After Brian’s beautiful daughter Shayna passed at the age of 15, Brian made it his mission to help others who are dealing with death and a fear of death. He became a co-leader of Helping Parents Heal, the remarkable online group dedicated to assisting bereaved parents by providing support and resources to aid in the healing process. He is also a Life Coach and a Grief Partner, consulting with people both to help them find their way through grief and find purpose in their lives.
IN THIS EPISODE, YOU’LL HEAR ABOUT THINGS LIKE:
- The difference between a Life Coach and a Grief Partner.
- How a Life Coach can help a grieving person in ways a good friend cannot.
- Why life is about fulfillment, not happiness or wealth.
- Loss is temporary. We will see our deceased loved ones again.
SOME QUESTIONS IRENE ASKS BRIAN:
- How does grief lead to growth?
- Is the grief of a sibling different than the grief of a parent?
- How do you help a person to find his or her purpose in life?
Listen to the podcast here
Brian Smith — Life Coach And Grief Partner
I am warmly welcoming you to this sixth season of the show, where I continue to interview amazing grief and trauma specialists, healers, mediums, and people who have inspiring life stories to share. I am very thrilled to announce that this show has been downloaded over 10,000 times since we began broadcasting. My sincere thank you to all of you who have subscribed on the many social media platforms and also through my website, IreneWeinberg.com, as well as my very heartfelt thanks to those of you who have told us how these interviews have brought healing support both to your lives and the lives of those you love. As a reminder, please be sure to like @IreneWeinberg and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Thank you.
Season 6 is about to bring you 12 more healing, lightning, and insights-filled interviews, beginning with Brian Smith, our wonderful and inspiring first guest of this new season. I met Brian through his incredible work as a Co-Leader of Helping Parents Heal, a remarkable online group dedicated to assisting bereaved parents by providing support and resources to aid in the healing process. I myself have been interviewed for two United States Helping Parents Heal online events and for one United Kingdom Helping Parents Heal online event.
After Brian’s beautiful daughter Shayna passed at the age of fifteen, Brian made it his mission to help others who are dealing with death and a fear of death. He is a life coach and grief partner who consults with people to help them find their way through grief and find purpose in their lives. The name of Brian’s company dedicated to this mission is Grief2Growth.com. Brian, it is great to have you on the show. Let’s begin with this question about your journey. Can you please tell us about the passing of your daughter at age 15 in 2015 and how this led you to help others who are dealing with death and a fear of death?
Thank you. I appreciate that. First of all, I want to say congratulations to you on 10,000 downloads and on the success of your book and the show. I read your book a couple of times. It’s fun interviewing for the show. For Healing Parents Heal, it’s great to be here.
First of all, tell a little bit about my daughter Shayna. She was fifteen years old when she passed away suddenly in June of 2015. She was a healthy child. She played basketball and volleyball at the national level. She played a volleyball tournament the week before in Florida at the National Finals. We came back home. We went to wake her up on the morning of June 24, 2015, and she didn’t wake up. She had had a mild heart condition. We had a couple of procedures on it but the cardiologist said they weren’t necessary. It wasn’t life-threatening. This was a total shock to us. Shayna was, as all fathers would say, a special child, but she was.
I tend not to talk about saying in the past because, first of all, I want to say Shayna is still with us. She is an inspiration for everything that I do. About five days after Shayna passed, I got the idea that I needed to start a blog about Shana. I have blogged before. I like to write a lot, but it’s like, “I’m going to write a blog about Shayna.” I’ve done that. It’s at ShaynaElayne.com. That blog is out there. It has over 1,000 posts. It’s an open diary, my grief journey, what I’ve been through, and what I’ve discovered.
I have read many entries in your blog. They’re worthwhile for people to read there. You write beautifully.
That had to be Shayna. I don’t know why, but five days after she passed, I decided to start writing all the stuff down, but I did. After that, it was a crazy amount of synchronicity. It would take hours to explain all of them to you. I met people in Helping Parents Heal and some referred me to Mark Ireland, who is one of the Cofounders. Mark and I corresponded back and forth. It involved a trip to Phoenix, where I met Elizabeth Boisson because she happened to be there on vacation.
That’s where she lives. She’s one of the Cofounders of Helping Parents Heal and all these things. We didn’t help parents believe our kids are on the other side orchestrating. I don’t believe in coincidence anymore. My background is I’m an engineer. I’m very analytical. I always thought the universe is like if there’s a God, He’s wounded up and let it go. The more I learn about the way the universe works, the more I believe it’s magical. There are no mistakes or accidents, including the passing of Shayna. I think that there was a reason for it. Her passing was a big catalyst to kick into high gear of what I’m doing now.
You say you’re both a life coach and a grief partner. Could you describe how you work to help people in each of these areas and do they naturally go together?
I’m a certified life coach, which includes about seven different areas of life that typically a life coach will help in. We can go into what those are later, but because of my experience with Shayna and grief, I feel like I can bring a special emphasis to the people who are grieving and, most especially, parents. Grief is something we all go through at some point. I don’t like to compare pain, but when a parent loses a child, do you expect your child to outlive you? It’s an expectation of life.
Apparently, as a child, it’s a compounded grief or a complicated grief. Most grief, we can work through on our own. Grief is a part of life. It was not a disease or an illness. Most of us can work through it unless it’s what’s called complicated grief, which could be something that’s caused by trauma, discovering a gruesome scene, or feeling like you’ve contributed to the person’s passing or the passing of a child.
That would trigger everything.
In those cases, working with somebody who’s a partner can be helpful. I’m not a certified licensed grief coach, but I am a person who can lend a near and understand what you’re going through. I’ve worked with several parents who have said, “I want to talk to someone who knows what I’ve gone through, not just read a book about it, but has been there and walked it out.”
You are a compassionate partner because you have a special understanding from your own experience.
For example, a lot of parents will say, “I don’t want to be here anymore.” When your kid passes, you want to be where your kid is. When someone else here is something like that, they think, “That’s terrible. That’s an awful thing to say. You shouldn’t even think that.” In Helping Parents Heal, when someone says that in our group, we all go, “I know what you’re talking about.” It doesn’t mean that you’re necessarily suicidal or you’re going to take action on it, but it’s a feeling that you have when you lose a person that you’re responsible for.
My daughter was fifteen. She was a freshman in high school. You wonder, “Where is she? I want to be there. I want to be there to take care of.” It’s a natural feeling that a parent is going to have that someone else might not understand. I can talk parents through that because I’ve been through it. When your child passes, you don’t think you’re going to make it to the next morning. When people talk to you about next week or next month, you shut down because you don’t want to live a long time without your kid. You want to see them as soon as possible.
I can talk a parent through maybe why this happened, what you can do, and, in the meantime, how you connect with your child because I believe your child is still here. Your child still wants to connect with you. Your child will connect with you if you can learn how to connect with them. That helps us get through day by day to get to that time when we do see them again.
It’s not just with the child but what you’re saying has worked for me with my husband. These modalities have helped me there too. Could you share with our readers your journey, moving from grief to Helping Parents Heal to become a life coach, which you’ve touched on? As a life coach, how are you able to help a grieving person in ways that their good friend can’t help them?
My journey started before Shayna passed. I was raised in a fundamentalist Christian home and was very fearful of God because of that. I had an intense fear of death myself for many years before Shayna was even born. Because of all that, I did a lot of studying about the afterlife, near-death experiences, and after-death communications, etc., for twenty years before saying it passed. The thing is, I was prepared in the sense that I never wondered where Shayna was not for a moment. I always knew Shayna was okay. That was one thing I didn’t have to deal with, but having learned all that and dealt with it, I was like, “I’ve got to share this with other people who don’t have this advantage.”
My wife and I get help from Helping Parents Heal. Helping Parents Heal has saved thousands of lives. I don’t think that’s an exaggeration to say that. I quickly wanted to contribute to that. I volunteer with Helping Parents Heal. I run the online group, which is about 4,500 people with Tracy Soussi, who you’ve had in your program, my wife Tywana, and Beth West.
We run that together. Things keep happening. I listen to Suzanne Giesemann’s radio show. She had a guy on there named George Kao, who’s a business coach. I resonate with George. I reached out to him. I joined the program he’s got called MasterHeart. Through that, someone said, “You should become a life coach. This is what you’re doing anyway.” I got my life coach certification and put up the website. I’m doing this. All these things are a natural progression of what I’m here to do.
In a way, I can relate because when I lost my husband. When you read my book, you saw that I also had a natural progression of unusual things that were happening, but I went with it. Here I am with you. Let’s continue with Brian with this question. Brian, please tell us why you believe that life is about fulfillment and not happiness or wealth.
The thing is, people tend to pursue, for example, wealth and think it’s going to make them happy. They’re going to be fulfilled. It’s interesting to me because as long as we don’t have that wealth, we can hope one day we’ll get it and then we’ll be happy. Suppose you look at people that have a great deal of wealth. Often, they’re the most miserable people on the planet. I believe it’s because they’ve gotten what they thought they were after. They’re not happy and they have nowhere else to turn. I don’t believe that wealth will bring happiness.
Happiness is a fleeting thing. It comes and goes depending on the circumstances. Fulfillment is something that you can drive from within. You can control how fulfilled you are by what you do and what you think about things rather than depending on circumstances. That’s one of the things in my life coaching I talk about.
I help people identify exactly who they are. “First of all, what are your core beliefs? What are your core values? What do you want out of life? What do you want to get?” We’ll examine these seven basic areas and see where you are out of balance and work where you think you should place more emphasis and then helping people to round out their lives and do what I think you came here to do.
I believe that we all come here with a plan as souls. One of the big things about life, people are always like, “What’s my purpose? What’s my purpose?” Your purpose is to love, be loved, and serve other people. It’s that simple. You’ve been given a set of skills, likes, dislikes, and going over that, “How do I serve other people?” is a question that we need to answer. That’s the underlying purpose that we all have for being here.
On that note, you talked about it. You have all these primary areas of focus, which include career, money, handling routine responsibilities, giving back, health and recreation, grief, entrepreneurship, mental, emotional and spiritual health, and relationships. You cover it all. Can you briefly speak to these areas of focus of what a person can gain from your coaching in these areas?
If you go to my website at Grief2Growth.com, and you click on the Services area, you can see I break down the service offer into these nine buckets. Everybody’s life has seven major buckets, which are physical health, recreation, money, mental, emotional, and spiritual health, giving back, career and education, social and family relationships, and routine responsibilities. These are areas in all of our lives we have to handle. We’ve got to take care of, for example, paying the bills. If you don’t get the bills paid as a routine responsibility, things are going to get bad.
Social and family relationships. We look at these different areas. Those are the seven areas that we’re going to focus on through some of the surveys and stuff I do. If someone comes to me for grief, then we’re going to focus on grief. I focus on that because, unfortunately, I’m an expert on that, having gone through what I’ve gone through with Shayna. As far as small business consulting goes, I’ve been running my own small business now for many years. I started my online store in 2002. I came from a background in corporate sales.
I worked for IBM and Sun Microsystems and I know a lot about sales and marketing, and things like that. I’m an engineer by training. I know a lot of hands-on stuff. You and I talked earlier about Zoom and, “How do I do a podcast?” For example, I’ve had people ask me, “How do I set up a podcast?” I help people with things like that and sometimes as basic as, “What is a podcast?”
How do you help a person to find purpose in life if the person has no clue about what purpose in life even is?
We all have a basic purpose in life, which is to love, be loved, and serve other people. I start with that foundation, but then, when people want to get more specific, I’ll give you an example. I was talking to a mother who had lost her daughter. She’s like, “I want to do something to give back to the world. I want to do something spiritual. I’m going to open a store and do this.” I was talking to her about like, “Let’s talk about what that would take.”
As a small business consultant, I would say, “You’re going to have to have capital to do that. You’re going to have to learn about marketing and how to build a website, etc.” We talked about those things, but I said, “Let’s take a step back. You are saying you want to do something big to serve the world.” I saw two small daughters at home. As a mother, that is a very useful purpose. A lot of times, people are fulfilling their purpose without giving themselves credit because they think, “I’ve got to do something big.” One of my favorite sayings is, “Grow where you are planted.”
We don’t have to go out and try to find something outside of what we’re already doing. Do what you’re doing right now and do it well. Understand this might be the season of your life to do that thing and then plan for doing other things later. When people go through life reviews, what they find out is the big things aren’t necessarily the things that get the big bang in the life review. It’s taking care of our kids or smiling at a stranger. It’s the “little” things that are big. I find with a lot of my clients, “I’ve got to build them up first,” instead of saying, “You need to do this. Once you do this, then you’ll be fulfilled.” I’m like, “Let’s give yourself credit for what you’re doing right now.”
For those who don’t even know this, when we cross over, we get a life review. Some people like, “What is he talking about with a life review?” That is true. Not only that it was that channel to me from my husband for my book, but in many non-fiction books, they talk about how we all crossover and we get a life review. We get to experience some of the not-so-wonderful stuff that we did to others. That’s about being conscious of life and how you are in life. You have an audiobook coming out shortly. Will you be talking to that or what? What are you playing to speak about in your audiobook?
The audiobook is my philosophy on how to deal with grief. It’s Grief 2 Growth: Planted, Not Buried because I believe, in these tragic things that happen to us, we feel like we’ve been buried. I believe that’s the time that we planted. That’s when we have our greatest potential, is after tragedies happen. The second subtitle is How To Survive And Thrive After Life’s Greatest Challenges. The things that I’ve done over the last few years since Shayna passed to survive, I talk about, first of all, “What is grief? What can you expect? What type of emotions will you expect? How do your friends react? How are your family react?”
I talked to people about how to talk to a grieving person about things to say and not say. I go through a series of things like, “What should you do to survive grief?” Exercise, take care of yourself, meditation, eventually, service to others, and things of that nature. Ironically, coincidentally, or maybe synchronistically, I hit the publish button on the eBook and the paperback book. They’re available on Amazon. I’ve got the ideal files back. I’ll be launching the audiobook.
It’s wonderful. Good luck with that. While we’re talking about telling people, what is the best way to talk to someone who’s had a terrible loss? I’m sure a lot of us feel very inept and say all the wrong things.
The thing is, yes, and even I, who have been through this and deal with parents every day, don’t know what to say because words aren’t adequate. You want to be cautious about saying things like, “God needed another angel,” which makes it sound like God needed your loved one more than you did. You want to be cautious. It’s about listening because people who are in grief don’t want to talk.
It’s about listening. It’s about you want to focus on the griever as opposed to the person. You want to focus on them. What you want to do is say things like, “I don’t know exactly how you’re feeling, but I know it must be hard.” A lot of people will say, “Let me know anything I can do to help.” That’s a very common thing to say and I still say it myself because I fall back into that.
If someone’s in grief, they may not know what they need. More specifically, you can be better. For example, if you know they have small children, maybe take their kids and watch their kids for a night. Let them have a night out or offer to clean their house, make a meal for them, cut their grass, or do something specific that the griever doesn’t have to come up with. A few things I’ve written in the book about like things to say and then I’d say, but it’s about being caring and just listening.
If the griever is withdrawn from everyone and a person doesn’t know how to respond to you, just love that person and let them do their thing?
You have to understand that grief is different for everybody. Everybody grieves in their own way. The best thing to do is to let people know that you’re available for them and maybe continue to let them know gently. Some people are going to want solitude to process and it may take a little while to do that on their own. You don’t want to push them too hard. Everybody creates differently. In the case I found with siblings or children who have passed, a lot of times, they get very quiet. They don’t want to talk about it.
A lot of the parents will say, “I’ve got to get to talk.” They may not want to talk to you because it’s still too raw and then they’re concerned about what you’re going through. For example, my daughter Kayla, who is three years older than Shayna, I said, “I want to make sure you have someone you can talk to. Are your friends talking to you? Is your boyfriend talking to you? You may not necessarily need to talk to me but to someone.” I would check in with her like that and let her process it at our own pace. Many years later, she is doing well.
I would imagine you’d be fantastic about helping people how to deal with their other children who are struggling with this issue and all of that. Sibling grief has got to be a huge issue for people.
Sibling grief is different from parental grief. Siblings, a lot of times, are concerned about what the parents are going through. They’ve got the added thing. A lot of times as parents, when our child passes, we either want to totally ignore the one that passed and pretend they didn’t exist or we idolize them. In my case, Shayna’s pictures are up all over the house and my screen saver. We talk about Shayna all the time. You’ve got to be careful or be conscious of the other child to let them know that they’re important also. It’s not all about the child that’s crossed over, but the child that is still here is still as important in your life.
That’s a conscious effort that my wife and I made with Kayla. Right after Shayna passed, we took a family trip together. We said, “Let’s go, the three of us.” We went up to a lake that’s about three hours from here. We spent the weekend. We’re like, “Kayla, we are still here for you. You’re very important to us.” Sometimes it’s to make even a little bit more of an effort with that sibling to make sure that they understand that they’re loved because they might feel left out.
They may feel they have to perform even greater to take the place of the child whose passed and that is not their responsibility. They still have to be who they are. Now, they are in the other dimension that’s coming to their lives.
It’s something that you’ve got to navigate very carefully through with the other child. In the case of my daughters, Kayla was in a major that she wasn’t into. She was doing it for the money, for the most part. She decided after Shayna passed, “Life is too short. I’m going to do something that I enjoyed.” She’s gone into psychology and she wants to work with children. Shayna has made an impact on her because Shayna was very much like that. She was to live life in the moment and do what’s the most fulfilling thing for her right now. She was only fifteen when she passed, but she wanted to experience everything and she did. She still inspires Kayla to this day. She inspires her big sister to be more spontaneous, more open, and do what makes her feel good.
Has your daughter also communicated with Shayna through mediums and all of that? Does she have her own way?
I have to be careful with Kayla because she is 22 years old. She still has her privacy. Kayla is very intuitive. I will say that she has been in touch with Shayna. When we first started talking to mediums, she was very skeptical about mediums. She said, “How can they talk to Shayna when they don’t know her?” That doesn’t make sense to her. She has one medium reading, but she and Shayna have their own communication. They were three years apart in age, but they’re very much like twins. They had their own language that they spoke to each other. They’re still very connected.
Do you have a message about the importance of healing to share with our readers?
When it comes to grief, it’s a natural thing that we do progress through groups. It’s important that we don’t get too caught up sometimes about like, “I’ve got to heal this,” because, for most grief, people progress through naturally. Everybody needs to come to a grief coach. Everybody needs to go to a grief counselor or life coach because, usually, people get over on their own. What I will say is if grief is handled properly, and this is why my site is called Grief 2 Growth and the book Grief 2 Growth, can lead to some of the greatest growth in your life if you allow it.
The first thing is you’ve got to understand that it’s going to take a while. You’ve got to allow it to happen the way it’s going to happen to honor your grief and the other person’s grief. Let’s say, you’re in a relationship. Everybody’s going to grieve differently. There was some debate about whether or not you can be healed from grief. I say yes and no. You can learn to live with the grief.
The analogy I use is like. Let’s say you’re lifting a 25-pound weight. First, that way, it’s going to feel very heavy to you. As you learned as a weight lifter, eventually, it’s going to feel lighter, and you can carry it around with ease. It’s the same thing with grief. You’re going to carry the grief for the remainder of the time you’re here, but you’ll be given the strength to deal with it. I will always miss Shayna until the day that I see her again when I close my physical eyes and open my spiritual eyes. I’ll miss her every day, and I don’t want to not miss her. I will always grieve her, but the grief is a blessing in a sense. It’s motivated me to do what I’m doing.
I have two monitors in my office. Whenever I’m doing these interviews, I have my two daughters and my wife in this mantra. I always feel like they are looking at me when I’m doing interviews, coaching, or anything else because Shayna is what drives me. Shayna has come through mediums and said, “You got to finish that book. You got to do this.” Shayna is the one to tell me to write the blog. I didn’t hear her voice, but why would I start writing a blog five days after she passed?
As far as healing goes, know that there’s hope. I know those first days, it doesn’t feel like it. When people talked to me about healing at first, I was like, “I don’t want to heal.” I’m like, “Forget about whether I can heal. I don’t even want to heal. I want to feel miserable.” I’m going to honor my daughter by being miserable for the rest of my life. That’s a fairly common thing. You don’t have to do that. Our loved ones don’t want us to be miserable. They want us to be happy.
My approach is she didn’t go anywhere. She didn’t die. She didn’t cease to exist, first of all. She didn’t go somewhere to some far-off heaven where she could never see me until the time I crossed over. She’s still right here. I will see her again. I tell people, “If you can grasp those three concepts, then that will make your grief so much easier. It won’t take it away. You’re still going to miss their physical presence, but when you get to that part where you’re, ‘I can’t go on any longer,’ remember that.” Learn to connect with them while they’re here. Shayna sends me signs all the time. She comes to me through mediums. She’ll drop in on mediums. They’ll call me up and say Shayna dropped in and told me to tell you this. She’s still a very big part of my life. Let them be a part of your life.
I have this same experience from my end with my husband and all. With all you’ve been through, what is your tip for finding joy in life?
After Shayna passed, I was like, “I’ll never find joy.” I want to tell people, “When you feel that, I think you will feel that, know that that’s not true.” You’re not going to believe me. I talked to someone and her son passed. That’s not something you’re going to believe at the very beginning, but you can find joy again. The key to finding joy in terms of coming out of grief is to understand what this life is all about and understand that this loss that we feel is temporary. We will see them again. The key to finding joy in life in general, I believe, is to find your purpose and to serve other people.
I know that to some people, that might sound strange, but I believe that’s the way that we’re designed. That’s, ultimately, what brings people real joy. You can pursue all kinds of other things and they might bring you temporary happiness, but a lot of times when people attain the things that they’re pursuing, they find that those things don’t bring them long-term joy. That would be my key.
There are a lot of people who make a lot of money and whatever or even if they don’t make a lot of money or whatever, but they’re still very unhappy inside. To find contentment and the keys to that, sometimes, you need a little help. You need someone to step in there and point things out that are not coming from inside of you who you are naturally. That’s where Brian comes in.
I can’t even tell you how much I appreciate this informative and enlightening interview. Your mission is very noble. It’s helping to raise the consciousness of the planet by helping people realize who they are and why they’re here and to help them be the best they can be while they are here. Your mission resonates with the mission of Grief and Rebirth, which is to enlighten, inspire, and open people’s hearts and minds to many ways that they can heal. Thank you, everyone, for continuing to spread the word about this show so that we can continue to bring you the wisdom and insights of wonderful gifted people like Brian.
Brian, I’m sincerely looking forward to seeing you and your amazing colleagues at what will be an incredible Helping Parents Heal Conference in South Carolina. A reminder, everyone, to please like @IreneSWeinberg and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Thank you. Many blessings and surely as I often like to say, especially where Brian is concerned, to be continued. My heartfelt thanks. Bye for now.
- Helping Parents Heal
- Brian Smith’s Website
- Brian Smith’s recommended group: MasterHeart
- Brian Smith’s book Grief 2 Growth: Planted, Not Buried
- Tracy Soussi’s Past Episode