Madison Ways is a junior in high school, trying to figure out her life after the death of her father. “My friends didn't understand my grief and weren't very nice at a time when I needed them most,” said Madison. “As a result, I lost many of them.”

Madison is my youngest guest yet. As a child, she was very close to her mom and dad and she loved to dance (tap and hip hop). She described her dad, “He was one of the kindest people I ever met, who would laugh at his own jokes or throw himself in front of a train for anyone. He inspired me in so many ways to be a better person.” 

Her dad got sick with Stage 4 lung cancer when Madison was 12.  After he died, she lost a lot of friends while trying to put her life back together. Introverted and shy, she finds making friends to be hard. “Grief is a time when you need your friends to be there, and when they left, that dumped a whole new pile of grief on me.”

One of the things Madison has used to occupy her time is making Tik Tok videos. Now she has 61,000 followers and 4 million+ likes. She made a poignant TikTok about her 17-year-old self, waking up in her 13-year-old body. Since her dad died, she has come out as a lesbian.

“Coming out was one of the hardest things I had to do. I live in a conservative Christian area. A friend who is Mormon said I was going to go to hell.”

I asked Madison what lessons she would pass on to someone else experiencing loss.

“You’re not crazy…you’re totally normal. Grief is confusing, and I still don’t understand it…Don’t talk badly about your friends during the anger stage…if you don’t know how to handle a stage of grief, talk to somebody and don’t just internalize it. Don’t let people tell you you’re grieving wrong. There’s no way to grieve wrong, and there’s no expiration date on your grief. You’ll be grieving for the rest of your life, and don’t let anyone tell you differently.”

Her mom wrote,

“A leader is someone who takes the sh*t sandwich that life has handed them and finds a way to persevere. They show others what is possible by the way they live their life. This girl has demonstrated leadership skills in her signature quiet gentle way but has had a bold impact. From sharing her grief journey on multiple podcasts to induction into the National Honor Society, she shows her unending courage and how to live a life aligned with values. Her dad would be so proud!”

Madison continues to be inspired by her dad:

“My dad didn’t go to college. He wanted to be an IT guy, so he studied day and night, and he became an IT guy for the IRS. He had a really good head on his shoulders, and he inspired me to be a better person.”

Next I interview Court Wakefield (they/them), a digital marketing leader in the healthcare industry and host of the For Folx Sake: Cultivating Inclusive Communities podcast. After growing up and surviving life as queer in the Bible belt, they and their wife underwent three rounds of IVF followed by 97 days in the NICU. Their wife was hospitalized for 25 days at the same time, and Court nearly lost them both.

The Finding Fertile Ground podcast is brought to you by Fertile Ground Communications. Contact us if you can use some help with your writing, editing, communications, or marketing. 

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