The Healthy Grief Movement

I didn’t give much thought to grief before losing my son, Zachary, to a heart tumor in 2010. My few experiences with funerals were few and far between. There I observed the bereaved as sullen but composed. They were not weeping, though did shed a few tears. They were not outwardly angry and thanked people for coming. The bereaved I observed before my loss all seemed to follow the standard protocol for mourning.

Therefore, when I said hello and goodbye to Zachary, I thought I was losing my mind. Why was I not composed? Why did my tears fall in a downpour instead of a light rain? Why was I still a grieving mess months and years after the memorial service?

I have come to realize that the answer to these questions is in fact: no, I was not crazy, nor was I alone in my experience of grief.

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Our culture does not encourage healthy grief. It tells us to “buck-up,” “man-up,” “move on,” and “let go.” A week or two after the funeral we are expected to be back at work, functioning normally. All social rituals must be maintained, as well, let’s not forget. These things include (1) not breaking down in public, (2) not talking too much about our deceased loved one, and, (3) showering, putting on deodorant and make-up (aka looking okay).

All those unsaid yet intensely communicated “rules” are completely bogus. What I have learned since my loss is that everyone grieves differently. Personal mourning can take a lifetime. While traveling on my book tour for Expecting Sunshine, one bereaved dad I spoke to compared the grief of loss to a chronic illness. That was a revelation – because it’s true for me! Unfortunately, we may deal with our heartache at various times – some years removed – from the death. Again, all this is beautifully normal!

It can be a gift when we buck off our culture’s erroneous view of grief and go rouge! I encourage you to figure out what your personal grief journey looks like free of all external and internal expectations. I did this. It was hard and I felt the stress of intentionally grieving when I got the news I was pregnant one year after Zachary passed away. My goal was to be a little less crazy by the time I had my next child so I could be in the moment and parent in a positive way.

Since writing Expecting Sunshine, I have spent years editing it and reflecting on grief. I feel compelled to help others because of how alone and confused I felt after my loss. That is why I’m embarking on something I call the “Healthy Grief Movement.” Though I am still in the brainstorming phase of what this ‘movement’ actually entails – if you have ideas, let me know! – I want to share with you the foundational mission:


  1. People receive support no matter the kind of loss they experience.
  2. There is a vocabulary to talk about loss and offer comfort.
  3. Death is accepted as a natural and beautiful part of life.
  4. There are positive private and social rituals at the time of loss and for mourning afterward.
  5. There is an open, authentic quality to the conversation of loss.
  6. People are encouraged to share their stories and remember their loved ones.
  7. Support is given regardless – but in respect of – gender, race, religion, and orientation.

These are the things I hope our culture will adopt toward grief. Is there anything I should add?

We have a long way to go, but I do have some ideas on how we will get there:


  1. Talk with children about death, normalizing it, and removing the stigma.
  2. Education of adults and youth about personal grief and how to help others.
  3. Encourage people to be open with their stories now, even if our culture is not yet receptive.

Do you have any ideas on how we ignite the movement? Comment below or email me at

You can read more about my work with the “Healthy Grief Movement” on my baby loss blog, Wanted Chosen Planned, and my pregnancy after loss site for the book and film, Expecting Sunshine.

Wishing you a healthy grief journey,

  – Alexis Marie Chute

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About the Author:

Alexis Marie Chute
Alexis Marie Chute is an award-winning artist, author and filmmaker. She resides in Alberta, Canada with her husband Aaron and their three living children Hannah, Eden and Luca. Her second-born, Zachary, died at birth from a random cardiac tumor in 2010. Alexis Marie wrote a memoir called Expecting Sunshine about her pregnancy that followed. Through vulnerability and poetic language, she revealed the anxiety-filled anticipation of having a baby after losing a baby. While pregnant with her fourth, Alexis Marie created Expecting Sunshine Documentary to support bereaved yet growing families and educate the public of what pregnancy after loss really looks like. Alexis Marie has her Bachelor of Fine Art in visual art from the University of Alberta and her Masters of Fine Art in creative writing from Lesley University in Cambridge, MA. Photo Life Magazine named her an “Emerging Canadian Photographer,” Avenue Magazine included her in their round-up of the Top 40 Under 40, and she was the recipient of the John Poole Award for promotion of the Arts. Alexis Marie was featured in print and video as a Mother-Expert in Today’s Parent Magazine’s Miscarriage and Pregnancy Loss awareness campaign, which won first place at the 38th Annual National Magazine Awards for Best Editorial Package on the Web. Alexis Marie is a highly regarded speaker and has presented on art, writing, bereavement and the healing capacities of creativity around the world. She is widely published in anthologies, newspapers and magazines and her artworks on loss, healing and resiliency have been exhibited across North America. Wanted Chosen Planned is Alexis Marie’s blog about life after the loss of a child. You can follow Alexis Marie on Twitter at both @_Alexis_Marie and @expectsunbook, Facebook at both Always Alexis Marie and Expecting Sunshine, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Tumblr. She can be reached by email, and you can see her work at her websites Alexis Marie Chute, Alexis Marie Art, Alexis Marie Writes, Wanted Chosen Planned, and Expecting Sunshine.

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