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The Mindfulness & Grief Podcast

The Mindfulness & Grief Podcast

Author: Heather Stang, MA, C-IAYT

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The Mindfulness and Grief Podcast series, hosted by author and thanatologist Heather Stang, features compassionate insights for coping with grief and life after loss. Designed for bereaved people and grief professionals, you will learn how a mindful approach to grief can help you deal with difficult emotions, cultivate self-care and self-compassion, and honor the relationship that remains. May these teachings be of great benefit. To learn more about Mindfulness and Grief visit the website at http://mindfulnessandgrief.com.
45 Episodes
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In episode 45, Angela Kennecke shares with us her story of losing her beautiful 21-year-old daughter, Emily, to overdose. Angela and her family were just a normal family. Emily was a gifted student and cheerleader. But Emily was struggling with one of the most common problems in America — addiction. Her sudden and unexpected death changed the lives of her family forever.  Through her grief, Angela wanted to keep Emily’s memory alive. She originally wanted to just display some of her daughter’s artwork at a local charity center. Fast forward to today and Angela now runs Emily’s Hope, a foundation that wants to remove the stigma of addiction, provide financial support for treatment seekers, and bring comfort to families who have lost a loved one to addiction.  If you’re looking for resources for yourself or a family member, please check out the resources that are available on the Emily’s Hope website. 
In episode 44, we talk to Author Jenny Lisk about her experience of parenting and caregiving for her husband during his aggressive form of brain cancer and eventually becoming a single parent and widow. Jenny shares how she navigated her way forward after his passing and her calling to help other people who may be losing a spouse.  In Future Widow, Jenny goes behind the scenes of her journey through those tumultuous and heartbreaking months. She reflects on the community who showed her how to be an ally in a crisis, her search for guides on how to parent grieving children, and the dual reality of having to choose—and getting to choose—what her future will look like. Jenny Lisk is an author, speaker, and host of the Widowed Parent Podcast, which has been featured in The Washington Post and ParentMap. On her “hundred dreams” list is riding a camel, milking a cow, and raising $44,000 for brain cancer research, in honor of her husband’s 44 years. The author of Future Widow: Losing My Husband, Saving My Family, and Finding My Voice, Jenny lives in Redmond, Washington, with her two teenagers. She is passionate about helping widowed parents increase their family’s well-being. You can download her free guides, What I've Learned About Widowed Parenting and How to be Helpful: Tips for Allies of Widowed Families.  https://jennylisk.com/memoir
In episode 43, New York Times-bestselling author Adam Mansbach talks with us about his new memoir, “I HAD A Brother Once,” which details his grief of losing his brother by suicide a decade ago. As a writer, he struggled for nine years before he was finally able to write about his brother. Although Adam is known for his very successful novels, his new book is written poetry-style with dramatic storytelling about his life. In it, he shares how his brother David felt he had to wear masks to hide his real self and the importance of removing the masks of shame and guilt to save lives.  David’s death happened during a very exciting and stressful time in his life. His incredibly popular book “Go the F*** to Sleep” had just gone viral. In the midst of celebrities reading his book on social media worldwide, and conducting interviews 10 hours a day — David died. Adam suddenly found himself both struggling with loss and success at the same time.
In Episode 42, Dr. Amy Novotny shares her emotional journey of living with a mother that was bipolar and suffered from borderline personality disorder, being tutored by her throughout higher education, and eventually losing her to cancer. The grief left Amy struggling with an unexplainable physical illness that she was eventually able to overcome, and now she teaches how to ease your physical pain when grief is stored in the body.  Amy developed a method called PABR, which is a technique to help your body overcome the fight or flight response that can occur during the grieving process. During our interview, Amy walks us through her basic technique for breathing and relaxing your body position so you can start getting some relief.  Want more free resources? Email Amy Novotny at amy@pabrinstitute.com and mention this episode of Mindfulness and Grief Podcast to receive a consultation. 
In Episode 41, Daniel Hess talks to us about his struggle with losing his cousin after a long battle with cystic fibrosis. Daniel was only 9 years old at the time. The trauma of losing his best friend at such a young age created a void in his life that he has since tried to fill with creativity to keep the memory of his cousin alive.  Daniel began writing poetry as a way to cope with his feeling of loss and to stay creative throughout his young adult life. It’s been a place of solace for him. A place to express his dark thoughts and feelings in a safe environment. He has recently written a book, “Just a Boy Blaming Himself,” as a reflection of looking back through the pain of his childhood experiences and how they have shaped him into the person he is today.
When two health scares hit Katherine May’s family, she was forced to slow down and learn a valuable lesson — staying busy doesn’t always mean you're doing something productive with your time. The idea of wintering creates the opportunity to slow down the pace of life, observe as it transitions from one season to another, and find hope in the next phase of your life.  Katherine also discusses the issue of the “get over it” societal norm we have in regard to grief and children, recalling her own experience as a parent seeking help for her son through a difficult time. She believes that building resilience includes confronting hard truths and the emotions that come with them, not pushing everything down, and concealing feelings. Wintering consists of a period of isolation where you allow the silence to teach you and prepare you for the next season. 
Neil Beresin never set out to become a chaplain. In fact, he worked in the nonprofit world for 20 years. But everything changed for him when both his parents became ill and passed away within 5 weeks of each other. This devastating loss changed the trajectory of his life. Neil is now a chaplain and counselor specializing in grief, loss, and transition, and he uses poetry in his healing work. During our interview with him, Neil shares how poetry has brought him peace and understanding even in the most troubling times. He shares with us the value of reflection. When you slow down and allow yourself to absorb the words of a poem, you are giving yourself a gift. Reflecting on the language and the metaphors used in poetry can bring tremendous comfort. The sound and music of poetry has helped Neil to provide intentional grief support to his clients, and we hope this interview helps you as well.
It’s hard to feel like a superhero while amid tremendous grief. But through her work composing Superhero Grief: The Transformative Power of Loss, Dr. Jill Harrington shows us how we are more like superheroes than you might think. Each superhero that you can think of has experienced some level of trauma that they’ve had to overcome. While their superpower may seem more significant than yours, the motivation to stand up and put one foot in front of the other is the same, whether you can fly or not.  Jill walks us through some of the flaws in superheros that also make them human like us. Superheroes are not always perfect. They make mistakes. Superheroes struggle with the same emotions and consequences of decisions that we as normal humans do. Each story has an element of love, survival, and reminders of our continued connection with the ones we lost.  
After 27 years of marriage, Marla Polk found herself dealing with the sudden death of her husband. Losing her spouse creating a hole in her life that she didn't know what to do with. She tried to turn to her friends, her work, books -but nothing seemed to help her. She then decided to start journaling through her grief. What started as a way to document stories of her beloved Randy for future grandchildren became a firsthand account of what it was like for her to walk through the grief process and discover herself with him. Marla writes openly and honestly about how painfully long the process of grief can be. She describes herself as a normal, middle-aged woman with a career, friends, and an average life before everything changed with Randy's death. The aftermath left her feeling uncomfortable in every situation of her life. She was easily agitated especially in the first year. So when she couldn't do anything else, she turned toward writing. She encourages anyone going through grief to give yourself grace, especially when unforeseen triggers can derail your emotions out of the blue. One thing she discusses is triggers. You never know when something may trigger your emotions. So give yourself grace. You can be in the middle of doing something completely unrelated to grief and all of a sudden you will start crying and that’s okay. During this interview, Marla also shares how surprised she was by how differently everyone experiences grief. She found herself judging others who were close to Randy for not missing him enough. Likewise, she found herself being judged as well for not meeting their expectations of grieving. She was also surprised with how many well-meaning people said uninformed things to bring comfort. Marla continues to remember Randy in subtle ways. He enjoyed painting and photography so she has a piece of his artwork in every room in the house. She commissioned someone to make a quilt from his neckties. She periodically visits his things in storage and decides which items she's ready to part with and which ones she wants to hold onto a little longer. About Marla Polk: Marla Polk is the author of Grief Survivor: A Love Story and a communications coach specializing in helping those in broken relationships heal through communication tools she developed as a mediator. She is Managing Partner for Resolution Solutions, a conflict resolution consulting company. She is the President of the Board of Directors for a nonprofit, the Abilene Palm House, that mentors at-risk individuals and works specifically with women who have been survivors of violent crimes. Her hobbies include writing authentic, raw, and funny commentaries about her grief journey.
Rabbi Steve Leder is no stranger to grief. As a rabbi, he has consoled hundreds of families over the years during their most difficult times. In his new book, The Beauty of What Remains, he walks us through his experience of losing his father. He takes us on the journey of self-discovery of how he learned to balance the conflicting emotions of losing someone who wasn’t always easy to love but was still an important figure in his life.  In his book, he discusses how making peace with the fact that these feelings cannot be resolved is a resolution. Once you can make peace with the fact that you cannot change what happened in the past, you make space for the positive memories to emerge. Finding meaning in those memories is what helps you get back to living.  Caregivers often struggle with how they should show up for their loved ones, especially as they get closer to death. Rabbi Leder has some tips to help caregivers navigate one of the hardest roles in the world.  Ways to Overcome Fear As a Caregiver Tip #1 Never Underestimate the Power of Touch The power of communicating through touch, especially with a loved one who is suffering from an illness like dementia, is remarkable. Just sitting with your loved one and holding their hand can help both of you communicate when words are no longer an option. (Rabbi Leder acknowledges that this may not be possible during the pandemic.) Tip #2 Create an Ethical Will  We write our eulogies while we are alive. It’s how we live that writes our story. By creating an ethical will, you leave behind a document that talks about your love, hopes, and dreams for the people you leave behind. It’s important to do this during the early stages of illness, if possible.  Tip #3 Take Them on a Mental Vacation Create a transcendent vacation that encourages them to think about happier times. Sit by their bed and ask questions like:  Who was your very first kiss?  What was the greatest vacation you ever took?  What was it like when you laid your eyes on your spouse for the first time? By taking people out of their physical being and into the metaphysical, both of you can experience joy without even leaving the room. It can be the best moment they have had in a long time.  Tip #4 Just Show Up Walkthrough the door as your authentic self. They want you to be who you are — not someone who is clearly holding back given the situation. For example: If you're a hugger, hug them. If you’re a feeder, feed them. If you’re a jokester, tell them jokes. If you are your authentic self when you walk in, then the rest of everything will unfold the way it should.  Tip #5 Take It One Step at a Time  Grief is a long road. Just take the next step forward. Take a shower. Go for a walk. Show yourself some compassion as you would others. Grief doesn't happen in a straight line and oftentimes we grieve even before our loved one has passed. Show yourself empathy through this process.  How the Pandemic Has Created Meaningful Intimacy Through Grief This global pandemic has caused us to take a global pause and reassess what we value most. A busy life and a meaningful life are not the same. This pandemic has taught us to appreciate and value each other more than ever before. Funeral services have changed in both good and bad ways. The good thing is now only the person's innermost circle is there to grieve together and tell stories with each other. It creates an intimacy that pre-pandemic funerals did not have. The bad thing is that families do miss out on condolences from their extended family and friends, food provided by people who care about them, and hugs and other personal touch that are so important to the human spirit. But we will get through this together.  Rabbi Leder’s book The Beauty of What Remains is now available on Amazon.  This episode is brought to you by the Awaken: Meditation for Grief Program, which helps you cope with the heartache and pain of loss with meditation-based practices for your mind, body, and spirit. 
If you have experienced the death of a loved one from the COVID-19 Coronavirus Pandemic, the American Red Cross offers free support to help you through this difficult time. From spiritual care to help with planning virtual services, their Integrated Condolence Care Program is staffed by compassionate professionals and volunteers through their Virtual Family Assistance Center. In this episode Valerie Cole shares how this program can help you navigate grief during these unprecedented times. 
If you wonder what happens to your loved one after they die, you are in good company. Wanting to know they are OK, that they are not suffering, that they may even be happy, is a universal feeling rooted in the love that is the root of our grief. In her book Becoming Starlight, Surviving Grief and Mending The Wounds of Loss,  Dr. Sharon Prentice shines a light on where your loved one goes after they die. She has visited the other side - not through a near death experience - but a shared death experience. In this episode of the Mindfulness & Grief Podcast, Dr. Prentice reveals her “peek into foreverness” that occurred at the precise moment of her husband’s death. She describes how this experienced impacted her grief over time, and how it informs her work with people who are dying in her role as a psychotherapist and spiritual counselor. The question of life after death is one of the first questions I asked when my uncle died by suicide when I was just 7 years old. In my teens I found a book called Life After Life by Dr. Raymond Moody, which detailed the phenomenon of the near-death experience. This is a very special interview. It dives into the mysteries of life while leaving space for us to still grief, still mourn, still question. If you are wanting to know if your loved one is OK, this podcast may just provide you with some answers – and even hope.  
Pets are not just animals that live in our house, they are our chosen family. When they die it is heartbreaking because we love them so much! The key to surviving the death of our beloved cats and dogs is to first acknowledge that it hurts, and acknowledge that our grief is real and understandable. As with the loss of anyone we love, it is helpful to find ways to honor their memory and the imprint they leave on our heart. In this episode of the Mindfulness & Grief podcast Dave Roberts and I continue the conversation we began in an earlier episode on Pet Loss & Grief. Since then, both Dave and I have both experienced major pet losses, and we discuss the myriad of feelings that pet owners face - from feelings of guilt surrounding euthanasia, wondering how you will survive without your best friend, and even navigating the decision to welcome another furbaby into the house. We also talk about constructive rituals and memorial spaces you can set up to remember your companion animal. For many of us the death of a pet is one of the hardest losses to navigate because of the unconditional love. You are not alone, and I hope this episode will help you like it helped me.
If you have been blaming yourself for the death of your loved one, or feeling guilty that you didn't do something you "should" have done, you are not alone. Whether your special person died by suicide, an overdose, long-term illness or suddenly, self-blame often appears. Guilt and shame are heavy burdens to bear, and add more suffering on top of our broken heart. In the 31st episode of the Mindfulness & Grief Podcast, award-winning author of When Their World Stops, Certified Grief Recovery Specialist and founder of the Grief & Trauma Healing Network shares her insights into working with guilt, regret, and self-blame in the face of traumatic grief, mental health struggles, addiction, suicide, and other types of loss. She also offers valuable insights into how friends can help their grieving friends, which will give you insight into getting what you need from those around you. Anne-Marie is a compassionate healer, and I hope you will get as much from this podcast as I did interviewing her! Be sure to check out the downloads below, including an excerpt from her book. Downloads From Anne-Marie Lockmyer Free Book Excerpt: ​Chapter 1 of When Their World Stops 5 Things Every Griever Needs to Know  5 Ways to Help A Grieving Friend Do Not Forget List If You Have a Grieving Friend About Anne-Marie Lockmyer Anne-Marie Lockmyer was far removed from pain until she got the call no one ever wants to get - her beloved husband of 26 years had suddenly died while she was out of the country. Everything changed for her at that moment and the emotional pain crushed her. Nothing prepared Anne-Marie or those around her for this life-shattering experience. As Anne-Marie struggled to understand herself and what she needed, she also had to help her friends understand. Out of necessity, she became a student of grief and during this process, her only child was struggling with mental health issues, another excruciating loss as she watched him suffer. She went on a journey to find meaning in her grief, to meet with it, embrace it, heal and find purpose. And it was transformational! Her experience, research, education and training in grief, loss and trauma has equipped her to work with grieving people in a powerful way.  She wrote an award-winning book called When Their World Stops: The Essential Guide to Truly Helping Anyone in Grief. Anne-Marie is an Advanced Grief Recovery Specialist, Certified in Critical Incident Stress Debriefing, a Certified Trauma Integrative Practitioner, a Grief and Mental Health Advocate and Founder of the Grief and Trauma Healing Network.   Her greatest joy is to take people on the same healing journey she experienced - to allow them to remember their loved one well but without suffering the excruciating pain. She creates a safe place to heal any unresolved grief with a six-session private or 2-day intensive program. She provides crisis support for businesses and training to therapists and counselors on grief and loss. She presents church workshops on Creating a Culture of Hope and Healing to equip churches to support the grieving in their congregation and community. She loves what she does and welcomes opportunities to help others understand grief and the grieving. Anne-Marie is living proof that you can go from barely surviving to thriving. Her message is one of hope and healing after a heartbreaking loss.  You may have changed. Your life may be changed, but life can still be good - and so can you.   
Dreams and sleep are understandably impacted as we all try to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. Those of us who are already grieving carry an extra load of anxiety in addition to an already aching heart. In this episode, returning guest Dr. Joshua Black shares helpful insights that will empower us to take care of our emotional needs during the waking hours so we can find peace at night, and explores how our dreams give us insights into how we are really doing. A timely follow up to our first interview in Episode 15 Grief Dreams: Continuing Bonds & Awakening Insights, Joshua and I have a candid conversation about how we are coping personally and professionally.  We discuss a range of topics - from Joshua's own grief dream that involves his father and childhood home, to what is in our pantry to eat during the pandemic. This interview left me feeling calm and hopeful. I hope it does the same for you!
Grief is hard at any age. As a queer young adult ​​in the south, Shelby faced the worst four years of her life as both of her parents were diagnosed with life-limiting illnesses. When her mother died "the stuff really hit the fan," as she put it. At first she resisted her pain, but it was in the giving in to her grief that real wisdom was found. Shelby has evolved into a compassionate young woman that helps people of all ages learn how to face their grief with radical self-compassion.  In this candid interview, the author of Permission to Grieve shares her experience and the wisdom gained from navigating the death of her mother from breast cancer. Tending to your own pain is a radical act of self-compassion. Shelby offers inspiring guidance that will help you grieve authentically no matter where you are on your life’s journey.
"Hope is not fragile; just hard to find when the lights go out." This quote from bereaved mother Kim Peacock's book, Victorious Heart resonates with so many people who have suffered and survived a traumatic loss. Kim knows this intimately, as her beloved daughter Nicole died in an ATV accident just a few days after Christmas in 1998. In episode 28 of the Mindfulness & Grief Podcast, Kim shares how she pulled herself out of the void that was left in her world so she can grieve and still live life fully. She shares how she and her husband navigated their different styles of grieving, her relationship to God and faith, and self-care practices that you can use to care for yourself when your world feels like it has fallen apart. She also offers wise guidance to anyone who is not sure what to say or do when someone they care about has suffered a devastating loss. This inspirational and generous interview offers an overview of what grief can look like over twenty years after the loss, and is a guiding light that will help you through the darkness. While Kim's experience is rooted in child loss, this is a good listen for anyone who is grieving a loss.
Coping with grief after a loved one has died from an overdose has a unique set of challenges. All too often the focus is on the circumstances of the death, not the life, of a very special person who loved, lived, and most likely tried to overcome their addiction. Often exhausted by the worry, caregiving and anticipatory type of grief that precedes this type of loss, friends and family members of someone who died by overdose need compassion, self-care, and each other. In the 27th episode of the Mindfulness & Grief Podcast, grief counselor Dave Roberts shares ways that you can cope with overdose grief and refocus the lens through which this loss is viewed on the person, not the addiction.
The death of a brother or sister can be devastating, but all too often it goes unacknowledged or at least minimized. Social cues direct bereaved siblings to "be strong for your parents," but how can you be strong when your world is shattered by loss? Heidi Horsley is no stranger to this kind of pain. Her brother, Scott, died in an automobile accident, alongside her cousin. This life changing experience inspired her to be a champion for grieving siblings and earn a doctorate in psychology. In this episode of the Mindfulness & Grief Podcast, Heidi shares her story of love and loss and hope, and shares tips and insights to help you cope with sibling loss. She explores the strained parent/child dynamic that often occurs after this type of loss, and why parents might think their surviving children are "over" their grief when they are anything but. Dr. Heidi closes the show with an invitation for grieving siblings to join her in the crusade to shine a light on this disenfranchised grief. 
Widows, widowers, and anyone who has lost a partner knows just how hard it is to cope with grief on Valentine's Day. Claudia Coenen, widow and creative grief counselor, shares creative ways to cope with grief and heartache on Valentine's Day, as well as activities and practices to honor and celebrate you love that undeniably very much present. She also shares tips from her upcoming book release, The Creative Toolkit for Working with Grief and Bereavement: A Practitioner’s Guide. Heather Stang's guided meditation, a Journey To Your Heart Center, follows the interview. Both Heather and Claudia hope this special Valentine's Day edition of the Mindfulness & Grief Podcast will bring you some peace. Recommended Reading & Listening Shattered by Grief: Picking up the pieces to become WHOLE again The Creative Toolkit for Working with Grief and Bereavement: A Practitioner’s Guide Karuna Cards: Creative Ideas to Transform Grief and Difficult Life Transitions The Karuna Project: Compassion & Creativity for Grief with Claudia Coenen on the Mindfulness & Grief Podcast About Claudia Coenen, CGC, FT, MTP Claudia Coenen became a certified grief counselor after she was widowed suddenly. She focused on creativity in her Masters in Transpersonal Psychology program at Sophia University and holds an Advanced Grief Counseling Certificate from Brooklyn College. Claudia has been certified in Thanatology for 9 years and is now a Fellow in Thanatology, through the Association of Death Education and Counseling.  Claudia’s lifelong experience as a performer and creative person provided her with techniques to process her own grief which in turn led her to help others through expressive modalities. In private practice, Claudia helps bereaved clients find resilience in the midst of their losses - through compassionate presence, creative process, somatic and expressive therapy techniques. While working with dying patients and family members in a hospice program in New Jersey, she developed the Karuna Cards, a deck of creative ideas for grief and difficult life transitions. Claudia presents workshops on Grief, living with illness as well as the use of creativity in counseling. She has delivered in-service training on vicarious trauma in the workplace at conferences, hospice agencies, and mental health clinics.  Claudia is the author of Shattered by Grief: Picking up the pieces to become WHOLE again. Her newest book, The Creative Toolkit for Working with Grief and Bereavement: A Practitioner’s Guide, explores some well-researched grief models and 30 creative activity sheets that can be reproduced to use with bereaved clients.
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Comments (3)

JessicaVR

Thank you for this episode. I am a vivid dreamer. Whenever I dream of my friends and loved ones who have died, I thank them for visiting. This is especially true with my daughter who died last August. I encourage her to visit me often, and I thank her when she does, just as I thank her living siblings when they call me. Heather and Josh, you are helping so many with your work. Thanks and Namaste.

Mar 25th
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JessicaVR

Thank you for this very important podcast. I have been working through the book as I process the loss of my youngest child. Almost immediately, i turned to meditation and yoga, and found much comfort in those practices. Hearing the stories of how many have experienced grief and then became grief counselors is very inspiring. Namaste.

Sep 6th
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