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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
53 Episodes
When Faith Wilcox’s daughter Elizabeth began to complain about knee pain, her doctors thought it was just growing pains and she would be fine. As her pain continued, she was diagnosed with a rare bone cancer that affects pediatric patients. Through 10 months of treatment, Elizabeth remained positive and supportive of the other patients. Ultimately, Elizabeth passed away just one year after her diagnosis. In her grief, Faith was able to find moments of comfort and peace despite the things that were beyond her control.  Nature has always been restorative for Faith. Walks in the woods and time on the beach helped restore her mind and spirit. She also leaned into her circle of friends, who provided additional support. Faith discovered one of her biggest relief strategies when she started journaling, after her therapist recommended she start writing to help get out some of her bottled-up feelings. Faith has since written multiple books, including Hope Is a Bright Star: A Mother’s Memoir of Love, Loss, and Learning to Live Again and has started a journaling program to help others who are struggling with grief. 
Beth Cavenaugh shares with us her personal experience as a nurse-turned-hospice worker at the request of her mom during her mom’s final stage of life. Beth talks about her love of her work with families and patients and what caregivers need to think about during such a difficult period of time.  Hospice is a service that provides physical and emotional support for someone who is in their last six months of life. Hospice is a comprehensive team of support personnel that includes family members, healthcare workers, a social worker, chaplain, and a bereavement specialist. A nurse will come in and check on the patient multiple times a week to make sure their pain and symptoms are being managed and the patient is as comfortable as possible. A social worker and bereavement specialist can help you and your family members with some of the tough questions that come along with end-of-life care.    Beth's new book, Some Light at the End, details helpful strategies for those whose loved ones have a terminal illness or have recently passed. She can speak to: Mental wellness: Strategies to counteract anxiety, panic, and depression while living in hospice care for both those dying and their loved ones. Handling grief: Lessons from a hospice expert who has seen countless people through grief, and tips for your personal journey. Hospice 101: While in the early stages of grief, it's impossible to research all of our options. Beth details the questions we don't even know we need to ask and how to advocate for ourselves. Mobilizing: Hospice care happens at lightning speed. Beth details each step to save us from becoming overwhelmed and stressed. BIO Beth Cavenaugh is a certified hospice and palliative care nurse and educator with over 14 years of experience in caring for terminally ill patients. She has been a registered nurse for over 24 years and holds a bachelor's degree in nursing from Creighton University. Beth has supported hundreds of patients and their families at inpatient units, in-home settings, and behind the scenes in hospice care. Compassion, patient autonomy, and transparent communication are at the core of her care philosophy. Beth hopes to demystify death and dying so this powerful moment will be embraced as a normalized and celebrated life event. She continues to work in hospice and has a private reiki practice to support physical, emotional, and spiritual healing for adults and teens. Beth lives with her husband in Portland, Oregon, where they have (almost) successfully finished raising their three kids. Learn more at
Until he met Patty Furino, bereaved father Dave Roberts didn’t believe that the signs he kept seeing were coming from his beloved daughter, Jeannine. But soon, everything changed. In this episode of the Mindfulness & Grief Podcast, Dave shares his journey of love and loss and how the signs from his daughter transformed from triggering waves of grief into joy, and how they remind Dave that Jeannine is still close. Dave and Patty describe how Jeannine speaks through her father’s new friend, fostering a deep continuing bond that allows Dave to live on after loss. When The Psychology Professor Met The Minister is co-authored by our two guests, and written from Dave’s perspective and walks us through his evolution of putting aside his academic mind to being open to receiving messages from Jeannine. Patty has been his major supporter and guided him to honor and enjoy his memories but also be alive in the present. 
In episode 50 of the Mindfulness & Grief Podcast, Reid Peterson shares his story of losing both father figures in his life and the grief that comes with living without those important people. Although he was not close to his biological father the way he hoped, Reid still grieves the relationship that he wished he had with him. After his loss, Reid found support through grief groups but wanted more consistent support. This led him to create a grief support app that offers daily audio messages for grief education. 
In episode 49, bereaved father Eric Hodgdon explores how he leads a life of intention in the wake of incredible pain over the death of his daughter, Zoi, who died by suicide. He shares his fond memories of a loving and fun girl who was a sweet, supportive peer to those who knew her. Family, friends, and patients who traveled their mental health path alongside her all remember Zoi as a very special person. 
Ronald Mathias talks to us about his field of medical illustration: the art of taking complex medical procedures, descriptions, or concepts and turning them into something visual for ease of understanding. He spends most of his time translating traumatic injuries and building empathy for the pain someone has suffered into a visual medium for litigation. He is also tasked with the extremely difficult job of taking the unseen symptoms and turning them into visual representations.  For the cover of the book Superhero Grief, Ron designed the cover to help the reader understand the transformation that even Superheroes go through. Every person, superhero or not, goes through grief at some point in their lives. Each person has to leave something behind to transform into the new person that they have become. Superheroes are imperfect like us and can have trouble moving on from the trauma they have endured. 
The tables are turned as Heather Stang, the regular host of the Mindfulness & Grief Podcast, is interviewed by guest host Audrey Hughey about the new guided journal for grief, From Grief to Peace, which releases on June 1, 2021. Heather shares how she began journaling about her grief over her Uncle Doug's death in high school and the differences between free journaling and guided writing with prompts. Audrey shares how she processed her emotions over her ex-husband's death in her first thriller/novel. ​From Grief to Peace is based on the Mindfulness & Grief System developed by Heather. It offers meditation and journaling exercises to initially help bereaved people cope with the pain of loss, and eventually rewrite their post-loss narrative, all while developing healthy lifestyle habits. The new book offers a holistic approach to life after loss, weaving in memorial and meaning-making activities with personal reflection and goals to help the reader-writer move forward, which is quite different from moving on. Heather relies on evidence-based approaches, contemporary grief research, and ancient practices rooted in yoga and Buddhism, and holds a master's degree in thanatology, the study of death, dying, and bereavement. 
In episode 46, lifelong friends Shelley Buck and Kathy Curtis share their journey of childhood friendship, staying in touch through college, and the comfort that Kathy provided to Shelley following the devastating loss of her son, Ryder. Ryder was a talented musician and world traveler who continued to live his life to the fullest even after his Stage IV cancer diagnosis.  After Ryder’s death, Shelley felt extremely lost and unsure of her next steps in life. So Kathy helped Shelley write the book “Leave Your Light On,” inspired by a song Ryder wrote, to share Shelley’s journey through the process. The book is filled with letters, journal entries, poems, and memories. Shelley found that writing was very cathartic for her, and she hopes her journey encourages others. 
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.
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 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.  
Comments (3)


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


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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