Navigating Grief’s Choppy Waters

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grief Margo Fowkes
Margo Fowkes

In 2014, Margo Fowke’s 21-year-old son, Jimmy, died after an eight-year battle with brain cancer. A year later, her mother died. In 2017, the Loomis resident started the website Salt Water (findyourharbor.com). The website is chock-full of blogs with topics ranging from loss to caring for yourself after loss. It also offers resources for the bereaved as well for tips for comforting the bereaved. (It’s not so much what you say but that you say it that matters.)

Why did you start Salt Water?
I started Salt Water because it was the website that I couldn’t find. I wanted someplace that was more geared toward loss broadly. I am not religious, so while I find it wonderful if people find comfort in that, those sites didn’t help me. Second, there’s a lot of judgment in grief. Some people who’ve lost children feel their loss is more shattering than the loss of, say, a grandparent, and some people who’ve lost a human may feel their loss is more devastating than the loss of a pet. I wanted a site where people could come in whatever place they were in and feel welcome, and where there is no judgment to the loss.

What is the history behind the name?
When I decided to start the website, I met with two of my dear friends, Francie Dillon and Andee Press-Dawson. I bought them breakfast and I said, You have to help me find a name for this website. I gave them a long list of names I had brainstormed myself. Andee pointed at Salt Water and said, What is this and why is this on the list? I told her it’s from the quote by Isak Dinesen, The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea. The minute I read the quote she said, That’s it! You call it Salt Water and you organize the blog posts into those three categories. The food hadn’t even arrived yet.

What is most satisfying about doing this?
Giving people a place to talk about their loved ones in whatever way they want to do that. For some people, it might be writing a blog post; for others, it might be a conversation on social media, or it might be just emailing with me.

What is most difficult?
Getting traction. Because there’s nothing for sale on the site and no pop-up windows, it’s harder to get attention for the website. On the other hand, people willingly share the website through word of mouth because they know that no one will bother their friend or family member who is grieving if they connect with it.

What surprises you?
I will hear from people who say they have been reading the posts for a year or two and I did not know that, because they leave no footprint.

Every day during the month of the December, Salt Water will be sharing ways to handle the holidays after the loss of a loved one. Go to Facebook.com/FindYourHarbor

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