Grief counselor Alex Mammadyarov is paving new paths for exploring loss.
– KEYS SOULCARE
Alex Mammadyarov is a New York City-based psychotherapist and writer forging new standards for the (never-standard) ways we grapple with grief. Through authentic discussions, humor, and warmth, Alex is cultivating safer spaces for all of us going through tough times. A combo of compassionate critiques of well-intentioned platitudes and affirming notes on healing are welcomed gifts to those dealing with death and living with loss. In fancy, that’s exactly what has made made her particularly popular with younger adult grievers.
We chatted with Alex about how we can do our part to build a better, more empathetic community for those around us — and ourselves — through life, death, and the journey in between.
What do you think is most unique about young adult grief?
Young adults are beginning to make sense of what they want their lives to be. Encountering loss, and all of its accompanying existential questions, can throw a huge wrench into career-building, socializing, dating, and associated stressors, making the future suddenly look murkier than before. In addition, young adults may have few friends who share experience with loss, making them feel somewhat peerless.
Has your own life influenced your work? If so, how?
I grew up with grief, having lost my dad to esophageal cancer at age eight and my mom to breast cancer just before I turned 15. [I had an] acute awareness of the unfortunate stigma that exists [which] has fortified my passion for offering grief support. Living with my own grief and forming deep soul connections with other grievers have also propelled my desire to shift the societal narrative on grief away from fearful misunderstanding toward greater knowledge and embracing of authentic expressions of grief.
Looking back, what encouragement might you give to that younger version of yourself?
I would say, this grief will not define you AND the resilience that grows from these profound losses will become a part of you that you are proud of.
Any advice for those comforting a friend who’s grieving?
Acknowledge the loss. This may sound very basic — and that’s because it is — yet it’s all too common that folks fear saying or doing the wrong thing and choose to say and do nothing at all, which makes for a more isolating grief experience. The truth is that there are no perfect words! If you feel that you can be present for your grieving friend, you have all you need. Simple ways to communicate this might include offering to do a tangible task for them like picking up dinner or even just watching TV together, sending a message of love on a death anniversary, or opening up dialogue about the person they lost by taking an interest in learning about them.
Many lightworkers are creating spaces they’ve felt they themselves needed. Is that true for you?
Although I consider myself more of a shadow worker, I absolutely created a space to shed light on loss because I didn’t have it myself when I was younger. Social media comes with so many pros and cons. Though I worry about the impact it has on our youth, if I had found grief content as a teenager or college student, I may have felt far less alone. There is a thriving grief community on Instagram, which I believe continues to expand because we need connection around this experience.
You’re a therapist who runs a platform about something deeply personal to you. How do you take care of yourself in the process?
By always considering my intention. How much do I wish to share? Why do I wish to share it? What are my boundaries? And how much energy do I have available to give? In order to care for myself, I believe that I first have to engage in these internal check-ins and stay connected to myself.
Which tools and platforms keep you inspired and fueled in your own life?
We can hold two things at once: pain and joy, loss and fulfillment. We can experience deep gratitude for the wisdom we have gained in life and also make space for the sadness and anger we feel about the difficult events that prompted such growth.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about grief and loss?
That we leave it behind. In truth, once we experience a loss, it not only becomes part of our story, but [it’s] also sewn into the fabric of our being. The more society perpetuates the myth that we “move on” from the person who died, the more misunderstood and isolated we will feel in our grief. The more we embrace the idea that we can heal and also never stop missing our person who died, the more genuinely connected we will all feel to each other.
What’s your highest vision for your work?
Though I am a daydreamer, I also tend to live in the moment, which happens to be a very good one because I love the work I do so much. In my highest vision for my work, I play a meaningful role in others freeing themselves up to walk through loss with more self-compassion and unapologetic authenticity, as well as increasing the grace and care we extend to all grieving people.
How did that feel? Share what resonates in the comments!