all the things throughout the night, even when they're blooming beautifully above ground, they are soaking up darkness underneath and really leaning into that, if you will.

[01:16:33] Janice: And so it's only by facing that darkness that they're able to really reach their full brilliance.

[01:16:42] Maya: Yeah. Thank you for sharing that. It's in the book too. Can't wait for you guys to read the whole thing. But that was emotional for me reading that because I was like, oh my gosh. Like I didn't realize that.

[01:16:55] Maya: This flower was super representative of my brother. It really, really was. He always just wanted to see like he was overly optimistic and wanted to see the, so that, but the part that you just described about being in the darkness so that you can have that also described him. But I connected to that personally because I was like, oh my gosh, I went through all this darkness and still go through it, but I'm choosing the light now just like a sunflower.

[01:17:21] Maya: And I was like, oh my gosh, I never. Knew that much about sunflowers, but they pop up in my life. Just yesterday, Janice, I was at, it was an event and you guys know I planned events and there was a part, my husband's a chef too, a little insider there, but there was a farmer there and he started talking about when to come visit his farm.

[01:17:42] Maya: He's South Georgia. I know we're both Georgia girls, but he South Georgia and he pro, he produces oils from the sunflowers. And I'm like, this is really, I'm like, I get it. I hear you, brother, because I knew I was recording with you the next day. And I'm like, oh my gosh, we're talking about sunflowers for like an L or , like this is really wild.

[01:18:00] Maya: And he started to share some of the horticulture, you know, background and stuff with it. I'm like, I already knew that because of Janice's book. So . But I felt like, you know, we talk about signs and stuff. I de definitely felt like that was a little bit of a sign from my brother and probably from Julie too.

[01:18:16] Maya: It was pretty beautiful. Okay, so at the end of your book, I have to like end us here cuz this is incredible. You're talking about your journey and you talk about grieving well as a practical and beneficial life skill. I love that. I thought that was awesome because I think grief is intimidating to a lot of us.

[01:18:39] Maya: I think it's something we don't want to, it's kind of like a mountain. You have to go through the tunnel. You can't really go around it. You can't crawl up it like you gotta go through it and it's intimidating to see that big mountain of grief. So having this as a life skill, I was like, she is brilliant for defining it that way.

[01:18:58] Maya: But how you close the book so you guys have to read it. Cause I'm gonna tell you how it closes. You say by opening up to grief, we are opening up to love. That's what got me, Janice right there, . I was like, oh my gosh. Because I felt like I was releasing and crying and I was like, You know, but in a positive way because I was like, oh my, I'm gonna cry now.

[01:19:18] Maya: Look at me, because it's so true. Opening up to grief, you know, you're opening yourself to love, and you're recognizing all the love that you still have for this person that's very real to you.

[01:19:30] Janice: I could not agree more. When I was at the end of writing my book and I was looking back, I really did. It helped me realize just how loved I have been all along, and I developed more love for myself.

[01:19:49] Janice: And just through this whole grieving process, it's helped me to have a deeper love for myself and for nature and for those around me. I mean, I have much deeper and more meaningful relationships than I've ever had in my life. And that's because of opening up to grief.

[01:20:12] Maya: And I love that you said that and maybe that's another reason I got really emotional with that last, I mean, I got emotional a couple times, but that was like the kicker for me.

[01:20:19] Maya: I'm like, I opened up to grief. People often think it's odd that I have said in very public places and on season one that losing my brother made me a more empathetic person. No, it did not happen overnight, guys. You're saying the same thing in your own, you know, your own way, in your own journey. It has made me have more impactful deep relationships.

[01:20:44] Maya: Some of the relationships I had before my brother did not make it through. And I'm okay with that because I am in a different place and I do think I'm a more empathetic person because I feel deeper and I have deeper relationships. So it's very validating to hear you say something like that, Janice, because I always thought, I'm like, okay, people are questioning me on that.

[01:21:03] Maya: Am I not more empathetic? No, it's true. It's just you're deeper. It's a whole different level that you've accessed. Janice, I thank you for staying longer. This is an incredible episode. We could probably do another one. You're awesome. Is there anything I missed that you wanna touch on about your story in the book that we have just had the pleasure of talking about?

[01:21:23] Maya: And I hope you guys grab the book and if you've already read it, you know exactly what we're talking about as we're discussing this episode today. But anything else you wanna add before we talk about where to find you?

[01:21:32] Janice: You know, we covered so much from the book and thank you, Maya, for reading the book and your energy is contagious for me.

[01:21:40] Janice: So that means a lot. A lot of myself is in this book, and so it means a lot that it resonates with you and others as well. I really want to other surviving siblings out there, I just wanna say my biggest guidance for you would be to find the place where you feel like you belong and where you can feel seen and acknowledged for your life changing loss, whether that's a friend therapy or a support group, and that could be either in person or online.

[01:22:16] Janice: And let me just tell you that since from season two to now, a big change in my life has been. And you're not paying me to say this , but has been being part of the Surviving Sibling Podcast, your Facebook group. There's so many loving souls in that group, and it's really been powerful to hear from other surviving siblings to be able to post things myself and just to share and grow and heal together.

[01:22:50] Janice: So I definitely wanna say thank you to Maya for all that you're, you're pouring a lot of yourself into all of the things that you're doing as well with the resource guide that you created with this podcast, with your support group online, and just the way you're elevating other people's voices, including my own, so we can know that we are in good company and that we can find comfort with each other.

[01:23:19] Janice: And so I just. I've gotta believe that Andreas is smiling and that you know the sunflowers and he. Sharing fields of sunflowers right now through smiles because you are really honoring his memory.

[01:23:37] Maya: Oh my God. Jesus. I'm now you, you're gonna have me crying again. Okay. The book. And now this. You're so sweet.

[01:23:42] Maya: Thank you so much. And yeah, we, I'm so glad you're enjoying the group. We're a small group, the Facebook group, but I think that's what's really incredible is that everybody that comes on the show is in that group, so you guys can interact. Janice is there, everybody else is in there. And I think it's a really beautiful place and we're, you know, it's small.

[01:23:59] Maya: We just started it out, but it's growing and it's really important that I keep it very selective to those of you who are surviving siblings. So you feel safe in that community and you can interact with incredible guests like Janice and authors. We have therapists in there, we have, you know, experts on different areas of grief.

[01:24:18] Maya: I mean, it's a really cool group. So thank you for plugging that, and thank you for being so kind. Yes, I'm definitely pouring my heart and soul into this, and I pray every day that my brother is proud of me because this ultimately was for him. And now this is for all of you. So Janice, I know you're in the group, but tell everybody where they can find your book.

[01:24:36] Maya: It's on our website of course, too, but Amazon and, and tell us where we can find you personally.

[01:24:41] Janice: Yes, absolutely. My book is on Amazon opening up to Grief, and I can be found on Instagram at inner I n n e r Trailblazer. So I love to share, love to connect with people, and so feel free to reach out there and just to everyone, if you walk away with one thing, I just want you to know that your loss is real and that your feelings.

[01:25:10] Maya: I agree. I love that Janice will tag all of that in the show notes to you guys. Make sure you follow, Janice. You're super active on Instagram too and in our group, and thank you so much for being here again, Janice, and writing this incredible book, opening up to Grief.

[01:25:24] Janice: Thank you.

[01:25:26] Maya: Thank you so much for listening to the Surviving Siblings Podcast.

[01:25:30] Maya: If you enjoyed this episode as much as I did creating it for you, then share it on your chosen social media platform. And don't forget to tag us at Surviving Siblings Podcast so that more surviving siblings can find us. Remember to rate, review and subscribe to the podcast. And don't forget to follow us on all social media platforms.

[01:25:53] Maya: We're on Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok at Surviving Siblings Podcast. All links can be found in the show notes, so be sure to check those out too. Thank you again for the support. Until the next episode, keep on surviving my surviving siblings.

Janice JerniganProfile Photo

Janice Jernigan


Janice’s life’s work is centered around deepening connections within, with nature, and with each other. This shows up in her roles as a vineyard and winery owner, inner trailblazer, and best-selling author.

In her courageous and heartfelt memoir, Opening Up to Grief, Janice shares her journey with loss and love, growing up with grief as a surviving sibling since the age of three, and her path to hope and healing. She offers loving guidance for grievers to feel seen and acknowledged, gain insight into their own personal journey, and spark a level of healing that is truly transformative.