INTERVIEW - STACEY'S STORY

April 10, 2018

We regularly interview people who have experienced loss or burnout. Everyone experiences and responds to hardships in different ways, there is no right way or wrong way to grieve or handle stress. We share these stories in hopes that their experiences will support you in your journey – which ever side you are on – working through the process or supporting a loved one. If you are interested in sharing your story, please reach out via our home page.

 

Name:

Stacey Burmaster

 

Tell us a bit about yourself:

I live in Los Angeles, where I am a social worker. I run several programs at a nonprofit in Venice Beach, including supportive housing for previously chronically homeless adults, affordable housing, crisis shelter, free storage for homeless individuals, and an after school program. Additionally, I also do social welfare policy advocacy work. I love hiking, going to the beach, walking my two Italian greyhounds – really anything that gets me outside!

 

Who in your life has passed away? When did this happen?

My mom passed away in 2002 after battling colon cancer. She was 48, I was 16.

 

In 3-5 words, describe your life during this time.

Young, naïve, and loved.

 

What helped guide you through the grieving process?

I was invited to attend a summer camp run by the local hospice for children and teens who have lost a family member, but I wasn’t ready for this and opted not to go. I was an avid runner when my mom passed away. Running became my lifeline. I ran year-round, sometimes twice a day. It paid off—I ended up going to college on a full athletic scholarship. Being fit continues to be a way I deal with stress, however as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become gentler with my body and enjoy meditation and yoga. I still love to do CrossFit and run, but the balance was necessary.

 

What advice would you provide others dealing with loss?

For me, loss happened slowly over time; I didn’t lose my mom all at once. Watching her become sicker was part of that loss. After her death, the timeline of losing her didn’t speed up.

 

My mom was a barber and the only person that had ever cut my hair before she passed away. I remember feeling unreasonably emotional the first time I got my haircut after she passed. Good thing the woman cutting my hair knew my mom, and cried with me. Even now, almost 16 years later, there are moments where I go to call her and realize I can’t. In a way, she is always with me but over time her memory has gotten softer. So has the sharpness of grief. I remember the first glimpse of coming out of the fog of grief and feeling guilty to forget to say “I love you, mom” before falling asleep.

 

Don’t lose yourself in anger, isolate, or stop doing what you love. Know that there are people who want to support you.

 

I remember grappling with the idea that at one moment, my mom was here; but now she ceases to be. It was a strange feeling to contend with. Grief is messy. Allow yourself to feel it. I’ve held on to a pressed flower from my mom’s funeral to remember that day—the last day I was in her presence.

 

What advice would you provide those who want to comfort those dealing with loss?

There is no perfect line or thing to do that will make it all better, but being genuinely present with someone who is grieving will go miles. Do what you can—make a phone call, send a card, just show up. Family and friends are the reason I was able to remain on the track and cross country teams in high school. They would give me rides to and from practice almost daily while my dad worked. My entire track team came to my mom’s funeral, and I will never forget them being there. Big gestures like these won’t be forgotten, but smaller ones are cherished too.

 

In honor of Mother’s Day, what is the best advice your mom ever gave you?

My mom didn't give me much advice, although she always told me to wear moisturizer and sunscreen. (And I do, daily!) The example of her life was the best guidance- she left the teeny tiny town she grew up in to make a better life for herself. I have the opportunities I do because she took that leap. She faced cancer ferociously and outlived her initial 3 month prognosis by over a year before passing away. She remains my singing and dancing red headed optimist that I follow try to follow the example of every day.  

 

 

 

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