Lennon Flowers and Carla Fernandez: Thriving After Loss: You’ve Got This

November 17 - On The Dot
FIRST THOUGHT: Life After Loss

Mourning used to be a very public act. After a character dies in an episode of Downton Abbey, the family members wear black and then gradually transition into brighter clothes over the course of months.

But these days, you’ve likely seen a person in mourning and never even noticed. Perhaps she’s the indecisive woman at the bakery with two different kinds of cookies in her hands. Or maybe she’s your flustered co-worker who dropped the ball on a project. We all handle grief and mourning differently, and such an emotional experience can profoundly affect every aspect of our lives. So approach today with a gentle heart and be open to the grief others may be suffering.

WOMEN IN NUMBERS: More Than $2 Million

Two women who aren’t afraid to talk about some of life’s incredibly difficult challenges when it comes to grief are the founders of the nonprofit FCancer, both of whom watched their mothers struggle with the disease. By combining forces, they have steadfastly raised more than $2 million for cancer research since 2009.

Dedicated to early detection, prevention and offering support to those affected by cancer, FCancer provides an array of digital initiatives, events, funding and preventative, detection and unity programs.

WOMEN TO WATCH: Lennon Flowers and Carla Fernandez, Co-founders of The Dinner Party

Today’s women to watch have fostered a supportive, welcoming space in which hard topics like cancer and death can be openly discussed. Lennon Flowers and Carla Fernandez created The Dinner Party, a nonprofit group comprised of a community of mostly 20- and 30-somethings who have experienced a significant loss. Hundreds of members regularly gather over potluck dinners to discuss how loss continues to affect their lives and how they can flourish in life despite their grief.

Both women have a history of working in social entrepreneurship and nonprofit fundraising. Their idea for The Dinner Party arose when, in 2010, after Lennon had lost her mom to lung cancer and Carla had lost her father to brain cancer, the two women and several others sat down to dinner in a Los Angeles backyard and began to openly and honestly discuss loss. The discussion helped the women realize their experiences with loss could open them up to richer, more honest and more openhearted lives. That first dinner led to monthly dinner parties and eventually, a circle of dinner-party gatherings in several cities.

Here’s how The Dinner Party works: You simply fill out a form on the website and are connected with a dinner party in your area. If there are a couple hosts, they’ll team you up with people you may most relate to. About once a month, you gather potluck style and sit around the dinner table, noshing on homemade goodies, sipping wine and sharing your story. Though tears are shed, there’s lots of laughter too. It’s specifically designed to be a welcoming space in which everyone can feel at ease.

The idea has really taken off. The Dinner Party has grown to include more than 1,000 members spread across more than 100 tables in 50-plus cities worldwide. The majority of members are women—80 percent in fact. The goal is to grow into 1,000 tables with the help of contributions and community support.

By donating through IndieGoGo, you can pick which special gift you receive as appreciation for your contribution. When I donated, I received a signed book and a handwritten thank-you note from Lennon herself. These kinds of special touches help make The Dinner Party truly unique.

Lennon and Carla show us that by sharing our most heart-wrenching stories, we can help see each other through our worst days and use them to create our best days.


I’ll leave you with this quote by author Vicki Harrison. She said:

“Grief is like the ocean: It comes on waves ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.”

This is Melinda Garvey signing off until next time. Remember, ladies, empowered women empower other women. Share On the Dot so more women can have a voice. Thanks for getting ready with us.

To learn more about our conversation, check us out at OnTheDotWoman.com and talk to us @OnTheDotWoman on Twitter and Instagram. We’d love to hear your voice.

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