Dubai: Katie Overy's podcast addresses grief in a unique manner
The British presenter brings a light-hearted dynamic into That Grief Relief Podcast, starting conversations around loss with positivity and a dash of humour.
Grief can be a very conflicting concept to analyze and break down. There are times when you guard it jealously and refuse to share your thoughts with anyone. There are other times when all you want to do is open those mental floodgates and allow that river of emotion to come gushing out.
We all deal with grief differently no doubt, whether it’s over the loss of a loved one, a pet, a cherished relationship, a job… we find different ways to tackle the feelings we experience in this regard. And often, when we encounter someone who is grieving, we find ourselves at a loss for something to say.
For Katie Overy, a British live events presenter and voiceover artist who has called Dubai home for over a decade, the death of her parents was what triggered the desire to create a platform where people could share their feelings about the different types of grief they had experienced or were experiencing. Bubbly, funny and charming, she is every bit the perfect host, employing an interesting dynamic of light-heartedness that is the soul of the programme, without minimising any elements of her guests’ admissions of their personal journeys of grief.
In a Zoom conversation with City Times, Katie reveals that through That Grief Relief Podcast, she wanted to get across “how grief doesn’t always have to be sad”.
“I initially wanted to start it back in April 2020, during the shutdown, thinking, ‘well I’ve got a bit of time on my hands.’ I’d been made redundant from a radio station so I was like, ‘okay, how can I use this medium?’ Eventually the first episode was out in October. And why did I start it? It was borne out of my own experience of losing my parents. It was originally going to be me and my two brothers and it was just going to be us talking about how we dealt with the loss of our parents; my half-brother’s dad had also passed away. So it was an interesting dynamic about how we are very open with it, we are very light-hearted with it whilst not joking about the situation because you obviously don’t want to lose the sentiment.”
‘People want to share their stories’
Not everyone can skillfully start conversations around grief, but Katie maintains an upbeat atmosphere and says she wanted to “celebrate” the people who came forward to talk. “I was trying to get across the message that it doesn’t have to be sad; you’re not on your own and if you want to come and talk to me about your lost loved one, then let’s do that.”
What started out as a family affair grew into something bigger when people began to reach out to her to share their stories. “It was just going to be me and then it would kind of rotate through my family. For example, in the case of my dad, his death affected many different members of the family but yet each episode is different because they recall different memories and it was about how they grieve differently even though it was the same loss, of the same person.
“And then people started approaching me and sending me DMs, saying, ‘oh, you know this is amazing to listen to and I lost my mum so many years ago or even a pet’ — and then I said, if you ever want to share your story I’d love to hear it. And it turned out that people do. People want to share their stories.”
As is almost always the case with the death of a loved one most people, Katie says, “just wanted to talk about the person they lost”.
“I literally give them a platform to do that. A quick example: episode 11 is a guy called Richard, who has been my oldest guest; he’s an over 60, white, English male and as a whole, this demographic doesn’t talk about their feelings! He messaged me directly and praised the podcast, saying how nice it was to hear of other people’s stories after he’d lost his dad and his brother. So I said, if you’d ever want to talk about it let me know. He was hesitant but a week later he messaged me and said, you know what I’ve been thinking about it and if I talk someone else might talk and it might help someone else.”
Katie admitted she felt it was “amazing for that to happen.”
Find a reason to smile
Everyone has a different way of coping with loss, but even in a time of sadness you could remember something about a late loved one that makes you break into a smile. A silly memory could pop up that evokes laughter, creating a ripple of relief across the ocean of grief you’ve been navigating, making you realise that everything is not as dark as it seems to be.
Katie says it was “literally, humour” that helped her deal with loss and this is what she channelled into the podcast, encouraging openness from her guests.
“I will make light of everything — that is my go-to — but without cloaking it, there’s no ‘hahaha’ and then leaving it at the side. I do address it. I let people know that I will speak openly about my dead parents, I want you to ask me about them, I’ll tell you anything you want to know. A guy who DM’ed me recently revealed that his best friend’s dad just died and listening to my podcast has allowed him to kind of know that he could speak to his friend and ask him questions and he realised his friend actually did want to talk to him.”
Katie says that while a conversation with someone who is dealing with the loss of a loved one can turn awkward, it’s natural to want to ask questions and sometimes this is the right approach.
“It depends on time and sensitivities. For example if I ask about someone and I find out they passed away, one’s natural reaction is to say ‘I’m sorry’ and then awkwardly change the subject. Because you just don’t know where to go, even though it’s your human instinct to ask questions and whether you can help the bereaved in any way.”
“You can ask these and the person may say, I don’t want to talk about it, but they know it’s come from a good place. But what I have found over all these episodes of my podcast is that people want to talk about it. Also because it may help someone else.”
A different kind of grief
Sometimes one could be grieving over something that others may not view with the same level of seriousness, like the loss of a relationship, or even a job. Katie says some of her guests talk about “a different kind of grief” which helps spread awareness about their situation and may strike a chord with those in similar situations.
“In terms of the other grief that I highlight, there is ambiguous grief and disenfranchised grief — grief that is not recognised by society. In episode 18, Alex talks about grieving the end of her nine-year relationship. It’s heartbreaking but people will say, ‘oh there’s plenty more fish in the sea.’ She said she felt like she was dying. There’s a woman called Lara, episode 14, who suffers from fibromyalgia. She is in pain every day and grieves her former life — she looks at old photographs of herself where she was dancing all night, where she was wearing heels, when she could comfortably go on a car journey.”
She gave another example where an Indian expat spoke to her about breaking away from his family after the death of his father. “From a cultural perspective he became the head of the family. But then that didn’t allow him to grieve. He then goes on to say that he made a huge decision about two years ago to break away from his family. So he doesn’t speak to his mum or his brother anymore which is huge in any culture but I’m aware it’s bigger in South Asian culture. He’s very profound in how he says it — when there’s a plane and the engine fails the plane will dump fuel to get itself to land; it has to dump that weight and that fuel to get to safety. He said he had to do something drastic because he was going down a dark path. I asked if he regretted it, and he said no, not one day. He said he felt free. And that is so powerful. He said he had to spend time with people who had his best interests at heart.”
Katie says she doesn’t ask guests anything about their story before she hits record.
“I want to do it naturally. I’ve done it that way on purpose because that’s what I think people want to do, and my guests have obviously given me permission to do this. I’ve got a barrage of questions and I’m going to say anything as it comes into my brain; usually I have no filter, I am just going to say it. Anything you don’t want to answer don’t answer, I can edit it. Till now I’ve been very fortunate.”
That Grief Relief Podcast will also move into the mental health space, Katie reveals, as the subject comes into even more sharper focus in the Covid pandemic.
Gratefulness in pandemic times
While on the subject of the pandemic Katie admitted one of the overwhelming feelings she has is gratitude. “I am a super outgoing, very loud and sociable person. I loved going out and now I’ve really gotten to appreciate my home and what I have, genuinely, knowing that even in Dubai, there are people much worse off. I am extremely grateful that my family live in Dubai and that I was still able to see them.”
In parting, the presenter gives a shout out to her late dad whose ability to engage people in conversation is a trait she feels she’s inherited. “I feel very lucky that I got from my dad the ability to openly question people and know their stories without coming across as rude.”
That Grief Relief Podcast is available to listen now on Apple Podcasts, anchor.fm/katieovery and by searching ‘That Grief Relief Podcast’ on YouTube. People can also get in touch through DM on @thatgriefreliefpodcast (Instagram) or email@example.com