#055: Navigating Grief, with Yvonne Heath

January 9, 2019

[3-minute read, 65-minute listen]         

In this episode of the Empowering Ability podcast, we have an in-depth conversation on grief with nurse and author, Yvonne Health. In this conversation, Yvonne defines grief, how to support others that are grieving, the difference between quality and quantity of life, and her 7 takeaways to navigate through life, grief, and end of life.  Yvonne is an inspirational Speaker, author of the book ‘Love Your Life to Death’, and a TV and Radio host.

(Note: 25% of ‘Love Your Life to Death’ book sales purchased through this link go directly to Community Living Ontario)

You can listen to this conversation in its entirety by clicking play on the player below, OR by clicking one of the following links to listen on your favourite podcast player; iTunesSpotify, and Google Play.

Why Are We Talking About Grief?

YH: “I didn’t choose this, it chose me. Looking back at a 27-year nursing career we don’t talk about grief, we don’t talk about death and dying until it arrives. Then we try and navigate through it. This causes excessive suffering. Grief is a part of our journey, but by avoiding it we are creating excessive suffering.”

Seeing this suffering as a nurse Yvonne had to do something about it, so she took a leap of faith wrote a book about it, and here we are.

As as a nurse, Yvonne became attached to people and she suffered tremendously. She realized this and she became aware of how she was suffering and became curious about it. This led her to have more conversations with other carers.

YH: “I asked fellow caregivers, are we well prepared for grief death and dying? And they said, no. Then I’d have conversations with two people with the same diagnosis of terminal cancer and their families and see drastically different experiences. One family was acknowledging and allowing all feelings – laughing and crying and being open, and being truthful about what was happening. That person died more peacefully and the family navigated through their grief and was able to get through and find happiness again. Then there were other families who were angry and bitter, and demanding more treatments and there weren’t conversations being had. There was no eye contact, I could feel the suffering. I could see this over and over, and I had this inner voice telling me we had to see something different.”

What is Grief?

YH: “Grief is whatever makes your heartache. Often it is death, but it can be divorce, a diagnosis, complications at birth, job loss, not making the team. Grief is a part of our life. Anger is often a very big part of grief, and it can come out.”

How Do We Support Someone Experiencing Grief?

YH: “I [we often] don’t know what to do, I [we often] don’t know what to say. We are more comfortable avoiding people when they are grieving. But the most important thing is that we need people to just show up. A hug, a text, an email, sit in silence. Just sit with someone and acknowledge and allow their feelings and not try and fix it. You can’t fix grief, you just have to allow it. We have to get back to allowing our humanness. You are qualified to just show up.”

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Quality of Life vs. Quantity of Life.

YH: “What is enough quality of life is enough for one person isn’t acceptable for another person. There is always a treatment that we can do, but the question is should we? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we have the conversation before something happens? The time to have these conversations is not when you are facing life or death situations.”

EG: “We can create a thought experiment for ourselves and think – okay if I got cancer and I was given a prognosis of 2 years to live with intensive treatment that is going to reduce my quality of life for that time, or I could have 6 months to live with a high quality of life. Which would I choose? And, you can do this now from a rational place now, rather than a fear-based place when actually faced with the decision. This decision will likely also change over time as we age, or our life situation changes.”

YH: “These types of situations being made when things happen can fracture families, and create divides that are difficult to repair. Let’s normalize creating an end of life plan. Imagine the suffering that we can alleviate.”

EG: “Only 50% of people have a will. Get your will in order. This is especially important for a family where there is a person with a disability because any transfer of your estate to a person with a disability can drastically impact their social assistance benefits.”

Yvonne’s 7 takeaways to navigate through life, grief, and end of life

1. The Next Best Time is Now! The best time to talk about, plan and prepare for grief is when we are young and healthy. 

2. It Takes a Village to support: the ill, the caregiver, the dying, the bereaved and each other.

3. When someone is grieving, Just Show Up!

4. To be empowered, resilient and compassionate, Show Up For Yourself First!

5. Structure Your Life in such a way that you are self-reliant.

6. Find your Post, and hold onto it.

7. What will Your Legacy be?

To get the summary description of Yvonne’s 7 takeaways go to http://the7takeaways.ca/ to learn more, or you can listen to us discuss these 7 takeaways on the podcast by clicking below.

*You can listen to the full conversation with Yvonne Heath by clicking below.*

Tweet-able Moments from the conversation with Yvonne:

“Love & gratitude are the answer, no matter the question.” – Yvonne’s mother, Waves of healing

“Our legacy is what we create in every moment of every day. It is how we make people feel.” -Yvonne Heath

“It [life] isn’t joy or sorrow, it Is is a rollercoaster, and when we take care of each other we can get through it [life] with greater joy.” -Yvonne Heath

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Love & Respect,

Eric Goll


Yvonne’s Blog/ vlog
Yvonne Heath’s 7 takeaways
Book: Love Your Life to Death

(Note: 25% of ‘Love Your Life to Death’ book sales purchased through this link go directly to Community Living Ontario)

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