Episode 29: Improving Communication After Grief and Loss

Dr. Heather Browne PsyD, LMFT helps people recognize the power of communication.  It is one of our most important skills that we have, and yet we don’t consider our understanding, approach, belief, and therefore, miss our possibilities.  Living with a paranoid schizophrenic mother gave Dr. Heather a unique and powerful awareness that no one has the same reality, though we believe we do.  Utilizing this revolutionary awareness has allowed her to transform communication within self and within all other types of relationship.  This is the hidden key to acceptance.  And this is her mission to share.

She offers a weekly newsletter packed with tips and techniques to improve relationships and has monthly workshops! Simply go to her website!

In this episode, Dr. Browne discusses ways to improve communication with your partner and other loved ones after going through a pregnancy loss or other type of significant loss.


5 Ways To Help You Move Through Grief Freebie






Finding Hope After Loss Podcast Episode 29 - Interview with Dr. Heather Browne

Listen to more episodes of the Finding Hope After Loss Podcast on Apple and Spotify!

Episode Transcript

Sarah Cox: [00:00:00] Hello, everyone. Thank you for joining me for season two of the Finding Hope After Loss podcast. I’m so excited to be back and bringing you so many amazing stories and interviews this season. As always, we will continue to have stories from other lost moms. This season we cover pretty much everything, miscarriage, stillbirth, termination for medical reasons.

Ectopic, chemical, neonatal loss, infant loss, adoption, parenting after loss, trying to conceive after loss, infertility, pregnancy after loss, the list goes on and on. I’m also going to be bringing you special guests that focus on things that can help us as loss parents. Things like dealing with postpartum depression and hormones after birth, dealing with grief, how to communicate with your partner after loss, [00:01:00] nutrition while trying to conceive.

Yoga for healing and so much more. I really hope that these stories from other lost parents will give you hope and let you know that you’re not alone. And I hope that by bringing you these special guests, that you will get some helpful takeaways that will help you navigate your life after loss. If you ever want to be a guest on the podcast, or if you have an idea for what you’d like to hear on the show, you can always reach out to me.

My email is Sarah S a r a h at journey for jasmine. com. Or you can send me a message on Instagram or Facebook. That is at journey for Jasmine. Make sure you subscribe so you don’t miss any of the new episodes. I would love for you to also leave a rating if you love the show. So today is an interview with Dr.

Heather Brown. She is a therapist that helps people recognize the [00:02:00] importance and the power of communication. In this interview, she discusses the importance of communication while going through grief. Hello everyone. Today I am here with Dr. Heather Brown. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Dr. Heather Browne: Sure.

I am a psychotherapist. I’ve been one for 27 years and I specialize in communication, relationship, grief, and loss. I’m based in California. Yeah.

Sarah Cox: What got you into that specialization?

Dr. Heather Browne: Well, like most people who go into the healing fields, a lot of, a lot of challenges. I was born with a mom who was a paranoid schizophrenic.

And she killed herself when I was 16. And so from that, that just catapulted a desire for me to learn how do we, how do we live in this world better? And how can you help people get help who might not know what to do? And I have fallen [00:03:00] madly in love with the field of relationship and relating.

Sarah Cox: I love when people, use, you know, tragic things that have happened to them to then go on to help other people, you know, get, get through these kind of things.

I think, you know, turning something so hard into something purposeful is, is amazing.

Dr. Heather Browne: And I think that that stands out probably in most areas, but grief and loss is one that seems to resonate differently, I think, because of the personal hurt that people go through in that they really want someone who understands.

what that is. It can feel mismatched if someone hasn’t ever gone through something pretty horrific like that. And so I know that’s an area a lot of people really want to make certain they’ve got support from someone who’s gone through miscarriage or, you know, suicide or something like that. [00:04:00] Yeah.

Sarah Cox: Yeah, I definitely agree.

I know when I was, um, looking for a counselor after, um, our loss, you know, there’s a lot of people that like, kind of don’t want to touch grief. They’re like, no, no, that’s not my thing. And you really had to search to find somebody who kind of specialized in that I found.

Dr. Heather Browne: Well, the therapist has to be, or the counselor has to be really willing to hold the space and to respect that the space is going to be delineated by the client and where they are.

And. I think a lot of times as a helper, we kind of want to feel like we’re in control and in grief and loss. You can’t be. The control is in the falling apart and feeling comfortable sitting with someone, however, dark or heavy they might need to go, um, in a, in a therapeutic model. It can be a challenge because you’ve got 55 minutes.

And so unless you’re leaving spaces in between, I know for me, when I work with [00:05:00] someone with a recent tragic loss, I don’t want someone next, because in case I need to take more time to help that person really reintegrate, sometimes it doesn’t work really smoothly in the, in that 50 55 minute. timeframe.

And so you’ve got to be a little bit creative with that. Um, and it’s heavy. It’s beautiful, but it’s heavy. And so some people want to work more so with some of the other things they do, like let’s talk nicely to ourself or how can we start a conversation better? There’s other, there’s other areas that are a little, little lighter.

Right. Yeah. A lot of people don’t want to do child abuse, completely understand it’s a heavy, heavy field. Yeah, it is.

Sarah Cox: Yeah. Especially if you’re doing that all day, every day, like repeatedly one after the other. So you have been through pregnancy loss yourself.

Dr. Heather Browne: I have two live children and they’re 26 and 23, the loves of my life.

And in [00:06:00] between, we lost, we lost pumpkin at nine weeks. And it’s amazing how painful even nine weeks can be to lose one. It was hard. It was hard and my husband and I needed to go to counseling because he could not understand. Because it was so early on he couldn’t understand the emotions that I was feeling and the overwhelm and the sadness and I told him like we’re not going to make it unless you can have a lot more compassion.

This isn’t just done like my body has to go through a lot and so we went and saw someone and she was wonderful to help him give me a little bit more time as all the hormones were shifting and my body was shifting to just. Let me take care of me in that space. Yeah.

Sarah Cox: And I’ve heard that a lot that, you know, men and women kind of grieve differently and react [00:07:00] to, you know, that kind of loss differently.

So what, what would you say are some good ways that you can, you know, communicate your needs like to your partner about what it is that you’re needing after loss?

Dr. Heather Browne: Well, I think the first part is, you know, if it’s a miscarriage, there’s the huge piece that your body has to go through that drastic transformation, and the emotions are everywhere.

I mean, it takes a while to lose a little one. And once it’s announced, For the, for the partner, it’s done. But for the person whose body is losing it and, and then needs to continue to move beyond, that takes a little while. That’s why you go back and have checkups two weeks after and a month after. They need to make certain your body has reregulated.

So I think first off, the important thing is to, to say like, I’ve, I’ve gotta, I’ve gotta honor what my body’s telling me to do. And I know you [00:08:00] can’t understand what that is, but I got to be okay within myself. And so I’m probably gonna be a little bit off, different, strange, what have you. Please know this is just right now.

And if you know what it is that you need, maybe you need to be hugged. Maybe you need to be held. Maybe you need to be soothed. If you know what that is to tell your partner, this would really help if that’s something that you can do. But sometimes what happens is your partner is going through, of course, their own loss too.

And sometimes those two don’t line up. My husband and I didn’t. Um, I’m a, I’m a widow, but he, um, he liked, he liked to hit things and break things when he was grieving. So he’d want to go to the batty cages or, or go to the, you know, the shooting range. And I wanted to be held and wanting to break things and shoot things and being held.

Don’t go together. And so we had to realize that. And it was [00:09:00] something that I felt was unfortunate in our relationship because we didn’t really We weren’t able to care for each other in that, but we really had to take a couple days, and I would call up my best friends, and they would love me, and either come over, talk to me on the phone, and help me through, and he would go out with his brothers and his buddies, and they’d shoot up a whole bunch of clay pigeons, and about two, three days later, his anger would be less.

My depth of depression would have lifted a little and then we could meet really well. So there’s a place of talking it through and and and sharing like we both have to go through it. We both have to go through if we need to get outside support. It’s not each other like let’s do it. But I really want. I want to keep coming back to seeing how you’re doing and what you’re needing and what you’re experiencing and where it is that we can then, once again, hold each other and carry each other through.

It’s important to realize that no one grieves right [00:10:00] or wrong. There isn’t one way to do it. It’s honoring who you are and what it is that you think you need to do to carry you through. Obviously, you don’t want to do anything that’s self destructive. very much. Which a lot of people do when they’re grieving because they don’t want to feel right now.

Sarah Cox: I completely understand that it’s easier to try to, you know, push the grief away or like disguise it somehow, then deal with it.

Dr. Heather Browne: So what is it with everything in life? Let’s pretend it’s not happening, but that doesn’t take it away. Right.

Sarah Cox: What would you suggest for somebody to communicate or how they could communicate when they don’t know what it is that they’re needing?

Dr. Heather Browne: Just that. I have no idea. I’ve no idea. And then a beautiful thing the partner can say is, well, then I’ll just be here with you until you do and just. Stay there and say you’re not going to go through this alone and if they want suggestions and [00:11:00] sometimes people do, then you could say, would you like me to hold you?

Would you like me to rub your back? Would you like me to say some reassuring words? Um, you don’t have to find the right thing. And I think we get caught there. Like, if you don’t know what you need, then I can’t do it. So therefore I’ll do nothing. It’s more so, it’s more so the experience of the other person caring.

It’s okay. You don’t know what you want. I get it. Like this is really hard, but if you do think of something, I want you to know that I’m here and I want to help. And if you don’t think of something, I’m here and I want to help. When my husband died, one of my best friends lives three hours away. Susie, she’s an angel on this earth, and she drove for four Wednesdays, she’d get to my house around 12, she’d stay till three, [00:12:00] and she was here, and I remember when she came, I thought, well, I don’t know what we’re gonna do, and she would walk around the house.

and say, you don’t have food. I’d say, okay, she’d say, we’re going to the market. Your microwave’s broken. Okay. Cause we’re fixing it. She just showed up because I wasn’t going to be able to put into words. And after grief, I think this is very common. I didn’t need anything. I needed my baby to still be with me.

I needed my husband to come back and I didn’t really care about food or set tasks or the lawn. And so when people say, what do you need? Oh my gosh, Like a bottle of water. Like it seems so silly compared to my heart not to be ripped apart and broken. So the things of the world just aren’t important. And so if you have somebody who shows up.

And just kind of helps you take [00:13:00] care of what needs to happen, or does it for you? Um, that can be tremendously helpful. I remember, uh, I have a really dear friend who’s a pastor. And my late husband, um, was rebuilding a car. Parts were all over the driveway. And I remember Pastor Chris said, I’m going to come and put all the parts away.

And I remember saying to him, Chris, I could care less. I could care less. They can just sit there forever and just, you know, rust. I don’t care. And he said, I’m going to come and put them away. And I said, Chris, I don’t need that. And it was so sweet. He’s such a beautiful soul. He said. Maybe you don’t, but I need to be doing something for you, and this will be one last thing that you have to do, and it’s something I can do.

And I so didn’t receive it as beautifully as I wish I had. I just said, Okay, whatever, do whatever you want, that’s fine. And I remember driving up to my driveway, who knows how many days after he had done [00:14:00] it, and realizing it had been cleaned up. And so I called him and I said, You came? And he said, Yeah. I said, I noticed it.

He said, I’m so glad. He said, I needed to do something for you, Heather. So there’s a place in grief. Of if you don’t know what it is, let yourself just be taken care of for a little bit. It, it, it might not be what you need. I remember when people asked, you know, what can I bring? I said, yeah, I don’t, I don’t really need anything.

And then I started to think, well, water, like I can always use water. And I think I had like 10 cases of water and they were eventually all used, but it was really helpful. So let people, you don’t have to be the strong one. There’s a beautiful place in love of the other person. Knowing that they’re helping you, that they’re somehow bringing a little bit of comfort or tenderness or compassion to your life, and we block [00:15:00] ourselves from receiving it, but we also block the person from giving it.

My dear friend needed to know that he was friending me, and if I didn’t need him in one of my darkest moments, like, how deep was our friendship? And so there’s a place of recognizing if somebody wants to help, just let them bring napkins. Water my lawn. Don’t push them away. They’re really not saying let me water your lawn.

I’m going to tear. They’re really saying let me water your heart. And so it’s important you let, you let your heart be watered because you’re hurting, you’re hurting, and there’s somebody who can’t take it away, but they certainly can try to soothe a little bit of that or let you know that there is something beyond that hurt.

When, when Ted passed, remember, it was the hardest thing in the world to realize that I could not take my children’s pain away. [00:16:00] There was nothing I could do. And I remember telling them that. I can’t take this away. It’s the first time in my life I feel totally helpless with you. So I’m just going to be here as you go through all of it.

And sometimes that’s the most beautiful gift we can give. I’m going to be here with you going through all of this.

Sarah Cox: I definitely found that to be, you know, the most important thing after my losses too, is just knowing that people were there. But I’ve never honestly looked at it from that perspective You know, not accepting help is not letting them do what they feel they need to do for you as well.

Dr. Heather Browne: And if you can see it in that vein, not like, okay, great, so I have to take care of you in this, but you’re trying to take care of me and I’m thwarting you from it. But your intention is love, your intention is compassion. It truly might not need the napkins. But do I need your love? [00:17:00] Oh my gosh, so much. Do I need compassion?

Yes, because I don’t want you to also go away. You don’t want anyone who’s loving on you to go away. We can push them all away because we’re hurting so much. We just want to be alone. And I’m not telling anybody to force yourself to be around people if you need to be alone. You really have to honor what’s best for you.

But do notice that people are wanting to love you and wanting to care for you and see if that’s something that would bless you on some level. Because for most of us, it does.

Sarah Cox: So, do you suggest, communicating in the same way your needs to other people that are not your spouse or your partner? Like, if they’re family members or friends, just telling them, you know, what you need or what you don’t need?

Dr. Heather Browne: Absolutely. We, we had so much food and I, like we were barely eating and I [00:18:00] remember calling up the person who had set up the food chain and I said, I really appreciate this. Thank you so, so much. Thank you so, so much. We have so much food. I’m going to be throwing it out. And I, and it’s such a waste. So could we maybe do like one or two meals a week and spread it out?

Or could people Just drop by to say hi and not bring anything. Um, and with friends too. I was overwhelmed when Ted passed was so much that I had to do when my kids were pretty young. And so I remember reaching out to my dearest friends and saying, I think I’m going to be a lousy friend for a while. And they’re like, of course, don’t worry about it.

It’s important to let people know I’ve got to take a little break right now. And I don’t want you to think it has anything to do with you. We all take things so personally. And then we also read into things what we think that they are. And we’re, we’re wrong most of the time. Most people really don’t have ill intent feelings, especially in grief.

[00:19:00] And so I think it’s important to let people know, like, this is what I’m capable of, or this is what I’m not, or, you know, could you help me in this way? I had a friend who had a suburban, and we had a lot of stuff to get rid of. And I said to her, you know, would, would you be willing to, Like, could we do a trek to Goodwill to donate things?

And she said, as many as you want. And I think we did 12 treks to Goodwill to just donate all the items that weren’t needed anymore. Um, and that was massively helpful. But if I hadn’t have asked her that, so this is funny, or maybe it’s not, I had, uh, I had a convertible. And, uh, And my husband had a truck, but we got rid of the truck after he passed.

So Christmas came, I called up a friend and I said, want to do me a huge favor? And they said, maybe what? And I said, would you go with me to get my Christmas tree? I have a convertible [00:20:00] and they went, Oh, I’m so glad you asked. And I said, I’ll make you a yummy dinner. We can turn this into a fun night. And they said, we’re turning this into a fun night.

You don’t need to make it into a yummy dinner. But it was a really fun night. They went with us and helped us pick up the Christmas tree. And we came home, we had dinner. Um, it was a fun night, but I didn’t know how to get my Christmas tree. And that’s one of those things you’ll find lots of things after you’ve lost someone.

Now what do I do with the baby room? What do I do with the invitations? What do I do with the presents? What do I do if it’s a, you know, a partner or a mother with the things that there’s a lot that you, you are to deal with, because when you have someone in your life, whether they’re born into the world, or whether they’re with their within you, or they are physically here, we believe beyond this moment.

And so we think into the future, we think into, you know, you’re going to pop out in April, and I’m going to be your mom, and I’m going to be with you [00:21:00] forever, or my mom’s going to be here till she’s 90. And so when that ends, even if it is 90, it always seems a little too early for us. When it ends, there’s that place of, you know, Now you’re not here and I’m not used to doing life right now without you and there’s oftentimes a lot of things or experiences that are connected with that person that are, that are hard.

Sarah Cox: I feel like even, you know, years after your loss, you still find things that you that pop up that. You know, you didn’t deal with before and now you’re suddenly like, Oh, where, like, where did this come from?

Dr. Heather Browne: You know,, someone asked me, how long will you be grieving the loss of Ted? And I said, for the rest of my life, I’m going to always miss him.

My mom’s been gone 44 years and I, I still miss her. So, absolutely, absolutely. And I think it’s important to let that be okay. They were an [00:22:00] important part of your life. Of course, you’re going to miss them forever. Doesn’t mean you’re not going to go on. Doesn’t mean you can’t be happy, but they were important to you.

And though, though there’s the energetic sense of the love. that you can connect with once they’re gone. It’s really different than the physical. Like, I can feel Tad around me all the time, but I miss looking into his eyes and getting a hug. Like, I can’t get that back. I, you know, I, I know he’s not gone, gone, gone.

I just know his physical body’s gone. I miss his physical body too. So,

Sarah Cox: yeah. I always think it’s strange too, when people ask those kinds of questions, like, how long are you going to grieve? Like, like there should be this set timeline and then you’re just. Through it. And that’s just not how it works.

Dr. Heather Browne: Most people think it’s a year and it makes sense in, in, in, in the logical viewpoint of, well, you’ve gone through an entire year.

And I remember telling my kids, like, [00:23:00] this is going to be our whole life. It’s your father. But I know the first year is going to be really hard because it’s the first year firsts. And it was, and we had to do a lot of things differently just because we just didn’t want to do that in the same way. But I remember when we got to that first year and I said, we did it.

We got through the first year and we kind of all took a really huge, deep sigh, and I remember saying to them, so now this is it. And they just kind of nodded their heads because you have that first year to go through everything, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, birthdays, you know, Christmas, Hanukkah, all the aspects, the anniversary of the death, all of that.

So you have gotten through every like major celebration of that year. But in doing that, it’s always a first. And so then when you get to year two, Now you just got to do this forever. And that [00:24:00] first year, there’s kind of that mind from it. I just got to do it. I just got to get into the first one. I’ll get to the first one.

And then when you get to year two, yeah. And then, and then year three, I don’t want to be scaring any of reviewers, but year three for me hit a different level. It’s like the first, the first year it was like the skin and the hair and like, I got it and I was living it. The next year felt like it went into like.

The veins and my heart and then year three, it went into my bones and it was not a frequent experience, but when it did, it was like, oh, and then for me, after year three, it didn’t have that depth year, year one and year two. Your one’s the hardest, of course, but your, your two’s tough, and then your three, it was just like, wow, wow.[00:25:00]

So, be gentle with yourself, and there’s something that I hear a lot of times, that people will say, You know, I’m going backwards in my healing and and what I what I always want to tell people is healing isn’t linear and grief isn’t linear. You’re going to have some days where you can rally and you’re feeling great.

You’re on top of the world. You think I’m through it and maybe you are and I hope to God you are or maybe it’s a really good day and then enjoy it and relish it because there may be another day where it hits you. You know, you might hear a song or you’ve got to go somewhere. I remember, I remember going to my son’s high school graduation and it had passed three days before high school and it hit me like a Mack truck because he had missed the entire high school experience.

So when I’m there celebrating my son’s graduation, I’m like, wow, like you weren’t part of any of this. These whole four years, like you. None of this is of you. And that [00:26:00] hit me hard. So it’s important just to know, you know, there’s big days, babies being born and engagements and weddings and first dates. And there’s important days where you wish that person could be there.

So you’re going to, you’re going to feel it from time to time. And waves of emotion will just come up. I read a poem about grief and it was about, you know, being in the water and being pulled down and not knowing which way you’re going to go and just just needing to have air and you finally get up and you’re, you’re walking out and then another wave comes.

You just don’t quite know when it’s going to hit you. So it does get less difficult in time. I really want to encourage people with that. It really does, but you got to experience it. And get support and let yourself process that as much as possible, because the hurt that you feel is actually going to end up being the [00:27:00] places that you find, uh, incredible wisdom and deep, deep, deep love for yourself, because you kind of need to.

And so those places where you’re really hurting can end up being glorious places of growth, and understanding, and massive compassion for other people. I only saw two people who had lost a partner before the ages of like 65, before Ted passed. And then the year after he died, I think I saw 10. And I remember thinking like, what’s happened?

I’m not on Therapists are us for widows, but somehow God, the universe just sent people my way and they’d call and they’d say, I need someone who’s a specialist in grief. And I said, I’m pretty sure I qualify. And they say, I’m going through something horrific. And I said, who have you lost? And they’d say, my husband, you know, my mom.

And I’m like, yeah, you’ve probably come to the very, very right person. I have not lost [00:28:00] alive. I like to say live because my baby was alive, but I haven’t, I haven’t left. Uh, I have not lost a child who was out in the world. And so for any of your viewers who have, Oh, because I hear that that’s probably the hardest one to go through.

And so really take care of yourself, really take care of yourself there and give yourself the time to heal and love on you and that, because that’s, that’s huge.

Sarah Cox: I think it’s interesting that, you know, you said that after that, that it seemed like those people were kind of drawn to you because after, um, after we had our stillbirth, I felt like those people were like all around me.

And I don’t know if it’s just because I noticed them more or if they just, you know, come out more.

Dr. Heather Browne: I think it’s both. It’s like when you decide I want to get pregnant, everyone’s pregnant. Or like, I want a green, You know, [00:29:00] Ford Bronco, and then you see them everywhere. So I think it’s both. I think you’re more aware because you’re attuned to it.

I think you’re also getting, giving off the energy of that. And I think people pick it up. It’s kind of like when someone comes to you and they’re kind of drawn to you’re like, I don’t really know why I’m drawn to, and you start talking and you realize you have all of these. You know, synchronicities, and so I think we give off the energy of who we are.

And so if we’ve just gone through that, I think that kind of comes up. There’s also a pain and a suffering and a longing that’s in that. And I think that can sometimes be seen in people’s eyes. If you’re looking.

Yeah, that makes that makes a lot of sense. And you’re also maybe going to some of the same places like you’re probably not going to Babies R Us, you’re not going to toy stores and you know you’re not going to those places you’re going to places to try to [00:30:00] Heal yourself a little bit more so and that might be a little bit more quiet or tranquil or peaceful, meditative, you might be seeing more people out on walks, you know, at churches or temples, tops of mountains, people on a journey, trying to find how do I help myself heal this or heal through this.

Sarah Cox: So I’ve heard a lot. I don’t know how true it is, but that people who, couples that go through like the loss of a child, the loss of a pregnancy that, you know, a lot of them end up not staying together. Do you think that that’s because of a lack of communication? Do you think that a lot of that could be solved by just?

Talking to each other?

Dr. Heather Browne: I do. And I think the biggest, I think the biggest place, at least in my experience, where couples really struggle there is, is kind of where, where Tad and I were able to [00:31:00] turn it, where you need your partner to feel the way you feel, and they don’t. And you need your partner to need what you need.

And they don’t. They have their own particular needs. And most of us will say, but this is what I need. So to love me, you’ve got to give me what I need. I needed to be held. Ted needed to break stuff. So if I were to say, well, but I need to be hugged. So don’t be selfish. Stay here and love me. In reverse, I would be saying, Don’t take care of you.

Don’t let me love you. Because you’re going to love me in the way that I need to be loved and so when, when, when in your relationship, you have the agreement and I hope you have a before grief, but when you have the understanding, not even agreement, the understanding that we are two people who have different thoughts, feelings.

backgrounds, [00:32:00] needs, desires. And my partner is not supposed to be the perfect partner for me, so my life is easy. Together, being two very different people, we want to learn how to come together to help each other in the way that we are to go. And in that, there’ll be moments that are incredibly close. And in that, there’ll be some times where we need to do things a little bit differently.

My husband was allergic to bananas and walnuts. He didn’t eat them. I didn’t say, well, you have to eat walnuts and bananas, and I’m gonna make banana bread all the time with walnuts because I love it. It wasn’t healthy for him. And so when we can realize that with like food, we can realize that with colors, oh, you hate the color green.

Okay, well, then I’m not gonna wear green. But, but when it comes to an emotional level, we don’t do that. And we take deep offense. You’re not willing to love me. But as soon as you say that, what you’re also saying is I’m not [00:33:00] willing to love you. And so it’s important to have that agreement that we want to make us last.

And sometimes we might need to do things a little bit differently. And I’m not going to be angry with you for you taking care of you. But I need you to also not be angry with me that I needed to do it like this. It would change a lot. We believe people should, and should is a huge word, should love us the way that we want to be loved.

If they can, if they’re able to, but otherwise, not necessarily, that’s just your desire. And so it’s important to realize they are their own person and they’ve got to honor themselves too. And they’re all human. Also feeling a lot. We also forget the layeredness of grief. [00:34:00] And anyone who’s gone through many Creeps knows this.

You’re like, yeah, I know. I know. There’s the place of when you’ve lost someone and then you lose another. There’s a little, I don’t want to say re triggering, but there’s a joining of that pain from before and sometimes it can help because you’ve already gone through the hell of it the first time, but there’s also a deepening that happens a little bit because once again.

Once again, I’m in this place. Once again, I’m without someone who is really important to me. So there can be a challenge in a relationship. If this is someone’s 1st loss and this is someone’s 5th because you’re kind of skilled at it when it’s 5th and when it’s 1st, It’s overwhelming. And for someone who’s had many losses, you’re kind of confused why it’s hitting them that hard.

Like it’s a dog, it’s a dog, but for them it’s, it’s the world. And so there’s the place of recognizing no one wants to go through [00:35:00] grief. So when it is coming up for whatever reason, that person feels those things and feels the need to express it in that way and to not judge it that’s theirs.

Sarah Cox: That makes a lot of sense, because I see, I’ve seen, you know, people getting upset, like, okay, I lost a baby.

They lost a dog. Why are they getting so upset about it? But, you know, thinking, rephrasing it and reframing it, I mean, and thinking about it, you know, in those terms, it makes a lot of sense why they would be, you know, just as upset because it is their first loss.

Dr. Heather Browne: And it’s interesting how we feel we need to compare and compete.

Like they’re hurting. So instead of me saying, I am so sorry you lost your sweet Molly. We’re like, it’s a dog. What about me? Like, I lost my baby, don’t you care about me? And that poor person’s gonna say in their head, no, I am hurting about Molly, and I’m sorry you lost your baby, but that doesn’t take [00:36:00] away my pain.

People say a lot of times in my office, like, I know people have it worse than I do in the world, and so I shouldn’t be so upset, and I’m like, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, yeah, there’s a lot of in the world. You still have what you’re going through. This is your experience. Let’s not just throw that away because somebody.

You know, it’s being eaten by a piranha right now, so, but we, we compare, it’s a really ugly part of us. I know I’ve done it too. Yes, I definitely do. Like, well, at least you have family around you, or at least, you know, you, you, you have a, you know, a huge life insurance policy, so you no longer have to work, or at least you have, at least you have, you know, people would say that after, after Ted died, well, at least you had him for, you know, so many years.

And they’re right, and I did, and I’m very grateful. And he’s still gone. And that still hurts. So there’s the place of recognizing that person’s [00:37:00] feelings are theirs. And to not try to,

if you think about it, they’ve already lost someone. And then when you try to take away their feelings too, it

doesn’t really help. So and if your partner needs more than you can give or in a way that you just know you can’t be honest, don’t say yes, I will just say I’m horrible at that. So we’re gonna need to hire a hugger for you and she’ll come every day and hug you. But like, I’m not a good hugger. Don’t set yourself up or your partner up for saying you can come through in a way that you know you can’t.

Because it’s not going to help them and then they’re going to be angry with you because then you broke a promise and you they needed it so badly you told them you would and now you haven’t and now there’s dissension between you [00:38:00] instead of a place of really trying to support. A lot of people do that.

I’ll do whatever it takes. I’ll help you get through this. I think, oh, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. That’s a really strong statement in any in any situation. I said, I know I said to my kids, I’ll do the very best I can to help you get through this. But I also knew I couldn’t say, you know, I’ll do everything because I can’t promise that.

Like I still had to work. I still had to do a lot of things. So if they had needs, I wasn’t going to always be able to be there just when they needed me. Yeah.

Sarah Cox: How would you suggest that people, you know, kind of navigate this, like the, they’re grieving different ways. They need different things. So um, they, I know it’s important that people like need their own space to, to grieve the way that they need to grieve, but do you also suggest that they grieve together some or do it all completely separately or, you know, how do you kind of navigate this?

Dr. Heather Browne: Well, ideally you’d want some time together. And so I know with [00:39:00] Tad and I in those first couple of days where we were pretty detached, we still we still. You know, we still spend a little bit of time together, like how are you doing? Are you feeling love from me? Do you know I’m loving you by like having Susie come over and having you go be with the guys.

So there’s the place that even if you were not the person to necessarily be the one to help in the active way, to let it be known that you’re taking that, um, the opportunity. To assist the person you love and what they need. But yeah, I would, I would absolutely like, how are you doing? Did you sleep? Do you know how much I love you?

Do you know how horrible this is? And I’m so sorry you’re going through it too. And I’m so sorry we’re going through it. But I also know we’re going to get through this. If we both keep talking and loving on each other. There’s, there’s a really powerful truth [00:40:00] that our relationship and our love is the most important.

We forget that. And so we make a death or a job loss or going to mom’s house for Easter or a credit card bill more important. And to me, when you have a partner, married or not, when you have a partner, the relationship needs to always be the most important. And so that was our view. Like, we’ve got to be okay.

But individually, we got to do some things a little differently so we can come back together and be better for each other together. The premises to me is always in the coming back, but that’s, that’s an agreement that you have with your partner. And [00:41:00] I don’t understand why people wouldn’t want. each day in a relationship with your children, with your parents, if you’re close, or with your partner, to speak into, I just want you to know I love you.

I’m here. I’m thinking about you. And I want you to know that. So even if people need to be apart. To me, there’s a beautiful opportunity to not be divided, to just be a part.

Sarah Cox: It sounds so simple when you, you know, when you just lay it out, like just say what you need. Like, why is it, why do you think that’s so hard for people?

Dr. Heather Browne: Well, we’re told from a young age, we’re told don’t be selfish. And the other day I had a realization like ish, what’s ish? Like to be of,

to be of self. [00:42:00] That’s a really good thing. It’s our viewpoint of. You’re only caring about you. You’re not caring about me, but a yes is also a no. If I care for me, then I’m possibly not caring for you. If I care for you, then I’m possibly not caring for me. So it’s really not selfish. It’s a, it’s a choice, but we’re, I think we’re raised to, and it’s changing now, but I think most of us were raised with don’t be selfish.

Get along with everyone. Don’t burden anybody with anything and kind of keep your private things to yourself. Nobody wants to hear a complainer. And so it’s kind of the message of do life and do life well, but. Like, take care of your own stuff. Nobody wants to hear it. Don’t share it. [00:43:00] And so I think we don’t really know if it’s okay to BS.

I had a friend before I went to college and I was going off to New York. My, my dad had disowned me. And so I was going off to New York because it was as far away from California as I could find a good school to go to. And I was going on about how excited I was and how amazing it was going to be. And she was a really good friend.

And I went on for probably about three or four minutes. And then I took a breath and I looked at her and I said, Jill, She said, yeah. And I said, I’m, I’m so scared. And she looked at me and she said, finally, like what? She goes, I’ve been waiting for you to say that. I’ve been waiting for you to be honest.

We decide to not be honest with ourselves, with others, because we want them to look at us in a particular way. But it’s kind of funny. I want you to look at me like I’m all [00:44:00] together. I want you to look at me like I’m amazing. But yet then I walk around inside. Not being so. And you think I’m great, so I’m struggling with my not feeling good all on my own.

If we would raise children, not to hurt others in their honesty, but to be honest about their feelings, it’d be a different world. I wish when I was a kid that I had been told, if someone’s really nice to you and plays with you on the playground and you have a blast, let them be your buddy. Play with him as much as you like.

If there’s some kid who puts you down, teases you, trips you, makes fun of you, stay away from that dude and just don’t play with him. But I wasn’t taught that. I was taught, you need to get along with everybody, try to make it right. And so I was the kid who would like, not plead, but maybe, maybe plead with the kids who didn’t like me [00:45:00] to like me, which only made them like me less.

Because I was this irritating, needy person, and they didn’t want anything to do with me. So we, we don’t really raise. our children to be connected. We raise them to be the way we think they should be. And I think that’s a huge reason why we have all the things going on in the world that we do. And I think it’s blown so far out of scope because of that.

I had a huge surge of teenagers who had never been in a relationship coming to me in the beginning of COVID telling me that, that they We’re, we’re transgender and we’re going to be transsexual and I, I’d ask them why, of course, and, and a huge majority of them would say, I don’t feel feminine or I don’t [00:46:00] feel masculine.

Well, what is that? What is feeling feminine? Why don’t we work on you feeling you, all of you, not just a little part of you, all of you. And see if we can help you be all of you. Let’s do that first. And then I think some of these things you’re struggling with or thinking about will shape in different ways.

We try to, we tell people like, I’m not going to be in a box, but by doing that, we then create a whole nother box. Instead of helping people really integrate, and I think it’s the same thing with grief. You need to integrate that pain. It is going to be a part of who you are going forward, but how beautiful it is that you honor that loss for the rest of your life or, or maybe do something like you are with the podcast to help people who have lost someone.

It’s a [00:47:00] beautiful way to take. All of who we are, not to cut off parts or to hide parts away, but to really allow yourself to be who you are, your feelings, your emotions, your thoughts, your beliefs, and know that that’s in this moment, your completion for the second, but in a moment later, there’s more of you because you’ve just become something more, but we tend to think like, I am this, I have to be this, and it’s just in a moment.

Sarah Cox: Yeah. And then it’s just a never ending cycle because we do it. We teach our kids to do it. They teach their kids to do it and nothing ever changes.

Dr. Heather Browne: Right. And then social media, my gosh, I’m taking my daughter. We’re going on a trip and she took 50 photos to leave the trip. Cause it had to be the perfect photo.

And I remember telling her like, we can’t do this. We can’t go to every single site and have you take 50 photos until you get the perfect photo. I’m like, we’re just going to put the camera [00:48:00] away or I’m just going to take photos. But this is not about making the passport look perfect. This is about us having a great time.

She’s laughed. It’s like trying to catch the sunset. I’ve tried so many times and you get some pretty photos, it’s nothing like the sunset. So there’s the place of letting yourself experience really what it is and who you are in it. And that’s the same for grief. Who am I in this right now? What am I feeling right now?

Is there any way I can help myself in this right now? And then there’s a place in the grief process where you, it’s important to start asking yourself, okay, so I’m starting to feel flooded with this. Is there something more for me to find in this? Is this going to help me in some way? Or is my grief now hurting me?

And we get there, and in a moment when it does, then it’s important to say, then am I going to let myself do that? And sometimes we’re going to say, yes! I just want [00:49:00] to feel sad and feel sorry for myself and do it. But other times, you’re going to say no. You’re going to say, okay, I’m really proud of you.

What could you do instead? I’m really sad. How about I go for a run? How about I get on the bike? How about I clean the house? And then you choose something other than to stay in that emotional state, if it really is just a re exploration. But you’ll know. And we kind of go through, no, I think this will help.

No, I just want to feel sorry for myself. And then maybe, maybe I need to not choose that. That’s a little while out, but we’ll, we’ll, we’ll see. We all go through it, and you know those times when you’re letting yourself indulge in it, and it’s an odd part of us that we want to feel sorry for ourselves, but a lot of us do.

Sarah Cox: Yeah, I’ve definitely been there, had those days. I think we all have.

Dr. Heather Browne: I know I sure have, [00:50:00] yes.

Sarah Cox: So is there any other advice that you have to offer people about, you know, working on their communication?

Dr. Heather Browne: Yeah, ask, ask the people in your life. What do you think about our communication? Do you feel like I listen?

Well, do you feel like I support you? Do you feel like I’m clear? Um, do you feel like there’s places that it’s uncomfortable for you to bring up? So anything you’re scared to talk to me about, I would just say like, I’m wanting to be better in my communication with you and in doing so I, I know I need to honor you.

So how do you feel with me? And what could I do differently to help with that? And then I’d also share from your side, you know, I really love talking with you, but, um, when you get busy, I feel like I’m infringing upon your time and I know you’re a really busy person. So I pull back. So if you’re [00:51:00] not wanting me to pull back, if you could just let me know that there is time right now, so I have a better idea.

Talk through like what your assumptions are, and you’ll find that a lot of them are wrong and allow you to have a little bit of a different relationship, but also with yourself like what am I saying to myself about me or what am I saying about them in my head? Oh, they wouldn’t want to hear this or.

That’s not important.

If you’ve, if you’ve ever listened to children,

they’re oftentimes really good at just expressing what they feel. And then that’s it. And I think we’re the same, but we judge ourself for having feelings. I should be stronger than this. This shouldn’t affect me so much. If we free up that and just say like, this is what I’m feeling good, bad, right. Wrong.

[00:52:00] Helpful, not helpful. This is what I’m feeling now. What, what, what do I go with this? How do I help myself through this? And keep having those conversations. I ask my kids every single month, where have I really come through for you and where have I not? And in a conversation that we have, I’ll say, is there any place that you haven’t felt supported by me?

Or did you, is there any place you felt like I, I didn’t honor you? And they’ll tell me, yeah mom, when you said did it, I’m like, mmm, yeah, I can see that, okay. I’m going to work on that. So open up those doors to find out we’re fearful of hearing that somebody doesn’t like something about us. I mean, I know none of us like to hear that.

However, that’s gold because what it means is. I, you feel so much love for me right now, but when I know what’s not working, oh my gosh, now I can love you so much better. So when my kids or I have something to say, I say, we’re just about [00:53:00] to learn how to love each other so much more. Are you ready? And they’re like, yes.

Like, okay, let’s change this up because I could love you so much more easily if you weren’t kicking me in the leg while we’re talking or rolling your eyeballs or, and we want to be loved. And we want to love. So there’s the place of allowing yourself to cultivate that better.

Sarah Cox: I love that. I think that’s great.

I want to start using that with my kids.

Dr. Heather Browne: They will love it. They will love it. And I did it every month. Tom, beware, I’ve really come through for you this month. Tell me, and I’ll do it again. Where am I absolutely blowing it? And they would come up with stuff. And I was willing to do it. And if you ask my kids, they’re adults now, but if you ask them to this day, does your mom really try to love you in the way that you feel you need to be loved, they’d say, absolutely.

Absolutely. Because that’s the key. It’s not how do I think you should be loved. It’s [00:54:00] how do you, how will you receive my love? Maybe you don’t want hugs, and I want a hug. Well, but if you don’t want my hugs, then I’m not caring for you. And if I desperately need to give hugs, then maybe once in a while you can give me one.

There’s a balance. There’s a balance in finding it.

Sarah Cox: So if people wanted to find out more information about you, where would they go for that?

Dr. Heather Browne: Website’s the easiest. So it’s www. drheatherbrowne. com. So, um, just Dr. Heather Brown with an E. And you can easily reach out to me there if you have questions. I’ve got tons of stuff on my website.

Gifts and freebies and newsletter and workshops. all sorts of things. I do have workshop coming up for the holidays with grief for November because that can be a tough time going into the holidays. [00:55:00] So I’d be honored to have anybody who might be needing a little support at that point. Let me know. Well,

Sarah Cox: I want to thank you so much for coming on today and sharing all of your amazing advice.

Dr. Heather Browne: Thank you for having me. It’s been a pleasure.

Sarah Cox: Thank you so much, Dr. Brown, for all the amazing advice you gave us. I especially love the way you speak about letting people have the space to grieve in the way that they need, while still always coming back together for each other. So many times we feel our spouse or our partner needs to be the one person, and sometimes the only person, to help us get through the grief.

And while they obviously are a critical part of our healing, and we definitely need them, and we do need times of grieving together, the advice to sometimes bring in another person that can give you what you’re needing is also really important. We don’t want to take away our partner’s grief just to get our own needs met.

On the other hand, we don’t want to focus only on their grief and then not [00:56:00] get our own needs met. There has to be ways for you to both deal with your own grief while also being there and checking in on each other. I really hope you were able to get some helpful takeaways from Dr. Brown today that you can use in your daily life.

Grief doesn’t have to tear you apart as a couple. It can help you grow stronger if you’re able to communicate with each other. And say exactly what you are needing, or what you are not needing. It sounds really simple, but it’s something that is so hard for so many of us, myself included. Sometimes I even know what it is that I want, but I have a hard time telling people.

Or sometimes I honestly have no idea what it is that I want. You know, it can be, it can be both ways. And I think all of us can use the practice. Of just learning to say exactly what it is that we need or don’t need. Thank you so [00:57:00] much for tuning in today, and remember, we are all in this together.

Leave a Reply