Share uplifting stories you find on social media that immediately make your laugh or feel good. One group on Facebook called “ALL THINGS AWESOME” is filled with posts that will make you laugh or feel good and all are shareable.
As a part of my series about the things we can do to develop serenity and support each other during anxious times, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sherrie Dunlevy.
Sherrie Dunlevy is the author of the #1 best selling book “How Can I Help?”, and the host and creator of the Graduating Grief Podcast and Graduating Grief Facebook Community.
She is also a bereaved mother.
Sherrie works with women to help them “Graduate” from the pain of their grief so they can step back into living their lives on purpose and with passion and JOY.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
I had a long career as a radio talk show host and a TV news anchor. It was during my stint in television that my husband and I lost our second son Brandon.
During that time of intense grief we were loved and supported by so many people, yet some of our closest friends disappeared from our lives.
I eventually left that career to focus on raising my eldest son Trey and as he was getting ready to graduate from high school and enter college, I started writing my book “How Can I Help?”.
Through the years I had talked with so many people who experienced the same kind of abandonment. I believe the reasons we all suffered these additional losses were based in the fear of either not knowing what to say or do, or being afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing.
I wanted to create a resource that eliminated these fears and provide helpful tips on how to support and help a grieving person you love so that friendships or other relationships could become stronger instead of being strained or ruined.
Once the book was published, I left broadcasting altogether, to focus on its message and my mission to help people.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
I remember speaking to a group made up of mostly men one morning about my book, and noticed a few of them crying. One was brave enough to admit how much that kind of support got him through his bout with a cancer, while another man was brave enough to admit, that he had abandoned numerous friends who were suffering because he was afraid.
I think people realize how much we need our friends and families to step up to support us and I think they realized that we truly do notice when they don’t show up.
What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?
Right now, I would have to say radical self-care and self-compassion.
In my industry, we want to help hurting people. And right now during this pandemic, just about all of us are hurting in some manner. It can seem overwhelming and you realize you can exhaust yourself and lose pieces of yourself by giving and giving and giving from a cup that is bone dry. We have to take measures to fill ourselves and to make no apologies for doing so.
What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?
Realize that people work for you not robots. And people have real-life problems. They lose loved ones, pets, and friends. They are diagnosed with cancer or someone they love has some life-threatening illness. Their marriages may be falling apart or their children may be addicted. All these things weigh heavy on souls and minds. There has to be a way to show compassion and humanity in the workplace and allow people to feel valued and supported in times when it is needed most. We need to create a culture where it’s ok to not be “fine” yet, find a way to make work more manageable instead of looking for signs of weakness that make people feel replaceable. We also need to educate everyone from the CEO down on how to best support those who are dealing with such issues. We can start doing this by not ignoring the issue and to start the conversation. It’s a difficult, uncomfortable conversation to start, but the more we do it, the more comfortable it becomes.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
I read every single day, so to pick just one book is so difficult for me. But if I had to choose just one, I think it would be Destiny, by T.D Jakes. He talks about the pull to become what God is calling you to become. I felt that pull to write a book and I felt that pull to start my podcast and new Graduating Grief program. But another message I got from it is to always be paying attention to that pull. Especially when it comes to helping someone who is hurting. If you feel called to reach out, send them a text or make a phone call, or show up for a visit. Just do it. Tomorrow is promised to no one and that pull is calling you for a reason. Don’t ignore those “pulls”, they can change a person’s heart or even their life. It may even change yours
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Many people have become anxious just from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have only heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to develop serenity during such uncertain times? Can you please share a story or example for each.
1.) Limit your intake of news.
I like to refer to myself as a “recovering” TV news anchor. I did not realize the long-lasting damage exposure to the world’s news can do to you. Prior to my son’s death I was able to “compartmentalize” the days news, so I didn’t bring it home with me. After he died, I lost that capacity and it seeped into my soul.
24 hour News has increased our fears as has 24-hour access to the days news.
It used to be you caught one newscast a day, and now it’s like we are swimming in it and we can become addicted to it. There is no reason you need to take in more than 30 minutes a day or dare I say just a few times a week. If it is important, believe me you will find out about it. Use that time instead to see what is good and decent in this world, in your community and in your living quarters.
2.) Spend time every day in a state of gratitude.
This can be done by keeping a list of those things, and people for which you are most grateful, or it could be time spent quieting thinking about the blessings in your life. You can express gratitude in prayer, or meditation too. If you cannot think of anything, start with the fact that your body breathes on its own and your heart beats on its own. Try to spend at least 5 minutes or more daily, focused on the things that are “right” and good in your life instead of all the things that are wrong.
3.) Move your body
If you can work out, that’s great. But if you can’t just try moving your body.
There are plenty of videos on YouTube you can watch that will help you keep your body moving, strengthen your core, and help boost your immune system. And by building a stronger body, you actually help build a more positive mindset. If you can’t do physical exercise at least start by stretching your tight neck and shoulders, take a walk around the block or even up and down your stairs. Move your body in some way every day.
4.) Stay connected to others
We might not be able to physically visit our family and friends as we once did, but that is no excuse to stay isolated. Technology is a blessing during this pandemic. Things like Zoom and FaceTime are making it possible to have virtual family visits, happy hour with friends, class reunions, trivia nights, and all kinds of creative events. It can be something to look forward to and actually strengthen relationships. If you don’t have the desire to connect virtually, pick up the phone and have a conversation with someone each and every day. We need to feel loved and cared about and others need to know we love and care about them.
5.) Spend time engrossed in something
Whether it’s a great book, a fantastic series on TV, a hobby or learning something new like playing the guitar, home repair, or making jewelry, spending time engrossed in something other than work, politics, or family life is a way of practicing self-care, and granting yourself the permission to do something fun and interesting. And we all need some fun in our lives.
From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
- Check in on them, send texts a few times a week to see how they are doing, or pick up the phone and call or schedule a time each week to talk. This gives them something to look forward to and allows you to make sure they really are doing ok.
- Share uplifting stories you find on social media that immediately make your laugh or feel good. One group on Facebook called “ALL THINGS AWESOME” is filled with posts that will make you laugh or feel good and all are shareable.
- Share TV shows or movies that might make them laugh. Laughter is GREAT medicine and reduces stress and anxiety. Our go-to comedy series binges during the pandemic have included, Schitt’s Creek, Veep, Episodes, and The Office.
- Invite them to a FaceTime or Zoom Meeting, where you can virtually see each other. This makes it easier to see if they look like they just need encouragement or if they might need intervention.
- Invite them to experience nature with you. A great hike in the woods, a walk along the river bank, wading in the ocean creek or pond is a great way to connect in a safe way, take in fresh air, and enjoy the healing powers of nature and companionship.
What are the best resources you would suggest to a person who is feeling anxious?
Right now the best resources are virtual and so many of them are free.
You can find videos on social media that can help you breathe, meditate, practice yoga or you can type in the “anxiety” in a search engine and find a ton of resources to help you.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
“You can let your loss define you or refine you”- Sherrie Dunlevy
This was a quote that came through me as I was giving a talk and as I spoke those words, it stunned me, and was a profound lesson for me.
We all have defeats or losses in life. And we all have a choice as to how we will live through it.
My biggest loss was my son. I could have chosen to let it define my life as the grieving mother, or I could let it teach me and show me how to carry on, so that I could one day help others. I realized in that moment that I had actually made a choice in this. In this way of living, not only do I survive, but I can thrive, and by doing this my son’s life continues to make an impact on the world.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
My Movement would be the “How Can I Help?” movement.
We ALL have the capacity to help someone who is hurting. By doing this we help ease the suffering in the world one person at a time.
Whether it is a kind word, a prayer, a caring text, sending a card or gift or simply being present as they cry, we ALL have the power to help someone who is suffering loss.
One week ago, my family lost our beloved dog Ollie and the outpouring of love we received was amazing. Our friends and family prayed for us, sent caring texts, made phone calls, sent door dash credits and memorial gifts. Some also check in on us every few days just to see how we are holding up. All these things enabled us to begin the healing process. We were devastated and our hearts were broken and although not one person could take away our pain, collectively we felt their love, support and prayers cover and envelop up like a warm soothing blanket. And that blanket of love is helping to heal our broken hearts.
What is the best way our readers can follow you online?
They can follow me at www.sherriedunlevy.com
Listen to my Grief Grief Podcast
Join the Graduating Grief Community
Take the Graduating Grief Quiz
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!