Bill Lynch, Mason Adams, Kelley Libby, Eric Douglas, Zack Harold Published

Grief Rituals And The Alabama Astronaut, Inside Appalachia

A photograph of a woman with long dark hair.
Amanda Held Opelt used her own loss as a starting point for a book about grief.

This week, we speak with the author of a new book about grief rituals and how they’re practiced here in the mountains.

We also talk with podcaster Abe Partridge about an Appalachian art that goes unheard by most people – the religious music of snake handling churches. 

And, a new study recently found a majority of Americans are not on track to comfortably pay for retirement. We checked in with the National Council on Aging about preparing for the end of our working lives. 

You’ll hear these stories and more this week, Inside Appalachia.

In This Episode:

Grief Rituals Continue On In Appalachia

Rachel Held Evans was a bestselling author, columnist and blogger, who wrote extensively about modern Christianity in America.

Considered a voice for young, progressive Christians, at 37, she unexpectedly died in 2019. 

Her death led her sister Amanda Held Opelt to study grief rituals, as she processed her own loss.

Producer Bill Lynch spoke with Opelt about her sister, and writing about grief while grieving.

Plan Ahead For Retirement And Beyond

A new study by Fidelity Investments found that more than half of Americans are not on track for a comfortable retirement. It’s not just millennials and Gen Xers either: Many older adults don’t have enough money to retire. 

WVPB News Director Eric Douglas spoke with Josh Hodges, chief customer officer for the National Council on Aging, to learn about what help is available for retirees and caregivers. 

Amanda Held Opelt wrote about grief rituals, after losing her sister Rachel in 2019. Courtesy

Exploring Music From Snake Handling Churches

Abe Partridge explores music and faith with “Alabama Astronaut.” Courtesy

There are always untapped veins of Appalachian music that haven’t been mined, including the religious music of snake handling churches, which has its own particular style. 

That music is the subject of a podcast called “Alabama Astronaut.”

Folkways Reporter Zack Harold spoke with co-host Abe Partridge about how a project intended to document this music ended up being about a whole lot more.


Our theme music is by Matt Jackfert. Other music this week was provided by David Mayfield, Jesse Milnes, Jeff Ellis, Little David and Tyler Childers. 

Bill Lynch is our producer. Our executive producer is Eric Douglas. Kelley Libby is our editor. Our audio mixer is Patrick Stephens. Zander Aloi also helped produce this episode.

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Inside Appalachia is a production of West Virginia Public Broadcasting.