Grief in Progress
A Podcast Series from the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation
More Grief in Progress Episodes
Gratitude Tour: From Sea to Shining Sea
Juliann Ashcraft and her husband Andrew were twenty-somethings with four young children when he died in the line of duty in Prescott, Arizona on June 30, 2013. In fact, he was one of 19 wildland firefighters who died in the line of duty that day, with just one member of the crew surviving. Overwhelmed with gratitude for the strangers who sent letters and cards and offered support, Ashcraft converted a 40-foot Greyhound bus into a home on wheels and hit the road with her kids on a gratitude tour that would take them across the United States. Juliann wrote about the tour on a blog, and in this episode she talks about how she’s always used her writing to process her thoughts and feelings. She also describes how she recently added the word “gift” to her personal definition of the word “grief”—for without her experience of losing Andrew, she would not be who she is today.
Following in the Footsteps of Service
Fire Hero family members often continue their loved one’s commitment to service. This episode focuses on two daughters of fallen firefighters who both lost their dads to heart attacks in the line of duty—in separate incidents, two years and hundreds of miles apart. Liza Aunkst ’s father, Mike, was a volunteer firefighter in Benedict, Nebraska; Rachel Prouty’s dad was fire chief in Brownsville, NJ. But the two young women became friends at NFFF’s Young Adult Retreat, an annual program that helps young people gain skills to deal with grief and build support systems as they move forward into full independence. Today, the young women have more than friendship and a similar story in common. Looking toward meaningful careers, both have chosen social work as their field. Hear them share their experiences of growing up amidst a dedication to service, finding connections to help face the future—and how legacy has played a role in each of their lives.
Thriving Amidst “Public Expectations”
Syri Harris and her future husband Walter met in elementary school. Years later, when Walter died in the line of duty fighting an intentionally set house fire in Detroit, his young wife and co-parent became a single mom of six boys overnight. As Syri dealt with this immeasurable tragedy, the resulting arson trial thrust her—and her children—directly into the public eye, shining an unwelcome spotlight on their very private pain. In Episode 4, Syri talks about how she moved beyond outsiders’ expectation for her to be the “ideal” firefighter widow—and closed her circle as the protective “mama bear” when being the perfect public face no longer served her. Syri shares how she and her family navigated the public and private aspects of their grief journey and honored the dreams they shared with Walter, even after he was gone.
About Grief in Progress
Everyone’s journey through grief is unique. But shared stories can be a powerful tool of hope for those who have experienced sudden loss. Grief in Progress inspires listeners with messages of resilience from peers who have found their own ways to cope. The compelling episodes feature one-on-one conversations with spouses, children, and life partners of fallen firefighters—but the perspectives they share will resonate with anyone dealing with grief. Through the generosity of these Fire Hero Families, the open dialogue focuses on contemporary issues of grief and offers strategies to promote healing. Most of all, Grief in Progress inspires new ways of seeing the world and connecting with others after tragic loss.