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September 21, 2021
Pod Save The People
Softening into Surrender (with Claire Bidwell Smith)

In This Episode

DeRay, Kaya, Sam, and De’Ara cover the underreported news of the week, including Narcan shortages, CRT debates, welfare reform, and immigration issues. DeRay interviews Claire Bidwell Smith of the Lemonada podcast “New Day” about coping with grief.

Kaya: https://www.propublica.org/article/to-get-public-assistance-these-single-mothers-are-forced-to-share-intimate-details-about-their-families

New Day podcast: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/new-day/id1568014296

Transcript:

[MUSIC PLAYING] 

DERAY: Hey, this is DeRay. Welcome to Pod Save the People. In this episode, it’s me, Sam, Kaya, and De’Ara talking about all the news that you didn’t know from the past week. And then I sit down with Claire Bidwell Smith to talk about grief, how it comes in unexpected places and how we can cope with it. 

You know, the word that’s been on my heart recently is surrender. And for so long, I thought about surrender in the presence of defeat. And I’m like, I feel like I’m going through a surrender moment. And I have never felt better in my life, that like this idea of surrender is the best I’ve ever shown up in the world for myself and for other people that I love. 

And I had a really good conversation with a friend because I could only think about surrender in the context of defeat. And he said something that changed everything for me. He was like, I’m softening into surrender. That for me, it is about vulnerability, about being open, and about being ready. And I was like, you got it, Malik. 

It was Malik. Shout out to Malik, that like I think I’m softening into surrender. That surrender has saved my life. I hope you can surrender too. 

My news for this week is about naloxone, also known as Narcan. That is an antidote for opioid overdoses. And we’ve covered addiction a lot on the podcast. My family’s been impacted by addiction. 

The article is about the fact that there’s a naloxone shortage happening that’s creating a perfect storm for overdose deaths as the article is headlined. Now what’s interesting, I didn’t realize that most people know it as Narcan or naloxone. I didn’t know that there was a manufacturing issue that halted Pfizer’s production of naloxone in April. 

And there’s a group– this is fascinating to me that there actually is a Buyers Group of harm prevention programs that buys essentially– they buy it in bulk and then distribute it across the country. And they have actually been tracking this. If the Buyers Club doesn’t buy it from Pfizer, a generic dose of naloxone can cost up to $20 wholesale whereas you can just get it for free from a clinic or like a place because the Buyers Club has essentially paid for it upfront amass. 

And they highlight one Utah Naloxone. They’ve distributed Narcan for about six years. And they’ve recorded more than 5,600 overdose that were reversed. I mean this helps so many people. We were just talking to a harm reduction group, meeting with them, and can be zero. We were talking to a group in Baltimore. And I did not know so many people were carrying Narcan or naloxone. So many people were using it to save people’s lives. 

And Pfizer has not explained what happened to the manufacturing pipeline. Something happened and Narcan is not being made in the way that it does. Maya Doe-Simpkins, who’s an organizer for the Buyers Club that buys this on behalf of harm reduction programs, she estimated that there’s a 250,000 dose back order and that it could result in over 11,000 overdose deaths, which is a wild. 

And remember, in the past year, that we had a record for drug overdoses. More than 93,000 people died of drug overdoses. And in 2020, again about 69,000 of those were opioids. So we are at a record high for drug overdoses. And the thing that would save people from dying because of opioid addiction or opioid overdose is actually– there’s a shortage. 

It is so wild because it’s like there’s a company that makes this. It’s like, why aren’t we just making this free for people? Why aren’t we distributing the patents so anybody can make this and that can be readily available, especially when we think about harm reduction? And it really blew my mind. It’s shout out to the Buyers Club that is buying naloxone in mass so that there are organizations that can give it out to people. 

And the organizers continue to go on to talk about states being in what they call panic mode, like Louisiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Utah, and a set of others who are really– the shortage is being felt disproportionately across the country. Now the Buyers Club has existed since 2012. And last year they accounted for about 1.3 million doses. And that was estimated to rise to 1.5 million doses in 2021 if there hadn’t been a sudden shortfall. 

I just wanted to bring it here because I was fascinated by the way that we’ve talked about pipeline and supply chain issues mostly in the big products, but not in things like naloxone, not in something that would actually help people survive an overdose. And I wanted to bring you because it’s important. The FDA told the Washington Post that the supply available through other producers is sufficient to meet the national demands and two of the five drug makers with naloxone products responded to the Post saying that their supply remains unaffected. 

But the thing about Pfizer that I also didn’t know is that the reason why the Buyers Group uses them instead of other ones is because of the price. So less than half of the groups in the Buyers Club receive federal funding and they simply can’t afford to pay the market cost of naloxone to make up for the shortages they face. And that again blew my mind. 

Why are we not just funding this? Why are we making it hard for people to survive? And it just blew my mind that this is one of those things that I literally have seen no coverage about. I’ve seen a lot of coverage about addiction obviously, but I didn’t know there was a shortage of naloxone, and that it is disproportionately impacting parts of the country, and that the market price is so high that they have to essentially go to Pfizer to meet the demand and to maximize the impact. And I just wanted to share with people. 

SAM: Hey, it’s Sam. For my news this week, I want to talk about school. In particular, I want to talk about the backlash, the outrage, the uproar, over things like critical race theory and diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives in the context of schools, because NBC News just ran a new analysis looking at the data on student demographics in some of the schools that have seen the most uproar from parents at school board meetings over these concepts. Parents have been told, and we’re coming to the school board meetings, yelling at educators about critical race theory being taught in schools, which it’s not, about diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, alienating or isolating or making their white kid not feel included, not feel special. 

But it turns out that there’s a real undercurrent here, when we look at the data in terms of where these incidents keep popping up. And what they did in NBC was they did this analysis crunching the numbers on 33 different school districts across the country that have seen at least three school board meetings where parents have shown up angry about outraged at diversity initiatives or critical race theory. And what they find in those school districts is that they are not a random assortment of school districts, isn’t just happening randomly across the country. 

It tends to be happening in schools that are diversifying more rapidly than the national average. So 22 of those 33 districts were seeing an increase in Black and Brown students that outpaced the national average. And, again, nationwide 54% of currently enrolled students, nationwide, are students of color– 54%. But in some of these districts, the increase, the growth in the population of students of color was happening so rapidly that it was starting to change the environments that these parents thought their kids were entitled to, a segregated environment, an environment in which there weren’t many, or any in some cases, students of color. 

And that’s all starting to change in these places. And parents are mad. But it’s not about critical race theory. In fact, when you look at the data, these changes in schools are good. 

For example, we know from the research that increased racial diversity within a school as well as an emphasis on equity and inclusion is linked to improved academic outcomes. And when students have more interaction with classmates of different ethnic backgrounds and view the racial climate on campus as positive, research has also shown they’re more likely to have friendships across group lines and to have more confidence in their own academic abilities. 

So it’s good for Black and Brown kids. It’s good for White kids. And yet, parents are still mad about integration it’s 2021 folks. So let’s zoom in on a couple of districts just to see what we’re talking about. 

And one of the most notable districts here is Loudoun County in Virginia. Now this is a county where Republican politicians have been campaigning, promising to ban critical race theory, highlighting Loudoun County as the center of a fight against quote “anti-American indoctrination in K through 12 schools.” Now what’s happening in Loudoun County? It turns out that the share of students of color in the average White child’s school in that county have increased by 30% since 1994. And the school district launched a series of racial equity initiatives after the Virginia Attorney General’s Office found that students of color faced ongoing racial discrimination. 

So population of students of color is increasing. More and more reports and analysis start coming out that, you know what, those schools are profoundly inequitable for those students of color. You know what, those students of color are being pushed out of school and pushed into the school to prison pipeline. You know what, those students of color are being tracked into classes that are not as competitive as their White peers. You know what, there’s a lot of discrimination and racism happening that those students are experiencing from other students, from teachers. 

So after that happens, parents are mad, White parents are mad. Packing school board meetings, insisting that books and lessons being offered to students that are being offered to those students to create a more inclusive environment, to help them feel like they belong. Parents are mad about that. And White parents are showing up to protest that diversity. 

And that’s what’s happening across the country. This is another round of backlash to integration, another segregationist movement, plain and simple. And we have to defeat it again. And that’s the news. 

[MUSIC PLAYING] 

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DERAY: Pod Save the People is brought to you by How to Buy a Home podcast. Now the cost of rent these days is ridiculous. And as a renter, let me tell you, I’m like, I got to move. And I’m like, this is wow. But buying your first home can feel daunting, unrealistic, confusing. It is a confusing process for a lot of people. 

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It’s one of those things where like, when I was listening to podcasts, there were things that I didn’t even know that I should even be thinking about, that they really put me on. Shout out to How to Buy a Home. 

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[MUSIC PLAYING] 

My news this week is from ProPublica. And it is a revealing story of the indignities that single mothers suffer when they are trying to get welfare aid to support their families. This story focuses on the State of New Mexico, but this is not unique to New Mexico. It turns out that when single mothers apply to get welfare benefits, as a result of the 1996 Welfare Reform Law, they are required to provide information about the child’s father. 

And so they look at the case of a woman named Amberly Sanchez, who is an accountant at a real estate company in Albuquerque. She was laid off during the pandemic, then an electrical fire destroyed her apartment building. And she and her 16-month-old are living in a motel at a rate of $400 a week after losing everything. 

She applied for welfare. And because she knew that the Welfare Reform Laws required people to work, she figured that welfare would help her get a job. But in fact, it turns out the caseworker was most fixated on who the baby’s father was, because in New Mexico and in a number of other places, you can’t get public assistance if you don’t identify the child’s father. 

In fact, in order to get $357 a month, which doesn’t even cover the hotel bill or replacing her possessions, Amberly needed to identify the father’s identity, his current and former addresses, his employer’s address, his vehicle make, model, year, color of his car, the tag, and the state where it is registered, his bank account, any real estate or other assets he might have, the addresses of his parents, any other relatives, friends, and the date she believes she got pregnant, and why she believed that to be the correct date. 

Now those are a bunch of pretty intrusive questions. And many of these moms that are interviewed for this story talked about how humiliating and terrifying it is to be questioned by these government caseworkers about their sexual histories. Some of these women have even been required to undergo genetic testing. Why does the state have to understand all of this about the father? 

Well, in New Mexico, again as in other places, they use these details to find the father and force him to make child support payments to reimburse the state for providing the mom and the child with welfare. And this is a direct result of the 1996 Welfare Reform Law. Many of you remember that this was a historic Clinton administration practice. 

And, in fact, Mr. Clinton said once that this would be the largest program to go after deadbeat dads, the most sweeping crackdown on deadbeat parents in history. The 1996 Welfare Overhaul, or what we now know as TANF requires states to go after the fathers of children whose mothers apply for welfare, to get them to repay those welfare dollars in order to get federal anti-policy money. There are policymakers who believe that welfare should be considered a loan that should be repaid by the patriarch of the family and some legislators believe that if parents get TANF and child support that they are double dipping. 

This comes really from a historical perspective from the bastard laws in colonial times where poor women could be jailed or publicly whipped until they name the father of their children or unless he came forward to pay the costs of raising this child. Moms can opt out, but only if they can provide a police report or a restraining order documenting domestic violence. But if they don’t provide the information about the dad, their benefits can be cut or terminated. 

This goes on and continues to go on, in fact, because it benefits the government financially. So child support collection is a huge source of revenue for states and counties. In 2020, more than $1.7 billion with a B in child support was collected from fathers and seized by federal and state governments for the repayment of welfare benefits. $1.7 billion. And that is money that did not go to the children. 

It was collected from fathers and went to the states because those mothers and children were collecting welfare benefits. During the pandemic, the IRS and state child support agencies took these daddy’s stimulus checks that was supposed to help fathers repay child support and welfare. And in fact the government collected $684 million more in child support in 2020 over 2019 because of the intercepted stimulus checks. None of that money went to women and children. 

And at the same time, to add insult to injury, federal funding has also been frozen to mid-90s levels with no increases for inflation or increased poverty rates. And so state funding per child has plummeted. So you’re getting less funding from the federal government for welfare. And in order to get that little bit of money, you have got to collect this money from fathers and humiliate these mothers. 

The good news is that there’s a group of Democratic senators that are planning on introducing a bill this fall to ban states and the federal government from keeping child support as a cost recovery for welfare in an effort to shift the focus from collecting money for the government to strengthening families. The article goes on to Chronicle, the real life effects of some of the policy decisions that ushered in the Welfare Reform Bill 25 years ago this summer. 

They talk to moms of all different situations and understand what they are facing when they have to name fathers. They talk to bureaucrats who largely say we’re following state law, we’re following federal law or the computer did it. And there’s nothing we could do about it. 

And they even look at politicians. In fact, in New Mexico, former Republican Governor Susana Martinez made deep cuts to social programs. And the current Democratic Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham hasn’t done anything about it despite promises to end child hunger statewide. What is interesting, which is always the case it seems, is that race always seems to play a part in this. 

In the early 1900s, there existed a thing called a mother’s pension where state and local cash assistance was available to moms, single mothers, but only if they were widowed white women. Not to widowed Black women or not to unwed moms. And as the welfare rolls diversified from the 1940s to the 1960s, many states adopted the “man in the house” rule which meant you could not get aid if a man lived in the home who was not your children’s father. And of course that was enforced most often against to Black mothers. 

Daniel Hatcher, who is an expert on poverty at the University of Baltimore School of Law says, it’s not a coincidence that child support was federalized in the decades after the Civil Rights Movement. In other words, in a decade, after all these public goods, including welfare, had started being expanded to Black women. And so we see what we see all the time, which is the rules that work for White women and other women are not extended to Black women and women of color. And that is the case with this child support collection law. 

One great example of how you could deal with this is the state of Colorado, which is right near to New Mexico. In 2017, Colorado passed a law that allows the monthly child support payments collected from fathers to be passed through directly to their children without being intercepted by the government. What they have found is when dads know their money will make it to their children, they pay more, they pay more often, they pay on time. And they pay through the official system. 

They’re also more likely to keep their jobs. They’re more likely to formally acknowledge their kids. And the low income moms are more likely to work because they can afford child care and they are less likely to rely on social programs. In the two years, after this Colorado law was passed, poor families received $11.7 million more money in child support than the years before. 

And so this seems like a no brainer. We should stop penalizing poor women, poor families frankly, because in many cases the dads are actually involved and paying. They are not all deadbeat dads, but the way the child support system is designed, it actually is designed to break up their families if the family is too poor. 

And so this seems like we need to take a hard look at it. It seems like we have some statewide examples of ways that you could do this differently. And we need to stop humiliating low income mothers in order to get the financial assistance that they need to keep their families afloat. 

I brought this to the Pod because this was something I didn’t know. And I thought other people might think about out this as we commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Clinton administration’s 1996 Welfare Reform Law. 

De’ARA: My news today is from the New York Times. And I’m sure you all have seen this, but lifting it up on the Pod because I think it’s so important for us to really dig into this and know facts and movement around it. Essentially there are thousands of migrants living in terrible conditions under bridge in Del Rio, Texas. 

There’s been a big surge in migration across the Rio Grande in past weeks. And it’s essentially overwhelmed authorities and caused a significant delay in processing folks who are arriving. So right now, US Border Patrol is saying that 9,000 migrants, mostly from Haiti, are arriving in Del Rio. With a staggering number, it’s really becoming quite impossible to process them all evidently. 

Now this piece repeatedly talks about the increased number of Haitian migrants. However, it leaves out that many Haitians are crossing the Darién Gap to get to Del Rio. So I think we’ve talked about the Darién gap before on the Pod, but just to remind y’all that it requires a five-day trek through the jungle crossing Panama to Colombia where folks who are crossing endure unspeakable trauma and where many perished, in fact. 

So some of these folks have been living in South America. Some for years, and then crossing the Darién to get to Del Rio. So it’s not as if these folks are taking one-boat ride to get to Del Rio. This is a journey that has been going on for these folks for, I’m sure, years, for some months. And I think it’s important to raise that up so that we’re really understanding how vulnerable and how desperate these folks are for a chance at life and livelihood. 

So the mayor down in Del Rio, Bruno Lozano has described the conditions now these folks are living in as like a shantytown. So little access to water and food, and just a few portable toilets. So again these folks are essentially like in a camp underneath a bridge in Del Rio. 

And Border Patrol said that they set up the camp here because they wanted to prevent injuries from heat-related illness while migrants were being taken into custody. So that’s why they’re under this bridge. Now there’s a back and forth about blame here. 

Governor Abbott in Texas is blaming the Biden administration. The Biden administration, it’s dragging its feet a bit in terms of what decisions are being made immediately. The Biden administration is still holding up a Trump era public health rule put in place at the beginning of the pandemic that blocks many asylum seekers from coming into the country. 

So the current administration is still upholding this rule right? But last Thursday, a judge in Texas ordered that the administration stop turning migrant families away under this public health rule. And they have to like get this going in 14 days. 

So interesting to see that actually a federal judge had to push the Biden administration to do this and to address this. There’s been an increase in migrants at the border. And there’s obviously a border issue really getting to the bottom of what can be done immediately, but also how it can all be handled in a way that really speaks to the humanitarian crisis of it all is critically important. 

And I think that’s what we need to see more of from this administration. These are people with families who have been through so much. And if there’s a way to create systems in which we can process these folks a little bit faster and also do it in a way that really acknowledges their humanity really is what is critically important. 

What puts added pressure on all of this is there’s been a shakeup at the Department of Homeland Security. So the Secretary’s Chief of Staff, the Assistant Secretary for Border and Immigration Policy, and a top prosecutor within Immigration and Customs Enforcement recently announced that they’re going to leave the agency at the end of the month. So a little bit more stress there in terms of organizationally, practically, how all these things are going to really play out and be managed. 

So we’re going to continue to keep our eye on this and to give thoughts and perspectives on it. But just wanted to raise it up just because the people are suffering you all. And so in terms of what this country is about, what this country is supposed to stand for, we really need to start pushing this administration to put things in place sooner than later so that these folks at least aren’t living in these types of conditions. 

[MUSIC PLAYING] 

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[MUSIC PLAYING] 

DERAY: Claire Bidwell Smith is a therapist and author who specializes in grief. And her latest book is called Anxiety– The Missing Stage of Grief. And she’s a new weekly podcast from Lemonada about living a better happier life called New Day. 

Today, we talk about processing emotions and how anger and pain can come for the most unlikely of places. Here we go. 

Claire, thanks so much for joining us today on Pod Save the People. 

CLAIRE BIDWELL SMITH: Thanks for having me. 

DERAY: So I’m excited to talk to you because you are an expert on something that many people have experienced, and that is grief. But I’d like to start– before we talk about the details of that, how did you even get into this as a place of study, as a place that would be where your expertise lay in? 

CLAIRE BIDWELL SMITH: Right, it’s a funny thing to have expertise in. It’s not what I thought I would be when I was a kid. And imagine what I would be growing up. 

I got into it through a lot of personal loss. Both of my parents got cancer when I was a teenager. And I’m an only child. And then they both died in my early 20s and late teens. And so I entered into adulthood very familiar with grief in a way that most of my peers weren’t. And it really set me up to see the world in a different way. 

And I made a mess and really struggled for a while. And when I began to come through it, I ended up going back and getting my master’s degree in clinical psychology and becoming a grief therapist. And I’ve now written three books about grief and have a really busy private practice. 

DERAY: And you’re also a new podcast host. Ou-ou, ou-ou, ou-ou. 

CLAIRE BIDWELL SMITH: I am. [LAUGHS] Yeah. 

DERAY: How’s that been? 

CLAIRE BIDWELL SMITH: That has been so exciting. It’s just now launching. And it’s been so much work but really fulfilling. The podcast is called New Day. And it’s really about tackling mental health but in really palatable ways, like ways that we can digestible do. 

Everyone’s struggling with something right now, right? We’re just coming through this pandemic. And the mental health crisis in America was already a huge problem. And now it has been so exacerbated by everything that the pandemic has forced us into. 

And so trying to just find ways that people can move through their days and find ways to feel better is something really important to me. And that’s what we’re doing with this podcast. So I’m so excited about it. 

DERAY: Now what’s interesting, like a grief therapist and like a therapist? Aren’t most therapists equipped to deal with grief? Right? No? Yes? 

CLAIRE BIDWELL SMITH: Yeah, it’s a good question. I mean, yes, we’re all grieving all the time, right? We grieve for so many things. So I think that all therapists do have some ability to work with grief. 

But then, again, those of us who’ve really trained in it or know it personally, or both, I think that we can bring a different level to it. I mean grief has really large ramifications. Loss has really big ramifications in our lives. 

And I think that our culture is really not so great about addressing that, about talking about it, about acknowledging how much we go through when we’re grieving. And so someone who’s really skilled in it can see all the different ways it’s affecting our lives and not dismiss them or attribute, maybe things were going through to other issues. 

DERAY: Are there any misconceptions about the grieving process? I know that your book talks about anxiety, but what do we get wrong about the public conversation about grief? 

CLAIRE BIDWELL SMITH: Oh my gosh, so much. Again, I just don’t think it’s acknowledged enough. So we tend to move through it very quickly. People are expected to come back to work fast. They’re expected to move through a big loss. A lot of people don’t even feel like they can talk about it because it’s not invited. I think one of the biggest misconceptions is the length of time that we grieve. 

We can grieve a loss our whole lives on some level. It can affect us in so many ways. You lose a child, you lose a spouse, a parent. A really big loss like that, it’s something that stays with you forever. There’s no getting over it. 

We learn to live with it and we can be happy again in our lives, but we’re always going to be carrying that loss with us on some level. And so I think that’s one of the things that we really get wrong. But, yeah, Elisabeth Kubler Ross, who coined the five stages of grief, did something amazing by just talking about it and bringing a lot of light to grief. But she also got everybody so excited about these five stages that we often forget to look past them. And there’s a lot going on beyond the five stages. 

DERAY: Like what? 

CLAIRE BIDWELL SMITH: Like anxiety, for instance. Like substance abuse. Like so many things that happen in our lives as a result of grief. The five stages also seem to imply that they go in a linear process. And grief does not move in a linear process at all. Grief moves backwards and forwards. 

Sometimes we’re feeling one emotion for a period of time. And then we quickly move into another one. Sometimes we skip certain emotions. Everybody’s grief looks very different. 

And when we have these five stages that we refer to all the time, they can seem like a formula. And when you’re in an enormous amount of pain, a formula sounds great, right? We could just move through this quickly and be on the other side. That would be lovely. 

But often there’s so much more going on than the five stages. So there’s just a lot to sit with and to acknowledge. Again– and I just don’t think that our culture opens up enough space for us to acknowledge that. 

DERAY: And how– if at all, have you seen the pandemic exacerbate or change or make better the grieving process? I don’t– I’m open to the pandemic having done a whole lot of things to this process for people. But would love to know your take. 

CLAIRE BIDWELL SMITH: Yeah, it’s a great question. And I think you’re right. It has had positives and negatives. I think the loneliness and isolation that people have been going through and the limited access to health care and mental health care has been a real struggle for people who are grieving and has exacerbated a lot of mental health problems. But on the other hand, I’ve really seen our culture and our world really address grief and acknowledge it in ways we never have. 

I mean, I’ve been talking about grief professionally for 10 years, been experiencing it for a long time. And this is the first time this last year that I’ve really seen people willing to talk about it, willing to honor it, acknowledge it, makes space for it, provide help for it. And I think that we’ve also been really good about acknowledging all the different kinds of ways we’ve been grieving. 

In the last year, we’ve seen grief over employment, grief over health, grief over racial injustice, grief over politics. There’s just been so many things that we’ve been grieving. And we’re finally acknowledging that and shedding light on it. So that’s one of the really big positives, I think. 

DERAY: I love it. Do we see any gender based or race based– I don’t know– distinctions or like differences with regard to the grieving process? My gut tells me that women are probably more likely to be upfront about the grieving process or something. I don’t know. But I could be wrong. 

CLAIRE BIDWELL SMITH: Yeah, absolutely. I think men are not encouraged to grieve as much as women, or not grieve openly, or they are pigeonholed into a different kind of grief where they’re encouraged to be more angry or more stoic with their grief process where women are allowed to be more vocal about it, more public about it, and messy about it. I think that a lot of the clinical world in the grief community is dominated by white people. So that automatically excludes a lot of minorities and addressing what their grief process might be like. 

So there’s that issue. But that’s also been coming to light in the last year, which I’ve been really, really grateful to see. So I think that there’s definitely still work to do, for sure. I like that we have a president right now who talks about grief a lot and has gone through his own grief. And he openly is emotional. And I think that that is a really great role model for men who perhaps are feeling a lot of grief right now too. 

Just having someone in that position, showing their own emotions around it, I think, is really healthy. 

DERAY: How about that? My gut tells me that social media, especially during a pandemic, might not be the value-ad that people think in terms of the grieving process. But I don’t necessarily know if that is true. Do you have an indication of whether social media has an impact on the grieving process for people? 

And the other thing I want to know, one of my friends, he was 33. He died from lung cancer in July. 

CLAIRE BIDWELL SMITH: I’m sorry. 

DERAY: End of July, like beginning of August. And I didn’t appreciate how much it would hit me. And I also forgot how tired crying makes you. I was like, whoa, I haven’t cried in a long time. I am tired. 

This makes you– this is, wipe me out. But going through that, it was just such a reminder of how lonely grieving can be associated in moments like this, how much community is necessary, and like the physical toll that grieving takes on you. 

CLAIRE BIDWELL SMITH: Yeah. I’m so sorry about your friend. That is so young and so awful. I think you’re right. People always underestimate the physical toll that grief can take on you. It’s exhausting. It really is. 

And we have a lot of physical symptoms that come from it. And people always overlook that. They always think that they should be fine. And really it’s much more than that. And it can be really difficult to move through the process. 

But social media, I think it’s back and forth. I think, again, there’s positives and negatives. I think it can be a great place for people to find grief resources, just looking under the grief hashtag. There is so much there. 

There are every grief therapist I know and people who write books about grief. They’re all on Instagram and Twitter. So you can look there and find a wealth of resources that, for instance, when I was going through grief 20 years ago, that wasn’t available. 

But then I think that social media can be difficult too when everyone’s lives look so great and perfect and whatnot, and you’re grieving. And you’re feeling isolated. And you’re feeling lonely. And it can just make you feel further isolated and further alone. 

So there’s lots of ups and downs to it. I know a lot of people like to post and write about people they lose. And I think that there can be catharsis there too. But then sometimes you’re sharing a loss with someone who’s posting about it prolifically and you get annoyed. There’s so many different aspects to it. 

DERAY: Got it, got it, got it. Why did you start a podcast? 

CLAIRE BIDWELL SMITH: I started a podcast because there’s just this constant need for more space around these issues. We need to have more outlets. We need to have more resources. We need to have more voices. 

One of the things I’m really trying to do with New Day is bring people in who are maybe experts, maybe regular people, but pull back the curtain and talk about what our lives look like in the real day-to-day. I ask every guest, how are you really doing today? Not like your regular answer or how you would answer on Instagram or in an interview, but like, how are you really doing? And just talk to people about what’s going on. 

I love that, like last summer, Michelle Obama came out talking about how she was feeling depression. And it’s so great for people like that to talk about this because otherwise regular people feel like there’s something wrong with them for struggling. And we are all struggling right now. There is just so much to contend with. There’s so much to process. 

And I think that social media adds to that too. We’re looking at our phones before we’re even out of bed in the morning. We’re taking in so much information, good and bad. And it’s overwhelming. So having space to really think about it, to break down ways, to just feel better, make our lives better. I have a practice. 

So on every episode, I suggest something small you can do that week to improve your mental health, improve your well-being. And some of them are simple, just like thinking about forgiveness. If there’s someone in your life or something that you need to do forgiveness around. 

So every week, it’s something small. And it’s been fascinating. It’s been healing for me. Maybe I’m just doing it selfishly. 

DERAY: [LAUGHS] I’m always interested in new podcast hosts, like was there anything about the podcast that was unexpected, you’re like, wow, this is harder or this takes more time or like the editing process or the booking process or– 

CLAIRE BIDWELL SMITH: Oh my God, yeah. All of it. [LAUGHS] I think the interviewing part is the easy part. I love talking to people. I’m a therapist. I like to dig into people every day. 

That part is really easy. It’s all the recording equipment. It’s really thinking about the things I want to say around each episode, just trying to be really thoughtful around those pieces. So all of that I feel like is way more than I thought I was getting into, but I’m also really enjoying it. 

DERAY: I also wanted to ask about like front-line workers. So I have to imagine that, like doctors, nurses, grocery. There’s a set of people who have just been so much more impacted by the pandemic every day than a lot of us were. How have you seen this process impact them? 

CLAIRE BIDWELL SMITH: It has been so much for them. I’ve talked to a fair amount of them. I’ve heard so many stories. I’ve had clients who have been front-line workers. They are grieving. They don’t even teach death and dying in med school. 

You’re becoming a nurse or a doctor or any kind of health care worker, you’re not even taking a course in death and dying. And so you’re all these people on the front lines who were seeing more death and having to sit there and hold iPhones so that people could say goodbye to their loved ones. Nobody was prepared for this. They were not prepared for this. 

The emotional toll that has taken on them is enormous. And the resources that we need to be supplying all the time are just endless. And that’s another reason I’m trying to do some small part in putting more information out there and more accessibility about mental health, because there are just so many people struggling with it. But the front-line workers, I mean I think it’s going to take a long time for them to process everything they’ve been going through. And I’m really hoping that we start to make changes in the medical education system of what we’re preparing people to do. 

DERAY: And is there like– when people come to you, what do they– do they come to you saying I’m grieving, or do they come to you in grief and they’re like, I don’t know, I don’t know the language, but I know something’s off. Like, I don’t know, like what? 

CLAIRE BIDWELL SMITH: Yeah. 

DERAY: What do you– I don’t know, I’m interested in that. 

CLAIRE BIDWELL SMITH: I think a lot of people, like you said about your friend, they aren’t expecting grief to be as big as it is. And so they feel blindsided by it. And maybe that means they’re struggling at work or they’re crying and exhausted all the time or they’re having trouble in their relationships or just trouble concentrating or the loss impact of their lives in certain ways. 

Like you lose a partner or spouse. Your whole life is affected by that financially– your home, so many things. And so again, most people don’t expect it and they suddenly find themselves really caught up in the throws and not sure what to do. 

How do I get help? How am I going to get through this? Is it normal that I’m crying all the time? Is it normal that I just want to stay in and close the blinds and watch Netflix? Is it normal that I’m angry or anxious? 

So they come in with those questions. And so a lot of my work is normalizing the grief process and also giving them permission to grieve. And then I also work with a lot of people who maybe went through a loss 5, 10, 20 years ago and they’re suddenly really maybe seeing some of the ripple effects of how that played out in their life. 

I work with a lot of people who lost maybe a parent in childhood or adolescence, like I did. And sometimes they’re not really aware of how much it’s impacted their life until they’re in their 30s or 40s. And then they come in wanting to do some work around it. 

DERAY: There we go. Where can people go to stay in touch for more information to read your work, to find your work? 

CLAIRE BIDWELL SMITH: You can find me at clairebidwellsmith.com. You can find Claire Bidwell Smith on all the social media. And you can listen to New Day podcast from Lemonade media available anywhere you get your podcasts. 

DERAY: We appreciate you and can’t wait to have you back on the Pod. Thank you so much. 

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Well, that’s it. Thanks so much for tuning in to the Pod Save the People this week. Tell your friends to check it out. Make sure to rate it wherever you get your podcasts, whether it’s Apple Podcasts or somewhere else. And we’ll see you next week. 

Pod Save the People is a production of Crooked Media. It’s produced by Brock Wilbur and mixed by Bill Lands. Our executive producers are Jessica Cordova Cramer and myself. Special thanks to our weekly contributors Kaya Henderson, De’Ara Balenger, and Sam Sinyangwe. 

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