Joseph Alvaro is the Creator and Executive Producer of The Lucky Ones. An online social and video streaming platform which explores the lives of those we were lucky to have had in our lives. TLO explores the continuing bonds we have with those who have passed way in short video interviews. Prior to creating The Lucky Ones, Joseph spent over 30 years in advertising as a producer and director of TV commercials. He is also the author of the book; I'm One of The Lucky Ones. In his book Joseph shares his experience of losing his wife and what inspired to create The Lucky Ones platform.
Q: Joseph, thank you for doing this interview with us. Why don't you start by telling us a little about yourself and your ministry?
A: Thank you for taking the time to speak with me about The Lucky Ones. My partner, Matt Zoller-Seitz and I both work in the film industry. I produced TV commercials for over 30 years while Matt is the television critic for New York Magazine, the editor-in-chief of RogerEbert.com and the host of The Vulture TV Podcast. Having both lost our wives, we wanted to create a place where people could celebrate the lives of those who had passed away.
We created The Lucky Ones as a place for people to express how they feel about someone special in their lives who has died. They're like mini video biographies exploring relationships and why we're one of The Lucky Ones for having known that person. It's a way to share our common humanity and celebrate the continuing bonds with those we loved.
Q: You have written a book called "I'm One of The Lucky Ones." What is the book about?
A: I wrote the book, I'm One of The Lucky Ones about my relationship with my wife and the final years we had together. I write about who she was and what made her so special, not only to me but to others she touched in her life. It's a celebration of our 25-year marriage together. I'm lucky, I married my soul mate.
Q: You are a man acquainted with grief, where you lost 5 family members in 14 months. What happened there?
A: Many of us have a difficult time dealing with the loss of a loved one. I know this from personal experience: In the course of 14 months, I lost my wife, my 17-year-old daughter, my father, my brother-in-law and a close uncle by marriage.
People frequently ask me the same question, "How do you deal with such loss?" The truth is there is no secret. I'll always miss them. But over the years I have learned that the empty seats our loved ones left at the table don't have to become the elephant in the room. On the contrary, we shouldn't be afraid to celebrate the lives and memories of those who are no longer with us.
We can do this in many ways: We can keep them in our thoughts and prayers, honor them by helping others and celebrate them by sharing the stories of how these special people touched our lives. Sharing these bonds with others helps to keep their memory alive and thus, with us every day.
Q: When a person is facing loss, what practical ways can he or she cope in those moments of anguish and pain?
A: I don't have an answer for how to deal with the loss of someone special in your life. We all mourn differently. For some it can be quite debilitating. I would suggest they seek out a cleric, a grief support group or in severe circumstances a professional councilor.
Q: How do you to transition from mourning to celebration while letting yourself grieve?
A: I think one must go through the process of grieving before they can come to celebrate someone's life. The time it takes to reconcile ourselves to the loss of a loved one varies for each of us. At some point there must come a time for the healing process to begin. Once we are at that point, I think it is healthy to share that person's life and what they meant to us by telling stories about them - letting others share in the love and support they gave to us and others. It's liberating to speak freely of people who have passed away. Pretending it didn't happen or ignoring the person's existence is not healthy.
When we interview people, they always thank us for letting them share their story. And even the people who don't want to participate thank us, commenting on how important it is and how much they like what we are doing. It's a reflection of our common humanity; the desire to honor and celebrate those special people who've shaped our lives.
Q: How do you continue your role as a parent in such times of grief?
A: That is a really hard question to answer because I really don't know. I suspect much of it is my faith in God. My belief that someday I'll be reunited with my loved ones in Heaven definitely plays a part too. As for parenting, my wife was very good at it and had provided a solid foundation for my children as they grew up. Being a single parent is incredibly difficult if you're used to having a partner to help raise children. I'm not so sure that I was always the best parent after my wife died. She really was the rock of our family. I drew on her strength as I began to put our broken family back together. Most importantly was to provide emotional security as we began to create a new normal for us.
Q: How do we as individuals and the church help those grieving?
A: Listening is the best gift we can give someone during a period of mourning. For most of us, time is the great healer of such pain. Talking about the person definitely helps. It gives us a sense that the person, although not here physically, is with us in our thoughts and words. Father Dave Dwyer of SiriusXM Radio's Busted Halo radio show described these relationships as similar to those we have with saints. We can speak to them, ask for their guidance and help in dealing with life's ups and downs. Or we can just remember all the good they did while here on earth.
Q: Recently we hear of the tragic loss of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, what do you have to say to Kobe's wife, family members, and loved ones who are grieving at this time?
A: He's still with them - in their hearts and souls. All the people he touched and whose lives he made better by his time on earth, is a cause to celebrate his life's achievements. I do not speak of his professional career, for his performance on a basketball court is inconsequential. It does not define him as a husband, father, friend or colleague. What does define him and how he will be remembered is the love and kindness he showed to others in life.
As for advice about losing a child, there is none. It's one of life's greatest tragedies to have your child die before you do. It defies the natural order of things. You can always find another partner to share your life with. You cannot "find" another child; for they are a part of you and when they die so does a piece of you.
After a period of mourning, things will return to a new normal for the Bryant family. I encourage them to share with each other and friends the stories of Kobe and his daughter that made them so special, and why those who knew them should consider themselves one of The Lucky Ones.
Joseph Alvaro is the Creator and Executive Producer of The Lucky Ones. His book, I'm One of The Lucky Ones, is available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. To watch stories visit LuckyOnesTV.com or follow @LuckyOnesTV.