Walking Through Grief – Anna McParlan

You may be fighting a battle with grief today that comes from a really tough loss in your life—whether that’s with the loss of a loved one, a job, an opportunity, etc. Walking through grief and loss is hard, but Anna joins us to share just how beautiful the journey can be if you make it. In this episode, Anna shares about her Dad’s battle with cancer, how he pushed his family to choose joy, and how losing him has impacted her life. 

I want to thank Anna for opening her heart with us today and being vulnerable in sharing what is such a hard conversation with all of us.

This is Season 1 Episode 3 of Here’s the Tea with Akua

Here’s the Tea with Akua is a safe space to learn about hot topics, gain a new perspective and have a greater understanding of the people around us. You’ll hear amazing stories of everyday people like you and me. They’ll be spilling the tea and giving us an honest look into their lives. As we discuss topics such as race, relationships, mental health, and how to just figure out the thing called life, we’d love to have you subscribe on Apple Podcast, Spotify, or your favorite podcast player!

Meet Anna:

Anna is a writer and encourager. You can find her usually with a baby on one hip trying to stir up hope or finding the beauty breaking through chaos of the everyday. She raises her five kiddos in Duluth Minnesota on the shores of Lake Superior with her high school crush turned forever best friend. Together they advocate for foster care and always leave room on the page for redemption. She shares as she stumbles towards Jesus and invites you to come with on instagram at @annamcparlan and on her blog.

 

Important Parts of the Conversation:

Get to Know Anna (2:49)

Anna’s Dad’s Battle with Cancer (3:53)

The reality of Choosing Joy (11:15)

The Good & Bad (14:48)

Seeing Her Dad Show Up In Life (19:03)

Words for Those Going through Loss (21:10)

Everyone Experiences Grief Differently (23:00)

 

Connect with Anna:

instagram.com/annamcparlan

Connect with Akua:

akuakonadu.com

instagram.com/akuakonadu_

Subscribe to the Podcast:

Apple Podcast

Spotify

walking through grief with Anna McParlan

Review the Transcript:

Akua Konadu
Welcome to here’s the tea with the Kua. That’s me, and this is a place where we have candid conversations about various hot topics. Each week, you’ll be hearing some amazing stories of everyday people like you and me, there’ll be spilling the tea and giving us an honest look into their lives. I believe that our stories are powerful, and when shared they can change not only our perspectives, but also our lives. No topic is off limits. So have a seat and get ready because we are going to be making uncomfortable conversations comfortable. Hello, everyone, I am looking forward to today’s episode on here’s the tea with Akua. And if you do not know, I’m Akua. And today we are going to be talking about just experiencing like walking through grief and loss. And what that looks like this. This conversation I think is is really important. And it’s going to be raw and honest. And I hope that you as a listener, what you gain from it is just a different perspective and and Hope is what I’m hoping for. Right? So I’m super excited for today’s guest to be here she is a dear friend of mine, we go way back a home and so she has a powerful, powerful story. And I’m so excited for you all to hear it today. And it’s just such an honor to have her here. So Hello, Anna, how are we doing?

Anna McParlan
Hi, I’m honestly so honored to be here. It is a treat to see your face and hear your voice and all of the things.

Akua Konadu
Yes. Oh, it’s so good to see you and just hear how life has been and y’all we were just chatting up for like a good half hour before. We finally just hopped into this podcast and really fun fact y’all. When I first met Anna, I did not like her.

Anna McParlan
Take it out of the bag. Nice to meet you. While you might not like me either, but here I am.

Akua Konadu
No, I know they are going to absolutely love you and adore you. I think I remember like when we finally became friends you were like, every time I see you I was like remember you don’t didn’t like me and I’m like vividly. Yes.

Anna McParlan
I want you over slowly but surely it’s oh my gosh, to build the trust.

Akua Konadu
I was just such a brat back then y’all like Anna’s a gem. So please don’t be fooled. Um, you’ll you’ll see here at the end of this episode, just how amazing she is. So but I had to drop that in there because every time I see I just always giggle

Anna McParlan
it makes me laugh. I mean, redemption is possible for anyone then right? Yes,

Akua Konadu
exactly. Exactly. So Anna, why don’t you just share a little bit with us about who you are, you know how you show up in the world and how you’re making an impact.

Anna McParlan
Yeah, so my name is Anna MacFarlane. I am married to my high school crush David. He’s incredible. And I love doing life with him side by side. We raised five kiddos. We were foster parents and adopted our daughter within like the last year and a half. And so that’s kind of a big part of our story in the way we show up in the world. And I am a writer, encourager and photographer.

Akua Konadu
A I’m like, I’m like that’s my day. Like, get it girl. I just love hearing that. I just love so much how your journey has unfolded. And also to shout out to David because he really is like a gem. We love you, David. So I just have to give a shout out to Him.

Anna McParlan
Amen. He’s trying to keep all the children wrangled in the basement.

Akua Konadu
God bless you, David. Yes. So let’s kind of just like hop into it. And just like I said, we are talking about walking through grief and experiencing loss. And so why don’t you walk us through your journey and what you have experienced with that, like, what’s your story?

Anna McParlan
Yeah, absolutely. So my dad, I guess, I don’t ever really know a story apart. That apart from loss, a lot of my story has included loss. My dad was diagnosed with brain cancer when he was 30 years old. So he went in for a routine checkup and left with a diagnosis. My parents had, you know, three little kids at home, and it just like rocked their world. And so here I am, this four year old and it’s all I’ve ever really known is just kind of walking through the seasons of unknown and not really knowing what’s going to be around the corner. And so he had his brain tumor removed three successful times where like, he had the surgery and like two days later was biking, you know, 60 miles and really a miraculous, miraculous story and looking back to seeing what a gift, an incredible gift, you know, all those moments and years and time was that we had. And so then when I was about 19 years old, he the tumor had come back and so they went to remove the tumor and so we kind of went down to Minneapolis, we live in Duluth, Minnesota, we went a couple hours, so had the surgery that we would go in and out and that nothing in our world was going to be rocked. And instead, when he woke up from the surgery, they had nicked an artery and caused a full stroke. So he woke up with the losing the ability to speak or move. And so in that, like one split second, our entire world was shifted into this new reality. And to know my dad, I mean, he was just like a larger than life personality. He did missions work and was a incredible businessman and was just loved everywhere he went. And so to really have everything that, you know, his outward expression of who he was be stripped from him, and to walk alongside him through that. I mean, it has changed every single part of me. And so after that surgery, he was in rehab for about four months. And one one day that was really pivotal in our story was that the doctor was there, they had said, basically, like, this is terminal, we just want to let you know, like this, the outcome of this is probably not going to be good. And one of his dear friends was in the room, and he is also a counselor. And he said to my dad, he said, Patrick, you know, they given you, they’ve given you this terminal diagnosis, you can’t walk, you can’t talk. So what are you going to do? And my dad asked for a whiteboard that was across the room, and he grabbed it. And then his other hand that he didn’t normally write in he scribbled on the thing, I choose joy. And he had our entire family sign that whiteboard as just like a declaration of, yes, this is actually like the worst case scenario like this is, you know, everything that we had been praying for this is literally the opposite of that. And even in the midst of this pain, and the suffering and this grief, like, we still are going to have the opportunity to say that we choose joy and we are going to soak and savor every single moment that we are given together, we are going to enjoy every bit of life that we have together. And so for the next 18 months, we did we did just that we really like reveled in life and enjoy and and togetherness. And I feel like you know that 18 months was like a lifetime just like, packed in because there was not a single thing that was left unsaid. I mean, there are adventures, obviously, I wish I could have still do but we just soaked in life in all that it could be in those 18 months. And so Thanksgiving ish time he went in for his chemo. And they said that the cancer had spread from the right side of the brain to the left side, right. And there was nothing else they could do and to go home and enjoy as much time as we had. And so I was engaged to my husband at the time. And I mean, that’s it was rattled, right? All I all I ever dreamed of was my dad walking me down the aisle. And now we were looking at, you know, days, weeks months, we really had no idea and so a sweet, sweet moment was my mom had called this wedding dress shop that I had picked out a dress that in Denver and she had the dress overnighted to me back in Duluth. And you know, part of what I love about this story was that it was before like Instagram it was before. Like all of like, it wasn’t like this big professional setup. It was just like us in this raw moment. I put on my dress, I curled my hair. In my parents like little bungalow bathroom, I came out my parents, my parents walls, were like mustard yellow with, you know, the chickens like they you know, they used to have bagman.

Anna McParlan
It wasn’t about like having this grandiose setup, or this picture perfect moment. It was about just being present with each other. And we knew that cancer could rob us of a lot of things. But cancer couldn’t rob us of this joy, and the moment that we had together. And so that was I mean, we just we wept, and we wept, and we danced in our bare feet on the kitchen floor. And my dad went home to be with Jesus about three weeks after that moment. So we were able to spend the Christmas season together. And then January 6, he he went to go meet Jesus.

Akua Konadu
Oh, girl, you have shared, y’all. I just wanna be honest. You have shared that story every year at the University around that time, you always share those photos of you and your dad, and every year it’s just it’s powerful. And it is so beautiful. And you can just see the joy that you guys were experiencing just a multitude of emotions like right now even my eyes are watering because it was such a special a special moment. And you like I choose joy, like your family completely lives that out through and through. Because when I met you I never had the opportunity to meet your dad like you were pregnant with your first child when I met you. And even like, obviously, we weren’t friends then. But you know what I mean? But just the way that the community would talk about you and your family and then when I got to finally like meet you and like get up close So I’m like, see you for who you are. And I was just like, holy crap. Like, they really do live their life that way. And so just even like, there’s even little bits of your story that I didn’t know that I just, I’ve just learned today. And it just, it’s absolutely powerful. And thank you so much for sharing that piece. And I just I want to know, to like, what has healing looks like for you, because I’ll be honest, like, I like, you know, there’s just so much, as I mentioned, last that everybody is experiencing right now. And I know for me, like, I just had a friend who lost a very close friend of mine who lost somebody extremely, extremely important to her. And it was, I personally have not experienced that magnitude of a loss. And but it was the first time where I kind of felt that ripple effect from what she was experiencing. And so there would just be times that I would just start bursting out into tears, and I just had no idea. And I was like, how do I show up for how do I support her? And so that was a really interesting journey. And so I guess, like, what did healing look like for you throughout that whole process? And even for you now?

Anna McParlan
Yeah, absolutely. So I think something that is really important, even in talking with the eye choose joy is that, that can make it seem like really fluffy. And like we’re like dancing and smiling and like, you know, skipping through life. And that’s just like, not the reality of what it looks like. I mean, choosing joy and choosing to show up and find beauty and find hope, sometimes looks like curling up on the sofa and sobbing my bloody eyeballs out, because I’m wish my dad was here to hold my babies. Like, that’s just the reality of it. And I think that you can still choose joy and walk gracefully and messily and honestly and humbly through healing, and still have like your hand attached to hope. And so for me, someone told me this early on, and I have like, clung to it, and I wish I could remember so I could give them credit. But they said that grief is like waves, like it rolls in. And you never know, if it’s like a tidal wave that’s going to take you out on a Tuesday. Or if it’s just gonna like crash on your feet, and you’re gonna feel it, and you’re going to notice it and recognize it. But it’s not gonna, like take you out. But like when you’re at the ocean, and those waves hit you and like, you can’t help but just like fall back, sometimes that’s what grief looks like. And you never, you never really know when it’s gonna hit in different ways, like I was at the mall. And it’s been, you know, 10 years since I lost my dad. And there was a man that I walked by that must have been wearing the same cologne that my dad wore. And it’s like, that smell like hit me. And I was like, completely knocked off my feet. And then we’ll have moments where it’s the anniversary, and it feels like people are expecting me to be emotional or to like, have these reactions. And I feel fine. I feel like I’m just like celebrating his life. And I’m okay. And so, it I’ve had to learn to have grace for myself, that I never know how grief is going to show up. And I just need to remind myself, like, you can have grace here. If it’s if it trickles at your feet, just acknowledge it, and walk through that. And if it takes you out, take that time and take that space and allow allow that to happen. Like me pushing against the wave isn’t really going to do anything for my healing. Like, I just have to let it wash over me. It comes and it eventually it goes out and it will come again. And that’s okay,

Akua Konadu
that is so powerful. And I think just even wanting to address that of it is okay to like acknowledge and confront your feelings. I think a lot of us heavily, we don’t want to experience certain things because they hurt and because they’re painful. But just think about how far like how much better you’ll make it to the other side when you really do face it and acknowledge it and just walk through it. And I mean, not saying that it’s still going to be easier. But you know what I mean? Like, there’s so much power that comes in that and there’s so many things that you gain from that. And so I think that’s, that’s super, super beautiful. And I just I didn’t think of it that way too. And so, you know, another thing too, that I want to ask you is just how can like, what were some of like, the best and like worst things that you heard as you were like experiencing your loss, because I think that’s kind of the big thing is that people just some people can get uncomfortable and they’re just like, I don’t know what to do. And, and that was me this year, I was just like was like I don’t know what, what to do. And so as I was going through everything, and so we’re like with my friend and so you know, and she’s one of my closest friends, I just knew I had to show up. And it was super uncomfortable. But I was like, this is like we are walking through life together. Like, I’m just going to show up and be there for you the best that I can and I think um, so that’s why I wanted to ask you like, what were some of the worst and the best things that you had had heard?

Anna McParlan
Yeah, so let’s we’ll sandwich them together. We’ll start with the good, go to the bad event. Good. So I think um, something that I learned is just when people are watching heavily through grief and through last, they don’t even have like the mind space to make decisions. And so instead of being like, hey, is there a time that I could bring you dinner? And what would you like to eat for dinner? And is it okay? If I do this? It’s just like, just drop it on their door, knock leave, like don’t have any intentions of like, you know barging in, I mean, sometimes that you have those people who are your people that get to barge in, right, but just like, leave it on the doorstep and walk away and don’t like put it in their court because the people that are walking through intense grief and last don’t have the capacity to even like process one more thing. Like I remember going to the grocery store right after my dad died. And being in the line. And like looking around, I mean, like, why are people still like, why are people still moving? Like, the whole world has stopped like, Don’t they know that the world is stopped, like, my world had stopped and yet everyone else is continuing it right. And so it just those, those things of you, you’re literally just so deeply entrenched in grief and loss and your pain and your thoughts. And so just taking those decisions, and taking them out of the way for the people that you love and are serving and that you’re showing up for. One thing that I didn’t like that people did was just like, slap a bandaid on it and say, like, Well, God have must have a plan. And like, I love me some Jesus. And I know that my God that I serve is good. I know that he’s good. And I know that when he gets his way that there is no brain cancer, that there aren’t little girls without their dads walking them down the aisle. Like that’s, it’s just not who he is that he would be up there waiting to like, you know, knock us down, like we’re a chess piece. And so while it’s like seems well intentioned, it’s just like this bandaid that you as the person grieving have to just rip off like you have to, you have to come to terms with what actual life is, and who God is in the middle of the mess. But and I totally have grace and understand that people have the best intentions. But that’s just something that I learned that I was like, you know, he does have, he is going to take this brokenness and create and plant beauty here. And he’s gonna bloom things that look like seemingly impossible, but he’s not up there just being like, oh, let’s, let’s tell a good story. Let’s let’s, you know, create a bunch of chaos and loss so that these people have to, you know, trust me, that’s just not who he is. And then I would say another thing that was really, really beautiful is just is telling stories about the people or the thing that people are walking through. I think often people don’t want to talk about it. They feel like, you know, maybe it’s uncomfortable to talk about I think the greatest gift to me is when people ask me about my dad, when they’re like, hey, it’s Christmas time, what was the favorite thing you and your dad did together? And I get to like, share that and relive that moment. And instead of like walking into a season, you know, pretending like he didn’t exist, because I think that’s the hardest thing is feeling like, I’m in this new season, we now have five kids, like our life is really full. Like, my biggest fear is forgetting. Just forgetting him forgetting him and him not being a part of this season of my life. And so I think when people are just like, hey, tell me about your dad. What What was his laugh? Like? Like, hey, tell me about your dad. What do you think you would have been like with your kiddos like, yeah, that’s hard to talk about. But it’s also so beautiful. And so life giving and brings me complete joy.

Akua Konadu
I like my mind is just like Holy smokes, because I love that you brought that up, because that is a misconception, even myself that I was holding on is that almost like you don’t talk about the person because you don’t want to trigger them, of course, but it’s almost in a sense, like you do forget, like how big of a person that was in that individual’s life. And I think that that’s so important. And so I’m really glad that you like, brought that up that we can talk about the person like that is a way to live, like live that like, you know, just shared their memory and like, so I wanted to ask you this, like, how do you see your dad show up in different areas of your life and your family?

Anna McParlan
It’s, it’s kind of crazy. I mean, I, I think walking through the season that we did, I was desperate to see beauty. And so I would say like, I would find little places where heaven was breaking through. And so like, it’s as small as like my kids giggle and Shai is our adopted daughter, and she has the most infectious giggle in the absolute world. And when she giggles, I’m like, that’s your grandpa like that’s your grant, but like they’re not connected by DNA. Yeah, but there is something in her that I’m like, That’s the infectious joy that he had. And I can see that like brought to life when she laughs or like when my when my six year old is being super stubborn. I’m like you got that from your grandpa and it’s just almost like those little moments. But there’s also like, you know, we go down to Lake Superior and watch the sunrise and sunset on like different anniversaries or things and just when like the sky is lit up and you you know You stand on the edge of something and you feel so small, and it feels so expansive and so big and you just like, can only stand and in complete awe and wonder, and I, you know, I have those moments where I wonder what heaven is like, or I wonder if he held my babies before I held them this side of heaven. And I, like my mind can’t ever fully wrap around those questions. But I just like sit in the wonder of it all. And, you know, experience Him. And it’s, it’s pretty fun.

Akua Konadu
I like literally don’t say anything, cuz I’m like, This is so good. And it’s just amazing. It’s so powerful. Like, I could hear you speak for hours and just wanting to learn so much more about your dad. And so that is amazing. And thank you so much for just sharing such a small snippet, right of like, just of who he was. And so I wanted to ask as well, just so what, like, what do you have to say to somebody who is walking through loss, any type of loss in life, whether it be an individual, or, you know, like somebody that they love? Or, you know, maybe they didn’t get the job that they’re looking for? Or maybe they just lost a relationship? You know, what do you have to share about

Anna McParlan
that? Yeah, I would just say that I’m really sorry, I’m really sorry, that, that you’re in that space right now. And I know how it can feel like you’re so engulfed in darkness that you wonder if you will ever see light again, and no matter if that’s like not getting the job you want. Or it’s losing your best friend, like, there are just those moments where you wonder, like, will light ever break through, and I would tell you, that I promise you that it will, like, I promise you, that you are going to stand and you are going to be like, surrounded by light and hope, again, like it is it is coming. There is never, there is never anything that you’re going to walk through that is going to completely take you out. And so even just getting up opening up your shades and seeing the sun and like, you know, choose choose to stand and keep taking one step after another. But I’m, I’m so sorry for your loss. And I have still have so much hope for your future.

Akua Konadu
I love that. And I think that’s, that’s just such a good reminder, because life is hard. Like, you know, and I think especially these past few years, a lot of us have learned so much about ourselves and how we view the world. And so, you know, I just love those encouraging words that you shared. And I really hope that if you’re listening that you do feel hope like, you know, and and just even to your point and of what you shared, having grace for yourself, yourself, I think is so important because there’s clearly no right or wrong way to do things. And just hearing your process of like how you’ve walked through grief and loss. It’s, it’s not a one size fits all, it truly, truly just depends on who you are of what that looks like for you. And so just really taking it day by day and taking it step by step and be like, okay, like today is a crappy day. And that is okay, and being hopeful that tomorrow will be better. And so

Anna McParlan
absolutely, I will just I just wanted like to add, like, I’m super close with my brother. So there’s five of us. And we all have walked through this season completely differently. Like we all have experienced loss can be completely differently. And we all love each other, like wildly. And so I think that that’s been something that I’ve learned too, is that, you know, I’m an emotional person, I’m a writer, so I write through a lot of those feelings, my brothers all have walked through that in a completely different outlet. And that’s been equally as beautiful. Equally as okay, you know, like, for me, you know, writing and trying to like search for the hope that works for me. You know, for some of my brothers, they just like wanna yell for a couple minutes, and then they’re okay. And I can just hug them and remind them they’re loved. And we can keep going. And so it’s not like you said, it’s not a one size fits all. And I think even in this pandemic, I think we’ve we found that we are all, you know, holding, all trying to hold all these things in balance, our grief and our loss and our disappointment, and our expectations and our fallen expectations. And there’s been so much so many layers of that. And as we’re all like peeling those back, it’s going to look different and so there’s so much grace for whatever layer that you’re on, whatever, like however that comes out. There’s just so much grace for that.

Akua Konadu
Oh, I love that. And that is a good point too. Because I just yeah, you just brought up your your brothers and so even with them, like how do you guys support each other? Just do like, because I adore them all.

Anna McParlan
They’re funny, a wonderful, they’re

Akua Konadu
wonderful.

Anna McParlan
Um, you know, we’ve had a lot of hard conversations like we we talk pretty openly with each other. And you know, sometimes I brothers are like, You’re too emotional. And sometimes I’m like, Yeah, you’re too hard.

Akua Konadu
Also, the only girl I just want to point that out to she’s the only girl out of all of them. So out of all Of all of her siblings so that we,

Anna McParlan
you know, we are very open about like, I’m really for you, I really love you. And we, we say those things. And I think after experiencing loss and knowing how short life is, we just know that you don’t want to leave those things unsaid. And so at the end of the day, like, they just know, like, our doors are always open, they can, they can walk, like literally, sometimes they walk in, like 10pm. And I think we’re getting robbed. But like, they know, they can just like land on the couch, and that we’re gonna listen and love each other and make some popcorn. And that, like they, we each have space. But I think it’s just like setting those intentions out, like, Hey, this looks different for both of us. And I really, really love you. And I really want good things for you. And I really actually believe God has good things for you. And even though we’re wrestling through this, like completely differently, like I believe that for you.

Akua Konadu
I love that. That’s so that’s so beautiful. And I just thank you so much for just sharing just the raw pieces of who you are in your life and just sharing with us your journey. And I’m so thankful for you, Anna, you have

Anna McParlan
something such a gift, you have such a gift. And I’m so excited for the world to like experience the fullness of that. And I think this is going to be such a fun avenue that we get to learn from your heart. And as you introduce us to other people. We’ll also get to learn from you and you have so much wisdom and hope and joy in you and I can’t wait to watch that spill over. So

Akua Konadu
you guys Anna, I love you even

Anna McParlan
though you didn’t like me. I love you. I love you now. That’s all that matters. I write mostly on Instagram at anaemic Parlin. I’m working on my writing website. Have some fun projects in the works, but mostly, mostly I hang out on Instagram. So come by

Akua Konadu
me. Yes, yes. And y’all please follow her because Anna is a beautiful storyteller. She does not hold back. She is honest. She’s very true to herself, and really invites you to the table into her life like you really do feel like you are a part of her family. And so I really want to encourage you guys to follow them and I love you and see how she speaks life into people. Everyone like literally this is how amazing she is. So though maybe you didn’t like her at the beginning like I did. But now you’ve been wanting to over because she is just absolutely phenomenal. And then we’ll never, never So Anna, thank you so much for being here. And thank you all so much for listening in on another episode of here’s the tea with Akula and until next time. Thank you so much for tuning in to here’s the tea with Akua if you are loving the podcast, I’d be so honored if you go ahead and hit that subscribe button on your favorite podcast player and leave me a review. This helps grow the podcast so more people can be impacted by the story shared by powerful guests like in today’s episode. Until next time, go make uncomfortable conversations a little more comfortable.

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