Ken Ross | Rolling the Dice & Preserving the Legacy of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
SHOW NOTES SUMMARY:
Ken Ross has a theory for the way he lives his life and, it didn’t come to be without the influence of his mother, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross.
Ken and I dig deeper into his life experience growing up in a home where grief, death, and dying were a daily part of life and the topic of conversation. His mother, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s first book, On Death and Dying, was the conversation starter for society to take a deeper look into the dying process and all of the feelings one goes through. She started a hospice movement and became known as the founder of The Five Stages of Grief™️, which we also talked about in this episode. Aside from his mother being the pioneer of grief and dying education, his father was a neuropathologist. It wasn’t unusual to have a human brain sitting at the kitchen table while his mother brought terminally ill children his age to the house for a visit.
Growing up around death, dying, and grief set the stage for Ken to understand the fragility of life and not live with regrets. His mother, Elisabeth, was also a huge proponent of living life outside of the box, as she very much expressed in her own life. One of her several final books, The Wheel of Life: A Memoir of Living and Dying, is the story of her extraordinary life as she prepares for death, in her words.
We also discuss Ken’s mission to preserve his mother’s work and legacy so future generations can learn, too.
Victoria Volk 0:08
This is Victoria of the unleashed heart calm, and you’re listening to grieving voices, a podcast for hurting hearts who desire to be heard. Or anyone who wants to learn how to better support loved ones experiencing loss as a 30 plus year griever. In advanced grief recovery methods specialist, I know how badly the conversation around grief needs to change. Through this podcast, I aim to educate gravers and non gravers alike, spread hope and inspire compassion towards those hurting. Lastly, by providing my heart with yours and this platform, Grievers had the opportunity to share their wisdom and stories of loss and resiliency. How about we talk about grief, like we talked about the weather? Let’s get started. Thank you for tuning in to grieving voices. today. I’m very excited to have my special guest can Ross. He is the son of Dr. Elisabeth Kubler Ross, the founder of the ek AR foundation in 2006. And President and he’s also served on the board of the Elisabeth Kubler Ross center from 1989 to 2005. Ken was the principal care provider for his mother in the last nine years of her life until her passing in 2004. His responsibilities include handling over 80, publishers of Dr. Kubler-Ross’s work in 43 languages, public relations, copyright and trademark issues website maintenance, developing international Kubler Ross chapters, developing strategic partnerships as well as preserving her archives. While growing up he traveled with her extensively while on her numerous foreign trips witnessing her lectures and workshops. Ken has lectured on his mother’s legacy for hospices and various conferences in South America, Asia and Europe. There are several film projects that Ken is currently a consultant on including a major motion picture, a television vision series and various documentaries both foreign and domestic. He is a professional photographer by trade and he has photographed 102 countries. He is also the author of real taste of life, a journal by Ken Ross and Elisabeth Kubler Ross from 2002. And tea with Elizabeth, thank you so much for gracing me with your presence in fireside today. It wasn’t awful, but it you’ve led a very interesting and fascinating life, as has your mother, I started to dig into her book, the wheel of life and a memoir of living and dying. I felt drawn to that one of all of all the choices that are there out there. I think just because I have had recently gone through end of life doula certification, I think the the dying process and just the end of life experiences is kind of fascinating me at the moment. And I’ve picked some stuff out of the book that I would like to talk about at some point. But Sure, thank you, thank you so much for being
Ken Ross 3:03
my pleasure. That’s what I’m here for.
Victoria Volk 3:06
So let’s start with you. As I kind of mentioned at the beginning, before we started recording, we could make this whole podcast episode about your mom, there’s lots of content out there available about your mom, but I am curious and interested in learning about how having Dr. Elisabeth Kubler Ross, as a mom has shaped you into the person you are today. And the impact that Her work has had on your life.
Ken Ross 3:32
You know, you don’t see things as are happening, right? You never realized what’s happening as it’s happening. You have to go back and go, Oh my God, that’s why I did this. That’s why I did that. So, you know, at the time, I had two parents growing up who are doctors, and they both worked with dying people or dead people. My father was a pathologist. So my father was bringing home human brains into the kitchen, leaving them you know, because I had to go to new hospital next day. And my mom’s bring home day and people who are my age, sometimes younger, sometimes older, but you know, dying people coming through the house. human brains are sitting in the kitchen, it was very unusual childhood. And so you know, death was something we heard about, if not every week, every day, and we heard at the dinner table. And I met people who are my age who are dying, so certainly made a big impression. And every time I went on a trip with my mother, you know we’re meeting dying people backstage after our conferences and at the workshops and you know, people stopping over in the airports and so forth. So it was death death death made me quite paranoid neurotic about like every little bumping, no, no, I had on my body. But so at the time, you know, it kind of freaked me out because I heard about it too much. But it did impress upon me that life is short and precarious for many people. And even for people who live a full long life. It still seems short because I’m meeting people in their 70s and 80s who are dying in their Like Ken My God, like you know just a few minutes ago I was a kid like what happened like, life went by in a blip and so they’re like yo really go out and really think about life just don’t take it for granted. You know really seize this opportunity you have and you have beautiful opportunity with your mother to do things that a lot of people don’t get to do and kids don’t get to do so anyway, my dad had his National Geographics, and I thought Wow, well if life is short and precarious You know, this would be an amazing way to spend your life these photographers go out and see all these tribes and hang out you know of helicopters and climb mountains, they meet movie stars, that seems like an amazing way if life is so short to go out really live it big. And I was very shy very quiet. And so I thought oh well with a camera I don’t really have to talk I can still be in my shy comfortable space. But I can go out and photograph landscapes nature and meet tribal people and and that would be amazing way just to see the world which is kind of a mysterious place. So I set out to go to 101 countries and that’s what I did. But I studied banking just as a backup because my father was a traditional family guy. And he didn’t want me going off on some flaky concept of being a National Geographic photographer. So state of banking like a good Swiss boy my mom was Swiss. So I thought well that’s my backup you know I can be a good Swiss banker but what I really wanted to do was travel and take photographs and my mom really pushed me to be like a gypsy basically and live my life outside the box. Whereas my father wanted me in the box so constant struggle between the parents right and my father did not believe in life after death my mother did so a lot of conflicts growing up between the parents because you respect them both. They’re both geniuses know their stuff, but you know, you’re kind of pulled in two directions at the same time. And that was a little challenging.
Victoria Volk 6:55
I want to circle back to that the opposite belief system but first I just want to say that I like just when I was a kid, I wanted to be a National Geographic photographer. Oh, and I was my dad was diagnosed when I was six with cancer and I watched him you know slowly decline over the next two years and he died when I was eight and so I had that first early exposure and people my grandma had died too in that time of cancer and so I had been exposed to death and dying and you know, maybe not really not necessarily understanding the the fragility of life how fragile it is, but are really grasping that idea but I grew into that wanting to this urge to travel was in me if it wasn’t a National Geographic photographer, I wanted to be an airline stewardess. I mean, you know, like the idea was to get out and get away and traveling. Yeah, yeah, participate in like yeah, see what else is out there beyond my own four walls? No, did you actually shoot for National Geographic or that was just something that sparked your
Ken Ross 8:03
I wanted to be a National Geographic, you know, kind of photographer I wanted to go out and travel like hardcore. Yeah, get into, you know, remote villages in Africa and South America and, and so I didn’t shoot for them. But I have sold them a number of photographs over the years as stock photography.
Victoria Volk 8:19
Can I ask then how that experience because when you started doing that, and you were on this excursion of 101 now 102 countries, how did that morph into the work that you’re doing with death and dying? And how did that actually in being exposed to those different cultures? What have you taken away from what you’ve learned,
Ken Ross 8:40
so I was doing photography as a hobby as a kid, I was shooting concerts and, and things like that, and traveled with my mother. And when she was given a workshop, I would go take pictures, right? So because she is working for 810 12 hours a day, so I go shoot and at the end of the day, I’d hook up with my mom and then we’d be meeting you know, shamans and Eskimos and fortune tellers and Zulu witch doctors and you name it because my mother loved indigenous people he thought these people really get life and death and are not like hung up on death and they really see it everything as a circle. So she really wanted me to meet all these people, you know, and I saw tables floating in the air and everything you can imagine that’s all building up inside of me. And I’m traveling with mom and going off to college and I didn’t know what I wanted to do. And I was like, Well, you know, bankers realistic but photography is really fun, so and getting exposed to death more and more. And I’m still traveling with my mom even after I got out of school and trying to figure out which way I was going to go. So anyway, I did become a professional photographer. I moved to Australia and then moved to New York and I ended up living in like 13 cities and poor countries. No, because my mom was never like go out and be a gypsy and be crazy and you know, not only live outside the box, but just realize there is no box right? Let’s do it all. And, you know, being a photographer, I’m climbing mountains, I’m going To discos in Beirut, I’m hitchhiking in Zimbabwe, and really living what I think is a fantasy life for most people, even with no training as a photographer, I just did it. So that was great. So as as all about counting your fears, right? And having the perspective that life is short, you know, don’t live your life with regrets. So most people, I think 90% plus of their regrets are things they didn’t do versus things they did do, right. So we have to remember like, all these regrets are things we didn’t do. We lived our lives fear based, we were afraid to tell these people we love them. Embrace people we had fights with you name it, you know, the time to make amends is now the time to take chances. Now, you know, I just went to Iraq for a vacation, right? I mean, that’s a little unusual, but I’m challenging my fears. I’m challenging the preconceived notions of Iraq is a dangerous place. You know, I’ve read about it. I’ve embraced different cultures. I love diversity. And, you know, I just found my rhythm and just I went there, I had a great time, I had no hassles. And so just, you know, and also seeing my mom and the press, I just see how much the press kind of misrepresents things, they focus on the negative, you know, and when I go out, yeah, I’d have an amazing time when I travel, like, I’ve rarely had any problems in 102 countries, I’ve been to nine countries, the Middle East, and done all sorts of crazy things, and met strangers and ended up sleeping in their house in Africa and Asia in different places. And I never had a problem, really. So you know, I just don’t focus on that negativity that we’re fed so much, like, we’re just fed all this fear. I hate that. Because I just find like, a very positive experience. It’s not meant to be perfect. But you know, you can take any experience, and you can find a positive outcome from it, even from death and grief, it can help you grow and learn and embrace love. Even more and more, I did that for, I don’t know, maybe 2530 years. And then, as you may know, my mom’s house was burnt down when she was trying to start a hospice for abandoned babies. And so I brought her down to Arizona, and I ended up taking care of her for nine years, that was crazy, difficult experience. And then after she died, we had people writing us everyday from around the world. So again, it wasn’t my plan. But, you know, after taking care of my mother, I was handling all our business affairs, realizing how complicated it was, and how a lot of people are, you know, misrepresenting her work and abusing her and cheating her and, you know, all the stuff that goes along with the theme and having a brand. So as a son, it really bothered me. And so I began working with all our publishers, and all the press and all the stuff that I wasn’t used to and had no experience with. And then I started the foundation, thinking the foundation would do all the work and get to be a photographer. So now it’s been 16 years or so. And I realized that’s not how foundations work. still kind of figuring out how foundations work after 16 years. But yeah, I’m slowly getting better at it. And last three years been great time for the foundation. We’ve grown a lot internationally as been some nice big press articles on mom, they’ve named a couple of streets after mom and hpcl just had a nice memorial to mom, they have a whole exhibit on her and their headquarters in Washington. And then American Journal bioethics just devoted his entire issue to her that’s donated all my mom’s papers to Stanford are going to develop a digital library. So very exciting. And mom’s legacy, even though she’s not around. Yeah,
Victoria Volk 13:29
I, like I mentioned before we started recording, it’s like you hear all the time on TV and the news and different things, it’ll save five stages of grief, you know, and that’s what people seem to latch on to. And in all of her amazing work that she is accomplished and did in her life. And I was just listening to something this morning that talked about, was talking about, it was about mindfulness. And the one thing that in mindfulness at the end of life, it was like research that was done, and they interviewed people at the end of life. And all these people, every single person had said that their greatest regret was that they had not lived true to themselves, right? And
Ken Ross 14:09
you’re not driving the right car, you’re not the right neighborhood, or the right friends or whatever I like, you know, it’s like society imposes all these guilts and fears and expectations on you, which are so artificial.
Victoria Volk 14:21
And there’s this part in her book, where in the wheel of life where she had talked about where she quit her job because she had decided to work with dying children. Someone had just asked her the question, why don’t you work with dying children? She’s like, you know, good question. Why don’t I you know, but she had quit her job. And then that’s what really led her because they wouldn’t allow her to kind of counsel people who couldn’t pay. And she says, I was not about to stop that practice. If you hired me, you also get what I stood for. There’s like conviction that I you know, I feel that sense of conviction and what she said there and that’s what led to her doing the lectures. But that’s what I also hear what she’s kind of passed down to you and that nope this is what I’m going to do I don’t want to live put myself in a box I don’t want to limit myself and that’s a beautiful gift she gave you I think
Ken Ross 15:11
yeah it’s been amazing it’s been exactly my fantasy when I was a kid I like did everything just about he could possibly do that’s you know the cause it reasonable what’s up so yeah I feel like you know I want to live a life that I wouldn’t mind doing 100 times over and not be bored ever you know you want to live that dream life right and it’s never going to be a dream there’s going to be heartache and sorrow and betrayal and everything else but you know you embrace it and just move past it
Victoria Volk 15:42
so what do you think do other cultures have a one up on us when it comes to death and dying then than we do here in Western society?
Ken Ross 15:50
I think it’s kind of like 50 years ago my mom you know began our official work with death and dying is that we hide death in a closet right now old age homes so we can like not see people get old because we don’t want to deal with it just stick them in a home and hide them away so you know we don’t have to face it you know and funerals you know used to be at home dying people used to bring your uncle home and leave them in the living room for a couple days so that you could see him and have that death be a part of your life and now you know it’s like oh we’re gonna hide them in the hospital we’re gonna hide them in old age home we’re gonna hide them in a whatever a hospice whatever so that’s the problems that we hide death right?
Victoria Volk 16:30
Yeah they would even take pictures with those deceased loved ones
Ken Ross 16:34
you know and they and they make a body so look like they’re artificially they had the rouge and pretty up to here and you know make death look like it’s they’re just sleeping You know? So that’s the problem I was problem 50 years ago and it’s still the problem 50 years later like in other countries, you know, death is a part of life you see it, you know, in front of you. They don’t really hide it the way they do in Western culture,
Victoria Volk 16:58
other cultures Do they have their own rituals and their ways of doing things and I think that’s like with our rituals in the West here with funerals we’ve kind of gotten away from being participants as family members right in the process and you know, we we hire a funeral home to basically handle everything for us and handle the details
Ken Ross 17:19
that made my mother critic closed casket like come on, you got to like say goodbye to the person who can’t say goodbye to a box. Think right? Saying goodbye.
Victoria Volk 17:28
Right? What is your most favorite part of of all the work that your mom had done and accomplished in her life? What is been your favorite piece of it?
Ken Ross 17:38
That’s a tough one. So I’ve got my cat here is going to be pushing against the screen here. Um, you know, I love the way my mom brought in humor to you know, her work, you know, everyone thought, oh, Kubler Ross must have been really serious, right? You know, you look at Radio labs Instagram page right now. And their last photograph they published was my mom wearing an ETL fit, right? She’s in a wheelchair, but she’s still an ETL fit. Like, given people call it the finger because she had chronic pain syndrome. So she didn’t like being hugged. So she’d given the finger like, 80. But yeah, she brought a lot of humor into her work and lightheartedness. And, you know, even though it’s you’re working with dying children all week long, she was totally funny and totally full of life. And, you know, just give you energy, right? So she just showed that it doesn’t have to be depressing and sad, you know, I mean, it is to some degree, of course, but, you know, you can also refocus your energy on life. Two,
Victoria Volk 18:39
so you mentioned that there was this difference in opinion of life after death between your mother and your father. And how did that play out? Ultimately,
Ken Ross 18:52
it was challenging because my father had, I don’t know how he had like, 200 brains in his office, like in a room, right? And he’s, you know, he changes director of his department at Loyola in Chicago. He’s writing all these papers and doing lectures and you know, he was you know, they’re gonna name NEMA library after him, right? The guy was a smart guy he studied. You know, he went to medical school in German, he didn’t speak German. So imagine going to medical school, the language you don’t speak. I mean, that is a driven, intelligent person, right? So, you know, he knew what he’s talking about. And so to my mother, all right, she’s the world’s leading expert on death and dying here talking to those genius neuropathologists you know, it’s hard for the kids. Why do we say like, nothing we can say it contribute to that conversation. But you know, they, they didn’t fight. they disagreed, but they disagree. politely. No, no, Elizabeth, it’s this chemical and that chemical in this and that and this was like, No, we had a blind person come in, and they could tell you how many people were in the room and what color they were wearing, and And so, you know, as like, as like a no win this agreement, so they just agreed to disagree. And that was fine. It was just like that a father had a great sense of humor, and they both kind of laughed about it. So it wasn’t a big deal. But you know, it left us both going home, I went went to a kinesiologist. And they did their little, you know, kind of Hocus Pocus thing and they said you are conflicted between your parents because you respect them both. You love them both. But they were in different energies. I’m like, wow, this person is really good. Pick that up.
Victoria Volk 20:34
So your dad’s opinion of that never changed. never wavered
Ken Ross 20:37
didn’t waver. But of course, there’s this famous rose story that goes along with my mother, that when my sister was like six or seven years old, he said he’s gonna send her flowers on the first snowfall after he died. And that’s basically what he did. He sent flowers, and he died that afternoon. And then next day, my sister got flowers on her front doorstep in the snow. You know, 2530 years later. So what did that mean? Right? So my mother’s like, I told him. My mother think she’d won that argument. Did she? I don’t know. We’ll find out.
Victoria Volk 21:13
There was a beautiful story about a boy named jeffie. And in her book, The Wheel of Life really, like, moved me. But jeffie was a boy that she had worked with and he was had leukemia much of his life. Are you familiar? Do you remember the story?
Ken Ross 21:30
I remember the name, but I can’t remember that particular story. Because I’ve heard like, 10,000 structure.
Victoria Volk 21:35
He had the tricycle or the bicycle. He had gotten a bicycle for his birthday. And he told his dad or
Ken Ross 21:41
one with a brother. Yeah, yeah. Right. Right. The beautiful thing
Victoria Volk 21:45
about her work is that she helped families. I mean, she gave the family a beautiful gift in that in this boy too, because he wanted to go home. And he helped him he helped him communicate that to his parents. And so they took him home, because there was nothing more he didn’t want to do. And he didn’t want to do any more chemo, he was done. So they took him home. And then he said to his dad, because he had gotten this brand new bicycle, but he never got to ride it. He told his dad take this bike down. And he said in you, Dr. Ross, you’re gonna hold my mom back. Right? Because he knew that she could not not, you know, ride with him and hold him and make sure it doesn’t fall and or something. Yeah, he ended up giving the bike to his brother for his birthday because he knew that he was going to pass away. But even before they left the hospital, he told Dr. Ross he had said to her, you know, cuz she said, Well, I don’t have time to go home with all my patients or, you know, all the all the children I help. And he’s like, Don’t worry, it’ll be 10 minutes, like he knew he was going to go home and die. But it was just a beautiful story. It truly truly touched me. But I just think that that’s the beautiful thing about her work is that she assisted so many people in having good deaths.
Ken Ross 22:54
My mother was a master at kind of pulling out symbolic, nonverbal language. So what she called it and said, like a very important part of our work is that my mother, she had like antenna and she could just pick up things that were not said verbally, but she could pick up things and she has new like, she’s like head Oh, radar station on her head, she was picking up all the stuff, nonverbal communication, and she could just find out stuff about patients in seconds, and go Okay, all we got to talk here because this person’s about to go. Or this person needs to say something that’s gonna be a big breakthrough. And she was just a master at that. And she did it to me too, which made me crazy, couldn’t keep any secrets from my mom, cuz she just pick up stuff.
Victoria Volk 23:40
very intuitive and empathic, likely to
Ken Ross 23:44
incredibly, like just the stories that, you know, I heard about my mom picking up stuff or just out of this world.
Victoria Volk 23:50
I mean, that’s just one little blip of her work of what she did
Ken Ross 23:54
hundreds and hundreds of stories I’ve heard just on that particular topic. And I have my favorites. But I mean, you know, everyone I talked to, oh my God. He said, assuming your mother did, I’m like, Oh, yeah, she does that all the time every week.
Victoria Volk 24:06
Give me one of your favorites. my very
Ken Ross 24:09
favorite I heard after she died. I heard it from her best friend in the late 60s was this the hospitals are really mad at her or doing this work with dying patients. So they assigned her this big, like six foot three African American priest, who turns out was also a Black Panther. Right? So here’s my mom, five foot tall Swiss accent with a six foot three African American Black Panther priest come down the hallway. It’s quite the scene, right? In the 60s, that was pretty heavy duty. Yeah, so anyway, within a few weeks, the priests like like fell in love, not romantically but with my mom and her work and said, Okay, I’m not going to stop her. I’m going to protect her. So if any doctor got my mom’s face, this, you know, six foot three guy said, you get out of here or else it’s going to be trouble. And so they weren’t about to get in a fight with a priest so they’d head out and Elizabeth would do her work. But anyway, he said, like one time we came into a room and this woman had cancer of the jaw and throat and had her mouth wired shut. And we sat down. And he said, Your mother seemed to have an entire conversation with her, even though she could only grunt and you could not understand a single word. The woman said, Your mother understood her and was answering her. And a woman would grant your mother would talk the woman grant. And this went back and forth for a few minutes. And then your mother turned to me and said, Get this woman an apple and walked out of the room with no explanation. He said, Well, why would I get a woman whose mouth is wired shut, and Apple didn’t make sense. They said, Your mother’s very famous. And he didn’t say no, your mother. So I went down to the cafeteria, got swollen and apple and she started crying. And so I said to her, can you please explain what transpired between you and Elizabeth? If I get a piece of paper and a pen? Can you write down what happened? And she wrote that she had been school teacher, and she wanted to get one more Apple like our students used to give her before she died. And and disguise like, she did not say a word like you cannot. How did Elizabeth come up with this? That’s just unbelievable. But your mother does this? Did this like every day? It’s incredible.
Victoria Volk 26:10
Wow. Wow. That’s a good story. Yeah. That’s a good story.
Ken Ross 26:15
Yeah. I mean, he has lots of and she did it in our workshops every week to just craziness. Like, there was 100 people sitting around in a workshop, and one person wouldn’t participate. And my mother wouldn’t allow that. So I brought the guy into the circle, and said, Look, I’m homeless, I only came for the food. Somebody gave me this as a gift. I appreciate what you’re doing. But you know, there’s nothing you can do or say, to get me to participate. I am dead inside. So my mother sat there for like, 15 minutes, not a word. And the staffs like, Oh, this guy is stumped Elizabeth finally. And so she said, Let’s sing a song. And my mother picked a song. They also 100 people started singing it and this guy broke down crying uncontrollably. And when he composed himself, he said, that’s a song. I used to sing to my son before he died. He was 16. How did Elizabeth pick that song? Right? I mean, unbelievable.
Victoria Volk 27:06
Yeah, I literally have goosebumps.
Ken Ross 27:10
It’s like, you know, she had the hotline to the big guy upstairs.
Victoria Volk 27:15
Wow. I wonder someday she’ll be a saint and be a sainthood.
Ken Ross 27:21
Saint and devil. She was naughty, but nice.
Victoria Volk 27:26
So what is it? You know, that’s the thing like she seems like this feisty, like, don’t you’re no one’s gonna stop me. Oh, yeah. You know, like, very driven. And where does that come from? Where did that come from?
Ken Ross 27:38
From her father. Her father was incredibly stubborn. And she was constantly butting heads with her father, because she was stubborn, too, naturally. But I think her father was like the thing like, who was going to be more stubborn? And so yeah, my mother’s is driven from day one. She was doing things which were totally ridiculous. And no one was going to stop, right? I mean, when she was a kid, she had a pet monkey. Nobody in rural Switzerland in 1930s had a pet monkey. My mother had a pet monkey had African dolls. Swiss girls didn’t play with African dolls. Where did that come from? You know, my mother went to one of the neighbors who was dying and asked him what it was like to be dying, which was like seven years old. Swiss girls didn’t do that. No, but my mother did. Right? I mean, just everything was always focused on like, inquiring want to know what life’s about what’s death, about what you know, I want to know, I want this. Don’t get my wife. She would beat up the school bully if you picked on like her sister. Yeah. And she was tiny. So she was just driven from day one.
Victoria Volk 28:44
Do you have any doubts that when we come into this world, that the path is kind of laid out in front of us? And yes, it’s our freewill to choose and follow those insights or follow those intuitive things that Barker interest or our curiosity. But do you believe that that is just something that like she knew her path? Like she just followed the her curiosity wherever it led her?
Ken Ross 29:09
Yeah, absolutely. I think she said, You know, we’re all here to figure out what our path is. And most people don’t really find it, or they find pieces of it, but they don’t really find the center of the river. And my mom was like, you know, in the center of the river from day one. She just knew what she had to do. And she was always striving for more and more and didn’t matter if it was realistic or possible. She just did it.
Victoria Volk 29:32
Well, and she didn’t listen to the naysayers even as a young child, right? she just, she could have felt like when someone said to her well, who has a pet monkey? Well, oh, yeah, that’s kind of weird, you know, and, you know, but she didn’t she continued on like, she marched to the beat of her own drum. Oh, yeah, I mean,
Ken Ross 29:50
her stubbornness is like legendary during her one of her last Tia strokes after the fire, like I’m sitting with her, and she’s In the middle of having a stroke, right, and I’m trying to get her to go to the hospital and she’s like, no, get me a cigarette, you know. You’re having a stroke. Yeah. Okay, get me a cigarette like him have a stroke who asked for a cigarette in the middle of a stroke? I mean, you don’t take me to the hospital, they’ll kill me. You know, I mean, just insane.
Victoria Volk 30:22
Do you mind sharing what her last words for you were?
Ken Ross 30:25
Well, it’s really interesting. It wasn’t her like very last word. But you know, for nine years, I took care of her. And you know, she was angry to some degree, and then she gets bashed for that too. It’s like, Okay, well, let’s say your house has burned down. All your research labs research has burned down. Your favorite animal shot, the police declare an accident. You know, you have paralyzing stroke. He can’t garden you can’t do your work. You can’t do anything. You sit in a chair. Why would you be angry? Like, oh, she’s a human being. So she was expected to be like, you know, Buddha or something. But, so for nine years, he’s like, you know, if he was angry, he can see on the Oprah interview. It’s on YouTube, but her version of angry is like, you know, she’s so like laughing and smiling too. So it’s not like he’s like wow, with a knife. But anyway, she said, Oh, I want to die. I want to die. Shot suicide. Oh, she’s like, okay, I’ve done all my work. I’m ready to check out it’s no big deal. Let’s just go so after nine years of saying she wants to die, she’s ready to die. Like out of the blue. I’m in a room as Kennet. I’m not ready to die. I don’t want to die right now. I’m like, What? So I’m like, What did you say? And then to change the subject, like, go get me talk or something, or just totally like, oh, give me some flowers? Or I’m like, wait, no, what did you say? She would not go back to it. And I’m like, What did that what was that after nine years. And then a few weeks later, she died. And it took me like two, three years to realize that, oh, my mom learned her final lesson. That’s what she’s always saying, when we learn our lessons, we’re allowed to graduate, which means die, make our transition. And so when my mom like over all of her anger, and learned her final lesson to let people love her and take care of her, not being the one in charge, and she was allowed to graduate, right away is like, Wow, it was totally right. That’s exactly what she said her whole life. And she learned her final lesson, she was allowed to make her departure
Victoria Volk 32:30
that reminds me of I did a podcast interview with a medium who mentioned one of her most memorable clients was mother who had lost a son to suicide. And the mother was so concerned that the son was not in heaven, because like he was really being his soul was tormented or whatever. And the medium told her, Well, the son told the medium and the medium communicated that. No, he’s in school, because he didn’t learn his lessons in the physical plane that he had to learn it. You know, his soul had to learn it after. And so that he was in school, learning his lessons. So it made me think of that. And so what I’m curious then to like, what the lessons that your mom has passed on to you about the afterlife, what has stuck with you, mostly?
Ken Ross 33:22
in that department, I have to say, I’m torn between my parents because my father did not leave life after death. Mm, smart guy, genius. Great guy, mother? Absolutely. You know, I saw any number of things that have no rational explanation. So I guess I kind of take a hybrid view of both my parents. And my only concern is like, what’s now today? I have no interest. Like if you had a fortune teller medium, who could? Who was absolutely you knew was like the real thing and tell you everything. I would have zero interest because I love the surprise. I don’t want to know. And I don’t think pragmatism is the right word. I don’t know what the word is. But I’m just like mother taught me is that whatever happens is, what happens is fine, it’s like, everything’s fine. That’s what’s gonna happen. You know, my only fear, I guess, is, I have no fear of death. I only fear like, the things that I can control. So I can’t control death, but I can control how I live. My fear, I guess would be like wasting my life or not living to the max, right? So that’s my only fear is like, oh, I’ve got to use every opportunity, I’ve got to look for the clues. Because that’s what I can control. I can control if you know, a meteor falls on my head. I’m not worried about that. I’m not worried the planes gonna crash or, you know, I’m gonna die or whatever, because I have no control over that. So I only fear the things I can control the things that are in my power. I have no interest in life after death, in that, whatever happens can happen and that Nature and I totally embrace whatever, whatever is real. You know, in the afterlife. That’s great. If there’s no life after death, that’d be great. There’s life after that great if there’s reincarnation, that’s great. I just, I just totally maybe as Buddhist I don’t know, I just whatever happens, I accept, because that’s what, that’s the nature of the universe. And so I accepted 1,000%. So I’m not, I don’t care what happens. Does that make sense? Yeah, yeah. Like I just like, at peace with the reality of what is
Victoria Volk 35:35
very much you’re in the present. And that’s a lot. That’s a very big problem for a lot of people. And so I congratulate you for that. Because, I mean, like, either a lot of people are stuck in the past, or they’re stuck in the future, they’re always thinking ahead. And they’re always, you know, planning for the, for tomorrow or next week in the next year, but yet, they can’t like just be still in the moment, you know? Yeah, it was a good wake
Ken Ross 35:58
up. And I have this thing called the dice theory, like, every day, I want to like roll the dice, meaning, I want to make something happen. Right? I don’t know what it is. Sometimes, you know, I feel like Oh, you know what I should call 10. People today, call 10 people and see what they’re doing. Maybe they’ll give me an idea. Or maybe I’ll give them an idea. Maybe call 10 strangers go on LinkedIn and just contact 10 people and see what happens. It’s like I’m just rolling the dice of life going, Hey, let’s make something happen. Well, let’s let’s go and take a drive and move on discover new restaurant or new thing. Or maybe I’ll meet somebody or so it’s my dice theory, like everyday, make something happen just by chance, or by feeling the groove like, you know, today, I think I should work on my mom’s tapes are my mom’s books or call some publishers and just make something happen. So I have a everyday I want to throw that dice to like make things happen, because a dice will bump into other dice, and start something you wouldn’t have expected had you not throw the dice, or create a chain reaction. I’m going to call my group and prove and see, hey, maybe we can come up with an idea just by having a talk. So I’ve worked my dice theory every day.
Victoria Volk 37:12
I absolutely love that. Is that how you connected with me on LinkedIn? Yeah, rolled the dice.
Ken Ross 37:19
Part of the dice theory,
Victoria Volk 37:20
and I rolled the dice right back at you. Well, I’ll take that as a handshake, leave you my podcast. Yeah. Here we sit, right?
Ken Ross 37:27
That’s totally the dice theory, right? Like if I didn’t like reach out, then we wouldn’t be here today. And maybe you’ll meet somebody else from my mom’s family. And you’ll have something that’s not only for me, it’s for other people, I
Victoria Volk 37:39
impact roll it for,
Ken Ross 37:41
for the universe and for everybody and to make things happen for everybody. Also, for other people,
Victoria Volk 37:48
I love that.
Ken Ross 37:49
I have the dice series as my
Victoria Volk 37:52
maybe that’s a book title.
Ken Ross 37:54
That isn’t dicey living your life.
Victoria Volk 37:57
Yeah, you better not chop that down. I get the first copy.
Ken Ross 38:02
Okay, you’re part of a dice theory. So right, it works. You’re here. I’m here. And this is like, you know, but every day I want to roll the dice and like, I still want to sit back and wait, you know, if you sit back, and maybe it’ll happen, but if you throw the dice, then you’re participating. It’s like, and you know, it’s like, I walk down the street and I talk to people in countries where I go and things happen. Oh, here’s the dice theory. I had two weeks off, and I bought a one way ticket to Chile. I got the first night hotel and and I had no plans. I didn’t study a book. I didn’t make no idea what’s happening in Chile or Santiago. I just flew down there one way. That’s it, I’m walking down the street first hour, nice doorway, I take a selfie. An hour later, somebody on Facebook says, oh, I’ve been writing you from Colombia for three years. I wanted to meet you. Can we have dinner tonight? I’m now in Santiago with my boyfriend. I’m like, yeah, cuz I have no plans. I’m just throwing the dice. So she said I’m going to bring a translator on speak English. So we met for dinner. And she had my mom’s beliefs tattooed on her arm, right? So like a hardcore mom fan. He said, I want to start a foundation in Chile. I go great. Well, I mean, you got these tattoos you’re like, seem like you’re really a lovely person. You’re really like enthusiastic. I said, if the board doesn’t agree within the next 90 days, I will just give you permission to do it. Because I feel this is right as part of my dice theory. Right? So within 90 days, the board said yes, she started a chapter. And her dream was to start the first pediatric hospice in Chile and Santiago. So he kr initiated the first pediatric hospice in Chile, because of the
Victoria Volk 39:38
dice theory, because he took a selfie in front of a picture that someone
Ken Ross 39:41
because I just bought a one way ticket to Chile, I thought, Oh, I just feel like I want to do this. I need to do this. So this is a nice theory. Like there’s a pediatric hospice being built out in San Diego because of the dice theory, right? It’s like,
Victoria Volk 39:52
Ah, yes. Amazing. Yeah, it’s following the intuitive hits. Like you get this intuitive thought like Oh, just book it. It’s One thing to have a thought it’s another thing to follow up and take action on that thought. And how many thoughts in a day do we let just slip by us? You know, just picking up the phone and telling someone, Hey, how are you doing? I’ve been thinking about you. I do that a lot.
Ken Ross 40:14
You know, maybe next week, they died in a car accident, something but at least you reached out and like, you didn’t have unfinished business. So I’m saying like, Don’t die with unfinished business.
Victoria Volk 40:24
So we stay in grief recovery, too. Yeah, so that was a thing
Ken Ross 40:27
I like in the 70s. Her workshops. Were all about dealing with your unfinished business. Right? Oh, so you can have a good death? Yeah, yeah. So I just went to Kurdistan in northern Iraq, right? And I’m like, Well, okay. It’s as nice as for me, but it’s kind of, not maybe not hedonistic, but it’s like, okay, I want to give back to. So I reached out to a board member who travels a lot. And I said, Do you have any contacts in Iraq? He said, Oh, yeah, I know, an oncologist in the eastern part of Kurdistan. So I wrote her. I didn’t hear back. And when I got there, I thought, I’m gonna try one more time. I reached out. She said, Oh, yeah, well, can we have a meeting tomorrow morning? I’m like, Yeah, great. So I went there. And we had an hour long talk, I tour the hospital, it was very depressing. It was the best hospitals, supposedly in Iraq. And so should we really need help? So I said, Oh, well, we’ll give you our palliative care trainings from the foundation, if that would help, right. And so then I reached out to the board member who connected us, I said, we need to help this woman. So he’s connected her to this worldwide palliative care group. So I’m hoping that will lead to things too. But it’s because of like, Oh, I should, like, do something for mom and the foundation while I’m in Kurdistan, right. So it’s also part of the theory of just like, I was like, you know, it’s great for me having a nice trip and my photography, but let’s like, it works better with karma, if it goes both ways, and I do something for other people. So, so that was a nice example, too. It’s like, we’ve just given them 11 classes, and we’re gonna be sending them to more classes. And I tried to connect them some people to get some more trainings, and they have a lot of problems there with money and lack of pain medication, and so forth. And that I can’t do anything about but at least we can help train their doctors,
Victoria Volk 42:19
which will be huge. So the ripples impact? Yeah. Oh, I love that. The dice theory, I want to kind of come back to something, you know, that I asked earlier about your mom, and at the end of her life? Have you had any moments of where you felt like, Oh, that’s my mom, like, tapping me on the shoulder. Oh, after she passed,
Ken Ross 42:43
Oh, yes. I have a drum set. I’m part time drummer. Because I don’t do enough. And my mom had sense of humor. So three or four times, within the first year after she died. Every time I bend over to tie my shoe, the snare drum would hit just once. I mean really loud. And it would scare the bejesus out of me. Only when I’m bending over, like, you know ones, like maximum freakout effect in the house by myself and bang,
Victoria Volk 43:16
undeniable, right? Yeah, that’s like,
Ken Ross 43:19
mommy gonna give me a heart attack. And then once I was in my bedroom closet, my cat had kittens sitting on the floor with my girlfriend at the time. And I clearly heard my mom’s voice say hello with her Swiss accent. I’m like, wow, I totally projected mom’s voice that time. I was like, I was the loudest I’ve ever heard my mom’s voice. And I look up and my girlfriend’s like, what was that? There’s a woman in here. Like you heard that? She’s like, yeah, there’s is a housekeeper in here. I’m like, is Sunday night at 11? What would a housekeeper be? Like? Like, know that? I think that was mom. Because Yeah, she had an accent. I’m like, yeah, that was mom.
Victoria Volk 43:59
Wow, that was weird. So that still hasn’t swayed your her thoughts on afterlife? Oh, no,
Ken Ross 44:05
I totally not saying it’s not. But if it is, I don’t know what form it is. You know, is it the Buddhist idea is that the Christian idea is, you know, I mean,
Victoria Volk 44:17
yeah, beautiful mystery, right?
Ken Ross 44:19
It’s not like, saying I don’t care sounds too irreverent. But it’s like, whatever it is, is like, you know, I certainly I’m not saying there’s not I’m saying, I don’t know, 100% maybe I know 99%. But the only thing I know 100% is I’m here today and and that’s great. And I just work on today and what I know and what I have and throw those dice and when I get to that point, then I’ll know that for sure. Yeah,
Victoria Volk 44:45
do we ever really know like till battle. It doesn’t matter.
Ken Ross 44:48
To me if there’s life after death, or it’s not or it’s in this form or I come back 100 more times. You know, I just accept it because that’s what it is. You
Victoria Volk 45:00
brings to mind a thought I have just in bringing that up. It’s because for a lot of Grievers, or people who are bereaved and had to say goodbye, and maybe it was a traumatic death or whatever they have, you know, unfinished business with that person or whatever it is, to feel that connection with someone to know that there’s a connection or that there is something after can bring people a lot of comfort. But But I can imagine, though, and just in knowing who your mom was in the work that she did, like, you feel connection with her and everything that you do, I imagine.
Ken Ross 45:38
Oh, yeah, I mean, you know, I mean with especially with my mom, because I’m totally spoiled because I have, you know, her two dozen books and I have 100 audio tapes. And I have 100 videotapes, and I have her on YouTube and I have an everywhere I go, like on the planet, people like Oh, I know your mother, I make our mother like, you know, like, everywhere, it’s like, and I hear these, I keep hearing new stories, like how many stories can there be how many people have met on this planet? Like, Everywhere I go, it’s like wow, like is is like she lived 10 lifetimes or something because it’s not possible that one person did so much in such a short amount of time. You know, I mean, she basically started when she was 40 years old, and retired in her 60s and she wrote two dozen books and hundreds of chapters and did hundreds of workshops around the world and started the hospice movement to some degree and started the belif Kermode son degree and she you know, I mean she was seeing patients she had a working farm she was a mother she was answering hundreds of 1000s of letters she was you know cooking for the workshops she didn’t have enough to do and you know is just insane how much he did as I say impossible that one person did all this but she did
Victoria Volk 46:55
do you think she had any regrets or did she ever voice any regrets?
Ken Ross 46:59
She was just pissed off about her paralysis at the end but I was out of her control yeah was out of our control so other than that pin boys any
Victoria Volk 47:10
you know like wishing that she would have started sooner like oh if I just started my 20s I would have had you know this many more years to
Ken Ross 47:19
you know, at the end she said yeah, Kenneth is Do whatever you want if you want to do my work great if you don’t want to do my work great. Do whatever feels right. And destroy no guilt. No expectations. No. pressure.
Victoria Volk 47:31
I was a gift to Yeah. So Kim, if you if you were to summarize her life in five minutes or less sure. What what has I mean, just do a rundown list of like, over life over work.
Ken Ross 47:53
Um, so I think the the main overview, the umbrellas fabric, would say that she was trying to fight the depersonalization of the dying, the the dehumanization of the death process and of patients, you know, because she said, patients are just like, numbers in a bed is disgusting, like, treat these people as individuals, right? You know, and, and respect them and at least give them a few minutes of personal dignity. Just don’t treat them like okay, this is the cancer patient, this leukemia patient, that’s the whatever, you know, so she was fighting the dehumanization, and a medicalization of, of dying, right? So that’s her big thing was treating people as human beings not as patients and in numbers of beds and things. Right. And, and fighting for hospice because she really wanted people to die at home with their families with proper care and pain medication. She said, No one should ever die in pain. It’s ridiculous that, you know, in the late 19th century and 20th century and 21st century, we haven’t made more progress with this. said there’s pain medications, why are people dying in pain in Africa? Why did I go this hospital in Kurdistan? There’s no pain medication in the 21st century. It’s just outrageous. It’s about her talking about the the four quadrants was really big for her. Nobody talks about but everyone uses but think they don’t realize I think it came from my mother is that imperative care, we have, you know, the balance of the emotional, intellectual, physical and spiritual. I think this idea came from my mom, which she got it I think, from young but not used in palliative care. But in early 70s, my mother was saying you need to treat patients with the four quadrants. If you just treat the physical you’re not healing a person you need to deal with the emotional and intellectual and the spiritual, as well as the physical right so the four quadrants was huge for my mother, I was part of everything in my mom’s world was a circle a wheel right. So The four quadrants of of health is the basis of palliative care, but I think no one realizes it came from most of this work. And then what else externalizing our emotions. Learning to everything in life is perspective. Her work is very much like logotherapy she was friends with Viktor Frankl you know, they really do their work was very tied together. challenging your fears, embrace embracing unconditional love. bioethics, listening hope. I think these are the wheel that makes up Elizabeth work.
Victoria Volk 50:35
Yeah, I actually had Dr. Chris Kerr, who was he’s been studying end of life experiences in the surviving death series on Netflix, I had him on the podcast and, and that, and again, like that just comes back to the end of life training that I had, we that’s what we talk about is the whole person. Because when you when you die, you come into this world, a whole person, and you go out a whole person spiritually, physically, emotionally, mentally, like all of those things, right? So yeah, it’s very important that the all the whole person is addressed. Right? So they can have a good death is really what it comes down to.
Ken Ross 51:15
What else that’s and learning, of course, to listen to symbolic verbal language and symbolic nonverbal language is also extremely important. When you’re a death doula or end of life worker doctor working with dying patients, really learning about the symbolic, non non verbal language of people is hugely important because a lot of people don’t have the words children don’t have the words they don’t have the vocabulary. Older people are beginning to lose over vocabulary. But they give you science, like look for the science.
Victoria Volk 51:45
Absolutely. What is, I mean, can you just kind of quickly go over like, because I know her life has been it? You just you kind of touched on it at the very beginning. Like just the all the stuff that she did? What’s the highlight reel?
Ken Ross 52:05
highlight reel? another tough question. For me, it’s like, you know, the day World War Two ended, she joined a peace group. And you know, living in Switzerland, comfortable food, no dangerous, no, nothing, you know, she could have just easily stayed there and lived a happy, comfortable life. But she she needed to go out and always help the underdog. And so she joined a peace group. And her father said, If you leave the house, you’re never going to come back. And my mother said, I don’t care. Like, this is the right thing to do. People are suffering, and we’re so comfortable. How can we sit here and not just be horrified how, you know, we have all the stuff and everyone else is suffering around us in Europe. So she hitchhiked you know, through France and rebuilt the village. Right. And you know, she was starving. I mean, she was like, you know, looking for scraps of bread on on the ground when she could have been comfortable at home. And then she went up into Denmark, she almost died. And then she went to Germany, and she almost died there from burns from a pot that broken boiling oil spilled on her legs, you know, and then she went to Denmark, Sweden, went into Poland, she worked in a camp, she lived with the gypsies, she went to the concentration camps. I mean, those two years alone are just, you know, beyond belief, what she did, and so brave, and risking her life over and over and over just to help, you know, dying people and people who are just barely hanging on with nothing. And so that was amazing by itself. And then she, she snuck in a German convoy. They put her in a box of vegetables, and locked it up. And she snuck through the Russian lines, and went back to Berlin where she caught a train back to Switzerland. So it was crazy. And then, you know, she went to medical school when women were not going to medical school. And she didn’t have the money she needed to have the proper accreditation. But because of her relief work during World War Two, after World War Two, I kind of let her slide in Wow. You know, went to America and then you know, the whole story with the University of Chicago and fighting the establishment and having doctors spit on her in the hallway and people leaving nasty notes. How do you talk to dying patients, you know, your vulture should be ashamed of yourself. I’m going to try to take your license away horrible, you know, just for trying to lead dying patients have a chance to say goodbye to the families.
Victoria Volk 54:45
so incredible. And that wasn’t even that long ago. And I think about this grand scheme of things.
Ken Ross 54:51
Yeah. And she has so many stories that, you know, patients dying and their families literally 10 footer in the hallway and because it’s not visiting hours, they don’t let the family To say goodbye and the patient dies alone in a room because of the hospital rules. And also, she was also fighting against the hospital rules and the rules that they can’t bring in children and all these ridiculous things that were going on around this kind of sick death culture in America,
Victoria Volk 55:14
what do you think, helped change that the most? I mean, just because what was there something a part of her work that really changed that aspect of the dyeing process,
Ken Ross 55:25
you know, she shined the light on it, between her book and that article in Life magazine, you know, a millions of people read about it. And here’s this woman willing to talk about death in an open and honest way. And no one was doing that, I mean, almost no one that was doing that anyway. And my mother had a capacity to kind of use a simple language, in part because she was a foreigner, and didn’t have a big command of the English language. But she had this way of just communicating way that people could understand whether it was a doctor or a patient or anybody. And, you know, this Life magazine article is shine so much light that they could no longer deny that there was this huge problem happening in America. And you know, in Western culture, Europe, and elsewhere. So, so much light shined on it, that they could no longer like, hide it. So they had to face it.
Victoria Volk 56:17
So in the midst of COVID, in the process of ways that people have not been able to be with their loved ones, and the impact that has on the bereaved and those dying, and what do you think your mom would have said to that? And do you think that that has actually highlighted how far behind we are?
Ken Ross 56:42
I think it has, because there’s been a lot of articles talking about Elizabeth and, and the stages of grief and all that more than usual. But I think my mother would compare COVID to the AIDS crisis, because she said it was just like a crisis, and that there was so much misinformation, so much fear, there’s so much anger that was being mis directed at things which had nothing to do with the conversation. But people were angry, fearful, there was like, a lot of attacks, all these things going on, which is very similar to COVID. Right? You know, people’s fear, you know, death and a brings out their fear of death, right? And that comes out in various ways and hostility and all this air rage and all these things going on now is misdirected anger over their fear of COVID and death. So, you know, she was a great parallels because, you know, the whole age crisis was a big thing for my mom and demonstrating how the society had so much further to go with the conversation about death and dying. And grief and facing an honestly and, and dealing with our unfinished business. Right. So just, you know, COVID, again, demonstrates we haven’t dealt with our unfinished business.
Victoria Volk 57:55
Now, many of us. And you since you brought it up the five stages. Can we go there? Can we talk about that a little bit?
Ken Ross 58:05
Speaking of anger,
Victoria Volk 58:08
yeah. Tell me what, tell me really lay the truth out today.
Ken Ross 58:14
Talk to 10 people get 10 versions of the truth.
Victoria Volk 58:17
Yeah, yeah. Get it from the horse’s mouth, like I guess. Yeah.
Ken Ross 58:21
My version of the truth. So we have on death and dying of the real book, right? Yes, my my dummy copy. If we go to page 251, I believe Yes. Sophie, look in the actual book, right? So we look here, we see that Elizabeth clearly writes about 10 stages, right? It says 12345. And yet those 10 boxes. So I think to some degree, the publisher, kind of when they were putting together the manuscript kind of focused it into five stages. I’m guessing it’s a guess, because my mom did an entire chapter on hope. But why isn’t hope, a chapter big? You know, a sage because she does a whole chapter on anger or chapter on bargaining. denial. There’s a whole chapter on hope, but they didn’t consider that a stage or why not? I don’t know. It doesn’t make sense. But anyway, basically, Elizabeth was trying to say that grief is complex. And back in the 60s, grief was this monolithic thing. And Elizabeth was trying to say that grief is made up of different components, right? So it’s very ironic that people say to me, oh, you know, Elizabeth didn’t get it right. Because grief is complex, and it’s not made up of five stages. I’m like, Well, okay. The point is that she was saying that grief is made up of individual emotions. That you know, it’s not one thing you can add anxiety you can add, you know, my mom talked about preparatory grief which is the same as anticipatory grief, right, which became Kind of trendy to talk about, I think the last two years, because that’s part of COVID this anticipatory grief, but Elizabeth mentioned it in on death and dying 50 years ago, and some people are acting like, you know, it was just like discovered or, or identified just recently, but you know, Elizabeth, not a half a century ago. And she talked about shock. And she talked about hope. And she talked about, you know, Claire Bidwell Smith, I think, did a book on the missing stage of anxiety. Elizabeth mentioned anxiety, 14 times in on death and dying, right? So But no, she didn’t identify it as a stage. But he identified it as an element of the process that we sometimes go through. So the stages are not meant to be like a ladder, or some way to graduate to acceptance, it’s just meant to be a way to have a conversation is a models, not the only model is this one model that you want to contribute, to have a conversation about grief, which people weren’t having, and still don’t really have in healthy ways, quite often. So again, it’s a model, it’s not meant to be the only model is meant to be a flexible model. And if you look on our website, AK ar foundation.org, you’ll see there’s various demonstrations of how she talked about the stages, as circles, you know, as as one line going back and forth. She talks about dreams as being part of the stages, talks about a lot of things which are not generally talked about in society that will fix fixate on the five stages. But Elizabeth talked about many more things. And after 1975, she rarely talked about stages at all. She those, I think she was on a show with O’Brien’s 7475. And she goes, Oh, let’s not talk about the stages are so old, right in 75. And then they bash Elizabeth, because that’s all she talked about. I’m like, No, that’s all you guys are talking about. She talked about 50 other things in society and popular media that just can’t let go of it. Right? They say it doesn’t exist. And yet it is the most popular grief theory on the planet. It is like, you know, not making it up. Because it’s my mother. It’s like, it’s been used in over 100 TV shows and movies. Right? It. There’s, like plays about the five stages, there’s novels, there’s cartoons, there’s games, there’s, you know, I’m teen doesn’t plays about the five stages, right? So I mean, you know, I’m sorry, but it is popular, like what does that mean? Does that mean it doesn’t exist? I don’t know, it must trigger something. To some people. There’s 10s of 1000s of articles by people who experience the five stages. So you can’t say it doesn’t exist because 10s of 1000s of articles by people said I experienced it or it helps me so you can say it’s not appropriate to everybody. You can say it’s good for some people, but it hurts other people because they think they need to go through it. You know, I would accept that. But you can’t say it doesn’t exist or it’s been disproven. That’s just you know, denial. That’s a model period.
Victoria Volk 1:03:18
Do you think Can I ask Can you clarify is is how the media and how her work has been interpreted around that has that is that not what she is? Is that what she intended? Did she you don’t I mean,
Ken Ross 1:03:36
I was with her sometimes, you know, she’d see like the Simpsons episode where something goes through the five stages. You’re like, What? Why does that bullshit love to say that word with her Swiss accent? That’s bullshit.
Victoria Volk 1:03:53
Oh, that wasn’t her intention like and in the book was in the book was written in that context, in the work of working with the dine correct.
Ken Ross 1:04:03
But I mean, I would say like, even though like the BBC just did a story saying the rise and fall of the five stages. PS we use it to train our workers. I mean that that doesn’t make sense. Like, how can you say, the fall of the five stages? pS we’re using it to train our entire staff. That’s like,
Victoria Volk 1:04:23
I think it’s one of those things that people love to hate and they love to just sink their teeth teeth into I’ve even said that it’s like of all her amazing work that she’s accomplished and done. That’s the one thing that like you said, just the people can’t let it go.
Ken Ross 1:04:39
Right? And then they blame Elizabeth because she couldn’t let it go and like she let it go. Like in 75. Yeah, that
Victoria Volk 1:04:44
wasn’t even her focus. Like that wasn’t such a small part of her work.
Ken Ross 1:04:49
So we just said the five stages used in the first was the Marvel Comics, as in Deadpool two and then Disney just use it as Their central focus of their movie krewella. And the is an actual advertising for the movie, they talk about the five stages. Yeah, and I really think it’s more popular than ever. I mean, it’s just everywhere I look. It’s used. There’s been over 60 musicians I’ve identified, who’ve done songs or albums based on the five stages or Elizabeth. I mean, how many grief theories have 60 songs written about it, or albums written about it, or like EP is like, every song is one of the stages. There’s even two bands named Kubler Ross. You know, she’s like part of popular media, like not only her stages, but she is part of it. Her voice is used in rock songs. It’s so bizarre to me sometimes.
Victoria Volk 1:05:46
Wow. She’s embedded in our culture, very much. so
Ken Ross 1:05:50
bizarre, though. It’s like, wow, where’s this gonna continue going? Like one’s gonna stop.
Victoria Volk 1:05:55
So did she clarify more of that in her later work in books.
Ken Ross 1:06:03
She really tried not to talk about it. She was like, fed up with the conversation. But right before her death, were contacted by another grief worker, David Kessler. And you know, we were contacted literally every week, can I write a book with your mother? Can I do this. And finally, I was kind of sick of it, too. So I said, you know, maybe it’s a good idea. Maybe we should talk about this way, agreed to let David work with my mom. And they did a book which just happened out here on grief, and grieving in which she further clarified and David helped clarify the five stages of grief. And again, this book is like in the top 20 or so sellers, you know, of all grief books, even now, you know, 1617 years after mom died. And sometimes it sells better than on death and dying. is still 17 years after she does. So the book came out in 2005, I think. But it’s still selling extremely well. And we’re still selling it. I think just in the last few months, we sold it in Vietnamese, Cantonese, in Mongolian. In Thai, I mean, it’s just like, it has a life of its own. It’s just unbelievable.
Victoria Volk 1:07:29
Now it’s almost it’s as if her work has a life of its own. Now it’s
Ken Ross 1:07:33
your soul to work in Farsi for the first time. And it just wow me just keeps on spreading out.
Victoria Volk 1:07:42
And you can you share quickly too on the death and die on death and dying her that first book you had mentioned to me before we started recording where how many languages and I just found it very fascinating. The fact that you shared about
Ken Ross 1:07:57
Yeah, love about this book is that is both in Hebrew and Arabic. We sold Arabic for the first time about six months ago in Saudi Arabia. So they have a psychology book in Arabic and Hebrew at the same time is just incredible. It’s really unusual. And it just speaks to the university ality of the language and message of what’s held in this book, which is not just about the stages, of course, it’s about the experiences that Diane go through, and find this language that we can have between the doctors and the patients, and make it easy to have a conversation where there’s not normally a common language between medical staff and and laymen who are dying or their families. So the new edition, the 50th anniversary edition also includes her testimony before Congress in 1972. she testified before the Committee on aging, that the way people die in this country was disgusting, and unacceptable, and we had to do something about it. So it’s just amazing to have this little Swiss hillbilly lecture in the Senate. how people should die in this country. The whole whole testimony is now in the 50th anniversary edition, which has the blue cover.
Victoria Volk 1:09:12
And I’m not sure anything has really changed. You know, I mean,
Ken Ross 1:09:16
it’s happened slowly. We have the death doulas now we didn’t have Yes, that’s true. That’s true years ago. So that is a sign of progress. Yeah, it’s so slow, but it’s, you know, it’s kind of glacier. Like,
Victoria Volk 1:09:28
is that what gives you the most hope for her work?
Ken Ross 1:09:31
Well, the fact that you know, we have four new languages in one year that we never had in 50 years is just incredible. Like, you know, I think after 50 years, the thing will have died a peaceful death. But, you know, the fact that in this last year for the first time we published in Albanian, Arabic, Farsi and Mongolian You know, that’s amazing for a book that’s half a century old. And that, you know, we keep having new foundations pop up around the world. And have this beautiful honor. So Elizabeth, and people wanting to, you know, start like book clubs in Mongolia. And we just got contacted by a group in Kenya that wants to do something with the foundation. And, you know, I really see her legacy is very much alive and appreciated, and some people are stuck on the five stages, there’s realize that, you know, Elizabeth work is very broad spectrum, and universal, you know, culturally and religiously and everything wise, it just speaks to people. And something, the way Elizabeth lived, her life just inspires people, because so many people write about the wheel of life and say, just radically transformed our life and they were suicidal. But after they read the book, they want to devote their life to hospice, or the dying, or they want to live again, it’s just, you know, amazing that letters just keep on coming in for decades and decades.
Victoria Volk 1:10:55
That’s amazing. I know, as a grief recovery specialist, and we kind of talked about this briefly before, but because there are people that poopoo, the five stages, and, and there might be some grief recovery specialists out there listening to this, that maybe were taught that I don’t know, but I personally wasn’t my training, what I was taught was that the five stages were about people who are going through terminal illness. And that’s when, you know, that’s when she was conducting that work, and that it was misinterpreted to be about,
Ken Ross 1:11:25
right, that’s a common thing people say, but
Victoria Volk 1:11:28
but I would add, it’s not, I would not deny that all of those things that she mentions don’t happen, like I absolutely full heartedly. And I think any grief recovery specialist would agree that there are emotions and feelings that someone goes through sometimes in the same moment, you know, you just, you’re angry, and you’re sad, and you’re all the things. You know, it’s that’s the complexity of grief.
Ken Ross 1:11:56
Right? So here 1974. In our second book, she said, I hope I’m making it clear that patients do not necessarily follow a classical pattern from the stage of denial to the stage of anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Most of my patients have exhibited multiple stages simultaneously, right? So here’s the saying is not linear. So right. Now, if you look up the Google critiques complaints about the five stages there, many of them are, they’re not linear. Well, she said this herself in black and white in a book. And then here in the same book, she says, Please tie in the stages of dying with loss of sight, meaning that they apply to other loss and change events. Right. And this later became the Kubler Ross change, which is used, you know, by 1000s of companies, and nobody complains about that. Identify, you know, a reaction to loss and change, which could be applied to grief. And yet, maybe not, but it seems to be applied to everything.
Victoria Volk 1:12:58
I think it’s just the context in which people refer to it. And how people interpret it think people put their phone filler words in, you know, like, instead of really looking at, like what you just read, people hear what they want, right? I think that’s really what it comes down to people are going to hear what they want. And
Ken Ross 1:13:17
yes, it was like, while she’s writing at the stages of dying, but I think within months, she changed it to the stages of grief or stages of loss. So I mean, she was also learning about it as she was writing about it. And I think, I mean, I think within 12 months, she was saying, okay, it’s not just that I’ve realized it’s applies to other people on things. So technically, yes, but I mean, by a few months. So I mean, are you going to hold her? Like you’re inventing the light bulb? Like, well, a light bulb was only meant to be a light bulb? And then six months later, it’s used for something else does that mean, they were wrong? It’s like, no, they were still learning. Right? Yes, originally, in a six month period of mean, but over the last 50 years, you can hold her to that six month period, like, you know, you want to be a technocrat, yes. set up for that. But for a very brief moment, and even though boxes already beginning to identify, you know that the families are going through it, if you look on page 162, you’ll see she’s already beginning to refer to other people from through the stages.
Victoria Volk 1:14:26
Right? And they’re not stages, right, though? That’s not Yeah, that’s, I think that’s that word,
Ken Ross 1:14:33
inverted comments to say, Hey, I’m using this word, but I mean, don’t hang me on this word, right? And that’s what they’re doing, or phases or periods or whatever. It’s, it’s just a way to describe something. It’s not, you know, a I’m from Switzerland, and I don’t have a great command of the English language. And be you know, I’ve never written a book before. So don’t hang me on like, every nuance of every word, right? I’m trying to have, you know, give you a tool. To build a conversation around this thing that no one’s talking
Victoria Volk 1:15:03
about, so which she did, yeah, ultimately, we’re still debating it.
Ken Ross 1:15:07
50 years. Like that there’s 10s of 1000s. People said, I went through the five stages says, hey, there’s something to it. The fact that it’s the most popular brief theory in the world 50 years later says, hey, there’s got to be something to it. So it’s not the only one. It’s not right. It’s not wrong. It’s just a tool, you can use it, don’t use it, just don’t get hooked into it being like this, like written in stone is just a tool to begin framing a conversation. So that’s all it is.
Victoria Volk 1:15:40
You know, when we don’t ask like, Oh, well, what stage are you in? You’re asking, How are you feeling? Right? You know,
Ken Ross 1:15:47
people do say that. Really? Well.
Victoria Volk 1:15:50
Yeah. I guess I haven’t had people on my podcast to talk about grief, their grief. They haven’t been asked that like, Oh, well, what stage are you in? But do people probably say behind their back? Or what stage? Do you think she’s in? You know, probably.
Ken Ross 1:16:05
Yeah. I mean, if you look at any number of dozens TV shows,
Victoria Volk 1:16:08
like, Oh, for sure. like
Ken Ross 1:16:11
Michael Douglas, Alan Watts, or like, what was it the bucket list? Right. Morgan Friedman. Yeah. having a conversation. What stage are you in? denial?
Victoria Volk 1:16:22
Yeah, certainly, and TV and things like that. But I would hope in like real conversation. I don’t know that that is necessarily that
Ken Ross 1:16:29
within that projects, like, Oh, well, maybe I should know what stage I’m in. Right? Yes, there. Yeah. Morgan Freeman talking about it, you know?
Victoria Volk 1:16:37
Yeah, well, oh, I shouldn’t be I should be out of anger by now. And on to, you know, denial or
Ken Ross 1:16:45
at all whatever. Nicholson said he’s in denial. What stage Am I in? Yeah.
Victoria Volk 1:16:49
Crazy how that has just evolved over time. And I imagine where we could probably sit and have the same conversation, maybe 510 years from now?
Ken Ross 1:16:59
Yes, for sure.
Victoria Volk 1:17:01
What has your grief taught you? I mean, because you’ve lost obviously, you lost your mom and your dad, and you’ve lost people and throughout your life, and what has your grief taught you?
Ken Ross 1:17:14
Yeah, it’s just a reminder that, you know, time is finite, everything is finite. Every living thing is finite. And everything you’re doing is finite. So enjoy it, love it, absorb it, appreciate it, but just realize that
Victoria Volk 1:17:27
he got let go and roll the
Ken Ross 1:17:28
dice over everything, including yourself. So yeah, just realize that everything is transitory in life. And don’t get you know, it’s one thing my father said to me when I was young This is the people who succeed the best are the people realize that everything in life is transitory, right? You know, whatever you’re comfortable with. Don’t get too comfortable with it. Because people succeed when they learn to roll with changes and everything changes everything. You know, the love of your life, your pets, your whatever, your your health, your youth, your job, everything is transitory. So you know that people succeed who realize that, you know, he can’t hang on to it too tightly.
Victoria Volk 1:18:08
Sorry, good advice. So where do you see yourself 510 years from now? Where would you like to see yourself? 510 years from now? Where would you like to see the foundation? I have like three questions in there.
Ken Ross 1:18:22
Um, I’d like to see us have a bigger staff. So I get some help, of course. And, you know, I’d love to have like 30 chapters around the world, and the staff to support it, not just me. And I’d like to see Stanford continued to evolve that digital library, because I gave them 64 boxes of material. So there’s tons of tapes that have never been transcribed really made public. So I just released a few on our YouTube channel. But there’s a lot of stuff they said they want to go what they say they call it they want to go gold mining in my mom’s paperwork and and find amazing things and they are they want to devote just a person does full time to kind of mine through Elizabeth’s archives.
Victoria Volk 1:19:08
Wow. That’d be a cool job.
Ken Ross 1:19:11
Victoria Volk 1:19:12
Is there anything else you would like to share? Either about your life, your mom’s work? Anything else? What do you want people to know the most?
Ken Ross 1:19:23
Well, I feel like I’m doing what I want like five years. Like I’m doing it now. Like there’s no like I’m aiming towards like, like I said, I want to do everything now. So I’m trying to grow the foundation. I’m trying to preserve our work for future generations, trying to kind of fight them Miss information about the five stages. try and do this feature movie on mom because that will help younger generations get to know her who didn’t grow up with her in the press so much and in honestly my mom’s legacy in a way that’s realistic and describes what she really did. And that kind of wide breadth of her Work not just the silly five stages. Yeah. So and you know, I, I went to 101 countries so now maybe like 125 135. So, but there’s no particular number I’m in competition with my cousin. He’s at 104. So the competitions on Oh funny. Want to keep doing it until my back goes out
Victoria Volk 1:20:22
well where can people find you if they want to either your personal work and also your mom’s work?
Ken Ross 1:20:29
Well, we have numerous websites and numerous languages we have websites in English, French, Flemish, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, we have maybe a dozen Facebook pages again in various languages. We have aka Dr. Elisabeth Kubler Ross foundation in Chile, in Argentina, or Uruguay and Peru, Guatemala, Mexico, Japan, Belgium, French, hopefully starting Colombia soon and so numerous websites just type in Elisabeth Kubler Ross Foundation, and pick your language. We’re on Instagram Of course, and we have that in three languages. We’re unlinked in we are on Pinterest, and I am on Instagram Kinross, photography, and Ken rose photography calm, and I’m on LinkedIn. And I think we do everything except tik tok so far. We draw the line Snapchat, yeah, Snapchat. We don’t do that either. And then we you know, we’re working with other groups. We’re working with, like Colin Perry, you know, her American fan apologist. She does some really interesting work. We’re doing a conference with her called the nature of grief. Talking about our nature and grief combines like how our flowers used in Santa otology. You know, or trying to not, you know, not just do old school, but do new school too. And kozun some great work we’re doing. Yeah, I know more interesting things with different universities around the world. We’re trying to some project with Stanford with St. Christopher’s the press hospice in England. Oh, and a number of different people. Yeah, when US, Canada, Mexico, I think we’ve got over 50 collaborations going. So it’s a wide world out there. So trying to get the word out there and be part of the conversation. You know, there’s other great groups like reimagine and Michael hubbs group is great. You know, the death cafe’s the death over dinner. A lot of great groups doing interesting work out there. The green burial council trying to bury people in a more ecologically sound manner. So we’re beginning to work with them. Leaving a lot of stuff happening. We’re doing our education series in the fall. We have people usually from about 30 different countries attend that. We’ve had interesting speakers like William Warden IRA Byock, some my mom’s workshop staff, Joanne cacciatore. Do you know about her and the Miss foundation? She does amazing work, you should have her on your on your call. She has a grief farm up near Sedona. And she rescues animals and she finds there’s this beautiful bond between rescued animals and people going through grief especially when they’ve lost children. And somehow they really attach on to rescued animals. There’s like a shared grief and pain. So she does amazing work and she is a Brainiac. I love chatting with her. She is so wicked smart. She did a book called bearing the unbearable, beautiful book, got great reviews. I definitely recommend that book to anybody. And she was principally with parents who have lost children meaning a lot of great people out there. I’m doing a project with open to hope next week or shooting a video in Los Angeles. Okay, so Gloria and Heidi Horsley and they’ve they opened hope channel on YouTube.
Victoria Volk 1:24:12
It’s just amazing to me that I pinned you down for this conversation. So again, thank you again so much for your time and sharing about your mom’s work and about your life and your amazing insights into what you’ve learned from her from your mom and what you’ve applied from that in your own life.
Ken Ross 1:24:36
Victoria Volk 1:24:37
Yeah, the dice theory. I love it. Yeah. I will put I guess I can’t put all of those links to everything in the show notes but I will definitely put where to contact you. station
Ken Ross 1:24:51
with them and Facebook and the website. Yeah. Oh, and if you can also if people want to learn more about mom radio lab, just did a piece National Public Radio’s radio lab. Yes, I’ve been radiolab Kubler Ross, they have an hour long piece that just came out last week. That’s a great piece. That’s kind of young hip, and I know how to drive it. This is very different.
Victoria Volk 1:25:15
I think you mentioned earlier, it’s about 91%. accurate.
Ken Ross 1:25:18
Yeah, it’s like, you know, the MTV version of Elizabeth has been trendy and irreverent. But they get pretty close. Right? You know,
Victoria Volk 1:25:27
okay. I will link to that one in the show notes
Ken Ross 1:25:29
and argue with a few odds and ends. But what they say the Mick Jagger of death, had trouble dying herself. I’m like, well, she had no trouble, you know, dying. It’s like the stroke part was hard. It’s hard for anybody, but she had no trouble of death. It’s just being in pain for nine years, and not being able to work or have fun. You’re going to be a little angry.
Victoria Volk 1:25:50
Right, especially living the life she had led, right? I mean,
Ken Ross 1:25:53
wild overachiever. So to go from 10,000% you know, 1% is hard. Yeah. And, but I really like the you know, Rachel did a great a great PSA, I have no issues with it. I really like it a lot.
Victoria Volk 1:26:09
It just makes you wonder like just being a human being. It just makes you wonder someone who has sparked such an amazing conversation to have about grief and opened up the conversation in the first place. And all the work that she’s done, and then that’s what her last nine years were like, it’s disheartening. Even for me, you know, to know that that’s what that was like for her.
Ken Ross 1:26:34
Take a look at that Oprah interview on YouTube. And you’ll see she still has a lot of spark left. And even though she was retired and paralyzed, she still had like four books. Yeah, that’s true. couldn’t quite Stop, stop.
Victoria Volk 1:26:45
Well, that’s true. And that’s again, that’s speaks to don’t put yourself in a box. Like don’t limit yourself. And I think that’s one of the greatest messages today on this podcast from you and from her life is it can’t teach wrote the only limitations you have are the ones that you put on yourself.
Ken Ross 1:27:02
Absolutely. I mean, I didn’t study photography, but I went out and shot 101 country isn’t. And I did endless number of wacky things.
Victoria Volk 1:27:11
Do you think though that grief, in part was her teacher in that like, really, too, because what I believe is that grief is the the illuminator like it really shows us the contrast of what we don’t want that we really see what we do want
Ken Ross 1:27:29
the equalizer and how much how much money or fame or whatever we have, we’re all gonna die. Exactly. You know, we all end up at the same base their range, what do we do with this little short time we have, you know, make it seem like 100 lifetimes, you know, if you live it, right, you can make Yeah, I feel like I’ve lived 100 lifetimes already with all the stuff I’ve done. So yeah, I’m just a wee while Wow, that was amazing. Like, I have no complaints like, lucky me.
Victoria Volk 1:27:56
I’m a I’m just a wee bit jealous. But again, it’s accepting where we are, in our lives like exactly where we are. And this is where I’m meant to be as a mom of three kids. And National Geographic just wasn’t my calling. I guess, when I was a kid.
Ken Ross 1:28:15
I didn’t get married, because I knew I wanted to travel. And I didn’t want to be an absentee parent, like my mother was not that I have an issue with my mother. But I knew like, you know, I was different. I didn’t mind it. But I didn’t want to assume that my kids wouldn’t mind me not being home, because I really had to do that. So I said, I’m going to go photograph 101 countries, so and they have all the experiences with golf.
Victoria Volk 1:28:40
Since you went there, and since you mentioned that, can I ask them if that lies last nine years was really kind of a gift for you, in that you had nothing but time with your mom to kind of connect in a deeper way.
Ken Ross 1:28:53
It was ironic because you know, for the first nine years, she was regular mom, and then she left to do our stuff. And for the last nine years, I was her parent, right? So it’s kind of ironic that nine years here and nine years there, and in between were like weaved in and out and hung out in you know, funky places around the world. So but last night, he was Yeah, I got to spend, you know, all the time with her even though she complains I was never around much. But her ideas like not much is like, you know, three, four times a week. I’m like mom, I you know, I have a huge pile of your mail that I’m working on at home. It’s like, I don’t care about that I want some tea or I want to go shopping or I want to go somebody has to do this stuff and
Victoria Volk 1:29:42
the problems with leaving a legacy right?
Ken Ross 1:29:44
Yes. So like I’m gonna inherit it one day, my sister and I so you know, I’d like to inherit something that’s kind of his structure and I can digest not a chaos. Wow. So I mean, I have like 7000 emails right now. And hundreds of messages. And this is you know, 17 years after she died, so.
Victoria Volk 1:30:06
And I’m so grateful you answered mine. So again,
Ken Ross 1:30:11
oh, my pleasure. It’s nice to hear and smell the roses. Yeah.
Victoria Volk 1:30:16
Well, thank you again so much. I could just hang out all day. I really could. Would you? Sure? Oh, yay. Okay. I’m holding you to it. Sounds good. All right. Thank you again. And remember, when you unleash your heart, you unleash your life. Much love. From my heart to yours. Thank you for listening. If you liked this episode, please share it because Sharing is caring. And until next time, give and share compassion by being hurt with yours. And if you’re hurting, know that what you’re feeling is normal and natural. Much love my friend.
Takeaways & Reflections | We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know
SHOW NOTES SUMMARY:
When you find yourself the observer of a situation that brings up some emotional dis-ease for you, it may be helpful to say the following to yourself: “I don’t know what I don’t know.”
This helps me to feel better when I have felt wronged in some way or when I find myself raising an eyebrow at a situation that may or may not involve me.
Society isn’t short of judgment and criticism these days. I think there’s plenty of it to go around the world a few times. However, each of us can help change that and intentionally, instead, pause and take a moment to reflect and attempt to be empathetic, even if it doesn’t come naturally to you.
Some may say we need to be more sympathetic, but even that can come across as pity. Maybe it’s just easier to say that sometimes, our opinions are best kept to ourselves.
Whether you believe in the afterlife or don’t, or think every mother should fight tooth and nail to keep their children with them, I hope this episode leads you to listen to both Episode 64 with Kristjana and 65 with Sirry because, they couldn’t be any more different but yet, the common theme comes down to how we don’t know what we don’t know.
Today, it’s a takeaways and reflections episode, about Episode 64: A Mother’s Heartache and Sacrifice with Kristjana Hillberg, and Episode 65: The Spirit World Walks Among Us with Sirry Berndsen. A perfect example of grief that hadn’t yet been represented on this podcast, which I do like to share all different types of losses, just to give people a different perspective. Because you may know somebody who has been in the situation, or you may know someone who is going through something similar, and maybe you want to support them. But you’re not sure how, or maybe it’s you, and you find yourself in that Griever’s story. Regardless of the loss, regardless of the story that comes to this podcast, we can all find a little bit of ourselves in the stories, especially if we’ve experienced a lot of loss in our lives. And through that stories, and the different perspectives that I bring to you is an opportunity for you to reflect on. Well, what would I do in that situation? How would I respond? What do I think about that? What do I believe about that? Those questions that help us really grow into who we want to be, who we desire to be, and maybe even have some more compassion towards those who have a different life experience that we may have judged, or had some criticism around. Because those are often too a result of our upbringings and our experiences. And we see other people’s situations through the lens of our own experience. So I do appreciate when people give me their time to share their stories with my listeners, because it is a service to us all, we can all learn something from each and every one of them.
A Mother’s Choice for What’s Best for Her Child
When I first heard about Kristjana’s story, I knew I wanted her on the podcast because she shares a very different perspective of divorce and child custody. As a mom, it’s natural for us to feel like we want our children to be with us. But for Kristjana, it wasn’t as simple as that. She was living five hours away from her husband, so that she could be with her daughter that she shared custody with from a previous relationship. And this worked fine for quite some time, over a year, until she found herself expecting with her new husband. And she knew that this decision was going to have to be made to either go be with her new husband, or in the same town or area as her daughter. And just think about that. What would you do? Now with that natural instinct of wanting your child to be with you? Kristjana had the emotional awareness and really tried to put herself in her daughter’s shoes and knew that there was so much love there for her in this large extended family with her father. And she felt tormented on pulling her away from that. But she also felt tormented or not having her daughter with her. So what would you do? I’ve never known anyone in the situation before Kristjana. Probably three to five years ago, if I would have heard of this situation, I probably would have passed along some judgment or criticism because that is a natural thing for us when we don’t find ourselves in that similar situation. For really, what would you do? When you know what’s best for your child, it’s not always the easy decision to make. And Kristjana by no means has an easy decision to make. And so she really put it off for quite some time. Until one day, the answer came to her, almost like a lightning bolt and washed over her in a moment of peace, She’s described it as she had realized what was best for her daughter. And in that moment, she felt peace with that decision. And she knew what she needed to do. And that was to leave her daughter behind and work on us shared custody arrangement that would be in the best interest for their daughter. And that would also serve and nurture her marriage as well, and new family to be, and not not necessarily a new family, because their daughter was very much going to be a part of that. It just would look different than what she imagined.
We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know
And so I really encourage you to listen to Kristjana’s episode, because aside from the difficult decision, and all the thought process that went into making that, and the unhelpful and hurtful things that people said to her. The helpful things that she learned along the way of what she needed for herself. We talked about boundaries, we talked about values, we talked about how she came into her own knowing of what was best for her and her family, regardless of what anybody thought of her or their situation. And here’s the thing, because no one knows your situation as well as you do. People hear stories, or they make assumptions, but no one really knows. Unless they ask. And so I think I’ve mentioned during the episode, and I try to remind myself of this is, I don’t know what I don’t know. And that is the message that applies to both the episodes that I’m talking about today, because whether we’re looking at someone else’s situation from the outside, or were trying to wrap our heads around, something like the afterlife, we don’t know what we don’t know. And we can have these thoughts and feelings about the afterlife, which become our beliefs, or which are our beliefs. But if we can be open to what we don’t know, we can allow ourselves to receive new information, we can allow ourselves to receive messages.
There Are Things That Death Cannot Touch: Love
And that’s what I loved about the episode with Sirry, in that she shared so many tips and ways that people who have lost a loved one can keep that relationship going in a positive way. Because regardless of what you believe, when someone dies, the relationship doesn’t end. There, you may have an unfinished business with that person. So even if that person is no longer on the physical plane, you still have a relationship with them in your heart, you still may have emotional residue from maybe an argument that you had right before that person passed, or maybe the relationship was less than loving throughout your life. And there were things that you could never communicate or never share, because you didn’t feel safe to. Or perhaps it was something that you knew was coming or the person was going through a terminal illness, and you knew it was coming and you had the time, the luxury of time. And you took advantage of that time to make it an impactful learning and deep experience with that person to help you gain insight into what they were feeling, what they were experiencing at the end of their life. But so many people too are afraid to ask those questions, those deep questions. They’re really thinking about that person, leaving them of no longer being there. And that gets in the way of this opportunity to have that deep connection with that person.
Those We Love Never Truly Leave Us
And Sirry had shared how helpful working with a medium has been for so many Grievers in her practice. And she’s also a certified grief recovery specialist as well, which really adds to her professionalism and to her ability to really help a griever have the best experience possible for connecting with their loved ones. I personally had a session with Sirry it was unexpectedly amazing. It was the only session I’ve ever had with a medium or of any kind. I learned a lot about with my children because not only was it a spiritual connection session, it was also intuitive guidance as well. And so I learned some things about my I practice as a Reiki professional. But her professionalism and her strong desire to help me as a griever, who had only recently in the last couple of years really addressed the relationships that have left me feeling conflicted in my life. It’s really hard, I think for many of us to wrap our heads around the idea that we are supported in ways that we can’t even imagine that our loved ones are truly watching over us, guiding us bringing things to our attention, if we only would pay attention. I remember as a kid, I’d be walking down the street in the winter, the snow would be falling and it was my favorite time to go for a walk. I hate the cold but there was something about it when you hear the church bells in the night, and you could hear him across town dead silent. I’d hear the church bells and the snow would be falling and I’d walk under the streetlight and I would go out, and that’s happened to me many, many times, or the light would just go out, it would happen when I’d be driving, a light would just go out a streetlight, and I don’t know, he could say I made it up in my mind, but I felt like that was my dad, he was watching out for me just making sure I knew getting my attention. Because the light coin out is going to get your attention, a street light at that will get your attention. And it did, it did many times.
We Are Not Immune To Grief
Talking with Sirry, I recognize that is something I can ask for. I can ask for that as a sign. I just really encourage you to listen to Sirry’s episode with an open mind and an open heart as you listen, even if you feel like that isn’t something that’s for you. I hope you listen to her tips to help you personally connect with someone who has your heart, but they’re not here. Both episodes offer so much wisdom through their stories. And I’m just really floored at the quality of people who I have drawn to this podcast, everyone has a story. And I don’t care if you’re a celebrity, or I just I don’t care who you are, we all put our pants on the same way, right? We all grieve someone or something and we are not immune to grief. Regardless of who we are, we will all meet death at some point. And stories like Kristjana’s and Sirry’s help bring another perspective that we all can learn from, as I mentioned before, and there’s so much more I could probably say, but honestly, it’s beautiful outside.
We’re having some unusually warm weather here in the Dakotas and my spirit is calling me to the outdoors. And so I will leave this episode there. All the goodness is in those two episodes. I just don’t know that I have anything else to add to the conversations because the tips were that good. It’s important for us to always remember that we don’t know what someone is going through the depth of it.We don’t know what we don’t know.
P.S. If you want to listen to more takeaways and reflections episodes you can click here. And if you find this helpful please share it because sharing is caring. And remember, when you unleash your heart, you unleash your life. Much love.
There are psychics and then there are psychic mediums. Do you know the difference?
Sirry shares the difference between the two in this week’s episode. And, there’s so much more that we cover in this conversation including:
Her grief growing up, things she’s experienced as an adult, and what her grief is today.
What her thoughts are on the afterlife.
Her thoughts on religion and mysticism of life as it relates to mediumship.
Cultural differences in self-care when it comes to grief.
What happens to people who do bad things after they die?
Her experience being a Certified Medium and a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist
Tips for those who are in preparation for a loved one dying.
Tips for those who are grieving the loss of a loved one.
Learn how to connect with the spirit of deceased loved ones.
So much goodness packed into this episode! Listen with an open mind and open heart, and see what comes up for you. See if you can feel the spirit within you stirring your heart to learn more. And, if you feel called to have your mind blown, I can’t recommend a session with Sirry enough! She’s highly professional and has a heart full of love and light.
Victoria Volk 0:08
Thank you for tuning in to grieving voices. I am super excited for today’s guest. Sirry Berndsen holds a BFA and MFA in Visual Arts and as a certified medium by the forever family foundation. She’s a grief recovery methods specialist and a master teacher. She’s also studied as suey, reiki, and received master life regression therapy training from the Weiss Institute. Thank you, thank you for blessing me with your presence. And I am just super excited to have you on as a guest today. I personally have had a session with you blew my mind. My very first one actually, too. And I just I’m so thrilled to have you here. So thank you.
Sirry Berndsenr 1:42
Well, thank you for inviting me. And thank you for being relentless.
Victoria Volk 1:45
I am relentless when I had I pestered to, to you know, send in the email sending the emails and yes, if I if there’s something I feel like would be a great service to my audience. And that just really, I’m just so curious to learn more. Yeah, like, it gets me excited. So yes, it’s
Sirry Berndsen 2:07
enthusiasm, and we all love and enthusiasm and passion, and I think that more of us could use it.
Victoria Volk 2:13
Yes. So let’s talk about, let’s start there with your work. And really what brought you to do this work.
Sirry Berndsen 2:24
So what brought me to do this work? About 20 years ago, I went through a really quite a horrific experience where somebody was violated me. And it was a turning point in my life. Because before this, so I’m gonna start from the beginning, as a child, I just had sort of this childhood faith. I think I went to church, maybe two or three times I was not a church person, none of my family members were so not raised with any religion. But my grandmother had a tiny, tiny, tiny bit of religion in her and but that was it. And so in my childhoods, I was very much the child of nature, which is very common like for people in Iceland, we are very connected to nature. And we thrive on anything and everything that has to do with the blue sky and the like the earth and everything that is our religion, that is our faith. And so when I was 12 years old, I changed and the reason why I changed my whole sort of this childhood religion or this childhood faith, at the age of 12, I had been bullied because I read here and says, this is a podcast, people don’t see me, but I have red hair and blue eyes, very, very fair, and have been bullied for probably like two or three years in school. And it was just absolutely horrendous. And I was getting to a point of feeling extremely depressed. And I was the youngest child of most of my parents. And my brother was also redheads. And my sister too. As I don’t know, my mom and dad, I didn’t really pay attention to it as like, oh, it is what it is. But I remember that the like I was about 12 years old when I started praying to God and I said to God, please make a stop. And this was, this was like, every single day I’ll be praying to God make this bullying stop, and it wouldn’t stop and then it just said one day, okay, God, I made a deal. If it doesn’t stop, I will no longer believe in you and I will no longer pray to and so that that just it just came to a complete standstill. So at this point, I’m 12 years old. And then life just continues and I had this deep faith that when you die, you go on the ground or your primitive. And that’s it done was such a simple way of thinking. And I’ll be honest now today because of the work that I do. It is the extreme simplification of everything.
Sirry Berndsen 4:43
Then you get to the point of you don’t need to worry about the afterlife is like you die on you. That’s it. So then fast forward, and then I moved to America and I had this horrible experience and I was going through a really really rough time and then something in my heart said Oh, look for Have some sort of a spiritual gathering. And a friend of mine had gone to see a psychic medium some years prior and she was off the motorway but and I remember myself think like, Oh, this is BS. And I actually changed the subject and I said to her like, oh, when would you like to go skiing next time. And so and I remember this so vividly because I just thought it was like she was Cuckoo. And so so after that horrible experience, I was, my heart was or spirit I should say, spirit was nudging me to go and seek something else. And I went to spiritualist church. And this isn’t a matter of moments of like within minutes, but my whole life changed. So in the spiritualist church, there was a young lady she is now my friend, Jacqueline, she was the medium of the day, close to main age and, and she was giving a message to a woman who was most likely Thai or Filipino because I was sitting all the way in the back of the church. And, and I could only see the back of her head on sort of a little bit of a cheek. And then Jackie says, Well, I have your mother here. And she gave a really good description of the mother and how she passed and all those things. And then Jackie said this, she said something in a different language. As he said to the lady, she said, I’m hearing this thing, and I have no idea what it means I have no idea. Like, I just hear this sound I need to give this to you. And so she gave it to the young lady in the congregation. And the young lady says oh my god, that’s my mother’s saying I love you in her own native language. That transformed my life in a in a second. And because I every one of the chairs that day, it was like 80 people there. And everyone just gasped. And there are other mediums. There were other people that were there that day, though, also were young mediums, and they remember this moment so vividly. Now Jackie did not go to college, she did not study Thai or Filipino, she says like really down to earth. And so when she said this in a different language in an Asian language that no one else in the church understood except the young lady. That was it for me. And I said to myself, well, if I was to try to do this work, I would like to be as good as Jackie. And so the Reverend in the church that day, she said, Well, we’re going to start classes in the fall, if you’d like to attend those classes, come and see me. I was unemployed, I had just graduated with my MFA, you know, who’s going to hire somebody with an art degree. And so I started attending these classes, and everything happened just really quickly. So what I thought was always my imagination. I just thought it was my imagination. When I was talking to the class, or when I was talking to nothingness, I just thought it was like makeup stuff. But it wasn’t. And so in these classes, within weeks, I just excelled. Because as time progressed, I was able to decipher what was my imagination, and then what was coming through from spirits. And I think that I would have to say that I studied also I studied journalism, and I knew how to interview so I knew how to do these interviews with people. And I knew how to be on the radio on all of those things. And so when I got to the point of with my art background, there was this great imagination. And then with my skills of interviewing, I found myself having the ability to interview spirits. And I would sit with them, and I would just ask them questions, who are you and I would break everything down to male female and then I would break it down into a family or friend and then I was a family that would break down to are you like the age and what relationship and our math everything out in my mind or it was almost like a 3d thing. And like how we have the tablets for the iPad today. And I was able to map everything out in my mind, okay, is the dad coming through and then it could feel like if he had other siblings if there were other siblings in the spirit world I’m so in line things up like this farewelled was always behind me on the living people in front of me. So it just started this whole journey of talking to spirits, it was communication with spirit on. And now so this was in the beginning years. And now I actually teach this and I teach the method that I use back in the day. But now it just seems to flow because I had this 100% trust that when I am connected and this is usually with the person that comes to see me, they know that I’m connected. If I’m not connected, then it’s just it is what it is. And I apologize, but I would say 80 90% of the time I am connected and my hope is always that at least 90% is understood or people can connect to it if I’m not hitting the mark on a at 90% I don’t do a session that day. But because sometimes some things are left to interpretation or get into debate about like whether somebody something was teal, or sort of is bluish green tone, and I won’t do that anyway. So um, so yeah, so now I know that there’s an afterlife I know not even with a 99 it’s not even 99.99 I know that with 100% no doubt in my mind that there’s an afterlife Absolutely. And I think that it sort of gives us it’s an interesting idea because knowing that there’s an afterlife and you think just like well what happens on the other side? What happens in the afterlife? Where is the absolute there’s so many questions that come up. But then what I think is more important is that how are we living our lives here today, connecting to other people? Are we living our best lives? And are we living our kindness lives? Because when we pass away we have this review. And, and the question is, then could we have done something better?
Sirry Berndsen 10:41
And that’s the thing that I want to always sort of how I live my life and like I always make sure that I’m doing the best that I can. I’m a living my kindness life. Do I have compassion from a neighbor even when I find myself being a little bit annoyed with someone, I do a self reflection what is it that is in me that is causing this annoyance it’s an everyday thing because the other thing also like I live in silence, I love not listening to I like I never watched TV, if I do have a little bit of TV watching us like a movie or something, or TV show The lifts my spirits, I never watched my loves on TV, I just don’t see the point in it, watching the news don’t see the point in it. And it’s really about keeping my spirit light, with a capital L. and uplifted and, and even with when it comes to the music. If I listen to music, it usually is some sort of a curtain soft music in the music. Like, if I’m getting ready for a session, I may listen to meditative music. But otherwise, I’m in silence because I love a lot to be present in my own thoughts.
Victoria Volk 11:45
Hello, thank you for sharing your progression and how you got into the work. And I’m curious as a child, did you recognize that you had kind of this this? Yes.
Sirry Berndsen 11:58
So looking back, absolutely. When I was a child, so when I was growing up, we lived in a kind of a small apartments. The fire was in like two bedrooms. And it was really cramped. And so we only had one bathroom. And I remember myself was a childhood. So I’m really young at this time, probably from the age of like two up to like 678, I would go into the bathroom and I would lock the door. And I will just sit there on the bathroom floor. And I will talk to my imaginary friends. And I’ve heard later on that is very, very common with a lot of mediums. They talk to their Imaginary Friends, I would have full conversation with them for an hour or even longer until like somebody would start knocking on the door. He was just childhood conversations. But it was like full blown conversations. I remember as a kid I had like, there were two children. Oh, come and play with me. It was a boy and a girl.
Victoria Volk 12:51
Do you feel like most children the innocence of children? Do you feel like most children do because of their innocence of this gift? kind of you know of?
Sirry Berndsen 13:03
Yes. So this is this is an I think a lot of people say the same people that are worked in my field, we can tell when a child is really connected. And I will say we are all psychic, we are born with a psychic gift. And if people are questioning there’s people that may be religious, you may want to look into Corinthian letters one through 14. It says there that people are born with gifts, that we’re all born with gifts. And so then the question is what is the gift and children? They’re so receptive, they’re so innocent. And I would say about options up until the age of like maybe seven or eight when they start going to first or second grade when other kids may start making fun of them. The childhood innocence but also there’s this purity with the children that they don’t question like, they don’t question the silliness of things such as like, Oh, yeah, this is what it is. And I think also a lot of times infants are very, very young babies like when they’re just like not naturally verbal yet, when they’re like pointing into thin air. They have. So it’s really interesting that the infant’s retina, the eyes, they develop at a later stage. And I heard an interview on NPR about this. And I thought it was absolutely fascinating. So they have a different sights up until a certain point in the lives and because I’m not a scientist, I don’t know until one disease, but they see spirits, they see them. And I think that every parent, they should allow them to just see them and be normal around it. When they sound like going bah bah bah and like pointing into thin air, pay attention to it, engage in a conversation. Oftentimes also children, they will speak to photographs, you know, and they will like babble. And they will say things and nobody understands nicely what they’re saying. But they’ll have bah bah, bah, bah, photographs. So Mike’s measures that use the children, they’re talking to someone because there’s so receptive.
Victoria Volk 14:56
Was that something that you hit then I mean, if You went to the bathroom to lock the door. And you know, it’s it’s something you felt like you couldn’t share. And yes, because
Sirry Berndsen 15:06
I was the youngest. And so I was the youngest of my siblings, and let’s just put it this way, then they needed a punching bag. You know how that goes like when, because my brother at the time he was, he’s not much older than I he was a teenager. And then my sister is a year and a half older than I am. But it’s sort of like a yes, I hit the I hit it from them just to have peace and quiet around it so that they wouldn’t call me insane or crazy. I mean, they already did. You’re crazy. I just didn’t want to have that in my head all the time. So yes, I get it.
Victoria Volk 15:39
And the youngest two, so I get you,
Sirry Berndsen 15:42
oh, you can get it, okay, you get is like, make them stop doing that. make them stop poking me make them stop, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.
Victoria Volk 15:50
So in the work that you do, you know, because people and you’re a grief recovery specialist. And so I am too. And so you bring a different aspect to your work, I think because of that. And so in the in sessions with people, I’m just curious, is there one session that really stands out to you?
Sirry Berndsen 16:13
I’m not sure if there’s one session. I mean, there’s several sessions that stand out for me for different reasons. But I can say this. Before I did the grief recovery method, I was able to pinpoint pretty precisely things, events in people’s lives, that were in some ways, traumatizing, that caused grief that caused pain. But after I did the grief recovery methods, training, I was able to line things up in more in more of a clear fashion, if I can say that. And and you know how I would do the grief chart? The What is it called? The loss? Yes. Grant? The Yes, the loss graph. Yes. So now that that has been sort of embedded into my mind from the training, is, you know, the spirits, they just bring it up in my mind. And like yesterday, I did a session yesterday that I was able to use that their last chart really precisely, you know, so like, her parents divorced when she was about, like, everything started going downhill when her parents were like, when she was eight or nine years old things that are going downhill. And then they divorced when she was about 1112 years old. And then I was able to in my mind using the loss last year, I knew that when she was 14, her mom passed away so I’m able to line things up more more precisely than I used to. And so my I think that my personal grief is obviously I’ve gone through my own grief as a child, we all do. We all go through grief, we open our eyes to the world. I was like, okay, there’s grief. But I think because of the work that I that I’ve done in the past 20 years, I’m able to process things a little bit differently. And to share with you just really briefly, for instance, both my parents passed away, and I had a very complicated religion with my dad. And so when we, when I did the training, I did the last chart on my dad, of course, and I wrote the letter to my dad. And then when my mom passed away was interesting, my siblings, they thought it would be the one like lutens really kind of like sort of having a hard time with it. But I knew I wouldn’t. And the reason is because because of the work that I’ve done and because of the reef recovery, I knew how to treat myself really well. And when my mom passed away, I actually took two weeks off from work and when it came to her birthday, I took the day off from work but I took probably good six five to six weeks to Greece in the kindest most gentle way possible. Of course I saw and you know after she passed away a shard but it was interesting I would see her appear so what happened after a passage I was staying in her home and I actually ended up going into her bedroom and I slept in her bed and I’ll see her appear in the door you know I’m just talking to me and that was really comforting but at the same time it was really hard like heart wrenching but I kind of knew because of the work that I do that okay, I can always talk to her and um, she was just like walking around the home and I was like and then I would hear her say to miss you know, let’s see, call my name Siri. Now Siri and sort of in a very loving and daring way, or she would call me honey Siri, just to try to get my attention that I would just spend time with her. This after our passing. So I after took time off from work, because I knew that that was grief that I wanted to really heal. I’m not going to my work in sort of all patterning in pieces it was important for me to put the pieces back together
Victoria Volk 20:07
I think that’s what so many people do is they just quickly try to they don’t take that time and a lot for many people I don’t want to minimize it that that isn’t that is a luxury to be able to have that time to be able to do that can be a feel like a luxury for people especially with kids and you know if you have all kinds of things in your life so go ahead and
Sirry Berndsen 20:30
use yeah i think is a cultural thing also though, because I remember when my grandma passed away my my mother’s mother when she passed away my mom took some days off from work and I remember this vividly that she would spend time just grieving and it’s a cultural thing because in my culture you are given a chance to grieve I mean for instance we get for some occasion we get five maybe six weeks summer vacation depending on who you work for minimum five and for maternity leave you get six months minimum of up to a year. Wow Hey, we’re tight about maternity leave. And so the culture that I come from it’s it’s Iceland it’s a very Scandinavian culture you’re allowed to be human you’re allowed to be with your family and even like I know in Denmark and Sweden or Norway they really encourage you to spend time with family and I think that in one of the Scandinavian countries they gave you I think up to two years of maternity leave of full pay you know and that is something that absolutely blows Americans away and so I’m coming from that culture one of my mom because the way yes, it is a luxury that I was able to take time off work but I also live my life in such a way that I don’t spend a lot of money I am kind of simple in my lifestyle like I don’t spend money on silly things. I’m frugal. First of all I buy secondhand clothing and I’m proud of it you know and I recycle a lot and so when I take time off I know that I will not be making any money at the time but I’ve prepared for those days and then I just live really sparingly during the time off
Victoria Volk 22:12
and I love those tips and I think to like you said it’s it’s setting your life up for what you value yes and if you are wondering what people value just look where they spend their money right?
Sirry Berndsen 22:27
Oh absolutely I’m like I don’t need I’m not I do not need to measure up to anyone I don’t care what like my neighbors to if they get a new car if they get a new book I just don’t care about those things those material things I don’t care about but yes my value is in family and being in the space that I need to be in emotional well being it is and you know what it is it’s self love. It is self love and I had this I had this thinking I used to be a flight attendant for a short while and they would always say that you know put dogs and mask on yourself first before you put on your anyone else around you. Especially the children because they you know they will survive you just have to take care of yourself first and so these days when I when I can like a point my point of myself when I say me and myself and I but I say this as a loving way because with me being fully there. I can be there for you. It really comes down to that
Victoria Volk 23:25
and that’s what I hear a lot to like the remote that makes me think of how people say when I say I’m you know a grief recovery specialist I tend to have a grief podcast you know, it’s depressing that sounds depressing. It Oh, and don’t look at it that way. You know I grief is a teacher. It is such a wonderful teacher. For us. It highlights in all the ways that what it shows up for us. It highlights illuminates what needs healing. Yes. in all aspects of our lives. Every cause grief touches every aspect of our lives, our money, relationships, our relationship to ourself. How we show up in the world, everything.
Sirry Berndsen 24:13
Absolutely. And what you just said how we show up in the world. Grief touches everything. And I recently heard Rene brown Susan’s ecologist and she said, Unless pain is transformed, pain will always be transmitted. is so true. And we are responsible for ourselves and not anyone else. Yes, our children, their well being. But again, it goes back to this. We take care of ourselves and then we take care of our children. It always goes this way. Number one is you and your essence and then everything else will fall into place.
Victoria Volk 24:57
Absolutely 100% Can you speak a little Little bit to how in some religions that mediums psychics Well, first of all, you’re not are you a psychic, you’re a medium.
Sirry Berndsen 25:13
So everyone is born psychic. So that is the first given we’re all born psychic is the sixth sense, you know how like animals, all animals, they have the sixth sense. versus if there’s an earthquake, the animals, they know how to run to the higher areas or regions, like when there’s a tsunami, they knew how to run up to the mountains. And so this is the sixth sense, it is born, it’s, it’s we have it. So everyone is psychic, but there are those people that dive into it, and are those people that choose not to dive into it. And I think though the more people begin to study science, they leave the intuition behind, although Einstein was really quite spiritual, because he has says things like he said things about the sort of the mysteriousness of the universe, and all of those things that you have to sort of when you have a scientist that is able to be also spiritual, you’ve got a really nice combination. So my take on so when it comes to the psychic and mediumistic, there are some people that are born with them mediumistic ability, so what it is, is a frequency, it is not just a frequency, but it’s also a source of frequency, it’s a vibration. And I used to say it’s, it’s in your brain. And they’ve also now they’ve done studies on the god gene. And I’m beginning to believe that there’s no such thing as a god gene. Because if you’ve looked at it this way, who would ever surrender the life to live in a monastery for like, a whole entire life or back in the day was none raised. And you know how, like, there’s some people that will sit in meditation, and they will just really thrive in meditation. So there’s, there’s a thing I believe, as a god gene. And so when it comes to the mediumistic things, I have been teaching these now for many years. Even people that say that, Oh, I’m not getting it, I have this intuition about how to get them to the point of being able to say what they are perceiving in their mind, because when it comes to spirits, it is reception and perception, reception and perception. And so if we begin to open up either the hearing or the seeing and allowing us, like if we allow ourselves to really sort of fall into this path of feeling spirit around us, if we feel them, we can see them, we can hear them. And that is just sort of simply blending and merging with them so that you can process what they’re bringing to you. And I think that the more of us that can come closer to the connection to spirits, the kinder, more wonderful Earth on planet we will have. And so there are people that are born mediums, but everyone is born psychic. So there’s this difference in those two. So, every medium is a psychic, because we’re all born psychic, but not every psychic is a medium.
Victoria Volk 28:03
Gotcha. And I you know, I personally have recognized that well, and you can speak share your perspective of this, but I feel like grief really kind of shuts off the valve of our intuition in a lot of ways. It did for me anyway, like I was very closed up in like us so similar. I was I wouldn’t have called myself atheist, but I really blamed God for everything that happened in my life and was like, nope, ain’t gonna do you know, by not going to have it and I believe to like, you go on the ground and that you that’s what happens, you die and there was no feeling a connection at all. There was no I didn’t feel it. And it wasn’t until probably in my early 20s when I heard something that shifted everything for me and really sparked a curiosity back in my heart. And that led me down a different path and changed my life really, which led to later grief recovery, which opened the floodgates like grief recovery for me my personal work opened the floodgates I became a Reiki Master that like just like put the valve on overflow, you know, so I feel connection now. I feel something I never did before. So can you speak to that? So bit more to
Sirry Berndsen 29:40
Yeah, so when you were talking I was just thinking like prisoners. They say about every seven years we go through these cycles and those people that are really into into astrology that know about the seven year cycle, I think it has to do with I’m not an astrologer. If I remember correctly, though, I think it it has to do with Saturn return There’s a term that I like I understand the basics of it, but I don’t understand the full extent of it. So every seven years so most likely when you went through your epiphany probably was around the age of 21 give or take, right?
Victoria Volk 30:12
Sirry Berndsen 30:13
Yeah, yeah, it’s the same thing you know, I mean my case I think I was about maybe, I think it was maybe 29 or so do you know like, it’s really close to the 28th year and so it’s like every seven years you go through these shifts and changes and so it’s a seven year cycle. And it’s like they also talk about if you go into the ocean, they talk about the seventh wave is the big wave. It’s really interesting and also if you do numerology and you look at the the essence of numbers the light the number seven is considered to be the most spiritual number four, if it’s a life number, like if you calculate your date of birth, you can see what you like pup is numbers of fascinating
Victoria Volk 30:58
they are I’ve always been fascinated with numbers I was an as a kid, it’s interesting because as a kid I, I was into, like, I was the kid that got like the poem book from scholastic palm reading book and, and the astrology books. And, you know, so I was that kid, but I really wasn’t like, I really hid those interests. I didn’t share those interests with, with others, you know, but it’s interesting how life comes full circle doesn’t, isn’t it? Like, yeah, full circle, like I’m coming back to all that stuff. And, and my faith, though, and that’s what I would like you to speak to, too, because I am Catholic. And I’m a convert, actually. And for anyone who’s listening who did not know that, and so can you speak to maybe that piece?
Sirry Berndsen 31:49
So yeah, so this is interesting, because I’m, I’m getting close to becoming a minister. I’m doing a training. Yes, I’m doing a training under Reverend john and havik. She’s up the journey within and becoming a spiritualists minister. Because I love to study I love to learn, like if there’s anything that I can study, I’ll take it on. I even applied for a Ph. D. program a few years ago, and I got accepted, but at the time, I didn’t really have the time or the money. So I decided not to do it. But so yes, when it comes to religion, I think that theology and religion is an interesting thing. It’s such an interesting, fascinating thing. And I think because from my perspective, because I’m so open to different religions, I have people come to my office or have zoom sessions with me that are of all faiths. Granted, I come from a Protestant Lutheran background was just going to navy and but at the same time, never practice any of it. But we’re also pagan, because we believe in the old gods, you know, the Odin and Thor and Tiede and all of those Freya and, and then I lived in Saudi Arabia, with with a Muslim prayers, and it was really divine. My roommates at the time, most of them are Catholic. They were Indian, but some of them also were Hindus. And then, surely while after that, I lived in Israel. And so I went from the Muslim culture to the very Jewish culture. Then I have my office in Boston, or in Brookline, Massachusetts is very Jewish, they call it little Israel. And I seem to be able to flow into almost any religion there is because I don’t judge. There’s like, whatever you’re raised with, that is what you raised with. But this has been my perception, many religions, they say to you that Oh, you should not be connecting with the dead. And my heart has always been questioning that. And I think it has to do with back in the day, especially I’m going to only speak about Catholicism from what I have perceived in the last 20 years, because a lot of the people in Massachusetts are Catholic, Irish Italian Catholics. And so been there in the Catholic Church. People back in the Middle Ages, they could not read. And so they started putting pictures into everything. And so and that everything was in latson, to keep people away from the mysticism of the faith. And so they would have the services and lots and and so it was really with Martin Luther, that the Protestants that he was translated into a language that they understood. And so when it comes to religion, if people have the ability to separate themselves from their childhood religions have the do’s and the don’ts or you should do this or you should not do that with very rigid ideas. If people have the ability to separate themselves from that, and then dive into the mysticism of life, or mysticism of that religion, then they really see a lot of doors. Open up. And and I think that not just religion but it’s also cultural practices, you know how like when we think about just for instance, if we think about Indonesia, most of Indonesia is Muslim. And but then when you go over to Bali, it is mostly Hindu. And they have a totally different way of living, but it’s just an island of Indonesia, it’s the same.
Sirry Berndsen 35:28
It’s the same governments, but the big island is Muslim, and the small island of Bali is Hindu. If I remember correctly, I think there were also some Buddhists that I can’t remember. But there are some faiths that keep it really simple. And they really preach about living in compassion, which is a Buddhism, Hinduism, they helped many, many different gods. And then there are those that question like, Well, why are you worshiping all these different statues? My thing is, let them do whatever they want to do, like whatever brings them joy. And I also do know that there’s a lot of people that sort of frown upon the Islamic religion. And people that also again, they have to separate the ancient religion of Islam. And they have to separate that from what later on became, what governments were trying to dictate to the women, for instance. And why is that? Because they would have the women cover up on all of those things, like I questioned everything. But I do think that it really comes down to this, that God, or goddess, whatever you want to believe in, did not create religion, religion is manmade. And for that reason, if you can remove the sort of the history or the, the rigidness, of religion, you set aside, and then you go into the aspects of prayer. And what is this essence of God? Now I also have this thing that I think that god or goddess, I don’t see, God has a gender, God has an essence lives within each and every one of you are God, I am God. And when we see the godliness within one another, we then are able to see the kindness in one another. And I do believe that we all have God within us. And I find it kind of interesting sometimes I get into this conversation about people that are obviously like race with race within a very strict religion. Doesn’t matter which religion is they they believe that’s how, and early on in my work as a medium. It was a kind of an interesting this. This says you asked earlier you asked if there was one session that stands out from another. There are so many that stand out like I had, I’ve done sessions with people that pass 911 or their witnesses. And I’ve done sessions where there was murder suicides. And I remember this is years ago, there was a there’s a woman, her name is Beth. And she had three girls, and she was dating a guy. And the religion was not going really well. And one of the oldest girls and she decided to go to Florida with some friends. So she had flown out of Boston. Meanwhile, Beth was at home with a two young girls and the dog and the boyfriend was upset and he comes to the house and he shoots the youngest girl in the hallway. And then it comes into the bedroom where Beth is with her middle daughter and he shoots the middle daughter and sister her lights out. And then she was the mom. Mind you. He also showed the dog. And then what he did, he walked on to train tracks and he committed suicide. So now we toiled over a murder suicide with one of the girls was away. Thank god the girl was away because that kind of like saved the lives of the two sisters. And so when she had London in Florida, she was trying to call she was trying to call mom, but mom didn’t pick up and so then she frantically started to call her dad, her mom and dad were separated. divorced. So she started calling dad and dad Okay, he’d go over to the house and he’ll check out check up on mom when he entered into the house where he saw that the youngest daughter was shot in the head in the hallway and the middle daughter was in her mother’s arm shot in the head to what is interesting is that the two girls survived. But mom passed away. And so there was a there was somebody that came in for a session with me and I brought everything through and then at one point they said well, so he committed suicide. Where is he? So this is what was a huge learning lesson for me. So I was connected to Beth the mom and I was able to see everything through her eyes. Like I saw the whole entire thing unfold and I saw everything through her eyes. I remember that I asked her like well where are you see since he He shot you all, and he killed you on the bog. Where is he? So when bad people commit crimes,
Sirry Berndsen 40:10
they go to heaven, but they go to what I call special ed. And so there’s no such thing as hell on people, they need to sort of wrap their heads around, there’s no such thing as hell. This is one place that we all go to, but we go to different levels, it’s like going to a classroom or go to a school. And those that have done amazing work kind work, compassion work, they go into the higher grades is sort of like going to ninth 10th 11th grade. So what happened with him, he was put in isolation. And so in my mind, I could see her, she was able to see him through sort of, in my mind, it looked as though she was looking through like a one sided glass, but he did not see her. And so he was there in isolation. And, and then he had these spiritual beings, sit with him, and teach him about the lessons. But he had done. And so there’s no time in this world. And this is something that a lot of people have a hard time grasping, there’s no time in the spirit world. Now, would he be there for a one year and like in the perception of the humans on earth plane? Or would he be the mugger nobody knows. But it’s very clear to me that he would be in this isolation, and he was, is kind of an infant learning how to walk again. So he’s shown how to learn the impact of what he had done. And his soul also had to really work through the atrocities that he had committed. And with the spiritual beings, and they were guides and angels that we’re trying to sort of bring the lessons to him. Now, there’s another aspect of this also, which is Michael Newton, Michael nooner, he was a psychology PhD in psychology. And he wrote a couple of books, and one of them is destiny, or souls. And it’s a great book, and I recommend it to everyone. And it’s one of these books that you kind of had to read it. And then if you don’t quite grasp it quite yet, you have to sort of go back to it and read it again. Or you can also get an audio book. So he talks about and also Brian Weiss talks about life between lives. And so for instance, we could then also perceive it this way that perhaps this guy, he was put into this base of life, he lives and we all come to this earth plane with lessons that we need to learn, and the soul, how we work through those lessons, it is up to the soul to grow. And some things are already decided upon before we come to Earth. Francis, before you came, Victoria, it was already decided that you would meet your husband, and you would have the kids to know like, there are specific things that are decided. But also there are things in our lives that come into our pads that depending on how we cope with it, how do we cope with it well, or do we not cope with it really well, that can really, sometimes interfere or veer off of the road a little bit. But for the most part, we have specific lessons we have to go through. So I’m going to share this one thing that I’ve been going through this last year, it’s been sort of in the background, quite a bit in the past few years. But this past year really, really pushed me as a medium and grief person a little bit over the edge. And this is what it is when young people in this in this climate in this day and age when young people in America growing up, they are faced with so many drugs. And it is absolutely devastating to see in this past year 2020 I saw more suicides and overdoses in my practice that in any previous year.
Sirry Berndsen 43:59
And it made me think I reflect on this. Why? And it comes down to this and what like my philosophy today it comes down to this. I do not think it is the parents fault. But I think it is the I don’t know if it’s the government’s fault, if it is the society how it is built up if it’s the school system. I’m not here to play like I’m not here to blame or point the finger but I think people need to be aware of what is going on. When does it start on where does it start? And so recently, a friend of mine, she said she’s got a couple of teenage girls, and she said to me that Oh yeah, like one of our daughters is on Prozac. And I thought to myself like was his only like 14 like, that’s really young, isn’t it? And she’s all well it’s considered to be normal like the, the nurse will call it call them up to the nurse’s office. I’m like okay, here’s your medication for the week or for the month. And I think it was like this is absolutely insane. But it started making sense to me. And so I’m even in America, I think it’s probably America is one of the most medicated countries on the planet. And where does it all starts? is Big Pharma? What does that lead into? Like if a child is overactive is a child is just really hyper that is immediate, like there’s a label on it, it has add, or it has ADHD. My thing is, Well, how about fixing the child’s diet? How about taking out all of the ingredients in the food that are not supposed to be there? If you cannot, like if you reading a label on a food product, and you cannot understand it, why are you feeling that way? Child child references, Pop Tarts? What’s in it? All these ingredients that are just nobody can pronounce toxins? What does the toxins do to the gut bacteria? We talked about children that like three or four or five years old, this is where it starts. And so the responsibility really goes down on that aspect, it goes down to the government, because the government says, Oh, yeah, you can put these things on the food, and that’s okay. And so the children becoming sick, the microbiome is becoming sick. And then they begin to develop these behaviors that are not considered to be rational. And then they roll up in a system that Oh, yeah, let’s suppress this symptom. And then if that doesn’t work, let’s try another one. Instead of instead of getting to the root cause of the issue, because the parent may be the most loving, caring parents, but they may not know what they’re putting the child’s bodies. And so as children are growing up, and then they like they’re put on Prozac, or they put on Xanax or they put like they put on medication for different things that should be treated, it’s not suppressed. And so this past year, I’ve noticed that children I mean, to me that children from the age of like, 16 1718, up to like 20 456, the amount of young people passing because they cannot cope, suicides, overdoses, that has really touched me on a grief level in this past year to put up like, I’m going through this whole ups, I’m upset about it, I’m angry about it. And but I’m turning that anger and frustration on sudden as I’m trying to turn it into more education. And so when people come to my office, I, when I intuitively I know, I know that like this little tiny little tweaks that they could do to get it better. You know, I point out to them, I’m looking to the microbiome, because the tummy is the second brain. And I tend to think of it this and we have the brain, we have the heart and we are the tummy. We have to love a three to work together in unity, to have a healthy family. I went off a little bit but yeah, that’s this is in the past year where my grief has been sort of absorbing this young people of America, exceptionally talented people with such great hearts. You know, it’s just my heart goes out to the children, to the parents, to the mothers to the fathers to the siblings.
Victoria Volk 48:13
And it’s, I think to it comes down to the lack of support within a family unit, whether it be support from the community or support from the healthcare system, which is overloaded already, you know, there. And I think, when I hear my bandwidth again, is we talk about mental health. Yes, I wish we would take the word mental out of it, which would be emotional health. Yes. What is what will serve us in our emotional health? And you don’t work through emotions by popping a pill.
Sirry Berndsen 48:55
Exactly. That is likely that is exactly what I’m talking about.
Victoria Volk 48:59
I’m reminded of a podcast interview I did a while back with Jordan Brody. And he was he’s an openly gay man, and really struggled as a child with bullying and things like that, despite having a really supportive, loving, you know, father figure in his life, he, you know, just had other challenges, and really embracing right being a child that recognizes that they’re different. And where he obviously said he felt different, but he was put on medication as an eight year old, an eight year old. That’s an anxiety you know, and depression and add, I think ADHD, one of those, but he was brilliant. He was really smart. He was in a, like a gifted program. And he found himself pretending to be dumbing himself down for others and has created so much grief, like he couldn’t even authentically live who he was his, his essence, his soul of what was his soul was wanting him to be and live into. He really suppressed all of it. And it started with, you know that medication didn’t help. Right? Right. And as an adult, you know, when I interviewed him for the podcast, he has been off medication, he’s not on medication anymore. He’s living his best life, you know, but he dealt with addiction, then, I mean, that set him on the stage of going down a path of addiction. And within a week, I believe of our podcast interview, his brother passed away of an overdose. And he came on the podcast, actually to talk about a loss of his best friend to addiction. Yeah, and you know, so it’s obviously was really it’s prevalent in his family. But why? Why?
Sirry Berndsen 51:03
Why? Well, I’ve been like this last few months I’ve been digging into the why and I think that um, and you’re so right, this should be this should be called emotional health or emotional well being. And, and I think that if you really get into the depth of things, because I actually studied journalism, I studied must mean media. And within that, it was also the the quote, unquote, the propaganda how to sell like there’s not marketing, but how to sell an idea. And if you really think about it this way, when you have large companies, like pharmaceutical companies, putting money towards doctors or hospitals, and paying them, it starts from an early age, it starts from a well with visits with an infant, and well visits to the to the pediatrician now includes years, not just the weight and everything, but it also includes vaccination and large nations. I question those two today, simply because we do not need to put what is it 72 vaccinations and in an infant, and within the first two years in America, it is absolutely insane. And so I think that it comes down to this, the big pharma, they have way too much power. And from the moment a child is born, they have way too much power in a child’s life. From a well visits to the first few years, the more that can give like the more that can give pills to the children. And that’s where it starts. So in other words, I think that in so many ways, the big pharma, they are sort of the they’re the drug dealers with the license with a golden license. I think the other thing also, I thought about this a lot, I don’t think that a lot of doctors, pediatricians are educated about the side effects on the long term effects of these things. They are, I think a lot of them are just going by faith. Somebody a rep comes from a rogue company, and they say, Oh, we have these these these is seen as sort of like a shopping cart. Would you like some of these so you can give to patients? And I think this is where it all starts. And I really my heart goes out to the American youth because of this. Young people, like you just said with him. He himself was like he was put on these medications from an early age. And then he was on the podcast to talk about his best friend and then his brother passes away. When is enough enough? Because it all starts somewhere. Yeah, you know, and instead of instead of putting them on drugs, why not then create a group gathering we have these young children coming into someone’s a wellness center, and they learn to sit in meditation or they learn to sit in the quiet and they learn about nutrition, and they learn about the blueberries and raspberries and they love like they learn about the herbal, herbal remedies and they learn about the wonderful things that nature gives us. Like I said, I started listening to audiobooks by Rudolf Steiner. And he was the one that sort of started the whole Waldorf. Are they the Waldorf School is that based on his ideology, and there’s actually a website some guy, he’s read all of his books, it’s on Rudolf Steiner audio.com I highly recommended is sort of an old fashioned way of writing, reading and listening to it, but it’s well worth it. But I picked that up. The closer we can come to nature with our children, the brighter future we will have with the children and the more we move away from the Big Pharma on the popping the pills, the healthier youth we will have, it’s the future of America lives. In the arms and the hearts and the hands of the youth and the parents, but it’s the youth of America that will be able to build up the country to its greatest glory that I want was amazed me think of when you mentioned about like, you know, a center, like a youth center where they can learn these different things. It’s like mentioned meditation, it’s learning coping skills. Yes, like,
Victoria Volk 55:22
but here’s the thing, like, as adults, we don’t necessarily cope very well, either. You know, it’s like, because I feel like, and I’ve said this so many times, and you can, I think you’ll agree, but adulthood is childhood reenactments,
Sirry Berndsen 55:36
adulthood is childhood via likeness, I can
Victoria Volk 55:39
see that every belief, thought idea, like everything that we are taught as children are our personal experiences that we internalize. And we project all of that, as adults, like we. It’s like, like that cycle, that seven year cycle like these. It’s like, you mentioned that the soul has this lesson it needs to learn. And it was actually mentioned by Dr. Chris Kerr, who is on the surviving death, he talked about end of life experience and has a book death is by the dream and he was on the podcast and talked about one particular experience of an old man who was a war World War Two veteran who, at the end of his life, the deepest pain that he was carrying all his life was came back to heal him, like his comrades came back to heal him. Of all the because he his job was to transport the dead on the ships, and his comrades came back at the end of his life. Oh, wow. And it was, you know, so I think of that and how, like what you said how the soul has this lesson, these I, I feel like after learning about end of life, going through end of life doula training and talking to Dr. Kerr, our soul has this experience at the end of life, probably beyond based on what you what you shared, right?
Sirry Berndsen 57:11
Right. Because I mean, then we have other lifetimes. When it comes to finances with the past life, past life regression. We have lifetimes before this lifetime and our minds. We think of everything as being a timeline. And it is in that light, like on the earth plane, it is a timeline. Everything has a minute, everything has a second, everything has an hour to it, everything has a calendar to it. But in the afterlife, there’s no light, like there’s no timeline, with a set of certain concepts. It’s hard to grasp. And going back to what you just said about touch, both occur. I love his work, I think you also want to was a despot vision. So it’s not like half remember, death has been a dream, or death. Okay. But that was about a dream. Yes. So I was actually talking to a friend of mine in the UK this morning, who’s a doctor who is about to be transferred from the end of life care, being a physician at the end of life care to the ER doctor and, and I said to him, you know, you’re meant to go there. And I think you’re going to be entering the space of prayer. And he’s like, What do you mean, he was pausing. And I said, Well, it was going to be the place of prayer. And, and I talked to him about Christopher curve, thoughts occur. And his TED Talk. And I said, years ago, it did, especially for a woman, this is a long time ago, I did a session that I never forget it. Most sessions I collect, they close my mind for the glimpses of a few sessions that stick in my head. So there was a young lady that came into my office and, and I knew nothing about her. Like, I never know anything about other people. Like when people come to my office, I just look at the first name on what type of session that booking. That’s all I want. I just want the true first name, I don’t care about the last name, they have to have an email so that I can actually email them information. But the rest of it are just first name and what excuse me what type of session and so I knew nothing about her as she comes to my office. And before I was going into my office, I felt there was this amazing light around her and I didn’t understand what it was. But it was almost as if there was this huge choir of light beings that were like following me to this appointment. And in my mind’s eye, I saw her as if she was she the the person in my office, she was done in front and central like the soloist, and this big choir of lights of beings behind her. And then in the session, I said to her, like I see that you work with people in a healing in a setting with the hospital in a healing setting. But there’s a lot of people in the office life I want to come forward and thank you and there was this immense It was like a way was a tsunami of this light. And there was a tsunami of prayers and gratitude towards this woman. And I was able to bring through, like from that big choir, it was like 1000 people more, I was able to bring forth like a couple of them on a gave a really good description of them. And then she said, Well, this was one of my last patients. And so this woman, she was an emergency care physician for many years in the ER, and helping people, you know, survive or die. She was a very prayerful person. And so, and it was interesting to me to see it from the mediums perspective, that she is interesting also, because she was a scientist, so she didn’t see it. But I saw it, and I saw this, it was sort of like the massive amount of it was like the wave of lights behind her was just immense, because she was working in the medical field and helping people die or alive, bring life or bring them into the afterlife.
Victoria Volk 1:01:06
I think the whole theme of this conversation really just comes down to it boils down to just connection, this spiritual, spiritual connection. Yes, of the essence of who we are our own spirit, and how we’re all connected. Yes to each other.
Sirry Berndsen 1:01:28
Absolutely. And I think also the other thing also is how close we are to the spirit world. But I always say they walk, they walk with us, they walk among us. And the closer we bring them into our lives, the closer we bring in the angelic energy, the easier the Kinder, the more loving we become, the easier life will become like when things when we surrender. But instead of going against the instead of going against life, but when we surrender to the gentleness or the wave of life, we then create an easier path. And I see, I think it’s the closest on the spirit world.
Victoria Volk 1:02:14
I see this parallel of we medicalize death and dying, but we also medicalized life. We do, right, but it’s such a good point, both ends of the spectrum. There is no there’s no, where’s the balance?
Sirry Berndsen 1:02:30
Well, where is the Yes. And it has become so scientific. That we have lost sight of the spiritual detached? Yes. Because we are spiritual beings. Having human experiences
Victoria Volk 1:02:50
in a nutshell, yes, yeah, Yes, we
Sirry Berndsen 1:02:53
are. We are divine light beings. Having human experiences and grief, just, um, that grief.
Victoria Volk 1:03:04
Yeah, is a part of it. A healthy part of it. It is a healthy
Sirry Berndsen 1:03:08
part of it. I also, I also do believe that the power of prayer can be so immense, because prayer is such a simple thing. And I’m not talking about prayers in heavenly Father, I’m not talking about those types of prayer, but I’m just talking about the simple voice within your heart, the simple chants the simple. Oh, God helped me get through this day, or like, it couldn’t be very, you know, or God, protect my children. Or if even if we want to call on our ancestors, like mom or dad or grandma, please protect my child today. Those are in my mind in my heart. Those are prayers. And I do and I know that prayers work. I know the power of prayer is immense. And I do feel and I know that for sure that if we went back to the basics with children, and we brought in more meditation, the power of prayer on the essence of spiritual living on the earth plane,
Victoria Volk 1:04:05
we would then have, have a future that is so much easier. And prayer doesn’t need to be rigid. Prayer can be so simple. bring light to this person. bring light to this person. That is it. It’s really letting your heart live in intention. And yes, that energy out with intention. Yes. And I can say personally, prayer did change my life because I prayed for my husband. Oh, I didn’t pray for him. I prayed for someone. Yes. Now this was me not going to church ever right? Yep. Please bring me someone who is good for me. That was it was a very simple prayer, bring someone into my life who was good for me. And I knew my husband. For seven years. We were friends. Yeah, but we had, you know, when he went his way I went mine, we met a junior year in high school, when he moved to my town, but we did not date we did not, there was no like love connection at any point during that time. And with that prayer, all of a sudden, he was like, front and center, relentless in wanting to be in a relationship with me, to this day, it’s like, you know, like, we didn’t look at each other, like, Oh, I’m gonna marry you someday, in high school, or I want to date you know, seven years later, seven years later, right? And I still like, there is no explanation. Like, he really didn’t can even give me an answer. Really, like, yeah, prayer changed my life. And that, that set me on finding a relationship and discovering a relationship with God again, and my spirituality and faith and all of that, like it just Yeah, a very defining moment in my life. But I
Sirry Berndsen 1:06:11
think also this goes back to those that prayer does not need to be a religious prayer. It can be if people want to, like if people want to go to the church, or the temple or the you know, wherever they want to go, and they want to do their prayers in front of their statues. They can do that, like messes with me, I pray all the time, my family, or I go out in nature, I sit on the beach, I will pray. For me, prayer is a part of breathing. You know, it’s just a part of being and it’s a part of breathing. And I pray for the strangers. And I think that when we find ourselves being aggravated or annoyed, but someone needs to pray, we need to send them even more lights, so that we can heal ourselves from that frustration from that annoyance.
Victoria Volk 1:06:58
It makes me think of whole oponopono the four steps of it’s actually just mentioned it with a client yesterday. It’s I’m sorry, please forgive me. Thank you. And I love you. I think before I’m not even sure if it’s in that order. I I’ve have a couple posts coming up about it. But you because really, it’s it is what is within us that feels provoked, you know, what does this person provoking in me, what is it about me that needs to heal that feels provoked by this person? Or, you know, yes, yeah. I mean, I think
Sirry Berndsen 1:07:37
it also goes back to the grief he does, because what happened in our lives that causes grief, though, we then have to reflect on.
Victoria Volk 1:07:49
And that’s what grief recovery does, right? The method itself, does it, it brings to the forefront exactly what needs to be healed. And what to work through in a guided supported evidence based way, right? It’s Yeah, yeah. I’m partial, I’m partial.
Sirry Berndsen 1:08:11
But I was interesting, because you also mentioned earlier that, um, when someone has such you that, like you said, some of you were grief, grief recovery person, and they said, Oh, that is depressing. That was their perception. But I think that we, when we, when we that understand grief on a deeper level, when we come out on the other end, we see all of the gifts coming to us what a gift it is. You know what a gift it is, but I met you on what a gift it is that I met a couple of your friends. It’s a gift, and it all starts with one person.
Victoria Volk 1:08:48
Yeah. Because we’re all connected. We’re
Sirry Berndsen 1:08:52
all connected. And we’re all gifted and we are all a gift to one another.
Victoria Volk 1:08:56
So I want to really give something this has been amazing so far, but for Grievers listening, what is one tip that you would give are hurting heart listening today.
Sirry Berndsen 1:09:09
So this is coming from me as the medium. I think with grieving with grieving people, and I think especially this is the thing I often reflect on what is hardest grief. I, um, there are two rooms that I have perceived to be the hardest ones, and that is the loss of a child. For both mom and dad. Oftentimes fathers have a hard time expressing it mothers that seem to have a little bit of an easier time expressing grief when they lose a child. And it doesn’t matter how old the child is. It could be 3 million old it could be three years old, but the loss of a child is probably one of the hardest. And then also when people have been together like life partners, and when a woman becomes a widow where our mom becomes A winter and they’re so in love with their soul partner. Those are two of the hardest ones it is more. But I think also went out when a young child loses a mother. That’s another that’s probably the third one that is the hardest one to sort of, cope with I think but even loss of a pets can be really hard for a child, but when people um, so for me as the medium when people lose someone, I say, take time for you. Sit with them, sit with them memories, listen to the music you both enjoy and look at the photographs when you feel ready to do so. If you know and here’s a big deal if you know that someone is dying. If you have an older parent or grandmother who was dying, sit down with them and record their stories. videotape them. If you can take pictures, get your phone out, record them and say, Hey, Grandma, tell me about when you Grandpa, when you met, those stories become absolutely precious, more pressures on any stuff. Having someone’s voice on a voicemail is precious, having someone’s having someone telling a story on a video is precious, prepare for those types of things. Because once they’re gone, their voice is gone. So in prep, so in preparation for loss, I think that do everything that you can to cherish each and every moment. Now we don’t always have the time to prepare. But after someone passes away, take time for yourself. take time off from work. And if there are people in your life that are not being helpful, supportive, or conducive to your grief, let them go, someone else will replace them or they will come back into your life if it’s really worth it. But take time to grieve, be kind and be gentle. And let yourself cry. Like just let the tears out. Go into nature, hug a tree, sit in the grass, go on the beach, do anything and everything that really brings you joy. And do it over and over and over again until it gets a little bit easier. One thing that I did want to say is after someone has passed and and you really feel like you want to connect with them. There’s one thing that I’ve said to people make time for the spirits.
Sirry Berndsen 1:12:39
Write them letters, but doing this as a way that if you were to For instance, if you sit down every single time at the same time, let’s say it’s a Sunday evening at 7pm. Or you know that you’re going to have some time during the middle of the week. And let’s say Wednesday evening at 6pm. Make an appointment with your loved one it was pretty well and sit with them. Listen to your favorite music together, have the photograph on your lap have the photo of Next you have a piece of paper and a pad and write them a letter and tell them how much you miss them. And, and if you feel they are coming close, listening, take time, and just write down what they would say to you. Because that is true spirit communication, because that’s when you have the flow. Going back and forth, you say one thing, I miss you so much. And then you may hear this very subtle voice in your head. And it’s there as if they’re back. And they may say the same to you, I miss you so much. It may be a child in the spirit world. And let’s say a mother sits down. And let’s say a mother lost a child unless the child’s name is Rachel, I’m just making up, you know, Rachel, or Amanda. And let’s go with Rachel. So let’s say a mother sits down and she said Rachel, I miss you so much. And then the mom may then begin to feel the voice of Rachel in her mind. And if she brings her closer, if she brings her daughter closer, she made them feel her in her heart. And then she may feel as though her daughter’s speaking to her, write it down, write letters to your child, write letters to not want to miss farewelled make the connection and hold on to those letters and you can always read them back. The more you do this, the more you deepen the connection and the one thing that I would also highlight if you can if people are sitting inside, light a candle praying, pray that they come to you pray that they merge with you, and they will come because they hear your thoughts. So I think that after someone passes away, I think that um, when we feel that our spirit is ready, bring them close so that we can merge with them and we can really, truly communicate beautiful
Victoria Volk 1:15:02
I love that what gives you the most joy and hope a new you’ve been
Sirry Berndsen 1:15:07
asked that because when I was I was thinking um I would say nature nature because it’s interesting nature and animals. Nature is always there for me, nature never feels me. I can walk outside I can walk to the park I can walk to the beach, I can sit there and I can be one with nature. And it never ever fails me. Even in a snowstorm nature’s there. I would say nature. Next up to that is the animals that eat terian I was a vegan for a little while. When I go home to Iceland. I will have fish shrimp, but that’s as far as I go. So animals is the next thing and when I get a chance to sit with dogs or cats even the other day I’ve got a chance to talk to a duck than Shelby and I got a chance to sit with a goats and the god fell asleep in my arms you know I have this connection with animals kind of like St. Francis of Assisi I have because we can also communicate with animals just like we can do with people is the same vibration is just same energy. So I would say nature and animals so that brings me joy nature. And the I think also the mystery of the cosmos the mystery of the universe the mystery of all there is the mystery that lies beyond that brings me joy.
Victoria Volk 1:16:43
I love that because it sparks curiosity for me those things yeah, that brings me joy curiosity brings me joy
Sirry Berndsen 1:16:51
look at the stars and you wonder what is there
Victoria Volk 1:16:55
I have a little follow up to our session that I had with you. And you had share during our session about my youngest and her connection with nature and and that she will Sunday understand the the importance of bees and just nature itself and herbs and in animals just she has a deep connection with animals and things like that two things. I mean, I want to share with you to follow up from our session. And one thing was we just very recently, this is a family from California came to our area and they brought their bees brand new company, they wanted to expand bought a place in our area. So they plan to come back year after year. And they put bees on our land. So we can have honey, we will get some honey and so interesting so that I thought oh my gosh, like that’s crazy. Because the this we’ve you know, we’ve been here for like 1112 years, you know, never had the opportunity to have bees on our land or anything you know, so that’s I found that fascinating. The second thing is a baby pheasant had just walked into my husband’s work all by itself all by itself, like the mother I don’t know if it got you know, yeah. Wouldn’t lost his mother whatever, we bring it home. And my youngest was tried nursing that thing and not nursing, you know, like, yeah, making sure that it got what it needed. And she we had some birdseed and stuffers, some feet like stuff and she was crushing that up and feeding it by hand and putting water in a syringe and, and just really nurturing this baby pheasant just a little chick just at bay thing. And she tapped her foot and it would come to her outside and just really connected to this little baby pheasant Well, after three days, it did die. And she was crushed. Tears. We ended up burying her it was a female. But I just thought back to what you had shared. And the words that came to my mind was because she wants to be a veterinarian. And I know I’d share that in our you know, after you had shared all that I said, Well she wants to be a vet. And why came from for me after that happened was she needs to be a vet for an animal sanctuary. Yes. A sanctuary. Yeah, that’s what kind of came up for me I guess, after that experience.
Sirry Berndsen 1:19:32
So you know, when I when I do my work they flow through because like I put my I put my ego aside. And I was describing this a couple of days ago to someone I would say that 10 20% of my left brain is in full action asking questions. But then I will say at present our brain is in full flow with spirit communication. So the whole life review is really coming from spirit. It is your story and not even from Got the young kids you know I even forgot the you like not talking to you I forgotten the session I find it isn’t that interesting is that I don’t know you and I don’t know your family I’ve never met your daughter um isn’t it interesting how this spirits and I don’t remember like if anyone came through for us it’s like my memory is none like his nail but I find it interesting how this spirits how they know these things this this timelessness that is just absolutely divine and Bs you know it just is bs Isn’t that interesting? Yeah. So I just had to show follow up was wonderful and I do hope as it becomes that for and also I hope that he becomes a holistic that because holistic dice they may I mean they make miracles happen holistic buts and I really hope it’s going to be for a sidetrack but you know what is interesting when I was seven years old I there I remember this vividly To this day I buried my first bird and I remember the lights the light around me and my friend when we hold held a little bird, I think it was a robin or something and we held it on we were so just devastated by the death of a bird and then we put in a little hole and I still remember this like was yesterday the light around us and I was seven years old again seven. How old is your daughter? 12 Oh so she’s going to be
Victoria Volk 1:21:36
I don’t know we’ll see. I guess she wants to that hasn’t changed it’s been few several years but she’s said that
Sirry Berndsen 1:21:46
you can even if she even if she ends up not going down the road of being a vet then she can always be a farmer. And she can nurture love the animals and the plants around her. Yeah, she’s very
Victoria Volk 1:21:59
much Let’s get her hands dirty playing the dirt. In Yeah, that’s
Sirry Berndsen 1:22:05
probably incredibly healthy. Yeah, she’s, yeah. Most kids they get to plan the drugs. Yeah, they’re the healthiest ones of all.
Victoria Volk 1:22:16
Yeah, and we’ve gotten so far away from that to like I remember playing with old tractors and cards and making roads in the dirt and you know now it was outside all day. Every day
Sirry Berndsen 1:22:29
Yeah. I was just a way I was away from my playground was the beach and and it was like walking around to the seaweed I’m playing with the seaweed and also digging in the dirt and it was a childhood. It was a magical childhood. Outside all the time and I remember when I was 10 years old in the summertime we could stay outside until 10pm when I was 11 years old, we only were talking about like June July August, we could sell 10 until like 11pm and then when we hit like 13 we’re able to stay on till midnight. Keep in mind the summers in Iceland. The sun doesn’t set so it’s daylight all night long. So there’s no difference of daylight.
Victoria Volk 1:23:14
I saw a video actually of a woman I made on Instagram are some things from Iceland and she documented like documented that and I’m just like Wow, I can’t imagine I can’t like you know, it’s just something you can’t wrap your head around you will
Sirry Berndsen 1:23:31
have you know, like for instance, when we talk about nature and magic. So now we have a we have in Iceland we have volcano that is erupting. And there’s not one of these big plumes that is coming that is coming up but it’s one of these with a lava field growing and growing and growing and I was in Iceland the other day and and I had been asking people around like you know how difficult is the track to get up there and there’s a well it’s gonna be like an hour and a half walk and whatnot and I’m not in a good shape. Because I live in this city and I don’t get into nature much but I was in a car accident a couple of years ago until my like I’m still paying the price of that, like my walking and everything. But I thought it was like you need to be there. And I walked for probably about an hour and a half up this hill and sort of up this hill and Donna Valley and up another Hill to sit on top of another mountain and I was just watching this lava just sort of spewing up out of this tiny little tidal mountains a mountain that is beginning to be created. I saw this lava coming up and I saw the lava flow and the magic of the earth I mean just thinking about the force of nature that is below our feet coming up through the cross and just flowing like with the black and with a red fire and and it was just absolute Magical to observe because I was sitting on top of this mountain it started raining and that is it started like then it was sleet and then there was hail. And it was freezing cold. But I loved every minute of it. Yeah, we just observing nature coming to creation.
Victoria Volk 1:25:23
When we think we’re in control, right? Oh, yeah, nature reminds us. No, no, you’re not.
Sirry Berndsen 1:25:30
Victoria Volk 1:25:31
oh, this was so wonderful. I feel like I could have talked I could talk for another hour easily. But is there anything else, any guided message you feel like you would like to share
Sirry Berndsen 1:25:43
when it comes to refund laws, I would like for people to go within and tap into the depth of love and the depth of love loss. Mercy doot doot. Together, love them love to come to the surface when you’re ready. And when love comes to the surface, you know that you will have this wisdom all around you and you will conquer anything and everything around you. And know the spirit is always in your hearts just so far away. The spirit is always around you. And spirits through the power of prayer will help you work through grief.
Victoria Volk 1:26:23
Thank you. Thank you for being here.
Sirry Berndsen 1:26:27
Thank you so much, Victoria. You’re awesome.
Victoria Volk 1:26:30
Oh, right back at you. And remember, when you unleash your heart, you unleash your life. Much love from my heart to yours. Thank you for listening. If you liked this episode, please share it because Sharing is caring. And until next time, give and share compassion by being hurt with yours. And if you’re hurting know that what you’re feeling is normal and natural. Much love my friend.
Through the challenges and struggles of life, we often find our strength and learn what we’re capable of as we search for meaning in our pain.
This episode shares two stories of the tenacity it took to dig deep, while also acknowledging the need for help and support and seeking it for themselves.
Rachel battled with her husband for two years as he fought hard to beat his cancer, only to lose his fight to ALL (acute lymphoblastic leukemia) in the end.
Eric battled the struggle of guilt after finding his daughter after she took her own life when she was 15.
Two very different stories but similar in how the human spirit is capable of finding strength through struggle.
It is my hope that Rachel and Eric’s stories, although very different experiences, help you to see yourself through their struggle. And that you, too, feel hopeful that you can find your strength on the other side of the struggle.
Today, I’m going to be talking about Episode 61 with Rachel Engstrom, Life as a Cancer Wife, Widow and Never a Mother-to-Be, and how she shares the story of her husband’s diagnosis and death two years later, as well as how she found her way to feeling better. And Episode 62 with Eric Hodgdon, Opening the Door to a Parent’s Worst Nightmare, and how he went from struggle to strength. He describes a defining moment that set him on a path of empowering and leading himself through his devastating and life-shattering loss.
Human Spirit is Stronger than Anything that Can Happen to It
When I’m hearing the stories of Grievers who come on my podcast, I try to put myself in their shoes and through their story, feel what might have been like to go through that experience. And what struck me about Rachel’s story is the time that from diagnosis until her husband passed away and still holding on to hope that entire time that he would go into remission, and he would be healthy again. But we never really know when our time is up, or when we’ll receive a diagnosis that could drag on for years and years. I know people who are on dialysis, or who have been on dialysis for many years for their kidneys. And it takes a toll on people’s mindset. This is where the human spirit is remarkable in adapting to our circumstances. Whether you’re a child who’s being abused, or an adult who’s going through a terminal illness, the human spirit learns to adapt. And I think we find our resourcefulness in times of struggle and challenge. And that’s just what Rachel and her husband did. They found their resourcefulness and had support come in to help them. Her parents had lived with them for quite some time during that period. And I just imagine that had they had kids at that time, that would have been even more helpful. And I think we get so scared to ask for help and support. In those times, we think we can do it all, or we should be doing it all, especially as mothers and nurtures, we think we should be doing it all. And I personally had many challenging times asking for help and support of others. I’m only learning now in my later years that support is really where it’s at. Whether it’s in grief, in our grief or in our businesses, just bringing on support in and help which I did this year which has been incredible. So I think that is probably one of the lessons that I’ve learned in my grief recovery and talking with other gravers and hearing their stories. It’s in the support that you find your own strength in a lot of ways because when you are able to take a break, when you are able to just step back for a moment that can help to recharge your own battery and tackle the next day. And that’s a huge takeaway in Rachel’s episode, and in many episodes. I wanted to highlight that it’s important to ask for support, and whatever that looks like for you.
Be Compassionate to Others
I love this one line to where a friend of hers had told her you can choose to be bitter or better. And that was kind of a turning point for her. She didn’t want to be bitter anymore, she wanted to be better. And after her husband’s passing, she started to pick up the pieces. And really wanted to find some meaning in her experience and it ended up writing the book: Wife, Widow, How I Navigated the Cancer World and How You Can Too. And I’ve talked to many Grievers who, through their stories, through their experiences, you want to find meaning for what you’ve gone through, you want to make something of it. And that’s been really a common thread. And also, among all of the guests that I’ve had, whether that’s helping others, or in a quiet way, it doesn’t have to be writing a book or it doesn’t have to be becoming a grief recovery specialist. It can just be a more compassionate friend, or spouse or what have you. Because I do believe that the more challenging experiences of our lives have makes us more compassionate people towards others. And after a year in of this podcast and listening to people’s stories, the other tip I would give to as the quickest turnaround to feeling better is to helping others. And that was really a turning point for me personally as well. And that’s been Rachel’s work as well. She’s really been an advocate for acute lymphoblastic leukemia and, and really just cancer in general she’s really tried to raise awareness and money as well. So there are many people doing amazing things in this world because of the challenges they’ve experienced. And Rachel is one of them.
Heal Yourself First
There is another aspect of Rachel story I want to share in that what if someone with whom you are in a relationship with is diagnosed with a terminal illness, and you are, let’s say the significant other but it’s been a less than loving relationship. You’re probably going to experience a lot of conflicting feelings about that. There’s a part of you that feels like you should help that person, you should be there for them till death do you part, you would want the same for yourself, you would want that person to help you if it were you or support you if it was you that was diagnosed with a terminal illness. But truly, if it’s a less than loving relationship, I can see where during Rachel’s episode she had mentioned that one of the nurses had told her that 70% of marriages or couples separate during cancer. And that struck me but in all honesty, it doesn’t surprise me because I think there are a lot of less than loving relationships out there. I think there are many people who get into relationship who haven’t healed their own wounds. And so you have two people that come together with their wounds, not healed emotional wounds. The other person can be someone who’s either going to help you evolve and grow and challenge you to do that and maybe in hopefully you do that together. Or you can be like the child that picks the scab and you can do that for each other where it’s just kind of a toxic thing. It’s like you don’t know how to be with someone else.
As long as you have this wounded inner child in you. And we’re all walking wounded inner children, as adults, until we recognize that our past and the behaviors that we resort to as adults, and the problems we see in our lives, that are usually repetitive. We find ourselves in the same bad relationships or you find yourself with the same cycle of money issues time after time, or you find yourself abusing different substances, different stage of life. These are the things that are still there, when you get into relationship with someone, marry someone, unless you can recognize and have that awareness of what your issues are, and you work through them either together as a couple, to grow through it. Or you work on that beforehand, which I highly recommend. I would recommend to anybody who is thinking about getting married, to go through grief recovery. You know, they have these pre-marriage classes and things. But I think that the most significant thing that you can do for your future and your future life with someone is to work on your own crap. And that’s what grief recovery offers. It’s a gift to you. But you have to be willing to do the work, of course, and many people are not. And it’s just where you’re at at the time where you look for someone else to heal those wounds for you, you looked for someone else to give you the love that you should be giving yourself. And I could go on a tangent right now, but I’m not, I just wanted to highlight how can it be that in a terminal diagnosis, couples can just shatter. And I believe that’s why it’s the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
Be Your Best Advocate
There is such a level of intimacy and struggle for the person that is both the supporter and the caregiver, but also the person who is the one that is diagnosed. It’s reckoning, it’s an awakening. I’ve never been diagnosed with cancer, but I imagine it is a great awakener. And it’s grief, it is grief. Imagine the grief that it causes someone to just have learned while you have six months to live. It is capable of knocking the wind out of the sails and sinking the heart of even the strongest person you know. And I do think that how you’ve handled challenges in your life before that experience or before that diagnosis is a precursor to how you handle the harder stuff that comes your way. And maybe thinking about how you’ve done that in the past, how have you handled challenging parts of your life in the past. And do you want to be emotionally prepared? and I don’t even know that anything can really prepare you to be honest, I don’t think anything can. Nothing can for this life altering diagnosis, these changes, or these big losses that we experienced, like I’ll talk about next with Eric story, nothing can prepare you for that. But I do feel there are tools out there that can help to support you in discerning what it is you need and helping you to become your best advocate for yourself. And we will learn those things by digging deep into ourselves. And also I want to say that, the worst thing is always what happened to you because no matter what, you will always experience it at 100%. There are no half Grievers out there. So just keep that in mind. So please check out Rachel’s Episode 61: Life as a Cancer Wife, Widow and Never a Mother-to-Be because there’s so much more to her story than I even covered here today. But I do like to keep these takeaways episodes kind of brief, there is definitely more to his story. So I hope you take a listen.
Every Parent’s Worst Nightmare is Losing a Child
Now I’d like to share my takeaways from Episode 62 with Eric Hodgdon, Opening the Door to a Parent’s Worst Nightmare. In 2014, his 15 year-old daughter, Zoi, had taken her own life. And as he shared the story of how he learned about how that was done, I listened so intently. And I could visualize the story, I could visualize the moment as he was telling me, and it literally broke my heart. I have a 16 year-old, a 14 year-old, and a 12 year-old, and just even thinking about it makes my eyes welled up. I cannot imagine. That is why I titled his episode, which I struggled with, on what to title it, but it really came to me, that would be any parent’s worst nightmare. It would just be your worst nightmare. Doesn’t matter how it happened, but just stepping into your child’s bedroom, expecting them to be in their bed, asleep, or falling asleep. And just the unimaginable instead is what you find. It truly hurts my heart. So it was a difficult episode for me to listen back when I had to edit it. But it’s so important for me that I personally edit my episodes because well one, it’s usually a few months from editing. I’m usually a few months out in editing from when we initially record. And so I feel like I need to hear it again in order to freshen up on the story and avoid it to be able to articulate what it is that I felt when I first heard it. And to hear it a second time because I hear every Grievers story a second time when I go to edit. I walk away from editing, just amazed with the tenacity of the human spirit. We can endure so much more than I believe we give ourselves credit for. But in the moment, and the moment of that deep despair and sorrow. It’s really hard to see three? five? ten? years into the future, maybe even tomorrow. And this is why I’m loving in doing this podcast so much, that the people who come on this podcast brings hope to other Grievers. But here’s the thing, if you were listening to this podcast, that is you too. That is you because you can take so much more than I think you give yourself credit for. There comes a time where you can only take so much. And I think that’s when most people seek out help and support. And I’ll come back to the first part of this episode where I talked about support and help and how important it is. But for Eric, and for many gravers, it does take having this moment within ourselves, I meant for more than this. My life is more than this, more than this sorrow, more than this anger and more than this pain.
I want my life to be fruitful and thrive. I want to thrive and I want to make something out of this crap that I’ve been handed. I do think there are many of us that come to that place too. And unfortunately, there are many who stay in that place of sorrow and pain. And feel like this is just how it is. This is just what life is going to be. This is my new normal, they say now but it doesn’t have to be. You have so much power of choice. You don’t even probably realize it because grief does make us feel like we don’t have a choice. But we do. You do, you do have a choice. And that’s what Eric talks a lot about in his episode. There was a defining moment where you felt like he heard Zoi’s voice. He did. He said he heard Zoi’s voice. And she was in so many words, I’m just paraphrasing, but just like “snap out of it, Dad, snap out of it.”. And when we are so deep in it, it’s really hard for us to do that. Sometimes it’s a prayer that you just say out loud. And something happens within you, something turns within you, something flips.
We Thrive by Supporting Each Other
And that’s really when my life kind of flipped, when I finally surrendered. And I started to pray. To be honest, I hadn’t stepped in a church and many, many years. And it happens differently for everybody. It doesn’t happen for everybody, of course, because there are many Grievers out there who are still feeling hopeless. Again, that’s the premise of this whole podcast is to bring hope to people. I think it’s fitting that he titled his book, A Sherpa named Zoi. And it’s because of what he has learned about himself through her, and through that experience. And not to mention what he also learned about Zoi herself through stories that people shared with him after her passing. So we have an impact on people and we often just never realize it. And that was one of the things Eric and I talked about. And it’s so unfortunate that we don’t feel like we can share with other people while we’re alive and well, how much that person means to us, or how much impact they have in our lives, or they have had on our lives. And just feeling this gratitude and expressing it for what they bring to our lives and what they mean to us and being grateful for the connection itself, because we are beings that thrive on connection. And again, it comes back to the support and feeling supported. And there’s so many people who I know, that walk throughout their lives and don’t feel supported. And I can offer my support in a thousand different ways. But as a person, they don’t feel it within themselves. That’s a really unfortunate space to be in. And I think a lot of it comes down to trust. We also have to trust that we are supported. It has to come within us first before we can feel it from other people. And that’s what so many things, obviously, love, connection. If we’re feeling disconnected from ourselves, which often happens in grief, how can we then feel connected with others?
Continue Living for a Reason, Find Something to Live For
Feeling really begins when we start with self exploration, when it comes to grief. And I want to share a quote that Eric had shared during the podcast episode. And he said, “just because your loved one lost their life doesn’t mean your life is lost, too.” And I thought that was such a beautiful, poignant thing. And it’s true. And that’s easy for me to say that it’s true, because I haven’t lived that experience. So don’t take it from me take it from Eric, who’s lived it. He’s lived that experience. And many guests on this podcast have lived through terrible experiences. And if they would have settled for the fact that their life was lost too, their gifts that they could have given the world wouldn’t be out there. So let that settle in a minute. And just think about what your hopes and dreams were before grief, before the loss that you’ve endured. What were they before? They’re still there, there’s still life left to live. And I hope that Eric’s story gives you hope that it’s still possible to move forward. I hope Rachel story gives you hope that it’s still possible to create a life that you love, even if it’s the love you lost, even if it’s your child, Eric has become an amazing mentor and leader in helping others really find their own strength through their struggle.
P.S. I encourage you to check out Eric’s website, you can find it at erichodgdon.com. And I think just looking at his website, you’ll feel that he really made something out of this tragic, terrible loss that he’s experienced. And there are so many tips too that he walks through on our podcast episode. He talked about the pressure that teens feel today and shared tips around that, as well as being a parent of a teen. It really was a great, great conversation. So I hope you check it out. And I do hope, again, that you find hope in through their stories. Like Eric said, gratitude played a huge role in what he was experiencing when he was deep in his sorrow. And he had to constantly remind himself that gratitude of what is in my life right now. And so that is the question for you today, what is in your life right now that you can just feel so grateful for? of what is today in your life. And it was thanks to him that he shared about the Five Minute Journal, and I’ve now been using it for three months. I love it, I absolutely love it. It’s become part of my morning regimen. And I highly recommend it. And I do link to that in the show notes of Episode 62 of his episode, and I will link to it here as well. So and as well as to the episodes, both 61 and 62. You’ll also find in the show notes, and I, again, encourage you to listen to those.
P.S. I just want to share about an energy quiz that I’ve launched a little while back. And if you haven’t gone to my website, theunleashedheart.com, you can find a link for that either on the top banner, or it should pop up at some point. And it takes less than 90 seconds, it has 10 questions and at the end you’ll discover your energy type, and what to do with it, and how to nurture your energy type, what drains it, all of that stuff. I think it’s a very informative quiz, and the results are very informative. And I think it would be beneficial and helpful especially for Grievers who often feel their energy being drained. You’ll have a PDF that you can resource that you can use to figure out what nurtures and what drains your energy, what your energy type is. And I just am really proud of what I created with that. And so I would love for you to enjoy it as well. And it’s free. You’re not going to get any further emails from me. For my newsletter or anything like that, it’s you’re just getting the guide. And if you wish to join my newsletter, which is bi-weekly, every other Wednesday, which is filled with content not shared anywhere else. There is a link in the show notes to that, if you would like to join that. I would love to have you in my sacred space I call it it’s where I share things I don’t share elsewhere. So I’d be happy to have you. Until next time, take care and remember, when you unleash your heart you unleash your life. Much love
Grief can either suck the life right out of you or, it can build you into the most compassionate heart for others who will look to you to lean on for support in their grief.
They say grief shared is grief diminished, but many people find sharing their grief difficult. Some turn to writing as a way to express and soothe the soul like I had and like my guest, Faith shared, in episode 59. Or, they turn to others in support groups or friendships, only to be let down or disappointed, as my guest Sherrie was and talked about in episode 58.
There is one question I encourage you to ask yourself; one that I challenge you to ask yourself. If you have listened to episode 59, then you may already know what it is. If you haven’t, then listen to this week’s episode because I mention it again.
Also, this episode is dedicated to the founder of The Grief Recovery Method®, John James, who passed away on 8/10/2021, only three short months following his cancer diagnosis. GRM changed my life and, I will forever be grateful to James for creating this beautiful gift out of his own grief. What a gift to humankind he was and will continue to be to the many hurting hearts who feel led to doing the deep, inner-work through GRM. His legacy will endure; I do not doubt that. Love + Light, John. 💛
Today is the takeaways and reflections episode where I’ll be talking about Episode 58 with Sherrie Dunlevy, and Episode 59 with Faith Wilcox. Sherrie had lost her infant son 29 days after his birth, and also her beloved pet. And so she talks about each of those losses and the impact they had on her as well as her experience of going through grief recovery and how that changed her life. And Faith talks about the loss of her 13 year old daughter. She was diagnosed at the age of 13 and died 365 days later in her mother’s arms of cancer. And the curious thing about that is she didn’t know she had one year to live when she was diagnosed. But I think it’s an important question to ask ourselves, what would I do? If I knew I had one year to live?
People are Often Consumed with Their Own Grief
Starting with Sherrie’s episode, she brought up a very important topic that I want to bring up in this takeaway’s episode and she talked about her this desire that she had when she lost her son. She thought that time that followed, she was really struggling with why she felt abandoned, why people weren’t there for her that she thought would have been or should be. And she said she came up with a few reasons why this happened. One was it hit too close to home, that if it happened to them, thinking about that makes them sad, it’s just too sad for them. Another reason why she came up with why people abandoned her was they never had to deal with a situation like that before. And they just didn’t know what to say. Also, people really want to say something, but don’t know what to say, or afraid to say the wrong thing. And they want to help and they want to do something, but they just don’t know what to do. And so it’s easier to do or say nothing than the wrong thing. And one thing I would like to add to that is that, I think also too, people are often consumed with their own grief, consumed with what’s going on in their own lives. Maybe not even grief at the time, but just the just all. Especially women or head of households, you wear all the hats. For me personally, I can just say I have days where it’s just feel so scatterbrained, it’s hard to focus, my attention is pulled in many different directions and, and so trying to hold the capacity for compassion and empathy and trying to hold that space for somebody else. In a really trying difficult emotionally challenging time. I’m struggling in my own mind, I’m probably not the best suited person to sit with you during those days. But also I think it comes down to communication. If I am feeling that way if I am because here’s the thing, too, in that situation that would cause me grief is like a really want to be there for you, but I just can’t right now “this is what’s going on, this is how I’m feeling, this is what I’m experiencing”. You know, and I might feel like it’s nothing in comparison to what you’re feeling. You know, the person that just you know is going through a loss but all the same. How do you do to be there for somebody who you really want to be there for? and yet, just you don’t have the capacity to do it. And
How Can I Help?
I think it’s where we tend to complicate things, we overcomplicate things, and sometimes we think that we just need to do these big grandiose gestures, or these big expressions of our love and care. But sometimes it can just be as simple, “I don’t have the brain capacity today. I hope I do tomorrow. But in case I don’t, know that I’m sending you love, know that I’m sending you a hug“. Maybe you put that in a card, and you mail a card to that person? Or maybe you send them a fruit basket? It can be something small, a small gesture. Maybe if they have a pet, maybe it’s like, “Okay, I know, I need to disconnect a bit. I need to, like reboot my brain.” But maybe you don’t have a pet. Right? And so maybe that person that had a loss, has a pet. “Hey, can I walk your dog, it’d be good for me, it’d be good for your dog, and it would help you out.” Right? So I think sometimes we have to think outside the box, and maybe a little bit creatively about how we can be of service to other people when we really, really want to, but no, we’re just not there yet in full capacity, but still want to do a little something. And if you are feeling in full capacity, you know, mentally, emotionally, physically, all of those things where you can be there for other people, then it’s like, by all means balls to the wall, I mean, put all your effort and energy into that, because you wouldn’t be surprised how life-giving that can be for somebody else, and for you as the giver of your time and energy. And it doesn’t even have to be a financial expense to do anything special. I just encourage you to think about maybe what you would like, I think that’s also where we tend to overcomplicate things. It’s like, “what would I appreciate today? what would I really like? what would lift my spirits? Or what would be helpful to me today?” .And then do that thing for that person, or somebody else who is going through a challenging time, who don’t have to be grieving something. Just maybe it’s a challenging time, right? And, you know, all of this desire for Sherrie to find why people abandoned her is kind of what led to her writing her book, “How can I help?” your go-to guide for helping loved ones through life’s difficulties, and it is on Amazon. And I did link to her book in the show notes of her episode. So I do highly encourage you to check it out, and to listen to that episode in its entirety.
There’s a Clarity That Can Come From Grief
And I’m going to go through a few more things that Sherrie and I talked about. Next, I’d like to share just how contrast really shows us what we do want. And therefore, it’s a knowing of what we don’t want. And we had talked about during our episode about this post traumatic growth. And I had heard this term before, but I think it’s true in that when you go through something traumatic, or you have a really difficult, challenging experience, loss of a loved one or just natural disaster. Things like that we realize, what we don’t want, like, “this isn’t working for me, that’s not working”. How do you know we start to think about what we do want. And so there’s a clarity that can come from grief. It is a clarifier that brings us to our awareness, all that probably isn’t working in our lives, things that we would desire to change. Even if we don’t know how or what that looks like. You can feel it in your body. Your body responds to what isn’t working, if we just kind of tune in. We just take a moment to tune in to what our bodies are telling us because our bodies are always speaking to us, especially in grief. Especially with that post traumatic growth journey that all gravers go through
There is No Timeline to Grieve
And because there’s no timeline to grieve, I think that experience or how long that experience takes is very different for everybody. I think it also relies on how open we are to learning something new, to see in our lives and other people from a different perspective. I think one of the beautiful things about grief is it brings us more compassion, we become more compassionate people, I believe. And so it’s really leaning into that compassion for ourselves first. Because it’s really hard to give others compassion, when we don’t have it for ourselves. It comes back to that old thing. You can’t pour from an empty cup, right? I think that is one of the lessons that Sherrie had received in her grief, and what made her seek out grief recovery, help in the grief recovery method, and I just loved how she shared her experience in that, she said it has the most amazing tool, and it was the best gift that she had ever given herself. And I would wholeheartedly agree for myself personally. Grief recovery has been the gift that keeps on giving. I certified in March of 2019, in Austin, Texas, and I was just telling someone about it the other day. And I was telling this friend, there are pivotal moments in our lives. Times where we can think back and, and think well, that conversation or that bumping into that person or, being in the right place at the right time, or that choice I made or that decision. We can pick out these moments in our lives that are very pivotal to us, that really changed the trajectory of the rest of our lives, where we understand and are aware that had I not done that thing, my life would not be where it is today. A happenstance conversation, and I’ve had so many of those instances, just the perfect conversation at the perfect time, or hearing something exactly when I needed to hear it, or stumbling upon a resource or something that would inevitably change my life. And that was grief recovery, to be honest, which opened the doors and led to many other things such as Reiki and end of life doula and the clients that I’ve been working with in Reiki and what I’m learning starting to learn now to further my Reiki and deeper my practice there with crystals and sound healing.
We evolve with our grief, we are always evolving with our grief. It’s just truly sad to me, I feel sadness when I see people, especially online, often in the grief community, that feel like their life is destined to be how it is today. I was that person who thought my life was going to be how it was, and I was going to feel how I was going to feel for the rest of my life. You can’t see the label from inside the jar. Right? I mean, that’s another quote. But it’s so true, it’s really hard to see a path forward when you’ve tried something and it didn’t work or you’ve tried that thing and it didn’t work or or you constantly feel like you’re judged, criticized or analyzed. And that’s what grief recovery is absolutely different. The approach is different in its individual, because you’re an individual like it is individualized to you, because your grief is unique to you. I could go on and on on a tangent on that but grief shows us what needs to be healed, grief is a clarifier it and it will force you to evolve.
Grief is Like a Sinkhole
I think eventually, unless you are unwilling to surrender to what it has in store for you, the gift that it could give you and I can just see the eyes rolling because when you are deep in grief, you do not want to hear how there’s gifts in grief, you don’t want to hear that there is purpose to your suffering, like you just don’t want to hear that stuff. I didn’t want to hear that stuff. But eventually, there comes a point where you just get sick and tired of being sick and tired. And like my friend Sherrie said in her episode, and honestly, we had recorded that many months back. And I had never forgotten this phrase that she said, but when you lay you decay, and if that’s not true of so many other aspects of our lives, whether let’s say you have a cancer diagnosis. Of course, there are days where absolutely all you can do is lay. But if you just laid, right, if you just laid and you’d never got up and you never had a reason to get up, or you never tried to get up, you never even tried or, granted, there’s all kinds of scenarios and situations. This is a very blanket statement, but that statement lay or decay. It’s like our bodies are meant to move. And, I don’t I’m not even sure who said it. But a body in motion, stays in motion like the laws of physics or something. I’m not sure. I think you get the idea, though, of where I’m getting to, but we must stay in motion. And that’s true with grief too, or you do get stuck. It’s like you’re in a sinkhole. Grief is like a sinkhole, it’ll swallow you whole. If you let it ,grief will force you out of your comfort zone and bring change whether you like it or not. The more you fight these changes that grief will bring in, the more resistant you are to these changes, the more your suffering will persist. And that was no different in my grave.
Grief Recovery is About Addressing the Pain
I had many days where I cried more tears than I thought I could ever possibly cry. When you’re crying from sadness, it’s much different than when you’re crying from pain. Just like Sherrie had mentioned in her episode. She said you will someday at some point cry so much that you’ve cried enough from the pain. And I agree, I think there comes a point where you just run out of tears and crying from the sadness is much different. And I think it’s once you actually process that pain, and you work through that pain, what left is the sadness. That doesn’t go away. You know, grief recovery isn’t about getting over or putting behind you the person that passed away or the relationship that is less than loving, grief recovery is about addressing the pain. Any sadness you feel isn’t just going to go away, there’s still going to be that empty seat at the table. And just this week, as I’m recording this, on Tuesday, the founder of grief recovery passed away from cancer after three months of senses diagnosis. And for me personally, it’s a very sad loss. It’s a sad loss for all of us grief recovery specialists, I believe, because he founded something that is incredible, that has changed and impacted all of our lives. And I am in awe of the legacy that he has created and his left. And I feel deeply honored to be able to carry on his work and his creation of the grief recovery method in the work that I do with my clients. Again, it’s the gift that keeps on giving. And it was an incredible gift that he has given me. And so I dedicate this episode to John James, who created the grief recovery method out of his own pain in his own sorrow. And if you are interested in learning more about his story, I encourage you to pick up the book the grief recovery handbook. It is linked in the show notes. And if you don’t see the show notes, or don’t go to the show notes, you can also find the grief recovery handbook on Amazon. And I highly recommend it.
Voice Out Your Feelings
Moving on to Episode 59 with Faith Wilcox, she shared her story of her 13 year old daughter being diagnosed with cancer and actually passing away in her arms 365 days following her diagnosis. And this was over 20 years ago, she just recently published a book, which is also linked in the show notes for Episode 59. It’s called “Hope as a Bright Star”. And it was developed from her writings that she wrote at the bedside of her daughter, and what she had learned throughout that whole process of sitting with her daughter in that year, in and out of the hospital, chemo radiation treatments and also navigating being a parent to her daughter’s sister as well. And the dynamics of how you function as a family when you have such a sick child and you’re in and out of the hospital. And I can’t imagine what that’s like, I cannot even imagine. I resonated with what Faith had shared about how writing was such a pivotal healing tool for her. Because I too, have been writing since I was in my teens and I journaled, I wrote poetry. I found much comfort in expressing myself in that way. And I think for a lot of introverts or empathic people, we find that it is much easier for us to process our feelings. We often do internally, but it’s a great exercise in expression, to give your feelings a voice in some way. And so for me, it was always writing. And that was the case also for Faith. And she gives some tips for other parents at the bedside of a loved one, going through the same situation that she experienced.
What would you want to do if you only have one year left to live?
And I just thought when I was listening back and editing, I just thought to myself, like, had she known she had one year to live? Would she have made different choices? What would she have wanted to experience? I mean, what a good question to ask yourself to get some fire under your butt. You know, if you had one year to live, you were told today, you have one year to live? What would you want that year to look like? I don’t know about you. But I feel very overwhelmed by that question, to be honest. Because I feel like there’s so much more that I have to offer people and want to do in my life. I think grief in that question is a clarifier. I have a pretty long bucket list. I don’t know about you, but I do have a bucket list. And I seem to be adding to it year after year. But it is a daunting feeling isn’t it? To think if you were given only one year. Probably many of the things that you might have on your bucket list aren’t things that you would probably prioritize.
Maybe it’s putting your feet in the ocean or feeling the beach, sand in between your toes for the first time or swimming with dolphins. I’m reminded of a story of Jeffie which is shared by Elisabeth Kubler Ross and her book “The Wheel of Life” , a memoir for living and dying. But she shares the story of this little boy named Jeffie who is dying of cancer and was sick much of his young childhood and the last thing he wanted to do was more cancer treatment, more chemo and radiation and he just wanted to go home. And so his family took him home, and when they got home, the one thing he wanted to do was to ride his bike. And I’ll actually share this, you’ll hear the story of Jeffie brought up in a future episode, I had the privilege of having a conversation with Ken Ross, who is Elisabeth Kubler Ross’s son. And I brought up that story because I was moved to tears when I read it. But Elizabeth’s life is just one of many stories. She was actively doing her work, but it’s like the amount of work, the amount of accomplishments that she had in that time, is just, I’m in awe. So anyway, I was made to think of that story of Jeffie. When I thought of that question, what would you want to do if you had one year left to live and turns out with Jeffie, he knew intuitively, that he had but a few hours at most. In fact, he wanted to go home so he could die at home. That story was just though a beautiful example of just this little child, young child taking ownership of the kind of death he wanted to have. And I just think, imagine if we had that kind of authority, and took that authority to have that kind of conviction when we’re alive, right? not when we’re on our way out. And so again, it just comes back to that whole question. And my biggest takeaway from Faith’s episode is, how would I want my next year to be if I knew I had one year to live? And so that’s, that’s the question I want to leave you with today to truly ponder on, and think about, and what do you want your next year to be? Like? If you are grieving right now, what do you want your next year to be like.
P.S. In case you don’t know if it is something that you want to move forward working through your grief, I offer grief recovery, both online and in person, and both one on one and in a group. So if that’s something that is of interest to you, I encourage you to please reach out to me at Victoria at http://theunleashedheart.com or you can head to the show notes. And there will be some links to my social media there and you can send me a message. I highly encourage you to do that. If you have any questions or reservations about moving forward in your grief, because you got one life to live? And how about we make the most of it. Right? Thank you so much for listening to today’s episode, which as I mentioned, I’m dedicating to John James, the founder of the grief recovery method, and the grief recovery Institute. A program that has very much so changed my life and has been the gift to me that has kept on giving. If you would like to learn more about this amazing program, I encourage you again to reach out to me check out the show notes. And remember, when you unleash your heart, you unleash your life. Much love.If you liked this episode, please share it because Sharing is caring. And until next time, give and share compassion by being hurt with yours. And if you’re hurting know that what you’re feeling is normal and natural. Much love my friend.
Eric Hodgdon | Opening the Door To a Parent’s Worst Nightmare
It was a great day; nothing seemed off with his daughter Zoi. They enjoyed a meal together; she headed to her room while he went downstairs to do some computer work.
Sometime later, before heading to bed, he went to say goodnight to his beloved daughter, Zoi. The music she loved blaring from her stereo; he opened the door only to see an empty bed.
What he discovered next changed his life forever – changed him forever.
No parent should ever have to experience the death of a child. And, it feels like one of the cruelest experiences a heart could ever possibly endure.
Listen to Eric’s story of how he went from struggle to strength. He describes a defining moment that set him on a path of empowering and leading himself through his devastating and life-shattering loss.
Victoria Volk 0:08
Thank you for tuning in to grieving voices. Today, my guest is Eric Hodgdon. He is a best selling Amazon author TEDx speaker and coach after losing his 15 year old daughter Zoe to suicide in early 2014. He fought for his family and his friends to find their pathway to better days, he found a way to get back up and walk his grief journey. Now he is sharing the lessons he learned so that no one else has to walk alone on their journey. Eric has trained 1000s of people who want to go from struggle to strength in the face of their worst setbacks. Thank you so much for being here.
Eric Hodgdon 1:34
Thank you so much, Victoria. I’m deeply honored to be here with you.
Victoria Volk 1:38
And this is a very important topic, we’re talking about suicide, and teens. And before we started to record I shared that I had looked up some stats for my own state of North Dakota, I would like to open with that. And then kind of if you want to piggyback off of that in what it’s like where you live. So in the state of North Dakota, one person every 60 hours dies by suicide. Wow. In my State, it is the first leading cause of death for ages 10 to 24. In my State, and the North Dakota teen suicide rate is three times higher than the national average. Well, North Dakota has the second highest rate in suicide from 2000 to 2018. And we’re just behind New Hampshire, New Hampshire is number one. And where do you live? Eric?
Eric Hodgdon 2:39
I live now in Tampa, Florida. But I grew up in New England. I grew up in Maine, very close to New Hampshire, of course. And while those numbers are staggering and shocking, in some cases, it doesn’t surprise me with how the struggle is being dealt with in folks lives, especially teens.
Victoria Volk 3:07
And in rural more rural areas or major areas that aren’t as progressive or as cities that aren’t as progressive and maybe states that aren’t as progressive when it comes to mental health. Correct? And
Eric Hodgdon 3:19
where are the resources for them? Where are the resources to help them figure out that there are options out there that don’t include taking their life as that only option to remove the pain that they’re in? Or the struggle that they’re dealing with? That they don’t believe is the there’s a way out of and so finding and getting access to the resources that help them is missing? I think a lot of cases and I don’t think that that’s why you and I are here, I think you and I are here to provide a different optic on on those resources and where to find them and how to get them and how to how to show that there are there setbacks in life that we will always face. But there are tools to help you to get from that struggle to the strength that you need to make it to the next day and sometimes the next hour.
Victoria Volk 4:17
So share, if you wouldn’t mind share the start of your grieving story.
Eric Hodgdon 4:24
Thank you. So seven years ago, I was fighting for custody of my 15 year old daughter Zoey. It was a reluctant decision that I made to follow that process but it was to protect and to ultimately care for Zoe’s well being at very formative ages and, and so Zoey was trying to handle things as best possible. She’d been hospitalized four times in adolescent units and each time I did see a progression in her strength, I saw her capacity to help others and to be available to them when they were struggling, and ultimately, in the beginning of 2014. Zoe went quiet. And one Saturday, I picked her up and I brought her back to my house, she was able to come home and stays with me on weekends, which were awesome, honestly, because we would go to a mug and muffin restaurant in our town for breakfast, maybe or we would go to the beach, and we have to collect rocks in the middle of winter, or just freeze our hands. Or sometimes Oh, he would be up in her room, playing music listening to her music, or playing the ukulele and but I brought her back to my house for this one particular weekend. And she was upstairs, burning some Jasmine incense and applying this really cool henna tattoo on her hand. And I went up and asked her if she wanted to hang out with some friends. And she told me that she didn’t have any and I I pushed back a little bit on that with her. And she, I said, Well, do you want to make something to eat instead? And just hang out? She said, Yeah, let’s do that. So afterwards, we’re cleaning up and she’s told me that she was tired and she wanted to go to bed and say I love you pumpkins. And she said, I love you too, dad. I went back to my computer to do some work. And a little while later I went upstairs to say goodnight to Zoey and eyes opened her bedroom door. I could hear her stereo playing Jonathan Ashanti’s music very low. She had a string of Christmas lights that were lit around the perimeter of her room. But she wasn’t in her bed, out of the corner of my eye, and in a dim light. I could see that. So he was standing in our closet and I saw sure she was going to jump out and scare me. I said Zoe, what are you doing? But she didn’t answer me because she wasn’t standing in her closet. I called 911. And what I thought was going to be another hospitalization. After we got home from the ER that night, turned into awake Five days later, we’re over 900 people came to honor my family and Zoey. And I think when I experienced that loss, I wasn’t sure that I was going to survive it. I remember driving home from the hospital that night with my sister in utter disbelief, and they had my hand gripped on the seatbelt. And I told her I don’t think I’m gonna, I don’t know anything, I’m going to survive this. And she looked at me and just said, I’ve got your back. I don’t know what to do. But you’re, you know what, we’ll find a way to make it happen. And so
Eric Hodgdon 8:06
obviously getting through that next week until we laid Zoe to rest was challenging. Just a ton of emotions. But I think something incredible happened in that week is that all of her friends started to come over to the house and they were staying at the house with me. And Zoey was there in energy. It was really a strange feeling. Her physical body wasn’t with us, but her energy was there. And and that really helped. I think a lot of us understand what survival was going to mean for us, especially May. And so in the weeks and months after we lost Zoey, I found myself sitting in my couch in my living room, everybody had gone back to their lives. Because typically a couple of weeks after you lose somebody, you feel like you’re kind of at a crossroads. What do I do with this because everybody has gone back to their lives and you’re left to walk this new path that you didn’t choose to be on. It feels very lonely. It feels like you have no direction or no energy to even get in a bed some days or you’re going through boxes of tissues. And you don’t want to be but you What’s the other what’s the other choice. And so I feel like now, having the resources for kids having the resources for adults is going to be so important because I think there are resources out there right now are focused on survival being the end game. It’s a handoff point. And I believe that there are other ways to encourage others to empower folks to lead themselves first, so that they can get back up and and not only survive, but as you would say Victoria to thrive after their loss, I think it’s so very important. It’s much needed.
Victoria Volk 10:05
My eyes welled up I am my heart. I’m a parent, I have a, my son’s going to be 16, my 14 year old and a 12 year old and I cannot imagine the it’s like your heart is ripped out, I imagine.
Eric Hodgdon 10:27
It is. It is. And if I can share something really personal with you is that I remember being at the week. And I was not upset during the week because I was ultimately convinced that Zoey and I were going to be able to communicate like you and I were going to communicate. I was just waiting for that message that that voice. And it didn’t come. And I figured that I would use what everybody else told me would heal all my wounds, time time would heal my wounds. That didn’t work. You know, how’s that working for me? I’d be asking myself, how’s that going right now. It probably wasn’t until about 18 months later that I was in such a state of self sabotage for beating myself up is probably a better way of putting it. Where I was just, I was stuck in a pattern. And I, I did hear Zoe’s voice one day, and it scared me in a very unique way, I was in a pattern where I would get off the commuter rail train. In my town, it’s a two mile drive to my house. And inevitably, by mile one, I would start to cry. And that’s when I would start the little beat up process the self beat up process and I’m so sorry, Zoey, I should have been a better dad for you, you should be here. And it was a pattern. And when I pulled into my driveway, I pulled myself together and went in the house for the night. And then the next day, I do the same thing and over and over again. But it built up to one day where I left work and the second I left work that’s when the the self sabotage started. The the head chatter if you will, and I just let it go when it cascade and by the time I got off the train and got in my car, and second, I shut the door. I was sobbing. I was crying so hard that my windows fogged up. And now I was screaming at myself. Not giving myself any permission to figure out what was going on. But rather expending energy, valuable energy, healing energy. I’m beating myself up and I I screamed in my car. I’m so sorry, Zoey. And it was if she was sitting in the seat next to me, Victoria, and I heard her say, Dad cut it out. Geez, I’m okay. I froze. And I didn’t make another sound until I pulled into my driveway. And I sat there for what felt like probably an hour and probably 10 minutes, but so was right. What am I doing? She’s okay. I did everything I possibly could for her while she was here. I did the best that I could with what I had. And that wasn’t serving anybody, her friends, my family, even myself in terms of healing, if I was yelling at myself, and putting myself down and beating myself up over something that I didn’t have any control over. But at what I did have control over Victoria. And I think I’m going on here. What I did have control over was how I approached getting back up and surviving this because the alternative was just more of that. self sabotage?
Victoria Volk 14:03
Can you speak to that? What actually what was the so that sounds like it was a defining moment in your healing?
Eric Hodgdon 14:09
Absolutely. Yeah. You know, it’s interesting. As the month started to tick by, I don’t know about you. But I remember every Saturday night at a certain time, I would watch the clock. And I would watch the clock at the time that they called 911 would watch the clock It was like I was going through it every week at the same time. But once I had this defining moment in the car, I started to look at things a little differently. That Zoe would be really upset with me if I was wasting all of the good memories from her life by not living mine. And I could still honor her and carry on at the same time because it’s okay to do that. And I released Anything internally that was telling me otherwise. And I’ve never been more grateful for so he talking to me that day. With that message now, I’m sure it was in my head. But nonetheless, I feel like it was a very powerful message that I needed to hear at that moment. And so I started to look at, okay, now I have to accept that I did everything that I could. I have to forgive not only Zoey for taking her life, but myself, especially, then I think it was the moment that I started to really focus on the gratitude of what is in my life now that I found some opening, if you will, on my path, some light started to start, the path started to be illuminated. With some hope that Wait a minute, there is something beyond this, this yuckiness of survival. That is just not going to get me anywhere. But there’s a light that I can actually start to work walk towards. And I know eventually I’ll get to it. So does that. Does that help?
Victoria Volk 16:14
No, thank you for sharing. And I would ask you, well, first, just tell us about Zoe, who she was,
Eric Hodgdon 16:21
you guys, your audience can see this, I just got a big smile on my face when you said that this, Zoey isn’t Oh, I feel like she’s an old soul. She was always so eclectic in her thinking in her activities. In her humor, even in with her music that she wrote, and she would sing for us on her ukulele. It was just, she just had this way about her that was all about connection. And after in the days and weeks after, so he died, I started to receive many handwritten letters from her hospital friends. And each one of them told me that it was Zoey that helped them when they first went to the hospital, because she just knew that it was their first time. And she would go up to them and she would hug them. And she’d be like, Hey, guys, I’m Zoey. Look, there’s nothing to be afraid of. I know it’s scary, but there’s nothing to be afraid of, it’s gonna be okay. And when the staff isn’t looking, we can draw on the loss. And I did wasn’t too happy about the drawing on the walls. And I didn’t know all this was going on Victoria. And so Zoe’s energy, her, her desire to help other people, even when she was struggling, I couldn’t be more proud of her. I couldn’t be more proud of the person that she was and the energy that she brought. And that’s still to this day, what her friends talked to me about how much she helped them to get through that time in their life, because no one else was coming to help them. The staff was doing their jobs, the doctors were doing their jobs. But these kids were there to support each other shoulder to shoulder because they knew that this is how they were going to get through those days. Sometimes those minutes of being in these adolescent units. And I’ve never seen a more creative set of kids a more create immense intelligence with the kids that were in these units. And she would always introduce me to her friends of the staff of the doctors, she was, this is my dad, hey, Zoe’s Dad, you know, and, and so I was so grateful for that. And I am just so ultimately proud of the person that she, I still say is, because I feel like her energy is always going to be with me. I, her body might not be here. But Zoe will always live on in my heart. And I’m just so grateful for that. Because I don’t know about you, I was always afraid that eventually I was going to forget about her, or that the love would stop. And it does it. In fact, I love Zoey more than I did the day that she was born. And I’m so so grateful for that. Is that been your experience as well?
Victoria Volk 19:08
Yeah. And actually, I just want to highlight something that you just said and that I think if we’re it’s when we’re able to actually think of the person the loved one and not get pulled into and sucked into the the the traumatic memory or the horrible memory, the the sadness, that’s when we really honor our loved ones. Yeah. And remember remembering them, as they would want us to remember them? Absolutely. And how we would want to be remembered if it was us, someone was grieving. And I think people fear like you just alluded to I think people fear that with healing comes this. I’m going to forget or I’m going to, it’s by not feeling sad and tormented by this loss. It’s somehow dishonoring my loved one and the total opposite is true. And in the seat at the table is never is always going to be empty, that sadness will always be there, but it’s not going to it there it is possible like you have said it is possible to think of that person with joy and love and carry on in your life, in their in, in their memory that is honoring. Absolutely. How have you been doing that?
Eric Hodgdon 20:27
I found a tremendous energy and direction about two years after Zoe died. I knew I wanted to talk about Zoe. And I didn’t want it to be in a place of, you know, of, I’m just always going to be sad about this. I wanted it to be a place of sharing who Zoe is, and was as a person. And I was invited to attend a leadership event in Dallas, Texas. And I was introduced to one of my mentors, his name is Bo Easton. He’s a former football player of all things. And Bo invited us to come out to California and write our story. And I’ll never forget that experience. Because the day one of this storytelling event, Beau asked us specifically and explicitly to write about a pivotal moment in our lives. And he said, You typically this pivotal moment is anywhere from eight years old to 14. And so I got stuck there. And something really happened between eight and 14, a lot of stuff happened, I was a kid, and it’s kids are always awkward and all that. And so I wrote about a very benign situation where I told on a girl that I had a crush on because she smashed my devil dog at lunch, and she got a detention. I’m like, that’s not my story. But I was so upset with myself because I was trying to find a way to make that story work. And the challenge was, is that that was the story. I was telling myself that I needed to kind of stop that I didn’t know how to talk about Zoey. So I’m not going to. And that was really showing up that weekend in a very powerful way. And the knock on the head came from one of the story coaches at this event. And I went up to him afterwards. I said, Man, I don’t know. I’m just not feeling it. He’s like, Well, what do you got? I said, Well, I, a girl I had a crush on I crushed her. She crushed my devil dog at lunch. And I told her, he’s like what else he got? I said, Well, my daughter took her life two years ago. And he’s like, Dude, what’s your story. And it just gave me permission to talk about it. And I felt so open to the point where I went back to my hotel room. And for the next four hours, I wrote, I just bled on the page for the next four hours. Which I still have the notebook about the moment that I walked into the ER that night, and my experience of living for the last for the previous two years. And I felt this tremendous weight come off of my shoulders. One because I wanted to share Zoey in a way of who she was, and how she impacted my life, how she impacted all of our for her friends life, how she impacted my family and such a very positive way. And the biggest lesson that she ever taught me was that life is gonna knock you down, you’ve got to get back up again. Because I saw her do that time and time and time again and I understand that ultimately the weight of her of what she was feeling was too much. But in the the odd thing is is that in Greek, the name Zooey means life. And so knowing that when we get knocked down in life, we have to fight to get back up every time. I that’s the story that I wanted to tell. And so honoring Zoe became about telling not only my experience of losing Zoe, but working through that battle within yourself to honor your lost loved one and yourself at the same time because ultimately that’s okay. And and you can find some energy and some direction you can find some you can leave that nasty survival mode behind you because is it really serving you right now? Yes, at the beginning, it’s necessary and I think Victoria You and I were talking about at the beginning how important that is to survive first, but survival should be temporary. You can let yourself remain in survival mode like most people do, or you can let it sink in that just because you lost your loved one that your life is not lost to
Victoria Volk 25:01
That’s a quotable right there. Let’s hit the rewind a little bit. Okay, who was the Eric before Zoey? before? So he was born or before? So we took him for it before this experience like, what was what what do you feel like the trajectory of your life was Did you have a certain passion or something that really lit you up? And was the reason you got up every day? Like,
Eric Hodgdon 25:28
yeah, I’m a career IT guy. I was in it from a very early age, it was all self taught. And it spoke to me when I was 22 years old. And it was a career that I could just continually move up in. But what I was finding was that I was, I was continuous. I was in a job of service, it was helping people to get their computers to get back up to a certain point where they could use them. And so that fulfilled me. And I liked that line of work. It gave me a sense of accomplishment if there was a massive, complex problem that needed to be solved, and finding a solution to it. And storing that in my memory banks and how I could use that moving forward and other situations that came up. And I think everybody experiences that too. It’s those big lessons in life that you actually store and you can pull from and they just, that’s where your strength comes on, you know, and so 25 years and it and it was, you know, Zoey and I, I was divorced in about 2005, so about 15 years into my career. And I would have my girls every weekend and every week, throughout the week, and it was a fantastic opportunity for us to bond and connect. And we used to do a lot of things, we would go to concerts, we would go to the beach, we did the beach, a lot of in New England, that’s just a thing you do up there. And we would take day trips, sometimes we would come down to New Orleans and visit some friends who live down there. And I just valued that time with them. And there was some weekends that that Zoey and her sister, those two were like peas in a pod. And they would just spend all weekend upstairs in their room with the pile of arts and crafts, supplies, just making stuff and sometimes those don’t, that’s really good, you know. And, of course, every parent says that about their kids artwork, I have saved every scrap of paper that they drew on. I have saved every every trinket that they made for me or craft that they wanted to give to me. In fact, behind me this painting, Zoey painted this for me for Christmas, the month one month before she died. And and I absolutely loved this because it she’s at peace in this image. And I know it’s her, even though it’s supposed to be a Buddha. And so I’m so grateful that I have this gift. And I think of everything that they did everything that they drew every experience that we have as a gift. And so when I started to focus more on the gifts that I was getting along this path of being a single dad with them, I was I was starting to recognize the value of of what it means to be a parent. And I started to think that’s where a shift started to take place in me I wanted to do more how to do something that was bigger than myself. And so I had actually a few years before so he died, I started to look at other ways of earning a revenue that was not earning income that wasn’t based on a nine to five job. And so I tried my hand at some network marketing I tried to get I got into some personal development because I just found such great depth in that and, and what made me tick, how I could help others. And when Zoey died, I felt like I had a good set of tools to work with. Even though I had to access them through all the fog. It took a while to really get a good handle on what I had at my fingertips at this point. And I and and yet at the same time, I still had some defaults. I still had some of that baggage that I was pulling into this situation that was not helping me. And I think that just there’s been so many gifts since so he has died that have just shown up on the path only because I’ve continued to walk and let those things come to me and be open to them coming into my life and have you had a similar experience Victoria, to that.
Victoria Volk 30:00
Absolutely nice. Did Can you give me an example of that? Well, if it wasn’t for me actually working through my own grief, I wouldn’t be a Reiki Master, I would not be a grief recovery methods specialist, I would not have this podcast, I would not everything that I’ve done since clearing out my baggage has been as a result of taking ownership of my baggage and doing something with it. Like not working through it and getting rid of it.
Eric Hodgdon 30:37
Yeah. And that’s not something that happens overnight. Right. I mean, that takes time. And and where did you start to feel like you were gaining some traction with that process?
Victoria Volk 30:48
Well, and as we kind of talked earlier, my personal development started in 2014. And my youngest was starting kindergarten. And I was closing, I was really contemplating at that time closing a business I’d had, that was really my creative outlet, I was a photographer, and I built that business from scratch, and not having an online social network, not having people to tell me what to do, you know, there wasn’t, I wasn’t even in a Facebook group, you know, till well into my business. And so it was really grassroots, have a have an experience in entrepreneurship. And that taught me a lot. And all of that all of that prepared me to really dig as far as I was, I had never gone before in my grave. Right. Yeah. And so my question for you is, given that you have done some personal development work, and you know, what we learn, and we tend to give off what we? Yes, I think is, okay, so like, if you’ve done, I look at myself before person, like digging into personal development, wanting to learn about myself, I think of myself as the pre personal development parent. Yes. And then I look at myself after and I’m like, Whoa, there is a stark contrast. Yes. Because, again, like you said, we resort to the defaults, what we know and what we’ve been taught in childhood, and for what the work that I do, particularly around grief. And because I didn’t deal particularly well, at least I thought I was that’s the thing, we think we are ready for dealing with it. I think we’re, I’m fine, you know, sure. Yeah, I got this. But yet all of these behaviors are showing up on a on a daily basis, or we are just angry people. We’re just angry, or our kids show bring out in us what is not resolved within us. Right. And that was happening a lot, huh? You know, when I look in hindsight, and so that’s what I’m kind of curious about for you and as a parent that you were before, versus how these experiences have shaped you as a parent now?
Eric Hodgdon 33:17
Wow, that’s such a powerful question. And a great one. One, because I’m going I’m thinking back to how I dealt with difficult situations and challenges as a husband, as a father, early on. There’s I think there’s two ways the personal development has taught me that I could look at it one of two ways I could look at it that that’s just the way it’s going to be, take it or leave it? or How can I get better at talking to my children? How can I get better at talking to my spouse? How can I get better at talking to my family, friends, and connecting deeply with others who we may not know what they’re struggling with? But how can we make those deeper connections with those around us that we love, because that’s typically what suffers first, when we’re struggling. And I don’t know if we can afford to do that. In this day and age with those statistics that you were sharing with me at the beginning of the podcast Victoria. We, I think as a human race, not as an American, not as any other country or a citizen of a country in this world. But as a human. I believe we have to get better at connecting with others on a deep level, showing them that it’s not just about sending a text to say, hey, Call me if you need anything, it’s showing up at their door. Or it’s sending them a text and asking them how are you doing? It’s doing some outreach to the people that are closest to you, teenagers are a good, a good point. I just heard this the other day for one of my mentors, his name is Scott man. And Scott was saying he goes, you know, if you ask your child or a teenager how their day was, they’re going to blow you off, they’re not going to talk to you much. But if you ask this one question, what annoyed you today? Oh, man, the floodgates open up? And just ask that question of your team who annoyed you today or what annoys you today? And they will give you the goods, they’re going to answer you in a narrative format. Because we are story animals. We’ve been communicating with story long before we could actually speak language. And so that is one of the biggest ways that you can make deep connections these days, his story. And going back to when I went to that story workshop out in California for the first time, I saw the power of that, and how that connects people who might be struggling with their own grief that you and I would not be talking if I didn’t share my story. And likewise, you wouldn’t be talking with me if you didn’t share your story. And so it is healing. Our brains are wired for story. And it has been scientifically proven. That story helps our brains heal. And so I use that opportunity to to heal at any time. I can. Somebody just checked my door, and it’s somebody that’s staying here with me for a few days. Hold on one second. Sure. Thank you. Sorry about
Eric Hodgdon 36:33
that. That’s okay.
Eric Hodgdon 36:34
I didn’t realize I locked my front door. So I’ve got some family friends here. It’s interesting. One of my guests Her name is Cory. And Cory. I wrote a book a couple of years ago called a Sherpa named Zoe. And corys. Dad is at the epicenter of this book. Before I got to my story of Zoey losing Zoey, I wrote about my experience of of being a friend to Corey, his brother, Cory, his brother and I have been friends for 42 years. And we were in 19 at the time, and she lost her dad, my friend lost his dad. And it was such a powerful experience to, to know what to do with that. And even speaking to what you and I were talking about in terms of how you connect with others, especially after a loss, was just talking with Cory before this podcast. And she just said, she said, you know, you did something different than other people didn’t do. And I don’t know, you know, I just had the, she said, You showed up and you were there with us. Even if you were just hanging out with us, you were there. And she said, that meant more to my family in me then then you could imagine. And so I think that’s where we can continue to make deep connections is to show up for those that we love and care for, and be there for them. I don’t know about you. I did not want to hand my grief off to somebody else. What I wanted to do was to have somebody just be an empathetic witness and here and actually listen to I don’t want them to solve the problem because they can’t walk that path for me. But no, I don’t think people are going to dump their grief on you. I think they just want to be heard.
Victoria Volk 38:19
Absolutely. In grief recovery. Call it a heart with yours. Yes, perfect. Oh, that’s perfect. But some people aren’t that person. Right. That person? Yeah. And I think that’s important to mention in that. And I think too, we this is my belief in that we we can we are able and this is why healing ourselves is so important. And working on ourselves is so important. Because the deeper that we allow ourselves to go with our own grief and our own challenges and, and whatnot. Is that’s the depth that we are able to go with others and for others, I believe. Yes. Absolutely. Yeah. What were some of the on helpful or hurtful things? Did you hear any of those types of comments?
Eric Hodgdon 39:08
I always laugh at this because I think the personal development helped me get to a place where I didn’t let it get me angry or frustrated. There were some folks that didn’t show up that I expected to show up for Zoey and for our family, some close relatives, even some family friends that I was just okay. I don’t understand why this is happening. But that’s not for me to understand right now. I remember about four years ago, I was visiting Zoe’s resting place, one, one summer afternoon and I always went over there. I went over there once or twice a week just to say hi, sometimes I would take a little Bluetooth speaker and just set it down and play some of the music that she used to like to listen to and so it just felt I felt closer to her there. And I was I just showed up at the At the at the cemetery and got to her resting place. And there was a woman that was walking by and she said, I’m so sorry for your loss to thank you so much. And you know, who is this? I said it unfortunate. It’s my daughter. And she said, Oh, what happened? Do you mind me asking us and unfortunately, she took her life. And without skipping a beat, she said, Ah, you’re young, you can have more kids. And I didn’t get angry with it. Right? I my eyes, kind of like an you know what I imagined Victoria, imagine that Zoey was standing in front of me looking at me, like you just looked at me like, Did she just say that? Right. And so I couldn’t get mad at it, that the personal development and the growth of understanding that people are where they are, and I can’t expect them to be in that same place, allowed me to kind of release it and be like, that’s where she is. That’s how she deals with a loss in her life. And so no judgment, that’s just where she’s at. And so I wasn’t in a place where I was going to take offense to that. In fact, I misheard, you know, I need to remember that so that I have conversations later on, I can share that. So I think that there are times when things are not done or not said that can feel make you feel a bit lonely. In all of this, there are, you know, when somebody says you aren’t, you know, you just need to get over it. Again, that’s their level of healing in any setback that they’ve had in life, their baggage, their defaults. And so it’s typically not about you, when they’re when somebody is saying something to you like that. And so if you can let that thought or that statement, or the words that are you read, or are said to you, literally and figuratively pass through you and go out the other end.
Victoria Volk 42:04
You are better off. Because Yeah, yeah, I was just gonna say I think is reverse you almost need to have selective hearing.
Eric Hodgdon 42:12
Yeah, I think so. I mean, is it going to help you in any decision that you’re making? On the grief journey? Is it hurting you? Or is it helping you heal?
Victoria Volk 42:23
And here’s what I was gonna add to that, too. I think that’s reason why that’s like, reason 385 million to, you know, work on yourself, because someone who hasn’t really allowed themselves to process what they’re feeling. They really could take that in an eco just downward, spiral them that day. Of course, that’s that’s why things like that are very hurtful and harsh. They can actually be harmful to people. They can I think, especially with teens. Can we speak to that a little?
Eric Hodgdon 42:57
Yes, absolutely. I can’t tell you how many times I had conversations with always friends where a thought turned into a problem that they had the one thought and and so I remember, it was about a month or so after Zoey died. And I’m standing in my kitchen with one of her very good friends. His name was Jerry. And Jerry was just somber that day, he was the weight of the situation was really settling in for him. And he was missing. So he’s like, so he’s gone? What am I going to do? I just I was taking a lesson that I learned from my therapist, because I asked my therapist, the same thing. When I was going through my divorce, what am I going to do. And she was very explicit. And I shared the same thing with Jerry and I said, Jerry, you’re going to get up in the morning, and you’re going to put your feet on the floor, you’re going to get dressed, you’re going to get breakfast, you’re going to go to school, you’re going to come home, have dinner, and you’re going to practice the guitar for hours like you have since you were four years old. And after that, you’re going to go to bed and just do the same thing over and over again, until that becomes the norm, despite how you’re feeling. That’s how you keep going. That’s what you’re going to do. And so it’s giving those resources, it’s reminding the kids, the teens, anybody who’s struggling, that there are resources out there, whether it be people, parents, others, teachers, others in your community, even good friends that have walked this path before and can meet you where you are on your path and help you walk with you on it. Give you some solid advice make you laugh when you didn’t think you were going to be laughing again. And I used to share a story about Zoey with some of her friends. I got a call one evening from one of Zoe’s friends. I’ll call her Cammy Cammy. His mom called me and it was probably 1130 at night, and I didn’t recognize the number. But I answered the phone anyway. Because those calls on a Saturday night 1130 are always good, right? And so kameez mom is like, Hey, this is kameez, Mom, just want to let you know that. We think Cammy is going to end her life tonight. We just want to let you know, like, wait, she’s going to or she did like what’s going on here? And she said, No, we’ve just we tried everything. We don’t know what else to do. I just want to let you know, because I kind of are throwing our hands up like we just don’t know what to do. I was pissed like that. No, this, I said, Look, I could tell you right now, as long as your daughter’s breathing, you’re fighting for her. And you please put Cammy on the phone right now. And she’s I don’t know if she’ll want to talk to I please, if you need to throw the phone in the room. I’ll scream it out. I don’t care, but get her on the phone. And so I got Cammy on the phone. She was embarrassed. Because her mom called me and I said, Look, kid, this is me. I’m Zoe’s Dad, you know this. I’m okay. You can tell me anything. I’m not your mom and dad. What’s going on? She said, I just don’t care anymore. I just don’t care anymore. And I asked her to tell me more about that. I wanted to ask her some thoughtful open ended questions that weren’t yes or no, I wanted to find out what she was struggling with in the moment. And so I may have had to ask her a few times What’s going on? Like, what I just don’t care anymore? Like I just don’t, I feel like I’m a burden. So that Oh, okay, we’re getting somewhere. And I shared with her, I said, you know, there are people in this world that probably could be a burden, you’re not one of them. You know what, you know, you’re 18 years old. And you’re not a burden. we all struggle. We all have moments when it feels like nobody cares. When it’s too hard to go on. We feel like there is just no other way. And so we just settle on some really dark thoughts. And it’s that scary. said that, sweetie, you can find
Eric Hodgdon 47:17
something that is that lights you up and and makes you excited and motivated. She said, I just don’t feel like I want to do anything else, you know? And I’m like, I feel like I’ve done everything I can do in my lifetime. She’s 18. I said, Well, what did you like to do when you’re growing up? Now? I said you like to take pictures now sometimes. Did you like to draw a little bit said, What about animals? And oh my gosh, I love animals used to go to the zoo. Like sure I heard the turn. And so so keep going with that. Tell me more like what do you what will? What would it be like for you to do something with animals and she just started talking? I would be fantastic. You know what I want to I always do, I was wanting to be a vet tech. Okay, so Cammy, here’s what we’re going to do. Tomorrow morning, we’re going to get back on the call and get back on a call. And we’re going to go through the phone book, or we’re going to go online. And we’re going to look for that tech positions and how you start that process. And she was so excited. It’s that’s where we have to get really deliberate and intentional about connecting with kids. Because they need to be heard. They need you to know they they need you to know that. Even though they may feel like you’re not going to get them understand where they are that through open ended questions. They’ll tell you exactly where they are. And Cammy ultimately didn’t go for a vet tech position. But it was enough to pull her back from the edge to give her a different optic on that there were options out there for her. If that makes sense.
Victoria Volk 49:00
Do you think for especially older teens, maybe 16 1718. I’ve often wondered this just in the last couple of years. If it’s just this pressure of making something in your life doing something with your life, pressure to please our parents, you know, please the parents are pleased the community are pleased. Because what I see often not well, not often, but I see a trend in especially with teens that are high achievers. I don’t know the statistics of the suicide rate of high achiever. teens, right, but sometimes it’s just the pressure, right? It’s too much. Yes. What have you found? I don’t I don’t know. Do you work specifically with teens now?
Eric Hodgdon 49:50
I work more with folks who were on the other end of a loss. Okay, and so I What I will always do, and will always have my door open to, I give my phone number out all the time. And I have talked to a lot of parents who have struggling teens. And I say, here’s my number, give this to your kid and tell them to call me. But I don’t leave with that I always follow up and check in how are how you know, how’s your child doing, how’s your kid doing? And I, here’s the thing that I think is, is, is going to be important. And I’m seeing this now, especially now I’m hyper focused on it, seeing how my my boss talks to his three boys and connects not talks to but connects with his three sons, and how he asks them questions. And because all of them are in high pressure situations, teens, you know, an 18, you’ve had 18 years on this planet. And at that age, I think that there is a pressure to become something bigger. Now that could be an external pressure that’s coming in. But a lot of times, it’s an internal pressure that you’re feeling. And that can be overwhelming. And I guess the best piece of advice I would give there is that it’s giving yourself permission to figure things out on a pace that works for you. If you try to figure out your life, for somebody else, you’re just adding fuel to the fire of that pressure. But gave yourself permission to fail, give yourself failure is not a bad thing. Failure is a learning opportunity. You know, failure, you fail at john Maxwell say you fail forward, Oh, my gosh, I wish I would have had that advice A long time ago. And so being able to give someone permission to learn and grow and adapt, I think that helps with the pressure. And I know that some people aren’t necessarily they’re not only kids, but even some parents and adults, they, they may have had that same pressure when they were growing up. And so they’re just kind of bringing that that forward into their family as well. And so, but but giving yourself permission to figure things out, and permission to fail, permission to learn, and giving yourself the runway that you need. You know, I think that when we place ourselves in a box, that’s where I think this anger and frustration really comes out. Because if we step outside of that box, it’s almost it’s almost like we’re conditioned to that something’s going to happen. You know, we’re either going to be shunned or shamed or cast out of the group or whatever it might be. And that’s very old. That’s, that’s why are deep within us as well. But it’s okay to give yourself that permission, that box can be as big as you want it to be. There’s no limit to that box, and doesn’t even have to be a box. How about removing those borders and just saying, I’m going to figure it out on my own pace at my own time. And, and I think that that can even help some adults as well. When they’re talking about grief in kids, if they’re talking about grief, kids, if they’re talking about situations that they feel like there’s no out from there in that box, they cannot see a way out of that situation. And there is never just one solution to getting out of that pain or that struggle, that situation, there’s always a multitude. And sometimes you need others to kind of help you figure out what those other options are. And that’s okay to get it’s not a weakness. It is actually it’s actually a strength. When you think about it, if you’re struggling, you’re on the precipice of figuring out something very important for your life. And if you look at anybody out there in the world who has faced a deep struggle, and they’ve come out of the other side, we’re wired for that. And so there’s there’s make those options available and connect deeply with those around you. And you’ll find that you’ll be able to have those options that you didn’t think you had previously.
Victoria Volk 54:07
Well, that’s a lot of advice and best tips and how, you know, that’s great. Thank you for sharing that. So what has your grief experience taught you?
Eric Hodgdon 54:18
It is taught me that there are so many things to be grateful for in this world. Zoe was in my life for 15 years. And I am so grateful that she was I got to be her dad. I’m grateful that I have the capacity to wake up in the morning and take another breath and see the sun or even the clouds doesn’t matter to me obviously. It’s it’s gratitude for the folks that I have in my it’s gratitude to be able to share with you and your audience. I mean, it’s there’s so many things that are are so beautiful in this world. That I feel like gets us back to our nature. And that’s been probably the biggest lesson for me is that I’ve, I’ve gotten back to my nature, what matters most in life. And when you look around you and you say cheese, I’m really grateful. I’ve had a rough day at work today, or Yeah, my kids were frustrating me and all that stuff. But you know, I’ve got a roof over my head, it’s the things that you that are invaluable. You know, I have eyesight, or I have the capacity to breathe, and the capacity to see some nature of that outside or plan a trip or even during the pandemic, families coming together, you know, board games selling out, because what else you gonna do? You know, I mean, just, there’s so much that there is grateful that you can have gratitude for. And it is really getting back to what matters most.
Victoria Volk 55:50
Is gratitude, the foundation of the work that you do with the people you work with.
Eric Hodgdon 55:57
Ultimately, yes, I think that it certainly was an accelerant to my healing. Because I was just I was even though I every day, I was using a journal called the Five Minute Journal, I don’t know if you’ve heard of this journal or not. It’s straight, six months, journal, and every day, it’s one page, where you write down three things that you’re grateful for, in the morning, an affirmation and three things you want to accomplish that day. And then at the end of the evening, you know, you write down what’s your biggest takeaway from the day. And there were days when I would write the same three things down, grateful for life. I’m grateful for Zoey. And I’m grateful for the roof over my head. And sometimes I would introduce new things to be grateful for. But I think overall, it was focusing on that. That that kind of pulled me out of those doldrums of feeling like this is going to be really hard. Yeah, it’s hard. But you know what, I’ve got a roof over my head. I got to be Zoe’s dad. I’m still Zoe’s dad. I’m connected with her friends. And Zoey, by the way, if I say, you know, Zoe, I mean, I, in my mind, Zoe is everything that encompasses Zoe, her, my family, her friends, the energy her, her voice, all of it. And so yeah, gratitude is at the heart of it. Victoria.
Victoria Volk 57:35
I have a curiosity question, please. So I hope you don’t mind me asking because I think it would be helpful for listeners who may have found themselves in the same situation of losing a child. Okay. I’m curious if you have kept her room as it was.
Eric Hodgdon 57:55
Well, now that I’m down here in Tampa, I did for five years. I did for five years. I did not touch a thing, if anything I added to it. It was a few months after Zoey died and I was invited to go down to her school. A few towns away. It was a therapeutic school that she was attending. And they wanted just to share with me two things, one that they were planting a tree and Zoe’s honor in their courtyard, and then to to present me with a shelf that Zoey had started to make. And that’s the shelf right there that the kids finished. And I brought that back to my house. And I placed the shelf up in her room and I set it up as if I think Zoey would set it up all of her Chuck tees were in one of the cubes. And all of her art supplies were another cube and some of her incense was on top and you know, some rocks. Every time I took a trip I would collect a rock and I would bring it home and put it up in her room and but everything else in the room did I didn’t move it I didn’t find the energy to move it. Because I was afraid. I felt like if I were to do anything in this room, that I would be cutting myself off from Zoey completely. And nothing could be further from the truth. And when I made the decision to sell that house, five years later, it took me two days and three boxes of tissues to go through that room. And she had clothes that other kids could wear that I donated to a goodwill. I can’t remember the name of the company. There were boxes of her drawings and notebooks with poems in it. I still have all those. Her ukulele is with her brother. Her drum set I donated that to A kid who was eight years old in town who needed a drum set. It was time. And I didn’t want to do anything with her room until it was time. And there’s no timeframe on that. And so there’s some folks that might be with that same room at their house for one year, one month, 10 years longer. It’s okay. When it’s time, it’s going to be okay, you will find a way to make that make it happen. And so what’s the biggest lesson, I think afterwards when the room was done, and I was looking at this room was just a mattress on a bed frame. So he’s still with me, I never got rid of Zoey. I’m not leaving her behind. If anything, she’s still with me. And so I took a ton of pictures. And I have those pictures. And when I look at them today, they don’t bring me sadness, they actually bring me joy, because I get to see a snapshot of who so it was, it’s always going to be with me. And just like Zoe’s memory is always going to be positive. It’s just stuff at the end of the day, and the memories are always going to be with you. And so nobody can take that away from you. And so you’re not really letting them go. In the sense of forgetting them, you’re actually helping yourself heal. I think, when you do have those moments in your journey where you can actually move on, it’s just another step on the path. Thank you for sharing that. You’re welcome. Thank you for asking.
Victoria Volk 1:01:41
So what gives you the most joy and hope for your future that I can continue to share Zoe?
Eric Hodgdon 1:01:50
You know, one of the I think one of the most profound events, I guess, if you want to call it that that happened was when I joined option B, many years ago, I was asked to be a moderator later on. But early on, when there was about 500 people in the group. Option B was started by Sheryl Sandberg, who’s the CEO of Facebook, and she lost her husband in early 2015. And she wrote a book called option B, it’s fantastic book. And I would recommend that to folks. But She subsequently started this community. And I joined in early April of 2017. And the next month, when Mother’s Day was approaching, it was the day before Mother’s Day. And I wanted to make a post for the folks in the group. One because I was thinking about so his mom and how hard it must be for that. For that Mother’s Day that was coming up, especially for Zoey not being I know what it is on dad’s Father’s Day. But I just think about this. So I know that there was some mothers in this option B support group. And so I just did a video and I just said, Look, if you’re a mom, if you’re a mother figure, if you’re missing a mother figure, anybody in your life that reminds you of Mom, I know tomorrow’s going to be difficult for you. But if it’s okay, I’d like to offer a little suggestion for you. So that when you wake up in the morning, the tendency is to let the pain make you feel like you just want to stay in bed with the curtains drawn. But I would invite you to sit up in bed first, then put your feet on the floor. Open up the shade, go get dressed, and go do something in honor of your mother figure that day. Even if you’re a mom. And you’re missing a spouse, it doesn’t matter. Or wife, you’re missing a spouse doesn’t matter. Get up and do something that honors your loved one. And later that night. My my phone lit up with a message. And I looked at it briefly. I was half asleep and it was it said Sheryl Sandberg on it. I’m like, there’s no way. So I opened up my phone and looked. And sure enough, that was Cheryl. And she basically said hey, look, I just wanna let you know, I’ve just shared your video with all of my friends and family. And would it be okay with you if I shared this on an interview with Oprah next week? No, no. So I said no, please do and thank you so much. And I was so touched by that. And so what that taught me was that it doesn’t matter who we are in life. We could have billions of dollars. We could be working as a car mechanic or in a corporate job. We could be a child, we could be a teen doesn’t matter who we are. We’re human, and we’re all wired pretty much the same way and grief is going to hit us No matter what we do, no matter how much money we have in the bank, no matter what gender or ethnicity we are, we’re human. And so we can always find ways to make a connection that changes someone’s life. And if we don’t step into the arena and do that, then I think we’re leaving a lot of value on the table for those that are around us family, friends, or otherwise,
Victoria Volk 1:05:24
my kids roll their roll their eyes whenever I give him a quote.
Eric Hodgdon 1:05:30
I think that Thanks, Mom. Yeah. Is it? Is it worse than a dad joke? I mean, because those are pretty bad, too. Right?
Victoria Volk 1:05:42
Thank you for sharing that. Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Eric Hodgdon 1:05:46
No, I’m just I’m deeply grateful for being able to share Zoey with you and your audience. Victoria, it means the world to me that, that that I can still say her name. And it brings me the same amount of joy, as it always has. And I just am so grateful for the opportunity to be here with you and us fantastic questions. And you’re really made me think about what has really made a difference. And I’m gonna walk away from this discussion, feeling like I’m full today. So thank you so much, it really means the world to me.
Victoria Volk 1:06:27
Thank you, likewise. And I think that the theme of this interview, conversation I prefer to call it is impact. Yes, we don’t often realize the impact that we have on other people. Right? And that is regardless of our age. Yes, regardless of our age. So if there are any teams listening, you might think you have no friends. And I would argue that that’s probably not true. But I would also add, I have no doubt in my mind. If you’re a team, if you’re anyone listening to this, you have an impact on people in their lives, you impact people. And your presence would be lost. And missed. 100% so true. Thank you so much for sharing, where can people find you if they like to connect with you?
Eric Hodgdon 1:07:30
Thank you, Victoria. People can find me online at Erichodgdon.com, and they can also pick up my book. It’s called a Sherpa named Zoe. It’s available on Amazon. And I hope it helps in some way. And finally, I have a TEDx talk that I performed two years ago that is available and I can provide the link for your for your audience as well.
Victoria Volk 1:07:58
Perfect and I will provide the links in the show notes for everything mentioned. And remember, when you unleash your heart, you unleash your life. Much love from my heart to yours. Thank you for listening. If you liked this episode, please share it because Sharing is caring. And until next time, give and share compassion by being hurt with yours. And if you’re hurting know that what you’re feeling is normal and natural. Much love my friend
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