Grief and Rebirth: Finding the Joy in Life | Jarie Bolander | Male Grief

Entrepreneur and author Jarie Bolander has written a raw and heartfelt book titled Ride or Die: Loving Through Tragedy, A Husband’s Memoir, in which he recounts the wondrous ways his wife Jane handled her terminal illness, explores the male experience of grief in the hopes that others also suffering through grief will not feel so alone and provides a frank chronicle of how an intimate relationship can change and grow—even when the people involved feel there is nothing left to give. During this moving interview, Jarie reveals why it is important to build up resilience to difficult times before they happen, why healing should be thought of as a way of life rather than as an end state, and so much more. Tune in for an inspiring, wise, and uplifting interview that will surely touch your heart!

 

IN THIS EPISODE, YOU’LL HEAR ABOUT THINGS LIKE:

  • How Jarie met Jane, and what motivated the two of them to meet with a therapist six months into their relationship.
  • The Care Circle Jarie established immediately after Jane’s diagnosis of leukemia, which he called Team Jane. 
  • How a social worker named Patty helped Jarie deal with his inner conflict, that he felt cheated out of his own life when his wife might die. 
  • Jarie’s male perspective on grief and loss.

 

SOME QUESTIONS IRENE ASKS JARIE:

  • How did Jane help you maintain your sense of self? 
  • In what ways did you feel guilty about taking care of yourself?
  • Can you explain that Ride or Die concept, which Jane also taught you and left you with?
  • Jarie, why do you say that healing never ends?
  • What are your suggestions for consciously building resilience?

 

Watch the episode here

Listen to the podcast here

 

Jarie Bolander: “How dare I feel cheated out of my own life when my wife might die?”

 

 

 

 

 

I hope this finds each of you so very well. I’m speaking to you from my studio in West Orange, New Jersey. I could not be more delighted to have this opportunity to interview entrepreneur and author Jarie Bolander, who has written a raw and heartfelt book titled Ride or Die: Loving Through Tragedy, A Husband’s Memoir. In Ride or Die, Jarie recounts the wondrous ways his wife Jane handled her terminal illness. He explores the male experience of grief in the hopes that others also suffering through grief will not feel so alone. He provides a frank chronicle of how an intimate relationship can change and grow even when the people involved feel there is nothing left to give.

In addition to being an author, Jarie is a dynamic entrepreneur. He holds an MBA in Technology Management from the University of Phoenix and a BS in Electrical Engineering from San Jose State University. After he graduated from San Jose State University, he caught the entrepreneurial startup bug, and Jarie now has 6 startups, more than 7 books, and 10 patents to his credit. This is a busy guy. His experience runs the gamut from semiconductors to life sciences to nonprofits. He hosts a podcast called The Entrepreneur Ethos, and that podcast is based on his last book by that same name.

Jarie will be speaking to us from San Francisco, where he works as the head of market strategy for Decision Council, a business-to-business growth consulting firm. I’m looking forward to talking with him about the courage with which his wife faced cancer and her death, the male perspective on grief and loss, his belief that it is important to build up resilience through difficult times before they happen, why healing should be thought of as a way of life rather than as an end state, and so much more for what is going to be an inspiring, wise, and very touching interview. Jarie, a warm welcome to the show.

Thank you so much for that warm and beautiful introduction. How can I live up to that?

You’re living up to it. That’s all of who you are.

Grief and Rebirth: Finding the Joy in Life | Jarie Bolander | Male Grief

I appreciate that.

You’re an amazing guy.

You live a life and you try to do the best you can. Sometimes you have to zig and zag and things happen. My whole philosophy has always been that if you go through something challenging, you battle the dragon, and you come back with the gold that you should share. You should be open to that. That’s why I appreciate what you’re doing. This is such a fantastic show. These are conversations that mean so much to so many people. I applaud you for your hard work on this.

Thank you for that validation. I’m very humbled by what’s going on with this show and how it’s helping so many people. Let’s start by getting them to know who the little Jarie was that formed all these gifts that you’ve been using, which led to your love of helping entrepreneurs and also prepared you to meet some of these amazing challenges we’re going to talk about that you had in your life.

Build up your resilience to difficult times before they happen. Share on X

I grew up in a town called Belmont, California, which is a suburb of San Francisco, about 25 miles south of San Francisco. My parents still live in the family house. I grew up in the ‘70s and ‘80s, which makes me a Gen X kid or the Latchkey kids as we fondly say. We equally think Boomers and Millennials are a bunch of knuckleheads so they get that attitude.

You’re talking to a knucklehead.

We’re all knuckleheads that way. Belmont was a suburb on the Peninsula back in the ‘80s, especially in California. There had been a rash of serial killers in California. My town in October 1984 was a very bad time for Belmont. At the beginning of that month, my friend Lance Turner was murdered behind our middle school. No one knew who killed him. It was this shock and awe to this whole thing. Towards the end of that month, one of the guys I delivered papers to, Robert Walker Black, was arrested for killing his mom and his uncle and burying them underneath the crawlspace. For the better part of three years, I’d been delivering papers to this guy not knowing that 25 feet away from me were these two dead people. It was a traumatic childhood in that sense. It wasn’t that we didn’t feel safe, but you just didn’t feel like anyone had your back. You were on your own. No ifs or buts about it.

No community support. No one was gathering together to watch each other or help each other in some way.

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Not as much as you would think. The kids would all ride bikes, and so we all had our little group, but this was about the time when parents started to have to both work. My mom and dad both worked, but the support was not physically there, emotionally not so much. In the ‘70s and ‘80s, that was a very common trait. My parents were the lost generation before World War II. There was all this generational trauma that trying to figure this all out. It’s not to say that they weren’t great parents, but we were self-sufficient at a very early age. I remember at 10, I’d take care of my two brothers. That was my job from 10 until I was in high school. I had a paper route when I was 10 or 11.

Did you accept it or did you resent that? Did your brothers resent you?

They did a little bit. I wasn’t the nicest big brother all the time either so I was one of those guys too. It was abundantly clear from an early age that you needed to work hard and you needed to take care of yourself. The cavalry was not coming. That might have been our family. That may have been my attitude, but my entire life is like, “You need to figure this out on your own.” That’s both a blessing and a curse. There’s a certain amount of resiliency in that and self-sufficiency, but there’s also a lot of loneliness. There’s a lot of angst about your place in the world.

As a kid, I was always anxious to grow up. I have to get to the next level. It was driven by a lot of fear. The environment we were in, even in the suburbs, even with all these things, you realize the world was a scary place no matter where you were and you had to watch your back. We worked a lot. My dad loved working around the house. From an early age, we would be digging ditches.

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You have lots of responsibilities there. First of all, I want to ask you, did they ever find out who murdered your friend?

They did. Thirty years later, he was known as the Peninsula Serial Killer, a guy named Dunkle. He killed three young boys. What was weird about that is I think I met this Dunkle kid at one point. We were playing around at some school. I remember this guy looked odd and he was ten years older than us. He was weird. It’s just bizarre. I’m like, “I got to stay away from that guy.” You could feel something was not right with this guy.

As Saul used to say to me, “He has a screw loose.” Sometimes you can perceive that something is not right about somebody.

It was in his eyes. He just looked like he wanted to consume you. They say trust your gut. When you see something like that, you’re like, “Get the hell away from here.” He was horrible.

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How did this love that you have of helping entrepreneurs blossom? Did it blossom during your childhood? I understand how you were already getting ready to meet the challenges of life, but this thing that you do nurtures and empowers entrepreneurs, did that start early on with your newspaper route?

There was always a desire to achieve and be self-sufficient. I didn’t understand the startup thing until I was in college. I went to school in Silicon Valley, why would I not go to a startup? They’re everywhere. You can’t throw a rock outside of San Jose State and not hit a startup.

Grief and Rebirth: Finding the Joy in Life | Jarie Bolander | Male Grief

That’s an interesting life path though because a lot of kids go into the corporation, and you were more into self-generating through businesses and all.

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I love to build things. The other thing I realized is that I’m unmanageable.

You’re your own boss. You don’t want to report to a boss.

It’s funny because I am a good team player and I’m not that much of a-hole, but you could feel the, “Why am I doing it this way when I think I should be doing it that way?” I had the sense that I had to build stuff and I had to do it on my own and I wanted to be part of something. Startups, especially in Silicon Valley in the ‘90s, which is when I was coming up, were all about semiconductors. I went to a bunch of semiconductor startups, I did chip design and I got all these things because I had an electrical engineering degree.

You were born with a lot of gifts. You nurtured a lot of gifts within yourself with very little guidance and support.

My dad was an electrical engineer too, so we would build computers and electronics. I had the bug deep in me. It was almost a foregone conclusion that I was going to be an engineer, just what kind. All that startup experience solidified in my brain that the opportunity is out there, and it’s your attitude about the opportunity. That has followed me through all the stuff I’ve gone through in life. I have a more entrepreneurial spirit about how I run my life. When someone says, “That’s a stupid idea.” “Where do I sign up? That’s me. Let’s go.” I’m willing to try it because I know how important and how random things can be. Who knows?

The opportunity is out there, and it's really your attitude about the opportunity. Share on X

You know what’s special about that? You grew up with a lot of fear, but you moved through your fear. You meet the challenge and move through your fear. Speaking of all of that, let’s get to Jane and talk about Jane and your relationship with her. What it was like? I am in awe and everyone in the world should do this. What motivated the two of you to meet with a therapist six months into your relationship? If people did that, so many divorces would be avoided. How did that work for you guys?

I was married before and got divorced, and Janewas a little upset that I was married before. Not jealous per se. She just said, “You’re my soulmate. How could you have been with someone else?” I’m like, “How is this my fault? I’m sorry that my ex-wife and I broke. What do you want me to do?”

“She warmed me up for you. Don’t complain.”

At least I’ve been trained. What had happened was she was very adamant about, “I want kids. If you don’t want kids, let’s just end our relationship now.” I am uncertain about whether or not I want to have kids. It’s not that I don’t want them or I don’t love kids. My childhood did not prepare me to be that. I did not have a fun childhood. It wasn’t something that I would want anyone else to have to deal with. This is not to say that it was bad. There were challenges and struggles. I generally didn’t have a great childhood.

You didn’t have an experience of joy growing up with your family that way. It was okay, but it wasn’t uplifting.

There was always a scarcity mindset. There’s always fear that drove me throughout my teen years. I drank a lot of alcohol. I was a functional alcoholic in high school. I started like 14 or 15. I did a lot of stupid idiotic dumb things that I regret and wish I never did. It was all my fear and the alcohol and trying to find my place in the world. I was lost, to be honest.

I always tell people, if you didn’t have those experiences though, you wouldn’t be wise now to help other people who are going through so much. I feel that way about myself. If I didn’t have the tough times and gone through it, I wouldn’t be attracted to try and help other people to make it easier for them than it was for me. What did this therapist help you do? How did she prepare you? That translated further into how you handled things. It sets the tone for you.

One of the things that Jane didn’t like about me was I wasn’t very talkative. I’m a highly functional introvert. I don’t get energy from people. I get energy from being alone. There’s a limit and I just fall off the cliff. I wouldn’t talk to her a lot. Not that I didn’t want to, I was just exhausted. The day just exhausted me. She was getting upset, “Why don’t you talk to me?” I’m like, “I tell you this is how I am. I think we should go to therapy so we can start on the right foot. We can get some of these things out there.” She was like, “Okay, we’ll do it.”

The first day of therapy, I can remember it like it was yesterday. We sat down and she’s like, “Why are you here?” The first thing Jane says is, “Jarie won’t talk to me. He doesn’t share his thoughts. He’s been married,” like all these things that are my fault. I’m sitting there going, “This is not going to end well.” She’s like, “Jarie, why are you here?” I said, “I’ve been married before. I had an okay experience. I made a lot of mistakes. I didn’t treat my wife at the time, Margaret, very well in terms of building a relationship because I was focused on making money, working, and all the stupid stuff that you do as a young person.”

“I just want to start on a good footing. I want to get all the stuff out that needs to get out. I want to make sure that we can work through some of these substantial issues, including having kids. I can’t believe you were married before. How come you didn’t have kids with your first wife?” Just all these things. I can’t answer these questions. We did about 4 or 5 therapy sessions. There were times when we would leave therapy extremely pissed off at each other, like yelling at each other in one sense.

It’s amazing that through all this you kept connected. You never walked out and said, “I’m done.”

The really good thing about Jane was that she saw the inherent good in people. She saw the inherent good in me that I was trying and I wasn’t hiding anything. I’m pretty open-book that way. It was painful, but we got to the point where we’re like, “I guess we’re going to be together.”

It sounds like the therapist moves you towards more accepting of each of your different styles and not judging them. Maybe Jane was judging the fact that you were withholding. Now it moves towards accepting that this is just part of who you are and how to work with that, and probably vice versa. It sounds like you were married to the quintessential extrovert who couldn’t understand your style, and then you had to accept hers too.

There was a reconciliation of different styles. I had to work on the whole idea of saving some energy. What would happen was we’d be in bed and we’d be reading, I’m literally about to nod off. I’m exhausted and she’d start talking. I’m like, “You’re killing me here because I am just going to be incoherent.” I learned to start the conversation before I started to go to sleep and be more present, which I still have a hard time being. I’m always in my head, “What’s the next thing?” It’s a classic type-A driven, but afraid of what’s going to happen. She realized that and then we worked through it.

That’s wonderful. I love that you two did that together because how long were you married when the two of you found out that Jane had leukemia? What were your different reactions to that diagnosis now that you’ve all established your different styles of being? What happened there?

We were married a little over a year when she was diagnosed, so we were newlyweds. We found out she had leukemia because she had a bunch of miscarriages in a row. It was December 26th, 2015 that we went to the emergency room and they’re like, “We think you have leukemia.” Pretty shocking. You know when they say when your life changes in an instant? How could that be? On the 25th, things were normal. On the 26th, the world literally changed, upside down all bets were off. What the hell now? I remember being at the hospital in the ER. I’m in this orange plastic chair sitting next to her holding her hand and we got kids around us.

You were in your 30s, right?

I was 43, she was 33 roughly. I sit there and I’m like, “What the hell are we doing here?” I remember it like it was yesterday. These two very nice doctors were like, “We need to keep you overnight. We need to get the oncologist in here. We think you may have leukemia, so we need to do something about it.” We’re like, “WTF?”

You had this solid foundation of understanding that you had built in couples therapy, so WTF. How did each one of you handle that?

Thankfully we are both doers and both like to organize and get stuff done. Jane would always like to check things off the list. That was her big thing. She had lists of everything. After the initial shock and denial, I remember sitting outside. It’s a cold December in San Francisco. I’m staring at my phone. I have to call her dad. She’s like, “Go call my parents and have them come over here.” I don’t know what to say.

You don’t even know them that well. You’re newlywed. You have a relationship with these people.

They accepted me as their son-in-law, but I’m probably still in the provisionary stage. I’m sitting there and staring at the phone. I don’t know what to say. It must’ve been a good five minutes before I said, “You have to put the wheels in motion. What do you have to do? You have to prioritize and execute what we have to do now. What we have to do now is get her family here. Once they’re here, then we can figure out what the hell to do.” That was this entire fifteen-month tsunami of activity. Everything you can imagine emotionally, you were going through.

For a guy who wasn’t out there with his emotions, all of a sudden, now you’re getting acquainted with all of them.

All at the same time. It’s not that I wasn’t emotional. I’m a pretty softie. I cry at movies and I have an emotional side of me, but I’m not used to showing it when stuff needs to get done. My general attitude is we can feel the emotions later. Let’s get the action going which meant calling her friends or the doctor. It was like a full-time job to get all that squared away.

You had to run her business also. You also established this care circle.

As soon as she realized she had to go into chemo, we had this conversation where she was like, “You need to run my business.” I have no clue how to run a PR marketing company. I’m an engineer. I was running a digital health company. I was the COO of a digital health company. I have no clue what the hell I’m doing. She’s like, “The only thing that’s paying us right now is my company. The only way you’re going to be able to take care of me is if you run my company because it’s flexible. You have to put your other thing on hold. Suck it up buttercup and get to work.” That’s what she said.

She was driven, passionate, kind, and considerate. Just a wonderful woman. That’s missed every day. There’s no doubt about that. What she taught me about how to love and what love means, which is why I wrote the book, is a testament to her energy. The fact that she’s like, “You can do it because you have to do it. Stop, don’t wallow in your private pity party there, buddy. Suck it up and let’s go.” That’s what we did. Through all the ups and downs, the challenges and struggles, the insurmountable bullshit, the thing was the gift from her, which I hope when my time comes that I’m this composed, is that she cared about how I was doing too.

It is so easy to lose yourself and be a caregiver. It’s so easy to not take care of yourself. I did all the stupid things. I drank too much. I smoked too much pot. I ate too much garbage. There are the days where I’m like, “I need five minutes to feel something other than the dread I feel.” The only way I’m going to feel that is if I suck on this bait pen and for five minutes just lose my mind. How are you supposed to deal with cancer?

Grief and Rebirth: Finding the Joy in Life | Jarie Bolander | Male Grief

Unbelievable. Were you also in therapy as you were going through this with her?

No, I wasn’t. I wish I had been in therapy during this. The day she died, I called up my old therapist when I got divorced from Margaret and I’m like, “My wife just died. I need to do double sessions.” He’s like, “Let’s go.” I saw him the next day.

This is probably part of what makes you so wise to help other people now that you’re a grief coach. There are things that you learned that you can apply now to help other people, I would assume.

A little bit. Everyone’s journey is different. There’s never a one size fits all but there’s a rhythm to it. There’s a general way the world goes and you can feel this. When you are going through grief, sorrow, and trauma, you feel it all over your body. You know something is not right. When you’re in the acute stage of it, you need the basic, “I need to eat. I need to shower. I need to get through the day till I’m at the point where I can process it.” For a man, it’s a little bit different because I’m the captain of Team Jane, and my job is to get her better. That sounds old-fashioned. That sounds like, “Who are you?” No, I’m her husband. My job is to make her better. If it was reversed, she’d be doing the same thing for me. That’s ride or die.

There’s no doubt in my mind she would be doing the same thing I’m doing, but you feel this overwhelming sense of it’s out of control. It’s controlled chaos. You can’t do anything about it. I would be like, “What do I have to get done today?” I’m not even going to think about tomorrow. What do I have to get done today?

Did you feel guilty about taking care of yourself sometimes?

A hundred percent. She even forced me sometimes to, “Go out with your friends or go work out.” One time she bought me a trip to New York City to go to a conference. This is during some pretty tough times when she’s not feeling well. She doesn’t know if she’s going to make it or not. Thankfully we had her family who were local. They were wonderful. The care circle was about 120 people on a Google email group. We would talk about what was going on.

Jarie, that’s a very wonderful strategy that I would imagine you teach people. I felt the same way when I went through a terrible time when Saul died, and I had four surgeries and all that. You called the care circle. I called it my wagon team. Nobody could do everything, but people were there in my life to help me in different ways. It made such a difference. That must have been very helpful to you.

It was. My friend Troy turned me on it. One of the reasons I found out quickly was that I was calling people constantly. Everyone wanted to know what was going on. I’m like, “I can’t sustain this.” I decided I was going to build this care circle. We are going to give periodic updates. We’re going to send an email out. What it did was it helped me organize my thoughts. It also helped me ask for help, which is hard for me to do.

Quite a lesson.

It felt like there was community. You didn’t feel so alone, although you were in it, you felt isolated. In the book, you’ll see some of the actual care circle emails. I wanted people to be like, “This is what it was like in that moment.” You read the email and then you read the chapter, which is what was going on behind the scenes. You see that there’s a filter that we were trying to make sure that we are at least staying as positive as we could.

You had a social worker named Patty who was a pivotal part of how you dealt with your inner conflict. It’s so important that people know that you were feeling cheated out of your own life when she might die. That produced guilt and all kinds of feelings for you and conflict. What did Patty say to you? Could you set up how she came in? It’s a beautiful part of your book. How did she come in? How did she respond to your question, “How am I supposed to deal with her talking about if she dies?” What was her wise guidance?

What was interesting is that Jane wasn’t very into social workers. She kicked a bunch of them out when she was in chemo. I don’t think she wanted to deal with it like, “I don’t want to talk about this stuff.” We were down at the Santa Clara Kaiser when she was on her fourth round of chemo. It was getting clearer that this may not end well. We were trying to figure out how to sort that out. Before Patty knocked on the door, we were fighting about, “Stop saying you’re going to die. I don’t want to hear that. You’re going to make it. Shut up. Don’t have a negative attitude.” She’s like, “What happens if I don’t? You’re going to be miserable. You’re going to do what you always do. You’re just going to be this mope around.”

She’d call me all these names and one of them was Bulls Town’s Frown because I was always frowning. Again, I am negative. I’m trying not to be biased, but I am generally negative. She’s like, “Bulls town’s frown, all you do is frown around all the time.” I’m like, “What the hell are you talking about?” We were fighting and there was this knock on the door. I’m like, “Who the hell is it? It’s 5:30 in the afternoon. I’m exhausted. I do not want to deal with any of this. What the hell could it be now?” Patty walked in. She was a social worker, an older woman. I don’t know how old she was, but you just tell she had this grandmotherly presence. You could feel like, “I could tell you anything and you will not judge me.”

That is important because now that is about it as we were yelling at each other. I’m getting a little choked up about it because the pivotal point in it was Patty made me recognize that it was okay for us to talk about if Jane died. We loved each other so much that we wanted to make sure we were okay. All Jane wanted to make sure was that I was going to be okay. She knew, which was proven after she died, that I wasn’t going to handle it very well. I didn’t. I did all the stupid things. You name it, I did the dumb silly things.

It wasn’t until I thought back to that moment, and I wrote it when I was writing it in the book that the pivotal thing about love and commitment and being married to someone in sickness and health, till death do your part, is the recognition that talking about when they go is part of allowing the person that’s going to die to get some relief and some comfort.

It’s permitting them to do what they have to do.

You’ll be okay or at least you’ll fake it enough to be okay. What was powerful about that was after Jane died, it was a couple of months later that I met my now fiancé Minerva. The beautiful thing about Minerva going through all this. I’m this widower broken in so many ways and I was feeling guilty. “She’s just died and I’m trying to find something,” Minerva told me something that sticks with me to this day and the reason why she’s so lovely. It was around this whole idea of like, “Jarie, if you didn’t love your dead wife, you would be weird. You have enough love in your heart for more than one person.” Not at the same time, but more than one person.

Wasn’t it also pivotal that Jane wanted you to be happy? Didn’t that also come out in your conversation with Patty?

The big thing about that was when we finally stopped yelling at each other, Patty made us recognize that I didn’t want Jane to die because I loved her so much and I wanted to do everything I could. That was okay. Jane wanted to make sure that she knew that I knew that she loved me, that she wanted me to be happy, that she wanted me to find love again and not to mope around like I would mope around.

You didn’t hold onto that after Jane died until you met Minerva. Minerva brought that home to you.

That was bringing it full circle in a sense. You know what it’s like when your partner dies and you’re just sitting there going, “What the hell do I do now?”

Who am I without this person? I don’t know who I am without this person.

How do I even process this? Having or being given permission, it’s the best gift. A lot of people don’t handle their end very well. I must say that Jane handled the end with such grace and poise.

What a gift she left you with. That was a beautiful gift she left everyone with.

Every day, I am trying to live up to be the man that I should be because of her and a good partner to Minerva.

The thing that I perceive about you is that you’re able to grow and evolve as information is coming in. You are growing into that, or you are that man. I would love you to explain to everyone because the title of your book is Ride or Die. Can you explain that ride or die concept, which Jane also taught you and left you with, which is something that you carry through into your life now also? I want to get to the male perspective on grief and loss.

Ride or Die, the modern definition of it is a hip-hop term. Jane loved hip-hop. The modern hip-hop definition is you are a ride-or-die girl or woman to your man. He goes into the slammer or whatever, “I’m with you till the end.” The origin of it is a bit mixed, but the original origin I found out is from Bonnie and Clyde. Bonnie wrote a poem about Bonnie and Clyde and the poem is like, “We’re going to ride or die till the end,” or something. The original ride-or-die couple was Bonnie and Clyde. They both got shot up.

Her idea of ride or die was no matter how hard the struggle, no matter what is in the way, we are not going to leave each other’s side until the end. It’s the commitment. This is what your marriage vows mean. This is it. Things get hard. Get out of your private pity party and make stuff happen. Yes, it’s not fun, you’re going to be frustrated, you’re going to abuse yourself, and you’re not going to like each other for a while, but you made the commitment and that’s what it means. At least that’s what it meant to us.

You committed and you see it through.

Circumstances on circumstances, there may be times when as far as you can go is as far as you can go. If you’re not taking care of yourself and you have all these challenges, especially when you’re in the mix of caregiving, the struggle is getting out of your head and then seeing the whole picture. I’ve committed to this person. How do I help them live their best life even when their best life may not be that long?

Your book is wonderful and I resonated with it. What else would you like everyone to know about it before I ask you about how the book helped you? To hone in on your male perspective about grief and loss, which is so different than it is for us girls.

What I want people to get out of the book and I hope will get out of the book, is that if you have a man in your life that you love that is going through something like this or has gone through something like this, that you read it and understand a little bit of the male perspective and what’s going on in their head. If you’re a man going through this, that you read it and you’re like, “I don’t feel so alone.” One of the things I felt, even though I was with a lot of people around me, who loved me, and I still connect with now who are still on Team Jane till the end, I still felt extremely alone because my take on it was, “It’s my job to make this better.” Ultimately, it’s my responsibility. I’m the captain of Team Jane. The most important thing is for me to save the MVP. If I can’t do that. I don’t know what else to do.

In your mind, did that make you a failure if you couldn’t turn it completely around?

To a certain degree. I wouldn’t say I felt responsible, I didn’t give her leukemia, but there are times when I’d second guess how we should have done things. Ultimately, it was the family. We all made decisions together. I’m the tip of the spear. I’m with her every day/ I’m the one who knows, and it was a letdown. The sorrow of losing someone you love is horrible.

Watching her suffer and watching her go through all that is so hard. This leads me to this other question because I love that you talk in your book about building up resilience through difficult times before they happen. You did in a way through your childhood and the things that you learned how to cope with. What are your suggestions for consciously building resilience? You talk about that in the book too.

My whole philosophy is you never rise to the occasion, you fall to your training, full stop. When you’re under stress, strain, tired, and exhausted, you’re never your best self. You’re always going to go down to the least common denominator, which happens to be what you’ve trained on. What do I mean by what you trained on? If you’re used to drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes, vaping, and drinking alcohol when you’re stressed, when you’re stressed, you are not even going to think twice about doing that.

For me, it’s about building those healthy habits ahead of when you need them and that means training. Now you may say, “How can you train for like your wife getting leukemia?” You can’t, but you can push yourself out of your comfort zone. You can do physical activity. You can push your intellectual and stimulate the intellectual side so that when this inundation of things comes at you, you’re better able to prioritize and execute what matters.

A lot of what got me through it was my endurance training. As an Ironman, I did all these crazy endurance events. The attitude was one foot in front of the other and you have to make it to the next poll. One more step and get out of your private pity party. It could always be worse. All these things go on in your head. When you push yourself to the absolute limit of physical exhaustion, that’s where you meet yourself. You meet yourself in the worst times. You hardly ever meet your true self in good times. It’s when you are depleted, drained, and exhausted, and every filter is off and you’re like, “I do not know what to do.” That is when the growth happens. You need to practice that as best you can.

You meet yourself in the worst times. You hardly ever meet your true self in good times. Share on X

It’s a mindset. When you’re talking about resilience and all of that, it’s a mindset. I can remember it because I can relate to it. When they pulled me out of the car, I knew Saul was dead next to me. I thought to myself, “I will get through this somehow because I have to teach my son that you can get hit by a grenade in life and still keep going.” That was how I mindseted it. Could you explain why you say that healing never ends and why should it be thought of as a way of life rather than as an end state? You’re singing to the choir. That’s something that you learned in your life because you were constantly healing where other people get to a point and they say, “Now I’m going to work on my stuff.”

People always say, “When are you going to move on from the loss?” I don’t think you ever move on. You move through and you continue to carry that throughout time. If you think there’s an endpoint, that’s a fallacy. What will happen is you continue to carry this along. Over time, it did dissipate the sorrow and the loss. You start to grow, but you always have this tale that is always with you because it makes up who you are. Your attitude and how you deal with the world are some parts of all these experiences. You never end in the healing journey. You get better at it every day. You feel the attitude of, “Every day I’m trying to get a little better, this is never going to end.”

You don’t have to worry about, “Where am I? Am I better? Am I done? Can I get through this?” You keep going because it never ends. Once you come to that conclusion and once you synthesize that into something, you become a lot calmer. This never ends. Just do the best you can. Every day is a gift. Wake up no matter how crappy this day is.

Eventually, you unload it. You unpack it and your life changes for the better. You talk about achieving happiness and joy through love, acceptance, compassion, and service. Could you talk to us about that?

As I mentioned before, I tend to be bias-negative.

It has changed you.

Engineers solve problems. If there’s no problem, there’s nothing to do. I struggle mightily to experience joy. It’s hard for me because there’s a lot of fear. A lot of fear in the way of experiencing joy.

It’s permitting yourself though.

It’s hard sometimes to appreciate what you have. Especially, when you’ve come from an environment growing up where everything is like, “I need to get to the next thing.” What I’ve found for me is instead of getting to the next thing, I feel better helping people get to their next thing. Being of service to me separates my ego and my thing from who I am. I can help someone and not feel as invested in it as if it was my stuff. That makes me feel way calmer. “You need help? Sure, not a problem.” When it comes to me, it’s harder because I have a vested interest in, “If I fail, what’s going on?”

There’s a shared humanity. One of the things that I’m thankful for is having shared humanity with people. It doesn’t matter who you are. Death of a loved one is going to hit you no matter who you are. You name every demographic, it doesn’t matter. Our shared humanity in that is that we’re humans trying to get through it, and we can find comfort and solidarity in this struggle.

As a grief coach, do most people reach out to you who have had losses in death?

The Grief Coach stuff with Emma is more like I would provide text messages to people so that they would feel a little less lonely and be like, “Walk through this.” A lot of those text messages are meant to break the frame. I’m in my private pity party. I’m feeling bad about myself. My wife died, my partner, my kid, whoever it is, and I’m feeling crappy. The idea is to break the frame. Yes, it’s bad, but what about this? When you can break the frame from the negative and you can disjoint it, then you have the opportunity to get the thing that you need to get in. It takes time. There’s no silver bullet on it.

Between your book and what you’re doing, you’re helping so many people. That’s wonderful.

Thank you. I hope so.

Truly, Jarie. You and Jane receive such very wise guidance from your social worker, Patty, and I wish to share this meaningful quote from your memoir, Ride or Die with our audience. “The way you handle this part of your life will help Jane as well. If she knows that you will be okay, that will make her happy and bring her peace. Do you see how this works? I know it is hard to grasp, but accepting whatever is going to happen and talking about it, planning it, living in the moment, being happy, and being sad will truly make it better. Jane looked me in the eye. I had gotten up and moved beside her bed while Patty was talking. I was holding her hand. She squeezed it tight. I want you to be happy because you make me so happy. Jane’s tears were impossible for her to stop now. Ride or die, remember? Even if I die, I’m still on the ride with you always.”

Grief and Rebirth: Finding the Joy in Life | Jarie Bolander | Male Grief

Ride or Die: Loving Through Tragedy, a Husband’s Memoir

Jarie, thank you so much from my heart for this inspiring, wise, and touching interview. I’m sure our audience joins Jane and me in wishing you much happiness for the rest of your ride. From my heart. Make sure to follow us and like us on social at @IreneSWeinberg on Instagram, Facebook, and wherever, including YouTube. Jarie, would you like to say something else? I can see you’re touched and you’re having an emotion or a feeling. Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Just thank you so much for allowing me to tell Jane’s story and my story and to share what I went through. Hopefully, people out there will realize that there’s joy in life. You can go through tragedy, and struggle, and feel like the world is collapsing in on you, but keep on going. Eventually, you hope that you’ll get out on the other side. I hope you don’t feel so alone in the struggle you’re going through like what Jane and I went through, and that you can find solidarity and peace.

That’s a beautiful message. What a gift you’re giving people. You’re paying it forward from your experience. You’re helping others which is just beautiful. As I like to say, to be continued. Thank you so much, Jarie. Many blessings. Bye for now. Everyone, enjoy your holiday season and everything that is going on in your lives. From Jarie and me, bye for now.

Bye for now.

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Irene is more than just the host, she is a role model because she has gone through her own ‘grief and rebirth’. Irene and her diverse guests share experiences providing hope and ways to reconnect with those who have died. If you listen to just a few of Irene’s podcasts, you will know exactly what I mean!

Lenore

 

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