It’s been said that death is hardest on the living particularly when there is no life insurance policy to help loved ones during the grieving process financially. The finality of death and the grief it leaves behind can tremendously affect people. Especially in the case of wrongful death it can be very difficult to accept, even if you hire someone like Luke Ellis to take legal action against those involved, it can be a bitterness that stays with you for the rest of your life. Joe Primo knows this better than most. He is the CEO of Good Grief in Morristown and Princeton, an organization that serves hundreds of children and families after the death of a mother, father, sister or brother. Joe has made it his mission to help loved ones of those who have recently passed. Even small details like helping when it comes to final expense insurance payout claims being made with minimal hassle are not ignored. Making it easier for those who are grieving is his ultimate aim.
Joe started out wanting to be an archaeologist but soon decided that was not for him.
“One day, while in the jungle of Belize and excavating Mayan ruins, I realized that I really disliked being sticky from the humidity,” he said. “So, I decided to go to grad school, but I went with no goals.”
Not knowing where to turn next, he decided to look back on his experiences and see what he enjoyed. He had previously volunteered at a hospice and decided to explore that work. That led him to work as a hospice chaplain at the Connecticut Hospice, where he was responsible for 2,500 patients over four years.
One patient there changed his life. A woman named Leslie was ill and was going to leave behind two young boys. Joe realized that children, in particular, needed support after losing a parent. He wanted to be a part of that process, which led him to Good Grief in New Jersey, where he was put in charge of designing its programs and assisting the organization’s vision.
Joe will speak at TEDxNavesink IDENTITY on May 20 at the Paramount Theatre in Asbury Park. His talk, Grief is Good, will explain how grief is a companion that shows us the way forward by helping us reimagine the future while integrating the past.
DEATH RESHAPES IDENTITY
Joe attributes his passion for helping others to his Sicilian background. He wants to “do a deep dive into human relationality.” He believes it’s important to honor children’s emotions and validate their feelings no matter what.
“In the end, I believe that if we dive deeper into forming real, lasting communities that promote connection, trust, hospitality, support, and dialogue, we move closer and closer to joy and a much richer life,” he said.
When asked what brought him to the TEDxNavesink conference he said he loved the thought of sharing ideas and building a community. He wants ideas that make you uncomfortable, that rock your previous held ideas and worldviews to its core. Joe believes this is the best way to allow for growth and understanding, as well as an appreciation for others’ life experiences. Appreciating life experiences is a huge asset in his business. Expressing love and support through memorial contributions or personalized memorial gifts might help in the short run, but it is the appreciation for someone else’s experiences that can actually ease the long and hard grief process.
“In a millisecond a child’s identity is turned on its head when a parent or sibling dies. Their sense of who they are, how they fit into the world, how other people see them and interact with them, the crazy garbage people will say to them, and the isolation they will likely feel, collectively reshapes who they are,” said Joe, who also serves on the advisory board of Option B at the Sheryl Sandberg and Dave Goldberg Family Foundation.
The loss of a loved one reshapes people’s identities. It changes who they are and how they see themselves. This affects children particularly because their world mostly consists of how they relate to the people close to them, like parents and siblings. So when they lose those people, their whole identity changes. But Joe likes to point out it can also lead to growth and self-understanding at times.
Joe continually works to spread ideas about death even if they seem like they may be taboo. He encourages that death is a normal part of life and should be spoken of often and openly. Death and grief can be life-shattering, but he wants to spread the idea to people that there is joy involved in his work. Helping people with their grief is possible and fulfilling.
“The idea that I have to embody is that joy and sorrow exist simultaneously,” he said.
Hear Joe’s talk on grief as well as other ideas worth spreading at TEDxNavesink IDENTITY. Get your tickets today.