Todd Arky, a successful entrepreneur (perhaps best known for co-founding Seamless) is trying to change the conversation - or lack thereof - around loss and bereavement. Todd lost his own father at age 12. In the cloud of grief, when so much else felt numb, his father's best friend gave him the kind of support he so very much needed. Todd remembers vividly when Bruce told him that "he was exactly the same age when his [own] father died and that this would be really tough, but I would be okay." Most importantly for Todd, "his common loss gave me a real sense of strength."
In finding another person with whom to share in the grief and open up about his own, Todd was indeed able to emerge with strength from the grieving process. It also made him want to become a person like Bruce for others who had lost loved ones.
It goes without saying that no two people grieve in the same way. Everyone's needs are different at a time of loss, as are everyone's emotions. But in giving voice to one's own grief, others who have not been given the chance to express themselves can likewise find their voice.
Todd first stepped up to do this as a volunteer and now Board member at Experience Camps, which bring together young people who have lost loved ones to get some time away from home and the chance to connect, reflect, and share their own stories. The experience of supporting and guiding others through their loss made Todd wonder: how could we open an even more public conversation about grief?
Bringing together his passion as an entrepreneur and personal story, Todd launched the Shared Grief Project, in which he interviewed celebrities who have lost loved ones and gathered resources from other celebrities who have spoken out about their grief.
What does it mean that NBA star Kyrie Irving, who lost his mother at age four, still gets choked up when he fills out information forms asking about his mother and father? What does it mean that successful entrepreneur Rohan Marley felt lost when his father died at age nine - only to find that his father, Bob Marley's lyrics were a source emotional sustenance? What does it mean that world-champion volleyball player, actress, and model Gabrielle Reece struggled to find healthy ways to process her anger and acted out?
That depends very much on who is listening.
It can mean that many more people than we ever might realize experience loss; they just usually don't have the chance to speak about it. It can mean that even very successful people often face struggles during the grieving process, even if a surprising number of them feel like they emerged with greater resilience. It can mean that those who are grieving need not grieve alone - or feel alone in their grief.
Todd hopes that the Shared Grief Project will open conversations more broadly about grief and how different people have been impacted by it. But more importantly, he hopes it will connect with young people experiencing grief and be a source of strength for them, even from afar.
Not everyone has someone with whom to connect and share their experiences of loss. But this resource can complement the growing network of camps and support groups and reach still more young people who feel lost, angry, or any of the countless emotions associated with grief.