Jane Epstein of Complicated Courage: “Grief is universal”

Grief is universal. You are not alone. Others have gone before you, and they have the privilege of being there to support you. They can’t take the pain away, but they have learned how to be excellent listeners. Spoiler alert: just because we have gone before you, it does not mean we have it figured […]

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Grief is universal. You are not alone. Others have gone before you, and they have the privilege of being there to support you. They can’t take the pain away, but they have learned how to be excellent listeners. Spoiler alert: just because we have gone before you, it does not mean we have it figured out. Shortly after Mark’s death, a neighbor came forward. She shared her experience and told me that while she was happily remarried, she carried her first husband in her heart, and he was always there, just as Mark would always be there for me in my heart. That gave me peace and permission to carry him with me. She also provided me with hope of finding another genuine love. I loved being married, and I wanted to be remarried.

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 Jane Epstein.

Jane Epstein’s first husband was diagnosed with terminal cancer when she was 33-years old. She thought she could outrun and outsmart grief, but instead, she too had to find her way through the grief process and discover it is as individual as a person’s fingerprint. She had to sort through books, videos, and therapy to discover what would help her get to the finish line of grief. Only when she permitted herself to stop running and chasing the elusive finish line was she able to understand the process, her process. It was there she discovered her childhood trauma was grief as well, unresolved grief. When she became a widow, she was going through two traumas, both of which needed healing. Jane is remarried and lives with her husband and two teenage boys. Jane shares her story via podcast interviews and a memoir that is in progress to remove the shame for SSA, sibling sexual abuse, survivors and let them know they are not alone. Someone in the world is waiting to hear their story. Jane’s passion, work, and life mission are to bring awareness of the staggering statistics of SSA, a largely ignored segment of sexual abuse, and make body safety conversations between parents and children an everyday conversation.

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?

First, I would like to thank you for giving me this opportunity to speak about healing after a dramatic loss.

As a shy child, I hid behind my mother’s leg — until I sang in the children’s choir. I looked like a tiny angel, white curls haloing my face, as I stood on stage in my yellow choir robe and sang my heart out. When I wasn’t on stage, I played in the basement with my favorite Barbie dolls. I had dreams of being married one day and having children of my own. I would pretend that my dolls were in a dream marriage because, as an intuitive child, I sensed my parents’ relationship was strained. When we went to church on Sundays, I would get bored and quietly crawl under the pews, trying not to be seen. One Sunday, I went too far down the bench and heard a hushed whisper: “Jane! Jane!” I hurried back, and as I squeezed into the space between my parents, I looked up at my mom, who could not stay mad at me, grabbed her hand, placed it in my father’s, and laid them across my lap.

As a parent of two boys, I now know marriage is not always easy, and I realize the pressure I put on my mom. She was not happy, and she wanted out. My parents did get divorced. I consider myself unscathed by the divorce, as my father was not available for me emotionally. He did the best he could with what he had, but I was more than happy to move out with my mom when I was in seventh grade. Little did I realize it, but I was already experiencing grief, even as a child, but not from the divorce. I had been sexually abused from the ages of six to 12 by an older sibling. That was a whole grief process, but that did not become clear to me until I processed my grief after losing my husband. More on that later, or perhaps it will require a separate interview.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Because my life has been in a constant state of revamping and growth, I can’t pinpoint one quote. Still, I will share a few that resonate with me. Haruki Murakami wrote, “And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”

When my late husband and I entered the doctor’s office, we sensed something dire but did not talk about it. Denial, it’s such a great coping mechanism. We walked out of the office armed with new knowledge: my husband had just been diagnosed with esophageal cancer with a 5% survival rate. That night, he went to bed in the guest room. This was another coping mechanism — if we put distance between us, it wouldn’t hurt as badly. I went to the master bedroom, kneeled in the dark, placed my palms up in a surrender position, and prayed. On some level, I knew something was changing inside of me.

The walls that I thought had served me well through life came crashing down. Tears rolled down my cheeks. I was gearing up to march into some kind of storm that was very unfamiliar to me, and I didn’t know how to dress for it, prepare for it, or what to pack. I just knew I had to walk through it and be strong for Mark. We all have storms, and I am not the same person I was the day before we walked into the doctor’s office and heard the word “cancer.” Nor would I want to be. So, I will finish with Glennon Doyle Melton’s quote from Love Warrior: “So what is it in a human life that creates bravery, kindness, wisdom, and resilience? What if it’s pain? What if it’s the struggle?”

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.

Resilience: I was just 33 years old when I heard the words “terminal cancer.” I was going to be a widow. Thirty-three-year-olds don’t deal with life-threatening illnesses, do they? I called a therapist right away, thinking it would ease the pain, but I began grieving my husband before he was dead, which only meant I got to mourn for him twice. I had to show up every day, put one foot in front of the other, and continue to work until two weeks before he died. We both knew he was dying. I was not. The bills would not care if he died; they would continue to come in, and he loved me so much that he sent me to work. He was losing control of his body, losing his life. He needed to control what he could, and sending me to work, knowing I could go on without him, gave him peace. I would share with anyone who has a loved one with a life-threatening illness: cherish the moments. Don’t focus on the possibility of death or if they are terminal. You will miss some extraordinary moments. You will have a lifetime to grieve them when they are gone.

Strength. I think anyone who goes through a traumatic loss will find strength. Human nature is the desire to continue despite some difficulty. After Mark died, people came to me and said, “You’re so strong.” I felt like a fraud. Little did they know, but I could barely breathe. I do not differ from many of my peers who have faced a tough moment, a hurt, yet we put on our strong faces and go out into the world. We persevere and may not realize it until we reflect. If I wasn’t strong before facing Mark’s terminal diagnosis, I became strong through the process, putting his needs before my own.

One evening, I thought Mark was upstairs, resting, and I sat at the kitchen table, processing what my life would soon look like, alone in a 3,200-square-foot home. Mark peered out the bedroom door. He stood there, weighing only a hundred pounds. His eyes were hollow, but he looked at me with a sense of gratitude for my strength. When I went up that night to give him his meds and fluff his pillow, he got serious and said, “You know I want you to be happy. I want you to get remarried. Just don’t do anything stupid.”

I turned so he could not see my tears, and I held my tongue. I wanted to scream, “Don’t leave me! I don’t want anyone but you!” I wish I could say I did nothing stupid, but I made mistakes along the way. I drank too much and spent too much money, but overall, I think Mark would be proud of my choices. He would like Steve, my current husband. I was fortunate to receive “permission” from Mark to remarry. Not everyone receives that gift, but perhaps hearing this story from someone else will permit you to be happy.

Faith. I list it last because it came with growth. I don’t think I always had it. Even though I was raised in a Christian home, I took a detour. At 19, I became a stripper. I dropped out of court reporting school and lied to my parents. I told them I was a traveling server, and they believed me! A friend and I began booking weekly gigs throughout Iowa. That is where I ultimately met Mark, my late husband. He gave me an ultimatum: him or the stage. I chose him, but we did not attend church. We began our life chasing a lovely home and experiences. But when we heard the words “terminal cancer,” we found ourselves back in the church pew. Mark was charming, our situation dire, and we quickly built a solid relationship with the pastor, Pastor Bill. He brought a lightness with him wherever he went. He came to our home weekly and prayed with us, and he saw God in me and did not hesitate to share with me. When your husband is terminal, you try anything, and I prayed again. God is good. God took me back into the fold, no questions asked, but my faith grew overnight and has carried me to this day. I read a morning devotional every single morning and pray for 10 or 15 minutes.

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?

I do. I hope by sharing my story, someone reading this understands their grief process a tiny bit more, or perhaps it will help someone who is near someone going through grief be a better listener.

What was the scariest part of that event? What did you think was the worst thing that could happen to you?

Death. I was young when my grandparents died, and I had lost beloved pets, but my human? My soulmate? As I stated above, we had bills to pay, so I continued to go to work. As a court reporter, I worked in family court, listening to divorcing couples fight over Tupperware. Really. True story. And call each other nasty names. Yet all I wanted was to race out of the courtroom as fast as I could because I was sure he would die while I was gone. I sat with him one evening on the edge of the bed, holding his hand. “I want to be with you when you go.”

Taking a deep breath and looking me in the eye, he said, “I promise, if I have any control, I will wait for you.”

Somewhere between the original diagnosis and towards the end, the fear of death became peace. On the day he died, I had been sitting with him. He was in a coma, and I looked down at him, stroked his head, and whispered with conviction, “I will be okay. You can go.” Within minutes, his breathing changed. I stared into his green eyes, and the only way I can describe what I saw is that he leaped into the light. He took a few more shallow breaths, and then he was gone. Mark kept his promise. The very thing I had been the most afraid of, death, turned out to be a beautiful memory that changed me. Death no longer scares me.

How did you react in the short term?

During his illness, chemo, and radiation, I was strong and supportive. I hid my tears, crying in the closet or out in the cold so he did not see. But right after he died, I partied and drank. Looking back, I thought I was bravely trying new things: navel piercing, bull riding, motorcycle riding, bungee jumping. I pushed that envelope. I told myself that if I could watch my husband die, I could do anything, but I think it was more the start of depression. I did not have any fear of death. Loud music helped me process the anger and the pain. I set the house alarm one evening and walked over to the stereo and hit play. The song “Send The Pain Below,” by Chevelle, blasted from the speakers. I hit the volume repeatedly until they were screaming, and I punched the pillows and just cried. I had two cats, and they raced to the basement to get away from my craziness as I hit the volume button one more time. The base from the music rattled the windows, and the alarm went off. After that incident, I continued that ritual with a different song and the same pillows, but I waited to set the alarm.

After the dust settled, what coping mechanisms did you use?

Well, this is an interesting question. I will be curious to see how others respond, but “after the dust settles” happens after moving across the country. When talking about losing a loved one, the dust may settle, but it is kicked back up in an instant by a smell, a song on the radio, a word, or in my case, a UPS truck or an orange Home Depot bucket. And you know how dust collects into dust bunnies? When you go to clean them, a giant one slides out from underneath the couch and bites you in the ass, and you have a release in tears. When you are talking to someone about grief, I’m not sure the dust ever settles.

As for coping mechanisms, when you hurt that deeply and you want the pain to go away, you will try anything. I went to a medium. I stayed busy. I did not turn down an invitation for lunch or dinner. But soon I slowed down and became introspective. Grief teaches you many things. I learned that nothing stays the same; everything changes. Now I know how to savor situations. I was part of a running group, about ten women, and we met every Saturday and ran. I took it in, knowing it would not last. That is not a pessimistic view; it’s reality. When you know it will change, you appreciate it more. Sure enough, some became young mothers, others had children who were starting sports, and some moved away. Then COVID happened. We have not run on a Saturday together for well over a year, but I know I fully experienced what we had while we had it. There is a quote out there about how grief comes in waves, and it’s a great visual.

Grief is also like the beach, ever-changing with the tides. One day, you build a beautiful sandcastle, and you feel strong, like, “I’ve got this! I have made it.” Then you walk out the following day and see your castle is now a tiny mound, and you build it back up again. It morphs every single day; sometimes it changes within minutes. Grief is not linear. And just like sand, you can pick it up, feel it run through your fingers, sift through it, and see something different every time. Grief is intense pain and sadness, but it is also a vulnerability that opens your heart to joy and genuine appreciation. If you let it, grief can offer gifts. I did not say your loss or grief itself is a gift. I said it could provide gifts through it.

Can you share with us how you were eventually able to heal and “let go” of the negative aspects of that event?

Rose Kennedy said, “It has been said, ‘time heals all wounds.’ I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it is never gone.”

Acceptance sneaks up on you one day at a time. Time lessens the pain, but it is a permanent scar. And just like a scar, you learn to live with it and carry it. For a long time, the memories of his illness tore at me, and I could conjure them up as though I were experiencing them in real time. They brought me down because, when you go through a terminal illness with someone, hold their head as they vomit, feed them through a tube, and watch them take their last breath, it stays with you for a lifetime. But there were lessons there as well. My grief is a reminder to be present, not sweat the small stuff, be patient, and surrender. Ultimately, I don’t have control. Surrender is a gift, a loosening of holding onto what is not mine to keep.

Aside from letting go, what did you do to create an internal, emotional shift to feel better?

Grief ripped my heart wide open. I was no longer numb, a side-effect from my childhood trauma. I came alive and felt joy. It was an awakening to self-awareness and compassion. I am who I am because of this entire process, and it made me the person I am, the woman my new husband, Steve, loves. It gave me life. It gave me faith. It gave me joy. I have my new life, my kids, and my husband because of my loss.

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?

I have to answer this in two parts: The women of Stonegate, where my late husband and I lived, left their young children and husbands at home to go bar hopping with me, the single one on a mission. Not once did I feel judged for my antics, which led me to meet Steve, my “current husband.” He hates the term “current husband,” but it just fits. I plan on keeping him.

He is the second part of the answer to this question. When he met me, he did not know what he was stepping into. In fairness to me, I did not, either. Upon falling in love again, I felt safe to continue to grieve Mark, but that was hard on Steve. When I got remarried, I thought I had made it. My parents and friends thought I had made it. Steve thought I was done. But it gave me a safe place to grieve further and be held by someone who loved me — my current husband. The two worlds collided, and I had to figure out how to connect them. Nora McInerny says in a TED talk, “Once it’s your grief, and your front row at the funeral, you get it. You understand what you are experiencing is not a moment in time; it’s not a bone that will reset, but that you’ve been touched by something chronic. Something incurable.” Once I quit striving for the unknown finish line to my grief, I could slow down and put the pieces together. Nora McInerny further states, “Some things can’t be fixed, and not all wounds are meant to heal.” I am grateful that Steve has been there to support me as I continue to process the grief from the loss of Mark and my childhood. He has been my most powerful support system and loyal cheerleader. He acts as my business partner as I write my memoir and my children’s book. I’m the creative, and he’s the business side of things, and he keeps me organized and asks the right questions.

Were you able to eventually reframe the consequences and turn it into a positive situation? Can you explain how you did that?

Grief is different for everyone, but for me, the first year was a blur. Overall, it was a positive experience for me. But that was not overnight. I recall wanting to celebrate getting through the first year. Whew! I made it! Now what? Five stages of grief, done. Not so fast. Grief is not linear, and the second year is more complicated because the shock and denial have worn off, and people expect you to be over it. Your circle shrinks, but this is where the healing can begin.

Grief does not have a universal prescription. It is not like a broken arm. Everyone has a different grief process, and it can depend on the relationship. Was it a child, a grandparent, or a spouse? I lost my husband, which meant I went from a Mr. and Mrs. to Jane and guest or plus one. I was now the third wheel when I went out to dinner with our couple friends. Not only was I grieving my husband, but I was grieving what was, what could have been. Kids? Nope. Continue living in a family neighborhood with small children running around? Nope. I sold the home we had built and moved to a condo where the single people were, and I grieved our house and all that we had put into it.

But inside my grief, I found gifts I could find nowhere else in my life, and I am grateful for them and would not trade them for the world. I found gratitude and joy for the birds’ singing, fresh snow, green grass, and the smell of fresh bread. The death of a loved one teaches you to accept and ask for help. Self-sufficiency is almost unknown. Neighbors delivered food to our home during my husband’s illness and after his death, and I graciously accepted every meal. I needed people to run errands for me while I was at his bedside. And after he died, I needed a ride to get my car serviced. I had to ask for help.

Do you grieve forever? I believe everyone is different. You miss your person for a lifetime, yes, but you won’t feel the immense physical pain forever. I asked, “How long will I hurt so deeply? When will it go away?” And now others ask me, “How long will I feel this way?” The answer is different for everyone, but it gets better. I am fully alive again and full of gratitude. I will never forget Mark or stop loving him, but my heart grew from the experience. Some of society wants us to forget a prior spouse because it makes them uncomfortable, but just because someone dies, it does not mean all memory or emotion surrounding that relationship ends, because it doesn’t.

I think you will receive many answers about grief because there is no one way to heal from a loss. My son broke his wrist several years ago, and they looked over the x-ray and said, “This can go one of two ways, depending on how it heals. He may or may not need surgery. Put it in a soft cast for two weeks and see how it goes.” He did not need surgery, and we were relieved, but there was a prescribed plan of action, and we had options. Grief does not work that way. I believe it depends a lot on your relationship with the person you lost and how you lost them. When my father died, it was merely a speed bump in life. But losing Mark, who was a central figure to me, including somewhat of a father figure, still hurts. As I write my memoir and answer these questions, I can conjure up the pain, but I no longer fall into the pit of grief. I can revisit it, process it, use it to help others, and step back into life.

What did you learn about yourself from this very difficult experience? Can you please explain with a story or example?

My most significant learning experience was when the tenth anniversary of Mark’s death came upon me. I was shocked, because the last several years had been smooth. Shouldn’t I be over it by now? But it was a milestone, and I felt like I was at square one. I wanted to train to run the Philadelphia Marathon, as it was the city where Mark and I had lived and where Steve and I had met. The date of the run was near the anniversary date. Steve supported me and watched the kids every Saturday so I could go for long runs. It was a way to honor Mark, to continue to heal, and what an amazing act of love by Steve. But what I learned was that there might not be a finish line to my grief. I kept thinking I could see it, but it was a moving target. I was processing my childhood trauma at the same time. I was sexually abused for six years by an older sibling, and I wished to wrap that up and put it in a box, too. When I put the two together, I realized there is no finish line to grief. My childhood trauma and loss of innocence, trust, and control over my body were grief experiences. It was then that I began to heal from both experiences. And Steve has been there through all of this. Have I found the finish line? No, but I am at peace with my story, and I own it with grace now.

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.

1. Grief is universal. You are not alone. Others have gone before you, and they have the privilege of being there to support you. They can’t take the pain away, but they have learned how to be excellent listeners. Spoiler alert: just because we have gone before you, it does not mean we have it figured out. Shortly after Mark’s death, a neighbor came forward. She shared her experience and told me that while she was happily remarried, she carried her first husband in her heart, and he was always there, just as Mark would always be there for me in my heart. That gave me peace and permission to carry him with me. She also provided me with hope of finding another genuine love. I loved being married, and I wanted to be remarried.

Then it was my turn. I was at a mom’s night, and Jessica approached me. She shared with me that her husband, Tom, was battling cancer and that I gave her strength and hope because I was still standing. I did not have the heart to tell her I was barely standing and felt like a fraud, but it gave me the gift of being able to focus on someone other than myself. Her husband lost his battle, but it was a privilege to be there for her when she needed me and to stand back when necessary, having learned from my experience. By the time her husband lost his battle to cancer, I had started dating my current husband, Steve, which showed her she could date. She met a wonderful man, and they are still together today. Earlier this year, a friend was diagnosed with terminal cancer. She was going to leave behind a husband and two young children. Mark had expressed fear of being forgotten. I gave her what Mark did not have. I sent her an email telling her about his fear and that he had not been forgotten, though I had remarried.

2. Everything you are feeling or thinking is “normal.” Watch videos, read books, join a support group, don’t join a support group. Friends and family will offer advice. Only you know what you need. Listen to that small voice inside. Even amid such a loss, it will guide you. It did not die with your loved one. Elizabeth Kubler Ross states, “Grief is as individual as a fingerprint.” Yes, it’s universal, but the healing process is not. There’s lots of advice out there; take what works for you. Having trouble concentrating or sitting still? Normal. Feeling selfish? Normal. I hated happy couples, families, and older people holding hands. I craved touch. Was that normal? It’s normal. Looking back on it, I went a little wild. However, upon further reflection, I realized that I had lost out on a childhood. When Mark died, I looked at the world with new wonderment and fresh childlike eyes.

3. People don’t know what to say, but a grieving person is suffering and vulnerable. Those who have not experienced grief are doing their best. Still, they will say hurtful things or behave in selfish ways. Not knowing what to say, they will talk too much and listen too little, or they may distance themselves from you. They want to fix you or take your pain away because feeling discomfort in the face of someone’s pain is uncomfortable. Some avoid the painful subject altogether and pretend nothing has changed. Try to give them some grace. Death makes some people uneasy. It’s a little too close to home, and they worry about upsetting you or bringing up old memories. You may lash out. This is normal. People often say, “Everything happens for a reason,” No. Sometimes bad things happen to good people. You may need to walk away. I believe people in pain need to be heard, listened to, and held. As Brene Brown said,” Share with people who have earned the right to hear your story.”

4. Exercise. Go out and get a fresh pair of tennis shoes or pull out your old ones. Go for a walk, a bike ride, or a swim. Well, not in your tennis shoes. Or go for a run. What didn’t work for me was that I started running, running, running, and running more because, somewhere in my head, I thought, “I can outrun this thing. I can outrun grief.” But here’s the scoop: it didn’t work. I could not outrun my grief. It still needed to be processed healthily. I was searching for the finish line for my grief. Finally, I realized that for me, there was no finish line. I gave myself permission to slow down and heal. Taking a walk outside in the fresh air helps with mental health. Exercise boosts immunity, increases energy, reduces stress, improves your mood, and revitalizes you. A little sun exposure and vitamin D won’t hurt either.

5. Write down in a journal, even if it is for just a few moments, your emotions and experiences. It can heal, and who knows? One day, you may revisit those journals and understand what you came through. Grief creates a memory fog, and if you write, those memories will be there for you if you ever wish to retrieve them. Dr. James Pennebaker, a psychologist who has studied writing as healing, says that writing the “dark” stories can help relieve pressure. The simple act of writing down your thoughts and feelings about emotionally challenging experiences can speed your recovery and improve your mental and physical health. And as hard as it may seem, write down three things you are grateful for every day, even if it seems small, and you write that you are grateful for a full box of Kleenex or the journal itself.

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?

We all face grief, whether it be due to job loss, divorce, or the death of a pet, child, spouse, or family member. And I’m pretty sure, because of COVID, we all lost normalcy. No one gets to the end of life without a grief incident. I hope we can look at grief as a shared human experience, though one processed differently by everyone. It is not a dirty word that needs to be fixed, judged, or put on a timeline. Writing my memoir and about Mark’s death, and even responding to these questions, brings up the grief. And if you don’t know what to say to a hurting person, it’s okay to say, “I don’t know what to say.” Just sit with them, listen, and hand them a Kleenex. Hurting people are not looking for you to fix them. Grief is not a problem that needs to be solved or rushed along.

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. 🙂

Elizabeth Gilbert because she talks about fear and courage. She permits fear to exist and then figures out how to work with it, and to be working with fear is what courage is. I have fear and anxiety about exposing myself, sharing too much, but I am also very courageous in sharing my story. As a survivor of sibling sexual abuse, I have found writing it down has been healing. When Elizabeth Gilbert talks about her grief journey with the loss of Rayya, she says, “I started that book from a place of darkest grief and ended it in a place of tremendous happiness, and I was a different person at the end of that project.” This resonates with me because as I have been writing my memoir, I have felt the healing aspects, and now I encourage other survivors to own their story by writing it down and share it with other survivors. Don’t stay in your story. Own your story with grace. Someone in the world needs to hear your story. Courage is contagious.

She also explains grief so beautifully, “A good deal of the human experience is pain and suffering and darkness, but it’s not the full story. There’s also incredible love, resilience, beauty, and grace within that as well. And if you don’t tell both pieces of the story, then you’re not telling the full story. It happens upon you. It’s bigger than you. There’s a humility that you have to step into where you surrender to being moved through the landscape of grief by grief itself. And it has its own time frames. It has its own itinerary with you. It has its own power over you, and it will come when it comes.”

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Readers can find more of my story and podcast interviews on my website, or Instagram @Janeepstein_complicatedcourage.

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

Thank you for this interview. I appreciate the opportunity.

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