Grieving Voices

Sherrie Dunlevy | Infant Son Death & Pet Loss: A Story of Refusing to Lay & Decay

August 03, 2021 Victoria V | Sherrie Dunlevy Season 2 Episode 58
Grieving Voices
Sherrie Dunlevy | Infant Son Death & Pet Loss: A Story of Refusing to Lay & Decay
Show Notes Transcript

As a former news anchor, Sherrie Dunlevy delivered bad news on a daily basis.

However, it was the news of a personal matter that would shatter her heart. Sherrie knew she would be delivering her son who would be born with complications and quickly swept away for medical care immediately after being delivered via cesarian. She and her husband would then spend the next 29 days holding their son until he passed away.

The years that followed led her on a path of trying to understand why people abandon those who are grieving. And, set the wheels in motion of a journey that would lead her to write a book and doing everything she could for herself to not live the rest of her life as nothing more than a grieving mother.

Wanting more for her life, she's found a way to live fully into who she was called to be, and even after the death of her beloved pet during the pandemic, learned the power of addressing and feeling the grief when it comes.




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Victoria Volk  00:00
Thank you for tuning in to grieving voices. Today my guest is Sherry dunlavy. And she is the author of How can I help and founder of graduating grief and host of the graduating grief podcast. Thank you so much for being here.

Sherrie Dunlevy  00:18
Victoria, it's my pleasure.

Victoria Volk  00:21
And today is a very special day as we are recording because what brings you to grieving voices is the loss of your son. 

Sherrie Dunlevy  00:30
Yes, today would have been my son Brandon's 22nd birthday.

Victoria Volk  00:35
So this is a very special full circle podcast moment. 

Sherrie Dunlevy  00:40
Yes, absolutely. Kind of surreal. 

Victoria Volk  00:44
I've had my own full circle moments lately to tomorrow is 34 years. My dad is gone. 

Sherrie Dunlevy  00:52
Oh, my. 

 Victoria Volk  00:54
Yeah, yeah, no. Is it tomorrow? What is the date today?  

Sherrie Dunlevy  00:56

Victoria Volk  00:58
31st on wednesday, actually. So thank you for being here and sharing your story about Brandon. And so let's start there. 

Sherrie Dunlevy  01:10
Okay. Well, 22 years ago, my husband and I were headed to a hospital to give birth to our second son, Brandon. At 18 weeks into the pregnancy, when we went for our first ultrasound, we that's when we realized that there were complications. So it was a very bitter sweet. No, it wasn't a bittersweet day, it was a very scary day, because I knew that as long as he was inside of me, he was safe. But all bets were off beginning today. And I'm just really emotional today, I guess. Because I don't want to have happy memories of this time, we knew there were complications, we knew they were going to whisk him away, I knew I was never going to get to hear him cry, I was never going to get to hold him, they whisked him away to another Children's Hospital. I mean, I had nine, nine doctors, you know, in the delivery room with me, and I had to have a C section. And so, you know, I knew all this going into it. And so you know, you just all bets were off. And, and my son lived 29 days. So it was just very, I don't have those happy memories that most moms have going into labor, I didn't even get to hold my child that day, you know, I got to hold my child as he was dying. So I think that's that's what makes this birth, these birth days a little bit more different than if you've had someone and you've been able to love them longer than what we have, or you've had the experience of welcoming them into the world. So I don't really have a lot of fond memories. So I don't look back a lot. But these anniversary days, kind of you have you do look back, I glanced back. It's too painful to stay back there. And there's no reason to because it doesn't serve any purpose other than extending suffering. You know, I live now in this moment. And so it's just very challenging to process all of this. I mean, my son's life and death has has had such an amazing impact on my life and transformation that has come from it has been absolutely amazing. But I really don't give myself the time or the pause to look back except for these few days, one in March and one in April when he was born and when he died, that I allow myself to go there. That makes sense.

Victoria Volk  03:59
No, it absolutely does. And I think that's an aspect of grief that even I have forgotten or maybe didn't give much thought to, in that. You can have a loss that where you don't have those fun memories at all. Right? And in a way that's a lot of those fond memories are what kind of bring you peace or can bring you peace. Right? Right. So I'm warm, I'm holding you in a hug today. Thank you. And I know we talked just very briefly before we started recording that you plan to really take today to 10 your heart and give yourself the time and space to do so and it's very important. And

Sherrie Dunlevy  04:55
It is but you know I mean like I was saying I'm gonna give myself some time. It's some time, I have a feeling that subconsciously I over schedule myself on these days. And I just wonder if that's a way to like say you don't have to think about this if you don't want to, or that you don't have the time to think about this. I mean, like I did, I actually added to my schedule this morning, like, and then I'm thinking, what are you doing? And then I'm thinking you knew exactly, I know exactly what you're doing. So that's when I decided I really cannot add anything else, I really need some time, some space to just process this a little today and spend some time with it. Not a lot of time, not a lot of time to dwell, but just process the feelings that I'm feeling, you know, allow those to come, they're legitimate.

Victoria Volk  05:52
And then let them pass. Right? Yeah, instead of stuffing them down with work or other means that we do and the body. The body knows, I was just talking with someone not that long ago, and even 20. Some years later, it's like, around this time every year, yep. And all these years later, you know, you find yourself, you know, maybe getting rundown, or, you know, what shows up differently for everyone. But I think it's a, it's that to have that awareness, though. And to maybe even plan for it. Vance, there was one woman who shared how she had this, it's like a daily book, just kind of really just to give a little hope and insight and about grief, but it was it can't remember the title of it. But she said that's in its 365 days, you know, a phrase or a saying every day, and she said that's really, really helped her in her. She was a widow, right young children. But she said that was really helpful for her, but she found herself having to plan, you know, for that time of year. And so, what, especially when those in those early days, what were some of the things that kind of added to that grief, the fact that you didn't have the any joyful memories and things like that. But any anything that people said, or comments or ways that people didn't support you that you hope they would have.

Sherrie Dunlevy  07:39
Yeah, I mean, there were. I was a television news anchor at the time. So I not only went through this, but I went through this all publicly, right. And so it was it was very, it was very challenging. And it was it was very surprising. Because there were people who showed up for us in a way that was indescribable that really I did not know who they were they they knew who I was, but I did not know who they were. And so that was surprising to me, but was also surprising to me were people who were closest to us who were not there for us. And in fact, I had one instance where one of my closest friends, I thought she was gonna say to me, I've got a sitter for the kids. Hang on, I'm coming up. You know, I'll be with you. We'll get through this together. And instead, I just couldn't believe my ears when she said I'm sorry, I can't do this. And she we ended the conversation and and I didn't hear back from her. And then one day, six years later, the phone rings and it's her and she just kind of wanted to catch up. I've been thinking about you even on my mind. I was we first of all, like, that ship has sailed. We you know, I was kind of like, honestly my first reaction was like you're kidding me, right? Like you are seriously kidding me. I was kind I was not rude. I probably was a lot more quiet than what I was. But then when I came off of that call, I really started to think what was this about? Like, why all of a sudden and you know, and so that started me on my journey of wondering why people would abandon you when you need them the most and maybe they don't even see it as abandonment but that's what it was. Maybe they just see it as they didn't reach out you know, but it was and I came up with three scenarios. The first one was that maybe it hit too close to home. You know when you have children and you are giving birth to children and and you're one of your dearest Friends looses one of theirs, you just automatically think about, oh my gosh, what if that happened to me, and it's just so frightening that you can't even think about it and like to even address my sadness makes it too sad for you. The second thing is that maybe you just have never, ever had to deal with this before you don't know what to do or say, it's never really been modeled, no one in your life significant has died, or that you know, has died. So you just truly don't know. But I think the more common one truly is that people really want to do or say something, they're just afraid it's going to be the wrong thing. They're going to screw it up somehow. And so better to be safe than sorry, better to just not say anything, then say the wrong thing better not to do anything, then do something that they think we'll bring on more pain. That being said, that's when I started, I don't know why like this furious search for resources. Because I just kept thinking, there's got to be something out there to help people with this, this is just crazy, right? And I started to Google it. And I would go on Amazon looking for it. And I would want every time I was going to go past the bookstore, I would go in and look for a book. And I felt this calling and literally like, I don't know that I had this voice. But there was this knowing voice that said to me, if you're you can look all you want. But until you write it, you're not going to find it. Oh my gosh, I don't write books. You know, like I don't do this. But the thing I always tell people, the thing between the difference between a good idea and a calling is that the calling doesn't stop. And it just kept calling me and calling me and calling me and I don't know how to write a book, well, then, how can you find out how to write a book, you know? And so it just every time that I said yes, another door opened and another door open and another door open. So I really do feel like it was divinely guided. But needless to say, many years later, I wrote a book called How can I help your go to guide for helping loved ones through life's difficulties. And it is that resource guide that helps all three of those people know what to do and say, to help those that they love and care about go through difficult chapters in life, whether it's the loss of someone they love through death, whether it's divorce, whether you've just been diagnosed with something that's terminal or chronic, whether you're had to quit your job to, you know, take care of a sick child or a ailing parent, whether you've lost a job, whatever the scenario of loss is, what can you do to help and support your friends during this time. And these aren't just my suggestions. Now I realize oh, okay, that's why you were on television and a reporter, you know how to interview people. And so I interviewed people who've gone through all these scenarios, because I found out that this isn't just death, this is any difficult chapter in life. Some people are there for you, and some people just aren't. And so I wrote this book, and I'm very proud of this book. And it's a number one bestseller, and I love this book, and I love talking about this book. But this book is not I was hesitant to release the book because I didn't want the book to feel like it was pointing the finger at people. I don't want to point the finger at people. It's not about that at all. It's I know you love your friends, I know you want to support them. So I know you're scared. Okay, so this isn't about you. This is about them. So let's let's make that mind shift first, that mind that that change that mindset, and then let's talk about what we can do that will really help them. Because that's what I wanted to know, when I interviewed all these people, what was it that your friends and family did? That was helpful to you? That they gave you what you needed to get through this? And what were some of those unique things and what were some of the things that maybe weren't so helpful because I didn't want to say wrong. Because I want grieving and hurting people to realize that sometimes your friends will say things that say sound bizarre that that could be offensive. But I asked the hurting person to take some pause and extend some Grace is the intention of their friend to hurt them, or is the intention loving and it's just awkward, right? Because we don't know what to do and say and they're just trying to pull a rabbit out of it. To make you feel better, right? Or they're, they're relying on a cliche to make you feel better. I mean, we all know that, you know, they're not in a better place we, because we feel their best place would be with us, right? But I just really chose during that time not to get all weirded out over the awkwardness of what people say, because I just feel we're awkward because we don't talk about this enough. So that's kind of why I do what I do so that I get the conversation started. And I say, Listen, this is why we're awkward. So let's start just stepping up and doing this stuff. And do it afraid. And, you know, extend grace to one another for heaven's sakes.

Victoria Volk  15:45
Yeah, you speak my language. You know this because I'm, you know, as a grief recovery specialist, and I know that you've gone through grief recovery yourself. And my mission is the same. Let's talk about grief. Like we talked about the weather. That's, you know, the podcast was my calling. And that's why I have people come on, like you to share what was helpful. What was unhealthy, you know, what was unhelpful? Same, same idea. So we speak the same language? Yes, for sure. Um, so let's speak to that the grief recovery, if you don't mind for a moment, in when you discovered that and how it helped to transform your grieving experience?

Sherrie Dunlevy  16:29
Well, you know, I came late to the party, about grief recovery method. Actually, it was in the process of writing this book. And I had something I had a coach that was coaching me in my business. And he is, uh, he asked me if I knew what a clairaudient was. And I said, No, I don't. And he said, a clairaudient is someone who receives messages. And the last two times we've met, I've been receiving these messages. And if you're open to it, I want to give you this message. And I said, Okay, and he said, I'm just being told that until you deal with your grief, and you know, none of this, none of the things that we're working on now are going to work. And I said, Who did you talk to, because I hired him as a business coach, he had he, he knew I was writing a book, but I never told him what my book was about. And I didn't in in, he just had no way of knowing, right? I thought he had a way of knowing, but I'm like, Alright, and so he said, You know, I have a friend who coaches this, and I would be happy to introduce you. And so she was a grief recovery method. I don't know what you call yourself, coach, facilitator, whatever. And I met with her. And it's so funny, because my grief was two pronged. My grief was, of course, not dealing with the grief of the loss of my son, Brandon. But my son, my surviving son, Trey, was graduating college and leaving, graduating high school and leaving for college. And so I was losing another son, technically, right? in a different way, of course, but I had just devoted my whole life to being his mom. And this was my mission now. And so it was just very, I was like, Oh, he's right. I do need to deal with this. And once I found out about what the grief recovery method was, once I got the grief recovery method Handbook, once I went through the process of oh my gosh, this is like, these are the most amazing tools. And I think one of the things in the earliest chapters was, you know, if you had a heart problem, you would be going to the doctor to take care of this. Now what is so different about your grief? And truth be told, you know, when I had my first son, Trey, I had postpartum depression. And so when Brandon was born, and he was in my doctor, I'd already known that I had gone through postpartum depression, and he was critical. critically ill. Well, automatically the thought was, we want to get you back on the antidepressants. But the thing was, is that I was on them for 13 years. And I kept thinking, I know it's down there. I could feel it. I could feel it in me, but I had I could not bring it up and bring it out. I had no way of doing that. And it was just weird. So I just, I just carried it with me. It was it was below the surface. At the time I was doing the grief Recovery method though I have come off my antidepressants. So it was just like perfect timing. Because I was able to get there, I was able to get it. And I was able to extract it. And I was able to look at it. And I was able to deal with it. And then I was able to release it. And it was the best gift I've ever given myself.

Victoria Volk  20:25
And it is the gift that keeps on giving.  

Sherrie Dunlevy  20:29
Yes. And yeah, yes, because the tools are always there. The tools are always there.

Victoria Volk  20:35
And I want to touch on to something that I mentioned when I talk about grief recovery is that the sadness doesn't go away. You know, your son still has not been with you. That doesn't go away. No, it is, but it doesn't have the impact of it. Right? is greatly lifted, maybe reduced. Maybe even the impact is lifted and removed. 

Sherrie Dunlevy  21:03
The pain is pain. 

Victoria Volk  21:05
Yes. The impact of the pain, like the crippling emotional pain. 

Sherrie Dunlevy  21:11
Yes, yes, pain is lifted, you are able to like I said, You know, I don't have you, it doesn't like what I say when I started graduating grieve, it doesn't mean that you're never ever going to be sad again. And they're like, I got this I'm good and never to be revisited again. It just means it no longer has its power over you. It doesn't not have the power to cripple you and take you under and keep you under and hold you under any longer. You know how to get back to the surface. You know how to see the sunshine, you know how to bask in the sunshine, you can seek your joy again.

Victoria Volk  21:55
It is possible.

Sherrie Dunlevy  21:57
It is that's what I want people to know it is possible, but you have to choose it. 

Victoria Volk  22:06
What would you like to scream to the world. And wish people knew about your grief?

Sherrie Dunlevy  22:17
Well, here's what I'd like to scream for the world. Every life no matter how long or short it is, can make an impact. And my son lived 29 days and here 22 years later, he's still making an impact. So what I want to scream to the world is your life can make an impact too. And the longer you are imprisoned by your grief, the less impactful you can be, the less you can make your impact on this world.

Victoria Volk  22:57
I 100% agree. 100%.

Sherrie Dunlevy  23:01
That's what I want to scream is that I had to realize that my son's life and death was a chapter in my life. It wasn't my life. It wasn't what defines my life. It's not the label, I'm going to give myself the rest of my life. I am Brandon's mom. I am tres mom. I am Rob's wife I am Cherie, I am an author. I wear many hats, right? Why do I want to hold on to grieving mom as the total definition of who I am. I don't want to get you know, I'm I'm a believer. I don't want to get to the end of my life. And God say Sherry, would you do with the 5060 years I gave you after Brandon died? And I said, Well, you took my son and I laid in the fetal position and cried the rest of my life. That's like burying your talents. You know what I mean? Like, no, I gave you this life. Why didn't you do anything with it? Right? At least help someone else that's there that has gone through it. Right? So I, I don't not that I necessarily felt responsible for other people and their loss. I don't. I just feel that I'm supposed to be a light. My life is supposed to be a light shining on hope and healing. That's just what I feel like my life is supposed to be.

Victoria Volk  24:33
I identify with that. That's exactly how I feel that's and I feel like often it is our experience that leads us to our passions and our work often. Not always, but often. I think it's just an evolution of who we are. But you like you said it's the impact, right no matter how long or short that experiences and even more What we think might be insignificant to someone else like, and I'm just going to bring this up, I know we're not talking about this, but pet loss, right to is, for a child can be very significant and impactful. But to many adults, it's like, it's just a dog, you know. And that's one of our first experiences often as children is how and how we learn how to process grief, or deal with grief, or, well, it's no big deal, you know, get over it, get another dog, you know.

Sherrie Dunlevy  25:30
Yeah, it's, I, yes, I agree with you, 100%, I lost my beloved dog in January, probably these next to the loss of my son, the worst loss I have ever gone through. Um, and I'm not, I'm not gonna say it's ridiculous, it is very true, I was very connected to him. And we cannot shield our children or people from this happening, I think one of the most amazing things that my mom did, and that's what we tried to do was we tried to shield our kids from this, and then they can't handle it, and then they are adults that can't handle it, and then we eat too much, or we drink too much, or we try to numb the pain in an unhealthy way. Because we have no idea, any healthy way of dealing with grief. But you know, it's scary. And even to a child, a dead body is scary. And I remember even as a child, the thought of forever, you know, whether a life ending forever, or an everlasting life forever was scary, I couldn't put my head around eternity, right. And so those concepts are and then you and then you have the scared of a dead body kind of thing. So one of the things that my mom that I thought was was wonderful, in hindsight, is I remember when I was like, five years old, and one of her friend's mother died. And there was a viewing. And my mom took me to the funeral home. And so I witnessed my first dead person, my first funeral without being emotionally attached. And so it got the unknowns and the fears of the unknowns out of the way. And so then the next time when that was a family member, or a friend, well, that kind of fear wasn't there, it was just the emotional, right? And so I didn't have to deal with all that. And I think as parents, we just try to protect our children from so much. So I would really advise you know, any parent out there exposure children to death in a way that it there if you can, as early as you can, and unemotionally as possible, because then that just helps it make a norm make it a normal part of living. Is that make sense?

Victoria Volk  28:12
Exactly. Yes. Yes. Yes. I mean, it's, it's normalizing grief, when you when you have a conversation, when you bring it to the forefront of it being a part of life, you know, we grieve because we love, whether it's a pet, baby relationship, whatever it is, right? loss of a dream, a passion, a career, right? A home, I could go on and on. There's more than 40 plus types of losses. It's not just about death, but it's the death of loss of safety and security, so many things, so many things that childhood sets the stage for how we address and deal with those things, for sure. I'm glad the conversation went there. I thought it was very helpful, what you shared and I absolutely 100% it's in line with grief recovery. Throughout your grief experience what has given you the most joy and hope for the future.

Sherrie Dunlevy  29:17
What has given me the most joy, stepping into who I'm supposed to be becoming a little less. I don't want to say less fearful, you're always fearful, becoming more courageous in living and living and living. I remember when my son was growing up, I've tried to keep him protected. Physically, I just you know, he would climb up to the top of a sliding board or, you know, climb up on a ladder and I lost one child, I can't lose another you know, and I realized I was inhibiting his growth and probably putting some fears putting my My stuff on him, which probably wasn't, wasn't the right thing to do. I understand why I did it now. And so I try to talk to him about that stuff. You know, I just tried to be open and honest about it. And I really, the joy that I have is being able to just let people know that you can live a beautiful life, it's possible. And I think just by the joy that I get from talking about this, so that people realize it's possible. I want them to know what's possible. And that's what gives me the joy when someone says, Oh, I never thought of it that way. Oh, that's gold. That's gold. Because maybe there's, there's that breakthrough. Because I just think like, we all have these gifts, talents and abilities they've been given to us. And fear always holds us back. And if we can step into who we're supposed to be, this world can be beautiful. And we're all holding piece of ourselves back because it's been hurt, or it's been trampled on. Or it's been, you know, something happened to us. And so we're trying to protect that, and keep it from happening again. But we can't, we can't. And so we just have to learn how to move through it. But moving through, it can be a beautiful process. I didn't realize this until a couple of months ago, I did not know that there was a term for this. But we always talk about, you know, the post traumatic stress that horrible things that happen in your life can cause you. But I think in my case, I've had post traumatic growth. And I've had, I've been able to see the beauty in life, and to see the goodness in life, and to be able to want to embrace that, and put my eye on that. So a lot of beauty came out of this. A lot of growth came out of this, a lot of transformation came out of this. So that's the biggest joy I have.

Victoria Volk  32:10
About that I would like to talk a little bit more about that post traumatic stress, or post traumatic growth. Yeah, because I've heard that float around to on social media and stuff and and i think that also has comes with its own grief because we can lose relationships, based on our growth, we can have an awareness of, Okay, well, you know, you cannot come along, I'll bring you with me. But if you're not going to come along, and you know, you can lose relationships. Yeah. And that way you can have an awareness that you didn't have before that can bring to light Wow, that's kind of a toxic relationship that's kind of a toxic person or that careers toxic or whatever, what have you, whatever it is, and there's grief that comes with that maybe even where you live, you might realize what I really want is this, that this is where I'm at. And now there you have a lot of change.

Sherrie Dunlevy  33:11
Well, that happened to me with my career, I left a you know, very established well established career in broadcasting. And left it I was like, Oh my gosh, this, this is not good. For me. This is not a good career. For me. I was wondering why I was so miserable, tried to get I was able to compartmentalize the the day's news and come home and still be mom still be alive, still be happy. But after my son died, that's when Columbine happened. And then two years later, that's when 911 happened. And it was like I could not compartmentalize anymore the worlds of grief and pain became mine My pain, you know, I could not differentiate between any of it and it just became too excruciating. To remain there. I tried it for a year and it didn't work. And and I couldn't get out of it. I counselor actually said you can leave you know you're allowed to leave I had to have. But that's the thing. I didn't give myself that permission. I had to have a counselor and now I try to do the work myself so that I can give myself the permission to move ahead as I need to move ahead, to grow into who I was created to be. That's what we're born for. This is to grow into who were created to be.

Victoria Volk  34:35
I've often wondered that as I watched the news, you know everything going on and I try not to leave. My husband leaves in the morning it's off turned off. Yeah, it's on in the background, you know, in the mornings and stuff. And I've often wondered that though, about the people that that's their career to report the bad news because it's not all sunshine and rainbows in the news. It's rarely a Rarely happy news. And so I've often wondered about that, like, if what kind of support news anchors have or if any, is that even a thing?

Sherrie Dunlevy  35:10
Not when I was in it now, now and we're the gatekeepers. So for eight hours I'm looking at I was a news producer, anchor and reporter. And so I, if I produce the news that day, I was taking in all the news from the network's from the different states from the different countries, and then I would decide what I was pushing out to the audience, right? So for eight hours, I'm taking all of this in, so I'm taking in much more than I'm pushing out to you, right, I'm taking eight hours in and pushing out 30 minutes to you. And so, you know, 16 years of that, think about that, you know, I call myself a recovering news anchor. I I rarely watch the news, maybe I don't even think it's once a week. During the pandemic, I've maybe two times a month, enough to stay informed, right? You know what's going on, I mean, believe me, you know what's going on. And so I mean, if I need to find something out, I know where to find it. But to sit and be fed your 24 hour news cycles. 24 hour news stations, quite frankly, in my opinion, do more harm than good. They disrupt it was never meant to be taken in for 24 hours, it was meant to be convenient to catch the news, as was convenient for you. Okay, but now they've done all these tricks with the teasers to keep you staying tuned in for the advertising dollars and whatnot. And, and so they want to keep you there as long as they possibly can. And so how can you not if you feed yourself, this steady diet of all this negative news in the world is bad. And every child every every child is being as a target for abduction. And you know, just like you, how can you think that we have a beautiful world out there, right, you got to turn off the TV and you've got to get out and you've got to meet your neighbors and you've got to listen to the birds and you've got to feel the sunshine on your face. And you've got to feel the breeze. You've got to see the leaves and you've got to you know, get to know one another and see what real life is all about.

Victoria Volk  37:36
See feel see feel. Yeah, yeah, smell the goodness that is there. Yeah, absolutely. I love that. I love that the conversation went here, because I think that's so important. With so much focus on mental health today. Yeah. Who is talking about the 24 hour news cycle? No, buddy. Yeah, on the news. Like maybe we are contributing to this mental health issue going on with our teenagers and you know, the constant phone access and all of this stuff. When you already have grief, which I would beg to differ that each and every one of us grieves something. 

Sherrie Dunlevy  38:16
No, every single one of us going through this pandemic right now is grieving, whether you want to admit it or not. You're grieving something.

Victoria Volk  38:24
Yes. Loss of health, loss of career identity, whatever it is for you. To me. Yes. Freedom. I mean, there's so many connections hug. Yes, yes. We could go on and on. Right. So yeah. Is that? Is that serving you to watch this 24 hour news cycle? Absolutely not. Do you feel better after you're watching it? No, probably not. So yeah, thank you for sharing all of that. I appreciate that. So what would say to someone who, like you had experienced a loss of in such a way that you didn't have those experiences of joy in the meantime, did you do anything that was helpful for you? Immediately or during that time that you

Sherrie Dunlevy  39:13
that I can remember? Hmm. I, I allowed people to love me. And what I, anybody who showed up for me, even if it wasn't an awkward way, I just accepted it is loving kindness. And I really tried to focus on the people. Just the gift of healing that other people were offering me in the ways that they could offer it, I guess is the best way to say it. I leaned on my family, you know it can pull a marriage a partner can strengthen it and it really strengthened my marriage. We my husband, and I just You know, like today, we just had the conversation. I said, How are you doing today? He says, I think I'm doing okay. And I said, he said, How are you? I said, I don't think I'm doing so okay. And that's just how it's been through our marriage is that he's strong when I need him to be strong, and I'm strong when he needs me to be strong. And so we honor that, and we talk about it. And we check in with each other. And so that's what I say is just to, to be open and honest and vulnerable. And you know, I'm not fine is an okay answer. I'm not fine as an okay, answer. And I know this is off the subject, but I just want people to know that there's nothing that you can say or do that's going to make it all better for someone. So take the pressure off of yourself and just show up in love. Right? You can't there's no magic words. This is just something you have to get through. And so that's I guess, you know, I focused on the good things in my life, I focused on where the love was I focused on my three year old son I focused on the people who were loving us through it was just trying to focus on the good that I that was still there in my life. And there is still good there in your life. You just have to look for it.

Victoria Volk  41:21
Look for it. Yeah, yeah. And I want to circle back to to the loss of your pet because that was very recent. Mm hmm. And there is a pet loss program. And that's how important the grief recovery Institute feels pet loss is in our society to many people. How have you allowed yourself to kind of work through that and how have you been working through that loss?

Sherrie Dunlevy  41:49
It was a shock. It was something that was unexpected, and the feelings were coming up fast and furious, which was something that you know, it was different because my son I knew from 18 I had anticipatory grief with my son, right? I didn't have it as batory grief. So this was just sudden, and he died in my arms and I was just shocked, you know, and the feelings came up. And I just thought they're coming out. And I remember just sobbing and my husband and my son were sitting there and I said, I am totally committed to honoring this grief and this process. And I'm just gonna let you know that I'm honoring all parts of it. I am going to be vulnerable and when it comes I'm going to feel it and if that makes you uncomfortable or make someone else uncomfortable, that is a you problem that is not a me problem.

Victoria Volk  42:57
I love that

Sherrie Dunlevy  42:59
And I honored that and I stayed true to that and when I want to cry, I cry for my dog. And I literally just I felt release I mean I felt like this, I did it healthily. I use the tools I journaled I did all the thing you know what I mean? Like I did all the things that I needed to do to go through it I didn't try any shortcuts. I kept saying I'm not fine, but I know I will be I'm not fine now. But I know I will be and just knowing that I will be allows gives myself the permission to get through it the way I need to. And that's what I want people to know is that when it comes to grief, you think you're you're fooling Who are you fooling? You know, like who are you trying to pull the wool over their eyes, you're not your body knows you're hanging on to it. You know, it will come out it will come out as anger it will come out as frustration it will come out as addiction it won't but it's gonna come out. So why not do it? The way you do it in the most gentle say the right but do it in the way that's most healthy for you. But that scares us every I remember telling people this when I before I did the grief recovery with my son. I'm afraid that if I ever attached to that, that grief that I will never be able to release it like once I start crying I'll never be able to stop but that's not true. It's not true. You will some day at some point of some day cried enough, right? It doesn't mean that you won't ever cry again. But the crying will come to end.

Victoria Volk  45:07
Crying from the pain is is a very different kind than crying from the sadness.

Sherrie Dunlevy  45:14
Yeah. And there is a difference. 

Victoria Volk  45:17
Yes, like crying so hard that you think your head is gonna explode like you can't take it anymore type of Yeah, very ugly cry Yeah, yeah, remember my very ugly cry? Yeah worked on my relationship and grief recovery I was very ugly because that was like, many, many years of buried stuff.

Sherrie Dunlevy  45:36

Victoria Volk  45:39
I want to just touch on one thing, too. I've heard on social media recently I read something where someone said, you are entitled to your grief? And I've struggled with that I struggle with that, too. Yeah, I struggle with it. Because to say that to someone who is grieving. And you're obviously you're probably there, obviously, they're looking at the account, they were aggrieved or to, you're entitled to the grief? Well, you're entitled to your feelings, yeah, knew you're gonna have your grief. But to say it, I think and communicate it in that way. It like it just speaks to that attachment. 

Sherrie Dunlevy  46:26
it's gonna say attachment.

Victoria Volk  46:28
Yeah, yeah, it's like this, like your Velcro to the grief.

Sherrie Dunlevy  46:32
Right to the wall, your label. And I have a real problem with that at that's what I was finding. I think that support groups can be a beautiful thing. But at the same time, I also think support groups can make you believe that you that you are entitled to your grief.

Victoria Volk  46:58
Well in such a way that it's this is how it is just going to be.

Sherrie Dunlevy  47:02
Yeah. And it's and that is why I have graduated grief because I do not believe that. I, I I you know, like, that's why I started graduating grief because I had been doing some other grief work. And I had been going into these grief groups, and it was breaking my heart that people were being told this that that, you know, just because that's how someone else believes doesn't mean, you know, I that would have horrified me. If I had gone into that believing that because I lost a child, I will never be happy again. Or that I will have to carry this dark cloud over my, you know, like, live with a perpetual dark cloud over my life forever. I don't know, no, no, no, no. And, you know, you look back at remember when the widows used to wear black for a year, but then once the black was removed, right? There's symbolism in that, that you carry it for a while, but then you read it, you release and you step into who you're supposed to be. And that's what I want people to realize, with the graduating grief that that I've started is that I want you have to do the work to step out of your pain. So that you can step into loving your life again. Now, that doesn't mean that that's going to be an overnight thing, right? Because you're still going to have fears and you're still going to have guilt. And you're still going to feel you know, like all these feelings around that because I did too. But wouldn't it be nice to be in a community where people are cheering from you for you, and people are encouraging you. And people are saying, you know, I'll hold your hand and we'll journey together. It's what I always tell people journey together. We're not trying to drive our car in a forward motion. By only looking at our rearview mirror, I want you to see your life ahead of you. Some woman told me the other day, the thought that I have to live the rest of my life. I'm counting the days How many days I have left to live without so and so. That's a horrible way to live. That's why would you choose that for yourself? 

Victoria Volk  49:18
Because they don't feel like they have a choice. And that's what griefs makes us. 

Sherrie Dunlevy  49:21
But you do! 

Victoria Volk  49:22
I know you and I are the same train. 

Sherrie Dunlevy  49:28
Yes, you do have a choice.

Victoria Volk  49:30 
Yes, you do. Yes. We're so on the same train. And I want to bring back to what you said in the visual of wearing black for a year and yeah, you know, you have this veil. And it's like, yeah, you can change the dress, change your different color, but if you still have the veil, you're still not going to look in the mirror and see who you could be without that grief. I like to use the analogy or the comparison of a veil like grief is a veil over our faces. We don't see other people The same way we don't look at ourselves the same way. It blocks us from who we are. We forget who we are even in that grief and trauma and all those rocks that we accumulate.

Sherrie Dunlevy  50:14
And the physiological, you know. That's why I was like, Why? Why don't people know about this? You know, first of all? And secondly, why wouldn’t you immediately try to do something to feel better?

Victoria Volk  50:33
Right? I gotta, I gotta, I gotta point on that. And this is, this is my, my stick on this. So in grief or suffering, you suffer, you feel like you're just suffering? Why not suffer? But move forward? In the process? Mm hmm. You're suffering anyway. Right? The worst has already happened. You lost your loved one. There's only one way but up. How can you get any? I mean, you could get lower, I guess, if you allow yourself to keep doing that.

Sherrie Dunlevy  51:10
Well, I have I have a saying for that. I say if you lay you decay.

Victoria Volk  51:14
oh, that's perfect. That's gonna be your quote card.

Sherrie Dunlevy  51:20
If you lay your decay, just like anything. 

Victoria Volk  51:23
Exactly, you lay you decay.

Sherrie Dunlevy  51:26
So you've got to get back up. So that's what graduating grief is is kind of like, it's twofold. It's like I was thinking about it. When I was in my support group. When I told my husband, I did not want to go back anymore. And he's like, why they're lovely people. And I said, because I don't want to be sad every other Tuesday of the month. Like I don't want to be in deep suffering and pain. I wanted to start feeling better. This was before I knew about grief recovery method, right? So I, so I thought, well, what was that I was ready to graduate to the next level. That's so so that's part of it. I was great. So what is the next level, all there is none. So that's what I created, right? So that's what my support community, that's what my podcast is all about. But it's also you think about the grief and you're laying down in the fetal position and it's dark, and it's lonely. But then there's this gradual, you sit up, and then you look around, and then you have to decide maybe kneel and then you put one foot up and then another foot up, and then you're standing and then you can turn towards the light and start taking steps into the light. So it's a gradual process from here to hope. Right? So it has a double meaning, but it's possible but if you lay there you'll decay. You got to get up. You got to get up.

Victoria Volk  52:52
I think two people are afraid. I mean many people are fearful of change. And so if we have this awareness of Oh, I guess I do have a choice. I guess though there is something that might help me Oh, well that can be uncomfortable too. And I think that's it's the fear of not knowing what it's going to lead to or how it's going to make you change or not make you change but change you in the process.

Sherrie Dunlevy  53:17
Yeah, yeah, I was I was the most it's it's the craziest thing how I've become a much more positive person since the death of my son than prior I was the most negative resistant to change if it's not broke, why fix it? everything in my life, I did not want it to change. I wanted a comfort zone, right. And then when my son died, I'm realized that the comfort zone does not exist. Like it's the biggest lie like it will change life will change whether you want it to or not. And my son's death was proof of it. So now how do I want to operate? Right? It's gonna change whether I want it to or not, and it and you're not always going to like the change, but it's still gonna change. Even if you say I'm devoting all your time Sherry to raising your other son now, well, guess what, you're going to grow up and he's going to leave. And so he's changing, everything changes. So you can either change with it, or you can stay in a state of suffering. Because that's what you're going to do. The more you're resistant to the change the more you are suffering you're in a state of suffering.

Victoria Volk  54:28
What we resist persists. Yeah. Ah, so good. We've covered a lot. Time flies. Where is there it First of all, is there anything else you would like to share today?

Sherrie Dunlevy  54:48
Oh, my gosh. I think that I don't know how there possibly is I'm sure there are I'm sure we could probably talk for another two hours. But I think that I think I just want people to realize, you know, you have to decide you have to decide what you want to do and you in, the longer you deny it, the more you will suffer. So why not just, you know, do the work, it's going to be painful, it's going to be so worth it. There's a freedom that comes in a release that comes. That is absolutely amazing. So do it, you know, just do it.

Victoria Volk  55:23
And like you've touched on earlier, too, it's like, when I started to really do the work on myself, that's when opportunities opened up. And I was more, I was saying yes, to things I never found, I will say yes to right, speaking in front of people and just the podcast, like, I don't know how I've never done it. Well, I'll learn I'll teach myself. You know, it's like, what's the worst that can happen? Right? Like,

Sherrie Dunlevy  55:50
I think that's the philosophy that I have adopted, what's the worst that can happen? It already has, so you know, and why not live? 

Victoria Volk  55:57
Yeah. Exactly. And you find yourself putting yourself out there in ways that you never thought either because like, what's the worst they can say? No. Right? You know, it's not living a half life, like someone had shared with me a while back, and it's kind of stuck with me. It's like, do you want to live a half life? Or do you want to live a full life? Right? Where can people reach you?

Sherrie Dunlevy  56:28 is probably the, you know, the most common way you can find information about my book. I also have a quiz at just to see if you're ready. You're ready to graduate from your grief. And I started the graduating grief, podcast and group on Facebook. So join us there if you want to live encouraged after loss, right. So that's we journey together and to create beautiful lives that we were created to live.

Victoria Volk  57:02
Amen to that. Yeah. Yes, love that mission. Thank you so much, Sherry, for being here. It's been wonderful. And remember, when you unleash your heart, you unleash your life. Much love.