Cancer, Palliative Care, and Grief - A Conversation with Dr. Eliza Park

interviews Aug 06, 2023

We recently sat down with the esteemed Dr. Eliza "Leeza" Park, a nationally recognized psychiatrist, and expert in the realm of mental health and cancer. Her journey from Harvard Medical School, research at UNC, to her current private psychiatry practice in North Carolina, has been nothing short of remarkable.

During our interview, Dr. Park delved into the intersections of grief and cancer, drawing from her extensive experience in supporting people and their families facing serious illness. Her insights were deeply moving. As we listened to her share her extensive research and stories about her patients, it became evident how essential it is to address the emotional aspects of coping with cancer and loss, not just for the families, but for the patient themselves.

You can watch the full interview above and read three of our favorite takeaways from the conversation:

“Whether it's cancer or death itself, we grieve what we lost, but we also grieve what we don't think we're going to have in the future. And letting go of those past expectations about what life should be is really, really hard.”

Grieving involves both acknowledging the loss we've experienced and coming to terms with the future we once imagined. While it can be challenging to let go of those expectations, it's important to remember that this process has its ups and downs. Some days may feel heavy, while others can offer glimpses of joy. 


“If my kids are doing well, does that mean they don't get it? Are they just in complete denial? Or if they're not doing okay, is it because I didn't do enough or I told them too much or I told them too little?”

Navigating grief with children can be daunting, and it's completely normal to have questions and concerns. Each child experiences grief uniquely, and there's no one “right” way to handle it. What matters most is that we show them love, understanding, and open communication. Embracing this uncertainty with compassion allows us to support kids and reassure them that their feelings are valid. 


"I don't think grief is a psychiatric illness. There's a code for certain types of grief now, but it's for research and for billing. But… it's this normal part of life that has huge intersections with health."

Dr. Park emphasizes what we all know here at Grieve Leave: grief is an intrinsic part of the human experience. While insurance billing codes may attempt to classify grief, its complexity goes beyond rigid definitions.


Our conversation with Dr. Park brought attention to the significance of qualitative grief research, shedding light on our understanding and response to this human emotion. Dr. Park also emphasized the importance of extending grief support to all, including families and patients, as they navigate through the challenges. Lastly, our discussion led us to recognize that grief is an innate and universal aspect of being human, connecting us all. We encourage you to watch the full interview, where Dr. Park shares valuable insights on grief and its impact on families, caregivers, and patients.


To connect with Dr. Leeza Park go to her website

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