TEWKSBURY – Danielle Remigio wants to help people better grieve. As a crisis intervention professional, she recognizes that physical and mental health can deteriorate when grief is not managed in a timely or healthy manner using support systems.
The TMHS graduate and current Holbrook resident recently spoke at a TEDx event at Western New England University on “Cleaning Up the Grieving Process,” discussing her personal experiences with grief and presenting a framework for people to deal with grief in healthy ways.
Remigio grew up in Tewksbury, playing volleyball and competing in the Junior Classical League before graduating from TMHS in 2007. She continued her education with a degree in Psychology from Western New England College and a Masters in Development and university student council.
But as she launched a career in student services, a personal tragedy beset her life. In 2016, her mother Amy died of complications from pneumonia and the flu; just 100 days later, Remigio lost his grandfather and represented his sister and cousins in eulogizing him at two funeral services.
In 2017, her father Louis, an auto officer from Somerville, was hit on a New Hampshire highway while riding his disabled motorcycle.
“I spent the next few weeks figuring out the logistics of a 1,000-person wake, writing and giving a third eulogy, this time being broadcast in every newspaper and on the radio,” she shared. in his speech.
Several years later, Remigio had the opportunity to share his story on the world stage. Since graduating in 2011, Remigio, a student affairs professional at Northeastern University, has stayed in touch with the alumni base at her alma mater, Western New England University.
Two years ago, the university invited applications for members of the community to speak at its first TEDx event. The TEDx program is an offshoot of the TED Corporation to spread “ideas worth sharing”. The events are organized independently with a free license granted by TED, and the organizers use the TED format to create their own programs which are shared online globally.
Remigio answered the call, auditioning on Zoom with other alumni, faculty, staff and students. In January 2021, Remigio was selected for the event and began participating in a series of online courses for the event on how to create and run a TED talk, develop cadence and timing, and engage the audience.
Remigio also traveled to the WNE campus in Springfield to hang out on campus and rehearse with the other five speakers in the program. Attendees talked about different topics, but all followed the theme of the event, “The Bigger Picture”.
Remigio said she found the lessons valuable and used them to shape her speech.
“One of the most impactful lessons we learned from the courses was to create some kind of list or acronym” around which to center one’s speech. “When I got home from work, I was thinking of something visual or tangible to ground the conversation, about empathy, acceptance and listening.”
This journey led her to create the acronym CLEAN, which she developed and introduced in her speech, drawing on her background in psychology and crisis response. Each letter is intended to provide people with grief support strategies they can use to help their loved ones.
“It’s the feeling of washing off a bad day, that process of feeling clean and safe and warm,” she said.
CLEAN stands for Connect (to put ego or worries aside and stick around to be a cohesive support system for someone), Listen (to hear and not just listen to respond – “we don’t need to share a similar story sometimes!” Remigio said), Empathize (“focus on the emotion of what is being said rather than what is being said itself”), Accept (listen to where are people in their own process) and Normalize (making systematic policy changes to help people going through bereavement nationally and internationally).
Once Remigio had a centerpiece to build her speech around, she incorporated frameworks from her psychology background, began weaving personal stories from her own life, using quotes and stories from favorites like the Harry Potter series and singer Sara Bareilles, even describing a visit to Tewksbury Public Library to view a thematic kit on children’s grief when her grandmother died.
Remigio had to completely memorize his 17-minute presentation; once she nailed down a script, she recorded the speech, then listened to it over and over while doing daily chores like driving to practice for five weeks.
Remigio said that despite being prepared, the conversation was still nerve-wracking to give – “a totally different kind of pressure than I was used to”.
However, Remigio said she received a lot of support from her fellow speakers and the students organizing the event. Although she had the opportunity to record the conversation a few times, she was always focused on “just trying not to mess up, because you can’t stop”.
Remigio hopes his speech can help people deal with their own grief in healthy ways, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It is important to recognize the impact [of the pandemic] and the fact that we all have at least one thread of empathy that connects us all,” she said. “Everyone has had to deal with the pandemic – financially, health-wise, employment-wise. The fact that we have gone through nearly two years of change in our lives is a loss we mourn. »
Remigio stressed the importance of recognizing that no one is alone.
“Talking about the impact of the pandemic on you is the best way to deal with it. That things are not the same is good, but being upset is also good. Just because something isn’t the same doesn’t mean it’s not positive,” she said, adding that the fact that every person on the planet can empathize to some degree should be validated.
Since giving her TED Talk, Remigio has continued to speak about her grief journey on several podcasts and appreciates the outpouring of support she has received for her work. As she shares her experiences and helps others learn from her process or see themselves in her story, she plans to work on a series of workshops to train people on how to manage the grieving process and to move forward.
“I want to turn a really difficult situation in my life into something positive.”
Remigio’s TED Talk, “Cleaning Up the Grieving Process,” is available to watch on TED.com Where youtube.com.
For more information, visit Remigio’s website and blog at danielleremigio.com.