6 Women Who Inspire Us In Grief

Author: TAPS

TAPS Founder and President Bonnie Carroll

Women have defined so much of our world's history as leaders and pioneers. So, why wouldn't they help us define the way we grieve? In honor of International Women's Day, we recognize some of the women who inspire us along the grief journey.

1. Our mothers

The woman who gave me the courage to grieve is my sweet mom, the most genuine, kind-hearted person I've ever known. When my brother died, she somehow instinctively knew when to rein me in, when to honor my silence, when to counter my sass and when to just let me wander. She was the teeter to my totter, helping me balance the unwelcome weight of my broken heart. It was she who understood what I couldn't say, and it was she who was brave enough to acknowledge that grieving lasts a lifetime, not a season. She frequently said, "It is what it is," not with an attitude of defeat, but more as a challenge to go on living. When she gave up this life to join her hero son not long ago, it was a tribute to them both to etch the words on her headstone, "It is what it is… a life well lived." It was my mom who gave me the courage to grieve, but more importantly, it was she who gave me the courage to live. - Michele Marcum, surviving sister 

2. Our friends

The woman who has inspired me in my grief journey and whom I admire is Tammie Pulliam. She lived in my hometown. Her husband and all of her children, three young sons, were killed in an automobile accident. I remember being obsessed with locating her and speaking with her after the death of my son, Justin. I needed to hear from someone who had been through this. Watching her live her life has inspired and helped me tremendously. Her story of tremendous courage and faith has given me the courage to grieve. Her life has been a testimony of how you can live through an irrevocable, life-changing event, full of unimaginable sorrow, and channel that grief into something positive. Tammie said, "Let's think of the beginning of spring, and be forever reminded of life - and the joy, love and excitement that [our loved ones] brought into our lives when they were here." - Paula Davis, surviving mother

3. Our daughters

The woman who gave me courage to grieve was right beside me that fateful night. I tried to keep my composure so she wouldn't see me crumble. Over the next several months and years, she encouraged me to open myself up to the possibility of life; the option to grieve and move beyond the feelings of shock, confusions, brokenness and anxiety. She showed me that the hard road was worth it and that I was worthy of unconditional love. She gave me the courage I needed to live life as it should be lived. It is the strength I have gained from her that has made me selfless and whole again. She has no idea the impact she has made, for she is only a child. She is my daughter. - Amy Dozier, surviving spouse

4. Our cousins

My cousin, Catherine, gave me the courage to grieve by always reminding me that she was just a short phone call away. Catherine may have lived Massachusetts while I was in Maryland, but she never hesitated to respond to a text message or answer a phone call, even if it meant leaving work in the middle of the day. She taught me that when I grieved, I was never alone. There was always someone who would be there to talk to me and understand the way I was feeling without asking any questions. Her support not only helped me when I needed her, but it taught me how to support others when they need me. - Grace Derbyshire, surviving cousin

5. Our heroes we've never met

I remember my mother using Jackie Kennedy as an inspiration for who she wanted me to emulate when I grew up. With poise and grace, Jackie was well dressed and educated. She was everything a young lady should aspire to be. My mother died by suicide when I was 19 years old and it changed my perspective on a lot of things in life, but one thing stayed the same; I still wanted to be that woman my mother envisioned. I will never forget buying a dress for my mother's funeral. After crying in the middle of the mall when I couldn't find a black dress, I remember walking into one store and seeing the most elegantly cut black and white dress, one that looked like Jackie Kennedy would have worn and one my mother would have loved. One that represented everything that my mother was, poised and elegant just like the role model she had chosen for me many years before. - Ashlynne Haycock, surviving daughter

6. Our TAPS President and Founder

Bonnie Carroll has inspired me with her heart of service and her ability to dream and create. Through her example, I have seen that each of us can use our natural gifts and skills to help one another. It is through being the best versions of ourselves, using what we have been given and daring to reach outside of our own experience that we can help other people get back up again after tragedy. Bonnie is a constant inspiration that when there is a void, maybe we can be the ones to bring hope and be that helping hand to assist our brothers and sisters along the path towards healing. - Erin Jacobson, surviving fiancée

Who inspires you on your grief journey? A family member? A peer mentor? A celebrity? Share your thoughts below.