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Mom's Unimaginable Loss Inspires Site for Grieving People to Share Stories

After losing her son and going through a divorce in the same year, Lexi Behrndt had a choice to make: simply existing or choosing to “come alive” after loss. She chose the latter, using a painful part of her story to create an online platform that would inspire thousands of readers around the world. Today, Behrndt is the founder of The On Coming Alive Project, a movement where writers and non-writers alike can share their stories of life after loss.

“I wanted these stories to be heard, but I wanted even more for the hope to be felt in people’s bones,” Behrndt told The Mighty.

She describes herself before the movement as “merely surviving.” Her second son, Charlie, had died at just 6 months old, after which Behrndt says she was living half alive, robotically, numb. She knew she had to make a change, if not for herself, for her oldest son. After her counselor gave her the much needed advice, “It’s OK to come alive,” Behrndt ran with it.

The movement officially started in February 2016. Its mission is to start a global conversation on the topics of suffering and mending after tragedy and loss. It is described as, “a movement of people rising from the ashes and coming alive.”

Behrndt started making plans for the project a few months prior, though she was unsure of what it would look like. She started with 72 posts, from writers and friends she knew had a similar mission as her, to spread hope after devastation. Today, Behrndt receives about 20 posts weekly.

When asked what her favorite story has been so far, Behrndt replied, “Oh— I couldn’t choose one. Knowing the hearts behind the project makes every story significant to me.”

Other than publishing traditional posts on the website, mini-stories are also published on Instagram. The On Coming Alive stories cover a gamut of experiences. So far the site has published stories of domestic violence, sexual abuse, a sister’s addiction and suicide, the death of spouses and the illness/death of a child.

Franchesca Cox, a member of the On Coming Alive team, said she was personally connected to the mission after losing her daughter. Cox says the project spread like wildfire because it is relatable yet unique.

“Lexi had this revolutionary idea about coming alive after loss for anyone who has ever suffered, but not just simply to survive, but to thrive,” Cox told The Mighty

The overarching message people take away from On Coming Alive is that they can keep going after loss, Cox said. Feedback from readers has been that they have felt encouraged, left in awe and that they now have hope to keep going after devastation.

Right now, stories are coming in daily and the number of submissions is multiplying. The next steps for On Coming Alive are continued growth of publication, storytelling through a video series, and long-term, the team is working on launching conferences and workshops  in the next nine months.

“To me, this project is art, and if people will take time to sit in it and feel it— that’s a success in my mind,” Behrndt said.

Be sure to follow the On Coming Alive movement on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You can view a few entries from the website below:

Sarah Shin holding "on coming alive" sign

“I don’t quite know how anyone survives those days…but you do…you can…and you will.” — Sarah Shin

Joe Kowalisyn holding "on coming alive" sign

“Life is filled with wonderful things, and it takes a lot to push the grief and depression aside to start to see those things again.” —  Joe Kowalisyn

Lauren Johnson holding "on coming alive" sign

“It’s because of my greatest gift and biggest heartbreak that I am choosing joy and finding hope when it seems impossible.” — Lauren Johnson

Dari Nowkhah holding "On Coming Alive" sign

“I probably never went through the grieving and coping process the right way, I did it my way.” — Dari Nowkhah

Lindsey Moreno holding "on coming alive" sign

“Even in joy our pain is present. The truth is that grief only exists where love lived first.” — Lindsey Moreno