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If you're grieving a loved one this holiday season, here's a gift you can give yourself

After losing her almost-4-year-old daughter to epilepsy, Kelly Cervantes created a "grief companion" that meets people wherever they are in their grief journey.

Kelly Cervantes and her book "Normal Broken"
Images courtesy of Kelly Cervantes

Kelly Cervantes wrote her way through grieving the loss of her daughter, Adelaide.

Kelly Cervantes begins the Introduction to her book with five words: "Grief sucks. It's also weird." It's a concise truth that anyone who has lost a loved one knows all too well.

Grief is a universal experience—none of us get through life without loss—but it's also unique to each person. Most of us are familiar with the popular "stages of grief" theory, but denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance (along with guilt and a host of things) are less like sequential rungs on a ladder and more like pools you fall into at various times as you stumble your way through the grief process. Grief is not linear and it's not neat and tidy and it's not predictable.

Take it from someone who's been there. Kelly Cervantes lost her daughter, Adelaide, to epilepsy just shy of her 4th birthday. Using writing as a therapeutic tool to help her process Adelaide's medically complex life, death and everything that came after, Kelly created the book she wished she'd had as she was trying to navigate her own grieving process.


"Normal Broken: The Grief Companion for When It's Time To Heal But You're Not Sure You Want To" is a raw, honest, helpful and ultimately hopeful resource for anyone experiencing grief. Each chapter deals with a different aspect of grief, with chapter titles ranging from "When Getting Out of Bed Deserves a Medal" to "When Your Greatest Fear is Socializing to "When Gratitude is a Struggle" to "When You're Ready to Be Okay."

I sat down with Kelly for an Upworthy Book Club author chat about her book, and our discussion offers some glimpses into the experience and wisdom she shares in "Normal Broken." We talked about the loneliness that can come with grief, which is a weird thing considering the fact that it's something all of us experience at some point. As Kelly pointed out, sometimes that loneliness is because grief changes us and the people around us don't always accept that.

Watch:

We also chatted about how different people grieve differently, and how she and her husband Miguel's different grieving styles after Adelaide's death caused some tension between them for a while until Kelly learned how to "outsource" what she needed in her own grieving process.

"Normal Broken" is designed such that you can pick and choose which chapters to read in any order. If you're struggling with feelings of guilt, which is common after someone passes away, you can pick up Chapter 5: "When the Voice in the Back of Your Head Won't Shut Up." If you're feeling overwhelmed and exhausted, you can open up to Chapter 12: "When You're Feeling Emotionally Hungover" and find a friend who gets it.

The thing about grief is that nothing about it feels normal, but whatever you're experiencing in your grieving process probably is normal.

"One of the biggest lessons that I learned [writing about grief] was that I'm not that special," Kelly says. "And I mean that in the nicest way. I'm special in all the ways that Mr. Rogers and 'Sesame Street' taught me that I was. But what I experience, the way grief affects me—in that way, I am not special. My story is unique to me, but my manifestations of grief are not."

the cover of "Normal Broken"

"Normal Broken: The Grief Companion for When It's Time To Heal But You're Not Sure You Want To"

Courtesy of Kelly Cervantes

The holidays can be an especially difficult time for people who are missing a loved one. If that's you, give yourself the gift of insight and understanding from someone who's been through an immense loss. It's not a self-help book, it's not a book full of annoying advice—it's a companion that can help you put words to what you're feeling, sit with you in the darkness when that's what. you need, and help you feel okay about feeling okay when the time comes.

Find "Normal Broken" on Amazon here or Bookshop.org here.

A young woman drinking bottled water outdoors before exercising.



The Story of Bottled Waterwww.youtube.com

Here are six facts from the video above by The Story of Stuff Project that I'll definitely remember next time I'm tempted to buy bottled water.

1. Bottled water is more expensive than tap water (and not just a little).

via The Story of Stuff Project/YouTube


A Business Insider column noted that two-thirds of the bottled water sold in the United States is in individual 16.9-ounce bottles, which comes out to roughly $7.50 per gallon. That's about 2,000 times higher than the cost of a gallon of tap water.

And in an article in 20 Something Finance, G.E. Miller investigated the cost of bottled versus tap water for himself. He found that he could fill 4,787 20-ounce bottles with tap water for only $2.10! So if he paid $1 for a bottled water, he'd be paying 2,279 times the cost of tap.

2. Bottled water could potentially be of lower quality than tap water.

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A teacher collcts "rent" from ger 3rd-grade students.

Financial literacy is one of the most essential life skills determining someone’s future success and mental and physical well-being. However, only 17% of American students must pass just one semester of a financial literacy-based class to graduate.

This development flies in the face of public opinion on the topic. A recent poll found that 88% of Americans wish they had been taught financial literacy in school. The same number said their state should require either a semester or year-long personal finance course for graduation.

A teacher in Charlotte, North Carolina, has taken that problem to heart and is giving her 3rd-grade class rigorous, hands-on lessons on the importance of personal finance.

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Joy

A 9-yr-old cheerleader’s veteran dad couldn't help with her routine, so a high schooler ran to her side

Sensing something was wrong, he sprang to action with many witnessing his kind act.

Images from YouTube video.

Addie Rodriguez does her cheer.

Addie Rodriguez was supposed to take the field with her dad during a high school football game, where he, along with other dads, would lift her onto his shoulders for a routine. But Addie's dad was halfway across the country, unable to make the event.

Her father is Abel Rodriguez, a veteran airman who, after tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, was training at Travis Air Force Base in California, 1,700 miles from his family in San Antonio at the time.

"Mom missed the memo it was parent day, and the reason her mom missed the memo was her dad left Wednesday," said Alexis Perry-Rodriguez, Addie's mom. She continued, "It was really heartbreaking to see your daughter standing out there being the only one without their father, knowing why he's away. It's not just an absentee parent. He's serving our country."

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Pop Culture

Elmo did a well-being check-in with everyone and unintentionally opened the floodgates

The response was massive, and Sesame Street's follow-up was perfection.

Elmo's check-in brought out thousands of emotional responses.

Few things evoke a visceral comfort response in people of all ages like the colorful characters of Sesame Street. Millions of us grew up with Elmo, Big Bird, Bert & Ernie, Grover, Oscar the Grouch and the rest, and have nothing but warm, positive memories associated with them.

So when Elmo asked all the grownups on X to how they were doing, it triggered a deluge that spoke to people's need to share their mental and emotional struggles as well as the safe place Sesame Street has been for generations.

It all began with a simple question: "Elmo is just checking in! How is everybody doing?"

Elmo surely did not expect thousands upon thousands of people to dump their emotional loads on him like they were in a therapy session, but that's exactly what happened.

Not only did people respond that they were tired—a common refrain—but they also shared about the deaths of loved ones, their relationship struggles, jobs they'd been laid off from, their feelings of despair and depression. Clearly, some people needed a place to put their woes, and who better to receive them than a beloved childhood character who we know understands and accepts us unconditionally?

To Sesame Street's credit, they handled the trauma dump as best a fictional world filled with fictional characters possibly could. After the initial post's impact, Elmo posted, "Wow! Elmo is glad he asked! Elmo learned that it is important to ask a friend how they are doing. Elmo will check in again soon, friends! Elmo loves you." Elmo added the hashtag #EmotionalWellBeing.

And then the other Sesame Street characters started chiming in.

One by one, all perfectly in character, the Sesame Street crew showed up on their respective accounts to offer their support, all using the #EmotionalWellBeing hashtag.

"I'm here if you ever need a shoulder to lean on. I'll make us both a warm cup of tea," wrote Bert.

"If you need some cheering up, let me know! I love making others smile," wrote Ernie.

"Me here to talk it out whenever you want. Me will also supply cookies," wrote Cookie Monster.

"I, Grover, am here to be a good listener whenever you need it," wrote Grover.

Even Oscar the Grouch weighed in with some honesty and support. "I'm not great at listening to other share their big feelings, but my worm Slimey is. You should talk with him if you ever need to chat."

Yes, it's silly. But it's also not, because Sesame Street truly has been a lifeline for countless kids who found solace, support and celebration of themselves in those beloved characters, sometimes even more than they found at home.

The main Sesame Street account also shared a link to mental health resources.

But the wave of support and words of kindness and understanding didn't stay confined to Sesame Street. All kinds of big accounts, from NASA and the United Nations to Xbox and Verizon—even the President of the United States himself—weighed in with gratitude for Elmo checking in and reminders that we're all making our way through this life together.

Does it get more wholesome than NASA reminding us we're made of stardust?

The entire phenomenon was a testament to the enduring influence of Sesame Street, but also a good reminder to check in with people once in a while. You never know who might need to offload some emotional weight, and as cathartic as it might feel to drop it all on a beloved icon like Elmo, nothing compares to a real-life friend who offers a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on.

Thank you for the inspiration, Sesame Street creators. Still managing to nurture the children within us, all these years later.

Four cousins hanging out in the yard.

The birth rate in the U.S. has steadily declined since the Great Recession. Between 2007 and 2023, it has decreased by nearly 23%. In 1950, the average American woman had 3 children. Now, she has only 1.6, which is drastically lower than the replacement rate of 2.1.

The dropping birthrate has many worried that it will upend government programs because there won’t be enough young people to work and pay taxes to support older people on Social Security and Medicare.

Faith Hill from The Atlantic recently illustrated another problem with the declining birthrate in the U.S. and Europe that no one talks about: the decline of cousins.

“If everyone hypothetically went from having five kids to having four kids, that would mean one less sibling for each child,” Hill wrote, quoting demographer Sha Jiang. “But it would yield a much bigger decrease in first cousins: Instead of a child having four aunts or uncles who each have five kids—20 cousins—they would have three aunts or uncles who each have four kids, for a total of 12.”

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Jodie Foster names two movies 'everybody should see' and one of them may surprise you

Who knew the award-winning actress was a "Team America" fan?

George Biard/Wikipedia,Paramount Pictures/Wikipedia

Jodie Foster recently said that everyone should see "Team America" at lest once?

With a lengthy list of credits in critically acclaimed films like “Taxi Driver” and “Silence of the Lambs,” not to mention being a highly successful director for decades, you can probably trust any movie recommendations Jodie Foster gives you.

Recently Foster was asked in Interview magazine to pick one movie she thought everyone should see at least once in their lifetime.

Pulling a pretty badass move, the legendary filmmaker gave not one, but two movies. And one of her recommendations might come as a surprise.

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