Vivian is the Founder of Too Damn Young, an online resource and community serving young people who have lost someone.
1. How old are you? I’m 21.
2. Where are you from? I was born and raised in New York City.
3. Where did you go to school? I just graduated from Baruch College this past May. I still can’t believe that I’m out of school, but at the same time it’s the sweetest feeling because it means I can dedicate all of my time to Too Damn Young.
4. What is Too Damn Young? Too Damn Young is a resource and community for teens and young adults who have lost someone, are living through grief and don’t want to be alone while they figure it all out. Too Damn Young ranges from articles like what Ed Sheeran’s “Afire Love” is about to what to do if changing up anything your loved one left behind gives you anxiety or makes you feel a little off. As a whole, we want to make sure Too Damn Young tells everyone’s story, because living through loss is a very unique process and there’s no right or wrong way to go about it. (As long as you’re not hurting yourself or anyone around you.)
5. What inspired you to start Too Damn Young? I started Too Damn Young after losing my grandmother in March 2014. My mom passed away when I was 10 and since then my grandmother was my mom; she raised me and watched me grow up. When she passed away it was like losing my mom all over again. Having lost my mom 10 years prior, I kind of knew what the drill was when someone died — the funeral, the burial, and later on the finding a new normal. I was also lucky enough to have friends who had lost loved ones and who knew that all I needed was for them to be there for me. I took all the stuff I did know about loss and grief and realized I wanted to create a space where others who have lost a loved one can go when they’re in need of guidance or don’t want to feel alone.
6. What do you mean by new normal? So many times people expect you to just jump into your old life after you lose someone, but unless they’ve also lost someone, they don’t really get that there’s no way for you to do that. Minute by minute you eventually find a “new normal” – a place where you find a new happy and usually your loved one is a source of inspiration for everything you now want to achieve.
7. What have been your greatest struggles with this topic? Adults are afraid to talk to teens and young adults about someone dying or how to live after someone dies, this then makes teens anxious to talk about it with their friends, and ends up in a vicious cycle of silence. Losing someone is already a really hard topic to talk about because it’s such a personal experience. But, if there’s something I realized is that as long as one person mentions that they’ve lost someone they really loved, then it’s a domino effect of others saying “me too…” And when that domino effect happens, the conversation isn’t as scary anymore and you feel less isolated in your loss.
8. How are you creating a resource for your readers? I’m creating a resource for all those who follow Too Damn Young by creating an approachable platform that speaks only the truth. When you lose someone, you don’t only miss them on their birthday or death anniversary, you also miss them on a random Thursday or when you hear their favorite song. This is a really hard concept for those who haven’t lost a loved one to understand, which is where the Too Damn Young community really makes a difference.
9. What are some other great resources in your opinion? Too Damn Young functions as the umbrella website for all things grief, loss and bereavement. We try to cater to all kinds of losses, whether they’re disease related or for natural causes. But, when you are looking for something hyper specific then a site like Stupid Cancer really make all the difference.
10. Any stats you can provide on grief among young people? The National Alliance for Grieving Children conducted a survey 2 years ago and one of the major highlights was that 55% of those surveyed agreed they wanted everyone to know that even though they miss the person they lost, they’re not sad every day. This is what Too Damn Young aims to do – to create a space where you can miss your loved ones and also be inspired to create something positive out of it.
11. What has been the best advice or insight you have received about grief? One of the best pieces of advice I got about grief is that it’s not any one thing and to think of it as this one thing that happened on a specific date only makes it harder for you.
12. What advice would you give/ pass along about grieving? You have to give yourself time to grieve. This is probably one of the hardest things to do, but it’s also one of the most beneficial. You can live your grief in your own terms, as long as you make an effort to do so. It helps to know others are living it minute by minute too.
13. What have been some of the most surprising things for you about the grieving process? I think one of the most surprising things for me is that it isn’t a process in the typical definition of the word. Books and websites will outline the process as stages that you can seemingly check off, but that’s just not how it works. Grief was once described to me as one major earthquake with a lot of aftershocks that take you by surprise.
14. Can you discuss anything positive that comes from grieving? After I lost my mom, it took me years before I was the one to bring up to my friends that my mom had died. But once I did and started finding people who had also lost a loved one, I started to feel less alone and I was also able to help people who had just lost someone and were completely lost. Grieving and loss also give you a new appreciation for life and helps you cherish what’s really important, like your friends, family and anything you’re really passionate about.