Catherine Gourdier, who is married to Producer Don Carmody and grew up as the eldest of eight siblings, is the eleventh special interview in the G&R Podcast’s Rebirth series. She enjoyed a successful career as an independent sales agent for sixteen years and later transitioned to the film and television industry, where she is a second assistant director. The sudden and tragic loss of the three biggest loves of her life, her mom Neta Tuepah, her dad Bill Gourdier and her youngest sister Julie compelled Catherine to write her new first book titled Breathe Cry Breathe: From Sorrow to Strength in the Aftermath of Sudden, Tragic Loss.
IN THIS EPISODE, YOU’LL HEAR ABOUT THINGS LIKE:
- Catherine’s heart-wrenching but inspiring journey from tragedy and grief to remarkable healing and rebirth
- Ways to move through your grief
- The five identities of grievers
SOME QUESTIONS IRENE ASKS CATHERINE:
- Would you go through the five identities of grievers and tell us which you think you are?
- Can you share a message based on your healing story about the importance of healing and rebirth?
Listen to the podcast here
Catherine Gourdier: Suffering An Incalculable Loss Followed By Another And Another At Warp Speed To Remarkable Healing And Rebirth Filled With Authenticity, Optimism, And Love
I’m absolutely delighted to welcome Catherine Gourdier to the show for the eleventh special interview in the Rebirth Series. Catherine, who is married to Producer Don Carmody, grew up as the eldest of eight siblings. She will be speaking to us from Hidden Hills, California. Catherine enjoyed a successful career as an independent sales agent under her company name, Ladyhawke Ventures, Inc. for sixteen years. She then transitioned to the film and television industry where she is a second assistant director.
Her two favorite gigs have been as the rehearsal manager and assistant director for the musical Chicago, writing the screenplay and producing a low-budget film entitled Some Things That Stay based on the book by Sarah Willis. Catherine began writing daily in diaries when she was ten years old. She still contributes to a personal journal and also writes song lyrics and poems mostly about loss and love.
The sudden and tragic loss of the three biggest loves of her life: her mom, Neta Tuepah, her dad, Bill Gourdier, and her youngest sister, Julie, compelled Catherine to write her new first book titled Breathe Cry Breathe: From Sorrow to Strength in the Aftermath of Sudden, Tragic Loss. I’m looking forward to talking with Catherine about her beautifully written memoir that shares her heart-wrenching, yet also inspiring journey from profound tragedy and grief to remarkable healing and rebirth.
Catherine, a warm welcome. It’s a pleasure to be with you here. Let’s begin our interview with this question so everyone can get to know you, your background, and all. Could you please tell us about that fateful night and also about your dad?
Thank you for inviting me to your show. It was to be a night of celebration. My very large family and I were gathering for a surprise birthday party at my brother’s house. It was a surprise horror theme birthday party for our youngest sister, Julie. I was putting the last dabs of blood down my sisters’ necks. Most of us were dressed as zombies when the phone rang. We learned that my mother had been hit by a car.
You can imagine all being excited for this happy evening and then we get that news. My husband and I, in our full zombie attire, dash to the accident site only to learn that Julie had been struck as well. The ambulances were already gone. We went to the hospital, and we found out my mother had passed and that Julie was so severely brain-damaged that we had to let her go the next day. Several weeks later, my father died from what I believe was a broken heart, sitting in my mother’s reading chair with his head on his chest, looking like he was sleeping.
How far along were you in your grieving when you saw a reiki clairvoyant? What I love about your story is that you not only went for some traditional healing, but you also went to holistic healers and you got help that way. Please share that experience with us and the way it changed your skepticism about psychics because so many people have a problem like this where something happens and they don’t want to believe in this world, which happened to me. Suddenly, we’re like, “Oh my.” What was your first experience?
A couple of things. I was so devastated. I was in such pain that I wanted to do anything that would help me heal. I was skeptical about mediums. One of the things I did was with the reiki clairvoyant and all the mediums. I only said my first name, and sometimes I made a name up so that I knew they couldn’t google me or find out anything. Any messages that came through, I knew she couldn’t have found any information anywhere.
It was 3 months after the accident and about 6 weeks after my dad passed when we were out for dinner with a friend. She had lost her mom suddenly as well. Her mom had been murdered. She had gone to see Benita, this reiki clairvoyant. I thought, “If this clairvoyant could help her, then I was going to give it a try.”
At Benita’s home, she was in an apartment, she had me lie on a bed. Her hands hovered above my body as she spoke. One of the things that got me was she doesn’t know me or anything. She says, “I see a young woman. She looks like she could be a teenager but I have a feeling she’s much older than that.” We were celebrating Julie’s 40th birthday. She was much younger, but she looked much younger because she was also 87 pounds and 4’11. I knew that was Julie.
She said, “She’s trying to speak to me but she has a speech impediment. She’s having trouble speaking.” Julie has Down syndrome. Believe me, she could speak to us. We could understand her but perhaps, Benita could not make out what she was saying. When she said that she had a speech impediment, I’m going, “This is Julie.” She said, “She misses you. She wants to be with you.”
The tears start coming out of the corner of my eye. My head’s back, so it’s pouring down onto the sheet, and then onto another message. It was completely different. She says, “Dear, you have an Aunt Joan. She has some serious health issues.” How does she know that I have an aunt named Joan that has health problems? From then on, I believed in mediums and psychics.
After your experience with Benita, you continued your healing process by seeing both traditional and alternative therapists and mediums. Would you like to share some of those life-changing experiences with us?
I became a bit of a medium addict because the messages made me feel better. Besides mediums, I saw an NMT practitioner, NeuroModulation Technique. I’ll have to use her words to better explain what it is.
It’s wonderful because we’re going to teach a lot of people here about perhaps a new modality they’re not familiar with.
Deborah says, “We all have a system within us like a bio-computer that controls all aspects of our health, mental, physical, and emotional.” Her training in the NeuroModulation Technique taught her to speak to my system and then my system responded to her commands and helped to improve my emotional health and my responses to the trauma.
She also helped heal a chronic shoulder injury. I could not swim for three years. After a couple of sessions with her, I was swimming again all summer. After one session, I was singing and sweeping the kitchen floor, even though I was deeply grieving. This is why I was seeing her. After one session, I felt so much better. I was singing, and I loved to sing but I couldn’t sing. Some people call it hocus-pocus, but I would say, give it a try. In all the mediums that I saw, the messages blew me away. I highly recommend giving it a try. You have to be open.
You’re speaking the mission of the show because I interview mediums, healers, and people like you who are so inspiring and who’ve been through so much and come through it. Also, grief and trauma specialists. My hope is that people who need help read these interviews and choose one of these people who resonates with them and get help because there are many different ways to heal. That’s a wonderful story.
I do know also that part of your story is that the tragedy and your intense grieving put a bit of a strain on your marriage. You had some sessions with an alternative therapist and a medium that converted your resentment to love and forgiveness for your husband, Don. I love the tender way he found the patience to let you heal. Would you like to talk about that? We like good men who are so supportive of their wives.
It put a strain on our marriage because he’d never experienced intense grief like this or intense sadness. He didn’t know how to be with this person. I wasn’t his wife anymore. I was this sad, depressed being, living with him. He said a lot of insensitive things thinking that I should be healed already after three months, for example.
Deborah Frenette, the NMT practitioner, suggested, “Why don’t you forgive him?” He couldn’t understand the pain I was going through. I agreed. Going back to a medium, this was our first session, not knowing even whether I’m married. Nothing. She says, “I have a message from your mom. She says, ‘Don and you are good together.’” I’m going, “She knows that I was possibly thinking of leaving, moving into our family home instead of selling it to be closer to my three siblings that were there, nieces and nephews, and my Aunt Joan.” Here’s mom saying, “Forgive him.”
It was a beautiful message from your mom. I have a feeling that as the oldest sibling, you’re a big caregiver. You take care of everyone else, and your mom was saying to take care of you and your relationship, which was nurturing for you.
I did go to Kingston for three weeks. When we left, there might have been little things.
This was Kingston in Canada, not Kingston in America?
Yes. I left to go and prepare the house to put on the market. I was gone for three weeks. When I came back, I got the biggest, warmest hug from my husband. He said, “I love you. I don’t want to lose you.” I didn’t want to lose him either. Since then, he’s been spoiling me rotten and telling me he loves me three times a day.
Keep him. He’s a keeper. He learns through this experience too. How marvelous. I so admired you in your book, which is wonderful. Everyone, you all ought to get it and read it. It’s a wonderful, inspiring true story. In your book, which very few people would do, you have an incredibly kind gesture to help ease the pain of the woman who killed your mother and sister. You also had a chance to get a crosswalk at the accident site and you raised awareness about the dangers of the elderly driving. Would you like to tell us anything about any of those? There were all such great ways to move through your grief but that gesture was so spiritually aware.
The woman driver was 7 weeks away from turning 85. I had learned from meeting a family friend of theirs at our local bar that her children had asked her to give up her keys. She had said, “I’ll stop driving when I’m 85,” which was 7 weeks too late to save my family, but it was a tragic accident killing 2 people. Was it her fault? Perhaps it was. Perhaps a younger driver would have seen three people crossing the road. Perhaps a younger driver would have reacted quicker and swerved or hit the brakes, whatever, it was an accident.
Also, despite how busy the road had gotten, over the years, my parents continued to walk across the street to go to church. Our church was directly across the street from our home. For 42 years, they walked safely across the street, but perhaps they were in their 70s, they also misjudged the speed of the car coming or misjudged that this car was not going to stop.
The sad thing too is they were struck mere steps from the end of their driveway. In any case, I knew the woman was suffering as well, so I bought her a card. I wrote inside, “We know it was a tragic accident. We’re trying to focus on our loving memories. I’m wishing you sunny days ahead,” or something to that effect. I also know that if that woman had come out while I ran up and popped that card into her mailbox, we both would have cried. I would’ve hugged the woman that killed them.
Were your siblings all behind you when you sent that note? Were some of them still angry, or did they think that was a great thing to do?
I didn’t tell them that I was doing it. I don’t remember, actually. It was one of my last days in the house. I drove to the dollar store, got the card, and wrote the note. I remember being nervous about going to this woman’s house. I thought I just wanted to forgive her.
In your book also, I found it enlightening that there are five identities of grievers. Would you like to go through that and tell us which you think you are? You may have felt a few of those.
I don’t know what I was googling that day but for some reason, Dr. Susan Berger’s five types of grievers came up on the internet. This is not what I wrote.
This is so helpful for the audience, Catherine, because many of them are grieving. They choose different ways to heal. What does she talk about?
One of her types is called a nomad. They’re in denial and they run from their grief. As an example, I have a friend of mine who lost her husband suddenly a few years ago, and she’s been traveling ever since. She read my book and told me, “I haven’t dealt with my grief yet.” Nomads try to deny it. Another type is the seeker. They incorporate religion and spirituality into their lives to help them deal with their grief.
Number three, a normalizer focuses on recreating a sense of family. For example, if you lost a child, you may want to spend more time with a niece or nephew or your neighbor’s child to try to fill the void. A memorialist is another one. They are committed to keeping their loved ones alive. For me, that was doing fundraisers, but other people can do a walkathon or run in memory of their loved ones.
Dr. Berger’s final one is an activist. An activist takes the focus off their grief by helping others, usually by getting involved with an organization within their community or something related to their loved one. That’s exactly what I have done. I have become heavily involved with Julie’s Special Olympics community. I’ve hosted seven fundraisers in her memory. An activist is also doing things like raising awareness about possibly a car driver’s test for elderly seniors instead of just a written test and the vision test.
I love reading about it in your book, that Special Olympics fundraiser that you created in Julie’s memory. Maybe some of the people in our audience can relate to it and would like to donate to it. Tell us a little more and tell them where they can make a donation. It’s such a worthy cause.
Special Olympics is worldwide. I cannot remember how many countries. It’s in my book. I mentioned it. One thing that people maybe don’t know is that Special Olympics runs all year. Most communities and each chapter have to raise their money. You can imagine how expensive it is for new basketballs.
It’s a worldwide thing. You have it all over the world. People have it but each community does their separate thing.
That’s why I chose to help Julie’s community. I’ve met her friends. I call her friends her fellow athletes.
If anyone wants to make a donation, where should they go to do that to support you and say, “I heard you on the show. I would like to contribute to the worthy cause in honor of your sister?” Where should they go?
I have all the links on my website, CatherineGourdier.com. Also, all the links for the healers as well. The Special Olympics link that I do have is for Special Olympics Ontario, Kingston. You can google and find the Special Olympics in your neighborhood.
To any of you who are reading this interview, and if you relate to this, please let Catherine know that you were moved by this and you’ve made a donation, even if it’s for the Special Olympics in Ohio, and that you were inspired to do that. It’s in memory of Julie.
With the fundraisers, it doesn’t have to be big like 350 people fancy dinner event, of which I did one of those, but I also did house parties. In one house party I did, I raised $2,600. It afforded the teams to be able to get new uniforms for when they travel, they have jackets and pads that they wear. They put, “In memory of Julie,” with a heart on the back of the jacket.
You had another wonderful story you talked about that touched me in your book about a person you called Dancer. Would you like to tell us about that? That is such a moving story.
My sister, Julie, saved 5 people’s lives and gave the gift of sight to 2 others. It was shortly after the one year anniversary of the accident. We received a letter in the mail from Julie’s double lung recipient. I learned that she had cystic fibrosis and had spent most of her life in and out of the hospital. I only assumed it was her because of the way she was writing the letter.
In the US, donors’ and recipients’ families are allowed to meet, but in Canada, you are not allowed to. Her letter was an eloquent, heartfelt thank you to my family. I was so touched to receive it. I wrote her back. The next year, she wrote again, and I found out that with my sister’s lungs, she could now dance. Not only dance, which she loved, but she could also teach dance again. This was something else why I called my therapies alternative because this writing letters and receiving letters from her made me feel good. That’s when I started to call her Dancer. I didn’t want to keep writing, “Dear recipient.”
You never got to know her real name.
You’re not allowed to know their real name.
That’s a beautiful story though, to think about through your tragedy, many people’s lives were improved.
I would like to say that donating your loved one’s organs is not going to be at the top of your mind as you’re sitting at their bedside watching them die. I would strongly suggest registering for organ donation and even having your children register for organ donation. The Trillium Gift of Life came to us in the hospital and there was my father reading these documents. He goes, “What should I do?” Don’t leave that to your parents to do.
When we talk about your healing story, do you have a message based on your healing story about the importance of healing and rebirth to share with our audience?
Some people that are grieving are so devastated. They may be sitting on the sofa all day in their sweats. They don’t go out. They do this for weeks or months, but why should anyone live this way? Your family and friends don’t want to see you like this. It’s hard for them.
The deceased loved one on the other side doesn’t want to see you go through this either.
You can get help. Even the little thing as your girlfriend’s inviting you out for a drink. Don’t say no. Say, “Yes, Susan. I would love to go for a drink. Thank you for getting me out of the house.” Try healing alternatives or anything until you feel better. You might find that you’ll be a better version of yourself. I had never done so much fundraising in my life. I’m contributing something good to the world.
From deep within, do you feel that you’re now a better version of yourself, Catherine?
I feel that way after the loss of my husband also. With everything that I’ve been through, it’s amazing and gratifying. It’s a blessing. Let’s tell your website again, in case anyone wants to get a hold of you. It’s CatherineGourdier.com. What is Catherine’s tip for finding joy in life?
It’s different for everyone, so I can only speak for myself relating to our discussion. If you have not attended a Special Olympics event, I strongly suggest you do so to see the joy on their faces. They don’t care if they win or lose. Maybe they do. Maybe they would like to get that trophy, but they have so much fun. For me, a simple joy is a glass of wine and a bowl of chips sitting on the dock by the lake with my husband, and looking out over the water and at the clouds above. That’s joy.
You described being grateful for your present moment and having love in your life. That’s beautiful and wonderful. Catherine, your memoir is so beautifully written. You’re such a wonderful writer. It helps its readers to realize that the intense challenges of grief can be healed and lead to remarkable healing and rebirth filled with authenticity, optimism, and love, which you have lots of. Thank you for opening your heart and sharing your incredible story with all of us. I thank you from my heart for this touching, very special interview with special you.
You’re so welcome. We’re going to help so many people reading this, I believe so. Here’s a reminder, everyone. Make sure to follow us and like us on social, @IreneSWeinberg on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter and especially on YouTube. Be sure to subscribe and hit notify so you’ll get all the inspiring and insightful new interviews like this one with Catherine coming your way. If you’d like to be a part of this wonderful Rebirth Series, which is so inspiring to many people, please send us an email to Hello@IreneWeinberg.com. As I like to say, to be continued. Many blessings. Bye for now.
- Catherine Gourdier’s Website
- Catherine Gourdier’s book: Breathe Cry Breathe: From Sorrow to Strength in the Aftermath of Sudden, Tragic Loss
- Special Olympics Ontario, Kingston – Referenced on the Episode
- Special Olympics – Referenced on the Episode
- Irene Weinberg on Instagram
- Irene Weinberg on Facebook
- Irene Weinberg on Twitter
- Irene Weinberg – Grief, Rebirth + Healing Podcast on YouTube
- Irene Weinberg’s email address: Hello@IreneWeinberg.com