ABOUT THE SPEAKER
Jason B. Rosenthal - Advocate, artist
When Jason B. Rosenthal's wife died, he says: "as clichéd as it sounds, I started working on living each day as it comes, to get through the complexities of life."

Why you should listen

Jason B. Rosenthal writes: "I have practiced law and developed real estate in Chicago for half of my life. But that is only what I did 9 to 5. What made me better at my profession -- and as a human being getting through each day -- was realizing my thirst for learning and doing. I practiced yoga intensely; I traveled the world with my wife and my family; I learned to paint and made a home studio; and I developed a passion for cooking. I would not have called myself the most passionate student when I was in school, but in my adult life I have read with a thirst for knowledge -- everything from the most meaty fiction, fascinating nonfiction and magazines. My family is what makes me who I am today.

"I was married to the most amazing woman for half of my life. We raised three incredible children in Chicago, a culturally vibrant and livable city with people of good midwestern values. When my bride died of ovarian cancer after 26 years of marriage, I got in touch with real pain. I immediately reevaluated my life's work. I had talked for years about whether my chosen career path gave me real fulfillment. I am now the executive director of a nonprofit organization created in Amy's name, the Amy Krouse Rosenthal Foundation. I am fueled by its mission to provide programs that encourage child literacy and funding for early detection of ovarian cancer. My future is a blank space waiting to be filled."

More profile about the speaker
Jason B. Rosenthal | Speaker | TED.com
TED2018

Jason B. Rosenthal: The journey through loss and grief

Filmed:
1,532,685 views

In her brutally honest, ironically funny and widely read meditation on death, "You May Want to Marry My Husband," the late author and filmmaker Amy Krouse Rosenthal gave her husband Jason very public permission to move on and find happiness. A year after her death, Jason offers candid insights on the often excruciating process of moving through and with loss -- as well as some quiet wisdom for anyone else experiencing life-changing grief.
- Advocate, artist
When Jason B. Rosenthal's wife died, he says: "as clichéd as it sounds, I started working on living each day as it comes, to get through the complexities of life." Full bio

Double-click the English transcript below to play the video.

00:13
There are three words
that explain why I am here.
0
1087
3313
00:17
They are "Amy Krouse Rosenthal."
1
5400
4560
00:23
At the end of Amy's life,
2
11320
1496
00:24
hyped up on morphine and home in hospice,
3
12840
2520
00:28
the "New York Times"
published an article she wrote
4
16239
2577
00:30
for the "Modern Love" column
on March 3, 2017.
5
18840
3080
00:35
It was read worldwide
by over five million people.
6
23160
2720
00:39
The piece was unbearably sad,
7
27160
3496
00:42
ironically funny
8
30680
1735
00:44
and brutally honest.
9
32439
1561
00:47
While it was certainly
about our life together,
10
35200
2656
00:49
the focus of the piece was me.
11
37880
2400
00:53
It was called, "You May
Want to Marry My Husband."
12
41440
3136
00:56
It was a creative play
on a personal ad for me.
13
44600
3040
01:00
Amy quite literally left
an empty space for me to fill
14
48440
3736
01:04
with another love story.
15
52200
1800
01:07
Amy was my wife for half my life.
16
55520
1960
01:10
She was my partner in raising
three wonderful, now grown children,
17
58360
4736
01:15
and really, she was my girl, you know?
18
63120
2015
01:17
We had so much in common.
19
65160
1920
01:20
We loved the same art,
20
68360
1536
01:21
the same documentaries, the same music.
21
69920
2616
01:24
Music was a huge part
of our life together.
22
72560
2856
01:27
And we shared the same values.
23
75440
1840
01:30
We were in love,
24
78160
1416
01:31
and our love grew stronger
up until her last day.
25
79600
3920
01:37
Amy was a prolific author.
26
85200
1856
01:39
In addition to two groundbreaking memoirs,
27
87080
2536
01:41
she published over 30 children's books.
28
89640
2400
01:45
Posthumously, the book she wrote
with our daughter Paris,
29
93080
2776
01:47
called "Dear Girl,"
30
95880
1616
01:49
reached the number one position
on the "New York Times" bestseller list.
31
97520
3480
01:54
She was a self-described tiny filmmaker.
32
102240
2920
01:57
She was 5'1" and her films
were not that long.
33
105640
3136
02:00
(Laughter)
34
108800
1016
02:01
Her films exemplified her natural ability
to gather people together.
35
109840
4400
02:07
She was also a terrific public speaker,
36
115240
2416
02:09
talking with children
and adults of all ages
37
117680
3136
02:12
all over the world.
38
120840
1200
02:15
Now, my story of grief is only unique
in the sense of it being rather public.
39
123520
4296
02:19
However, the grieving process itself
was not my story alone.
40
127840
4800
02:25
Amy gave me permission to move forward,
and I'm so grateful for that.
41
133920
3480
02:30
Now, just a little over a year
into my new life,
42
138040
3016
02:33
I've learned a few things.
43
141080
1440
02:35
I'm here to share with you
part of the process of moving forward
44
143640
3016
02:38
through and with grief.
45
146680
2040
02:42
But before I do that,
I think it would be important
46
150240
2416
02:44
to talk a little bit
about the end of life,
47
152680
2056
02:46
because it forms how I have been
emotionally since then.
48
154760
2800
02:50
Death is such a taboo subject, right?
49
158800
2560
02:54
Amy ate her last meal on January 9, 2017.
50
162440
3480
02:58
She somehow lived an additional two months
51
166920
2056
03:01
without solid food.
52
169000
1240
03:03
Her doctors told us
we could do hospice at home
53
171480
4136
03:07
or in the hospital.
54
175640
1240
03:09
They did not tell us that Amy
would shrink to half her body weight,
55
177960
3976
03:13
that she would never lay
with her husband again,
56
181960
2736
03:16
and that walking upstairs to our bedroom
would soon feel like running a marathon.
57
184720
4240
03:22
Home hospice does have an aura of being
a beautiful environment to die in.
58
190880
4856
03:27
How great that you don't have
the sounds of machines beeping
59
195760
2816
03:30
and going on and off all the time,
60
198600
2616
03:33
no disruptions for mandatory
drug administration,
61
201240
3896
03:37
home with your family to die.
62
205160
3680
03:42
We did our best to make those weeks
as meaningful as we could.
63
210640
4056
03:46
We talked often about death.
64
214720
2016
03:48
Everybody knows it's going
to happen to them, like, for sure,
65
216760
3536
03:52
but being able to talk openly
about it was liberating.
66
220320
3320
03:57
We talked about subjects like parenting.
67
225040
2240
04:00
I asked Amy how I could be the best parent
possible to our children in her absence.
68
228080
4760
04:06
In those conversations,
she gave me confidence
69
234000
2576
04:08
by stressing what a great relationship
I had with each one of them,
70
236600
3536
04:12
and that I can do it.
71
240160
1680
04:15
I know there will be many times
72
243400
1736
04:17
where I wish she and I
can make decisions together.
73
245160
2976
04:20
We were always so in sync.
74
248160
2200
04:24
May I be so audacious as to suggest
75
252320
2496
04:26
that you have these conversations now,
76
254840
3776
04:30
when healthy.
77
258640
1615
04:32
Please don't wait.
78
260279
2001
04:36
As part of our hospice experience,
we organized groups of visitors.
79
264240
4016
04:40
How brave of Amy to receive them,
even as she began her physical decline.
80
268280
4120
04:45
We had a Krouse night,
81
273480
1536
04:47
her parents and three siblings.
82
275040
2376
04:49
Friends and family were next.
83
277440
2336
04:51
Each told beautiful stories
of Amy and of us.
84
279800
2760
04:55
Amy made an immense impact
on her loyal friends.
85
283560
2920
05:00
But home hospice is not so beautiful
for the surviving family members.
86
288960
3920
05:05
I want to get a little personal here
and tell you that to this date,
87
293800
3696
05:09
I have memories of those
final weeks that haunt me.
88
297520
3200
05:14
I remember walking backwards
to the bathroom,
89
302560
3280
05:18
assisting Amy with each step.
90
306760
2280
05:21
I felt so strong.
91
309760
1480
05:23
I'm not such a big guy,
92
311920
1256
05:25
but my arms looked and felt so healthy
compared to Amy's frail body.
93
313200
5280
05:31
And that body failed in our house.
94
319720
2240
05:36
On March 13 of last year,
95
324640
2000
05:40
my wife died of ovarian cancer in our bed.
96
328160
3720
05:46
I carried her lifeless body
97
334920
1720
05:50
down our stairs,
98
338360
1200
05:53
through our dining room
99
341520
1200
05:56
and our living room
100
344080
1200
05:58
to a waiting gurney
101
346600
1240
06:01
to have her body cremated.
102
349080
1560
06:04
I will never get that image
out of my head.
103
352160
2080
06:07
If you know someone who has been
through the hospice experience,
104
355240
3096
06:10
acknowledge that.
105
358360
1256
06:11
Just say you heard this guy Jason
106
359640
1616
06:13
talk about how tough it must be
to have those memories
107
361280
2616
06:15
and that you're there
if they ever want to talk about it.
108
363920
2816
06:18
They may not want to talk,
109
366760
2016
06:20
but it's nice to connect with someone
living each day with those lasting images.
110
368800
5040
06:27
I know this sounds unbelievable,
but I've never been asked that question.
111
375280
3480
06:32
Amy's essay caused me
to experience grief in a public way.
112
380600
3200
06:37
Many of the readers who reached out to me
wrote beautiful words of reflection.
113
385000
3680
06:41
The scope of Amy's impact
was deeper and richer
114
389520
3376
06:44
than even us and her family knew.
115
392920
2080
06:48
Some of the responses I received helped me
with the intense grieving process
116
396400
3816
06:52
because of their humor,
117
400240
1200
06:54
like this email I received
from a woman reader
118
402440
2176
06:56
who read the article, declaring,
119
404640
2480
07:00
"I will marry you when you are ready --
120
408160
1896
07:02
(Laughter)
121
410080
1576
07:03
"provided you permanently stop drinking.
122
411680
2080
07:07
No other conditions.
123
415040
1440
07:09
I promise to outlive you.
124
417560
1440
07:11
Thank you very much."
125
419840
1440
07:14
Now, I do like a good tequila,
but that really is not my issue.
126
422680
4336
07:19
Yet how could I say no to that proposal?
127
427040
2136
07:21
(Laughter)
128
429200
2056
07:23
I laughed through the tears when I read
this note from a family friend:
129
431280
3920
07:28
"I remember Shabbat dinners at your home
130
436200
2696
07:30
and Amy teaching me
how to make cornbread croutons.
131
438920
3200
07:34
Only Amy could find
creativity in croutons."
132
442880
3680
07:38
(Laughter)
133
446580
1000
07:42
On July 27, just a few months
after Amy's death,
134
450520
3696
07:46
my dad died of complications
135
454240
1616
07:47
related to a decades-long battle
with Parkinson's disease.
136
455880
3440
07:52
I had to wonder: How much
can the human condition handle?
137
460400
3560
07:56
What makes us capable
of dealing with this intense loss
138
464680
3216
07:59
and yet carry on?
139
467920
1680
08:02
Was this a test?
140
470360
1736
08:04
Why my family and my amazing children?
141
472120
2640
08:08
Looking for answers, I regret to say,
is a lifelong mission,
142
476320
3320
08:12
but the key to my being able to persevere
143
480440
3976
08:16
is Amy's expressed and very public edict
144
484440
3576
08:20
that I must go on.
145
488040
1800
08:23
Throughout this year,
I have done just that.
146
491520
2400
08:26
I have attempted to step out
and seek the joy and the beauty
147
494600
4176
08:30
that I know this life
is capable of providing.
148
498800
3400
08:36
But here's the reality:
149
504320
1240
08:38
those family gatherings,
150
506760
1296
08:40
attending weddings
and events honoring Amy,
151
508080
2456
08:42
as loving as they are,
152
510560
2016
08:44
have all been very difficult to endure.
153
512600
2600
08:48
People say I'm amazing.
154
516240
1256
08:49
"How do you handle yourself
that way during those times?"
155
517520
2696
08:52
They say, "You do it with such grace."
156
520240
2520
08:56
Well, guess what?
157
524560
1200
08:58
I really am sad a lot of the time.
158
526320
2880
09:02
I often feel like I'm kind of a mess,
159
530160
3056
09:05
and I know these feelings
apply to other surviving spouses,
160
533240
4136
09:09
children, parents
161
537400
2440
09:12
and other family members.
162
540720
1480
09:16
In Japanese Zen, there is a term "Shoji,"
163
544000
2696
09:18
which translates as "birth death."
164
546720
2600
09:21
There is no separation
between life and death
165
549920
2776
09:24
other than a thin line
that connects the two.
166
552720
2480
09:28
Birth, or the joyous,
wonderful, vital parts of life,
167
556280
4576
09:32
and death, those things
we want to get rid of,
168
560880
2416
09:35
are said to be faced equally.
169
563320
1960
09:38
In this new life that I find myself in,
170
566680
2176
09:40
I am doing my best to embrace this concept
as I move forward with grieving.
171
568880
5120
09:47
In the early months
following Amy's death, though,
172
575480
2496
09:50
I was sure that the feeling of despair
would be ever-present,
173
578000
3696
09:53
that it would be all-consuming.
174
581720
1760
09:56
Soon I was fortunate
to receive some promising advice.
175
584960
3280
10:01
Many members of the losing-a-spouse club
176
589680
2176
10:03
reached out to me.
177
591880
1200
10:05
One friend in particular who had also
lost her life partner kept repeating,
178
593680
4656
10:10
"Jason, you will find joy."
179
598360
3200
10:14
I didn't even know
what she was talking about.
180
602560
2216
10:16
How was that possible?
181
604800
1560
10:19
But because Amy gave me
very public permission
182
607760
2696
10:22
to also find happiness,
183
610480
2080
10:25
I now have experienced joy
from time to time.
184
613360
3040
10:29
There it was, dancing the night away
at an LCD Soundsystem concert,
185
617880
4400
10:35
traveling with my brother and best friend
or with a college buddy on a boys' trip
186
623400
3936
10:39
to meet a group of great guys
I never met before.
187
627360
2320
10:42
From observing that my deck had sun
beating down on it on a cold day,
188
630840
4856
10:47
stepping out in it, laying there,
189
635720
2256
10:50
the warmth consuming my body.
190
638000
2280
10:54
The joy comes from my three
stunning children.
191
642680
4320
11:00
There was my son Justin,
192
648920
1616
11:02
texting me a picture of himself
with an older gentleman
193
650560
2616
11:05
with a massive, strong forearm
and the caption, "I just met Popeye,"
194
653200
4936
11:10
with a huge grin on his face.
195
658160
1696
11:11
(Laughter)
196
659880
1456
11:13
There was his brother Miles,
walking to the train
197
661360
2536
11:15
for his first day of work
after graduating college,
198
663920
2520
11:19
who stopped and looked
back at me and asked,
199
667400
2096
11:21
"What am I forgetting?"
200
669520
1240
11:23
I assured him right away,
"You are 100 percent ready. You got this."
201
671320
3560
11:28
And my daughter Paris,
202
676040
1816
11:29
walking together
through Battersea Park in London,
203
677880
3016
11:32
the leaves piled high,
204
680920
1816
11:34
the sun glistening in the early morning
on our way to yoga.
205
682760
4120
11:40
I would add that beauty
is also there to discover,
206
688880
3256
11:44
and I mean beauty of the wabi-sabi variety
207
692160
2416
11:46
but beauty nonetheless.
208
694600
1600
11:49
On the one hand, when I see something
in this category, I want to say,
209
697160
3336
11:52
"Amy, did you see that? Did you hear that?
210
700520
2416
11:54
It's too beautiful
for you not to share with me."
211
702960
2840
12:00
On the other hand,
212
708320
1200
12:02
I now experience these moments
213
710800
2096
12:04
in an entirely new way.
214
712920
1640
12:08
There was the beauty I found in music,
215
716600
2736
12:11
like the moment in the newest
Manchester Orchestra album,
216
719360
3536
12:14
when the song "The Alien"
217
722920
1296
12:16
seamlessly transitions
into "The Sunshine,"
218
724240
2520
12:19
or the haunting beauty
of Luke Sital-Singh's "Killing Me,"
219
727840
4536
12:24
whose chorus reads,
220
732400
1696
12:26
"And it's killing me
that you're not here with me.
221
734120
3040
12:30
I'm living happily,
but I'm feeling guilty."
222
738080
3680
12:35
There is beauty in the simple moments
that life has to offer,
223
743800
4296
12:40
a way of seeing that world
that was so much a part of Amy's DNA,
224
748120
4376
12:44
like on my morning commute,
225
752520
2016
12:46
looking at the sun
reflecting off of Lake Michigan,
226
754560
3216
12:49
or stopping and truly seeing
how the light shines
227
757800
3496
12:53
at different times of the day
228
761320
2216
12:55
in the house we built together;
229
763560
2640
12:59
even after a Chicago storm,
noticing the fresh buildup of snow
230
767400
3936
13:03
throughout the neighborhood;
231
771360
1736
13:05
or peeking into my daughter's room
232
773120
3336
13:08
as she's practicing the bass guitar.
233
776480
2240
13:13
Listen, I want to make it clear
that I'm a very fortunate person.
234
781280
4000
13:18
I have the most amazing family
that loves and supports me.
235
786200
3640
13:22
I have the resources for personal growth
during my time of grief.
236
790840
3400
13:27
But whether it's a divorce,
237
795680
1800
13:30
losing a job you worked so hard at
238
798440
2696
13:33
or having a family member die suddenly
239
801160
2096
13:35
or of a slow-moving and painful death,
240
803280
2600
13:38
I would like to offer you
241
806880
1976
13:40
what I was given:
242
808880
1200
13:43
a blank of sheet of paper.
243
811320
2640
13:47
What will you do
with your intentional empty space,
244
815320
3760
13:51
with your fresh start?
245
819920
3000
13:55
Thank you.
246
823880
1216
13:57
(Applause)
247
825120
5720

▲Back to top

ABOUT THE SPEAKER
Jason B. Rosenthal - Advocate, artist
When Jason B. Rosenthal's wife died, he says: "as clichéd as it sounds, I started working on living each day as it comes, to get through the complexities of life."

Why you should listen

Jason B. Rosenthal writes: "I have practiced law and developed real estate in Chicago for half of my life. But that is only what I did 9 to 5. What made me better at my profession -- and as a human being getting through each day -- was realizing my thirst for learning and doing. I practiced yoga intensely; I traveled the world with my wife and my family; I learned to paint and made a home studio; and I developed a passion for cooking. I would not have called myself the most passionate student when I was in school, but in my adult life I have read with a thirst for knowledge -- everything from the most meaty fiction, fascinating nonfiction and magazines. My family is what makes me who I am today.

"I was married to the most amazing woman for half of my life. We raised three incredible children in Chicago, a culturally vibrant and livable city with people of good midwestern values. When my bride died of ovarian cancer after 26 years of marriage, I got in touch with real pain. I immediately reevaluated my life's work. I had talked for years about whether my chosen career path gave me real fulfillment. I am now the executive director of a nonprofit organization created in Amy's name, the Amy Krouse Rosenthal Foundation. I am fueled by its mission to provide programs that encourage child literacy and funding for early detection of ovarian cancer. My future is a blank space waiting to be filled."

More profile about the speaker
Jason B. Rosenthal | Speaker | TED.com