Heal how you talk to yourself. It’s okay to not be okay! I’ve found that we say the meanest things to ourselves sometimes. However, just saying, “You know what, I’m not okay right now, and that’s okay,” can make you feel calmer and less upset, and it can shift you into a more positive mindset.
The world seems to be reeling from one crisis to another. We’ve experienced a global pandemic, economic uncertainty, political and social turmoil. Then there are personal traumas that people are dealing with, such as the loss of a loved one, health issues, unemployment, divorce or the loss of a job.
Coping with change can be traumatic as it often affects every part of our lives.
How do you deal with loss or change in your life? What coping strategies can you use? Do you ignore them and just push through, or do you use specific techniques?
In this series called “5 Things You Need To Heal After a Dramatic Loss Or Life Change” we are interviewing successful people who were able to heal after a difficult life change such as the loss of a loved one, loss of a job, or other personal hardships. We are also talking to Wellness experts, Therapists, and Mental Health Professionals who can share lessons from their experience and research.
As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Candice Graciano.
Candice Graciano helps high-achieving women who have had life-altering experiences overcome the grief and fear that comes with them to create empowering new beginnings and a happier life. She started her grief coaching business in ___, and has since had the opportunity to work with a variety of women looking to gain a fresh perspective and accept their experiences.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
Of course! I grew up in an Urban area of New Jersey called North Bergen with my parents, sister, brother and grandparents.My parents were lower-middle class and worked tirelessly to give us a warm and loving home. My brother, Chris, has a genetic disease called Prader Willi Syndrome. No differently than they approached their working lives, my parents fought hard and championed for him throughout our childhood. I think having a sibling who has special needs, partnered with being involved in the special needs community at large, were the catalysts which led me to want to be of service to others.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My favorite quote is, “Don’t shrink to meet the expectations of others; grow to become the person you want to be,” from Kris Carr.
This quote hits home for me because, for many years, I was silently miserable. I was going to a job I didn’t like, working hours I didn’t like, because I thought that was just what you did as an adult — in other words, that pattern was what was expected of me. Slowly, though, I started to wake up from that mindset and do some deep, personal soul searching. That soul searching led me to take some chances, make some leaps, and create a life for myself that, at the time, was not the norm. I left a very secure, well-paying corporate 9–5 job to become a personal assistant for a friend, Jessica King — Peloton Instructor and owner of MindFULL³. Though it didn’t pay the same as my previous job at first, it afforded me something far more valuable than money — the TIME to create a life that I actually wanted to live. I got to take courses, take chances, and even grow from personal assistant to eventual business manager and coach — the person I wanted to be all along.
You have been blessed with much success. In your opinion, what are the top three qualities that you possess that have helped you accomplish so much? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
- Exploration and Adaptability — I love to explore different wellness modalities, as made clear by my career choice. I am a life coach, grief coach, certified Reiki practitioner, mindfulness meditation teacher, and sound healing practitioner. Not every client lives, feels, or grieves the same, so having a variety of tools opens me up to a variety of clients and allows me to help them in a way effective for them.
- Experience with Loss — Everyone experiences loss sooner or later in life, but I believe the situational experience of my loss helps me to target an audience that often feels lonely in their grief process — which can worsen symptoms and make healing harder.
- Empath — I am an empath! I’m sensitive and can pick up on the emotions and moods of others without them even having to speak. I genuinely love to offer my support and to gain perspectives on what others are going through, especially when they are trying to not show it. I think this is where I really stand out as a coach.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about ‘Healing after Loss’. Do you feel comfortable sharing with our readers about your dramatic loss or life change?
Yes, I do. In September of 2019, one of my closest friends (who was more like a brother than a friend,) tragically shot and murdered his wife, who was pregnant with their fourth child. He then turned the gun on himself.
What was the scariest part of that event? What did you think was the worst thing that could happen to you?
The scariest part of this event, besides the loss of two close friends and a child, and besides coming to the realization that their other children no longer had parents, was the following: How and why did this happen? We will never know what led up to this horrific event. We will never know if there was a way we could have intervened and stopped it, saving three lives.
How did you react in the short term?
In the short term, I would like to say that I was numb, but I wasn’t. I have heard people talk about the pain of being heart broken, but I never understood it until this event. I was physically and emotionally in pain. My heart, mind and body literally hurt. I cried like I have never cried before, asking the universe for answers it could not give me. I also went into panic mode over the fact that I would never see my friend or his wife ever again. I was so saddened by the loss and so blinded by the pain that I was trying to figure out any way I could to hold onto them. At one point, I was thinking so irrationally that I was trying to take over the lease on his car because I knew he had wanted me to drive it. But then there was also so much anger and confusion. HOW COULD HE DO SUCH A HORRIBLE THING to his wife, his unborn child, his children, their family, his family? How could I be so sad? How could I love and miss someone who could do something like this so much? The feelings and thoughts were so complex that my own confusion just layered more pain on to an already painful experience.
After the dust settled, what coping mechanisms did you use?
- First, I realized that I needed some way to work through the grief — it was not just going to get better on its own. Since I was already a life coach, I knew the power of coaching, and searched for a grief coaching program. Eventually, I found Dora Carpenter’s From Grief To Gratitude program. This program, ironically, is for individuals who would like to become grief coaches and help others through the process of grieving. However, in learning how to help others, I learned what I needed to do to help myself — and finally began to truly heal.
- I also began to meditate and work with Ashley Rose Howard, a mindfulness coach and co-founder of Heal Good Collective. Ashley helped me to express how I was truly feeling, no matter how dark it was, and she made it okay for me to say things out loud that I never thought I would. She helped me to acknowledge that there is no right or wrong way to grieve. She was an integral part of helping me to slow down and breathe when my mind was racing and my emotions felt out of control. Through Ashley, I found the magic of not just breathing, but actually listening to your breath and feeling it go through your body — along with many other phenomenal skills.
Can you share with us how you were eventually able to heal and “let go” of the negative aspects of that event?
I am healed from a lot of the pain, but I still grieve. I haven’t fully been able to let go of what happened yet, but I am able to work on compassion and forgiveness. On some days, the grief is loud, and I use my coping mechanisms to quiet it. On other days, the grief is quiet and calm, and I can walk beside it. It is important for us to understand that everyone grieves differently, and that everyone heals differently. While on some days, you can feel the hurt and grief out of the blue, on other days, you can think deeply about what happened and realize you are processing it.
Aside from letting go, what did you do to create an internal, emotional shift to feel better?
- I began to meditate a lot more and became a certified mindfulness meditation instructor. I also became a certified sound healing instructor. The healing arts not only allow me to go in and heal myself, but they allow me to help others heal. I’ve realized that most of my profound healing has occurred while helping others heal.
- Secondly, I learned Reiki healing. I began working with Alex Navarette, a healer and coach. Reiki was another tool which helped me calm my mind and breathing, shifting my energy from a negative place to one which was more positive.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to cope and heal? Can you share a story about that?
There are 2 people that I am especially grateful for.
The first is my husband Mike. I do not know how I would have gotten through any of this without him. He was an integral part of my support system — the one who wrapped me in his arms every night while I cried, stayed with me when I didn’t want to be alone, took care of the house when I was too sad to get out of bed, and made me laugh when I felt like I’d never laugh again. He was with me, holding space for me when we got the news, and has continued to be there for me all this time later.
Next is Ashley Howard Rose. She is still my coach, and I am still her client — but she is also a friend. She is one of the most caring and genuine people I know, but also knows how to ask you the hard questions that will really promote true healing. I truly do not know where I would have been if I had not started to, and continued to, work with Ashley.
Were you able to eventually reframe the consequences and turn it into a positive situation? Can you explain how you did that?
There is no way that I can reframe a murder/suicide into a positive situation. However, I can say that it made me much more aware and sensitive to mental health issues that people may be going through. It made me more aware of how people can normalize unsafe situations when it comes to their loved ones, and what can be done to prevent similar situations from happening.
What did you learn about yourself from this very difficult experience? Can you please explain with a story or example?
I learned how much your circle and the community you are in matters. When this loss first happened, I felt alone, but when I look back on it, I was the one making it feel that way. The moment I started reaching out and asking for what I needed, the floodgates of support opened, and people who I didn’t even expect to reach out or check in, did.
I began to heal when I was able to talk about what happened with a group of people. I began to heal when I realized I was not being judged. I began to heal when I realized that community matters.
Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experiences and knowledge, what advice would you give others to help them get through a difficult life challenge? What are your “5 Things You Need To Heal After a Dramatic Loss Or Life Change? Please share a story or example for each.
- Heal how you talk to yourself. It’s okay to not be okay! I’ve found that we say the meanest things to ourselves sometimes. However, just saying, “You know what, I’m not okay right now, and that’s okay,” can make you feel calmer and less upset, and it can shift you into a more positive mindset.
- Be compassionate with yourself. This ties into how you talk to yourself, but it also goes deeper. Really accept the things you cannot control, and give yourself permission to forgive yourself or others for things that have happened in the past.
- Talk to someone about your feelings and ask for what you need. Talk to your family, friends, spouse, or even a grief coach. If you are depressed or having harmful thoughts, seek out professional help from a licensed mental health practitioner. Not only is it important to tell someone how you’re feeling — it is also important to ask for what you need from others on your healing journey. Maybe you need a few days alone, or a few days with people. Perhaps you need time to meditate or work out. Maybe you just need a shoulder to cry on! Don’t be afraid to be your own advocate here.
- Think of a happy memory connected to the person or thing you have lost and create a ritual of remembrance around it. Make their favorite holiday meal, continue a yearly tradition, etc. This can lessen the feeling that you’ve “lost” the person, and help you realize they are still an important part of your life.
- Move! A walk, dancing in your living room, playing with your child or pet, or even cardio or weights can be hugely beneficial. Any type of movement will help to release endorphins that aid in feeling better, physically AND mentally.
** These five things are not substitutes for professional mental health care. If you feel depressed or are having thoughts of harming yourself or others, please seek out a professional mental health care practitioner.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
One movement that I would love to help inspire, and that I work to inspire every day, is the acceptance of mental health issues and grief — as well as the points in which they intersect. My dream is that mental health and grief would be destigmatized, allowing all those who need help to get it confidently and without barriers.
I think this would bring an exorbitant amount of good to everyone who has struggled with mental health or grief, allowing them to take back control of their lives and live in peace.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them. 🙂
Kris Carr! Kris Carr is a wellness activist and NY bestselling author. Her book, “Crazy Sexy Diet,” (which is NOT your typical diet book,) changed the way I think about my own personal health and wellness in both the physical sense (what am I putting in my mouth/body every day in terms of literal consumption,) and the spiritual sense (what am I consuming with my eyes and ears every day.) Her books, YouTube videos, etc… were life changing for me, and I would love the chance to speak to her one-on-one.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
You can find me @candicegraciano_coaching on Instagram or via my website, at candicegraciano.com
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!