May 17, 2023

Preston Zeller - The Art of Grieving

Preston grew up in the shadow of his older brother, Colin. When Preston was in college, Colin decided to go in the military, in part to escape the lifestyle he was living, but being in the military and going on two tours had taken a toll on Colin, and...

Preston grew up in the shadow of his older brother, Colin. When Preston was in college, Colin decided to go in the military, in part to escape the lifestyle he was living, but being in the military and going on two tours had taken a toll on Colin, and he ended up passing due to a drug overdose. 

Preston got the dreaded call while he was at work. As soon as he made it home, he broke down. All he wanted to do was to be with his wife and kids, but his family also needed him. As part of his grief journey, he wanted to challenge himself in new ways while also honoring Colin, so he decided to paint every day for 365 days and make a documentary about it. 

In this week's episode, Preston is sharing his story and Colin’s story, how life was for Colin after he came back from two military tours, how it was for Preston after he received the call, why grieving for men is sometimes different for men, and how creating art out of our grief or using art therapy can help surviving siblings.

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]

  • Preston and Colin’s story [00:02:03]

  • Coming back from tour [00:10:45]

  • Getting The Call [00:22:59]

  • The days after Colin’s passing [00:34:49]

  • The Art of Grieving - Honoring Colin [00:42:48]

  • Grieving as a male [00:50:14]

  • Creating out of grief [01:01:38]

  • How art therapy can help surviving siblings [01:09:45]

For full episode show notes and transcript, click here

Connect with Preston

Instagram | @prestonzeller

YouTube | Zellerhaus Art

Documentary | The Art of Grieving

Website | ZellerHaus Art


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 store building beautiful commemorative webpages that can include photo and video galleries featuring you and your sibling. Now let's dive into the.

[00:01:10] Maya: Today I have a really special, interesting guest. I have Preston Zeller here today with me. Preston is many things, an abstract artist, a filmmaker, and also the creator and director of the Art of Grieving Preston, welcome to the show.

[00:01:30] Preston: Thank you, Maya, for having me on.

[00:01:32] Maya: Yeah, Preston, I'm really excited to have you here, and before we get into all of these incredible things that you have done to honor your brother and really just help the surviving sibling community and also the greeting community, I want you to tell your story, your personal story, and you know, your loss journey of losing your brother back in 2019 and you know, four years ago. So I'm gonna hand it over to you so you can tell us your personal journey as a surviving sibling.

[00:02:03] Preston: I appreciate it. Um, yeah, so my brother, his name is Colin. Um, you know, he is about four years older than me. And, you know, I, I'm, I'm the middle of three, so I have a younger sister as well. And I grew up really in the shadow of my brother. Um, you know, I, I got to see a lot of the. things that he did that, you know, And, you know, I, I don't think anything puts this better than me being a three-year-old and my parents thinking something was wrong with me cuz I didn't talk much and they actually took me to go see, you know, speech therapists and all this kind of stuff, and they're like, yeah, he's, he's fine. Like he's not on mute. Um, you know I just, I had a brother that spoke for the both of us and, um, spoke a lot and he was articulate. And I, I just, you know, I, for whatever reason at that timeframe, you know, I don't, I don't remember back to being two years old, but, um, you know, the stories I hear from my parents, I was just observant.

[00:03:04] Preston: And so I, i, that really kind of con continued throughout my life. I got to, um, see the things my brother did and you, you know, he was a pedal to the metal kind of guy for, um, how he lived. And so it was always to the extreme. Uh, we did this in, in sports a lot, and, uh, so always kind of challenging each other there.

[00:03:28] Preston: And, you know, I, I was kind of always held to whatever bar he did, so it was, you know, um, you know, reach, reach those levels, school, sports, whatever it was. Um, of course, you know, I, I had different kind of artistic inklings when I was younger. Um, still played a lot of sports and, um, You know, one of the things I, I remember observing from him young was, you know, he was that. kid selling candy at school. So

[00:03:55] Maya: I love that.

[00:03:56] Preston: every, everyone, uh, everyone knew somebody like that. Well, that was him. Um, and so I, you know, just j again, you know, noticed those things growing up. And we shared a room for most of our life until I think I was, uh, midway through high school. Um, so you. I was surrounded by whatever my brother brought around.

[00:04:20] Preston: And you know, when, when you are a sibling, right? You're caught in that cycle of sibling stuff and you know, for better or worse, and sometimes that makes you stronger. Sometimes it can pull you into making bad decisions too, whatever it is. But as we got into, um, I was in high school, he's in college, that's where it really started to separate, uh, in terms of just lifestyle, right?

[00:04:45] Preston: That's, you know, four years isn't a lot when you're older, but it's. Miles different when you're in high school and in college. And so he got deeper into, you know, car culture and some of the, um, you know, I'd say drug culture to some degree, but it was just like, I don't know everyone who listened to hip hop and then late nineties and two thousands who wanted to be a gangster and didn't matter where they were from. And, and we grew up in, in California and Southern California, um, orange County area.

[00:05:17] Preston: Uh, lived in northern California a bit too. But, um, yeah, so as we got into adulthood, that was like a lot of early adulthood, late, late, uh, high school, early, you know, college stuff Was, was like, okay, well who am I? Um, not being around family, but probably more particularly, um, my brother.

[00:05:40] Preston: And uh, so that was like college and. You know, when I was in a guy my junior year of college, my brother went in the military, and part of that was to escape some of the, you know, kind of culture he had gotten into where it was he was in, you know, again, there's drugs and there was, you know, I think a lifestyle there that wasn't sending him in any good direction. And, um, and selling drugs too, you know, that was, that was the way, like everyone had their, you know, they knew a pot dealer in high school that was, that was my brother. He was one of those guys too. Uh, easy to get friends that way. Right. Um, and, you know, there was a certain, uh, appeal there, but, uh, you know, he eventually, he went in the military and that was, um, as I talk about in the film to some degree, a, a huge.

[00:06:27] Preston: Um, you know, a source of honor for, for him and for the family. But, um, I think when he got out of the military, that's where I think a lot of the problems prior to the military just got exacerbated, right? Um, you know, you're, you're coming home from, uh, two tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and, um, eventually leaving this very structured lifestyle.

[00:06:53] Preston: And so all in this timeframe, like I'm at breakneck speed. I, you know, got married, I got started having kids, you know, pretty young relative to today. And, um, and, you know, that's, that's my life I got sucked into. Um, and the, him and his wife unfortunately never, never had kids. So it's, that changes the game altogether there.

[00:07:16] Preston: Um, and you know, we just kind of continued on and I think our adulthood and kind of managing the like weird competitive nature that we had from. Uh, youth, but as an adult. And I think those are some of like the, um, more awkward things as adults, uh, in terms of, um, really trying to understand why it mattered what I did to him so much.

[00:07:43] Preston: And so this this me constant measuring stick of, Hey, you know, I like jealousy, frankly. And I mean, I, I understand why to some degree because he wa he really desperately wanted to get structure back into his life. And I, you know, he, uh, did a lot of things that I learned from, and I don't, you know, he, he trailblazed in his own way and, uh, that that made it pretty rocky for him. So,

[00:08:16] Maya: Yeah, I think it's really awesome that you're, yeah, thanks for giving all that background context, Preston, because I think that always helps so much for us to understand the full story and your journey. And I think a lot of you guys listening will relates it to the story precedent of you and Colin.

[00:08:31] Maya: Because I mean, it's sibling rivalry, right? It's what we go through. Like we love each other, we hate each other, you know, we compare each other and I, you know, I have two sisters in addition to my brother and you know, it's, it happens, right? But the reality is we get older is we're all different. We all have different paths, we all have a different journey.

[00:08:50] Maya: And I hear that like echoing through what you're saying right now. So I think it's really amazing that you're identifying that and putting that out here and, and you know, it's relatable for everybody, but I think. A lot of people will be able to connect too to what you're talking about with your brother going in and, and needing structure.

[00:09:10] Maya: I connect with it personally, Preston, because my brother really struggled with drugs and alcohol and, and most people thought that's how he passed until I shared my story and you know, shared that it was the homicide, they didn't know because he was hanging out with people he shouldn't have been hanging out with.

[00:09:25] Maya: Which doesn't mean that's how he should have passed, but you know what I mean? So I connect a lot with that and my brother was really that fast and furious and no pun intended kind of person as well. So structure was always really good for him too. So I can understand what you're saying that coming out of the Now was he Army? Preston

[00:09:46] Preston: Yeah. He was Army.

[00:09:47] Maya: yeah, that's what I thought I saw in the film, which again, we're gonna get into that. You know, I always thought my brother would've benefited a lot from that because the times that his life was more structured, like when he had to go to zero period and all these other things, other things, he seemed to thrive a little bit more.

[00:10:01] Maya: He didn't, he, he didn't like it at first, but then he thrived. So I think that's a, a important part of, of your story too, and your brother's story. So can you tell us a little bit to Preston about when, so when he came out and he was overseas at a really pivotal time too, a lot was happening as well. So a lot of

[00:10:20] Preston: Mm.

[00:10:20] Maya: happening, you know, and, you know, thank you for his service, obviously. I

[00:10:26] Preston: I appreciate it.

[00:10:27] Maya: yeah. What, what an incredible guy. But yeah, it's a pivotal time for this country, um, when he was over there. But tell us a little bit about when he came back and, and what happened. You kind of touched on that, but kind of break that down for us and then kind of lead us up to what happened unfortunately in, in 2019.

[00:10:45] Preston: Yeah, I think so part of the, um, hard thing for him was he, so he been on two tours. He was stationed in uh, Fort Hood for brief period, which was kind of bizarre cause I ended up living not far from there. So Fort Hood, Texas, um, and then, uh, Colorado Springs and then, um, Hawaii in EBA Beach, which is a big military station, but he ended up training with people who, uh, his platoon basically was always preparing to go to war, knowing they'd never would.

[00:11:22] Preston: So, He's training with these, you know, soldiers that are sort of putting up the bravado of, I'm going to war. And he is like, you guys, you guys don't know, you know, of, of course within the military it's, it's like even, you know, for civilians we really don't know, but for them thinking they're gonna go to war and they're never gonna go to war, he had a lost sense of purpose. Um, but I think getting out of that, you know, combined with the lifestyle he had before, there was one particular incident he, he would talk about from time to time. Um, he was at a restaurant in, uh, somewhere in SoCal, like inland, maybe it was Riverside or something. And, uh, there was a drive-by shooting at a restaurant and one of his friend's acquaintances was shot and like fell down and embankment in a ravine.

[00:12:21] Preston: And so he. Rush down to get this guy, and basically the guy dies in his arms. And so this is all pre-military. And of course for me at the time, I'm like that, you know, you just hear the story and it sounds like a movie is being replayed to you. And I thought in a way he was like maybe victimizing himself through all that when I first heard it.

[00:12:48] Preston: So he goes over seas and, um, in Iraq he was on like in the Green Zone, so not, not really or outside the wire, you know, all these terms that they have. But I use, he was a mechanic mainly, so he, he wasn't really seeing much in the way of action. He went to Afghanistan. It was a whole different story. Uh, he was a colonel's escort, um, you know, taking this guy to.

[00:13:14] Preston: Business meetings in Afghanistan. Really kind of bizarre role he fell into, but he had good navigational awareness and situational awareness and all that kind of stuff. And you had to map out, uh, routes so you wouldn't drive over an i e d. So he's basically the guy in charge of that, you know, hoping no one gets blown up in their convoy

[00:13:37] Maya: That's a little more intense. Preston, that's a little different.

[00:13:40] Preston: right. Quite a bit more. Yeah. You go from mechanic to like driving around, um, a, a really intense war zone. And I remember him telling me they were, uh, at one point, um, He would, he didn't tell me a lot of stories, and it was very, and I, you know, again, it's hard to tell how much of it was, you know, just secrecy for secrecy sake or if it was like you really had just the traumatizing stuff.

[00:14:07] Preston: Uh, he did say he watched people die, but I remember, uh, him telling me about them being up on this sort of mountainside and it, um, was just downpour raining in this, you know, they're in this makeshift shack structure. Um, they're taking gunfire at one point, but, um, it stops because the rain. And, um, so, you know, not very good visibility.

[00:14:32] Preston: Well, they, they didn't, hadn't buried. The body's very deep there. So at one point there's, I, I don't know how many, but there's like skeletons basically who just came up outta the ground and were floating down this, you know, little flooded area. Um, but I, anyways, uh, so he gets out and. It's like he's dealing with his own grief.

[00:14:52] Preston: I mean, there's, I think the detachment or broken attachment of, um, having a sense of purpose being around a camaraderie. And that's a common theme for people getting outta the military. You know, they, they lose that sense of community and the, and, you know, people watching your back and, uh, common sense of purpose and also dealing with these crazy set of experiences he has.

[00:15:18] Preston: And so reintegrating into normal life is what, what does this all mean? And, um, you know, without that structure, you kind of, you go back into old ways and you, you kind of go deep down the rabbit hole of substances that, um, you know, are gonna numb. You are gonna numb you. Um, yeah.

[00:15:40] Maya: And that's where he found himself afterwards. Yeah. But he got, but he got married now. Was he married before he went into the Army or He got married when he got out.

[00:15:50] Preston: He got married, um, before he went on his first tour.

[00:15:55] Maya: Oh, wow. Okay.

[00:15:57] Preston: Yeah. And so that kind of sped up that process, um, a bit. But I mean, incredibly patient wife, um, Tina, she, she was, you know, just loyal to the end waiting for him to, you know, so they could continue their life together. And, um, yeah. But she. Or I, I think for them, you know, it was like, okay, well how do you, you know, someone's, and the tours are long, they were like 16 months or

[00:16:28] Preston: something. I think the Army had the longest, uh, I think they would get maybe one break. Um, but his, uh, his wedding on a side note, so I, you know, I've had been to a lot of friends' weddings. I, I've never been invited to be on the, you know, groomsmen's side, uh, other than my brothers. And so my brother and I were best man, Matt, best man at each other's weddings, uh, which is partially why, you know, I put that photo in and, uh, and I don't think he was actually in another wedding too.

[00:17:03] Preston: So, kind of bizarre there. But that was a really cool honor for both of us to be able to be there for each other when we got married.

[00:17:10] Preston: Um, you know, give like a best man speech and, and yeah. But you know, before, you know, leading up to that 2019. He, you know, he struggled, you know, career-wise, what am I gonna do?

[00:17:25] Preston: And he shuffled through a lot of different, you know, potential ideas. And eventually he, you know, got into being an HVAC tech, so, you know, working on air conditioning and all that kind of stuff. And he was just working with his hands, you know, he was a mechanic and then, um, before in high school. And he loved cars and had all these different cars and, um, eventually, yeah, he's just like, that's what kept him busy.

[00:17:50] Preston: Like, the thought of him sitting at a computer is probably laughable. Like, he's not that kind of person who would, who would do that. Um, and, and that's partially what was so surprising about hearing news of that. I mean, there were prior times, you know, again, whether it was an actual overdose or whether it was, I just saw him and I knew like he was wigged out.

[00:18:14] Preston: Um, that it wouldn't, it wouldn't have been surprising, but knowing. That he had found some sense of purpose, uh, made it that much more, uh, you know, kind of just shocking to hear.

[00:18:29] Maya: Yeah, stole the thoughts outta my head. I was like, shocking for you. Yeah. I, um, again, connect with that part of your story too. It's in the film, which we're leading up to talking about right now. Um, I, I felt the same way about my brother. You know, I never thought I was gonna get a call that it was, you know, over, but, you know, the overdose situation.

[00:18:49] Maya: I thought, you know, maybe in, I didn't think it was gonna be a homicide, but so I connected so much with you watching your film. I was like, oh, I get that feeling. I totally get that feeling when it actually happens, even though my brother's death happened in a different way. I knew exactly what you were feeling at that, at that time, you know, as much as I, I could.

[00:19:09] Maya: And it's like, oh my God, this has actually happened. Like my greatest fear has actually happened. So, And, and there's a, a kind of a moment where you could have seen your brother, um, prior to it as well. Do you, I don't wanna give too much away cause I want people to watch your film. Do you wanna tell us a little bit about that and then lead us up to his actual passing?

[00:19:31] Preston: Yeah, I mean, I, there were, it was funny, I, I told him, so prior to the event I talk about in the film, I, I think it was like Christmas or something. They, my family, uh, is, so my brother, sister, and parents and, and my brother's wife were, were, um, at my parents' house.

[00:19:52] Preston: And I remember telling him, Hey, I'm going to be, you know, in Palm Springs where you live, and you know, so this was about a month prior. Um, or, or five weeks prior. and he was his reaction was so funny cuz it was, uh, it was very typical. It was like, well, thanks for telling me. And I'm like, yeah, I'm telling you right now so we can hang out. And so even I think maybe prior leading up to that, I'm like, guy, he was such a jerk when I told him I'm gonna be there.

[00:20:23] Preston: But we still, you know, attempted to, um, you know, talk, uh, while we were there. But, you know, you always think, you have more time. And, and I think that that's one of those, uh, one of those things in life where there's a, there's always more time until there isn't, whether it's somebody else's time, your own time, that's like, we didn't know,

[00:20:48] Preston: you know, if you sit around and, uh, really dwell on that, I, you'd probably just have epic amounts of anxiety.

[00:20:55] Preston: But it's, it's kind of true.

[00:20:57] Maya: I think it's what you do with that message, right, Preston? It's about taking advantage of that message and really embracing every single day. I know that's what I've done with my grief, and I hope all of you guys. Take that message and do something with your grief, whatever that means for you. That's what we're gonna continue to talk about on this episode, because whatever that means for you, like you said, you can't have, I love, like you said, that epic amounts of anxiety.

[00:21:23] Maya: Totally. Because I think that's a part of the process when you lose someone, especially suddenly, like we both did, and a lot of you listening have, because you're like, oh my God, I wish I would have fill in the blank. I wish I would've done this with them, or, and that gives you a ton of anxiety. And so the best way to kind of redirect that in my experience and kind of, I think what you're saying Preston too, is just kind of acknowledge it, realize it, and like live for the day and, and spend the time that you can with the people that you love.

[00:21:53] Maya: And you talk about that in the film too. I, I totally got that message, so I really loved that. So tell us a little bit about the, the day that your brother passed and the call. And I, you do go into this in the film, but I definitely want to hear it straight from you. That's why you're here today.

[00:22:09] Preston: Yeah. I was so caught up in, I think work at the time and just in general in my life and, um, you know, that was, that was just, you know, I was kind of climbing the corporate ladder. I mean, that is what it is. And so the company I was at had just basically doubled in size from like 700 to 1400 people basically overnight.

[00:22:35] Preston: And so, um, and I was, you know, running a lot of things and marketing and across these other parts of the organization. And I'd been through merger and acquisition stuff before and I. Again, just go, um, I gotta check my phone after a meeting and see all this communication from my mom going, you know, well this is bizarre.

[00:22:59] Preston: Um, you just assume something's bad when, you know, you get a bunch of missed calls from somebody and, um, you know, the voicemail, I, um, or the call I play on the, um, movie was from my phone, you know? Um, and so I had that was like legit what I first heard. And it's just, it's the most bizarre feeling cuz you, it's like your brain wants to process it, but it can't. And the, you know, the fact that you can have your, like, your body feel something just from hearing, um, A piece of information is really bizarre to think about. I mean, these, these are the kinds of things that I think about. anyways.

[00:23:54] Maya: No, I love that. I'm like, I'm, I'm like reliving the moment again because like, I have an episode called The Call, it's the first episode, but then I talk about this with almost every single guest that comes on, and I hear this all the time, but no one has ever described it like that Pres. And you just like nailed it.

[00:24:12] Maya: So, I mean, you just nailed it. Like you're just kind of frozen, but you know, this information's coming into you and you're reacting, but you're. Fully coping or understanding. I mean, you nailed it. That's exactly what's going on. And it's wild that your body, your brain, your spirit, whatever, all of it is taking this in in like different ways. You're being ripped in all these different directions. You nailed that one. Yeah. That's huge.

[00:24:39] Preston: Well, Yeah. I appreciate that and I, I think you kind of alluded to this in your story of. Um, I think you talked about at one point just something not feeling real and time was like, you know, kind of changed in that moment, you know, the essence of, of time. Um, I mean, and I think, you know, in some ways death and learning about death has to point to something spiritual beyond just, you know, if, if you're just a, you know, walking pile of cells and that's all you are, why does it matter? why Why, does death feel so wrong? And you could ask anyone, you know, unless, unless you're a full psychopath, that's a different story. but you know, any, anyone else, a normal person, you know, experiences death and, and, and just the news of it and the sheer news, um, doing that to you. And I actually, I wasn't sure for me whether or not it was suicide at first.

[00:25:42] Preston: That was like the first thought that ma that kind of went through my mind is that it could be that, and in, in some ways, intentional or not. It, it, that kind of is what it is to me. It's, it's a form of, um, taking his own life and, you know, I, but, but I, I, I wasn't sure again if it was intentional or not. The, the thing I, I, I recorded and, and almost put in the documentary, but it felt superfluous, was I was carpooling with a really good friend at the time, or, you know, continued to be good friends to this day.

[00:26:20] Preston: And I literally went and pulled them out of a meeting and it's like, you know, you go into that, okay, I just gotta like go through, you know, business mode. I gotta, I was just worried about making it home.

[00:26:31] Maya: Of course.

[00:26:32] Preston: I had to. Uh, drop him off and said, Hey, you just, you need to come with me. Like, I need someone on the right home.

[00:26:40] Preston: And, uh, so he lived not that far from me, and I got home and just like lost it. I remember actually telling, I called my wife on the way back home and I said, Hey, get, uh, get your sister over to the house. Uh, it's something really important. She's like, did you lose your job? I'm like, no, I didn't lose my job.

[00:26:59] Preston: She's like, um, and she was trying to be funny and she's like, do you have to poop really bad?

[00:27:05] Maya: Okay. I'm a wife so I'm like laughing and I appreciate the levity. I always like levity cause these are the things I would say to my husband.

[00:27:13] Preston: Oh, for, for sure. Right. And I'm like, damn it. No, that's not

[00:27:17] Maya: for sure. I'd like, shit. Did you lose your job?

[00:27:19] Preston: right.

[00:27:20] Maya: Um, the bathroom for real? Like, what's going on? Yeah. Oh my gosh. Yeah.

[00:27:26] Preston: So I'm like, uh, no. So get, get her over there. And she came over and I didn't really know it was gonna happen. You know, I. Um, I, I was cried a lot as a child. Um, and then I, at some point I like, you know, it's like turned off the ability to cry. And so I, and I'm this, I, I'm am I would say like a violent crier, if you will.

[00:27:51] Preston: You know, where it's, it, it's not like actual violence, it's just like, I feel like my face is gonna explode when I cry because it's just, it feels so intense. I don't really like tear up. Well, it's just this really, um, again, intense thing. Um, but yeah, go, you know, I kind of walked in, she was like, what's, what's wrong?

[00:28:10] Preston: You know, she can see something's wrong. And I just, yeah. Again, said, you know, Colin's dead. And, and her reaction, um, was. Like more troubling and then seeing my kids come in one by one. And, and I remember initially I think my wife was kind

[00:28:28] Preston: of trying to Yeah, keep them, keep them out of the room and it's just like, no, like, they're, unfortunately they're gonna, you know, share this, um, this scenario with me.

[00:28:38] Preston: And I, I also didn't wanna keep them wondering

[00:28:41] Maya: Right.

[00:28:42] Preston: cause I didn't feel like that did them any good either going, you know, why, how, what's going on with dad? you know, And then, you know, people make up, uh, I think even, you know, kids as well, they, you make up something in your head where you don't know the facts and, uh, so, you know, it's like sitting there trying to like, kind of explain this.

[00:29:02] Preston: And then I was like, um, okay, I gotta, I gotta call his wife. And she was getting calls left and right and it's like, okay, what do you say? You know, like, I want to know, um, what happened. I don't think I knew, um, right away. Or maybe she did tell me it was drug overdose, I forget. But, um, yeah, I, and then, yeah, it's like calling, then calling my, my dad.

[00:29:34] Preston: Calling my my mom, like all, you know, all that. Just making, making the calls. But, and the thing I think we'll get to is wondering who's gonna call me in my family, who knew about it? And that was one of the most, I think, bizarre ex parts of the experience.

[00:29:54] Maya: Yeah, I can understand. And you know what I love that you're sharing, Preston, is the, the whole aspect of your children. Because your children, their, your children are still quite young, but they were like babies, like babies when this happened. And they're in the film, which is really beautiful too, and you see them in the film.

[00:30:13] Maya: Um, but. You know, I think that's something that comes up quite a bit and I don't know that we've really talked about it a lot here on the Surviving Siblings podcast is what do you say to, you know, kids in, in this particular situation, right? When an adult sibling loses, you know, their adult sibling, especially in, in such a tragic way, right?

[00:30:35] Preston: Mm-hmm.

[00:30:36] Maya: an overdose, an accident, a homicide, you know, fill in the blank, right? That's so hard for a child to wrap their mind around that cuz they don't, haven't been exposed to that yet. So I really appreciate you sharing that and. The fact that you were, you know, you told them, you know, you told them.

[00:30:56] Maya: And you do share that in the film too, which I think is important. And I think it's important that we talk about that because there's a lot of people that ask questions like that when like, you know, I get messages all the time or when I'm on TikTok or different places, you know, talking with things and I can't answer that because I didn't have kids.

[00:31:13] Maya: I don't have kids still, and I can't answer that. But that's something you can, um, speak to and it's something you do mention in the film too. And I think that's a really, that's a tough eight for sure.

[00:31:23] Preston: Well, and, and I think it's, it's an evolving conversation, right? Um, and I, I've talked to quite a few, um, actually because of me sharing about the, you know, having kids, I've talked to quite a few people who have, um, older kids actually, and I am like in their teens. And that's actually even more, I think, challenging in some ways.

[00:31:48] Preston: I mean, uh, because they already have, um, you know, they, they're kind of more set in, in how they think about it and in, um, In a sort of way I didn't expect, you know, so it's been four years now, like all my kids have seen the documentary like multiple times and they're actually the best like street crew ever.

[00:32:12] Preston: Cause, so hotel Total strangers, we go to a restaurant, they'll be like, Hey, am I, you know, this documentary about art and death and stuff? They're like, what? Um,

[00:32:22] Maya: I love that Daddy made a film.

[00:32:24] Preston: yeah. Oh, they're, they're really good about it. But, um, what it's done is actually made this a normal topic in our house. And, you know, initially I think explaining it to them, it was like, you know, he took, uh, he took medicine and he took too much of it and okay, so it's as, as simple as that.

[00:32:46] Preston: And then, kids being kids, they have way more questions. And then you go, okay, well, um, and you just kind of elaborate on certain things based on, you know, what child it is and how well you think they might, um, receive that and Oh goodness. I mean, you know, then you start talking about afterlife stuff and you, you just, all sorts of things.

[00:33:09] Preston: And it, I think it's not, it's such a more revealing conversation because children just have like very purehearted questions. They're not, they don't have an agenda at to, to get you to believe anything. It's just, okay, well this leads to this, why this leads to this, why that? And um, and they've asked me questions and I, and I can't think of any right now, but they've definitely asked me questions.

[00:33:36] Preston: I'm like, who asked that? That's, that's like a good question. Um, so yeah, the, the kid part of it is, is, uh, is an interesting one to navigate for sure.

[00:33:50] Maya: No, I, I appreciate you sharing that with me and with all of us listening, of course, because I think that's a toughie and I think the way that you've handled it, that's amazing. And I think something that you said is, is important too. Like you're saying that it evolves. Yeah. I mean, of course, because your children aren't growing up and they're, you know, you've got this film and I mean, we grieve for life, so.

[00:34:13] Maya: Absolutely. Um, so yes. Okay, so I wanna go back to the day. So all these calls are happening. Gosh, and we all can relate to this. So all the calls are happening, all of that's happening. So tell us a little bit about what happens next. I know, I know because. The film, I'll, I'll give you guys a little teaser that you do get the ashes one day.

[00:34:35] Maya: So, um, do you guys, did you have a memorial for Colin? Like, how did you guys commemorate him? I know how you did. We're gonna talk about that. But, um, how did the subsequent days go after his passing?

[00:34:49] Preston: Yeah. So, you know, initially I, I was like fierce loyalty to my, my wife and kids, you know, I'm like, uh, you know, I gotta be here for them. I don't know what they're going through. And so it wasn't till like, uh, I think a day later, um, I was, they had, uh, all driven out to, you know, Palm Springs by his house. My grandma lived out there, so they were at, uh, at her house.

[00:35:19] Preston: And, um, I, you know, I'm on the phone with my dad and you know, he was, I, my dad only cries in like war films, you know, so, uh, pretty, I guess

[00:35:30] Maya: Such a guy. Yeah.

[00:35:31] Preston: someone born in the forties, and so he was, you know, just like uncontrollably would just burst into tears and he is like, you need to be here with us.

[00:35:41] Preston: We all need to be together. And, um, and I thought about that from their perspective. And I eventually, you know, I, I took, you know, a, you know, last flight I could that day, so that, you know, again, that third day after and um, or second day after

[00:36:00] Preston: And it was, you know, a bit awkward in a way because in some manner I didn't really want to be around a bunch of family at that moment.

[00:36:10] Preston: Um, I just wanted to, I wanted to be with my wife and kids, but I also knew, you know, it's, uh, It was just, it was just tough. And in fact, on the way to the airport, my, my wife had like a full-blown panic attack while driving, and we had to like, pull over on the side of the freeway and I was like, you know, it's just so, so much turmoil.

[00:36:31] Preston: But, um, as, as you know, with your brother, you know, you don't have anything planned. They're young. Uh, there's no will, there's no, there's none of that stuff. And, um, so you go, okay, well what do you do with the body that, I mean, that's, you know, what's, no one has any experience in that. And so we go, okay,

[00:36:52] Preston: well, um, I don't think he had any last wishes, but we did kind of a, a donate to science type deal where, you know, they, they cremate 'em.

[00:37:02] Preston: And, um, and then we go, okay, well we need to, yeah. Arrange this ceremony. And it's, it is just kind of like, well, here's what I think this person would do. This person would do, this person would do. Or, you know, Um, just thinking of ways to, to honor him. And so we decided on that. Um, one cool thing that happened out of this that I don't talk about in the documentary is all these people are reaching out to, especially his wife, saying, oh, how can I help?

[00:37:31] Preston: You know, let me know if there's anything I can do for you. I'm like, you know, flowers, I don't know. So what, you know, in a way, it's like, they're, they're nice, but how many flowers do you need around? Um, how many meals do you need cooked for you? Uh, I mean, I guess that's up to the individual, but I'm like, you know, I, I started, uh, I said, you know, uh, his wife was like, I don't, I don't want any money.

[00:37:56] Preston: I'm like, let's start a GoFundMe for. Let's just see where that goes. And he had a bunch of secret credit cards. My brother loved to spend money, so he, he, he had some credit cards he didn't know about. And uh, it was like $20,000 in debt. And I think some of that you can kind of get expunged, some of it not.

[00:38:18] Preston: But, um, so I had her go through the whole story and I kind of wrote, um, I wrote the sequence of events from her perspective and put that into this GoFundMe. And anyways, we ended up raising like $20,000,

[00:38:36] Maya: Preston, this was like the beginning of your like story, like you were already developing the storytelling, like this was like the prequel to your film. I love it. Like we're getting the behind the scenes. That's beautiful that you did that. That's awesome.

[00:38:49] Preston: And, and that was, that was a, a really, I guess that was a really fantastic moment there. And then, and then it was like, you know, we planned everything and I, I wrote this, uh, you know, really it, you know, you're summing up someone's life in a eulogy. And I would say the hardest thing about, um, his, uh, memorial is the, um, roll call they do for the military.

[00:39:20] Preston: So I don't know if you've ever seen this, but, um, when, you know, a soldier, uh, dies for, for someone who's, you know, listening to this and hasn't kind of witnessed this. Um, so they'll do a, a roll call where they'll.

[00:39:36] Preston: I think three or four people from your branch come and they, um, will line up in their position and they, they call off and they got to the end and they just, they yell from my brother.

[00:39:54] Preston: They go, Sergeant Zeller. And they just, they say it multiple times. That is a really like heartbreaking moment. And he's not there, of course. So that, that's when they, you know, fold the flag. Um, pretty intense.

[00:40:14] Maya: It is intense. If you have not seen that before I've been there or know about it, it's intense and I. I, it didn't even like click with me that that happened for you guys, but yeah. Mm. It's an intense moment. Yeah. Thanks for describing that. For everybody that may not be exposed to it, I have family members that are military, so I have been, and it's, it, it like hits you.

[00:40:39] Maya: It's, it's like, I don't, I don't even know, I know how to describe a lot of things, but that's a, that's a moment. It's like, it feels like even when you're going through the fog and things don't feel real, that's a moment where you're like, oh, this is real.

[00:40:50] Preston: Yeah, it almost feels like theatrical in a way.

[00:40:53] Maya: Mm-hmm. Yeah. Good,

[00:40:55] Preston: like you're wa you're watching some broadway thing about, or whatever it is, about military loss, but you're like, uh, no, this is all real. This is all real and this is someone I know. And yeah, they're not, you know, they're not calling in.

[00:41:14] Maya: yeah. Good way of putting that. So, wanna switch gears a little bit. We're gonna continue with the story, but we have gotta get into your amazing art, what you did in. honor of your brother, and this is just amazing. So the art of grieving is your film that you created, but it's all centered around, obviously co, but it's centered around this commitment that you made to, cuz you're an artist, obviously abstract artist, and your artwork is phenomenal.

[00:41:47] Maya: I'm a huge fan. I've watched the film and I'm like, oh my God, I'm super into abstract art. Super into it. And your commitment was to do a painting every single day in honor of your brother.

[00:42:00] Preston: Mm-hmm.

[00:42:01] Maya: That's a huge commitment and a huge thing to do. And I think, you know, I think I just, again, I was so blown away. Like when I, you know, I found this and I was like, oh my God.

[00:42:13] Maya: Like, we've gotta have Preston on the show. We gotta talk about this. This is so cool. And it's really cool to watch this in the film too, Preston, like, you go through the accomplishment of it, and I, I wanna talk through all of this, but, you know, ta like, talk to us about like what inspired you. Obviously you're an artist, you're an abstract artist, like this was a thing that was already in you, but like, what was the moment where you were like, I'm gonna do 365 paintings in honor of Colin.

[00:42:40] Maya: Like that's a huge commitment and then you fulfill it. So walk us through that. Cause that's huge, like,

[00:42:48] Preston: Yeah. Um, so I, you know, there's a lot of kind of breadcrumbs leading up to that. I mean, a, again, something I don't really, there's so much detail actually, the hard part I'll just say in like doing the documentary is there's so much detail. It's like, what are the, what are the pertinent things you leave in that, you know, tell a story that you know is, is watchable and, and interesting enough, um, But also it doesn't get lost in minutia.

[00:43:18] Preston: But, you know, I've been a musician for a really long time as well, and I have done a lot of songwriting, a lot of lyric writing. Um, so I, you know, I've, I've had this like, practice in the catharsis of artistic, you know, uh, creation. And I had, I had gotten back into painting from, um, I did it mainly in high school.

[00:43:46] Preston: And then I, you know, I got into graphic design and stuff. I got back into painting in 2 20 18 and I, I loved doing big pieces. Um, but the problem with big pieces is they, they require, you know, more planning, they require, um, you, you know, you're a bit more diligent cuz you're not, you know, it's not, it's doesn't have the same freedom as a study piece. At least for me, it doesn't, you know, study piece is, uh, just, it's like a vignette of an idea and you can, you can do it much more quickly. And I had done some smaller of these smaller canvases and I, I actually found them enjoyable. But in, in the midst of like, you know, six months in at this point, um, you know, I am, I'm really stepping away from my, my life to, uh, to, to do a little trip and figure out what, what the heck, you know, how, how do I really confront.

[00:44:49] Preston: All this that I'm experiencing because I was actually getting home every day from, uh, work at the time. Same place where I found out you had died. And my kids were young, so we would just do this kind of thumbs up, thumbs down thing on like, how was your day? And every day it was just thumbs down. And I'm like, wow, what, what message am I sending to my kids that I leave the whole day and come back And, um, it's a thumbs down that's, I'm not setting a good example at all.

[00:45:15] Preston: So I, um, I, you know, broke off and. Just, I, I'm like, I gotta go drastic. Drastic, and I have to challenge myself in ways I haven't. And one of those is patience. And I'm, I can be really impatient about some things. So I said, okay, well I, I'm going to, uh, and it was just a line in my journal that was like, paint every day for a year and make a documentary about it.

[00:45:40] Preston: And so I, I didn't know, I didn't know what, um, what that entailed. And I think that's, by the way, the power of like writing things down, um, versus just like typing them or texting them in, in a note on your,

[00:45:52] Maya: There is a power of the pen to paper. That's what I always say. Yes, I agree with you a hundred percent. I love that you said that. Yes.

[00:46:00] Preston: sure. So, uh, so the, I mean, combination of things too. Some of it, some of it, I mentioned the documentary, you know, again, like wanting to really throw myself into, you know, yes, about Colin, but in, in many ways is more about just understanding myself. And you know this from loss of your brother, right? You, you go, okay, well what I, uh, who am I in light of this absence?

[00:46:26] Preston: And, um, how do I find that there, there is no simple, straightforward answer. And I knew for me, okay, well I ha I had done this before to some degree. I mean, I think songwriting to some degree helped me get me through like adolescence, get me through parts of college, um, helped me understand other, other things in adulthood.

[00:46:47] Preston: But, um, visual art in particular, I knew it was something that I could use as this like snapshot of my brain. Um, my initial thought was like I could, you know, sort of run this year of painting through color, some color science software, and it would tell me, you know, how I felt or something like that. Uh, that's not, you know, quite, quite how it works now, but, um, yeah, I, I'm like, I need to, it's, it's like

[00:47:15] Preston: journaling, visual journaling, I guess is, you know, the best way to put it. Um, and that, that was partially what kicked it off. And, and also this, this notion, it's so layered, but this notion that if I also share this, then, um, I can hopefully grab people along the way who, they don't even have to have lost somebody, but they could start getting on the train, um, at like you have with your podcast to want to understand, um, and, and want to go, okay.

[00:47:44] Preston: Like, what's, what's the next one? What's the next one? What's the next one? So, Yeah,

[00:47:48] Maya: I think, you know, yeah, absolutely. I think there's something, you're right, there's something not putting it down on paper and writing it. That's why I always talk about journaling on the show with guests. A lot of, a lot of them say that like, you know, a lot of authors say that too, but your story's very unique in the sense that you talk about grief and art and like your expression of it.

[00:48:13] Maya: And again, you guys, you have to watch the film because it's amazing, like the end and seeing like your final like result, result. And I loved watching the end of it as well. You actually like putting it all up, like that's a whole thing to watch too. It was, it was a major production and it had me laughing, like there was some levity to the situation.

[00:48:34] Maya: I'm like, oh gosh, only a guy would do this. Like, oh my God, I would do this. I loved that. I loved that. Which is gonna lead me to a sidebar for a second, Preston, because, okay, we talked about this before we hit record,

[00:48:48] Preston: Mm-hmm.

[00:48:49] Maya: Okay. Last season I had on my like brother, my, the older brother I've never had. Okay. And he lost his brother, you know, many, many moons before I lost mine. And it's kind of an eerie story, but. There are not a lot of men,

[00:49:04] Preston: Mm-hmm.

[00:49:05] Maya: men, whatever out there that are openly talking about grief and you're not only talking about grief, you're painting your story, you're creating this film documentary.

[00:49:16] Maya: You're also in the, just to tease it a little bit more, in the documentary, you actually shared a very deep history of grief. Like you go all the way back like really, really deep into like Egyptian and come, you know, all the way to almost present day like your, your journey, your story, which I thought was very fascinating and I think a lot of men connect with that.

[00:49:38] Maya: Men love history. I love history personally, but I think a lot of men connect with that. You were mentioning your father too with like the history stuff.

[00:49:45] Preston: Oh yeah. War stuff.

[00:49:46] Maya: Yeah, I mean, so I really liked that aspect of it as well. But I really want you to touch on this if you don't mind, Preston. Why do you think that is?

[00:49:55] Maya: Because I've noticed it over the past two seasons. We have so many women that are open and wanna share their story and that's fabulous. But men are grieving too. Like we have male listeners. You guys are listening. I know you're listening. You guys have Well, siblings too. What do you think it is, Preston?

[00:50:14] Preston: Yeah. I mean, you know, I think on a, on a meta level, there's been a lot to like beat down men. You know, I, I mean, just the term mansplaining is kind of like really nonsensical to me, but, Like men are men

[00:50:33] Preston: for a reason, like, and and carry a certain kind of purpose and torch in society, in, in, in different ways than women in complimentary ways.

[00:50:43] Preston: And, uh, some of what has, you know, I think tra traditional manhood, right, is like being stoic. Um, you're stoic, you don't show emotion. Or if you do show emotion, it's like yelling on a battlefield, whatever it is. My, here, where's my war cry? and um, and but beyond that, and I think where that's gone is anger and being angry is, um, like a virtuous thing.

[00:51:11] Preston: And that actually, it took me a while to realize that. Um, and I, I did it in some like separate grief therapy that, you know, anger's the opposite of what people think it is, right? They think it's a form of control. It's actually, it's you out of utterly out of control emotionally, and you become angry, right?

[00:51:29] Preston: Because it's like this defense mechanism, but really, uh, what you're doing is incredibly self-indulgent and punishing of people around you. And, um, that, that's a fallacy, right? To think that anger is gonna solve anything. In fact, it, it just makes things so much worse. And, and so, um, okay, well, you know, don't be vulnerable, right?

[00:51:53] Preston: Vulnerability is actually a very masculine, masculine thing to do because it shows that you're confident in who you are. And I, to me, that gets to a lot of the crux of it is like, you know, we should be, um, encouraged as, as men to be confident in who we are, but also not have to put up a front. I mean, we're the best at this, right?

[00:52:13] Preston: Let's fake it till we make it across the board. I mean, you do it in courtship, right? I'm gonna, I'm gonna, I'm gonna, try to get this lady and, you know, be something who I think she wants me to be, whatever the case is. And, um, yeah, it's, I mean, that's such a nuanced thing, but I mean, ultimately I think one of the points of feedback I've had and, and, and maybe why this, the, my documentary in particular is, is different.

[00:52:38] Preston: Um, I was actually, I was talking to I think my wife or someone about this the other day that I'm like, if, if I was, um, a woman doing this, it would have such a different vibe to it than, than me, me doing it and the way I did it, just because I, I think to some degree it may be expected, like, yeah, it makes sense that you may go paint because

[00:53:00] Maya: I actually agree with you very much so on that. Yeah, I agree with you Mm-hmm.

[00:53:05] Preston: I, you know, and that was, I think also part of, um, in my own personal experience after losing my brother, going to talk about it, I, I, I worked with a lot of sales and marketing people and, and, um, sales in particular is very heavy, male dominated. And, um, you know, saying this, uh, you know, people saying, Hey, how are you doing?

[00:53:28] Preston: And I'm like, I'm not doing well. My brother died yesterday. And it's like, okay, well let's see you later. You know? Um,

[00:53:38] Maya: not expecting you to be that vulnerable and actually sharing how you're feeling. You're just supposed to say, Yeah. I'm okay. I'm fine. You

[00:53:44] Preston: Yeah. Uh, a hundred per, a hundred percent, right? And so I, I, and, and just by doing that, I can't tell you how many conversations I've had with other men who are like, I've haven't, I have not been able to discuss this thing or felt okay discussing this thing, um, with anyone. And here you are talking about it.

[00:54:05] Preston: And so they're like, yeah, oh my gosh. And it just unravels. And, you know, there's, uh, uh, certainly something cathartic to just talking about it and, and knowing someone has an open ear to it. Um, but that shouldn't necessarily take someone who's experienced it firsthand. Um, you know, more likely, yes. But is it, you know, a requirement?

[00:54:30] Preston: No. So, um, yeah, I, I think just ultimately that's one of my hopes out of this is that, um, other men go watch it and they go, oh, like I, you know, I, I see myself in that person, or I, I can, uh, this, this is kind of opening up the conversation more for guys to talk about it and have it not be this like, you know, sissy weird thing.

[00:54:56] Maya: Yeah, I definitely think, yeah. Thanks for sharing your insight on that, Preston. I agree a hundred percent with. As a woman, I agree with you. I think there's so much pressure for men to be so machismo and they, you know, like, put up this, you know, guard and they can't really ex express how they're really feeling.

[00:55:18] Maya: And it's interesting doing this show as we're in, you know, season three and I get a lot of private messages. I always say I am from parents, which has been amazing that they wanna support, you know, their, their children going through this, well they're going through this. But I get it. I get messages from surviving something guys, they may not apply to be on the show, but I get it from guys because they're not sure how to express openly.

[00:55:42] Maya: Some of them will, but the majority of them won't. So you're our guy this season. So hopefully it inspires more of them to be more vocal in our Facebook group, more vocal in our chats, more vocal just everywhere. And I hope this episode really helps. I think it will in understanding the fact that you guys.

[00:56:01] Maya: Go through the same things that we do. You feel the same things. We're going through the same experiences. It's just the societal, you know, pressures and the stigmas that have happened that we're trying to break down. And so, again, I really appreciate you giving your perspective because yeah, like, let's share our experiences because they've happened.

[00:56:23] Maya: Who cares if you're a guy or a girl? But it's important that we all share our experiences because they're real. And I think your, your film and, and documentary like it's, it's very relatable whether you're a guy or a girl. But if you are a male surviving sibling out there, watching your documentary I think will inspire you to open up and, and share your story because you are so vulnerable.

[00:56:48] Maya: And I love that you said, Preston, that vulnerability is actually, you know, it's, it's good to do that as, as a male and it's. It's strength. I can't stand the fact that people always say, oh, you know, sometimes, or I shouldn't say always. It's changing a little bit, the narrative. But people often say like, oh, you're, you know, when people are vulnerable, they dub them as weak.

[00:57:09] Maya: And that was a fear of mine. That's why it took me five years to come to the mic, because I got kind of shoved down many times when I started to talk about my story and then when I just didn't care anymore and I told it all, I realized that my strength was really in the fact that I was so vulnerable.

[00:57:28] Maya: And there's absolutely zero difference in, in, in men. Like I love that you're sharing that. That's a beautiful message and a really important one. And I think hope most of you guys get the same message out of that. I think it's important. Really, really important.

[00:57:43] Preston: one thing I'd add to that too is that like, if I think the case for probably a lot of men is they're sitting there, um, and, and thinking, I can't talk about this with any of my friends. They're gonna laugh at me. And I I, think if that's you right now, you either A, like find some new friends or b.

[00:58:02] Preston: Talk about it with them anyways because, you know, you deciding to talk about it is gonna give them probably permission to talk about it as well.

[00:58:12] Preston: And most people, I, I gotta figure like just about everyone. Um, as adults you have some kind of trauma in your life and especially men, um, whether that's sexual abuse, whether that's, um, dad problems, mom problems, um, something you're just like ashamed of in your life that you've never talked about, like. You may find someone opening up to you and that it's, that's not to say, it may not feel uncomfortable, but it also may be like,

[00:58:43] Preston: Hey, we have a con, we have a struggle. We've gone through, and I've had that happen too, where people, um, who, I mean strangers for one, but for also, uh, two, um, other, other guys going, I had this really harrowing thing happen to me.

[00:59:00] Preston: Like I, I've actually formed pretty good friendships with people who we bonded because we shared like the gnarly stuff, not like my fantasy draft picks and that's it, you know, and you may have friends like that, that's fine, but like, if all your friends are on surface level, you gotta do something to bring in some level of depth that's not just, you know, pat on the back stuff.

[00:59:28] Maya: I mean, let's the mic drop moment right there, Preston. Absolutely. I, because that's so true. That's absolutely true. I mean, I'm just like, I'm thinking about my husband right now and those are his deepest. Relationships, you know, not to put him on the spot here, but you know, it's just, it's true. You know, it's absolutely true.

[00:59:46] Maya: But I think that's really inspiring for all of us. But I think you also brought up a really good point in that as well, because women, you know, their traumas and our tr, I should ours, hello, I'm woman. Um, we tend to talk about it. We tend to at some point, we might push it down for a while as you guys hear on this podcast, but at some point we do bring it up.

[01:00:05] Maya: Like you said, very well men, you've had traumas like it, it's happened, but you haven't talked about it. So what an opportunity for you guys to connect on a deeper level. No, it might not be the same trauma, but yeah. All of your relationships can't be just fantasy, you know, football or, you know, cause you like going to get the same beer or, you know, fill in the blank.

[01:00:28] Maya: So yeah, I think that's very relatable for all of you surviving siblings that aren't guys out there. So, love that you brought that up. Okay. Couple things I wanna talk about before we wrap this up. Oh my gosh. We could do like another episode. There's so much here, Preston, I again, just love, love, love your art, I love everything that you've done.

[01:00:48] Maya: I wanna talk about two or three other things and then we'll wrap So much to talk about. I love how you bring up in the film that you want to kind of change how grief is viewed, how you want things to be, or grief in general to be viewed as grief positive instead of just, you know, kind of, I don't know.

[01:01:09] Maya: We're gonna talk about grief. Can you tell us a little bit about what that means to you and what that means? Like in general, like this grief positive movement, because that, for me, your art was soaked that moment at the end when you turned the lights on, you guys gotta watch it to see it, but that was huge for me.

[01:01:27] Maya: But your mention of grief positive and like a grief positive movement that. Moved me. Can you talk like, speak on that a little bit for us?

[01:01:38] Preston: yeah. and so I was moved to create something. You were moved to create something. Um, so many other people have been moved to create something out of grief, and that's actually why the historical look at what others have done. Culturally, creating something out of grief is so fascinating. And also a reminder that like in some ways what we're doing is not novel.

[01:02:05] Preston: You know, it's just, it's just like our own take on it. And we've tapped into some part of the, I think, human experience that is, um, finding solace in creating. But you know, as. Adults, we get so caught up in, um, material life and money and all this kind of stuff, and as I was for sure, and that's what life becomes about, you know, the accumulation of, of things.

[01:02:41] Preston: And, and, and also kind of, you know, I, you know, similar to what men go through and other people go through in terms of I'm gonna shove down my, these things that I've experienced. I actually wonder that if, um, people as a whole actually surfaced these things more through creativity, how much more vibrant life could be.

[01:03:10] Preston: And, and, and so. Instead of viewing grief as, again, this, this thing that is going to suppress you the rest of your life, um, living in existence like that, nobody wants. And so, and, and, you know, taking your life either as a result of that is, is not desirable for anyone around you either. And so your only option then is to go channel that into something that's productive and creative and, um, doesn't continue to drain you in the way that, um, you know, we've seen other loved ones get drained, whether that's through drugs or whether that's through gambling or whether that's through throwing yourself even more into work busyness.

[01:03:56] Preston: I mean, you could argue I did, you know, threw myself into busyness for the painting and some people have called it that. Um, that wasn't what it was for me, you know, and, and so, um, I, and I, I talk about, um, The woman's, uh, exhibit, uh, that, that's really kind of like death positive. Okay. Like, what do you wanna do before you die?

[01:04:19] Preston: Um, but what do you wanna do with ex, you know, working through a death is, is a whole different, um, angle on that. And again, I, I think part of this comes back to the sort of like creativity index that, um, that you know, exists out there that basically, you know, by the time you're eight to 10 years old, it starts to get crushed because you're so hyper aware of everyone's, um, judgments on what you do in life.

[01:04:52] Preston: And if you can just put those things aside and, you know, tap into that thing that's deeply fulfilling because it, it, uh, transcends everyone else's judgments and, you know, it's, it's totally right and it, and it. Transcends whatever job you have. Like that thing will keep you going. And I think it's, it's other life, you know?

[01:05:16] Preston: Um, and there's, I don't, I don't think there's much more, uh, powerful than that, you know? Um, and maybe belief in God too. You know, this is gonna make you question everything there. Who is God? Does God exist? All those questions. Um, and, and those are good questions to pursue. But, um, yeah, so I think at the end of the day, I think the, the, the T L D R on that is, um, you have a lot more creative energy in you than you know what to do with. And if you can tap into that, you can do some really great things, um, amidst grief.

[01:05:57] Maya: Okay. And when do you guys watch the film, the documentary. And you know, Preston is telling you this, like you're gonna feel inspired because Yeah. And I agree with you a hundred percent. Totally connect with what you're saying. I mean, yeah, between ages of age to 10, like you're crushed, like you've gotta do this in school and you're supposed to be this, and what are you gonna be when you grow up?

[01:06:17] Maya: And like, are you kidding me? Like, I didn't even know what I wanted to be until I grew up, until after my brother died. I'm like, are you kidding me?

[01:06:23] Preston: I know. So I mean, a lot of us are still figuring that out.

[01:06:26] Maya: I'm like, I still am. Like every year I'm like evolving still and I'm 36. Like we're about the same age press and like, oh my gosh. It's like, it's wild.

[01:06:35] Maya: So, yeah. No, thank you for, for elaborating on that because the grief, positivity and like that aspect. Oh, and I love when you shared about yeah. The wall and all of that. And I, again, I'm, I'm just gonna tease a little bit cause I want you guys to watch it. Loved it. Thought it was amazing. And taking that a step further.

[01:06:53] Maya: In, in this conversation, like you said, not so much what you wanna do before you die. Cause I think that, I think that's great, but like, what are you doing to process and really taking it in a positive direction, you know, the grief that you're feeling because you know, like you said, there's a lot of people that are numbing.

[01:07:09] Maya: There's a lot of people that are throwing themselves into work. And you kind of answered one of my questions. I was gonna say this to you, it's in my notes, Preston, you know, people may think, oh, he was just keeping himself busy. Like he didn't wanna actually process. And that's another, I feel like a male thing that people would put on you, right?

[01:07:27] Maya: Like, oh, he's a guy, like, he's just gonna throw himself into work. And I, so I wanted to call that out so people were not throwing that at you because I so did. Get that vibe from you at all. I really felt that in every single, because in the film guys, you actually see Preston like painting too. It's so cool.

[01:07:45] Maya: And I really like, I felt like your, just your emotions and like all of us who are grieving, like we know, it's like indescribable. Just all the different things that you feel, you feel joy, you feel pain, you feel sadness, you feel desperate, you feel all of those things. And I felt it like as you were going through and it was, I loved it.

[01:08:04] Maya: I absolutely loved it. I thought it was really, really great. And I love how you are talking about in the film, but also today that, you know, we're not reinventing the wheel here, like this has been going on. We're just, you know, growing with, you know, 2023 and beyond and evolving this. And I think that's great.

[01:08:23] Maya: And so one more thing I wanna talk about and then we'll talk about where to find all of this, um, is. Art therapy. You talk a lot about this in the documentary, in the film, and you have a wonderful woman on the documentary that talks about this. So I think this is wonderful because I'm no artist. I'm just not, I'm a woman of many words.

[01:08:47] Maya: That's why I have a podcast more than one. Um, and I'm a writer too, so that's how I express myself. So, you know, it can be argued that I guess I'm artistic in that way. Sure. But I'm not a painter. I'm not someone, you know that really draws or anything like that. But I really connected with this though, and I hope a lot of you guys do as well, because I think this is something that should be talked about.

[01:09:12] Maya: That it is a way to process grief and to express grief, and there's a lot of people on another episode. We talked about it this season too, so I love that this kind of came full circle, that not everybody is a talker. Not everybody is a writer. Not everybody is a therapy or group person. So this is a beautiful gift that you can give yourself. Can you talk just a little bit about like art therapy and how it can help someone going through grief?

[01:09:45] Preston: yeah. And so I'll start this out by a question, right? Um, you go to a restaurant, what do they give kids when you walk in?

[01:09:56] Maya: Typically crayons.

[01:09:57] Preston: Crayons, right? Like every kid, they give crayons and you're like, why is that? You know, why is it default? And like, you know, for the most part, kids are gonna pick up those crayons and they're gonna use 'em. How many kids go? Not, not today. Um, I'm gonna be judged for this. You know, like they just do it. They're not so concerned about it. And that's, um, I, I, you know, I think that gets back to the, like, grief, positivity. But also, you know, formal art therapy, of course is done under the supervision of a licensed professional, which, so Lindsay Letterman, um, who she was the clinical director at the art therapy project, um, at the time.

[01:10:45] Preston: Uh, so she's in the doc and she, she's fantastic and talks about this a bit where it's, it's really, um, much more. Guided a much more guided process, and you, it you really need someone to help their, uh, like prod, prod you through, um, you know, why you're doing what you're doing and helps, helps you understand that more.

[01:11:08] Preston: Um, and so in that setting, it's, um, it's of course, and most people don't realize by the way, to become an art therapist, you have to become a therapist and then go get trained in art therapy.

[01:11:20] Maya: Oh wow.

[01:11:21] Preston: So it requires even more certification, which I think is maybe partially why, um, it's not as prevalent, of course, compared to talk therapy. Um, but you know, the value in just creating in general, um, is, is, uh, you know, Lindsay talks about this tapping into your limbic system where you, you store those, um, sort of like traumatic memories or emotions, but, um, beyond that, in a, in a clinical setting, I think. Uh, it you, most people aren't gonna wanna go, like, you know, commit to this long process.

[01:11:54] Preston: So going and having structure in that way, in a group setting or in a personal setting, whatever it is. But imagine you could go in with other people who have had similar, a similar type of trauma and you can do, um, a session with those people. Um, you're also developing a community in that way, uh, as well.

[01:12:14] Preston: But, um, it, it's, uh, I think whatever the case, whether you want to go into a clinical setting or whether you want to go create, like you have the resources available to you, most people do, to at least pick up a pencil and just start doodling or drawing what you feel. And again, not, not saying I'm going to, you know, it's, uh, I'm going to draw a reenactment of this thing that happened.

[01:12:42] Preston: That's not the point. Um, you're just, Drawing what feel, what you feel like, what comes to mind, and you don't have to share that. Um, but just, just doing it, that's the thing. Like it's not about, um, whether or not it's gonna be good. It's like, you know, if you're going to, uh, lift weights for the first time in a year and you're expecting to lift, you know, the same amount as the person who, um, has been doing it every day for the past year, it's not gonna be the same.

[01:13:12] Preston: But you wouldn't expect that going to lift weights. Why would you expect to go do that with, compared to someone who's been doing the emotional work or someone who has been painting or drawing or whatever it is for so long. So just go try it and. And be okay with the outcome and know that it's, it's helping you in, in some way and sticking to it over a longer period of time.

[01:13:34] Preston: Again, similar to, uh, working out or whatever you are working out the emotional side of yourself. So, um, yeah, again, our therapy, I think can, can be, you know, just greatly beneficial for, um, anyone to, try who wants to, you know, understand themselves better.

[01:13:53] Maya: Yeah. Thank you so much for sharing all of that. And again, you guys talk about it throughout the film and, and documentary as well, but I just wanted to kind of define that for everyone so they can understand it because I think it can be helpful for everyone, even people like me that are, are not painters or drawers or whatever artists in general like that.

[01:14:13] Maya: Because I think there's, to your point, like there's something about just kind of putting yourself out there and just putting something on paper in a different way and another little teaser. There was a moment in the film where it's Lindsay, right? Lindsay was talking about like colors and how they mean different things.

[01:14:33] Maya: Like, okay, so now you definitely have to watch it for that part too. Um, that was fascinating to me and how it means certain things to you and how she like analyzes it with you. Oh my god, that was beautiful. So, okay. Little teasing there. All right, so Preston, where do we watch this? I know you were in three places now, right?

[01:14:52] Preston: Yeah, it's the, it's technically in like eight places,

[01:14:55] Maya: Oh, awesome.

[01:14:56] Preston: I only, uh, I only sh I only share like th the three main ones, cuz they're, they're bigger. But, um, yeah, I mean, I mean, if you want to get the latest places on where to watch the art of grieving, you just go to, to the art of grieving Um, it's on Apple. TV now as well, so. Uh, it's a little bit more expensive to rent there. I have no idea why, but it is, um,

[01:15:21] Maya: Um, it's Apple. You know how they are.

[01:15:23] Preston: yeah, right. Amazon Prime is probably the best place to go. Um, and then you can watch it on Tubi and Plex, but there's ads so, um, you know, they all make their money somehow. And yeah, so you can go to the Art of Grieving film.

[01:15:39] Preston: Um, I'm on Instagram just at Preston Zeller. And then, um, if you wanna look up some of the, you know, uh, commission stuff I do, you go to zeller house Um, but yeah, those are the main places to go to go find it.

[01:15:56] Maya: That's perfect and we'll tag all of that here in our show notes. And Preston, I just wanna thank you. Thank you for creating the film, the documentary. Thank you for being a guy that shared his grief journey in so many different ways and being here on the podcast. We really appreciate it. Thanks so much.

[01:16:13] Preston: Thank you, Maya.

[01:16:17] Maya: Thank you so much for listening to the Surviving Siblings Podcast. 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.

[01:16:40] Maya: And don't forget to follow us on all social media platforms. 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.


Preston ZellerProfile Photo

Preston Zeller

Preston grew up in the shadow of his older brother, Colin. When Preston was in college, Colin decided to go in the military, in part to escape the lifestyle he was living, but being in the military and going on two tours had taken a toll on Colin, and he ended up passing due to a drug overdose.
Preston got the dreaded call while he was at work. As soon as he made it home, he broke down. All he wanted to do was to be with his wife and kids, but his family also needed him. As part of his grief journey, he wanted to challenge himself in new ways while also honoring Colin, so he decided to paint every day for 365 days and make a documentary about it.