The odd intersection of career planning and grieving

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Our first international post! Morgan Driskell is from Alabama in the US and connected with Let’s Talk About Loss on Twitter. She’s written a fantastic piece about her experience of loss and grief.

Living with grief has become normalized for me. As I approach the eight year anniversary of my mother’s death, I find myself at a peace that was very difficult for me to achieve in my late teens and early twenties. I wrestle with a need to validate her death and wonder if I am selfishly doing so through my career choices. I recently read an article that spoke on peoples’ need to justify their grief through what they think are selfless acts. It touched on the bias my professors warned me I would have to separate myself from in order to be truly be respected as a social researcher. And I thought to myself, “Holy cow. I just applied for all these graduate programs because I want to help people through their grieving processes. Am I doing this for me or for others?”

Shaping my career

In 2015 when I was nearing the end of my undergraduate studies, I took a directed readings course in which a professor worked with me individually to develop a broader understanding of my discipline and career goals. I brought in a rough draft of my personal statement and remember the shock on his face as he realized that I mentioned my mother’s death. He said to me, “It’s just so heavy. It really takes you back and that is how the admissions committee will feel too. I’d take it out”.

And he’s not entirely wrong. It is heavy… for me, for my family, and for her closest friends. Here’s the thing about grief: no one has to explain anything to anyone about his or her grieving process. It is absolutely appropriate for me to mention my mother’s death in my personal statement because I would not be pursuing a career in health policy and Gerontology without the experience of losing her.

Changing the conversation around death

While I am aware that I want to make some sort of sense of my loss, I also recognize that something ignited in me when I was sixteen years old and sat in the driveway as my mother took her last breaths. I am so grateful that Beth reached out to me and to find organizations like Let’s Talk About Loss. I too am driven to change the social climate around death and the dying process, more specifically in the United States. Literature and research here is more clinically based, and working in our healthcare system, I often wonder if the medicalization of society has led to truly better outcomes for people.

As an administrator and someday researcher, I want to bring a more humanistic approach to healthcare and specifically want to impact physician-patient end-of-life communication. Through implementing grief support programs for healthcare workers, caregivers, patients and their families, I believe that people will be better able to process their grief and maintain more fulfilling roles.

Moving forward

I recently challenged myself to face my hypocrisy head on and joined a grief support group. I have never completed any formal counseling and know that I need to be at a different acceptance level in order to ensure my experience does not bias the influence I hope to have in the fields of Gerontology, Death and Dying. There is a unique beauty in the highs and lows I experience every day, and my only hope is to share this experience and hopefully open the eyes and hearts of those around me.

Want to share your story? Whatever stage you’re at in your grief, your story will help others. Get in touch today by emailing