Help for the Hurting Heart with David Kessler
David Kessler is the world’s foremost expert on grief and loss. His experience with thousands of people on the edge of life and death has taught him the secrets to living a happy and fulfilled life, even after life’s tragedies. He is the author of six books, including the recent bestseller, Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief. He has also co-authored two books with Elisabeth Kubler Ross, including On Grief and Grieving, which updated her 5 stages for grief. His first book, The Needs of The Dying received praise from Saint (Mother) Teresa.
01: Welcome: The Journey to Healing After Loss
The pain you experience from loss isn’t something to “just get over.” And you never, ever forget (nor should you.) Grief is brutal. No one needs to tell you that. You're here because a loved one has died, a relationship has ended, a divorce has occurred, a job’s lost, a pet has died, or a million other things may have brought you here like estrangement, COVID-19, or the desire to help a friend who’s hurting. First of all, we acknowledge that you have taken the brave, loving self to come here and participate in this course. Over the next several days, you’ll learn how to navigate through loss and grow from what grieves you. David Kessler, the co-creator of the Six Stages of Grief, walks you through his proven and powerful transformative grieving process so you can find a way through the pain.
02: Day 1: Part 1: What Grief Is (and Isn’t)
Grief is the death of something. It’s the death of someone we love. A breakup is the death of a relationship. Divorce is the death of a marriage. A job loss is the death of a paycheck, career, or relationships with co-workers. In this lesson, David discusses what grief is (and isn’t). He also explains why you shouldn't compare your grief to anyone else's. Everyone grieves differently, and that's to be expected.
03: Day 1: Part 2: Grief Has No Timeline
You weren’t taught how to process the pain. Society tells us to bury it or “just get over it,” and fast. But unattended grief leads to long-term suffering. The truth is there is no timeline in grief. And you cannot heal what you do not feel. So, while there is no timeline to grief, there are certain markers you use to help you know where in the process of grieving and healing you are.
04: Day 1: Part 3: The River of Grief
If you think of grief as a river, you can better understand your experience with it. Maybe you tiptoe slowly into the river, or wade in it for a long time as a loved one is dying or your marriage is ending. Others are thrown into the river of grief with just one phone call, with the news that someone has died suddenly. No matter how you go about getting into the river, you must understand one thing about it: The river of grief will take you to your healing. It will take you where you need to go.
05: Day 2: Part 1: The Power of Creating Your Story
Grief is about your heart, but your mind can take control by creating stories. Remember, the events do not change: death is death and divorce is divorce. Facts are what happened, without anything added. Yet, your mind likes to create stories to find reason and meaning in the events. How you tell your story can change. You are not the author of the facts, but you have the power to change the story you tell yourself and other people. That’s where you have some control. You are not powerless in your pain.
06: Day 2: Part 2: Carried Wounds
To live is to experience loss and pain. To be hurt and to carry that hurt with you. It’s often our old wounds, hurts from long ago, that we replay. That we use as navigational tools to survive. Often there is an event in our childhood that happens, and we draw a conclusion. That conclusion becomes part of our core belief system. And we carry that old wound as if it’s got the truth inside of it.
07: Day 2: Part 3: Why Your Words Matter
Words create worlds. Because you’ve been through the worst life has to offer, that experience expands your bandwidth. And with the expanded bandwidth, you can go deeper. Deeper into pain, sure, but also deeper into joy and laughter. But often we latch onto words that hurt us deeper. It's more important for your words to be kind than for you to make them positive. Because what you tell yourself is fundamental to processing, growing through grief, and finding meaning.
08: Day 3: Part 1: Reclaiming Your Power
It’s natural to feel like you’ve lost your power after a loved one dies, or after someone hits you with a divorce, betrayal, or breakup. Even the word “bereaved” comes from an old Latin word that means to be robbed. You have been robbed of your loved one, your marriage, or your power. Loss shakes up your world. It's like your anchor is gone and you’re in unchartered territory. Your situation and your loss is unique, but you still can find power no matter what. You have the power to grieve in your way, even if people don't like it. No one else is in charge of that. If you feel powerless after a loss or trauma, know this: it's part of the process. It’s natural to feel this way. It's part of healing. And today, you can begin the journey to reclaiming your power. Because when you bring your power back to you, you can hold your wounds in a different way.
09: Day 3: Part 2: The Work is Yours
As someone dealing with grief, you have two jobs: to grief fully and live fully. Don't give other people the power over your life, or the healing of your grief. That's your work. In this lesson, David talks about how to do your own grief work despite many different situations and family dynamics.
10: Day 3: Part 3: The Different Types of Grieving
In this lesson, you’ll learn the different types of grieving. Remember, there is no one correct way to grieve. You have the power to grieve in your way, even if people don't like it. No one else is in charge of how you process and feel your pain … or any other emotion.
11: Day 4: Part 1: The Survival Mind
Your mind is always seeking to make sure you survive and are safe. Think about your primitive mind. Your primitive mind saw the neighbor caveman eaten by the lion. It wants to make sure you do not get eaten by the lion. It’s about preserving and protecting you. However, sometimes the mind, in keeping you safe, turns against you through techniques like catastrophizing, thinking of worst-case scenarios. In this lesson, David explains the science of the survival mind in terms of loss and grief.
12: Day 4: Part 2: The Science of Loss
The way you feel today doesn't have to be how you feel always. Your mind is wired to protect you from repeating pain. It’s natural and common to worry after loss. You are learning how to live in this new world. In this lesson, you’ll learn about the science of loss. And how the programming of your mind creates repetitive thoughts that become pathways in the brain. Case in point: If you repeat a story enough times, it becomes deeply grooved in your mind, as natural and unconscious as a breath. It becomes the default way you think about what happened. The good news is you can reprogram your mind, by unspooling those stories that keep you in pain and creating new ones that support you growing through the grief.
13: Day 5: Part 1: The Difference Between Trauma and Grief
Psychological trauma is the unique individual's experience of an event, a series of events, or a set of enduring conditions in which the individual's experience and ability to integrate all the emotions becomes overwhelming. We often can confuse trauma with the grief that results from what happened. All grief does not have trauma, but all trauma has grief. To heal from trauma, you must grieve. Because to heal from trauma, you cannot skip the grieving process. While you may not have had choice in the trauma, you have choice in how you handle it, how you experience it, how you live in the past, and how you bring yourself and your loved one(s) into the present.
14: Day 5: Part 2: A Map of Your Healing (& What to Do When You’re Triggered)
There is nothing bad or wrong about grieving. And triggering situations can be teachers. Because pain lives in what triggers us. And if pain lives there, so does healing. Your triggers are a map of your grief and a map of your healing. You can create space in yourself for the trauma to live with you in a healthy way.
15: Day 6: Part 1: The End of A Relationship
It’s important to remember that the pain of loss is inevitable. You can't do anything about the pain of missing someone or the love you had for them, yet be careful of self-blame and judgment as those can stifle the healing process.
16: Day 6: Part 2: Attraction to What’s Familiar
It’s common to date or marry someone who resembles the parent who loved you the least. The one that hurt you the most. That’s because we are attracted to what’s familiar and known, even if it’s not what’s truly best for us or safe. In this lesson, you’ll learn why this occurs and what you can do to heal the archetypes in your relationships and those in yourself.
17: Day 6: Part 3: Sabotaging Relationships (A Story)
Without even realizing it, you may be recreating pain in your relationships due to an unhealed wound. In this lesson, David shares how this behavior happens so frequently and what you can do to ensure you do not carry your past hurt into future relationships.
18: Day 6: Part 4: Romantic Notions & Their Effect on Your Freedom
Happily ever after. If it’s meant to be, it’ll be. It shouldn't be so hard. Catholics don’t divorce. If he or she loves me, they’ll change. You, like so many people, probably put gloss on your relationships due to romantic notions you’ve been taught through fairy tales, rom-com movies, and song ballads. Yet to believe a romantic notion is to argue with reality. But you should not date or marry someone for their potential. To find freedom, you must look to reality. To what’s actually so, to the facts. They are who they are. Often we also violate our belief systems because we think love is worth the cost, but then we end up feeling guilty about our decisions. In this lesson, David shares what you can to find freedom from these traps.
19: Day 7: Part 1: The Grief of Betrayal
The truth about betrayal is simple yet painful: it never comes from an “enemy.” Betrayal comes from someone close to us, a friend, spouse, partner, or coworker. People don't think about betrayal as leading to grief. If you've ever been betrayed, you know the pain you're feeling, but often we don't understand that what we're feeling is grief.
20: Day 7: Part 2: The Reasons for Betrayal
One of the things that will keep you stuck in your grief is the need for answers. The need to understand and know why he or she did it. Why did they betray you? Why did they hurt you? As you'll learn in this lesson, your mind wants to find reasons bad things happen so it can, as it’s programmed to do, keep them from happening again. Yet searching for reasons can trap you into, well, searching for reasons when the path toward healing happens in the heart.
21: Day 7: Part 3: Moving Forward After A Loss
How do you move forward after the loss of trust? How do you deal with that? In this lesson, you'll learn an exercise for dealing with negative thoughts, giving them a time and place. In doing so, you'll learn to find hope and trust in your future with anyone who comes along.
22: Day 8: Part 1: Job Loss
Job loss can be earth-shattering and full of shame because it’s about your identity. With job loss there is grief, and it’s important to allow yourself to feel the emotions that arise, including sadness and anger. And in this lesson, you’ll learn how to grieve it, understand it, and find ways to come out on the other side.
23: Day 8: Part 2: How to Use The Time Between Jobs
Many of us define ourselves by our work, so it can be challenging to figure out what to do with this time between jobs. In this lesson, David shares ways in which you can gain clarity and confidence.
24: Day 8: Part 3: Estrangement & Lost Relationships
Estrangement is a big, painful loss that often doesn't get talked about much, yet it’s very common. You have an argument with someone, or “a falling out.” You quit talking to them, or they quit talking to you. Soon, you are no longer communicating with each other, even on holidays. Whatever the reason, the relationship is gone. This, too, is a loss that must be witnessed and grieved.
25: Day 9: Part 1: Caring For A Loved One Who Is Dying
Death shapes the grief you feel. You’re never going to want it to be your loved one's time to die, yet it’s incredible important for you and for them for you to be present, holding their hand if you can, so you can rest easy when they pass versus living with the regret of wishing you had been at their side more often than searching Google for a cure.
26: Day 9: Part 2: End-of-Life Care
As death comes, so does hope. The hope that things will take a turn for the better. That the doctors were wrong. That miracles can and will happen. It’s common to want to prolong life. In this lesson, David shares the different types of end-of-life care, along with the benefits and burdens. While this isn’t an easy topic to be with, it’s a vital one for yourself and the loved one whose life is coming to a close.
27: Day 9: Part 3: The Needs of the Dying
In this lesson, David talks about the needs of the dying. When you make decisions for your loved ones, you want to make it about them, not you.
28: Day 10: Part 1: Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief
As David shares, the five stages of grief were never intended to be prescriptive. There's no timeline or map for grief or a set sequence to follow. The steps don’t prescribe; they describe. They are meant to be a tool to help you understand where you are in the process. Everyone grieves differently and in their own way. In this lesson, David talks about the sixth stage of grief: finding meaning. You’ll also learn how he came to know this stage and the personal reasons he went on his own journey to find meaning after the loss of his son.
29: Day 10: Part 2: Why Grief is Ever-Changing
Grief is ever-moving and ever-changing, even when it feels like you’re stuck in one emotion. One place or stage of the grieving process. It’s important to not become dedicated to your grief. To not make it into one thing and only one thing. Let it move and change. Because when you stay in one emotion like sadness or anger, you certainly feel the weight of that feeling. And it affects your life, from the weight you gain to loss of appetite to burying your head in the sheets. Any of these things can be a way of life versus a place you visit. And like all visitors, it’s natural to leave. To return, then leave again. If you remain stuck in grief, you can make it the focus of your life to the point that you lose your sense of direction, or you lose your purpose and it shows up as fear of commitment with others. As you face grief with courage, you can also face life.
30: Day 10: Part 3: Carrying the Pain
Know this: you do not have to make your grief smaller. That is by no way a requirement for healing. In any situation, even and especially in your loss, you can choose to go through it or you can grow through it. GO or GROW, the choice is yours. You can learn to carry your pain in a way that it has meaning to you. In this video, David explains more about the path to finding meaning in grief.
31: Thank You: A Message of Hope for Your Heart
Grieving tends to unfold in patterns. We often have the false perception or expectation that grief follows the “stages of grief,” but the stages aren’t steps in the grieving process. Rather, they are used to understand where in the cycle you are. You can move through all of them in an hour, in fact: denial, anger, bargaining, sadness, acceptance. From his own experience of losing his son, David Kessler added a sixth stage: meaning. None of these stages, even the sixth, is a mandatory stop on a map or your timeline moving through the grieving process. There is no timeline, no map, no sequence to follow, no destination to get to when we talk about grief. Meaning shows up in different ways. As an example: Your identity can change. Maybe you have a different relationship with others after your loved one has died. Maybe your outlook on life has changed. Maybe the loss led to growth. Finding meaning takes time. You may not find it for months or even years after the loss, and that’s okay. Even when you do find meaning, you won’t feel it was worth the cost because it wasn’t. Your loss is not a test. It’s not a lesson. It’s not something to handle. It’s not a gift nor a blessing. Meaning is personal and relative. Only you can find your own meaning, and it’s not a quick-fix, hurt-no-more solution. It’s simply one more stage you may find yourself in when living through loss and pain. By participating in this course, you’ve given yourself the generous gift of time: to understand, to feel, and to care about how you live from this day forward. You honor those you have lost. You have honored yourself, too. Thank you for being here. As you go through your day-to-day life, remind yourself of this one simple truth: My feelings matter. I am allowed to feel however I feel. I am not alone. Grief gets passed down through generations. Healing yourself will not only help you but also those in your family line who come after. Thank you for doing the work to feel all of life, to honor your loss, and, at the same time, honor how much you love.
32: Bonus Videos: Guided Visualization for Comfort or Clarity
In this video, David leads you through a guided visualization where you'll talk to death as if it were a person. You’ll get the chance to ask death a question today, and hopefully the answer brings you comfort or clarity, or both.
33: Bonus Videos: Finding Love After Pain
There is an after that comes, well, after the pain. After the divorce, the breakup, or the passing of a loved one. You have a say in what the after will look like in your own life.
34: Bonus Videos: Thoughts on the Pandemic & Making it Through
Everyone has been affected by COVID-19. It’s okay to not be okay. There is a lot that you lost, as we have all lost. Even the simplest things have been affected, like walks in the park or grocery shopping. So much has changed, and there is a lot of uncertainty. In this video, David shares his thoughts about the collective grief we are experiencing due to the pandemic.
35: Grief Yoga: An Introduction to Grief Yoga
When you experience grief and loss, it's normal to get stuck in your head. Perhaps you’re trying to find a solution, or maybe you just want to distract yourself from the pain altogether. Yet the body remembers. The body is what houses the grief. Grief Yoga blends different forms of yoga, movement, breath, and sound together as a powerful tool to use in your healing journey. It’s not about physical flexibility; rather, it’s about emotional liberation and release. It’s about encouraging and allowing the body to heal the hurt it holds.
36: Grief Yoga: Channeling Anger & Fear into Power
Anger is a teacher, especially when it encourages you to say, “Enough is enough,” and take action toward making change. Yet anger can get stuck within you, creating bitterness and disease. It can bottle up and boil until it explodes like a teapot. The source of anger is fear. In this practice session, you'll learn to channel your anger and fear in empowering ways.
37: Grief Yoga: Transforming Sadness Into Love
To transform sadness into love, you must give your grief the space to move. You’ll do that in this practice, allowing love to expand and flow.
38: Grief Yoga: Transforming Guilt to Grace
When you make a mistake or act outside your belief system, you may feel guilty. It’s important to allow guilt to serve as a moral compass and guide you into taking responsibility in a way that transforms the secrecy and shame into grace.