EP 61 A Mother’s Search For Peace With Guest Susan Lynch

Living With Your Child's Addiction Podcast
Living With Your Child's Addiction Podcast
EP 61 A Mother's Search For Peace With Guest Susan Lynch
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Heather Interviews author Susan Lynch. Her memoir Life After Kevin A Mother’s Search for Peace and the Golden Retrievers that Led the Way is a story about finding meaning when life challenges you in the hardest ways, healing through community, spiritual connection, and the transformation that comes from learning how to sit with intensely painful emotions to gain answers and clarity.

Susan’s son Kevin died from multiple drug intoxication in 2015. She kept the cause of his death a secret for 2 years because of shame and stigma. Shame separates us from community and connection.  It also keeps us from seeing that we need help. 

3 Things you’ll learn in this episode:

  1. How Shame kept Susan silent and the impact it had on her grief
  2. How Susan’s dogs helped her heal
  3. Connecting with and receiving guidance from someone that has died

If you would like to pre-order Susan’s book use this link www.susan-lynch.com/book-order.

To learn more about Susan go to her website www.susan-lynch.com.

Episodes to Listen to next:

Ep 51 How to Stop Fixing Your Child and Start Connecting With Them

Ep 52 Why Parents Need Recovery Too

 

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Additional resources:

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Transcript

This transcript has not been formatted or edited.

0:01

I’m Heather after many wasted years, trying outdated, approaches to my daughter’s addiction, that felt wrong to me harmed.

Our relationship and didn’t help my daughter.

I finally found an effective evidence-based approach.

0:16

That repair my relationship with her helped me.

Create my own peace of mind and made me an ally in my daughter’s recovery.

I teach you a loving and compassionate approach to help you encourage change.

And create connection addiction impacts the entire family system.

0:35

Family recovery is the answer.

Before I introduce today’s guests, I want to mention that this episode is being released on August. 31st, 2022.

Today is international overdose awareness day.

0:53

It’s the world’s largest annual campaign to end overdose.

Remember without stigma, those who have died and acknowledge the grief of the family and friends Left Behind The Campaign raises awareness of Overdose, which is one of the world’s Public Health crisis has and Action and discussion about evidence-based, overdose prevention and drug policy.

1:15

The campaign acknowledges, the profound grief felt by families and friends.

Whose loved ones have died or suffered permanent injury from drug overdose International, overdose, Awareness, Day.

Spreads the message about the tragedy of drug overdose death and that drug overdose is preventable.

1:34

The goals of international.

Overdose Awareness Day are to provide an opportunity for people People to publicly mourn.

Loved ones in a safe environment.

Some for the first time without feeling guilt or shame that just hit my heart.

1:50

Because I’ve been lucky enough to be able to grieve publicly include the greatest number of people International overdose Awareness Day events and encourage non-denominational involvement to give community members information about the issue of fatal and non-fatal overdose to send a strong message.

2:10

Passage to current and former people who use drugs that they are valued to stimulate discussion about overdose prevention and drug policy to provide basic information, on the range of support services that are eligible are available to prevent and reduce drug related harm by supporting evidence based policy and practice to inform people around the world.

2:35

About the risks of Overdose, I did not expect that to make me feel emotional.

That description came from overdose.com.

And tonight, I’ll be one of the speakers at the Volusia County Recovery Alliance fourth annual, overdose awareness and Remembrance Day in Daytona.

2:55

I get to honor helana and share her memory and share my experience with stigma.

They are around, Helen has overdose and I also get to share my encouragement and guidance for others who have lost loved Ones.

I’ve been working on that speech for the last week or so it’s probably why this just reading that made me feel so emotional.

3:21

And I mean, it’s just hard for me to believe that Helen has gone, let alone that I’m sharing about it less than a year.

Later, I’m going to record that speech and release it on the podcast.

So it will be the next episode that comes out.

And I wish I could say that I had planned ahead and scheduled today’s episode because it aligns with overdose awareness, but I didn’t, it was like divine intervention.

3:44

I was supposed to have this episode on a couple of weeks ago but I was dead lifting and I hurt my back.

Pretty bad.

I ended up in bed for about a week and I was in so much pain that there was no way that I could do an interview.

So we had to reschedule and the universe time this perfectly for today, Today, I am interviewing author, Susan Lynch.

4:08

She wrote a book called life, after Kevin a mother’s search for peace, in the golden retrievers, that led the way, I mean, it’s got dogs in it, you know, it’s going to be good.

It’s a story about finding meaning when life challenges, you and the hardest ways healing through Community spiritual connection, and the transformation that comes from learning how to sit with intensely painful.

4:35

Shins to gain answers and Clarity.

That’s what I got out of the book.

Susan’s son, Kevin died from multiple drug intoxication, in 2015, Susan didn’t even know that Kevin had been using opiates before he died and we don’t know how often or anything else about it.

4:55

Just that he used them that night.

She kept the cause of his death, a secret for two years because of Shame and stigma.

Emma, and Susan.

And her husband were the only ones that knew that means that she didn’t get to talk to anybody about that.

5:12

And I can’t even imagine that.

Shane Keeps Us separate keeps us from getting help.

It keeps us from community and connection.

When things started getting really bad with Elana substance, use shame kept me silent and isolated for a long time.

5:29

So, as soon as I heard that about her story, it just reminded me of my experience with As well.

And when I heard that she was writing a book about her experience, I knew it was just going to be something that we could all learn.

From Susan, Lynch has trained and competed with her golden retrievers for more than 20 years.

5:48

And she’s been an active member of the golden retriever Club of America, and Yankee golden retriever Club.

Since 1995.

She previously sat on the Yankee golden retriever Club board of directors from 2008 to, 16 and the roles of director vice president and president.

6:09

Her knowledge base covers both competitive and non-competitive American Kennel Club sports that include hunt.

Test field trials, obedience, trials, and conformation shows.

Additionally for of her dogs were active certified therapy.

6:25

Dogs with Therapy Dogs.

International in 2021, Susan was awarded the Rachel page Elliott feather Quest.

Lifetime Achievement Award.

For the GRC a for her contributions to puppy education through life with Rune a Facebook group.

6:42

I’m hoping I said that name, right?

It’s spelled are you any a Facebook group and Community?

She founded in life with Rune, Susan demonstrated, puppy socializing and training techniques that are critical from eight weeks through 12 months.

Susan is on a mission to use her own vast experience and expertise in dog training and her personal journey through a loss.

7:05

Loss to support families and grief by showing them the power in depth of canine, companionship, during trauma.

I hope you enjoyed this interview and there will be links in the show notes for Susan’s website and a way to pre-order the book and you should go to her website and look at all the cute pictures of the dogs and she’s got a great video on there.

7:30

That shows a little bit of Kevin as well to I was really touched by the Dio.

So go check that out after you listen to the interview.

Everybody today, I am talking to Susan Lynch author of the book life after Kevin season, thank you for being here today.

7:49

Thank you for having me.

So I want to start by taking a minute, just to honor Kevin and have you just tell us a little bit about him so that we can kind of get the essence of him before we start just going into questions about the book.

8:06

I love that.

So Kevin was a hilarious.

I always he kind of came out by me.

He was just had that childlike personality that he never lost.

8:22

He died when he was 25 so he still had that other.

No, look at everything through rose-colored glasses.

He’s a lot of fun.

He was no angel, he got himself into a fair amount of trouble.

But he just had this quality.

8:38

That was so friendly and open that.

Yeah, he just it was something special.

Yeah, that’s all I want to take a minute to just get to feel the essence of him before we start talking about this book because without him, we wouldn’t be learning what we’re going to learn from you today.

8:57

So I just want to honor that.

So a big part of your early story after Kevin died was dealing, The shame and the impact that that shame had on your grieving process and I know like what I experienced in my early days of like when I was just dealing with Helena’s addiction with the shame kept me, very separate and made everything harder than it had to be.

9:27

It’s hard enough without it specially dealing with grief.

So, how did shame impact your grieving process?

SS.

Well, you’re absolutely right.

I mean, shame is definitely isolating.

I did not feel.

9:44

I didn’t know that Kevin was doing opiate when he was alive.

So when I found out that was how he died, it was something I had to process and I was not ready to make that public before I did my inner work to be able I will to heal that and then come out about it.

10:08

So I intentionally kept it under wraps for quite a while.

I did for two years and it was a heavy heavy, heavy load to carry.

And that’s a big part of what I write about in the book.

10:26

Is that experience with shame is what keeps everybody suffering in silence?

Yeah.

And shame grows in silence and stigma, grows in silence.

Yeah, and it like you said, my burden was so much heavier before when I was keeping that secret and it just made me feel so much worse.

10:50

So much heavier.

How do you think it caused your grieving process or the most in?

I mean, there’s always going to be grief there because of the nature of the loss.

But do you think that it made it?

More intense for longer because of the secret that you are carrying.

11:06

Oh, absolutely.

It’s complicated grief, right?

So I had to deal with the fact that he had died which is Monumental in itself, and then how he died people are always ready to make assumptions of judgment and it definitely even found it to be like that in some Reef.

11:31

Groups where people would offer up more.

Sympathy to two people whose kids had died from no fault of as they say making air Quotes no fault of their own kind of thing and diseases and such.

11:48

So yeah, definitely.

Yeah, it’s interesting.

You said diseases and such because a lot of people who died from an overdose are dealing with the disease of addiction.

But people don’t even think about it that way.

They don’t have the choice category, right?

12:05

I meant his Diamond physical diseases, I know, but it still goes to what like a lot of people think about with or, you know, a relating it back to choice, but we don’t ever we don’t minimize the tragedy of somebody who died in a car accident, because they were speeding or somebody who died in from a heart attack because of lifestyle choices they made, right?

12:27

We don’t bring it down to choice for Thing.

But addiction not we me and you but when we’re stigmatizing yeah, I think that’s what keeps us in the shame.

And silence is people looking at it like a choice like that?

Absolutely.

Yeah.

12:43

So you had a couple of experiences with stigma while you were still processing, the grief and processing the shame, you were still keeping things, a secret when there was Time that somebody made the comment about the singer from Stone Temple Pilots dying and then the well there’s just one more addict off the streets.

13:09

Yeah.

And then somebody else mentioning at a training you are at that.

Family dinners would fix though the only access nice and simple and it’s no surprise that on the second one.

13:25

You ended up like yelling at that person, right?

Yeah, thanks.

Until this that story a little bit so we can hear the background and then talk about how after that how you respond to Sigma stigma today.

Yeah, so the first one I was at work.

13:41

When Scott Weiland says, lead singer for Stone Temple, Pilots had died and I had had the toxicology report back yet so I was a little bit nervous, I was suspicious, but I wasn’t sure and he this guy just said, oh, one more drug addict.

13:59

The street and I was like and I was still in that it was really my first experience with somebody being so completely ignorant and saying it to my face without knowing he was what he was saying.

14:15

Well he knew what he was saying but he didn’t know what I was feeling so that was and I just kept quiet about that.

And then by the time I had this Haas, I was in hospice training and ironically enough.

Her people supposed to be so compassionate.

14:32

And and I was at the table with 25 people and he there was the volunteer coordinator with saying that they needed more people to volunteer because of the opiate crisis, and a lot of kids parents were dying so they needed more volunteers for the children’s support, grief support group and that was when the comment was made.

14:58

Well, we know the What would solve the opiate crisis would be more family dinners, and it was just like it was a year, probably about a year and a half of stuffing, it all down and it just I just exploded and I couldn’t it was so Cavalier and ridiculous and I just was like, you have no right to say that.

15:26

I made family dinners and I was when I think about it now.

Now, I kind of cringe because I was like, defending myself, like, if that was even worthy of it, may be saying, oh my God, I made family dinners.

We had the proteins starch in the vegetable on the plate.

15:44

We talked about because you know, so it was reacting.

I hadn’t really gone completely through my inner work clearly because I was reacting and I was very upset.

Yeah, it takes a lot not to respond or to not to react to something like that and then the intense pain you are already experiencing because of living with so much shame and secrecy.

16:14

I probably would have reacted the same way I mean and there’s been times where I experienced stigma now that the probably the only reason I’ve been able to respond intentionally is because I I knew these things ahead of time, right?

16:32

Like I knew other people’s stories and experiences.

I almost feel like I know that this sounds crazy but like I was being prepared like a little bit at a time for what I was going to experience after Helena died.

16:47

Like a client just happened to bring up to me like a family that died that lost their child and they were in secrecy about it and I made the decision like in that moment.

Aunt, not to be in secrecy if anything happened to Lana.

And this was only like a month before she died and so it was like and then I saw this post about somebody talking about the way we treat addiction versus the way we treat other diseases and comparing and can you imagine if we did those things and that was just like a week before.

17:21

I had a horrible conversation with a police officer who was wanting to make sure that I knew my daughter died because of her.

Choices.

Not because somebody had sold her a lethal dose of fentanyl when she thought she was buying heroin.

17:37

He wanted to make sure that I really listened up and could hear that she died because of her choices to break the law.

And I was able to stay calm in that moment because I had just seen that post, it’s like we’re going to talk about signs a little bit more, but yeah, I I was able to stay calm in those moments.

18:01

I can’t even imagine if I had not been experiencing able to talk about things and let off some of the pressure.

I would have completely exploded so I totally understand that.

Yeah, I think I remember when the police officer called me back.

18:19

We have been playing phone tag.

This was a few months after I got the toxicology report back and I remember being in a store, Walking around who didn’t want to miss his call walking around the store and trying to explain to him how funny he was.

18:36

And what a great person he was and he was just like just not wanting to hear any of it and I thought again it was another cringe-worthy moment I think of myself.

Why was I trying to change?

This person’s mind to just consider them a statistic.

18:55

At that point was it’s amazing that Police don’t have more compassion or in some in some circumstances than they do dealing with the family.

I that’s horrifying.

What you went through.

I can’t even.

19:12

Yeah and it’s just so important to I don’t think I changed his mind at all right.

I at least felt good about how I showed up in that situation and the same thing with you like it’s only natural for us to want to defend our kids and human eyes.

19:29

Them.

They’re not just a statistic where well, that’s exactly how I show up now.

I choose to lead in this battle by writing about Kevin and I think that if you tell stories and if I share stories about, there’s a lot of flashbacks in my book.

19:48

Where you by the time you finish the book, The Reader has a clear understanding of who Kevin wasn’t the person and it’s he’s not painted as an angel or anything.

It’s very True to, who he was.

And I also on the flip side, talk about what I went through, with all of that, shame and stigma.

20:09

So I think that by telling these stories, it’s harder for people to think of him as a statistic it puts a face.

It like you said, humanized it a put the face to the overdose and because I didn’t, you can’t change how people feel, you can only give them something to think about, right?

20:29

Yeah, planning seeds, right?

Just very similar to what I thought of with my daughter when I was trying to support her and and even in our relationship was just like planting these seeds and cultivating them with connection, and hopefully, we can plant seeds by telling the story of our kids and humanizing them.

20:53

And letting people see how much more they were than their addiction.

Solutely.

So then after that incident, or those couple of incidents where you dealt with stigma, it was not too long.

After that before you were creating community and the support group trying to come out of that isolation and shame.

21:18

And that was what ended up getting you to start sharing with everybody that Kevin had died from an overdose right?

You want to share that?

Part of your story.

Yeah.

So this is a fantastic group called Helping parents heal and they are based in Arizona.

21:37

I live in Southern New Hampshire.

There wasn’t any, I was doing a lot of online classes and there wasn’t any in person group near me.

So I decided to become an affiliate leader and I secured the location and I needed to get some media around it and so I contacted a newspaper It looks like a free paper that went to bunch of surrounding towns.

22:03

And I asked if they would be willing to do a feature.

And she said, yes, she came to my house, she went to your family about an hour and a half, we had a decent conversation and at the end I had all the picture board.

22:20

That would she have a ton of questions and at the end she said how did Kevin died.

We didn’t discuss that and I said, Well, technically he died from multiple drug intoxication, but I don’t want you to print that because I have not told my family and friends.

22:37

Now this was two years after he had died, and she said, Okay?

And she left and I had emailed her right afterwards.

I said just asking her about when it was going to be in the paper.

22:55

And she emailed me back.

Pretty pretty quickly.

And she said Susan well I memorized what she said, she said well, I can appreciate what you’re trying to do without listing the cause of death, that leaves a large and unacceptable hole in the story and without it, we can’t print your story.

23:15

And I just I saw a red, I was so angry.

I couldn’t even contain it.

I completely flipped out.

I did.

I was scared at how dead I was and I kept asking myself, I am I so bad, why am I still mad?

23:33

And it brought up something from 10 years ago that Kevin had gone through.

He had been arrested for underage drinking and he had made the front page of a big earner.

Newspaper.

And all of the shame and stigma, I had felt with that and they saw the very clear of the similarities between these two situations and I thought it was just such.

23:59

I was at a complete Crossroads and I’m like, I could either keep going the way I’m going and keep stuffing it, and keep hiding it and keep being secretive, or I could just come out and let people know how he died.

24:17

And I know Heaven wanted that healing for me and I did and not was I always think of her, I thought she was going to be the person that helped me get the group going but in fact she actually helped me really let go of that huge, the chip on my shoulder from 10 years ago, that turned into the giant boulder and I didn’t even realize it.

24:45

And so it was just such a healing moment for me to finally tell you how.

So that led to you telling everybody in your family which I think it’s amazing that your husband kept that secret for you all.

25:03

I try to put myself in his position and I it’s amazing that he was able to do that because I don’t know if I would have been able to if that’s house had made that request of me.

So I just have to give him a lot of credit for doing that.

That he was wonderful and that just kind of speaks to how to people grieve differently.

25:21

He didn’t feel that stigma.

And I mean, he felt the stigma but he didn’t really go down the shame whole like I did, because I was, I’m the mother, you’re the mother and the, it’s like just kind of falls on us, but he really wanted to do what he could to support me and he knew how important it was to me.

25:43

But yeah, he was wonderful and I really It’s realized the magnitude of what I asked him until I said I’m willing to to tell people.

Yeah, that’s amazing but I want to hear the rest of what you ended up doing with the newspaper because you ended up you told her how you felt about it and it you used it as a catalyst to start changing, get community come out of this isolation and shame.

26:12

But you also stood your ground on the article which I really loved And yeah, I told her that people judge how much sympathy they get based on how a person died and I didn’t want to perpetuate that and it was also not about how Kevin died.

26:31

It was about support for parents who have lost a child.

That’s really what the story was about.

So she needed that little salacious detail to sell papers and I did not give her permission to use that, so she She wasn’t able to write this story.

26:49

Yeah, I love that because saying that there was all the large and unacceptable hole in the story without his cause of death completely misses that the purpose of the group was to create Community around any death.

27:04

It doesn’t or loss of a child.

It doesn’t matter how they died.

It just matters what we’re experiencing is parents in that loss.

Absolutely.

Yeah, I’m glad that you stuck by how you felt about that but I’m also glad that it was an opportunity to open up for you and really experience that healing that you needed.

27:27

So, then, after you started telling everybody, how much did that help you?

Because I know that that’s something that I really struggled with in, like, by the time whole Anna died.

I was, everybody knew everything about my life because I already had a podcast in everything, but When I first started sharing, what was happening in my home and in my life it was this huge relief for me.

27:51

How much did that?

Open up healing for you?

Oh, absolutely.

Well, he’ll when you’re hiding you’re trying to avoid situations, you’re micromanaging.

How you never know.

If somebody is going to ask you that question, you don’t know if you should tell somebody that your child has died because they’re going to say what happened?

28:14

They died.

So Just letting go of that trying to micromanage everybody and trying to control the conversation was just they just freed up so much of my brain power.

28:29

So I could really concentrate on myself and my grief because that was almost put on hold because I was dealing with all of the stigma and the shame and stuff that part of it.

So yeah, it just it just was like, I lost Hundred pounds of weight off of my shoulders.

28:49

It was wonderful.

Yeah, I read in a book once it was dark side of the light Chasers and she compared it to just having any kind of secret like that, like carrying around like an orange.

Like it’s not heavy, but if you’re carrying it around, trying to hide it all day everyday, holding onto it, like just the burden that, that would create in your life, and I thought that was a really good example.

29:13

Like, it doesn’t seem like it’s going to be that.

Big of a deal.

But when you really think about how exhausting it would be trying to hide that orange, you don’t want anybody to know you had it but you were carrying it around.

Well, the thing is it’s like you just don’t ever know when that choose going to drop like you don’t know if you’re going to run into somebody and at the store so you don’t want to go to the store.

29:34

So you end up isolating yourself more.

I mean, it’s just it’s a vicious cycle that you you stay in and that hyper-vigilant, it’s just exhausting.

Really exhausting?

Yeah, I ended up posting on Facebook that Helena died.

29:51

The same night that I found out that she died because I couldn’t even stand the thought of telling one more person in or the thought of telling people that I hadn’t seen in three months and then suddenly they reach out to me and then I’ve got to tell them I’m like I just want everybody to know right now so that I never have to say it again into me.

30:11

Just even the thought of the burden of dealing with In that part of it.

I can’t even imagine how big of a burden that was for you to carry that for two years?

Well, I just posed, I just send out.

I used my social media platform and I have I have a puppy group and I have emails from that.

30:30

So I just sent out an email yesterday or the day before, about International, overdose awareness day, which is August, 31st.

And in it, I talked about how Kevin died and so I got that out too.

Whatever couple thousand people.

30:48

And it just it felt good to be able to let more people know and to kind of shine a light on it what I went through not super in depth but I got feedback.

I got feedback from people that replied and said, thank you for writing that my son is struggling right now and it just it so hard and so it was nice, it wasn’t a lie but it was a significant A lot of people that appreciated talking about it.

31:19

So yeah, there’s definitely a need for it out there talking about it is very healing for me.

Just being able to talk openly about it and I’m going to be in an overdose awareness event like sharing my story on the 31st, it’ll be the first time I’ve shared it a in front of people in that way.

31:40

So that will be interesting.

But I do think that it just the Are we talked about it?

The more we normalize white people experience and humanize the narrative around addiction, but I put a picture in there of college drop off day and it was Kevin’s.

32:04

Like she just looks so handsome in the picture and it was like, this is his plan.

The plan was to go to college.

His plan was to have a career Or and have a family and all that and this is good.

Anybody else this time of year is what they’re doing with their college age kids and dropping them off a college.

32:26

So I chose that picture intentionally to again normalize that and say yes, look at this was our plan to.

Yeah it could happen to anybody, right?

Yahoo your dogs are part of the book and a big part of your healing journey and me to, like, I’ve got my Mutters dog.

32:47

I that dogs like my my life now and I have two other dogs and just the healing power.

The dogs have is just so amazing to me.

How how did your dogs help you heal?

So I was a competitive dog trainer for over 20 years.

33:06

So I had two dogs, two, golden retrievers at the time and they were used to training five six days a week and what’s going on hikes in the woods.

Every day.

So they were used to a lot of exercise and when Kevin died we went from that to a short walk in the woods every day.

33:26

So very first day, they mirrored my grief.

It was amazing.

We were in the house and they would just lie at my feet.

It was like, they energetically just knew we would, they would follow me from room to room but then when we would go out on walk, they were able to Enjoy themselves.

33:46

The tails are wagging.

Their were sipping, they were having rules on the grass and I thought it took me a long time to figure it out exactly what it was but they were the perfect embodiment of balance.

They were able to show me how to acknowledge and take the time to process my grief.

34:08

But yet enjoy what’s right in front of me when I’m out in nature and and Beauty.

That’s around me.

So for me, they were like my first teachers on what I wanted to be like I wanted to be able to acknowledge my grief but I don’t want to live there, right?

34:27

I want to be able to enjoy, what’s in front of me and they guided me through that heavy, heavy, heavy early Greece.

And then then they got to a point where they were like, my just my reset button every day.

They were, they were the one of my dogs with the first one and that.

34:45

Me to laugh again.

And it was just like a refocus on how how I wanted to be each morning.

Yeah, I love that.

My dog makes me laugh.

Like at least at some point every day.

Yeah, that is even.

35:00

I mean I could have been crying five minutes before that and she’ll make me laugh because she’s just so silly and we, yeah, I don’t know what I would do without her.

And laughing is such a huge part, I think of healing.

It just, it helps us even in I did a grief workshop on time, but Paul Dennison was great.

35:19

It’s got these videos and he’s like, you know, group sets up in the body.

So we were at this workshop and he said, I want you to fake laugh.

And we’re all like, oh God, please don’t make me and just that idea it got us to laugh like genuinely right but would be a good.

35:40

Be like, hahaha and then we started laughing at him.

And it’s just it’s just such a nice relief.

So it’s such a gift so to be able to have something that I live with that makes you laugh every day.

So it’s just total bonus.

35:56

Yeah.

And it’s part of you said like acknowledging what you’re experiencing but not living in the pain of it all of the time.

I think that that that was something I also had learned like dealing with Helena’s addiction that because it was so intense acknowledged.

36:15

Judging that experience but also not living there and experiencing all the emotions.

And then what’s been even surprising to me in my grief as that I can be crying one minute and feel the the just the intense ache of the loss and how the depth of it and then like the dog will do something silly and I’m laughing like and I feel great joy at the same time.

36:41

Yeah and it’s very healing to allow that because To me, that’s what keeps me connecting to helana and love instead of only grief and pain, right?

It’s like they give you permission to enjoy the laughter because if I didn’t have my dog’s, I think I would be more more heavily in the green part of it, but the dogs were a reminder, each day, it’s like, like a reset.

37:13

Oh, yeah, you know, we can Can do this.

We can have moments of joy, we can have moments of laughter, so yeah.

Okay.

And so then you also talk about connecting with Kevin now like spiritually.

Yeah.

And what I love about that because I’m doing the same thing, trying to learn how to connect with Helena spiritually is that it really parallels me learning to try to connect with her when she was dealing with addiction, like it was I couldn’t connect with her on the same level, nothing that worked before worked and I had to figure out a whole new way to do it and now again nothing that worked before works, I’m having to figure out this whole new way to do it again.

38:00

So how did you come into that and how has that connection with him?

Helped you?

So I was just so I started going Kevin’s room every day and it was a place for me to completely Come Undone.

38:17

And I needed that privacy and I created a space in there.

I had a little table, I had a candle had notebook and pen, and some essential oils.

And I just looked out the window, and I just started talking to him, like, I pretended like we were on the phone.

38:37

I mean, talk to our kids all the time, right?

So and we don’t see them when were on the phone.

So I just started And doing that.

And then I would pause like if I asked him a question or if I told him something and I was done, I would just pause and see if I felt something in my body.

38:59

Or if something came to me and if I was really stuck I started thinking, are imagining what he would say, and I could just see him in my mind’s eye, and if I asked him, A question is something I knew him so well I could almost imagine what he’d say.

39:20

So and then I would start writing it down.

Think that’s a big, a big part of it.

Because when you physically write something on keeper, you’re making it real, right?

You’re taking your thought or what is in your, in The Ether, and you’re making it real on paper and I think, to me, it sends out that energetically in, To the universe that you want more.

39:47

So it’s just kind of process and I also had, I had divination cards.

I use divination Ducks.

I have this one talking to Heaven.

Hmm.

Doreen Virtue and James Van praagh.

40:03

And those are great because is it just a deck of cards?

And I would just shuffle them and I would hold the deck and I would say cab, what do you want to tell me today?

And then I would fan them out.

And I would just intuitively pick a card and then, sometimes that would be even enough to kind of just start the conversation.

40:23

Maybe I is one card in there, that has a bunch of animals and it’s I’m with all the with all the animals and it’s like, of course, you are in my house trip, and so I would just start talking to him, like, I would hear and it was amazing how that just kind of snowballs and got easier and easier for me and more Normal and I made a point to do it every day and that was a big part of your healing.

40:49

Absolutely.

Yeah.

Yeah.

It’s really, very similar to me.

Like what started my transformation in again, in the hole and his addiction.

Like, when I was finally ready to face everything and try a different way and being willing to do whatever it took to have a relationship with her.

41:12

It was, I wasn’t necessarily talk.

King to her.

But I was having that meditative time seeing what came up and responding to it and learning from it and it really improved our relationship.

And it’s interesting that because I was thinking about, like, how I’m connecting with Helena now and sometimes it’s easy because I’m in a really good place.

41:40

But when I am feeling like desperate because I feel Owing a lot of grief and I really like him desperate to connect with her.

So I can feel better instead of being centered in myself.

It’s very similar to how it was when she was alive.

41:55

Like I’m not going to get a connection with her during that time.

Yeah.

And so and then it just pushes me to focus on myself again, which is so important.

It’s like I think the biggest part of anything that I’ve learned is always going inside of myself and finding that balance.

42:15

It’s about, it’s the exact same connection that I’m having with her spiritually.

It’s like the same.

All the same rules.

Apply right, right.

I use a lot of, like, my when I go out in nature, if I see, I see a hawk or like, I showed, I showed up to a trail recently and I always think of which Trail am I going to walk on to the X?

42:41

I have like 85 miles of trails around my house.

And very It that way.

And I showed up that this Trail in right at the trailhead.

There was a post and there was a huge Hawk just sitting there as I pulled up and I thought, well, I intuitively wanted to go to this Trail.

43:01

There’s the hawk and then I start talking to Kevin like, okay, kev-hog is a messenger and then I’ll be like, remind me when I get home.

So it’s like, he’s right next to me, you know, I’m telling them like remind me when I get home.

I get to look up in.

The book, like what the message would be.

43:18

And if you have an idea and you want to let me know, let me know.

And then I might be on my walk and something might come to me and I know it’s from him.

I know it’s from Kevin.

So it’s like these little things.

43:34

It doesn’t have to directly be like, Okay, Kevin, I’m asking you this question, I want you to answer me, sometimes it kind of comes in the, back door, through the hawk or through.

I saw had seven squirrels in my front yard, which is so odd.

43:53

Anything like that, that just kind of get your attention, pay attention to it because he might be trying to come in through something else.

So, yeah.

And that really, like, I was doing that before she died, so help me to keep doing it afterwards, but then it’s sometimes it is harder because it’s just the emotional, do you have it still?

44:18

But a lot of times, when I’m walking and talking to her, And I like, I’ll ask a question or I’ll say, well, I think this and I’ll see a feather and I’m like, oh, thank you.

There’s my answer.

And that’s another good point that you brought up to, thank you.

44:35

Alright.

I always tell people it’s really important to thank them when you get something acknowledge it because they’re just as happy that you were able to get the message.

So thank them and it just sends that energy out there.

44:51

Again, that they will be.

Coming to you again soon.

Yeah, yeah.

I love that.

And then I mean this can be with any loved one.

You know if you’re listening to this and you and you’re like, well I haven’t lost a child but any loved one that you want to communicate with or just even have more of a spiritual connecting getting outside and really looking within, I mean that’s been the biggest part of my healing.

45:20

How about you?

Yeah, definitely.

He definitely going with him.

I had to heal all of the old beliefs.

I call it trying on my own life, old life to see what fit.

So, I had to rule out things that I don’t believe anymore.

45:38

Outdated, believed outdated things that I enjoy that.

I don’t enjoy anymore to see what my new life is going to be like and to be open to experience instead of saying no, I can’t do that.

Like, well maybe I could maybe I could try that.

45:58

So I think being open also pertains to signs and you know, messages from loved ones it’s like be open to hire receive something.

I remember asking Kevin one time, I said Kevin, I asked him for a ring, I said, I want you to send me a ring.

46:16

I don’t care how I get it.

I just want a ring and I wasn’t expecting a ring to show up.

Up at from Amazon or something.

And I was looking at was at the doctor’s office, I was looking through a magazine and I saw an ad for the Monopoly game or a game and there was the picture of luxury tax with the gold ring in the magazine and I was like, thank you, you know?

46:42

So it’s just that just such a nice bright spot to know that they can hear you as if they’re listening and want to connect with you.

Yeah, I think my very favorite one was I was at the beach and it was this beach in Sarasota that was her.

47:00

And I like had gone to was are both of our favorite Beach and so I was there and I was standing in the water and I was like I really want to see a dolphin like that was my my challenge to her that day and I was expecting to see because sometimes you see them like way out on the, buoys Beyond where people are supposed to swim and literally Like 10 minutes later everybody around me is like making all this noise and I turn around and look and there’s like five Dolphins within a couple of feet of me like way in where all the people were swimming.

47:36

Oh my yeah, it was like, you just really over delivered there.

You know.

Wow.

Oh my God, that’s awesome.

I love it.

Yeah, that’s pretty amazing.

So I think that the more open you are to that and like it just allows some Way into my life.

47:54

Absolutely.

Yep.

And write it down.

Oh, like I have a thick binder of science that I’ve gotten and some were that I forgot.

And so on a hard day I might look through that just as like a pick me up and be like, you know what?

48:13

I’m going to get another sign.

Look at all of these signs that I’ve gotten.

So one of my we were Tom and I were shopping at the Gap of all places and I was in the waiting at the entrance of the dressing room and he was trying on pants and I looked up and there was a poster and it was just the pocket, the pocket, the waist of the knee of a pair of jeans and it has a Golden Gate Bridge, embroidered on it.

48:45

And it said Frisco, which is where he lived out in California and then underneath it, and This epic picture of him at the Golden Gate Bridge with his brother and then Janee that it said, Kevin Gene.

Wow.

And I went to the clerk and they said, because I wanted to buy a pair and I said, is there such thing like where’s the Kevin Jean?

49:08

And she goes, no, I don’t know this, just some random ad, but I looked up and I was like, what?

Oh my God.

So, it’s amazing.

How they just kind of and you got to think that they’re laughing, right?

How cool is that?

49:24

Five Dolphins?

I wanted one.

I sent you five.

Rightly you beat from you?

Yeah, I can just see her laughing because yeah, describe, Kevin’s a lot like holy Hannah.

And she would have been, like, Mom, come on Mom.

Like this is so easy.

49:40

Yay!

Boom.

So, I think another part of the transformation at the end of your book, you have questions, which I absolutely Live questions.

I think it’s like because you also mentioned like questioning your beliefs and figuring out what fits you today versus before.

50:05

And I went through that once like early on in Helena’s addiction with it, when I really started changing as a person, I’m like right in the middle of it.

Now, I’m not really I know parts of my old belief system don’t work but I don’t have a new one yet.

50:21

I’m like still too early in the process.

Process.

But I love the questions that you asked and one of them was.

So you just talked about like sitting in Kevin’s room and you point out that sitting in the pain is how you feel, which is an important part of what a parent has to do.

50:40

When they’re dealing with addiction, is tolerating the discomfort of all of the intense emotions without really responding to them or like, not reacting and waiting till they can respond in.

Intentionally.

So how has just even sitting in that pain, helped you heal?

50:58

Well, I think that so much of our lives are trying to keep our emotions in check, so whether it’s at work or the grocery store or out in public, whatever.

So I needed a place where I could completely Come Undone, and that’s what I did and I went into Kevin’s room, I would take in Pictures, I would take in, I would listen to his music.

51:27

I would do anything to intentionally cry and people might say, oh, well of course, it’s going to be easy to cry, your your son died, but to really let it go because I didn’t want to cry in front of Tom because my husband because I didn’t want him to think he needed to comfort me.

51:47

And so just to completely have privacy and to come undone, And to sit with an acknowledge, all of the losses because it’s not just the loss of the person, right?

I would never see him get married.

52:03

I would never see his children.

I would never see him be that a his work or give promotions or whatever.

All of those are those micro losses that I needed to acknowledge and it just felt right to sit with that.

52:22

And To acknowledge it and not turn away from it.

I loved him so much.

Of course, I’m going to feel so much pain and it just didn’t seem right and I just trusted my intuition and it was the right thing and I think by sitting in the pain it freed up tears, it freed up emotions and to create space to do other things that day right?

52:50

So I would go in Heaven’s room.

I would say, okay, I’m going to sit in his room for an hour or two hours or whatever it was in the morning and then I would come out completely spent right from crying and everything.

But I’d be like, okay, I freed up some speed.

53:06

I can go, I can take the dogs out for a walk now or I can call my mom or I could do whatever and I think that if we’re walking around just completely full up with emotions teetering, and Any little thing, any little bump any little look that somebody gives us is just going to completely make me lose my crap.

53:34

I don’t want it, I don’t want to do that, you know, I don’t want to feel so out of control all the time and so it was a way for me to kind of take a little bit of control of my own healing.

And so I found that to be like the number one thing.

53:53

That helped me was to ironically force myself to face it and to I brought in all the props to make me do it.

Yeah.

Music was usually the one thing that was like a hundred percent guarantee that would make me cry.

54:09

Yeah, I’m the same way and I think that that it really is important.

It’s okay not to be okay for one.

It’s like when my father died.

I learned a lot of the ways not to I thought back about that after Helena died because when my father died, I didn’t cry in the like the first year or I cried, maybe just a little bit.

54:32

And then I really stuffed my grief down and then it took like about, then, when it started coming up, I couldn’t hold it down anymore and then I had about three years of feeling, pretty out of control with my grief and but still trying to resist it.

54:49

So it just the more, I resisted it, the longer.

Garite’s stuck around.

So I was very intentional about not doing that to myself again because I also when I had to cry I would go hide until I could push it down and not I wasn’t going in like creating an intentional space to cry.

55:08

I was going and getting away from anybody who could see me it.

So, I could push it down and hide it.

And then, so now I’m on my God, I just cry anywhere.

I’ve cried the whole time, I was lifting weights at the gym.

I don’t even know how many James.

I don’t own the place where I walk driving my car.

55:27

I’ll sit here and work like if not when I have a client but if when I’m writing or whatever I’m doing and just cry but I can still keep getting things done.

That’s the biggest thing that I’ve learned is how much I can get done while I’m still crying.

But I decided this time around that.

55:43

I would not do that to myself.

I’m going to let it all out because I don’t want all those toxic emotions building up in my body.

Like you said, like Ram about to explode, or hey, creating disease in my body from it, right?

Oh yeah, I remember being at work before I came out with it and I worked for veterinary office.

56:03

So any euthanasia or anything like that, it was like, if like really hard and I was always dashing into the bathroom and just like trying to compose myself again, so I could go back out and that’s that putting on a face.

56:19

It’s so hard and it’s just ours just the In the as the country grieved.

What’s expected of us, you know?

Okay, you got a couple days, nice should be past it and you got to get back to work.

And so I needed that release every day and when I didn’t do it, it was interesting.

56:38

Because if I didn’t do it, I would be blindsided way more often my grief.

So like you said it was like an intentional intentional way to heal as crappy as it is.

You know fun but it’s you keep stuffing it down, it’s not going anywhere.

56:58

No, it’s not gone anywhere.

And it manifests in different physically in your body emotionally.

Yeah.

And I it’s the same thing.

Like, any parent that’s dealing with addiction like there’s the grief of losing what you expected life to be.

57:15

Like, even though your child is still there, there’s the grief of what you expected parenting to be like, what you expected your Child’s life to be like how this impacts all the other areas of your life.

So grieving all of those losses is really important to taking the time to be intentional with crying, about it, letting it out, like, grief is so much more than comes up for so many more things than death.

57:41

So, everything that we’ve talked about, I think can be applied to so many other situations in our life where grief is needed to Each acceptance of where we’re at in our life.

Yeah, definitely.

57:56

I was just thinking about this wedding, I went to so all of Kevin’s friends are at the marrying age, right?

So he would be like 33, right?

He just had a birthday and I was at a wedding this summer in Florida, very big wedding and I’d say, like, 65% of the people that went were kids in their early 30s.

58:21

And it’s been almost seven years for me.

And it was really hard.

It was like, I think the first time I saw, like what he might have been doing at this age of this time, and I would absolutely miserable at the wedding and I honored it, I mean, I stayed on the periphery and I, I didn’t go out afterward to the parties and stuff and I just stayed in my room.

58:47

And I just said, you know what, I said to my husband I’m like Can I’m having a really hard time with this.

I need to process it and not put a phony face on and I did and it was glad with them when it was over but I was also glad the way I responded to it.

59:06

Instead of just trying to fake my way through it.

Yeah, you’re honored it and then a lot of times I’m like yeah, of course, I feel this way right now, just giving myself that reassurance that however I feel is okay, but Is another thing that like helps it to pass through easier than totally resisting it or trying to talk myself out of it like?

59:28

Yeah, course, I feel that way right now.

All right, well, thank you so much for your time today.

I really enjoyed you sharing this.

The book was really just a beautiful read.

I really enjoyed all of hearing about your family and learning about Kevin and the dogs and how you processed your grief.

59:49

I think it was just it’s A really beautiful story.

So thank you for sharing it with us.

Thank you, thank you for having me.

Thank you for listening to this episode.

If you want to learn more about my work, go to Heather.

Ross coaching.com if you want to help other parents who are struggling with a child’s addiction, you can do it two different ways.

1:00:10

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