Joseph Alvaro is on a mission to change the way Americans think about heartbreak, loss, and death.
“When someone passes away, when you celebrate who they were, it helps you emotionally deal with it and it becomes less painful because you’re bringing them alive again,” the author and producer shared with The Christian Post.
“We as a society don’t talk about dead people. Why not? It’s not bad or shameful. We all die. Death does not define us. By talking about those we’ve lost, sharing stories about them, you’re keeping them alive and celebrating the continuing bond you have with them.”
To help remove the stigma surrounding loss, Alvaro, along with film/TV critic Matt Zoller Seitz, started The Lucky Ones TV. The social and video streaming platform brings to life those who have died in five-minute video vignettes, creating a biographical profile of the special bond shared between two people.
“The Lucky Ones allows people from all walks of life to celebrate that special someone through the telling of stories,” Alvaro shared. “We’re not here to talk about grief or grieving. We want to celebrate why we were lucky to know this person and how they have impacted our lives.”
Alvaro is himself no stranger to heartbreak and loss: Over the course of just 14 months, he lost his wife, his 17-year-old daughter, his father, his brother-in-law, and a close uncle by marriage.
Yet, he considers himself one of the “lucky ones” — and finds healing and comfort in sharing stories about those who have passed on.
“My wife, Francés, passed away from cancer in November of 2009 after 27 years of marriage,” he recalled. “She was my soulmate. I was graced by God to have met her. I often think of it like we were two sides of the same coin. We were one. That’s how our marriage was. I was lucky to have had the chance to know and love her.”
Shortly after Francés’ death and the deaths of several other family members, the couple’s daughter, Caitlin, died by suicide.
“She was a beautiful child,” Alvaro said. “She was beautiful, strong, athletic, and a phenomenal kid. I describe her as a thoroughbred racehorse: Fast and beautiful but very fragile. As strong as she was athletically and socially, inside she was fragile, and those deaths, one after another, were too overwhelming for her. But she gave me such joy; I was lucky to have been her father.”
While some days are still “hard,” Alvaro, who also penned a book about his experiences, said he believes that talking about his family and celebrating their lives is the final, significant step in the healing process.
“My family and I will sit around and talk about Francés, Caitlin, and the rest of them,” he said. “It’s fun because you keep them alive in your heart and mind. Their presence is still felt.”
“Talking about the fun stuff, the dumb, stuff, and even the irritating stuff is healing and cleanses your soul,” Alvaro continued. “It’s like when something bad happens, you want to tell someone because it helps you deal with it emotionally. When someone passes away, when you celebrate who they were, it helps you emotionally deal with the trauma.”
While discussing the process of mourning with Seitz, who also recently lost his wife, Alvaro realized that there wasn't a venue for people to express themselves about those who had died. It was then that the two men conceived of The Lucky Ones.
And since launching The Lucky Ones, Alvaro said, the response has been “overwhelming," as it illustrates that there is more to losing someone beyond the cycles of grief and mourning. It’s the only streaming content platform where people from all walks of life can celebrate that special someone through written stories, videos, and pictures.
“People tell us stories about friends, mentors, anyone who has had a profound impact on their lives,” he said. “The stories are heartwarming, inspiring, and bring tremendous healing. When I look at the demographics of what people are watching, we have viewers across all ages and genders. Death is universal. It’s common to everyone. This project is resonating with people of all walks of life.”
“It’s OK to talk about people who have passed away that you love and have had a profound effect on your life,” he continued.
To those grieving the loss of the loved one, Alvaro issued a request: “Send us your story,” he said. “Submit a 90-second video to The Lucky Ones or a written story celebrating the life of the one you’ve lost. We love to hear these stories.”
Death is a real, painful part of life, Alvaro said, but it doesn’t have to define those who have passed on. Instead, he believes that “what defines our lost loved ones are all the years they spent touching the lives of those around them.”
“Death is a nanosecond for those who have passed on, and we shouldn’t allow ourselves to get stuck on what was the last moment of their life,” he stressed. “We should celebrate them with stories of their love and how they’ve changed our lives for the better. We need to celebrate why we were the ‘lucky ones.’”
“Hope,” he added, “can be found in the middle of grief.”
To watch stories visit LuckyOnesTV.com or follow @LuckyOnesTV.