I love a story in which our hero not only navigates adversity but also discovers ways to make the world better.
Katherine Ward is such a hero. This talented blogger and copywriter’s life changed when her father died in 2017. Losing a parent, I contend, is one of the most permanent events in a person’s life, having lost my father in 2000.
Katherine turned her own grief into a forum to help others who’d suffered losses, too.
I’m proud to introduce Katherine Ward to you today in #GirlsRock. Please give her a warm JAD welcome! She’s an inspiration of strength and kindness.
Eli: When you were little, what did you think you’d grow up to be?
Katherine: I’ve always been an avid animal lover, so for a while when I was little I thought that I would be a veterinarian. But once I got into middle school, I knew that I wanted to be a writer.
Eli: What happened in middle school to convince you of that?
Katherine: Nothing out of the ordinary. I just remember that my sixth-grade English teacher gave us all a journal that we had to use in order to respond to a prompt that she assigned us each day. And in the process of doing that, as well as learning about literature, short stories, and poetry as a whole, I discovered how much I truly enjoyed writing.
Eli: What sort of things did you enjoy writing about then?
Katherine: Mostly short stories about random ideas that came into my head, re-tellings of recent things that happened in my life (such as getting a new pet or a sleepover I went to), my dreams and aspirations, or fanfiction about my favorite books, haha.
Eli: That’s the training ground, isn’t it? Writing about our own experiences?
Katherine: For sure! Writing through your own experiences allows you to better relate to others, and hopefully, that can help them in some way.
Eli: Your own experiences are a big part of your writing, aren’t they? Can you tell me more?
Katherine: As I mentioned, I have loved to write in general for the majority of my life. However, I changed gears and became passionate about the topic of grief after my dad unexpectedly passed away in the summer of 2017, one year before I graduated from college. Once I graduated, I started my website and blog, Grief Personalized, as a way to both honor him and to be of help to others.
Through writing, I hope to not only recover from my pain, but also inspire, share, and connect with others around the world who are just like me. My ultimate goal is to help all those who are struggling with grief to learn that they are loved, that they are important, and that they are not alone.
Eli: I lost my father almost 20 years ago, Katherine. I’m so sorry for your loss. What have you learned from that blogging experience?
Katherine: Thank you. I’m sorry to hear that, too. It’s never easy, is it? You never expect to lose a parent so young.
Blogging about grief has done so much for me through this entire process as a whole.
It has opened me up to the reality of grief itself. I think it’s absolutely true that you never really think about death and loss until it hits home, and you never really realize just how MUCH grief there is in the world.
There’s the obvious one, losing someone you love, but there are also many other variations, such as losing a job, a dream, a precious object, or even a past self. And unfortunately, I quickly learned how little grief is spoken about in our society, and how damaging that can be for the grieving.
So, along with having the desire to heal from my own pain, I started my blog to also help others to heal in front of their pain, too. I wanted to create an outlet for grievers to come to where they aren’t judged or expected to keep a filter on anything; a safe space, if you will.
Eli: How has that outlook looked? It sounds incredible.
Katherine: So far so good! I’ve started several different outlets for Grief Personalized, such a social media accounts and an Etsy shop selling digital products. Each one grows daily and I hope to continue expanding more and more so that I can reach more people in need!
Eli: What has this project meant to you personally?
Katherine: Grief Personalized has allowed me to both creatively express my pain and keep my dad’s memory alive each and every day.
Eli: Tell me something you learned from your dad.
Katherine: He taught me so many things, but one of the most important was to be compassionate towards everyone, no matter what, and always lend a helping hand if I’m able.
Eli: It seems as if this blog topic has taken you in a few different directions. Tell me something you’ve learned as you’ve explored grief.
Katherine: I’ve learned that with grief, it will always be a constant dance of sorrow and joy. With everything. That was hard to accept at first, but I’ve come to understand and appreciate the difference. And luckily, one of the best things about experiencing grief is that you’re never, really, alone. There are millions of people out there to talk to and share with. So there’s always a comfort to be found.
Eli: What has surprised you most about this journey?
Katherine: What has surprised me most (and still does almost daily) is the power we as humans have to continue moving forward despite the tragedy and pain that we experience in dealing with loss. I think it’s incredible that we can all somehow manage to take that next step every single time, even while our hearts and lives have been irreversibly shattered. It’s amazing the endurance we all have. I surprise myself quite often.
Eli: It is incredible what we can give after we’ve had to endure, isn’t it? Can you tell me about a way you have surprised yourself?
Katherine: I’ve surprised myself by having the courage to talk about my grief openly to people outside of my inner circle. I’m usually not very good at expressing my feelings!
Eli: What was that like for you, before all this?
Katherine: I used to be rather shy and introverted, and kept everything to myself. But that was because I lived a very normal and quiet life before all of this, and I suppose I didn’t feel the need to express what I was feeling because there was never really anything majorly conflicting me (besides trivial things). I had everything I needed or wanted, I was in college online and had a stable part-time job, I had a loving family and friends; you know, the usual.
Eli: Life has a way of changing directions on a dime, doesn’t it? What is next for you?
Katherine: For now, I just hope to continue building up Grief Personalized’s outreach so that I can help even more people. But eventually, I’d like to write a book or maybe even create some online courses.
Eli: I can see that happening, Katherine. One last question: What advice would you give young women who find themselves in situations similar to what you experienced?
Katherine: I would tell them to keep going because even though it never really gets any easier, you do learn to grow and to live despite it. When it gets especially hard, though, hold tight to the little memories that you have of your loved one, because those memories will help you to remember that a part of them will always be here. Dead doesn’t mean gone. As long as you keep them alive in your thoughts and your actions, they will be with you every single day.
Connect with Katherine
Etsy Shop: https://www.etsy.com/shop/GriefPersonalized
A to Z Challenge
A is for A new name for this blog
B is for B is for Bibster, baseball, and a spot by the birdbath #Gratitudeandshit
C is for Cassie Klein, actress and model; an interview for #GirlsRock
D is for Dusting off and writing again
E is for Energy, Facets of: An interview with crystal healer and healing jewelry maker Amanda Fitzsimmons, for #GirlsRock
F is for Football questions for Go Ask Daddy
G is for Getting behind a cause
H is for Hayden, headphones, and happy hour #GratitudeAndShit
I is for Inspiration
J is for Johnston — an interview with author and coach Kate Johnston
Nice interview. How kind of Katherine to help others despite the fact she was grieving. I lost my dad in 2001, I was an adult, but it was still hard.
What a wonderful way to deal with grief, helping others find a way through.
She is living her Dad’s advice to be compassionate towards everyone with her blog and outreach to people dealing with grief.
I love the Robin Williams quote, ““Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.” I think there are so many people dealing with grief and doing the best they can with it.
Weekends In Maine
Grief is present in more parts of our lives than we know. I’m happy to learn that she is working with her grief to open a space for others to safely explore theirs. I wish her well. This work is needed even more today with all of the losses – both human and societal – that the pandemic has wrought. Thank for posting this, Eli.
grief isn’t ever very far is it, Carrie? The way Katherine processes hers is remarkable. It makes a legacy of her father for many people.
what a lovely and natural progression into writing. so kind that she has helped others with grief, knowing what she also went through.
I love that she saw it as an opportunity to reach out to others.
What a great post and introduction to Katherine. What a gift she is to others working through their own grief.