Are You Lonely? You’re Not Alone

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“One of the greatest diseases is to be nobody to anybody.”

So said Mother Teresa, and how true that sentiment is. I’ve been thinking a lot about that and about loneliness. I truly believe it is one of the biggest issues we face in this hyper-technologically-connected world. People have hundreds, if not thousands of friends on Facebook, yet in reality they feel alone.

People work non-stop to stay above the brink and go home to empty apartments and homes worried that they are alone. Nobody to anybody.

[Read all of Maria Shriver's 'I've Been Thinking' essays]

I know there are people who say they are never lonely. I’m not one of them.

In fact I have talked to so many people of all ages who whisper to me about their loneliness like it’s a fatal disease that no one but them has, and for which their is no cure. Teenagers I’ve spoken to tell me they feel alone in real life but that their identies online contradict that truth. Women I talk to tell me about the pain of the empty house, the loneliness that descends after children leave or when partners work around the clock.

We are often told that only in the quiet and alone time can we truly come to know ourselves, become whole and find our calling, yet being alone often terrifies us.

Loneliness is scary. What if it’s true that we are nobody to anybody? I’ve met many people in my life, and those who make an effort to be part of a community are the ones I’ve discovered truly feel that they are someone to somebody.

[Read: New Tools to Help You Forgive For Good]

In fact I recently wrote a poem for a friend with that exact title: “Someone to Somebody.”

The truth is we are all someone.

If you find yourself struggling with that truth, reach out to a community. Find a church. Join a local gym. Start a book club. Find a meditation class. Join our A Woman’s Nation community online and then get involved on the ground. Volunteer for Special Olympics in your community. Go to a Boys & Girls Club and become someone to somebody there who might be feeling like nobody themselves. Host a pot-luck dinner.

I suggested that last activity to my eldest daughter Katherine. She recently moved into an apartment and hasn’t met many of her neighbors. People don’t seem to convene outside of the Internet anymore. Neighborhoods used to have block parties so that the people living near one another could meet and connect. I don’t know if it’s true where you live, but in my town, those social activities seem to be a thing of the past. We should resurrect them. There’s something very important about connection. It battles loneliness, provides tangible connection and interpersonal identities. It makes you someone to someone.

[Read: 'I'll Be Me': The Indomitable Spirit of Glen Campbell]

Know that you are not alone with this feeling of isolation and loneliness. Saying it, not whispering it, is step one for overcoming it. Step two is realizing that when you do acknowledge isolation, you are on your way forward towards friendships. Towards community. Towards reality. Towards the realization that you are indeed somebody to someone. Probably many someone’s.

So, my mission for you is this: Put yourself out there and be available. Join a community you’re interested in (or a few). Let me know how it goes. I’ll do the same. And as always, #PassItForward.


[Image via Pinterest]

Some Things that are Bringing Me Hope and Joy This Week

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Everyone I speak to seems to be in a panic. I get it. There is a lot we can focus on in our world that is scary, but this week I want to redirect your attention, at least for a moment, to a few things that make me feel joyful and hopeful. I hope they make you think that all is not bad in the world.

One: Friday night I went to Hilarity for Charity, a fun night to benefit Alzheimer’s. That’s right, I said a fun night of laughter, friendship and hope surrounding a scary disease. Hilarity for Charity is the organization started by my friend Lauren Miller and her husband Seth Rogan. They are raising millions for Alzheimer’s and for the caretakers that help those families who need relief.They bring their funny friends together and for one night there us laughter and hope around a mind-blowing disease.

[Read all of Maria Shriver's 'I've Been Thinking' essays]

It is good people using their voices and their talents to change the way we see this disease and it brought me joy and inspired me.

Two: While the bishops at the Synod ultimately didn’t pass his suggestions, the Pope once again gave me hope earlier this week by proposing changes to some of the Catholic church’s judgements that I feel could use some, shall we say ‘updating’?, for those of us who call ourselves Catholics. Compassion and open-mindedness were leading his proposals, and while I’m disappointed the whole of the church isn’t ready to update yet, I couldn’t be more grateful for this man who has the courage to use his voice to try an make compassionate change.

[Watch: Maria Shriver on her upcoming '30 for 30' short, kids and empty nesting]

Three: The conversation online often centers around how mean everyone can be on social media, but the comments from so many of you on my website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram pages (and others) are filled with encouragement, joy and positive affirmations. I’m grateful. And it gives me hope that good has a louder voice than negativity.

Everyday we each have the choice to wake up and use our voices for our highest good or to spread shame, anger, judgement and fear.

[Read: What My Granddaughter's Courage Through Cancer Has Taught Me About Life]

Yes there is a lot we should all be concerned about. The inequality that exists all around us. The discrimination that still persists. The persecution, and yes, the meanness of what feels like so many.

But guess what? There is an election coming up. And we each have a chance to vote for people who want to lead us in a more hopeful, open kind of society. We have a chance to use or voices to help leaders that can make a difference where we live.

[Read: 7 Ways to Help You Recognize Your Calling]

I hope everyone who can vote, will. Leaders make a difference. Vote for one. Or better yet, become the kind of leader you wish you could vote for and use your own voice for good.

We all have the power to bring hope and joy. We can all make a difference. #PassItForward


[Image via Pinterest]

5 More of My Tips for Leading an Inspired Life

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I’m a big believer in life lists. In fact, some years ago, I gave a speech about 10 things I’d learned along my journey through life that became the book “10 Things I Wish I’d Known — Before I Went Out Into the Real World.” I’ve been making 10-point plans ever since.

[Read all of Maria Shriver's 'I've Been Thinking' Essays]

A few months ago, I created a new one, my Tips for Leading an Inspired Life, and last week I shared some of them, 5 to be exact. So guess what? This week, I’m sharing the other 5. I hope they help you like they’ve helped me.

[Read: 5 of My Tips for Leading an Inspired Life]

6. Be Conscious of the Infrastructure That Supports You: They say it takes a village and it’s true. If you are working outside the home, more than likely someone is supporting you at home. If you are employing people, be a 21st century boss. Pay your employees a living wage, offer health benefits, make it so that they don’t have to live on the brink. Businesses are successful because of their many moving parts. Bosses rely on their employees, and employees need support from their bosses. Who you work for is as important as what you do.

7. Invest In Yourself: We all need to think of ourselves as partners and providers, not people who need to be provided for. Increase your earning power through education, learn about saving plans to become financially savvy. Join the Woman’s Nation Lending Team at Kiva to empower a woman, or yourself, towards financial independence through person-to-person micro lending. Use your economic power for good. Support companies that create conscious, caring and compassionate products and workplaces for their employees. Partner with Shriver Corps members to expand the reach of federal programs that support men and women living on the brink.

[Read: Accepting Struggle Through the Power of Positivity]

8. Prioritize Your Health: The health of your body matters. So does the health of your brain. In fact, our brains are our most valuable assets. One of the biggest health crises in our world is Alzheimer’s disease. Every 67 seconds someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s and nearly two-thirds of Americans living with it are women. Join the My Brain Matters movement as we mobilize millions of women to use their brains and wipe out Alzheimer’s disease for good. The next time you go in to the doctor for a health check up, don’t forget to check from the neck up, not just the neck down. Your mind and body are connected, finding the tools to live a healthy life will keep them both running strong.

9. Define Success for Yourself: We live in a culture of comparisons. I’ve found that comparisons make you feel “less than.” There will always be someone with more. More money, more power, more looks, more love, more things. Don’t allow yourself to get caught up. Think about what success looks like to you. What does it feel like? What choices will get you there? How do you define success? Create a definition and then work towards making it happen. Stop the comparison culture and measure yourself by your own yardstick.

[Read: Maria Shriver: Will You Join Me on the M Team?]

10. See Yourself As an Architect of Change: Rumi’s famous quote is a mantra for my life, and inspires me everyday. “Out beyond ideas of rightdoing and wrongdoing, there is a field. I will meet you there.” Keep your mind open. Keep your heart open. Let’s suspend judgment. Suspend fears. Suspend shame and open our minds and hearts to one another. Your ideas have influence. Your ideas can ignite change. Your ideas can inspire. Take the initiative and go out and make an impact on the world. Join the M Team – a group of inspired and informed women and men whose mission it is to move their lives and their communities forward. Be an “Architect of Change”: Tell me your 10 tips for life and I’ll publish them on MariaShriver.com.

Tell me, what tools do you use to lead an inspired and inspiring life?

And as always: #PassItForward


[Image via Pinterest]

5 of My Tips for Living an Inspired Life

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I’ve been thinking about all the news headlines that seem to leave us feeling terrified. Another brutal beheading, the spread of Ebola, the crisis within the Secret Service. If the President isn’t safe, who is?

Fear is rampant and one has to work hard not to let it overcome your own life, leaving you frozen, stuck, resigned, scared.

The opposite of being terrified is being brave, being hopeful, believing that despite all the stories in the news and in our own heads each of us can choose to live a brave, hopeful, inspired life.

[Read all of Maria Shriver's 'I've Been Thinking' essays]

I hope you will join me out in what I call “The Open Field of life.” A place the poet Rumi says is out beyond. Out beyond right doing and wrong doing. It is, I believe, where we can choose to live an inspired life not a fear-based life. It is, I believe, where we can choose to be messengers of hope, possibility and bravery.

These are scary times but each of us can fight fear, starting in our own lives and moving out from there. I’ve been scared many times in my own life. My fear has often gotten the best of me. But today I’m choosing differently. Today I’m choosing to live an inspired life. Fear is my past.

[Read: We Are All Capable of Rebuilding Ourselves]

Strength, hope and inspiration are my future.

What are some of the tools you’ll use to live an inspired life? Here are five of mine:

1. Set Your Intention to Live Such a Life: Have an honest conversation with yourself about what makes you feel empowered and in charge in your own life. Think about what inspires you, interests you, motivates you, what you enjoy, what sets your hair on fire. Visualize the life you desire, write it down, dream it and then go about creating it.  It’s within your reach.

2. Practice the Power of the Pause: Carve out time for yourself each day, whether it’s an hour or a minute to quiet the noise and just be. Pausing allows you to take a beat – to take a breath in your life. Take a break each day from communicating outwardly, and communicate inwardly instead. It will make you more focused. This is not selfish. Let me repeat: This is not selfish. This is called self-care. It will enable you to move forward with strength.

[Read: 5 Steps to Find Rejuvenation this Summer]

3. Be of Service: Pope Francis said, “Be giving of yourself to others.” A similar message to Mahatma Gandhi’s famous quote: “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” I agree. Whether it is at home or out in the world: give back, volunteer, be a caretaker, share your talents. Share yourself. You will find you get a large return.

4. Create a Compassionate, Caring Culture: Start by creating compassion within yourself. Swap criticism for empathy and understanding. Communicate kindly with others and you’ll find that people will communicate kindly with you. Imagine a new way of being for yourself and your family and then watch how it can transform your home and your workplace into positive and peaceful environments.

[Read: 3 Steps to Successful Cleansing]

5. What’s Good for Women is Good for Men: We all want the same thing: to lead a meaningful life. Mothers, Fathers, sons, daughters, brothers and sisters: we are in this together. Whatever the problem, we should all be a part of the solution. Remember to be partners. We’re not so different that we can’t work with one another.

Now, I hope you’ll share some of your tips for inspiration in your own life with me. And, as always, #PassItForward.


[Image via Pinterest]

Do You Have the Strength to Be Exactly Who You Are?

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Saturday, September 27 was a big day for me.

It marked my youngest son Christopher’s 17th birthday. (Omg my youngest child is 17!) God help me.

And it was Eunice Kennedy Shriver Day – Special Olympics’ fifth annual celebration of the life of my mother, and her global call to action for all of us to live in a more unified society – on and off the field, at home, in our workplaces and communities.

[Read all of Maria Shriver's 'I've Been Thinking' essays]

Both of these individuals have had a profound effect on my life.

I have written a lot about my relationship with my mother, who died five years ago. Interestingly, I went to a mass this week for a young man from my church, Justin McGowan, who had Down syndrome and was also a church usher. I went to pay my respects because every Sunday Justin would greet my family with a huge smile and a hug. He was, as his siblings said last night, filled with love, kindness, acceptance and patience.

As they spoke about him to a packed, standing-room-only church, I felt my mother’s presence. I felt it big.

[Read: 10 Books That Will Change Your Life for the Better]

She devoted her life to fighting for inclusion and respect for individuals like Justin and his family. She would have loved that service because it was all about dropping judgment. It was all about acceptance, kindness and love.

Which brings me back to Christopher.

Christopher is 100 percent love. He came into to this world that way and he’s been all about it for the last 17 years. He is, as everyone says, the kindest, wisest, most grounded person they know. He is an old soul who loves life and pretty much everyone he meets. He loves his friends, and boy do they love and respect him back.

He’s smart, patient and moves through life without judgment. He teaches me kindness, patience and understanding literally every day. He’s got the inner fortitude of a gladiator and the exterior kindness of good young man.

[Watch: Are Teens Too Stressed Out? Maria Shriver Reports] 

He is the youngest of my family but in many ways he has the wisdom of an elder.

What I’ve learned from him is that being kind to people every day has impact.

What I’ve learned from him is that every day you can choose to be judgmental or choose to not be. You can choose to laugh and let life be, or struggle and stress. Every day Christopher shows me the way towards living a life of the former.

[Read: Become Who You Are, How to Let Go of the Struggle]

Saturday may have been Eunice Kennedy Shriver Day, but I hope everyone joins me in celebrating the strength it takes to be exactly who you are every day. My mother did that in her life and Christopher is doing that in his.

Happy birthday Christopher you are a good young man.

#PassItForward

My Wish For the Young Women of The World

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For the last few weeks I’ve been writing about change, about transition, and mostly about my kids moving out.

I wrote about Christina moving to the Big Apple a few weeks ago. I wrote about Patrick moving back to school and just this week, turning 21 — a rite of passage for any young person, but, I have to say, it feels different with a boy (that’s for a different blog).

And now Katherine. Katherine moves out into her own apartment this week. She’s excited to be getting her own place with her friend Rachel and, of course, her beloved rescue dog Maverick.

[Read all of Maria Shriver's 'I've Been Thinking' essays]

I look at her, the eldest of my four kids, and I am just in awe. In awe of what a speculator young woman she is.

Feminine, smart, fun. Loving, wise.

She takes her role as the oldest seriously. She’s always helping out with her siblings, offering advice, counsel and wisdom. Most of her sibling’s friends are more scared of her than me. They know she can’t be manipulated or conned … they know she’s the real deal.

[Read: How I Learned to Pay Attention to the Little Moments]

As a parent, it’s hard not to look at your child and think about yourself at their age. I wonder now what my mother was thinking as I moved from city to city pursuing my career in Journalism. I must say, I didn’t think much about what she must have been going through. I had three younger brothers and I was in a hurry to get where I was going in my own life.

photo copyI wish I could talk to her now. Ask her how she felt, how she navigated it all.

Katherine is different. She’s in a hurry to fly, but she’s one of those people — you know, the ones you can always count on to check in with you, invite you along and who never seem to be too busy to reach out.

[Watch: Maria Shriver reports on teen stress]

I think the world of her, so I hope she goes out from here into the world and I pray that it treats her with the respect and awe that she deserves. In fact, that’s my hope for all the young women headed out into the world: That they be treated with respect, compassion and wonder.

God speed Katherine. You have wings, now fly.

#PassItForward


[Image via Pinterest]

The Envelope Please: A Little Gratitude Goes a Long Way

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Yesterday, A Woman’s Nation and I launched “The Envelope Please™,”  a new economic empowerment initiative that encourages travelers to show their gratitude to an often overlooked section of the hospitality industry when it comes to tipping: room attendants. I am so excited to have Marriott International as our first partner.

Showing our gratitude for good work is something we can each do to make a difference on a person-to-person level. The initiative is an effort to shine a spotlight on a hardworking section of the workforce who deserve to be thanked for their efforts just like their bellhop, parking attendant and front desk counterparts.

[Read all of Maria Shriver's 'I've Been Thinking' essays]

In the most recent Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back from the Brink, we pushed individuals and companies alike to pay their employees a living wage and proposed solutions that government, businesses and individuals can adopt to make a difference. While I’m excited to see that the living wage conversation is happening on executive, national and local levels, I also know that we can’t always rely on the government or businesses to make the big moves. There are all different kinds of ways we can each be a part of the solution to create a more conscious, caring and compassionate country. The Envelope Please is a solution meant to be adopted on an individual level.

The idea was conceived when I spoke to room attendants who took care of my room in hotels I’ve stayed in. Through their stories of hard work and perseverance I learned that cleaning staff, who are often the primary breadwinners for their families, are many times forgotten when it comes to tipping. Unlike other front-of-the-house hotel employees, most travelers don’t see their room attendants face-to-face.

[Watch Maria Shriver co-host the Today Show]

The facts revealed by this year’s Shriver Report show that 42 million American working women and 28 million children are living in or on the brink of poverty. That devastating statistic, coupled with my own personal experience and the knowledge that when women make more money, they put those earnings back into the economy – whether it’s spent on children, household essentials or personal items – creating more jobs and dueling our nation’s economic engine, got me thinking about ways that each of us has the power to make a difference in the lives of others. The simple act of showing gratitude with a tip or a short note of thanks for the room attendants who take care of you when you’re travelling is one way to help do that.

The American Hotel and Lodging Association Gratuity Guide suggests that hotel guests should leave $1 to $5 per night, depending on the hotel class, and recommends tipping daily rather than at checkout to ensure that it goes to the person cleaning your room. A practice the majority of travelers say they weren’t even aware that they could, or should, be doing.

[Read: Harness the Power of Your Thoughts in 3 Simple Steps]

I applaud Marriott International for stepping up and joining A Woman’s Nation to make “The Envelope Please” gratitude envelopes available in more than 160,000 Marriott-owned hotel guest rooms throughout the U.S. and Canada. I hope other hotels who didn’t step up right away, will follow suit. And I hope travelers will support the cause by staying in A Woman’s Nation-approved properties when they travel.

“The Envelope Please” has started a great conversation about tipping, wages and workers in this country. As always, there is much more work to be done. Every individual should be paid a fair living wage by not just hotels but by all businesses, governments and by anyone who hires someone to help them in their lives whether it’s with children, parents or in their homes. But instead of focusing on what hasn’t happened yet, let’s focus on what is happening now. What we CAN do.

[Visit AWomansNation.org]

Each of us has the power to positively – and personally – impact the lives of others. The next time you travel, I hope you’ll join me in expressing your gratitude for the behind-the-scenes work of so many.

A Woman’s Nation is about igniting hearts and minds. “The Envelope Please” has ignited a conversation and for that I’m happy. I look forward to seeing it continue.

Let’s Turn The World Right-Side Up Together

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“The world feels like it is upside down.”

That’s what a friend said to me today and I must say, I feel like she’s right.

Videos of people being beheaded and a women being knocked out and dragged lifelessly out of an elevator may have shocked and stunned us all. But it feels like there is no end in sight.

[Read all of Maria Shriver's 'I've Been Thinking Essays]

We are flooded by information and images every day. It feels overwhelming and confusing and there doesn’t seem to be anywhere to go for one to feel safe or secure.

We are increasingly a scattered, anxious, scared nation. We are scared about our finances, scared about our safety, scared for our children, scared for ourselves.

When I interviewed Robin Givens on the Today Show this past Friday, she said she thought the Ray Rice video going public was a watershed moment for the domestic violence movement.

I agree, but I think it’s even more than that. Everything feels like it is upside down and we need to pause and try to figure out how to turn it right-side up. Each of us can push back against the violence and the meanness we see in our daily lives.

[Read: Never, Ever Give Up: And Other Lessons I Learned from the Great Joan Rivers]

We can only turn the world right-side up by person-to-person kindness and gentleness. By watching our words and our tones. By raising our sons to be kind and our daughters to be compassionate. By working to release our judgements of others. Shaming never helps anyone move forward in their lives.

We need to keep moving forward as individuals and as a nation towards becoming a more caring, compassionate and conscious nation. Express deep gratitude to those who serve our country here at home and overseas where it feels scary and threatening. Turn away from videos that glorify violence and turn towards the good in the world.

[Read: 4 Ways to Spark and Spread a Positive Mood]

What the world needs more of are videos of all the good in the world. We’ve published a few recently on MariaShriver.com. Like the beautiful quadruple amputee who walked the runway to thunderous applause at New York’s Fashion Week.

This man dancing with abandon makes me smile. 

 

And this story truly inspired me this week: The children of gun instructor Charles Vacca, offering forgiveness, acceptance and compassion to the 9-year-old who fired the gun that accidentally killed him.


I invite you to share your uplifting videos back with me. Let’s spread some kindness. There is so much good in the world. I’m ready to see more of it.

#PassItForward


[Image via Pinterest]

Never, Ever Give Up: And Other Lessons I Learned from the Great Joan Rivers

joan rivers

I don’t know about you, but I can’t keep up with my September inbox.

Mine is packed with stuff: back to school papers, sign up notices for my son’s classes and his sport waivers, medical forms the doctors need to sign, on and on and on.

[Read all of Maria Shriver's 'I've Been Thinking' Essays]

Invitations sit unattended, articles that I want to read are piling up, and — as I’ve written — kids are moving out. I’ve been to Bed, Bath and Beyond more than I care to share. I know too much about vacuums and Swiffers. I found my files about the SAT’s versus the ACT’s tucked in the mini fridge I was buying. For who? I can’t remember. I know, I know.

But there are a few things that have managed to stop me in my tracks already this month.

[Watch — A Beautiful Woman Sees a Fashion Week Dream Come True]

Another brutal beheading on the other side of the world that felt close to home. And the death of the legendary Joan Rivers.

I grew up watching Joan Rivers. As a young girl I couldn’t comprehend how hard she had to struggle to get to where she was. But as an adult witnessing her extraordinary work Ethic — capital E intended — her determination, her perseverance, her wit, humor, and own unique style of mothering her daughter (who I have the pleasure of knowing) and the other young talents she picked, pushed and prodded to be fearless and authentic, was a lesson unfolding before all of our eyes.

She has been down, kicked around, maligned and left behind. People in the so-called “business” ran from her.

[Read: The Healing Power of Sharing Our Stories]

But at the age of 81, Joan Rivers was at the top of her game. Books, tv shows, standup, fashion, business.

When she died there was an outpouring from all ages, all walks of life. Joan Rivers was a trailblazer, a fighter, a survivor. She got back up over and over, and to her credit, had the last laugh.

[Read: How to Build Friendships In Times of Vulnerability]

I didn’t always like her brand of humor. I cringed at some of the lines that came out of her mouth, but I had great respect for her. For her talent, for how she handled rejection, ridicule and tragedy. Many female comedians say they owe their careers to her. But, in truth, any and every woman can take a page from her act.

Be a survivor.
Be a hard worker.
Reinvent over and over.
Move through tragedy.
Surround yourself with young talent.
Mother.
Laugh.
Define yourself for yourself.
Try. And try again.

And most of all: Never, ever give up.

Melissa, thank you for sharing your mother with the world. I know that’s not easy.

And Joan, thanks for the lessons. They are going up on my vision board.

#PassItForward


[Photo Credit: Facebook]

It’s Okay — In Fact, Crucial — to Grieve

On Grief Final cover

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about my daughter Christina moving out of the house to go to NYC. Her brother Patrick moved out to school the following week and her older sister Katherine moves out on Tuesday. Much to my youngest son Christopher’s horror, he now has me all alone — though Christina says he might enjoy the alone time. …I’ll keep you updated.

Change is in the air. Everywhere I look, I see and feel change. And change often involves grief.

That five-letter word.

[Read all of Maria Shriver's 'I've Been Thinking' Essay's]

It’s almost worse to mention than the four-letter words kids got their mouth washed out with soap for saying when I was growing up.

I wanted to share part of the forward I wrote for the best-seller, On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five Stages of Loss, in stores now. It’s been re-released because there is never a shortage of people who are grieving.

You can grieve the death of a loved one. A friendship can be lost and you grieve. You lose a job and you grieve. A relationship breaks up, a child leaves home. It’s all loss, it’s all change. There is no one right way to grieve but it’s important to know that your way is ok.

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross is a legend in the work of grief and it was an honor to write this new forward.

Why? Because grief is something we all experience but rarely discuss. It comes in all kinds of ways and at all different times. I thought about it a lot these past weeks watching James Foley’s parents, Michael Brown’s parents and the Williams family begin their grieving in such a public way. Millions go through this every day. Away from the press and often away from support, solace or sensitivity.

I hope On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five Stages of Loss helps you. It helped me. #PassItForward


Over the course of my lifetime I have come to know grief in its many forms. Not just through the deaths of family and friends, but also in the feelings of loss that come with the inevitable life changes we all endure. In my struggles to sort through the sweeping mix of emotions that come with grief, I have found myself endlessly grateful for Elisabeth Kübler- Ross’s work, and in particular for this book by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and David Kessler.

[Read: How Grieving With Gratitude Change Everything]

…I grew up in a family that had lots of tragedy, but no one ever discussed it. I moved through these experiences, trying to make sense of the losses, without any guidance or framework for how to understand them. When I became an adult I realized that I was still trying to process what had happened, and I thought to myself that there must be a better way.

…When my mother died four years ago I experienced the true depths of grief. I remember thinking when I was younger that if anything ever happened to my mother I would never be able to survive. And then she died, and I had to face it; I had to really feel it. It brought me to my knees. Then my uncle died two weeks after that. And then my father died a year and a half later. I was steeped in grief.

[Read: Late-Life Depression: An Overlooked Disease]

It was an incredibly lonely experience. I felt very isolated. My world stopped while everything continued on around me. In my search for solace I found comfort in others who had gone through a death or multiple deaths. Every time I came across someone else’s story of grief I felt a little less alone. And this is exactly why this book by Kübler-Ross and Kessler is so important. When you’re grieving, sometimes your only constant companion is a book.

My children’s book about grief, What’s Heaven?, was born out of this understanding. When my grandmother died, my children had so many questions. Their questions made me realize that I was just as childlike in my understanding of grief as they were. I felt this need to address the curiosity we all have about loss in its many forms, including grieving a pet. People thought this book wouldn’t sell, and then it went on to tremendous success, proving just how thirsty our culture is for the conversation about loss and how we cope with it.

[Watch: Two-Time Plan Crash Survivor Austin Hatch Tells Maria Shriver His Inspirational Story]

…Grief has made me brave. In opening up to it, in allowing myself to really feel it, I have grown stronger. But in order to do that I needed to hear the message that it was okay and in fact crucial to grieve. In this important book, Kübler-Ross and Kessler told me that it was okay. They told all of us that it is okay.

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross was the mother of a movement that began to make grief a real conversation. As a culture we must collectively carry her torch. We must finish what she began. We must let out our wails in unison, reminding the world that grief is real, that it is a part of the human condition, and that we will all survive.


Copyright © 2014 by Maria Shriver. The New Foreword to On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five Stages of Loss by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, M.D. & David Kessler.