Grief. We all experience it at some point in our lives. Our grief is our own and everyone experiences it differently. Yet, there are common themes that unite those who have experienced the loss of a loved one.
In her just-released book, Jesse Was Here, More Lasagna Please: Feeding the Soul of a Grieving Mother, Michelle Bauer portrays the grieving process in an incredibly relatable and real way as she discusses her own experiences with grieving for her son, Jesse, who passed away at age 13 from type 1 diabetes.
I first met Michelle at the American Diabetes Association (ADA) 78th Scientific Sessions in the summer of 2018. I knew from reading about her background that she had lost her son to diabetes some years ago and that she had remained an active diabetes advocate, working for organizations like Beyond Type 1, a consistent leader in organizing various diabetes events, and most recently the sales director at Diabetes Daily. What I was not prepared for was her unprecedented level of openness and honesty in talking about her experiences, her son Jesse, and her grief process. Michelle is someone with whom I clicked right away, because when people are real and kind and honest, it’s hard not to love being in their company from day one.
I still recall very clearly how (following a couple of hard-earned drinks after a very long workday at the ADA) she told me “We don’t move on. We move forward.” At the time, I was going through my own grief process and her words and sincere compassion have stuck with me to this day.
When I learned earlier this month that Michelle had put her thoughts and experiences about grief on paper, I jumped at the chance to be one of the first to read it. As I expected, the book did not disappoint. In fact, “Chicken Soup for the Grieving Mother’s Soul” would probably be the perfect subtitle.
It’s incredibly relatable and that “me too” aspect also makes the text incredibly soothing, despite the tragically sad nature of the themes. From oscillating feelings of guilt, to having to relive the event when we encounter people who were not aware yet, to the anger that comes with the grieving process – there is something here for everyone to relate to, if they’ve ever lost a loved one.
From the raw themes of early stages of grief to compartmentalization, and moving forward, this book covers the grieving process perfectly, while also reminding us that we are not alone. Of note, Michelle’s book not only walks with the reader through the grief experience, in particular focusing on the first year of grief, but also addresses the importance of moving forward:
“I know I’m not alone; there are many people that have faced losses like mine. It happens every day. Day in and day out. We question God. We question autopsies. We question Tuesdays, if that makes sense. We question a lot of things, but we still exist whether we like it or not. We find joy in small things and immense sadness in others. We re-examine our lives, the way we live them and who is important to us.”
In explaining her own trigger of hearing ambulance sirens after her son’s death, she writes,
“That day an ambulance was not just an ambulance. I’m pretty sure that anybody who has lost a child will have their own metaphorical ambulances. All we can do is hope to survive, move forward and find joy and love in those around us. Someday, hopefully, an ambulance will just be an ambulance.”
And although the book will be relatable to any parent who has lost a child, and is relevant to even more removed experiences, what it offers to the diabetes community, specifically, is paramount. Death from type 1 diabetes is seldom talked about. No one wants to think about that terrifying possibility. But, it happens, and Michelle is not afraid to talk about it.
In fact, she created a program in honor of her son to help other families who have been affected by death from type 1 diabetes. The initiative is called Jesse Was Here and focuses on providing resources for grieving families. You can read more about the program here.
In summary, I was incredibly happy to see Michelle Bauer share her experiences with a broader audience. I know from personal experience that her words and experiences have the power to help others with their grief process. I would highly recommend this read to anyone who has lost someone.
Jesse Was Here, More Lasagna Please: Feeding the Soul of a Grieving Mother, is available for sale today, April 23, and can be purchased online here.