This interview originally appeared in Pretty Thing as part of its roundup of conversations for US Mental Health Awareness Week.
Pretty Thing: Hi Crying Out Loud! I’m so happy to be talking to your team about self-care and mental health. What inspired you to be vocal online about mental health?
Crying Out Loud: When you’re young you learn things like how to ride a bike, what happens when you go through puberty, figuring out a career path – but no one teaches you about what to do, or what happens when your partner dies and you become a young widow. Our partners were all under the age of 40 when they died unexpectedly. Three of us had young children, and three of us have a diagnosed anxiety disorder. Some of our partners struggled with addiction, and we continue to work through the trauma of our relationships when they were still alive.
For us, we’ve found that taking care of ourselves and our mental wellbeing, and that of our kids, was paramount for facing our challenges and managing the often devastating waves of grief. And learning how to embrace our grief with the support of loved ones, grief counselors and therapists, has been critical to each of our journeys. There’s healing power in community, and in the shared, collective experience. We know the importance of having a safe place to process trauma and complex emotions, and that often it can feel very hard to find that place. This all inspired us to speak openly about mental health and wellbeing, and to hopefully encourage others to do the same.
PT: Grief can often feel debilitating, and for a time it usually is. I commend all four of you for taking your grief and channeling it into something so powerful. Tell me more about Crying Out Loud! How did the four of you decide to create a wellbeing-centered business?
COL: We found great support in one other as we became good friends in bad times. We shed tears together but also laughed about widowhood. We gave ourselves and each other permission to feel and think without judgment. And we had frank conversations about what helped us in the early days of grief, and what didn’t. We found that friends were approaching us when someone in their life was grieving, wanting to know how they could help the person they cared about in a real, meaningful way. And that really planted the seeds of Crying Out Loud. While there were many wellness and lifestyle shops in Toronto selling a beautiful selection of products, we realized that we could offer a unique point-of-view to our assortment with our redefinition of wellness through our grief lens.
PT: Crying Out Loud has a specific section dedicated to products made by women. Tell me more about the importance of showcasing women-owned brands.
COL: Our ongoing experience with self and community care has been directly shaped by the women, moms, and entrepreneurs we know. We are women who literally went from surviving to thriving by having the support of other women. And so as we build our Crying Out Loud community, it’s important for us to also lift up the diverse women who are makers and brand leaders through our buying strategy.
PT: I find Crying Out Loud to be such an innovating and empowering space. As individuals continue on their grief journey, there are so many different emotions that are felt. Surprisingly, self-love is not often spoken about within this context. How do you practice self-love and self-care?
COL: Especially now during the pandemic, there’s often little time and even less energy available to put towards self-care. Fortunately, we find that even small, simple moments have a positive impact. And there are ways of weaving it into your day-to-day – like running an errand a day on foot, indulging in a few pieces of chocolate after the kids are in bed, or lighting a candle and writing a few lines of daily reflection in a journal as part of your bedtime routine – so it feels a little less daunting. Self-love can also feel tough to maintain. As women, we’re especially hard on ourselves. Remember to be gentle with yourself, be kind and patient, and also it’s not about perfection but achieving a balance where you can find calm and confidence in yourself. We are all good enough. We are all enough.
PT: Amen to that! I love this idea of striving for balance rather than perfection. You all are so vocal about your past experiences and how they not only shaped you but pushed you to create something beautiful. There is still a lot of fear and shame around speaking about mental health. What are some ways we can help end the stigma?
COL: We can all think of a time when we felt ashamed. A time when we couldn’t say something out loud because it felt too big or too scary to share. But that keeps our struggles and our pain in the shadows. Fear and shame give way to feeling isolated and alone, and it becomes a very heavy weight to carry.
When we can normalize conversations around vulnerability it begins to ease some of the pressure and takes away the power of silence. It can start with the simple practice of checking in on a friend when they’re going through a hard time. Just inviting someone to be open with you and letting them know you’re there without judgment helps to create a positive, safe space.
Sharing common stories of sadness and hard things can also help break down the stigma. Though we recognize that everyone’s journey is different, you’ll often find similarities with someone’s situation or experience. There’s comfort in this, and it can allow us to connect with others for support and hold space for each other better.
PT: What female or female-identifying media or artist (film/music/tv/etc) has inspired you on your mental health journey and why?
COL: One of our favourite and most inspiring mental health advocates is Nora McInerny. Nora is an author, creator of the podcast Terrible, Thanks for Asking, and our go-to philosopher on living life after loss. She’s been a source of inspiration for moving forward for all of us founders, and her take on grief and hard life stuff is one that is compassionate and authentic, with a perfect touch of humour and irreverence. Her voice is one that feels familiar and comforting, and she knows how to create a space where you feel welcome and safe to reflect on whatever you’re going through.