Samantha Ruth is a Transformational Psychologist, a Speaker, a podcast host, and the Best Selling Author of 3 books titled Women Who Illuminate, Life Lessons in Success and her most recent titled Permission Granted: Discover How Life Changes When You Give Yourself Permission. Sam’s mission is to change how the world sees grief and mental health. She helps people transform their pain into strength by guiding them to be their authentic selves. She also created a support community called Griefhab, which is open to anyone who has lost someone.
IN THIS EPISODE, YOU’LL HEAR ABOUT THINGS LIKE:
- What Sam’s own grief journey taught her about self-discovery and learning to accept and embrace her true self.
- How Sam works with the differing styles of grieving people and how each of us grieves in our own way.
- Why Sam believes that what makes a person different truly makes that person beautiful.
- How Sam helps people discover the things that bring them joy and eliminate those things that do not bring them joy.
SOME QUESTIONS IRENE ASKS SAM:
- Why do you say that “What people think of me is none of my business?”
- What’s the difference between your I’M A MESS and I COULD USE SOME HELP in healing programs?
- What is GriefHab for teens?
Listen to the podcast here
Samantha Ruth: Empowering Grieving People Around The World To Turn Their Pain Into Their Power And Live Life On Their Own Terms
I’m so happy to have this opportunity to interview the dynamic Samantha Ruth, who will be speaking to us from Boulder, Colorado. Sam is a transformational psychologist, a speaker, a podcast host, and the bestselling author of three books titled Women Who Illuminate, Life Lessons In Success, and Permission Granted: Discover How Life Changes When You Give Yourself Permission. She is also the proud Founder of Griefhab, a 24/7 support community open to anyone who has experienced a loss.
I’m looking forward to asking Sam about Griefhab, her book titled Permission Granted, and her impressive mission to change the way the world views grief and mental health. I’m psyched to also find out how she is helping people around the world to turn their pain into their power by guiding them to be their true selves. This is surely going to be an exciting, inspiring interview.
Sam, welcome to the show.
Thank you so much for having me.
It’s my pleasure. Let’s begin our interview with this question. What motivated you to work at both preschools and male teen correctional facilities when you were in college and later intern at a teen runaway shelter when you were in graduate school, where you met your precious husband, Jim?
I obviously always knew I wanted to work with kids, but that didn’t narrow it down enough for me.
No, because you work with troubled kids.
A lot of what I do is about taking something perceived as negative and turning it into something positive. Even at a young age, I had a problem with people being labeled bad kids or troublemakers. That’s the population I was always drawn to and love. I needed to try it all to figure out where I would end up.
That is so inspiring. Most people would run from kids with all those kinds of problems. What a blessing. Your world was shattered into millions of pieces when you unexpectedly lost Jim. I can relate. Instead of giving up, you turned your pain into your power. Please tell us about Jim. Share what happened when you lost him, and tell us how you responded to your sudden grief.
Jim had a zest for life. He always had the best attitude and did everything fully. He had a laugh that filled up the room. Everybody loved being around him. He was a loan officer, and to me, that sounds like numbers, but I run into people all the time who say, “He changed my life. He didn’t just help me get my house, but he helped me understand why I needed to do this and this.” He really did. He made an impact on every life he touched.
What happened when you lost him?
He collapsed at work on a typical Wednesday.
How old is he, Sam?
He was 46. I was 44 at that time. He had an undetected heart condition. There was a similar situation in London, I believe, where an athlete’s tiptop shape collapsed, and the only reason he survived was because they had staff right there on the field with a defibrillator. It was instantaneous.
You got a call that he’s gone.
I got a call from the paramedics. We’re working on him at his office. I’m the daughter of a doctor, so in my head, I think I knew. They didn’t tell me until I got to the emergency room.
How did you respond with this? You must have been devastated. Were you in shock?
I was in shock for a long time. This was the love of my life. I met him when I was 24 years old, but we weren’t in grad school together.
Have you met him through one of these teen correctional facilities where the teen runaway or when you’re in graduate school?
I was working at the teen runaway shelter, and his cousin was one of my teen mentors. He left work one day and went a few miles down the road to Jim’s house and said, “I met this perfect girl for you. She loves sports. She loves the same music.” Jim wasn’t home. He left a note on the door. When I met Jim, he had this note. It was immediate, and everyone knew, but we were both pretty young.
I was 24. He was 26 and really career driven. A couple of years later, when we went our separate ways, he moved to Colorado, and I was still in Michigan. I had relocated and willingly and happily moved across the country to marry this man who I’ve loved since I was 24 but I’ve only been with for a few years. I went through so many things. My first reaction was, “I want my mom and dad.” All my family was in Michigan.
When you lost him, your life, as you knew it, was done. You learned that your degrees, training, and experience didn’t matter and were completely lost. What has your own grief journey taught you about self-discovery and learning to accept and embrace our true selves? That had to be quite a journey for you, Sam.
My grieving journey took me down a different road than I had been living my entire life. I was a very type-A go plan. I go to college and grad school. I was very focused and driven, and grief doesn’t work that way. I had to slow down and deal with the unknown. That ended up being a blessing. Teaching me that while I was so busy going most of my life, I had missed all of these things that happened because I had planned everything a different way.
I always liken grief to your life in a certain way, and you think about a domino board, and all of a sudden, if you throw the board up in the air, the dominoes land in every different way. That’s what happens to your life with grief. Everything is in a different place. You talk about how each of us grieves in our own way. Could you share how you honor the differing styles of grieving people you work with?
I don’t know if you have experienced this, but some people are judged for going back to work too soon. Some people don’t go back to work soon enough. I’m still wearing my wedding ring. That is the biggest topic of conversation. My journey helped me understand that if I did things according to the way the world expected me to, I would never heal.
It’s because it wasn’t about you. That was about them. You had to find your own way. To do that, you have to get in touch with who you are too.
Fortunately, I live in Colorado and have nature and beauty all around me. Being this extrovert who was always out and about with Jim, who’s an even bigger extrovert, none of that made sense to me. I had no desire to be around bunches of happy people. My path to healing was through quiet, nature, and acting like I was a kid again, but truly sitting in the dirt and playing with sticks. It might have looked ridiculous. At that time, I didn’t know it was productive, but that’s when my awakenings, messages, and things would happen because I was giving myself time to pause and get out of the chaos of this world that’s always going.
In a way, I think it puts you in a little bit of a meditative state.
I was the person who didn’t know how to meditate. It didn’t work for me because I couldn’t slow my brain down enough. Meditating is one of the things that I started doing. Still not knowing if I was doing it correctly, but my old self would’ve laughed at meditating Sam.
As you say, everyone grieves in their own way. I find that a lot of people meditate in their own way. You can meditate by looking at beautiful trees and being in the present moment, or you can meditate with a guided meditation or whatever works for you.
I didn’t know that. I’m sure many people tuning in might not know that. That was a great experience for me. I don’t know how it’s related to healing, but for me, it was a big step, and it’s something that absolutely I have to do, if not once a day, twice.
It grounds you. You have a book called Permission Granted: Discover How Life Changes When You Give Yourself Permission, and it contains twenty amazing stories of how life changes when you give yourself permission to show up fully. Sam, I love that. What inspired you to write this book? Can you please share with us 1 or 2 of those inspiring and empowering stories in the book? Pick some good ones.
I was really lost and in shock for the initial few months of my grief journey, but I went to the mountains, where we got married for our anniversary, and that was the first message I received. That was something I absolutely had to do. Nobody else thought that it was a good idea for me to drive in such deep grief by myself in the mountains. I did it anyway. That was a big first.
Through doing that, I met someone who connected me with Jack Canfield, who has always been my mentor and the author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books. I then joined his training program, where I met my publisher and dear friend, Kate Butler, who does these collaboration books. I didn’t know I was writing to be a part of a book. I was writing to heal again, and I wrote Jim a letter every day. Each chapter, mine is permission to grieve because I think the world needs to understand that we all deserve that.
Patty Aubrey is the president of his company. For years, she was behind him. You didn’t know her. When her mother was passing, she said, I don’t remember the exact words, but basically, “Get out from behind his shadow. You have gifts.” She gave herself permission to be seen, and that’s what her chapter is about. This all connects to healing. Jack Canfield connected me with these people. Kate Butler, the publisher, her chapter is all about miracles. She is one of the first miracles that appeared in my life that we sometimes don’t stop to recognize and make time for. I would say those are two of the best.
They’re all wonderful. Could you please explain your belief that what makes a person different truly makes that person beautiful?
I think that there are so many stereotypes and perceived negatives in this world. Somebody was talking about her daughter, who didn’t want to go back to school. When asked why, she said, “I always get in trouble for talking too much.” Talking is your gift. Maybe she’s going to be the next best public speaker. I don’t know, but I try to take anything. My upcoming book is redefining ruthless because ruthless is another perceived negative word, and it’s my story of how I’m making that positive. Again, being a psychologist, mental illness is perceived as a negative. I want people to understand that these are your gifts and superpowers, and the world has it backwards, not us.
When you come out with that book, let me know, and we’ll talk about that because that’s a wonderful subject to chat about on the show because so many people cannot realize who they are because of those negative messages that are embedded in them. How do you help people to discover those things that bring them joy and eliminate the things that don’t bring them joy? Most people feel they go through life. They feel like, “I have to do this. I should do this.”
I don’t know if you experienced this after losing your husband, but I became extremely intentional with my time, who I spend it with, and what I put into my life, whether that’s music, TV, or people. To start, by finding joy, like I said, I went back to being a kid. I was finger painting at 3:00 in the morning. I try to tell people like, “Let’s go back to things that are fun and don’t have to make sense. Let’s find that child that used to do things and not care what the world thought.”
This is another one you say that I love, “What other people think of me is none of my business.” Do people need to know about that? What brought you to this conclusion about outside noise, as you call it, and how do you teach others to tune that outside noise out?
I always knew it and worked with it to some degree. Grieving, as a psychologist who specializes in trauma, suddenly came with a lot of expectations about how I was supposed to bounce back, move forward, and what was next for me. None of that worked. For most of my life, I listened to it. I would’ve listened to my dad, who didn’t want me to go to the mountains for safety and love, but I would’ve listened to that. I would’ve missed out on a pivotal week of my life that led me to people who are family now. Through grieving, I recognized all this noise and had to tune it out. I want people to realize that we all have a little voice that we’ve been trained to shut up.
That’s our own voice. Not all those outside voices. How are you helping people around the world to turn their pain into their power by guiding them to be their true selves? I guess that’s one of the ways. Could you share an example of someone you’ve helped like this?
There’s resistance when people make changes. I had been a certain way most of my life. I was not the girl who meditated or was okay with the unknown. People who know and love me were confused and wanted old Sam back, which they were accustomed to. We have to be able to love, respect, thank, and go on our own journey. That takes some gut. There really can be people who don’t get it. What was the initial question?
How are you helping people around the world to turn their pain into their power by guiding them to be their true selves? I wanted to know if you have an example of someone you help with this.
Another widow who truly thought there was nothing left. She’s moving into her kids’ home, but she didn’t think she individually would have any. She’s now teaching art to kids and writing a book as well. There is something to writing and healing, whether you sit down to write a book or you’re writing to get through something difficult. We all still grieve every day. It doesn’t just go away because she’s creating a future that she didn’t believe existed.
The thing that amazes me is she thought she was going to go into her kids’ house and become grandma, but somewhere along the line, she was inspired to find you.
She didn’t even want to have the first phone call. Once we got on the phone, that was all it took for her. When you’ve lost someone, we’re instantly connected. We all have these expectations in our head that if I work with somebody, it’s going to be clinical and white office. Once we connected, she was like, “You’re like a real living, breathing person who gets me.”
That’s fabulous. Now you’ve got two programs that I found fascinating and some of our viewers may want to check them out. One is called I’m A Mess, and the other is called I Could Use Some Help. They’re healing programs. Do you want to tell us all about them?
Yes. They’re different because I worked in traditional practice for so long where you meet with somebody once a week at this time, and you can’t have contact outside of the office. Problems don’t work that way. I’m A Mess is, “I need as much support and guidance as you can give me, and I might even put some of it on your plate, Sam. I want you to put it on my plate so you can heal or focus on that book or whatever that goal is.” I Could Use Some Help is you’re a little bit further along in your healing journey and maybe some crutches, and let’s create a plan that works for you. I have always tried to make each plan unique to each person because nobody works with a cookie-cutter.
Someone who goes to the I Could Use Some Help, they may be struggling but they’re not totally in despair. Someone who gets into I’m A Mess really needs you to hold their hand and take them step by step for a while.
Those were my words. That’s where I was. That’s how I came up with that because when you’ve experienced trauma, the light bulb burns out. It is the end of the world, and I get that. You don’t think, “I can Google a handyman.” It doesn’t come to your mind. I’m not going to give you the names of some in your area. I’m going to take that off of your plate because nobody except us understands how exhausting and overwhelming it is.
If someone is from a distance, how do they work with you? I assume, especially in the days of COVID, you’re doing a lot of long-distance online work, right?
Yeah, however they’re comfortable. Some people prefer the phone. Some people like Zoom, where we can see each other. Sometimes when you’re grieving, you want to be in bed, and you don’t want to have your camera on. I would say the majority are Zoom. There are people who prefer a phone call. Again, whatever is going to work best for that person.
That was, again, me in passing saying to somebody, “I need griefhab.” There’s rehab for everything except for grief. I recognize that if I, with all of my knowledge, resources, and tools available, couldn’t find the support I needed, somebody in a different field would have even less support than I did. I wanted to create a place where you have unlimited access to each other, to me, and where there are no judgments or rules. One person might want to be sitting on the couch watching Netflix. Another person might be out and about, and both are okay.
Do they contact you? Is this an online site that they go to?
There’s a Facebook group that is always there. I’m active in. I’m doing weekly live videos. You can also talk to everyone else, and then if they want something more intense than that, they can work with me one-on-one.
The Griefhab: For Teens, do you have a lot of kids signing up for that?
Think about how grieving we need in our own place, but teenagers need their own place regardless. Someone brought it to my attention, and I was mortified because I’ve worked with teens forever, and I hadn’t thought of it yet. I want parents to know that it’s run by me and I’m licensed. If something dangerous is going on, I have access to their parent’s information, and they know that they’re interacting with me. I want parents to know that it’s a safe, regulated place.
It’s very cool because even though you’re a “therapist,” a kid doesn’t feel they’re going to a “therapist.” They’re just going to this cool lady they can talk to.
I’ve always connected with the kids, and I was like, “Parents aren’t going to like me because I’m not going to put on a suit.” I certainly don’t try to act differently than I am. When parents see that their kids are connecting with somebody and they’re not being forced, that’s all they need.
It must really help kids from getting into trouble sometimes too. Sam, you, of all people in the universe, why do you think it’s important for every person to heal?
It’s because as much pain or trauma as we’ve been through, there is still a way through it. We don’t have to suffer. You don’t have to be in that much pain alone, struggling. I’m not saying it goes away or gets easier or better, but it gets different, and you can find your people and still have a life of joy.
That’s wonderful. Tell us how people can connect with you.
SamanthaRuth.com is my website. All of my social media links are on there, and my podcast. That’s the easiest way. If you look me up on social media, I’m there.
What would you like to tell us all about finding joy in life? It sounds like you’re an expert by now.
I truly believe that if you tune out the noise and want to finger paint at 3:00 in the morning or you want to dance in the street, we all still have that little child in us. As I said, we’ve been shutting him or her up based on the noise and our own noise that we’re creating. I want you to know that you can go back to that little kid. Anything that takes away pain or brings you a little bit of peace is valuable and productive, and it doesn’t matter what it looks like to anyone else.
That’s fabulous advice. Sam, I am sure that the tremendous good you are doing in our world every single day is making your late husband, Jim, very proud of you. You truly are a superhero. As you actively work to help people turn their pain into their power, guide them to be their true selves, inspire them to embrace their differences and empower them to live life on their own terms.
Thank you from my heart for this uplifting and empowering interview. I am confident that many people in our audience would love to read your book, Permission Granted: Discover How Life Changes When You Give Yourself Permission, which is a must-read for those who are ready to make significant changes in their lives. Here’s a reminder, everyone. Make sure to follow us and like us on social, @IreneSWeinberg on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. As I like to say, to be continued, many blessings, and bye for now.
- Samantha’s Website
- Samantha’s Book: Women Who Illuminate, Life Lessons In Success
- Samantha’s Book: Permission Granted: Discover How Life Changes When You Give Yourself Permission
- Samantha’s Community Website: Griefhab
- Jack Canfield’s Chicken Soup for the Soul referenced in this episode
- Samantha’s Facebook Group: Griefhab: For Teens