43 - A teenage perspective on a sudden death: An interview with Anya Millard

In the previous podcast of Untethered, I interviewed Tami Millard, whose husband died suddenly riding his mountain bike the day before their daughter’s 16th birthday. In today’s podcast, I talk with Tami’s daughter, Anya, now 19, about to be 20, almost four years since the day her father died. Anya’s interview not only provides another perspective about what happened after her father’s death, but it’s also insight into the adolescent grief experience after the sudden death of a parent. Together we explore her perception of how grief impacted her mom and how their relationship has evolved through grief and time. Anya shares her thoughts about what she describes as “not being able to have an adult relationship with her dad” and the importance of grace and time in the healing process from traumatic grief.


Key points:

The death of a parent forces adolescents to confront some of the harsh realities and challenges that come with being an adult at an early age. Anya acknowledges her awareness of the gaps that existed after her dad’s death and the way her mom “stepped up and stepped in”, in a manner that her peers who had also lost a parent had not. She shares her mom’s efforts to take on specific roles and responsibilities that belonged to her dad, while at the same time managing her grief, financial stressors, working, and parenting, all of which occurred during COVID.

Anya talks about the feelings she had about performing or acting a certain way to make the grief experience true. In both Tami’s and Anya’s interviews, they share how quickly Kyron’s existence vanished after his death, how difficult it was to feel his presence at home, and how it felt to watch one another in pain and grief after Kyron’s death.

Anya provides valuable insight about how adolescents grieve and how different and often misunderstood their grief can be from the adults around them. She discusses some of the differences she noticed in how adolescents grieve and the expectations she encountered from well-meaning adults around her regarding how she grieved or expressed her emotions at times when she was trying to achieve a sense of normalcy or distance from her grief. It was refreshing to hear her express thoughts such as “can you accept that I am fine and let’s move on?” On the flip side, Anya realized that although these expectations were annoying or that she often felt misunderstood, there are some adolescents without anyone invested in their emotional well-being after the death of a parent.

Perhaps the biggest difference in grief between Tami and Anya is the relationship they were grieving. Tami was his wife; his life partner and they had planned to grow old together as a couple. Anya was his daughter, and early in her life, like all children, she was completely dependent on her parents to anticipate and meet her needs while growing up. As she grew from a child to a teenager, her relationship with her mom and dad changed as her identity, beliefs, life-experiences, friends, interests, and dreams were maturing as well. For many, there comes a time in the parent-child relationship when a shift occurs, and the relationship dynamics change. Anya realized that she was not only grieving the death of her father as a person, but she was also grieving a future loss, the loss of having an adult relationship with her father.

Please join our Facebook group “Talking about the Podcast Untethered with Dr. Levin.” If you would like to leave a message for Anya, we will make sure that she gets it. There is also family pictures of Tami, Anya and Kyron.


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