Kristen Glenn and Jane Nicolet
DescriptionFriends, Kristen Glenn [no age given] and Jane Nicolet [no age given], reflect on meeting through Kristen's non-profit, Three Hopeful Hearts, created for bereaved parents and families suffering the loss of a child, and their recent collaboration which lead to Jane's book, "Finding Grace: Journeys in Grief, Courage, and Healing." Together, they discuss grief, healing, and remember their sons; Zachary Dean Glenn and Matthew Christopher Ayres.
Subject Log / Time Code
Recording LocationNew Belgium Brewing Company
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00:02 My name is Jane Nicolette. Today's date is May 4th 2018. Where in Fort Collins Colorado and I'm with my friend Kristen.
00:13 And I'm Kristen Glen today's date is May 4th of 2018. Where in Fort Collins Colorado and I'm with my friend Jane Nicolet.
00:24 Kristen and I first met in August of 2015 not too long ago and that meeting itself set me on a really a personal and professional course that challenged me and really changed my life. I was newly retired and I kind of taken up riding in a full-time way and had already published something a year-and-a-half earlier and Kristen. Who is this wonderful life?
00:54 Educator really at the women's clinic here in town. But as well, she is a director of a nonprofit called three hopeful hearts. That is so important to the bereaved parents in our area.
01:08 So my daughter who has a working relationship with Kristen, my daughter is Leslie and she actually put us together. She thought because I was a bereaved parents myself that I'd appreciate meeting Kristen and finding out more about three hopeful Hearts. So we went to a 5k fundraiser what she was going to run and I was going to limp along that the organization organization was sponsoring and it was a really nice warm August morning and I met Kristen as she's very busy but still terrifically a warm-hearted person such a great smile and really really a compassionate heart and so our partnership then developed and it helped me birth a new book and it helped me listen to 18 other families tell their stories of their own children in a very new very public way.
02:07 Tell Kristen I these are things that I've never really asked you out right before and so they've always kind of been in the back of my mind and important to me and because I love you, but I've never really heard you say these answers. So I'm going to ask you first of all that phone call that followed up that August morning that that I gave to you. Did it surprise you.
02:32 I was absolutely surprised and to hear from you and because I I felt that.
02:40 It would be such a difficult journey to hear multiple stories. I know it's just emotionally.
02:48 So intense to travel that Journey with parents said that we support on a daily basis since for you to call as we met each other just briefly and want to meet again with this idea of gathering all of these stories. I found it to be very compelling after losing my own son. The only book that really meant much to me was a compilation of stories. And so that there was any possibility that you were going to create something like that with these families that I love so much was I was so hopeful and I'm and surprised by your willingness to go on that Journey with other people did this proposition me working with your wonderful organization and and
03:39 Listening to the stories of lost children. Did that whole proposition reshape your life or were you already on this course anyway, and so it really didn't
03:50 Make any turns for you when we are the other it really gave me some insights into what we all need. After. What I believe is the worst possible loss in our lifetimes. I think we brace ourselves for many losses in our life, but never be very unnatural loss of outliving our children and it gave me insights into how many people deeply wanted to make sure that their story was heard and
04:23 And that that opportunity isn't given, you know, I think people have some safe folks in their life that they may tell little Parts but we protect those we love from the deepest grief because we know the depth of that and so to have someone that was willing to take that on and I could feel that your heart was going to fully take that on it. Did it gave me some insight into how that was really avoid for many bereaved parents. I was so surprised after August. We did some work together and remember and then we looked out into the future and set up a on November 15th. We're going to try to pull together. I'll just
05:08 Whoever would like to have your folks, right and I was thinking I hope they're not disappointed that I couldn't bring out more than just a couple of people and then we got in this room in the senior center and I walked into the room and it kind of surprised me. It did us to we felt on the opposite side of that that you know, Jane is just incredible author by that time. I had read your book and we felt like we're not going to be able to offer her enough families to make this work until when we had that open invitation to that that evening and to see it was a full room and it was a full room of people that had not
05:57 Really received support and other ways from us that we knew of their losses and and yet that email that was sent out to everyone that we knew to send it. You really spoke to them in ways that I think that changed us as an organization and for me personally that that you never know what people's needs are during their grief and that was obviously something they wanted desperately wants to to have their full unedited story and some more
06:34 Permanent fashion
06:41 I know that our partnership has been terrifically impactful to me. It took my life into a new Direction. It took my voice into of my writing voice into a new place.
06:54 But I never quite understood how the partnership that we have might have reshaped your personal life. Yeah, you know, it's it's probably easier to talk about about that professional life for both of us when I think about my personal life when you sat with my husband and I for several hours and let us tell a story of our first born and there was nothing off-limits and to have someone that many years after we had experienced the death of our sun be fully open to hearing the story and not shying away from the you can tell when you're telling someone this is
07:44 Journey of your grief when they're tapped out and it happens pretty quickly for people, you know as things that when someone's not every parent it's such an unthinkable.
07:57 Lost that you can tell when even a couple sentences there. Maged that you didn't get full. You just kept being receptive to our emotions and our vulnerability and I would have been 22 years since our land our little one had died when we spoke and to have uninterrupted time that winter day and just be cozy next to the fire with you and you're my husband say things he has not said to me for two decades made a huge impact on us personally and and then when you left to think of what that would be for other people wasn't I knew it would be an incredible gift and I knew your focus was going to continue to be towards the same product of the book, but I just I wanted to assure you that if there was never ever a book that you have done such.
08:57 Important work, even if it never became a book.
09:12 Listening to your story
09:16 During those hours. It was my only my second story out of the 20 children. It was only my second story and I was so nervous because
09:30 As the Director of this wonderful nonprofit that you take these parents from the moment their grief Begins the moment that they learned their children have died all the way through until they no longer believe that they need you. I mean I have such admiration for that. So when I go in and I'm thinking to myself, okay Kristen, I've never met Larry that Christians there and I and I need to be really good. I need to be really really good at this.
10:01 And you grabbed me in that first five minutes you and Larry were so warm, and so I don't know that I've ever thanked you appropriately for that. So I'm so glad to have this opportunity. You helped me know that I could do 18 more you just let me know that and so I appreciate that so much. Thank you.
10:29 You sent my writing process into a whole new way of doing.
10:35 Of doing any kind of product any kind of written product what when you said yes to me doing this. I had no clue. I have no clue what this was going to mean cuz the first the other book was written because it was my life. And I knew what I was supposed to say and I remembered it and I wrote it but when so I thought that's kind of what it was going to be like and it wasn't like that at all. And what happened to me was I got a whole new voice for writing a whole new way of putting down those
11:14 Scotch tender intimate poignant details and there's such responsibility to make sure that what I give back having gifted all the stories back to the parents that what I give back is is authentic zacurate. It's real Fearless. It's and gentle it's all of those things and although it took forever for me to find my voice. I mean, I've been at it for three years and it took 14 months for the interviews.
11:54 And then I thought I'm just going to whip this book out now because the interviews surely are going to be the most difficult things that I do my face, but then it was putting all the interviews together in the book and making it making Grace become another character in that book that took another to almost two years.
12:16 Telling the story aloud seem to be incredibly important for my parents every once in awhile. I would get that back from them telling your story aloud to me who was the stranger to you. We had met three times to for that once when Leslie introduced us and then two coffees now is it how did that help or at least make life different telling it out loud to someone who you did not know.
12:44 Will you are far beyond someone that I did not know. I feel like you are someone that I had read your words in your book about Grace and I knew that you were someone that did not.
12:59 Take this project lately.
13:04 We have common friends. I know that are very intentional women in the world and I knew your character. I don't think that
13:13 It would have been wanting to tell my own story to someone that I truly felt like I didn't know but I would have never entrusted our families to you. If I didn't I felt like I knew your heart from Reading those words about your son Matt and your love and your your
13:33 Mom heart and so I I felt that I knew the important parts of you and and knew that this was not going to be
13:45 That this was going to be a really tough Journey for you. I think when we met again after you had done maybe one more story after our story and you said I think I'll have to do just one every three to four weeks and in my mind I kind of was like, how did you ever think you were going to absorb more of this than that, you know because I think that you're such a driven woman that there was the sense of I'll do one a week. This project will be done in a year and that you then in that that post interview with one other family. I think was after ours that you were willing to make the time frame expand these three years. It would have never been what it was intended to be.
14:36 If that driving part of you would have outweighed the complete the compassion for your own self. I mean talk about giving ourselves Grace you you had to have those pauses between because all those children were settling in your heart and feel like you gained 20 children to hold onto.
15:00 And I knew you would so you are far beyond the stranger for me.
15:05 Nice to hear. Thank you.
15:08 Is there one thing that you would like to tell?
15:11 Cuz I know three hopeful Hearts works with medical caregivers and grief professionals families friends of families who have lost children what one thing would you like them to know about grief that it's forever?
15:32 You know, I think that it is forever and that doesn't need to be feared and that to give
15:46 Is so
15:48 Critical and I think that you know, especially the families that you gave space to that. It's been years past when their child died. You have to know the gifts. There was that many people had closed that door, you know in my own life I go.
16:10 Months without getting to say my son's name and only not years because I work with three of hearts. And now I think often people feel like it's selfless for you to do this nonprofit work and what they don't realize is so it's the most selfish thing. I could possibly do to get to be Zachary's Mom in an active way still in to honor his memory because many people when they're their two decades out. There's no professional or family member or friend that's willing to hold space and listen and I'm wondering why we're so afraid.
16:52 Of that and I guess that would be the question that I'd like to pose to people just in our society at large but especially people that in the helping professions, like what is so fearful about going to that space of grief. It's interesting. I work in the land of breathing in one job and I work in the land of death in my non-profit world and people will allow you to tell the story of her children's birth.
17:24 For the rest of their lives. No one shies away from that of the day my child into the world, you know, they can be 50 years old and you can start that story of the dinner table and everybody's going to humor you and allow you to tell that same story of we were eating Mexican food. I heard the first screen I felt the first contraction, but boy, it is a dinner party stopper to mention a child that is dyed and why they're still our children and we have less opportunity to parent them in an active way in a physical way. I don't understand why those are
18:04 Conversation Stoppers, why can't we continue to be their moms, you know, and if people would allow is to be I think I'm so much pain could be diminished and I think that's what you you gave to people and you gave him a story in a written form. That was such a gift. I remember getting that and that manuscript. I mean I if we had a fire in our house would be right after the dogs. I get the manuscript hippie top of my list.
18:35 Oh, I just love what you just said and it makes me think about my own son. And yes, he is a conversation and it took me forever to be able to
18:47 There are two times during the year that I just
18:52 I get myself Garrett up to live through one more time. And when is his birthday and when is his dad and around those times? I I try to figure out how brave are you this year, you know what else is happening in life so that you can you can be brave this year and
19:13 I'm kind of disappointed in myself that I'd still wanting myself to believe that I need to be brave when indeed this is reality. This is life. I am who I am. I am his mother still and so I remember the first time I felt that way and I think it was I was already had written some of our stories are some of the parents stories and I remember sitting down with my book club.
19:42 And we were out at Austin's having some dinner and it was
19:49 It was Matt's death date and I remember saying to everyone when I really like you to do today and was the first time and I mean, I've been with these women 12 years by next time I said it's time for us to raise a glass to my son and then we did and I walked away going. Okay, that wasn't Brave that was just
20:16 Still being able to be mom. Absolutely. Yeah, those moments are they are and I remember that I remembered that one moment. I don't know that I've spent any other times during those two two days during the year in that. I can remember quite as vividly as that.
20:42 Our time together
20:45 As a partnership, it has really
20:49 Enriched me because I have now understood Grace in my life. Not the concept that's out there. That's
21:01 People maybe understand through organizations or affiliations with the kind that you feel in your heart and the project that you said yes to made that possible to me.
21:16 In what ways do you think?
21:19 You have been most in ridged either personally or professionally or with your children by having this partnership where you had to think over and over about these particular parents when I call you for a lunch and say oh my gosh. I'm not quite sure what to do next.
21:41 I think that it's made me feel like after my own time on this Earth is over. There's going to be not only my own story that's being passed to the Future Generations, but their story and I think that that's what they know to so it's enriched my life knowing that we made that happened that we not only gave him. I mean we gave them the the experience of having someone that is truly you listen in a way that I've never seen anyone. Listen, I think when we got done I said, oh she's better than any therapist we ever went to to my husband because that it just there wasn't a sense of we've got to have an outcome here. We could have Nicole, you know, what's it was just this deep open listening. So you gave people that experience and then, you know within a month to give him this manuscript, it's just you
22:41 Hopefully written
22:43 But not only for themselves, but for
22:47 There there people in their lives, you know, so it just made me feel like not only words are family offered that and I mean, I've given our own story to countless people in our lives and they read things that you wrote that they never knew about our journey, and these are very close family and friends that
23:11 We have not shared some of those things with soda has something that was written in such a beautiful way that we could do that journey through sharing. I knew what other families were receiving and how what ripple effect that would have in it was you no such a gift and I read your your blog every month on which family is being highlighted and I learn about those families that I thought I knew their story and I only knew the tip of that Iceberg of their story me and you and those two three plus hours that you spend with families.
23:47 This would not been something many people would have.
23:51 Been able to
23:54 Chicken and I think it when people meet you they realize okay. She seems to be open and brave and strong enough to take it all on so here you go and boy they giving you things that they needed to and that they knew you were you were open to even though my meetings with you. I Knew How Deeply they impacted you that family that you were sitting in front of just saw this strong, you know woman there that was able to take it all in.
24:24 Magic, that's incredible how I think about doing it again? I don't even believe I said that out loud. I know there we had to stop we had to cut it off once right? Yeah. Yeah. I knew that I couldn't do more than I just didn't feel like I could do more than 20 and I know that there are more. I'm just not quite sure yet and that's a conversation that
24:53 I want to let you leave me in. Yeah, because you know what you work with them so often you work with families that
25:05 Are in such pain and so well, and I'm good. Do you know when we started to have our hearts 10 years ago for bereaved families? I it was one of those things that you hope no one knew this pain, you know, you do. Hope for empty rooms like Oh, we must be the only to bereaved moms in the world good. Let's not make this pain spread to anyone else, but we know that you know, there's just even in Northern Colorado hundreds and so is always stories and whether it's however, we can facilitate that, you know, maybe it's now to storycorps something that I don't think that
25:47 I don't think there's ever an into the stories that even the people that have already shared time with you. I think they'd all want to do more.
25:55 I think you're right because there's never a time that we want to stop talking about. Stop talking about our kids and that is really one common theme that came out over and over and over again. Say my child's name because
26:09 Matt may have died, but he's my baby. Absolutely. No doubt. He's still my kid. And so yeah say his name his name. We need to know he he lives right witcha. Does Grand Theft exact us via? Yeah.
26:26 What question do you have? Any final words for our to round us up besides me just telling you I love you. I love you back so much. And I feel like this has been such a journey for both of us. And I think that you know, I am before meeting you it was a term that sometimes I would say to the families, you know, giving yourself Grace and finding Grace and giving yourself Grace that you would give to other people that you have you embody it. And so I think that
26:58 It's it's just I think I think of our time and these families experience when I say those words now of of Grace, you know, I think that that word has just become.
27:14 Indefinable for me where it was the simpler word three years ago before we became I know connected. I think you for that.
27:25 Thank you for the work 3 hopeful hearts does thank you for the compassionate person that you are and our friendship will continue in DND.
27:42 So since we have some more moments, why don't we just indulge ourselves as Mamas and share anything we want to about our boys.
27:52 My Zach was so wanted so desperately wanted we were young parents and he changed her whole life's we didn't think we could do. You know, I looked at my husband of a year-and-a-half and he was just a boy himself just barely a young man ready to take on a wife and then I remember having Zack and looking at each other like oh, wow. This is going to be way harder than puppies. We had puppies the year before and we thought though that will totally test at potential parents didn't we have this young boy to care for I remember leaving the hospital with him and literally feeling like why would they let me leave with a human to care for the guys know exactly what I found any test. I don't have a certification and being a mama and I used to lay next to his Bassinet at night and think oh,
28:52 I hope I'm not messing up too bad. I don't want to mess this up. This is so important and then is he grew and brought such joy to our family and brought people closer?
29:04 And just had such a perspective of the world and didn't and didn't care if we were perfect. That was what was so beautiful about becoming his mama was just he was talked about giving Grace. He allowed us to just figure it out along with him.
29:27 Was just such a delight in our last such as I am.
29:33 Glue of our family
29:37 I think I have a known each other and maybe they do in another place Matt and Zack would have been such good friends because my son was older weakness 20s when he died and he had the same kind of Grace. I mean he was he forgave all things the toughest time.
30:02 That we were having us fat as a family.
30:07 I'm just as Dad and I the toughest times what we were having he would give such understanding.
30:16 Looks and Injustice a Junior High kid in and tell me how good a person I was in the midst of all of this and for him to take his little adolescent brain time to even think about surprised much language. Of course, we always think of our children are special and of course they are he was he was extraordinary we discovered he had this autoimmune disease right after high school and his ability to have quality of life went down from there.
31:00 But each time that we would see him regardless of the pain that he was in it was always a smile as sense of humor the use of
31:14 His intellect to make us know that he was it was really quite a special person.
31:24 I'm not quite sure.
31:27 How much to say about him? I'm so unused to talkin about him. I'm used to riding with you are here or what I'm not used to talking about on me. It's a little raw for me to do but I appreciate having the time to do it because we're going to snow season serves it. It is such a balancing of how much we can say and how much we want their story to be in the world. Right? But, you know, they're not you know, and yeah, I wish I would have met him it sounds incredible you would have loved and yes, it was your first born to make us a mom. There's nothing like a nothing like it. They see us some bowling and it does seems to be the sense of forgiveness.
32:27 It's learning along with my other children. I feel like I just felt like I should have it figured out a bit better. Then Zach might not feel like Zack was like, oh, I know she's figuring this along my my mom and dad are not experts, you know, if he could have stated that he used to say he was in preschool and they they said all I think think we should get speech therapy for him. He says he says himself in his third person. So he would always say me love you me love you and they were trying so hard to correct that and I was trying so hard to hold on to that cuz I loved it so much like me. Love you. I just think
33:09 That that fullness of their Acceptance in their love is is probably unique to People's First born's and them knows I've worked with other families there does seem to be something that is incredibly I am
33:25 Otherworldly about children that
33:29 That we lose and I don't know what that commonality is. I don't think I want to know but it seems to be this common bond that we share of describing them.
33:44 Kind of beyond words just don't quite it's true to do their their Essence Justice X gray. There's a sense about children that you've lost I think and I don't I don't think that I'm unique in this because Matt was with me the entire time. I wrote the first book, I mean truly over my right shoulder.
34:10 Always and I didn't I didn't understand it until I was about halfway through the book and then it it gave me such a sense of Peace. Yeah, and then after the book as I was waiting for my next project to happen to me, no waiting for the universe to somehow visit or breaks and there you were he was with me at that time. And I also and is never gone since there is an there's not a really a good way to explain it. Unless someone has sent something beyond the world in which we live this not necessarily religion and not necessarily spiritualism and not to not necessarily anything. I'd have a label more right? It does not have a label but there is the sense that you are not alone that the spirit are their soul or the the spark of the Divine.
35:07 That was a part of that person that you love that energy energy does not die that energy continues and we're lucky enough that you that Zack circles around you and Matt circles around me. So as usual you always have the best words. I love your words on the wrap up in the words that you share and it's so true. It really is.
35:37 So we are lucky we are bereaved mom's. So when does bereavement stop I should have asked that one? I don't know what to call myself. Yeah, I don't feel the reeved. But I know I still live in grief. I will always live in girl you.
35:55 Am I morning am I believe damn? I I don't know how to describe myself and I'm just Matt's mom. So I'm just going to leave it at that and say that I feel
36:09 Ted had him in my life. I feel lucky to have you in my life and
36:16 I'm going to give you the final words again, cuz I'm out of mine when James out of words and I'm really in trouble. I guess I would did all that thought I don't think people think of grief as something that you would ever view as being Lucky in that grief allows you to make choices and prioritize and
36:42 Come up with who your post loss person is going to be in ways that I would have never chose, but
36:53 Now have a choice of how I'm going to make this new reality. And I think there's people in my life that missed the
37:01 Dupree grieving Kristen, but she wasn't as full of a person until this happened and I would if it was a package deal to have her back with Zack is part of the package will be a sign me up.
37:16 Oh, yeah. Oh my gosh. I think there's one of the the best quotes about grief I've ever heard was by John Green and one of his books, and it just says them grief doesn't change you it reveals you and I think to think about grief truly revealing who we are as human beings and how we choose to connect with other people and which people we choose to allow in our lives. It makes us be very choosy and I'm forever grateful that our paths crossed and that we chose to make a connection with each other to stay at him. I thank you.
38:02 So my son is Zachary Dean Glenn.
38:08 And my son is Matthew Christopher Ayres.