Ep 136 | Susana Morell

Susana Morell | Hearts Matter Project: “Bad” Children or Hurting Children?



Susana is no stranger to grief. As a young child, she was a victim of sexual abuse. As a young adult, she lost her mother, later becoming her father’s caretaker, only to eventually lose him. The death of her nephew to suicide was when she realized that she could do something – that she needed to do something.

Susana would put her strengths, skills, training as a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist, education in Clinical Psychology, and, more importantly, the pain of her past into purpose by serving the most vulnerable – children.

Three out of four children, ages 6-17, have experienced the loss of a loved one, a loved one becoming terminally ill, or anger due to changes within the family dynamics. Susana wanted to create and provide tools for children, parents, and school districts, to help them understand themselves and their grief experience better.

These tools would be developed and communicated through her book, The Hearts Matter Project, eventually becoming the curriculum, Shielding Hearts.



Victoria Volk 0:08
This is Victoria of theunleashedheart.com 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 the 30 plus year graver and advanced Grief Recovery Method 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 ears 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 talk about the weather? Let’s get started. This episode is sponsored by do grief differently. My 12 week in person or online program that helps Grievers who have suffered any type of loss to feel better, and do grief differently. You learn new tools, education, and a method you can utilize the rest of your life. In this program and with my guidance, you remove the pain of grief, the sadness will always be there because even in complicated relationships we love but it’s the pain of grief that keeps us stuck. Are you ready to do grief differently? Check out my website wwwtheunleashedheart.com to learn more. Thank you for tuning in to grieving voices. Today my guest is Susana Morell. She is a master level clinician and grief expert who transformed her heartache into a curriculum for children to learn how to process their grief and loss in a unique and healthy way. Her education and experience has molded her into a patient empathetic and nurturing grief counselor. She herself has been affected with how heartache grief and loss can create internal conflicts and multiple stressors. As a working professional in her field, she has been given the opportunity to become a certified Grief Recovery specialist through the Grief Recovery Institute. Her passion lies with supporting Grievers who allow themselves to become oriented with the effects of grief and loss so they can return to their routines and move forward. Thank you so much for being here.

Susana Morell 2:27
Well, thank you for having me.

Victoria Volk 2:29
I’m excited to highlight Shielding Hearts as a nonprofit, for the podcast, because I feel it’s near and dear to my heart especially I’m a child Griever, my dad passed away when I was eight. And there weren’t resources or services in the late 80s. For me, or other children for that matter. I didn’t know anybody else who had experienced that. So I felt very alone and very isolated. And people, truthfully, staff and friends didn’t know how to to be around me or to support me. And so I’m really excited to learn more about shielding hearts, I was reading through your paperwork, because we’re both certified Grief Recovery specialists through the Institute, which is another reason why I was excited to highlight your organization because you have that background. But also Furthermore, you have that clinical psychology background as well. And so they’re bringing you bring another element to that work. And so let’s start with your story, though, in how this really came to be for you.

Susana Morell 3:42
So in 2017, and I had already been a year after I lost my father and I was my father’s caregiver. So I think that was the hardest thing to see your hero become a weak and then eventually, you know, to lose him that was very, very difficult within itself. And I was the I’m the youngest child. So being his baby, it was very, very difficult. So you’re trying to get your footing and trying to get back into mainstream of life. And you just your heart is so heavy. And that’s when I found the Grief Recovery method. And it helped me to be able to really process and understand how the loss was affecting me since I had also just lost my mom two years before. So I’m losing my two constants in my life who have been, you know, my compass helped had been co parents and I was a single mom at the age of 19. So these two individuals that just were just everything to me, it was very, very difficult. But as I mentioned on 2017 I lost my nephew to suicide. And that really broke my heart on on so many levels. So I was determined to put pen to paper and to say these children are are hurting, they’re suffering in silence. I know that we have amazing counselors, we have a lot of support and resources. But what if the parents can’t get them to those resources? So I channeled that hurt and frustration and anger. And I said, I don’t want anybody to ever have to be on the receiving end of that phone call, you know, he was only 17. And just for him to believe that that was his only out. It’s just I don’t I know that other children are feeling this way. So I created these modules to where children are able to come in ages six to 17, they get identified because first a caregiver, a guardian. Or, you know, a parent will come to the campus and ask the counselor, do you have any support here at school? And so I’m very proud that now the district that I am in can say we actually do, we have a grief expert that works with the children, and this is my fifth year being in the district. So it goes to show you that it has been the outcomes have been amazing. And the way that we set it up, you know, from the daytime is so much easier to be able to have access to the children because they’re they’re already on the campuses. So what I basically do is, for example, I’m going to go over what is really common that is said to children, that affects them. So any age range, but specifically with the children I work with, when they are asked, Are you okay? This really annoys them and makes them angry, because they’re seeking for an understanding of what just happened to them. They’ve had a huge disruption in their life when they lose a mom, their dad, as you mentioned yourself, so you feel very alone, isolated, your friends can understand. And if all an adult, a teacher counselor is offering friends of the family, other family members, are you okay? It kind of makes them feel like they’re being kicked while they’re down. Because what they want to say is how can I be okay, I just lost somebody very special to me. So I explained to them, I know that this, you know, is very hard to hear. But I’m going to go through the rest of the questions. And then at the end, I will share with you what I how I explained to them how they can have these questions to be stopped or statements to be stopped from being said to them, because they’re not helpful. When they’re also told I’m sorry for your loss. It makes them feel like what are you sorry, for? You weren’t responsible for taking my loved one from me? Why do you keep telling me you’re sorry for my loss. And it feels like people are taking pity on them. And they’re, they’re not wanting to feel that they’re they can’t cope. So that is a statement that, you know, really doesn’t help. The next one is your grandma, grandpa, mom, dad isn’t a better place, sweetie. They mean, no disrespect, that this may be a glorious place. But what their heart is desiring and what they are yearning for is for their loved one to be physically here with them. So it’s like they’re being force fed this idea and their feelings are being minimized when they’re told this. But they’re in a better place. They’re not suffering. I’m they’re not negating that, that they want to feel acknowledged. And so I allow them to be able to understand why that’s bothersome to them. The next one is you have to stay strong. Your mom would have wanted you to be strong, your dad would have wanted you to keep it together, you’ve got to think about, you know this that that’s you know, that’s not fair to say that to a child because it is nothing about being strong or weak. They are, they are hurting, they are going through an array of emotions. They tell me it’s like this vortex that they’re just out of their body and, and they just they say it feels horrible. I said I and the everybody always asked me so what should we say to them? I always say, we don’t know exactly how this has affected them because grief affects everybody differently. So try just starting the conversation with I couldn’t even imagine. You know how you’re feeling? Would you like to talk about it? I’m here for you. That’s so much healthier than these statements. The one that hurts the most is when they’re told you have to accept that your mom is gone. You have to accept you have to move on. What if they’re not ready to? You know, so I tell them, you will never hear that from Susanna. My goal is that I’m going to teach you to adjust and adapt to the huge loss that you have experienced and to be able to understand that. So just in that first session, I Tell them you don’t like these statements, you don’t like being asked these questions. No, I don’t, then guess let advocate for yourself, you have a voice for a reason. And you need to tell your aunt that the next time you’re in passing with her and she asks you Are you okay? For example, you need to tell her. And you know, Auntie, please don’t say this to me, it does not help. Because children, they’re, they’re coming from a perspective that you’re the adults, you know better. And so surely you will not say this to me every time you see me. And I tell them, This is what you think. But they don’t know what’s gonna help you, and what’s not gonna work for you. So this is when you have to advocate for yourself and say, Please don’t say this to me. And it changes the dynamic. And then the person knows, the last thing I’d ever want to do is hurt you, or make you feel sad, or bring up the thought of the loss. And maybe you weren’t even thinking about it. So then it helps them to be able to understand that. And to get away from that. With my high schoolers, what I do is I tell them, how frustrating is it that you go to the dictionary and you look up grief, and it says deep sorrow due to a loss? So what are you supposed to do with that? That’s so insensitive. It doesn’t give you any guidance, it just helps you to validate that your heart is broken into a million pieces. So I I am the first session have them confront with grief is and they get to write out their own definition of it. And we throw out words like grief to them is feeling misunderstood. They can’t breathe, they’re in a lot of pain. They’re frustrated, they’re losing hope, loss of trust, depression, anger, anxiety, sad, guilt, shame, no energy, and stuck.

So that’s the definition that they formulate. And I can’t imagine what they’ve been doing with these feelings before they came to the sessions. They’ve been walking around with this. And this is why they’ve been reactive. And they love how I addressed that. Before you came to grief counseling, not your finest moment, you’ve identified a lot of these feelings and how you can see how they can be hurtful to you and your relationships. So you’ve been sabotaging yourself. I said, so moving forward. Now you know that this is what’s caused that reactivity, with you cussing with you sabotaging your grades with you losing interest in your after school activities, baseball, football, cheerleading, you know, the debate club, anything. Now you know that that reactivity has taken over your life, and it’s basically speaking for you grief has been speaking for you, because that’s not who you are. And they’ll cry with me. And they’re like, No, that’s not who I am. I’m not a rude person. I’m not somebody who loses, you know, you know, side of what they need to be saying in the moment, and it overreact. That’s not who I am. It’s, you know, the grief has driven you to this. And you almost feel like you look in the mirror, and you don’t even know who you are anymore. So it’s being able to let them know, I know, you feel like you’re at a, you know, the edge of the cliff. And you’re like, that’s it, I don’t want to live like this, I’m ready to jump. And I, I would like to believe and the feedback that they’ve given me is that they feel like I’m tucking them away from the cliff. And they eventually are so far from it, when we’re done with our sessions, that they’re like, I can’t even believe I was once there. And I don’t ever want to get back to those feelings, because they get to process with me week to week for six, sometimes eight weeks. And it’s consistency. And they’re so proud of themselves that they’re having this opportunity for self care and to recover. And then they evolve and there’s so much healthier now feeling equipped, and now knowing what to do so that they don’t fall into, you know, into the grips of grief moving forward.

Victoria Volk 14:18
One thing I want to come back to circle back to a little bit is, first of all people who listen or listening adults who experienced grief or trauma as a child probably are identifying with everything you just said and are probably seeing those same things manifest in their life as an adult. That was my story. I’m sure for many Grievers. That is the case for child Grievers because you grow up with it. And unless you learn these tools, and gain new knowledge and how to respond to it, you’re going to continue those behaviors into adulthood. You and I both know this, right? Yes. One thing I want to highlight though is that And something that’s been on the forefront of my mind lately is that we do all there’s like, and as a grief recovery specialists, you know, this too is that we all respond to grief. Similarly, not the same. But similarly, like we have these STURMS, the short term energy relieving behaviors, these things resort to to feel better for a short period of time, or we might have angry outbursts, you know, we implode or we explode, we all do these things, some of us do one or the other, or a combination of different ones. But we all tend to respond to grief. Similarly, the reason why I would just want to highlight, we respond differently to our loss is because the relationship is unique. So it’s the relationship that we’re responding to, as in effect of that loss, right. So you can have two children who had the same loss, but they’re responding differently from the relationship, maybe one felt really loved. And the other one felt like they were the, you know, discarded or not cared for as much, or maybe they weren’t the favorites, you know, some siblings can feel that way. And if they lost their father or mother, they’re experiencing their grief in response to the relationship, so I just wanted to highlight that, for those listening, why you may have two children or kids in the classroom who’ve had a similar loss, but are responding differently, might be exhibiting those same behaviors, but yet, maybe one’s angry, and maybe one’s like I, I really internalized it. And I think your personality has a lot to do with that too. I was very much an introvert, I am an introvert. And so I, I was I didn’t have the angry outbursts, but I was tardy a lot. Fatigue was huge for me, as a child, you know, having accidents, things like that. I was also a child of sexual trauma, after my dad passed away, so there was a lot going on in my life as a child. So I just wanted to circle back to that for to clarify that. But I love what you’ve created, because it is so needed, desperately needed. So if someone is listening, who, oh, gosh, that sounds so cool, I want to bring this to my school, or I want my school to know about this does it have to be somebody who is a trained school counselor, or, you know, someone with a clinical degree psychologist who does work with the children in the school district to provide this program.

Susana Morell 17:48
Now, I’ve been very successful and training parents, so they can do the online training with me and I go through the workbook with them, it’s so the goal is to you know, improve the dialogue with children, the grief dialogue with them. And so, of course, the preference is that within the schools, you’d have the counselors train, and I’ve had a few train with me, and I love the you know, how they feel that they have more insight, they feel like they’re having a better understanding of the perspective of the grieving child after my training. So that’s huge, that’s key to be able to say, I feel like I can support this child, as to where you and I growing up, it was probably like, you know, you could tell the adult was uncomfortable, it didn’t know what to say, you know, and so it’s kind of like the blind leading the blind, you know, and when that needs to stop, we need to be able to, you know, be on the on the forefront, and to be able to say, like, we know that you have this huge emotional wound, and we want to help you heal, and we want to return peace and tranquility, so that you feel composed and get back to your life. So, you know, anybody who is works with children, whether that be a teacher, administrators, the counselors, you know, the crisis aides, just anybody in general, that, you know, I shoot for the stars, and that was my goal that, you know, people would catch on to this and say, you know, wow, and these modules, I mean, they’re, they’re so unique, they’re so different. It’s a lot of play therapy, it’s working with playdough, it’s working with Legos, you know, it’s doing all these exercises, but while the child is engaging in the activity, you’re being able to help them connect to this is why we did this activity to help you understand how to minimize anger, how to minimize hurt, how to minimize disappointment, how to minimize everything that you’ve been going through, and they feel that relief, like, oh, what you taught me today is something I can actually do, because they have all this potential, but they’re buried underneath all their potential when they’re grieving because they don’t even know right from left. So when you start, you know, being able to introduce this to them and they start feeling like they’re better informed, and that this is working for them, that they’re just they’re eager children are so eager to learn. And they, they, you know, there’s they desire this guidance so that they can navigate out of this situation.

Victoria Volk 20:16
ow did this become a nonprofit, because I know that there might be people listening that would like to start something similar or have something burning within them that they would like to bring to the forefront.

Susana Morell 20:33
So, um, as my individual office, you know, when you’re calling a school, or you’re calling an agency, or you’re calling just anybody in the community, and you say, I’m calling from Suzanna morale, counseling services, this is what I’ve done, this is how I’d like to help and you don’t get many phone calls back because they’re like, I don’t know who this person is, right. So everybody kept saying, you may want to consider becoming a nonprofit. I mean, you have your curriculum, you have great outcomes, this does work. And so this way, you’d be able to maybe reach more masses. And it’s just something about being an entity that’s very different than just being a person. And I said, okay, the, you know, I wouldn’t know the first place to start, I was very fortunate to have great mentors and to be able to say, Okay, this is how you license your curriculum. This is how you get the paperwork established, get lawyers involved, you start feeling very overwhelmed. But you know, you’ve got that passion, and you’re, you’re dedicated to this, and you’re like, if this is what I’ve got to do, to be able to support children, that’s fine, I’ll do it. And so it got established. And it’s very exciting. When you do receive, you know, being aware or receipt, getting your letter saying you are now you know, a 501 c three, and you’re just just so excited, because you’re like, I’m off to the races. And clearly, you know, this will be the answer that districts have been looking for and agencies and community support, and it doesn’t work that way. You just have to have a lot of patience. You have to just let people know you’re out there posting on social media, you know, being able to be on podcasts, and being able to just people to know what you’re doing. So they have a better understanding. I post videos, I have some of the activities that have been done when I’ve gone to go speak to campuses. And so it’s really, really hard to when I do a presentation to show how this works, because I can’t bring a child in and have them share their story due to confidentiality. So I can show the metrics and the goals that we’ve achieved. And the you know, the outcomes and how it’s evidence based. But that’s where it gets so frustrating Victoria, because people are like, Well, how do we know this really works? Well, I’m showing you start to finish I can bring in case studies and show you how the child enter telling me that they’re not sleeping their grades are, are you know, not what they should be. They’ve lost interest in everything. You’re talking about the fatigue Enos, you know, where they’re sad. They can’t talk about their feelings. They’re not, you know, they answer this questionnaire. And when out of these 10 questions, they have all these, you know, areas of their life that are being negatively impacted by grief. And they almost answer yes to everything. And then when they exit, they’re giving feedback saying yes, I have a better understanding of my feelings. Yes, I can talk about my feelings now. Yes, I feel like I have relief. Yes, I have a better understanding of grief. And I’m better informed. You know, yes, I’m eating better. Yes, I’m back to my activities. And then they share, you know, in their own words, can you please write us, you know, a sentence or two about your experience. And they say, I learned how not to hate the world. I loved this program, I learned that, you know, I was being misunderstood. Now I know how to be able to say how the grief affected me personally, I feel that I can, you know, be a support for my family. Now, I can help them to understand how we can improve the communication change dialogue. So when you get that back, you would hope that you know, I’d be doing more than just one district but once again, just to be patient, because it does have the potential it does work. And so that’s where I’m at right now. So 2022 Now starting during a pandemic, you know, that was scary. But the support is there. Recently, I was very fortunate to go into a family shelter. I approached the executive director at a community meeting and I said, I know you do you have a great program for rehabilitating the parents and for them to get back on their feet. What are you doing for the children while mom and dad are going and learning job seeking skills and financial literacy and you know, being able to work on themselves? What are you doing for the children and they were like, well, you No, we have someone who babysits them and they watch movies and they play and I said, you don’t think the child would like to process what has been like to be, you know, relocated overnight, be sleeping in a car now being a shelter being a program. And she’s like, we never thought about this at all, I’m sure their heart has a lot of things to say about this, you know, it’s a lot of changes. I mean, they can’t tell their friends where they’re at. I mean, so then I have been working with this family shelter for a year and a half now. And they have seen significant improvement, the children come in, you know, reactive, they’re rude, they’re, they’re feeling just very uncomfortable. They’re, you know, nitpicking at everything that they don’t like anything. Once they go through my program, they’re just like, they’re better adjusted. They trust the process. And most importantly, I remind them that at this current time, I know, this isn’t the ideal environment, this isn’t your home, but you’re safe. And at the end of the day, that’s more important than anything, and you’re surrounded by a lot of support and great volunteers. And so being able, the goal is for shielding hearts to be able to do more of that work, because, you know, the, the shelter, that they don’t have the funding to bring in someone to pay them, you know, what they could so through the donations that we have, were able to come in, and we’re able to give them, you know, a reduced rate to offer this support.

Victoria Volk 26:28
That’s amazing. And so for those listening to where where is shielding hurts based out of Hema, Texas. So right now, it’s just in Texas, but you’re looking to explore. Oh, absolutely. So I know, as a grief recovery specialist, you know, we the Grief Recovery Institute has the program, helping children with loss, and with the hearts matter project, that helping children with loss program is the foundation of that, and then you have incorporated other things that you’ve gotten from your training, is that accurate? Correct?

Susana Morell 27:05
Yes. And things that I created, when I Yeah, so when I was in grad school, I created a therapeutic game that would help children be able to feel that they could speak from, in a fun way, take on, like, speak through like, a character that they they really admired. So that in this moment, since you’re Ironman, for example, and we’d go around the board of the game that I invented, and they’d be able to speak well as Iron Man, this is what I think about divorce. And as Iron Man, this is what would have hurt Iron Man, and this and that. And so and then once, and then we’re able to say so Now eventually, in the game, we would put Iron Man aside, and we would allow the child to say what that was like for them to be able to, you know, hear that narrative and see that journey through Iron Man’s eyes, but now be able to feel comfortable enough to take the lead.

Victoria Volk 28:03
That’s brilliant. And actually, because, you know, children are imaginative, of course, but I can remember wanting to be anywhere else, but where I was, and to be anyone else, but who I was. And so to roleplay I think that’s brilliant. That’s a brilliant idea. And, you know, I think to like, what, what are your I don’t know why I’m thought of this, but like, with children with imaginary friends? Do you think that that is an aspect of their subconscious to or away for that they sometimes that children sometimes cope with stressors in their life of maybe that’s them role playing with an imaginary friend, like, you know, it’s almost as if like, they can’t, they don’t feel like they can communicate with the adults in their life, right? So they have this imaginary friend that they talk to, and do you? I don’t know, do you? Have you found that in your work that that’s sometimes a way a child is coping with stress?

Susana Morell 29:13
Absolutely. It’s so therapeutic for them. It works for them, the adult may become alarmed because they’re like, why are they talking? What Who are they talking to? What are they doing? And I always like to let parents know because I did write a book. That’s how you know I wrote a book and then I transformed the book into a parent guide. And I stress in the Parent Guide, mom, dad, caregiver, Guardian do not become alarmed. This is therapeutic. Because at the end of the day, who is the child hurting by having their imaginary friend, so not hurting anybody? They’re in their safe space.

Victoria Volk 29:50
You know, it’s not to say that they aren’t seen spirit and we aren’t going to go there. This podcast but I fully believe that that is the You know, children are unfiltered. Right? So they’re more likely to see spirit. And that’s what I believe anyway. But I love that you have written a book. And that’s what kind of created the curriculum. And so can you share a little bit about what that process was like for you?

Susana Morell 30:20
Yes. You know, I had always wanted to put, you know, you have all those years of experience. I’ve been in so many situations where I was over the crisis situations for children and families. And so you have all this knowledge, and you want to be able to break this down to help parents because they do they feel embarrassed, or they feel like why don’t I know what, because you’re not taught this in school, you know, and so I want I wrote the book from the perspective of like, being able to feel like you have some life skills, like you’re you feel more comfortable with it, to be able to engage with your child and to be able to speak to them through care and concern. Because when children tell me, my mom yells at me, she gets really angry at me when I’m crying. And I don’t understand that Miss Susanna, and I help the child understand, mom is, she is sad for you, she feels frustrated that she can’t take this hurt from you. And I wish she would just tell you that and instead of allowing herself to be reactive, and to be yelling at you, but that’s really what’s going on, I said, but rest assure mom is reading my parent guide, while you are here in the sessions with me, and you’re gonna see improvement, because if, if I’m helping you to better understand, you know, this grief process, I need mom to be on board to have a better understanding of how it’s affecting you. So they’re collaboratively you know, I wish I could have sessions with the parents too. But all the feedback from the parent guide is Oh, my gosh, that was that was written. And I never I could see what I was guilty of, and I love how it was broken down of what not to do. And to be able to feel like I have the support and written from from a standpoint of just being very, you know, yeah, therapeutic techniques in there, but not feeling like I needed to have a degree to understand this content, you know, just very just Elementary, just, you know, just something to wear. If I, you know, pay attention to the words that are written here, it’s to wear the same thing of what I give to the children I’m giving to the parents, like, oh, I can do that. I love that suggestion. I will apply that. And then they start to see the difference. So that’s what, what really drove me to be able to create that.

Victoria Volk 32:47
And what is the book called?

Susana Morell 32:48
The Hearts Matter Project.

Victoria Volk 32:50
Okay, perfect. And I’ll put a link in the show notes to that. Thank you. So what is one tip that you would give someone listening, whether it is a teacher, a counselor, a child, perhaps, maybe children, teens are listening to this, or a parent? Maybe your advice is different based on age, I’m not sure.

Susana Morell 33:18
Well, just in general, you know, I appreciate when someone wants to be empathetic, that wants to take that extra step to be able to be a part of that support system for a Griever. And I just always say, you don’t have to say anything, sometimes you don’t have to be you know, the expert in this. And just be honest with the child or, you know, with your co worker with anybody and just say, you know, I’m gonna be very honest, I don’t know what to say, I don’t know what to do. But I care about you. And as a human being, I can see you’re hurting. So is there anything that I can do to be able to help alleviate that hurt? Like, Are you overwhelmed, here at work? Are you this Are you that we can come together as you know, co workers and we can rally behind you and don’t We don’t want you to feel alone and we can offer the safety net. So to I encourage anybody to have that conversation, especially with children, you know, they’re not going to come and say to an adult, because they don’t want to feel that they’re disrespecting them. They appreciate everything that their parents are doing for them. But if you’re going to be nagging at them, because they haven’t taken the trash out, three days after they buried someone that was very important to them, you know, to pick and choose your battles. You know, they’re not deliberately trying to disobey you or it’s not that they forgot what their chores are. It’s just that right now, that’s not really a priority. So, you know, I would just really ask them to just be a little bit more sensitive to the situation. I’m not saying that excuse for a child to be running away crashing the car stealing money cussing? No, it does does not excuse that behavior. But if we can be more sensitive, and if we can address, you know, those behaviors with, I know that this cannot be, this had to be very difficult for you. And this is probably why you’re thinking that this is the only thing your only option for you. And I don’t want you to think that because you’re better than that you’re smarter than that. And what what can we do to be able to get you to eliminate those bad behaviors? And so just to be able to let them know, you know, we care about you too much to see you to sabotage yourself. Because that’s not the answer. And if you continue with this behavior at a 10 1217 into your 20s and 30s. You know, it’s it’s such a cliche, it sounds like a cliche, but it’s the truth hurt people hurt people.

Victoria Volk 35:57
I think so I guess yes, I think the biggest takeaway in what you just said is we can sum it up in a nutshell is for people listening, is that for parents, like you said, hurt people hurt people, but learn that learn how to be a safe person, a heart with the ears for the child and your life. And secondly, that those behaviors are a symptom. They’re a symptom. And so if you can learn to be a safe person and learn the tools, you might discover and uncover really what’s at the root of those symptoms of behavior. So what were you doing, I’m curious, when, at the time when you experienced your losses and loss of your nephew, were you on a different path and this like totally, like those losses, just change the trajectory of your life?

Susana Morell 36:51
Know, in 2015, when the court appointed me, my father’s guardian, I said, I know this is going to be really hard. I don’t know how long I’m going to have him for. Because he is deteriorating, they gave him three months under my care, he was with me 11 months. So I feel very honored that I was able to do that. But I was convinced, and him and I had lots of conversations. And he just told me that I have so much passion, I was such a great caregiver, I wanted to make changes, and I needed to believe in myself and I needed to get out there and do it. And I told him taking a big risk. And he said, It’s not about risk. It’s about you know what you believe in, you believe in that you can make a change, then do it, I know you will succeed, I have no doubt that you will create something beautiful. And so when I lost him, I really said, you know, this is the best way that I can honor them for supporting me for believing in me. For you know, just never allowing me to let any type of hurt or disappointment derail me from who I was destined to be. And I really feel like I’m serving a purpose. And it’s so unfortunate that you have to go through so many losses to discover that, but I feel so blessed. I feel like I’m living my best life. And when I can turn these children’s lives around. It’s just indescribable, to be able to be a part of that.

Victoria Volk 38:27
I just got goosebumps. It’s a beautiful, beautiful story and beautiful share. Would you like to share about your nephew, Lewis?

Susana Morell 38:36
Absolutely. Lewis was a young man that, unfortunately, he struggled being bipolar. And you know, within our mental health field, I just I wish there was more of a follow through. I know, they get assigned a caseworker and they have their psychiatrist and they’re good, but I really wish that there was more support for family when they don’t understand the mental illness. And so he I just feel like he got lost in the cracks. And he tried so much to get bounced back and it got harder and harder. And I’m, you know, my brother has never been a responsible father and he was just, he made fun of the disease and he made him feel, you know, demeaned and worthless. And, and I could come in and visit and I could, you know, pour so much love and remind him that, you know, because trust, I’m in the, I’m in the field, I’m trained in this trust that you will be okay, you’ll be able to cope. But you know, I live six hours away. So, you know, I can only you know, bring that to his life so often and so, but he would walk into a room and he’s just he was shy. He was so playful, but his smile was just it was just infectious and so sweet. He had a beautiful heart. And so, you know, one can The only thing that you know what, who he could have been what he wanted to study art, he was looking into art schools. And so yeah, we will never know. And that’s so unfortunate, but just a beautiful spirit. And I’m sure he’s so proud of me. He’s so proud of me, because I did. I did have for a moment to think, you know, you’re angry and you feel like, you know, did did the mental health field let him down? Did did? Did, did we not show up? Did we not do this. And through this work, and I help children and adults that I see in my office when they lose their partners to suicide. I help them to understand that at the end of the day, it breaks our heart that this is a choice that our loved one made. And it’s not for us to take personally.

Victoria Volk 40:51
Thank you for sharing. Well, and I want to there is an episode I had on my podcast a gentleman named Bob coolish, and he struggled with bipolar for well over 20 years before he was actually diagnosed. And he really educated me on bipolar. And he said that they call it the illness of loss. Because it is so often undiagnosed. But the one thing that he shared with me that blew my mind really, is when people go to a physician for support, right? When you when you’re feeling down and you’re feeling depressed, you don’t go to the doctor when you’re feeling amazing, right? You go to the doctor when you’re feeling like something’s wrong, or you’re feeling down or you’re sad, or, you know, you want to feel better write, that’s when you go. And as as a physician, if they’re not doing the proper screening for mental illness, including bipolar disorder, if they prescribe somebody who is depressed, an antidepressant, when in fact they have Bipolar, and they do not also prescribe a mood stabiliser, that essentially send someone with bipolar into mania. Someone with bipolar has to be on a mood stabilizer and an antidepressant. And that one decision of a physician causes harm. He told me that, and I have never forgotten that. And I’ve shared it with anybody who’s spoken to me about bipolar or anyone who has suspected that someone they love his bipolar, it is so important to be evaluated by someone who is trained in mental illness. And it just blows my mind that a regular physician, family physician is able to even screen for that. Or do so in a way that’s not they’re not trained to screen for that, right. They’re not given the proper tools and the training to actually screen for that. Because I think it’s great that people have access to a physician who can screen for that. But if they’re not properly trained, or they’re not doing that, they can do more harm. And someone will be in mania until they get proper treatment. And it just blew my mind. So if that’s an adult, going through that imagine now a teenager, who’s still whose mind and brain is still developing at a rapid pace and isn’t fully developed. Right? their frontal lobes are not fully developed until they’re 2425. So it’s educate yourself if you are suspecting mental illness of any kind, so that you can be an advocate for your child.

Susana Morell 44:00
Yeah, because I can’t imagine, you know, if there’s not this thorough understanding, you know, being able the child, you know, my nephew trusted these professionals, that they were always changing things, they’re always this, they’re always just wanting to admit him to psych units this that, I mean, a child starts thinking like, you’re I’m like an experiment. I’m a human being. And so why can’t we be able to get to the root or be able to give me the relief that I so desire instead of just, you know, well, that doesn’t work now, let’s reevaluate it doesn’t work. And so now you’re this and you’re getting in trouble at school and you’re doing this and you’re doing that now we’re gonna send you to the psych ward, and it’s just like this constant, you know, revolving door and I can see how it can just exhaust somebody, and then you go into mania and you just lose all hope. And it’s just, it’s a recipe for disaster. And it’s, it’s unfortunate that the children that children have to, you know, suffer in this manner.

Victoria Volk 45:00
Imagine the weight of someone as an adult going through that I just cannot even imagine the teenager how isolating that feels. I’m going to link to Bob’s link episode in the show notes too, for anyone who is interested in learning more about bipolar disorder. So thank you for, for sharing about that. So we could talk about that, because I think it’s very important. How did you come up with the name?

Susana Morell 45:27
Oh, thank you for asking. So the hearts matter project curriculum, I came up with that name, because I want the children to know that their hearts do matter. Their hearts are angered by so many feelings, and they feel stuck. And I want them to know that they do exist, they are one individual, their names may be very common, but the child that I have in front of me is one and only. And because they exist, I want them to exist in a positive way instead of a negative way. And that’s why it’s called the hearts matter project. Now, the logo for shielding Hearts is actually a picture of me as a little girl, I was in a cute dress. And I thought, How wonderful to be able to connect that image that that little girl as I’ve since since I can remember, I was always very nurturing, very caring, very loving, very sweet. And here she is this adult, you know, doing this work. And so I just love how it came full circle. And they were when they were like, Well, you got to find a logo, but nothing to where you would get copyright infringement or the you know, the legalities. And I said, I have the perfect logo I have this picture of, and I can just, you know, I would love to just jump into that picture and be that little girl again, because she hadn’t experienced the dysfunction, the heartache hurt, you know, everything. And so it just to be able to let her know that here, that little girl is now an adult and she is healed, and she only can what we’ve evolved to.

Victoria Volk 46:56
I love that. Had you experienced loss and grief as a child?

Susana Morell 47:01
Oh, yes. My goodness, yes. Probably the most hurtful and as loss of myself, you know, having sexual trauma. And so not knowing, I remember feeling like, you know, dirty, guilty shame, I don’t need to exist, I would hope that a car would hit me or an illness would take me or I wouldn’t wake up and, and until I was able to disclose that in junior high and get to counseling, and to be able to have somebody support me. And that’s when I said, you know, wow, this person and the supportive counselors, you know, throughout my life, before I decided to study counseling, I just said, I think I think I know what I want to do, because it almost feels like, it’s not the traditional, you’ll be okay, you know, you don’t have to talk about it. No one knows, it was, you know, that’s what family’s gonna say. But I needed more than that, because it was just so deep rooted and so much hurt. And then I was born with half a year on my left side. So having this, you know, defect and just everything that dysfunction of that and those surgeries and, and feeling like an alien and just, and then losing my grandpa that was very close to him. And then losing my aunt that was my one of my favorite aunts to cancer. So it just feels like I remember for myself as a child, every time I wanted to get back up and keep going and like life just would knock me down again and knock me down and knock me down. And you just eventually just feel like I don’t know what more I have to give. And if this is life, I don’t want to live it. And so, you know, um, I did have a suicide attempt at 18. And I tried to overdose, and I’m so glad that, you know, it was not my time. And that was not the answer. And through that recovery is where I was like, No, instead of sabotaging myself, I want to learn about this. I want to go get educated about this. And I want to be able to help people. And I think when you have that experience, you can help people and they feel very connected to you because I’m not having to tell them what I’ve been through. But they were like, Wow, you really do understand. And yes, I do. Because if I can recover, I want to encourage them and I want to help them get back to their lives and feel fulfilled. Because we’re given this life not to suffer. We’re given this beautiful life so that we can be amazing. And you know, and that we can just, you know, just feel like accomplished and just feel like we are you know this beautiful human being and we deserve to be able to live that life.

Victoria Volk 49:55
My heart is with yours and goes out to you on your life experience, and I feel like that is an origin story to be shared of shielding hearts. And I don’t recall reading any of that on your website. So I just wanted to encourage you to share that story. Because I love that image of use the little girl that you are the little girl in your logo. I think that’s beautiful.

Susana Morell 50:31
Thank you. And I appreciate you giving me that suggestion. Victoria. I’m just I think I felt like if I were to put that on the website didn’t want it to be about me. No, I wanted it to be about the health. And so now that you given me you know that feedback, it makes it feel no, it’s not about you. It’s about being having people to understand why you cared so much, why you wanted to make a difference, because you personally have been affected by it. And so I will definitely have to bring that to everybody’s attention and do an update to the website.

Victoria Volk 51:07
Definitely. I mean, that that. I didn’t know that that was you, the little girl. And so I think that’s a beautiful, like I said it’s beautiful origin story of your full circle life. Because had that suicide attempt and successful, there would be no shielding hurts. Right? That is correct. You wouldn’t have impacted over 700 children. It’s important. Thank you. What is the difference? Do you feel between? Because I think it’s important in distinct in sharing the distinction of how the hearts matter project is different. In that it includes evidence, evidence based content, right of, you know, the helping children with loss program, how have you felt, in your training personally, like the training that you were going through, you got your master’s in clinical psychology, but you actually went even with the knowledge that you had, you went through the Grief Recovery method. And I just for people listening, I just want to want you to share why that was so impactful, and why that was different than any training that you had received and why as someone who was training as a clinical psychologist, you felt that that was important for you to experience.

Susana Morell 52:33
I had never experienced the opportunity to obtain the apologies that I deserved. And that changed everything for me. You know, the person who sexually abused me as a family member, he went on to marry have daughters, I always cringed when I knew, you know, I, you know, he’s living his life. Like if like, if he didn’t, he’s done nothing wrong. And that has always killed me to be around family members and to hear his name spoken and what he’s doing because I’m like, you don’t know what monster this person is, and what he robbed of me my innocence. And I had never really fully recovered, until I did this work at, you know, the Grief Recovery method and my training, and to be able to, he’s not going to surface, he’s not going to reflect and he’s not going to redeem himself, and this lifetime with me, and knock on my door and beg for forgiveness, that’s not going to happen. So being able to hear that apology that I deserved, and that I desired allowed me to be at peace with it. And I just felt empowered. I felt just ready to just take this on and just start thinking like, How can I have others do this. And so that’s when I was just really determined. Once I acquired those skills, and I love being able to do that, in my private practice, when Grievers reached out to me and they said what will be different with this program than any other program and I explained to them, you are going to feel acknowledged, you are going to obtained these coping skills and learn a method that is really going to help you heal and to be able to help you recover. It’s not about a quick fix about putting a bandaid on it. Let’s have the emotional wound. Let’s heal once and for all so that you can feel, you know, compelled to want to get back to your life because they do they feel like they’re stuck. They feel like they’re that hamster on that wheel. It’s okay and then sometimes it gets bad and then it’s okay and sometimes it gets bad and I’m like, Let’s get off the wheel. Because that’s not where you belong. And so being able to do that in my office, I love it.

Victoria Volk 54:51
Same it is the most rewarding work that I have ever, ever done in My life as well, I Yeah, wholeheartedly 1,000% agree because being a child of sexual trauma abuse to, you will never get that apology and, and oftentimes to it, especially if someone who’s died, of course you will never right like so we we take this anger and we just we see inside. And this work really helps to soften, soften our hearts.

Susana Morell 55:31
And not just with grief and loss, I’ve now convinced the district that I’m at right now to let me work with the children that are demonstrating some inappropriate behaviors. And so you know, they get to come to the program, and come to find out that the disruption in their life is divorce, big sister Big Brother moving away to college, right, you know, moving from my house to an apartment because of financial hardship. And so I’m like, let me allow let me give these children an opportunity to process this, this could not have been easy for them. You know, it’s not that they’re ungrateful, it’s not that they’re ill mannered, they’re hurting. They want to know, how is it that one day I had a family dynamic and togetherness, and now it’s split. And this just catapults them into this, you know, just this emotional roller coaster, and they want it to stop. So I’m so glad that I’m able to work with those teams that are on probation, maybe did something on social media, that they didn’t have no idea how that would affect them. Never wanted to be on probation and the juvenile detention program. And so being able to give these children these skills is it’s, it’s amazing, because I don’t want them to be walking around with that anger, and then unresolved hurt. And so I’ve really advocated for that as well. So the program when counselors or teachers say, but I thought you were just grieving loss, a child anytime they experience any type of disruption. That is grief, it does not have to be just because it’s due to them burying somebody, it is their heart experiencing that hurt not having any reference to it. What just happened to me, that is grief and trauma for them.

Victoria Volk 57:21
And that is a huge part of our work, isn’t it? It’s just the education of of correcting that misinformation that grief is just about loss, which we know is not right. We know as an adult, you go through divorce? Well, of course you have grief with that, you know, what, who then why is it not normal, that a child would experience grief as well. So thank you for mentioning that. And I feel like that is a great way to conclude. I feel like it was a very good point you made, I love what you’ve created. And and it is my hope that it expands. And it just continues to grow. And is there anything else that you would like to share about shielding hearts, or about the hearts powder project or anything else that you would like that you didn’t get to

Susana Morell 58:12
Now I feel very comfortable with being able to explain the journey, the concept and who we are today. And I have a really great board that believes in the program. And like I said, it’s just being able to just tackle this one day at a time. And I’m not, I’m gonna stay determined, that’s what got me here, I’m gonna stay determined and just hope that this will grow because it really should be seen as life skills that these kids are just really searching for. They want to be able to feel that they can cope and move on. And they deserve that. And so that is just my hope that any any listener today will want to learn more, we’ll be able to see what resources we offer the book, the parent guide. And so just anybody who would love to be able to acquire these skills, we are here to support you.

Victoria Volk 59:08
So it is only in person, the curriculum, correct?

Susana Morell 59:12
No, the curriculum can be done online, we do have a virtual office and we can be I have been tapped in through video into classrooms and being able to offer this so we do have that virtual aspect of it as well.

Victoria Volk 59:27
Oh, glad I asked. Okay. All right. Well, there you have it. And if people want to learn more about you, or about Schilling hertz, where can they find you and reach out to you.

Susana Morell 59:38
We have it set up on the website to where if they’d like to schedule a consultation, they get to select what area they’re interested in, and then we’ll be more than happy to be in they actually have the calendar on there in the time. And then once they are able to do that, then we will be more than happy to follow up and be a able to reach out to them and see the reason for their inquiry and to be able to see how we can support.

Victoria Volk 1:00:07
But where can they find you? Online?

Susana Morell 1:00:10
Yes at www.shieldinghearts.org. And they can also find the book is on a susanamorell.com. And there’s a link there to purchase the book, it’s an E file, and the curriculum is available for purchase as well. And then when somebody does purchase the curriculum, then we can set up to where they can do the training, and they can learn how to utilize the modules. And the training is usually about 45 minutes up to an hour and 15 of your time. So any parent, any teacher, any counselor, Administrator, anybody working with children or just for personal knowledge to be able to expand on it to have this new skills, unique skills that are so beneficial, then we’ve been more than happy to set that up as well.

Victoria Volk 1:00:58
Amazing. Thank you so much, Susana, again for sharing all that you’ve created. And I love it. I love it so much. So thank you for being here today. Thank you, Victoria. All right. 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.

Ep 135 | Q & A

Q&A | Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?



The question on today’s podcast is one I have heard a lot and one I’ve also asked myself if I’m being honest.

It’s normal and natural to ask ourselves questions like this, and it doesn’t mean that you mean any ill will towards others. It also doesn’t mean other people are “bad”; bad things should happen to them instead.

I see this question as an expression of trying to make sense of tragedy or challenges. When looking at outside circumstances, when you see other people living their lives in such a way that puts them in danger or exhibits risky behavior, and nothing ever seems to happen to them, it’s normal to feel angry and even self-pity.

As you will hear in this week’s episode, I don’t have all the answers. However, I know and understand grief and the impact it has on our psyche and lives. This is just one of those questions that are difficult to answer.


What is Do Grief Differently™️?

Do Grief Differently™️ is a 12-week program that moves you beyond the pain of grief and brings to light who you are, at your core, and were before grief.  You will learn new tools, gain a tremendous amount of knowledge and awareness about yourself, and find yourself feeling lighter, hopeful, and more confident at the end of our time together. More importantly, the emotional pain of your grief will be a thing of the past.

Do Grief Differently™️ addresses the whole YOU with and without grief. Through evidence-based steps and assessments, you will better understand (and believe) that there is nothing wrong with you. There is nothing about you that needs to be fixed.

In this program and with my guidance, you remove the pain of grief, the sadness will always be there because even in complicated relationships we love but it’s the pain of grief that keeps us stuck. Are you ready to do grief differently? Check out my website wwwtheunleashedheart.com to learn more.

How Grief Manifests In Our Lives

It got me thinking about a question that I’ve heard quite often question I’ve pondered myself. And it kind of relates to snowflakes in that there are no two snowflakes that are alike. And there are no two grieving experiences that are like. It can be similar in ways in how we respond.

We worry about people. We love people. And so we have grief for other people too. Because we love them and care about them. This brings me to the question, why do bad things happen to good people? I’m not going to answer that question. Because I don’t know why.

What if we asked ourselves? Why not me? Or why not them? And I think when bad things happen? It is part of a greater lesson.

I think we all go through the hard knocks of life in our own way. Some more than others. Why is that? I don’t know. But in reflecting on my own path personal experiences and what I’ve been through. And felt like I was destined for a life of suffering from a very young age. I didn’t have a lot of hope. And perhaps those negative experiences were in essence for me to come closer to the reality of my detachment, to my own feelings, and my inability to deeply connect with those closest to me.

Because I think what happens when you’re going through really difficult or challenging experiences in your life? That’s what happens; it brings you closer, closer to yourself, to your own spirit, and soul, it might lead you down a path of spirituality you’ve never touched before. It may draw you closer to your spouse, or to your children. It may cause you to live your life more fully.

Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?

Why not? It’s an invitation that doesn’t make you feel better. It doesn’t make the emotions any easier to handle, deal with or navigate or work through any of those adjectives. It can really suck. It can drain your energy. When bad things happen. It can turn your world upside down. But perhaps the greater plan is yet to be seen. And so consider why not me? Why not them? And when those times happen, draw closer to those who want to love and support you. Make self-care your priority and know that you’re not alone.

much love, victoria

P.S. If you want to learn more about Do Grief Differently make sure you visit my website. We all ask ourselves the big questions, including “Why do bad things happen to good people?” I hold your hand today. And I send your heart the biggest hug from me to you. Lots of love and light. And if you want to dive deeper into those negative experiences you’ve had that you’re finding really difficult to find meaning in then I encourage you to reach out to me too. Sending you so much love today.





Ep 134 | Jill Batiansila

Jill Batiansila | Together, We Heal



Jill’s father walked out of their home when she was sixteen months old and didn’t return. He died in a plane crash, and her life was forever changed.

Fortunately, her mental health was of the utmost importance, having received counseling and therapy throughout her childhood and adulthood. During that time, the groundwork was being laid to prepare her, or as Jill would say, God was preparing her hands for His work. And that she did.

After finding her way from making jewelry for people celebrating special occasions to creating keepsakes in memory of loved ones, she inadvertently used her story, skills, and strengths in unexpected ways – supporting people through their grief in the co-creation of jewelry.

God told her it was time to turn her pain into purpose, and her non-profit, Together We Heal Community, was born in 2018.

One never knows where an idea will take us. Through Jill’s story, explore how she turned an idea and, more importantly, her pain into purpose.



Victoria Volk 0:01
Thank you for tuning in to grieving voices. Today my guest is Jill Batiansila. She is the founder of Together We Heal community in Elk Grove, California. She is a wife and mother of two teenage children after her biological father died in a plane crash when she was just 16 months old. She spent her childhood and early adulthood, avoiding any topic on death. In her early 40s, God flipped the switch on her heart and mission for her life and wove all her life experiences into her nonprofit, She now runs with the help of dedicated volunteers to serve those struggling with loss. And its many forums. Thank you so much, Jill, for being here and for being my first guest, as far as my new format for 2023 goes for highlighting nonprofit, not for profit organizations, foundations, things that people have created from the pain of their lives into purpose. And welcome to grieving voices.

Jill Batiansila 1:03
Thank you for having me.

Victoria Volk 1:04
I’m very interested in your story of what led to the work you’re doing today. And how that has transformed and changed over time. Did you find yourself on this path? I mean, as you described in your bio, a little bit, you’re kind of on this path for many years. But what did it look like early on? After so much loss in your life?

Jill Batiansila 1:30
First of all, my mother remarried, when I was three to my stepfather, who might Don’t call my stepfather, He is God’s gift to me. When my dad, when my biological father passed away, I was 16 months old. My mom was living out on a ranch she was she did have support, she had a lot of family support. And I think she had such a hard time grieving as a young widow, that, you know, I really became her, her source of comfort, and I received counseling. All of my childhood, I have a half brother, who’s four years younger than I am. My mom was very invested in my well being and making sure that I got the help that I needed. So I had therapy all through my childhood into my adulthood, I had a lot of trauma, I wrote my mom a letter every single night, I remember when I was in grade school, and I was so afraid that she was going to go next, I was so afraid of losing the people that I love. So I had a lot of just, I think trauma and grief growing up that A was always going to a close be, even as my family I had my own family and they grew up, I still had this thought that, oh my goodness, they’re going to go, they’re going to go next. My father died in a plane accident. One morning, he just went out and didn’t come back. And so that was that was a continued thought that that was going to happen over and over. And so I didn’t want to talk about death. I didn’t want to think about death. I had a hard time even imagining anyone else that I loved leaving. And unfortunately, because you live and when you live long enough, you you experience grief. So I lost all my grandparents, I had three sets of grandparents. And they all passed away very quickly, in a very close period of time. And I just didn’t want to think about it. I didn’t want to talk about it. Every time I talked about it, I would break down. And then I realized after many, many years of therapy, that I was still grieving. I mean, I was in my 40s driving somewhere thinking what am I doing? And that’s my purpose in life. Am I doing it yet? And the clear answer was no, I was not. But God was really weaving all of my life experiences together to make this my purpose and it it wasn’t until my 40s that I realized, oh, I need to do something with this and I need to use my pain for a purpose. That was his specific words to me. Use your pain for purpose. Now it’s time.

Victoria Volk 4:18
So what were you doing before this took root in your heart and started to evolve?

Jill Batiansila 4:23
So I actually have a degree in psychology, which I didn’t use, then went on to get a teaching credential and a master’s in education, but then and taught for a while but had children and stopped and then when my children were small, I started a jewelry business and that jewelry business was hand stamped jewelry. I taught myself how to stamp this jewelry. And it became this custom local business and people would come into my studio at home and they wanted to put something in A lot of people were coming to me because they wanted to create something as a memorial. So many of my pieces were just mother’s necklaces, important anniversaries, Valentine’s Day, Christmas gifts, initials and things like that. But I did have a growing number of people who are coming into my studio because they’ve lost someone. And I did not understand this connection at first. But over and over and over again, people will be standing in my studio with me, we are creating this piece together and writing stuff down. And within five minutes, they’re crying. And I’m hugging them, and I’m offering comfort to them. And I’m thinking, what is happening? This is this is not my platform. This was not what I was supposed to do. But God knew better. He was weaving all of my life experiences, my psychology degree, my teaching degree, being a mother being a Griever. Together, I remember talking to my life coach at the time, and I was saying, I I don’t know if I should continue with this jewelry business, you know, my children are growing up, and am I missing things? And I just feel like maybe this is not what I’m supposed to do. And we talked a little bit about my history, my grief. And she said, Why don’t you use what you have? And just start something, start somewhere. And so that’s what I did. I mean, it, it really was the jewelry business was the vessel to the nonprofit. And I still do the jewelry business, but but it is not my heart anymore. And my I really have become comfortable with the idea that maybe the jewelry business paved the way because it got me here. And this is this is my heart. This is what I am meant to do.

Victoria Volk 6:53
I love that story. And I’m curious if you personally felt like a failure when you decided to in that business or if other people made the assumption that you had failed in some way?

Jill Batiansila 7:08
That is such a good question. Because I’ve struggled with that for the last year. Starting the nonprofit is I’m obviously it’s a grassroots organization. And I am a lot of I wear a lot of the hats. And I had this conversation with one of my best friends just a couple of weeks ago that I do. I don’t like to quit anything. And I haven’t officially quit the jewelry business website is still up, I still get orders, I still actually use a lot of my pieces. I’ve made Memorial bracelets that people that kits that people can put together and there’s paperwork to fill out about their favorite memories of their loved ones. So I I definitely praying about when if and when this completely goes away, the jewelry business goes away. But I do know that the nonprofit has gotten to a point where I can’t do it all myself and I do have an amazing executive board. And I have wonderful volunteers that helped me in different areas, the nonprofit, but I know that I can’t have asked this. So if I’m doing these two things one is going to give and it’s just been the jewelry business has been fading. I definitely went through a period of time where I felt like, Oh, this isn’t this isn’t what I first envisioned the jewelry business to be. But through talking with friends talking with my therapist, it is it wasn’t a failure at all. It was a success because it it led me to Together We Heal community. And I didn’t know that was the end result. But God did.

Victoria Volk 8:47
I bring that up because there was I’m a child grievers. Well, my dad passed away when I was eight. But there was a period of time I had a photography business very much like your creative outlet business. And I found myself writing, I would write blog posts about my clients and people would comment more about my writing than they did the pictures, although there are beautiful pictures and they love the pictures. But I always got comments about the writing people loved what I had to share how I saw them, right like young 1718 year old girls, I would write about what I saw in them or families or a wedding couple. And it was storytelling is what I was doing. And they loved reading how I perceived them. And I had decided to start a blog, a personal blog and decided I needed to close that business. I felt a calling for something more kind of like you right and I do have a point and bring this up this podcast isn’t about me. It’s about you. But I want people listening to understand that when we find our purpose The path there doesn’t always make sense, right? And so when closing that business, I felt like a failure. And I felt, and people thought I failed to. But I knew that I had to let that go in order for something else, to make room for this other thing that was really burning inside of me. And that was writing. And I wrote a book. And that led to some losses in between, which made me realize, oh, my gosh, I’m not okay, I was fine. For a lot of years, I thought I was fine. Which led to me becoming a grief counselor, and, you know, so it’s like, Everything leads to the next thing, nothing is wasted.

Jill Batiansila 10:43
No, that is, I think that’s been a very big component of together to heal community is letting certain things go so that other things can come up and be brought to the light brought to the surface. We do, I think we have a lot of expectations about ourselves. Growing up, whether it’s, you know, just things the expectations that were put on us, or if you’re like me, I have my own expectations that I obviously need to let go in order for other things to come to fruition.

Victoria Volk 11:12
And life has a way of putting those things confronting us with those things, right, that we need to work through so that we can get to that point of seeing the opportunity and recognizing the potential within ourselves.

Jill Batiansila 11:26
And I will add that throughout my journey with my jewelry business, I did blog a little bit. And that also helped me realize my true purpose. And I was never the only time I was ever truly passionate like I am with Together We Heal community was when I was writing stories, the stories behind the pieces that I was making. And I love doing that don’t get me wrong. I love helping people through their stories in creating jewelry. It’s just just blazed a trail for me to start together, we heal community. And when I talk about people, and I talk to people about the nonprofit, I feel like that passion really comes out. It’s so easy to tell my story now, because my story is not unlike a lot of people’s story. They just don’t know it yet. They think I’m alone, I’m, I’m the only one experiencing this. I don’t want to burden anybody else with this because they’re happy. And I’m the one that stuck here. But the more you tell your story, the more people open up about their own.

Victoria Volk 12:40
Or find an outlet to release the story. Yes, to tap into the feelings of what actually you’ve experienced. And I think that’s the thing is, so often we get caught up in the story. We recite it like a recipe card while and then this happened. And then and then and then. And we don’t really get to the nitty gritty of of how it’s making us feel and the impact it’s had on us. I want to ask you a question, because I think it’s important for those listening, because you mentioned unlike me, you had therapy, much of your life, most of your life all through childhood. I mean, again, nothing is wasted. But I’m just more curious, because of what I do is deal with grief specifically. Do you feel like it wasn’t helpful for your grief? Specifically? I don’t know. Do you still see a therapist? Do you mind me asking?

Jill Batiansila 13:28
Yes, I do. She’s amazing. And I would not be where I am today. If I if I didn’t have her. In fact, I think I see her tomorrow.

Victoria Volk 13:37
And that’s not a failure, either. Right? Because you’re seeing a therapist, that doesn’t mean you’re like, broken or messed up or.

Jill Batiansila 13:43
Well, number one, we’re all broken. We’re all broken. And I don’t sugarcoat that there are parts in our life that break us. And I don’t think that we’re truly healed until we’re that brokenness is is wide open for us to see. And I am a big proponent of therapy. You don’t have to be depressed. You don’t have to be at rock bottom to seek counseling. Now, I think counseling is is complicated because number one, I think people think I don’t need to tell someone my problem. I know what they’re going to say. And it’s expensive to be expensive right now. And in our world. There is a shortage of them. Finally seek one you’re often just met with walls. You know, oh, it’s a three month waiting period. Oh, I’m not taking new clients. Oh, you know, or, or you get to a therapist. And it’s been, it’s been a difficult journey to get there and then you don’t like them. So people often think I had one therapy. It was one therapy session. It was terrible. Okay. I always say try therapy. If you don’t like the person. You can give them up. You can try someone new. My therapist knows me you She is by the books. You know, she does not commingle personnel, even though I have her cell phone. And she’s connected me with a bunch of other therapists, she draws the line with, you know, professional and personal. I’ve seen her for, I don’t know, 15 years off and on, sometimes I would go every, every other week. Sometimes I go every, every once a year just as maintenance about maintenance, and it’s healthy. Sometimes I’m driving there, and I’m thinking, I don’t know what I’m going to talk to her about today. And then I just spew my guts for an hour, and I feel so much lighter. And she has this perspective that I don’t have. So it’s important, I think, but I don’t think therapy is necessarily for everyone. And that’s okay. You need to find an outlet. And that’s one of the reasons why we offer and I know we can get into that later, but we offer outside of the box opportunities to heal because not everybody wants to go to therapy, they look at therapy, and they go no, no, no. Okay. There’s there’s a myriad of other ways that we can help you.

Victoria Volk 16:04
Absolutely. And I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of Grief Recovery. Have you?

Jill Batiansila 16:08
Not specifically Grief Recovery? Is that a method? is a method The Grief Recovery method? Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.

Victoria Volk 16:18
That is the one thing that helped me, I did have a, I did attend therapy sessions in my early 20s, hypnotherapy, things like that. And much like what you mentioned, like my experience was not beneficial for me. But I think we come into our own time, when we might be ready for something like that. I think too, sometimes we aren’t ready to hear it. We aren’t ready to really dig deep. And I can tell you then in my early 20s, I certainly was not ready. And so I think we all have our own time and that when that happens, but

Jill Batiansila 16:54
I agree. And I think that as a griever. Our society doesn’t know how to deal with grief, we don’t know how to talk about it. We don’t know how to come alongside someone. In their grief, we don’t know, we’re uncomfortable with hard conversations. So often people are afraid to express to the Griever that I don’t know how to help you. And sometimes that is just sit with me. Or there’s a timeline to grief, you know, it’s it’s been a year right? You’re good, right? You you got through the first anniversary, you’re good. I don’t know how to help you, I expect you to be okay. And then they they start, you know, they’re back to their regular life. And so it’s important for people to not compare where they are in their grief with anybody else’s. And the other point that I make to people who are grieving is you don’t owe anybody any explanation as to where you are in your grief, I have come across people who are very stuck. And I don’t see them pulling themselves out of that. And there is frustration with the people around them that are trying to help them out and are invested in helping them with their grief. But grief can’t be fixed. But we can go through it. We can go through it on the other side. I myself have experienced that grief and joy at the same time. But we cannot compare even if it’s five years down the road, where we’re somebody else’s and five years later. Grief is so individual.

Victoria Volk 18:29
That’s exactly why I started this podcast grieving voices to educate people on how one they can move through it themselves, and to how they can learn through people’s stories, how to support other people and like this year, highlighting how people have moved through it themselves and now are supporting humanity on a greater scale. And it doesn’t have to be this grand thing, right? I’ve never heard of Together We Heal with community. And so this is part of my own curiosity to like, what, what is out there? What resources and what, what wonderful things are people doing? And so it’s out of my own pure curiosity to have that I’ve decided to make that a focus of my podcast this year. So let’s talk about how this started. Because you had no experience right? Yeah.

Jill Batiansila 19:22
I had to do it again. No, I my only experience was grief. I’m a people person. I’m a connector. And I just knew I needed to start with a platform where it was everything that’s out there about grief in one in one place. So I brought together some people who are willing to start a website with me and we divided it into different areas of grief you know, loss of a spouse, loss of parent loss of a child loss of divorce loss through suicide, and we tried to make it this complex. hence a website that encompassed everything that’s out there in the Sacramento area and into one place. So my goal is to really make Together We Heal community, a starting point. And you know, I’m the first to say, I am not a licensed clinician, but I am an experienced Griever. And I think that counts for a lot. And so we started with this website. And it took us about two years to build. And everyone who wrote the pages on the website, were an experienced graver in that area, my dear friend wrote who wrote the miscarriage page, she has experienced two miscarriages. And what she found actually, as a closed off person was after she wrote that page, and then started meeting people in her arena that that avidex had experienced miscarriage, she could easily talk about it, it was healing for her, and she realized that so many women experienced miscarriage. So we started the website. And then my next step was okay, let’s start getting some things going in Elk Grove, because I, our community is close knit. But there isn’t, there isn’t a lot out there to help Grievers. And I just really wanted to touch on different experiences, you know, somatic mindfulness, you know, when we experience grief, where do we feel it in our bodies? And how can we, how can we tackle grief from the side, you know, you don’t have to talk about grief, but just come here and be with us. Come and be with other gravers. So we then started a grief support group, we started different workshops that are that are healing and easy to come to you. There’s no pressure when you come to any of these, we call them workshops. It’s just come as you are and get this gift of this amazing people. But amazing people have come into this. And a lot of my facilitators don’t even charge Together We Heal community for their time, they’re also of service I have attracted people who want to give back and I’m so blessed to have those people come alongside me and, and create these services for our community. So we have a writing as a healing art. And you can come come to that class and write about anything, it doesn’t have to be about your grief, you’re given a writing prompt. The facilitator is a Griever herself. But she’s also a retired writing professor and super fun and she buries bring snacks, and she gives us some prompts. And we can write about anything we want. And we can share if we want and we don’t. But we most of us end up sharing, we have yoga nidra, which is mindfulness, you’re literally laying on a blanket with a pillow, and you’re being led through scanning your body, and where you hold your grief. It’s Joe Weston of breathing space has been a dear friend and confidant in this organization. And she leaves that once a month. She doesn’t charge me I have restorative yoga, we’re having a decluttering through grief class this this month are always finding new opportunities for people to come and just experience with no expectations.

Victoria Volk 23:29
And for those listening, this is in only in person like in the Sacramento area correct?

Jill Batiansila 23:34
Most of our offerings are in person. We do have some that are on Zoom. For instance, next month, Joe Weston is going to do her yoga nidra session on zoom so that other people in other areas can experience that are decluttering through grief, which is actually this Wednesday is on Zoom. I have people attending it who are in Colorado and other parts of California. So in though in the winter, we hold them at our space in Elk Grove in the summer, we hold a lot of workshops out at our farm where we grow flowers, which is another another part of the conversation.

Victoria Volk 24:10
No, I’m actually bringing up right now because I saw that in your information. And I think that’s a beautiful idea. So please share.

Jill Batiansila 24:17
It’s one of my favorite parts of this in the summer. We grow flowers out on a local farm, a dear friend of mine, Cliff Wilcox, who’s going to be at this year. Lets me grow flowers, and we give them away all summer long. It’s our outreach portion of Together We Heal community. It gets people involved in being outside we have lots of volunteer opportunities for people to go out there and plant and weed and arrange and deliver flowers. We have different businesses in Elk Grove that are willing to take those jars during the summer on a weekly basis. We bring 10 to 20 jars to a couple places around Elk Grove and people can pick them up for Free. And it’s just a way of encouraging people to start a conversation. So you can walk in, grab a jar, if you want to leave a donation, you can, but we don’t. We don’t ask for that. And it’s, it’s an opportunity for them to bring flowers to someone who they know are experiencing stress or anxiety loss doesn’t have to be through grief through death. But we’re all grieving something right now. We live in this broken world. And with everything that’s happened in the last couple of years, all the uncertainty, there’s so much grief, there’s loss of normalcy. So the flowers are a way to say, I’m not sure what to say to you. But here’s some flowers. And Aren’t they pretty, and they were grown for you. Everybody that put these together had you in mind for them. And I’m thinking of you. And I’m here, the flowers are started by seed about now right now we’re underwater because it’s, it’s been a tumultuous January. And we will have to start from scratch scratch. It’s looking pretty muddy out there right now. But we grow them by seed. And then it during the summer, we have you pick days, so people can go out there and pick them themselves. And I will tell you, it’s magic. That place out there. The farm Cliff Wilcox lets me do whatever I want. He doesn’t charge me because he’s so sweet. And I love him. And we have our wellness retreats out there, we had a wonderful wellness retreat in the fall. And we’re having another one in April. And that wellness retreat was just come and be here with us. We had massage and yoga, we had nutritional components, we had the writing, and it was catered music, and it was beautiful. And and people just got to be outside and and be open to new experiences that they wouldn’t have normally found. And so that is a lot of what we do. Also it is if you trust us, we trust the people. And it’s a it’s a safe space, and just come and experience it for 45 minutes. And if you don’t like it, you never have to do it again. But maybe it will be your saving grace.

Victoria Volk 27:10
For those listening who are might be thinking, oh my gosh, this speaks to me, I would love to do something like this. But I feel so overwhelmed. Where do I even start and you kind of spoke to how it started for you. But for those who are thinking that this could be something for them right for making purpose out of their pain, a nonprofit, not for profit, things like that. How do you make money, right? Because it’s not for profit, but how do you how does it fund itself? I mean, that might be a big question for that it might have.

Jill Batiansila 27:42
It is and I will tell you I am I am the first to say I do not fundraise well, but we are funded all by donors, all by donors. So and my my executive board and I are working on how do we do that better. But our story entices people to be a part of this. So we’ve got local organizations that want to be a part of this. It’s something that is needed. And it’s something that I think our not just our community, but all communities lack is that support. And so we have recurring donors that we we would love to have more recurring donors, because it’s a small portion, you know, it’s $10 a month, it’s $20 a month, it’s whatever you want. And then we do have some big one time donors who are part of big day of giving, which we’re excited, this is the second year that we get to be a part of big day of giving, which isn’t a day for people to just remember, they’re nonprofits that they have a heart string to, and be a part of that I want people to want to be a part of together, we heal community. Most of our our costs are very low. Our classes that we offer, sometimes they’re free, sometimes they’re $5, our new pick days, generate a little bit of money or wellness retreat, generate a tiny bit, but we really rely on donors who want to be a part of this who who want to put their name on together, we heal community. And I think that’s the neat part about it is you can be the reason why people get help. There are people that that have money to give and they don’t know where to give it or that or they’re not invested because emotionally invested. I think part of that tied together with heal community is I want to be a part of that. That’s something that is not done. And in grief work in general. I’ve had people ask me, Why do you want to do this all the time? Because I’m here in my grief for a short period of time. I don’t want to stay here. So why why are you doing this? Because this is hard work emotionally, too. When people contact Together We Heal community. It’s me. I’m the first person that ever reach. And it’s hard sometimes. And my answer is, that’s because God put this on my heart. So he has enabled me to have this first touch with people. And, and I’m not the endpoint, I’m just the connector. I’m let’s start here together, I won’t leave you, I’m not going to abandon you. Because I think a lot of people have been abandoned in their grief, they’re alone, their family doesn’t want to talk about it. They can’t find that help. Through the mental health world, you know, therapists are booked. So I’m here as yours land, their first landing point, but I’m not your endpoint.

Victoria Volk 30:42
I love that. And I love how you, I just want to highlight something you said and that if someone who’s listening, if this isn’t something that’s maybe meant for you to create an organization such as you did, you can still volunteer for an organization like this and find some purpose and meaning through your own story, but in giving to others, right?

Jill Batiansila 31:06
Yes, I think it is an overwhelming process to think about starting your own nonprofit. But I think where you can start is in your community, find nonprofits that are already doing it, and just just say, I’m here. Let’s start. Let’s start at Ground Zero. But I’m here and I want to give back and and start from there.

Victoria Volk 31:26
Well, here’s the thing I want to highlight too, is that we all have our own unique strengths. And so even if you aren’t sure, like, Well, I’m not really sure what my gift is, or what my what my thing is about me that is, is awesome. I think you’d find that as you start, you know, it’s like follow the cure your curiosity, follow the nudges, if you feel nudged to, you know, check into something, follow that nudge, follow the curiosity that has been placed within you, right?

Jill Batiansila 31:59
Yes. And I think acknowledge that it might be bigger than you if you feel, you know, I am a very strong Christian, and I pray about every single step I’ve made. Am I Is this what you want me to do God? Is this it? And then asking him again? And again, every single step? Am I doing this? Am I doing this? Selfishly, or am I doing it for someone else, and I asked myself that, because in the end, it’s not sustainable, if I’m doing it for, for myself, has to be for, for others. If God has given me a heart of service, I need to serve it. It fills my cup to serve others to if it’s just one person. And and I’m finding that on I know, it’s weird that social media has been a catalyst to get more people to what we’re offering, what good is it if you’re offering something and nobody’s taken advantage of it? But but our like, Instagram has been a way of finding people all over the world. You know, I look at my, my insights. And I think, wow, I reached somebody in South Africa today. That’s amazing.

Victoria Volk 33:11
I feel the same way. Even this podcast alone, it’s on every continent. And it’s humbling, because it’s something like just an idea. It starts with an idea. And you never know where it’s gonna take you. Yeah. So through your work, and through your own personal experience, what are some unhelpful and hurtful things that hurt you? deeply as you were working through your grief? And I know you had a therapist throughout your life and tech could help you through those things.

Jill Batiansila 33:40
I would say I’m unapologetic about how I feel I’m an open book. If people don’t like how I feel like, I kind of it doesn’t bother me as much. I have. I have had a lot of family members, say, after a death that we had experienced that they should just get over it. Just get over it. It’s been it’s been long enough. It’s been long enough. Why don’t you Why don’t you just move on? And I think that’s been that’s a trigger for a lot of people. Why are you at this point yet? Why aren’t you at that point yet? You know, I’m fine. I’ve gotten over it. The whole you should get over it. Thinking is is very hurtful. So I would say that’s the biggest trigger is that you’re not where someone thinks that you should be. And again, you don’t owe anybody any explanations as to where you are in your in your journey. And I know Germany is a cliche word but it really is a journey. Its ups and downs. It is you’re fine and then you smell somebody’s perfume and it catapults you back. So I think just being strong in in your your process is important to remember because you will have people that do not understand It is not it is not for you.

Victoria Volk 35:02
I think sometimes to people who because I experienced that as well, you know, especially I think with child Grievers especially, I mean, you’ve we’ve been as children, we’ve carried this our entire lives practically. And so people can easily say, oh, you should be over it by now. I mean, that happened when you were a child, you know. And I think what’s interesting is that, and I, I know this specifically, for myself, I had someone say that to me. And what’s interesting is that person has, that persons who passed away the mutual person has their cologne, in the cupboard, in their bathroom. And I thought, that’s interesting. So you never really know the people that are saying those things really could be judging themselves, I should be over it. So you should be over it too. But I’m not. But I’m going to tell you you should be projecting your pain.

Jill Batiansila 36:02
Exactly. And not everybody knows how to really process that. So just like, like any child with a wound, often that wound becomes a way that you that you hurt others.

Victoria Volk 36:16
And so what has your grief taught you?

Jill Batiansila 36:19
That God has made us resilient beings, I’ve spent a lot of time whoring myself over my grave reading, reading the Bible names, my grief has taught me lean on the Lord, the human beings in our world, whether we’re extremely close to them, or their enemies, because they’ve said things that hurt us, human beings are going to disappoint us. So my grief has taught me trust the Lord, read over his word, lean into Him, and He will guide you. So he has guided me in one of my prayers when God set this on my heart. And I literally know the moment that God set this on my heart. And he said, use your pain for purpose. It’s time. He said, You stay in your lane, I’ll bring the right people at the right time. And that that is very important, I will bring the people to you, at the right time, not in my time. So I think that there is a reason why I it’s taken me this long to start this organization, I have had to and I use this word often with people, sometimes you just have to sit and marinate with it. Marinate in your grief, it’s an awful place to be. But without, without that acknowledgement you’re not going to heal. So he has brought because I’ve leaned on the Lord and, and waited for him. He has brought me it’s a gift. I meet someone new through someone else, the power of networking, the power of networking, but God’s the boss of networking. And I’ll meet someone and after I just kind of sit and think, Well, I could have never done that on my own. Never, I could have never met that person. I cannot believe I just met that person. And look at all the good we’re gonna do together. He this person is going to make my organization better.

Victoria Volk 38:30
I love that. I love how you said that. God is the boss of networking. That might be your quotable for this episode. I love it. So let me ask you this, what has what have you learned about yourself? In starting Together We Heal community.

Jill Batiansila 38:49
I will say this. I have been dreaming about this wellness retreat out the farm for probably three and a half years. And last summer. I told my people, all of my volunteers, all of the people that are involved in Together We Heal community. I said we’re gonna make this happen this year. And we threw together together in about three months. And afterwards, one of one of the facilitators came up to me and she said, you know, I’ll be honest, I penciled this in because I thought there’s no way but what I learned is, oh, Jill’s doing it. This is gonna happen. And so I have a lot more confidence in myself that if I follow God’s lead, and do the things that he’s telling me to do, I will not fail. It is I just know God God and I prayed about this. And God said do this, though. I know he’s gonna make it happen. And and so I have learned that I can get a lot accomplished. I am squirrel, I am self proclaimed ADHD child, but I can get a lot done. And a lot of that is because has got an idea that together, God brought in the people, God, God, God brought in the donors. And so God’s leading this. So I, this is this is happening. So not doubt myself, do not I don’t doubt myself.

Victoria Volk 40:15
And that’s great advice for others as well.

Jill Batiansila 40:19
I hope so,

Victoria Volk 40:20
Is there anything else about Together We Heal community or your story, anything we didn’t get a chance to share that you would like to add?

Jill Batiansila 40:32
Well, since we’re on the topic of starting nonprofits, you know, one of my pieces of advice is you can have big goals, but you need to start small. Don’t overwhelm yourself with the end result, start with what you have. First, you can have your five year goals seven year goal and know that that goal will change. When I first started this, I thought it was going to be all for children, because I was a childhood Griever. And so that’s my soft spot is how do we help children that that are needing help, but maybe their parents or guardians don’t know how to get them that help? So I first thought everything I was going to do was just for kids. And, and that now that’s something that I look back at and think oh, well, we didn’t do that at all. Are we going to do that next? Are we so start small, God will bring the right people into place when it’s time. But you start start with what you what you can do at the moment. The flowers started with, I asked the farmer, Hey, can I grow some flowers, I’m not even really sure why. But I just want to, and he said sure. And I threw a hose down a 300 foot row and I grew flowers and weeds. And I picked them myself. And I arranged them and I gave them to my neighbors and my friends and just thought I don’t know what I’m doing. But let’s do this. And now last year, we had over 1600 feet of flowers. We gave away 650 jars ish more, and no idea was going to be doing that. So it’ll be open. But start small.

Victoria Volk 42:17
I want to share something you said just kind of piggyback it because even though you haven’t, your services and what you’ve done haven’t like tailored to children, I think the biggest impact that we can have on children and their grief is as adults, we learn how to process our own. And we we actually do work on our own stuff. Because in doing so we become better parents, we become better individuals in the community. We know how to better support children in their grief, we learn through our own processing, how to better support children, I think really, truly I mean, it starts in the home. And so as if you’re, I can just attest to myself, and maybe you can too is I was a raging mom, because I had a lot of unprocessed grief and a lot of unprocessed anger. And as you become a parent, it brings up all of your insecurities. So to starting a business, right? And I’m sure that starting this nonprofit, it brings up everything, it’s so confronting. And you have no choice but to deal with it or become this. It brings out aspects of you that you are proud of.

Jill Batiansila 43:35
Yes. And, again, I’m a parent of two, oh my goodness, let your children see you cry. Let your children see you be broken. I think that’s important. Now you don’t need to be a hot mess. 24/7 But I think it’s important for them to see you be Human Being human means you’re going to hurt. That expectation that everything’s going to always be okay is not realistic. So how do I show my kids how I’ve coped with with the pains of life. So be open. Don’t be afraid to have those conversations with your kids. Let them see you cry. Oh my goodness. Let them see you cry and let them see you. Work through your struggles and have an open dialogue with them. You know, by him. I’m always telling my kids, if you need, you know, it can be messy. Tell me what’s on your mind. I sit with them. My husband and I pray with them. We have devotions. You know life is raw. And I think it’s important for our kids to see us in that raw mode. You cannot protect your children from pain. You can’t protect yourself from pain, but we need to talk about it. We need to have an open dialogue and it’s ugly.

Victoria Volk 44:54
And we can become better equipped. Absolutely. There are there is knowledge out there. or pick up the book, The Grief Recovery handbook? For starters. I need that book. Yeah, understand grief itself, because as we’ve talked about at the beginning of this episode, which is this is a great way to tie it up is that we simply do not know what to do with it. And so as an adult, if you are angry, and you have a child who is expressing anger on a consistent basis, there are only a mirror. Yes, there are only being a mirror. Don’t be surprised, then when your child is angry if you are an angry parent, and there is the grief that is unprocessed there.

Jill Batiansila 45:37
I think it’s also important to tell them tell children that just because I am dealing with it this way, maybe what sounds what sounds good to you to start, what are you comfortable with starting, you know, I always talk about possibly starting a journal or doing art therapy, let’s get color crayons, depending on their ages. Let’s just get out. But everybody does process grief differently. And that’s important for them to know, hey, I, this is how I deal with grief. And, and but it might not be how you’re most comfortable with dealing with it. So what what do you feel like doing? You know, and and, you know, there, there are lots of ways to word it, because everybody has a different personality and you knew your children best but, but it’s important to know to, for them to find their own unique way that they can process their grief, or their stress or the anxiety. You know, that’s that’s all big, big words right now is anxiety. We’re all having a little bit of that.

Victoria Volk 46:36
And it’s grief.

Jill Batiansila 46:38
And the loss of the loss of that you can you know, walk out the door and expect certain things that’s no longer there.

Victoria Volk 46:46
Yeah, loss of hopes, dreams and expectations and anything we wish would be different, better or more is grave. Yes. So thank you so much for being here and for the work that you’re doing and in your community and the information that you’re sharing and your gift of creating purpose from your pain. Thank you so much.

Jill Batiansila 47:07
Thank you for letting me share.

Victoria Volk 47:09
And remember when you unleash your heart, you unleash your life. Much love.


Ep 133 | Q&A

Q&A | Why Am I Struggling More With My Spouse’s Death Than My Parents’ Death?




In this first Q&A episode, Ruth asks why she’s struggling more with her spouse’s death than the death of her parents.

In my response, I share a perspective you may find helpful when considering your losses.

Whether you’ve been married for five, fifteen, or forty years, or your parents died when you were young or in your fifties, death may finalize the physical relationship; however, the emotional relationship carries on.

I’d love to answer your question on the podcast. Submit your Q to my email at [email protected] with “Q for Grieving Voices” in the subject line. I will only use your first name — or no name if you prefer!



First Episode of the Q&A Podcast Episode

This is my first episode of the Q&A format. And I’m in the background working on some interviews with upcoming guests regarding the new format, which is featuring guests who have started, organizations, foundations, nonprofits, not-for-profits, things on a grander scale, maybe even had a law passed all of this in response to their grief or loss experience. So I’m excited for those conversations to be shared coming up. But today, again, is a q&a.

A Question From Ruth

And this is a question coming from a listener named Ruth from El Paso, Texas. And she asks, “My mother, father, and husband all died within three months of each other. I miss them so much. But why am I having such a hard time dealing with the loss of my husband than that of my parents, I cry every day about him, not my parents is this normal?”

Victoria’s Answer

So we never compare losses. And it’s very common to hear people report that the death of their spouse affected them emotionally, more, or for a much longer time than their parents is death. Now, there is a kind of logic to that. And even though emotions can’t be measured in logical or rational terms, in long-term marital relationships, you’ve chosen to be with your partner every day, sometimes for many years, perhaps 40,50, 60, or more. And the effect of that amount of time with another person is almost like joining two people together. And when one of them dies, it can literally feel like losing a piece of your body. Now on the other hand, as we get older, we also have very long-term relationships with our living parents, which are as many years as we’ve been alive. If you’re 60, you have a 60-year relationship with your 85-year-old mother. However, there’s usually a major difference between your relationship with a parent and the one with your spouse. Most of us move away from home after high school or college and go off to build our careers and our families. So even though we may have a 60-year relationship with a parent, we usually only lived with them for the first 18 to 22 years of our lives. Whereas with spouses we’ve spent nearly every day for 10,15, or 40 years with that person, and the bond even with a spouse we may have bickered with for much of the time, is incredibly strong.

It may seem obvious, but it still has to be said that the nature of marriage differs from the relationships between parents and children. Even when marriage doesn’t last many decades, the nature and intensity of marital relationships are different intense than other relationships and can produce overwhelming emotions of grief when one partner dies. None of that is said to diminish or minimize the amount of love and other feelings we have for our parents. It’s normal to cry every day over the death of a spouse. This response to loss usually stops for most people after a few weeks or months. The problem is that there is no set time that would apply to everyone as to how long daily crying should last. If this is something that concerns you, you may be stuck in your grief. And I would suggest taking Grief Recovery actions in regard to all three relationships. And as you do so, the crying will diminish and fond memories will not turn painful.

This may also explain for many of you why it’s so difficult to feel joy, even when you are experiencing what would typically be a joyful experience. If you’re being reminded of your loved one in those moments of joy, then the pain of the loss floods in suddenly you feel guilty for feeling joy and are likely pulled back to a past memory which may or may not have been painful. This happens too when we are filled with guilt, remorse, or regret around the relationship. Perhaps this is where the term complicated grief and I use that in air quotes comes from. It’s not complicated. It’s just grief. The label isn’t helpful and I think it sets people up for losing hope are also comparing their losses to those of others, possibly even minimizing the loss of others.

Have you caught yourself saying well at least you have your parents, or well, at least you didn’t lose everyone you love within three months?

Well, at least at least if you allow yourself to be open to new knowledge around grief, which is the foundation of my one-on-one program, Do Grief  Differently and group programs, you will see that it is possible to move forward in your life even after the losses of the three most influential relationships in your life.

much love, victoria

P.S. Did you find this episode helpful? Please leave a review. It shows me that you want to hear more episodes like this one. And if you’re interested in participating in a Grief Recovery Group I love to walk a maximum of eight hurting hearts through their incredibly powerful, evidence-based program that transformed not only my life and heart but also of countless others. My client Angela shared this with me recently. “For the first time, I’m feeling more free to be me than I’ve ever felt.” My friends, that is the perfect testimonial in a nutshell for this program. If you have a question, please email it to me at [email protected] and put “Q” for grieving voices in the subject line and I will answer it on the show anonymously if you prefer.

Ep 132 | A Podcast Announcement

A Podcast Announcement



What is to come in 2023 for Grieving Voices? Tune in to this episode to find out all of the details.

Before you listen, I want to share that this episode came to be after months and months of stewing and contemplation, trying to logically come to a resolution of what to do about Grieving Voices. Should I stop podcasting? Take a sabbatical? I wasn’t sure, and the answer certainly was not coming to me quickly, at least one that felt entirely right. And I realize that’s because I was solely relying more on logic and less on my heart.

So, with focused attention and intention, I went on a silent retreat for 15 minutes (i.e., meditating without any background sound). I set an intention going into it, and the answers to the questions came to me quickly and effortlessly. If you’ve never tried this, I highly recommend it. I’ve meditated many times; however, setting an intention first adds an intangible, powerful energy to the process.

Moving forward, I will be working on a project to bring how grievers turned their pain into purpose in a way that serves humanity and society as a whole. They have created a non-profit, not-for-profit, foundation, organization, or form of technology. These episodes will be “Pain to Purpose” episodes. The intention is to share these resources I find with you while bringing hope in what’s possible when we embrace the pain and mold it into something new. Doing so can be so healing, not only for yourself but also for others on a bigger scale. These are stories of creating positive ripples despite the grief.

GUEST REQUEST: If you have turned your pain into purpose by creating a non-profit, not-for-profit organization, foundation, or technology and are willing to share your personal story of the journey to doing so, please apply to be a guest! 

Another aspect of the podcast moving forward will be to follow up with previous guests from the past two and a half years in “Where Are They Now” episodes.

And finally, shorts on answering listeners’ questions in “My A to Your Q” episodes. I’m not committing to an episode every Tuesday, but if there is a new episode, it will still go live on Tuesdays.

Also, listen to this week’s episode, where I share some behind-the-scenes life stuff with a few lessons thrown in for good measure. I ask a question, too, that is perfect for a New Year episode!

I hope you stick with me if you’ve been around a while or are a new listener. I’m excited to shake things up for the podcast in 2023! Let’s create some 2023 magic! ✨



A Busy Week For Me & Attending My Aunt’s Funeral

Good morning, good afternoon, or good evening. whatever time it is when you were listening to this episode, thank you for being here and for listening and tuning in to grieving voices. I am your host, Victoria V. And today’s episode is late being posted. So if you were eager to hear today’s episode at 3am, when he usually get posted, and you are disappointed, I am so sorry to have caused any disappointment. Because it has been a crazy week, I had a funeral to attend, have a very dear person in my heart. It was my aunt. She lived a full 97 years. But you know, 97 years she was more like a grandmother to me. And I have very fond memories of growing up with my aunt in my life. And she made the best slosh ever, she had given me the recipe I had tried it and just never could perfect it the way that she had. So that was happening. Also, there were some basketball games that were thrown in the mix that weren’t previously scheduled. And all that in the midst of also paperwork and things in my day job. And I had to prep for my family coming, because it was my turn to host Christmas, which we usually do over New Year’s just happens to work better for all of us with families and you know, even larger extended families now that we’re getting older, and our kids, you know, are having their own lives and things like that. So anyway, I do apologize for this episode being published late, two and a half years, it’s the first time ever, and it pains me that that happened. But nonetheless, I am here. And you’re here listening. And so let’s get on with it.

The Passion Planner

What I want to talk about today is, firstly, I do want to say Happy New Year, and Happy 2023. We’ve made it through 2022. Hopefully unscathed, I know there’s probably been bumps and challenges along the road in 2022. I am excited to be done with 2022. It was kind of this rollercoaster ride for me personally, and maybe for you too. And so I hope that you have taken some time to reflect on 2022. Because it can be easy to think about only the bad stuff or the negative things that have happened. If you are in a better place, though today, maybe a little emotionally more resilient because of it. Or can think about what you’ve learned from that experience to move you forward to maybe choose differently in the future. I think we’re better for it. We’re better for those challenges in times, even if they suck at the moment, right. But I had a social post about this actually, I use the Passion Planner, which I absolutely love. I love adding stickers to it brings out the kid in me, it helps to keep me organized, you know, with all the stuff going on in my life the past week or and to actually the past two weeks, it’s been a huge benefit to me to have the Passion Planner. Because it helps to keep me focused, gives me space to check in with myself each week. What are the good things happening?

This week might have sucked a little bit, but whatever the what were the sun shiny spots that I can really hang on to and appreciate. And so I did that. I took some time. And I did that last week to really look at where this post I made really look at what were the good things that happened in 2022. And there were a lot. And it was such a great exercise for me to really appreciate the highs and the lows. Because there will be both. It’s inevitable. But to really look at all of the good things. They’re not even big. They’re not even big things, accomplishments, or things I learned about myself. It was so satisfying, and it was empowering. And it was a really great reflective tool for me to appreciate what I learned, what I went through what I experienced, and how I can carry that with me into 2023 and maybe even expand on some of those things and those experiences. How do I want to push that even further? How do I want to expand on that? Especially thinking about that with this podcast, which is also kind of part of the reason why this is late because I have been really torn, quite honestly, as to what to do with this podcast in 2023.

Sitting in Silence and I Did Meditation

I actually had on my mind, should I start podcasting? I wasn’t sure. I just felt this tug this inner conflict, emotional conflict, about the podcast, and I could not put my finger on it, I could not come to a solution that sat right with me that felt like it. Like, oh, yeah, that’s it. Until I sat in complete stillness. This is no joke, how I came to what to do with my podcast was me sitting in silence, complete silence, I didn’t even have music background, sounds nothing for this meditation, I just sat in silence with the intention of I want to know what I need to know today. And I want to know, particularly what to do with my podcast, grieving voices. And I went into this, just this little inner silent retreat into myself, and ask myself those questions. And let come to me what would come. And this is what came to me. I need to spark some excitement into this podcast, not that I’m bored with it or anything like that, which, okay, truth be told, I have become a little bored. I love the guests. I love recording with people. But I also love variety, and just as I’m wired to it, I need to like mix things up. I need to like challenge myself, I need to like, and I need to keep evolving and growing. And two and a half years into this podcast having the same typical kind of format and how I was doing things I felt it was time to, I didn’t know, is it time to quit? Or is it time to reinvent? And so that’s really what the intention of this meditation was. And I’ll tell you what, what came out of it has gotten me so excited. And that’s what the podcast today is about.

My Announcement For You About Grieving Voices Podcast

I want to share with you what’s to come for 2023. Now, it does come with me taking a sabbatical. But it’s not a sabbatical. Like, yeah, I’m just taken some time off. I’m just gonna think about all these things that I’ve now come to light in this meditation. I’m going to take some time to really dive into the fun of of having this podcast. And that sounds weird because it’s a podcast about grief. But hang with me. During the sabbatical, I will be posting or sharing probably shorter episodes, there’ll be I’m going to call them shorts, things that maybe pop up in my personal life, grief things or things that I see on TV, or just little small reflections, or takeaways about just grief in life in general.

I’m not going to say it’s going to be structured every week. I hope you hang with me. If you’ve been following this podcast for a long time I do hope you stick with me to share in my excitement of what’s to come and to be a part of this podcast moving forward and insane that if there is something that you want to share with me about the podcast, please do I am. This is for you, is not for me. I want this to be a community experience where we learn from each other. And so I am not above anybody else in the terms of grief. Like I have my own grief to write I just attended a funeral this week. And it was sad for me and I was sad. And because she meant a lot to me. And you know what? I’ll share this little tidbit. If you feel a nudge, to call, email, or visit. Listen to that nudge. I did not. And my aunt was in the nursing home. And I said to my husband to my kids, so many times I would drive through her town where she was, in on my way home from work and thinking, oh my gosh, I really need to go see her. And I said that to myself so many times. In so many times. I did not listen to that nudge and I got a Christmas card from her. And within days she passed away. And so I just want to share that today to that. If there are any nudges the feeling about somebody, maybe I should check in on them. Listen to that nudge, please listen to the nudges. They’re there to guide you on what you need to do your inner wisdom will tell you and show you the way. And is that especially true in relationships and those we love. So, follow the nudges.

Guest Background in this year’s Grieving Voices Episodes

Back to the podcast in 2023. So what I will be doing is I’ll be sharing these shorts, I’m also going to be working on a project. And what I have really loved learning about through the interviews I’ve done, and conversations I’ve had with guests over the past couple of years is I love hearing about how they have turned their pain into a passion that serves humanity, all of humanity. They’ve maybe started organizations or foundations, maybe passed laws or had laws passed. They’re nonprofits, they’re not-for-profit organizations think like Wounded Warrior Project, or the Make-a-Wish Foundation, which are huge organizations. But it doesn’t have to be, you know, a huge organization. I’ve had some guests who have done such a thing. And I will be highlighting those guests and their organizations or their service, not necessarily a service, which in which some of them might be but more so something that serves a greater purpose that’s like beyond themselves that came from what they learned. And from their own grief. They took their pain, and they made it turned it into purpose. And so that’s really kind of what this series I want to create.

So if you are somebody who has created positive ripples in the lives of grievers are those supporting grievers through an organization, you’ve developed a foundation, a non for profit, non-profit, nonprofit, or developed something that is serving humanity, not a book because I’m not looking for authors at this time. But you know, if there is an app, like empathy, or after cloud. I had the guests that created and developed after cloud on my podcast. So I’m going to be highlighting those that have previously been on my podcast again, in the upcoming weeks, but also recording with those who have done this very thing. And that will be the focus of the podcast moving forward, I don’t know how long, I don’t know how many episodes there will be, but I’m just gonna roll with it. I’m going to have fun with it, and see what happens. I’m not constraining myself putting myself in a box what it has to be, how many it needs to be how long it has to be. Nothing like that. I’m going to bring some fun back into creating for this podcast, as it was for me when I first started and as it had been, but the time is now to evolve and grow. And maybe shake things up a little bit. And so maybe think about what in your own life, do you need to shake up. Is there something that is feeling like it’s about time to evolve or grow? Maybe it’s you, maybe you’re ready to set an intention, which I like a lot better than a resolution? Maybe set an intention for 2023? What do you want for your life? What do you want it to look like? What do you want to address so that you can put it to rest? I’m gonna have to write that down.

What do you want to address, so you can put it to rest? Maybe that is your grief. And I’ve got a program for that. So if you are curious, and it’s your first time listening, and you’re like, what I am talking about. What is this podcast all about? Head to www.theunleashedheart.com. There’s a link for grieving voices on there. And you can read all about the different programs I offer and check out what I’m talking about. But if you’ve been around a while you already know.

Quick Check-in Podcast Episode in Grieving Voices this Year

Also too I will be sharing I think some shorts also, I’m going to check in with previous guests that you may not have heard from in a long time. I know there’s one guest and Jacobs who I’ve had on the podcast a couple of times it’s we’re now I think for ketchup. And so I’m not sure if I’m going to record with these guests. Maybe I’ll leave it up to them for a quick check-in podcast episode or I’ll just reach out via email and share what they share with me but I’m curious about where some of them are today. And if I’m curious, you might be too and so if there is somebody that you want to hear from again, who was been a previous guest or you want to learn more from please reach out to me and share that. But like I said, I can’t guarantee and I will not guarantee that there will be an episode every Tuesday. But I will guarantee that what I put out moving forward will be something that excites me, that I feel is highly beneficial. And I really want to show how grief can create positive ripples in people’s lives. And that really I think what I want to focus on in this coming year is the positive ripples of grief. Even just saying that feels really good to me. That’s my focus for 2023 for grieving voices, the positive ripples of grief because it is so easy to focus on the negative and the bad things and all of that crap that happens in our lives. But I am a firm believer that there is an opportunity, even in the suck, there is opportunity in the suck. And it might take some time for you to be open to that. And that’s entirely normal and natural. And okay, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with you. If that takes you six months or six years, but we can accelerate that timeframe too because there is no timeline to grief. But you can extend that to 20 years, or shorten that time to maybe two years, or even two months. It’s never too soon. And it’s never too late to work toward creating positive ripples in your life, despite the pain, and despite the suck.

This Year’s Episodes are About Bringing Hope

Those two messages actually follow the nudges, embrace the suck, and give yourself time to do so not judging, criticizing, or analyzing yourself. I want to highlight what’s possible. And that gives people hope. And I think that’s what, in 2023, the message I want to share is where the hope is. We don’t have to do monumental things like creating organizations or foundations or nonprofits or not-for-profits or anything. I’m not saying we have to do that in order to recover from our grief, that is a huge expression of how people have done so it can also become a sterb it can become a way for people to avoid how they truly feel about their loss themselves. But it can be fuel, we can use that pain as fuel in our lives. And I think that’s what people tend to do who go above and beyond and create foundations and experience camps for kids and soaring spirits for widows, a camp for widows. We don’t all have to do that. But what can you take from that person who has done that? What can you learn from a person who has done that and apply it to your own life on a smaller scale? It doesn’t have to be a big expression of real love. Those are expressions of love that people are expanding on. Like, “I love this person so much.” “I want their legacy to live on.” I want to make something of this that serves humanity or a greater purpose. Essentially, it’s really what I’ve done with my podcast and the work that I’m doing. I wanted to find a purpose and meaning to what I experienced. And so it doesn’t have to be a huge thing. It can be small, but I really want to highlight a lot of organizations or foundations that you may have never heard of. I’m excited to learn about what’s out there myself. So I’m excited to bring those stories to you. I plan for this to be a really short episode.

much love, victoria

P.S. Thank you so much for tuning in every week if you have over the past two and a half years. I’m excited for 2023. I’m excited for grieving voices and 2023. And I hope that you have some excitement in your life about something important to you too. I hope you’ll stick with me and enjoy this podcasting journey into the new year. And please let me know again, if you want to hear from a previous guest, you want to learn more from them. If you have a question that I can answer on the podcast, it can be “ask me anything” or about grief or about your story. If you have a question and send it to me. I can read it anonymously and answer it. Let’s make this fun. Let’s make this a fun learning environment and experience for both of us and learn from each other.

Ep 131 | Grief Over Family Dynamics

Takeaways & Reflections | Grief Over Family Dynamics



What does family mean to you?

Who makes up your family? Not only those you claim by blood but those you choose, who show up when life throws curveballs?

There are reasons to grieve family; the family you wish you had and even the family you may wish you didn’t have, too. We can’t choose our family, but we have a say in their role in our lives. And, when a family is made up of less-than-loving relationships, we can even choose to fill the needs of our hearts by choosing to have people in our lives who feel like family.

Relationships are complicated enough, however, add in family dynamics, and emotions can often run high. What do you do when that happens? In this episode, I explore these questions and more!



If you are like me, you’re wondering where 2022 went. I am just flabbergasted at how quickly the past year has gone. And I truly can’t believe that I’m sitting here talking about New Year’s already coming up and Christmas will have passed by the time you’re listening to this. And I’m hoping that you had a joyful, memorable, in good way holiday with your loved ones.

And that’s really what I want to talk about today is family, the grief over family dynamics.

  • What do we do about it?
  • How do we navigate it?
  • Is families really been on my mind a lot lately?

I really just want to share how family dynamics is a huge contributor to our happiness really. And really, that happiness starts with each of us as individuals, it is no one else’s responsibility to ensure our happiness. It’s not your moms, it’s not your dads, it’s not your brothers, it’s not your sisters, it’s not your cousins, not your grandparents, you are responsible for you.

And as my dear friend harmony will say the circle around your feet is all that you need to worry about. And I’m not saying worry about knots, I don’t think that’s even exactly how she says it. But the person that you can only control is you and the circle around your own feet. And my goal really is to have you walking away live from listening to this introspective about what you bring to the family table. And for those struggling with the various family dynamics which I will describe very soon here. What do you do with those feelings when they come up? That really is grief over family dynamics. It’s the family you wish you had, the family maybe you wish you didn’t have.

  • And what does family mean to you?
  • Who are your family?
  • Are you a bridge builder?
  • Or are you a bridge destroyer within your family?
  • And what do you do about these emotions when they come up?

So these are the topics I’m going to dig into a little bit more.

The family You Wish You Have

This is a hard one for so many people because it’s the loss of hopes, dreams, and expectations. It’s anything you wish I would be different better or more when it comes to family and my friend that is grief. And if you are experiencing those feelings that come along with that experience, you are a griever 100% of us are grievers. Argue if you will, I will argue that till the day I die that we are 100% all of us are grievers.

  • Maybe you’re adopted.
  • Maybe you’re an only child.
  • Maybe you are a single parent.
  • Or maybe you’re a child of a single parent.
  • Maybe you have a small family with a little extended family.

I had a conversation with a client not that long ago who spoke to this actually the last episode of the podcast just also talked about this aspect of just having a really small nuclear family with very little extended family. That is my situation actually, I didn’t actually have a larger extended family until I met my husband. And that was so foreign to me. Getting together at Christmas, like the first Christmas, after we’d been married a few years and started having kids and siblings started to have kids, it was like I’ll just say 25 grandchildren 20, like 15, to 20, grandchildren all close in age, it was chaos. But I loved it.

When all the kids were little. And we all got together, it was an experience that I never really had growing up. I’ve very few memories of extended get-togethers. And since I was one of the youngest in my family, even my aunts and uncles, and things, there weren’t a lot of kids my age. So in some ways, I kind of felt like an only child because my brother was five years older than me, too. So there’s that experience, you grow up in the same household with your siblings. But you have a very different experience of growing up. My sister is nine years older than me, my half-brother is I want to say he’s 14 or 15 years older than me. So a lot of different family dynamics can cause us grief.

And when you have a lack of an extended family, and you just have a very small nuclear family, or maybe you don’t even have that nuclear family that you so desire, that can equate to a feeling of lack of support. The people simply aren’t there to show up for you when the shit hits the fan.

But here’s the thing. We can choose our family too. We can choose the neighbor that maybe also has no one in their life to look after them. To care about them. To worry about them. We could have friends that feel like family. I do. I wish the same for you too. But those relationships take nurturing and take vulnerability. Take authentic honesty. A wholehearted commitment. Just like a marriage of friendship takes commitment and loyalty. A lot of the same attributes that we contribute to a healthy, loving marriage. I think friendships are no different in that way.

The Family You Wish You Didn’t Have

Maybe you grew up around abuse or neglect. Maybe greed has created this great divide within your family. And there are some families you just wish you didn’t have as a result. There are so many scenarios, half-siblings age gaps, as I’ve described, blended families, adoptive families, step-parents.

  • So in all of these descriptions What does family mean to you?
  • Who are your family?

Not just the ones you’d claim by blood. But rather those who show up when the shit does hit the fan?

  • Are there relationships in your life right now that feel a little distant but you still desire a stronger, deeper connection with them?
  • Is that something you can nurture?
  • Can you extend the hand first?
  • Can you allow yourself to be vulnerable to create that deeper connection?

I’ll tell you in the work that I do with clients in Grief Recovery and being a heart with yours for so many. I go first and a part of me doing this podcast is me going first bringing the guests on that I do, they’re going first. They’re sharing their stories, to bring hope to your life. Which is my hope that we all keep hope burning in our hearts. So that even if just today, things aren’t going so great that there’s hope for a better tomorrow.

But as I started my own podcast Grieving Voices, that responsibility is yours and yours alone. So insane responsibility, which is not an easy thing for people to admit, is in their wheelhouse and in the circle around their feet. Are you a bridge builder? Or are you a bridge destroyer? Are you the pot stir of the family? Are you the Lord Baelish, like on Game of Thrones, that my husband and I have been watching the pot stir, the one that pits people against each other? There’s responsibility in that.

And there are waves and ripples of grief. Because of that behavior. It’s destructive, it’s hurtful, it’s harmful. And it breaks people’s hearts. I’m often reminding my youngest who can not throw her under the bus. But she’s at that age, she’s going to be 14. And that’s a really tough age man. I remember that age and it sucked royally for me. You just want independence, you’re desiring independence and more freedom and you’re coming into yourself more, things are happening in your body, you can’t control and hormones and all of that. And she’s not understanding how words can how the tongue can cut like a knife. And the repercussions of your words, and why words matter and how they matter. And reminding her that she has responsibility for the words that come from her lips.

And I’m often reminding her and all my kids that we have two ears and one mouth for a reason. And I think just in society in general we don’t know how to be a heart with yours, we don’t know how to listen, are so quick to criticize, analyze, and judge to use that tongue in a destructive way, maybe not even intentionally. I don’t think my daughter intentionally wants to say hurtful things. But I know the impact of that. I felt it myself. Whether it’s your sister, your child, your neighbor, your brother, your friend, or it’s hurt. And you can say 50 kind things in the one harmful hurtful thing you say is the one that sticks. This is just a reminder for myself, I am not perfect, by no means. I just think we’re in such a fast-paced world and fast-paced society, we’re so quick to be fast-paced with our lips and our tongue to what we say.

What Do You Do When These Emotions Come Up Within These Family Dynamics?

What I need to do and what I do practice myself is I excuse myself. I personally because within my Youmap which if you go to my website, theunleashedheart.com, look under services, you’ll see Youmap, my Youmap how I’m wired and how I’m my strengths are and what I value and all of these things that make me who I am. I am a very much, very much a thinker. And so I need to like get time alone to process and think and then I need I take that time for myself to do so and then come back to the situation. Not on an emotional high. Because I’m also a Pisces. And I’m also an INFP if you’re familiar with Myers Briggs, so I’ve just got the whole double whammy of sensitivity and emotional stuff going on. And I know that about myself. And that’s the thing about Youmap is my favorite quote, Kristen Sherry, the founder of Youmap said, the more you know yourself, the less you look to others to tell you who you are.

And so, for me personally, working through my own family dynamics, and working through all this stuff, and the relationships through Grief Recovery, I’ve really gotten to know myself really well. And a part of that is how I respond to stress. What do I need to do in those moments that I feel an emotional high, not in a good way. And that’s where excusing myself and walking away can be the greatest gift for everyone involved. And as long as you’re bringing intention is to collect yourself, emotionally regulate yourself and then come back to the situation more grounded and centered in yourself. There is nothing wrong with walking away if that is your intention. But if you are walking away to avoid running away from the problem itself, it’s only going to fester. We become the tea kettle, a stuffer of emotions. And eventually one day you will either implode or you will explode.

How Grief Recovery Helps Me & My Clients

Talking with my recent client, this has been their experience. Over 40, over 50 years of stuffing down of not speaking up, I’m not having the space in the safety to speak up about anger not even being allowed as a normal emotion to be expressed. They’ve become the tea kettle, and they had an outburst. But that was the only way they could feel heard. But in those moments, when you have these outbursts of anger within these family dynamics, for example, which is what we’re talking about, are you really being heard. Because what you’re saying is probably being received from a defense from a defensive person now, who’s probably not heard a thing, once they heard the word you, you did this, you do that you did this to me. It completely shut down. And the conversation has not become constructive. It’s become destructive. And it’s not taking care of resettling anything.

I’m still learning this, by the way, this is still a work in progress, and how we work through this stuff. And how I personally work through it is through Grief Recovery, I’ve actually had used I’ve used Grief Recovery, the tools of Grief Recovery, before going into a conversation that I knew would be challenging or difficult, so that I could emotionally get rid of all of that gunk I was holding on to and not bring that to the conversation. So I could come to the conversation, feeling grounded and centered, level-headed and emotionally regulated. I think so many of us make these decisions and approach these situations when we’re on this emotional high. But once you get to that point, it’s really hard to like have the awareness to like stop staring back. Assess, has to be a really quick mental process and emotion takes over forget it. It’s not going to happen. So a huge part of what you do about these motions is be proactive, create and voice boundaries at the moment. A part of that is maybe walking away like you create this plan for yourself. Well if it gets to this point, I’m just going to walk away this is what I need to do for myself. This is what I know about myself. One thing you could say is I don’t feel comfortable discussing this right now. If you want to keep discussing this I will excuse myself from this conversation. Especially if both parties are emotionally charged. Rehearse it in your mind, how do you want it to play out? But let go of the expectations of the person responding in a way that you desire. Because again, remember, we’re all bringing our stuff. We all have stuff, and we all have luggage. And we all bring it to conflict. And especially in family dynamics.

much love, victoria

P.S. If you’d like to go deeper on this topic, with your own personal life, I am more than happy to assist you in doing so. I had a wonderful session with a client just the other day helping connect the dots in ways that they had never in over 50 years for themselves. We can’t see the label from inside the jar, as my dear friend Patsy says. So if you need help in doing that, I would be more than happy to be your heart with yours. Either in a group setting or one on one. Reach out [email protected]. And in the meantime, check out the rest of the episodes. My website, the Grieving Voices Podcast, the programs available, and how you can work with me. Maybe you just need an energetic tune-up with Biofield Tuning. That information is also on my website. My newsletter is coming out bi-weekly on Wednesdays The Unleashed Letters, there’s a subscription on my website for that as well. Where I share content not shared anywhere else. I also get a little bit more personal in there as well. So there are lots of ways that you can learn more about grief and about this topic, in particular. If you want me to dive deeper, let me know. I’m more than happy to do so. Or if you have a question, please submit it to me. I’m more than happy to answer it on a future podcast episode. So until 2023 hits us, I wish you a wonderful rest of 2022 and an amazing start to 2023 I have so much I look forward to and I hope you do too. Much love.

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