S09 | 11 – Transformation Through Grief with Nancy Gordon

Lindsay Recknell Hope, Podcast Leave a Comment

You can’t control most of what happens to you in life, and as such you’ll be greeted by your fair share of obstacles. What you can control, however, is how you handle these challenges. Loss and grief are inevitable in our lives, but that doesn’t mean we need to view them in a negative way.

In fact, today’s guest likes to view grief as a gift and an opportunity to grow. Today I’m joined by Nancy Gordon, who has had to deal with some serious loss and grief in her life, but has been able to turn it into love and growth. Now she helps others do the same, sharing her methodology and best practices for personal growth after facing intense obstacles.

In our conversation we cover finding the little moments of hope and love along the way, viewing anticipatory grief as a positive in our lives, and returning to your path after losing your way.

Listen in to hear more about Nancy’s 7 best practices for turning grief into growth, and how we can continually find hope even during the darkest times of our lives.

About Nancy Gordon:

Nancy Gordon is a #1 international best-selling author, speaker and a transformational life-changing expert who knows firsthand what it is like to deal with serious loss and grief. After a life changing car crash, it was Nancy’s personal experiences of going from hurting to healing, transforming her loss into love and grief into growth, that led to her dedicating her life to helping others do the same.

As a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Certified Life Coach, Nancy has combined her personal experience of fibromyalgia, a mild traumatic brain injury (TBI), human and pet loss with her professional expertise and offers a very unique clinical and personal perspective on navigating loss and grief.

Nancy’s mission is to make a difference in the world about how grief is perceived, understood, experienced, supported, and healed. She specializes in pet loss. Her methodology to do this can be found here and in her upcoming books, From Hurting to Healing 7 Powerful Practices to Manage Your Mind and Heal Your Heart. You can learn more on her website.

Mentioned In This Episode:


Lindsay Recknell  00:03

Hello, welcome to another episode of The Hope motivates action podcast. I’m your host, Lindsay Recknell. Although we reschedule this interview a number of times, it turned out that this week’s guest came at the perfect time as you’ll hear us speak about on the show. Nancy Gordon is a number one international best selling author, speaker and transformational life changing expert who knows firsthand what it’s like to deal with serious loss and grief. After a life changing car crash. It was Nancy’s personal experiences of going from hurting to healing, transforming her loss into love and grief into growth that led her to dedicating her life to helping others do the same. As a licensed clinical social worker and certified life coach. Nancy has combined her personal experience of fibromyalgia, a mild traumatic brain injury, human and pet loss with professional experience and offers a very unique clinical and personal perspective on navigating loss and grief. Nancy’s mission is to make a difference in the world about how grief is perceived, understood, experienced, supported and healed. She specializes in pet loss. Nancy’s methodology can be found on her website, and in her upcoming books, which of course, we will link to in the show notes. Speaking of shownotes as a reminder, if you are interested in any of the books, resources and tools I mentioned in this episode, all the links you’ll need can be found in the show notes, your favorite podcast player, or head to the blog and pod page of my website at WWW dot expert in hope calm and you’ll find them all there too. I truly believe that the future will be better than today, by taking action over the things we can control. And conversations like this really reinforce that hope. Let’s get going. Hello, everyone. Welcome back to the hope motivates action podcast. It is my pleasure to introduce you today to Nancy Gordon. Hello, Nancy. so wonderful to have you here.


Nancy Gordon  01:52

Lindsey, thanks for having me. It’s great to be here.


Lindsay Recknell  01:56

We have been anticipating this conversation for a really long time. And I feel like you know the universe has put us in the same realm at the exact moment when I need you. So I would love to hear from you. Your story of how you use hope to motivate action in your life.



Well, I I haven’t a wellspring of hope. And it’s come out of my own journey of challenges that began really with a car accident many decades ago. And the moment the metal of our two cars collided, my life changed forever. And I lost my footing, I lost hope I got depressed. I struggled every day with physical pain just to get through the day. And it was really by the time I left my practice, which was six years after the accident, I was very slow to learn my first practice of seven, which was surrender without giving up. So I struggled without hope, a long, long time. Before I had to close my practice. And then when I closed my practice, which is the psychotherapy practice in Oregon, at the time, I I was devastated. I’d never been in a in a situation which I couldn’t fix. And my body I could not fix. So when I closed my practice, I was very depressed and very hopeless. And the first sprinkle of hope, not the only but that first real sprinkle of hope that occurred for me after I closed my business was when I was listening to Christopher Reeves tape a book on tape that tells you how long ago was. And he wrote a book called still me. And I was I remember laying in bed looking at the sun so depressed that I couldn’t go out in the sun and enjoy life because I was in so much pain and sleep deprivation that I was just laying in bed listening to his book and after a few chapters, I was like, wow, look at what he is doing and creating out of his. You know, he was he was quad quadriplegic. He would he couldn’t even he could do nothing for himself. Really, and I was lying there starting to get the feeling of about a little bit of shame that I who can walk and do so much, you know, for myself was so depressed and, and not, you know, I had let go of my life purpose which was helping people. So by the time I, I stopped listening for that day I felt so inspired, I felt so hopeful that I actually wrote him a letter about his, the effect of his hope on me, because, as you know, hope is contagious. And, and I have always been an optimistic person, I grew up with a mother who always saw the glass half full, that’s one of my seven practices, see the glass half full and be grateful. And I lost that. So I know what it’s like to lose hope. I know what it’s like to get to that edge of the ledge where it looked like. I couldn’t imagine going another 40 years in the pain that I was in. And it became an it became a question mark. For me, as a therapist, I got a different understanding about what what brings people to suicidal ideation. And at that ledge, it was really as a situation where my sister said to me, if you if you feel that way, you need to make a major change. And you need to, you know, close your business. And that was really the only other option at that point. And so, you know, that again, I guess was my sister gave me a little bit of hope I didn’t like really think of it as hope at that point. But just talking about it now. Yeah, she inspired that hope, that little brain that if I changed, that piece, stopped working, and started focusing on healing, that there could be a different outcome. And there was so obviously I’m here.



So that’s, that’s my story of how I started with hope. And then after the car accident, and the six years that I just described, I closed my business and by the next year, I discovered this rare breed dog called the Mexican hairless. And they were used in the ancient as texts over 3500 years ago, as spiritual mystical healing dogs. And when their skin was pressed against your skin, they emanated so much heat that they were like alive heating pad. So I had chronic pain from this, this accident called fibromyalgia and probably many people know that term by now. And when I discovered this breed, I decided to, to take my 24/7 Microwave neck wrap and exchange it for 24/7 No microwave hot dog put around my neck and color toaster. Love it. That was my first huge, huge experience of hope. After the accident.


Lindsay Recknell  08:30

What a difference an animal makes in our lives. I mean, you know you I’m sure anyone who listening to this has umpteen stories they can tell about the power of animals on our lives. And I just love how, how, you know, you found you found hope in toaster you found hope in your in your furry, fearless companion. And that kind of sparked the work you do now? Is that right?



Absolutely. Toaster really took me by the leash down a path of transformation. She changed my life. And she brought me so much wisdom and understanding and hope, really, after a couple years with her Animal Planet found out about our story because I trained her as a service dog so that I could take my 24/7 No microwave, hot dog and put her on my neck and the movie theater, which I did many times and toaster actually watched some of the movies. It’s amazing to watch her head go back and forth. That was one was in the IMAX where she was in China film in China with the panda and we were in a helicopter and the IMAX and her head for 45 minutes back and forth it was a riot. Anyway, that’s how much of kind of like a being she was so present. So Animal Planet found out about us my story with fibromyalgia using and training her as a service dog. And she was they were looking for a pregnant dog at the time. Toaster was one week pregnant. And when they found out about that they just did somersaults because they got so much more than just a pregnant dog, they got a story about fibromyalgia, which at that time really was not understood or treated or at all. And so it was, it was a condition that was becoming known. But to have an animal do so much healing, which they all do. This particular breed, being hairless was you know, sort of an exceptional type of healing. But they, they filmed toasters, well, pregnancy, and my story. And you can see that on the link in my link tree, which we’ll talk about later. And as a results of her well being and the whole, so they filmed the whole thing, her pregnancy and her well being and then we had a placement through national Fibromyalgia Association helped me place her puppies with other people with fibromyalgia. And so I, I got email after email for years and years, because they continued to air it. And I could always tell where in the country or even outside the country where it was being aired, because all of a sudden, I would get a flurry of emails, asking me to help them find a little toaster of their own. So I started a nonprofit and I placed so 18 including three of toasters puppies, with people with chronic pain, through just through that animal planet, you know, story, it’s, it really shows the power of media, and visibility. And so this is so wonderful that you’re doing your part in getting, you know, so many great podcasts, guests who offer so much that we all need, you know, a platform to share from


Lindsay Recknell  12:33

what an incredible story and thank you for, for, for saying that, um, you know, like you say, I believe that hope is contagious. And I also think that hope has a PR problem. And I’m aim to solve it by bringing more awareness into the world, similar to how you were bringing awareness of fibromyalgia so that you can serve and help other people out there. What an incredible story for you to action that hope. So something we talk a lot about on the show his hope, without action is just a wish. I mean, you could have just, you know, kept her and done really well with her and had a really, you know, a much better quality of life than then you did previously. But you I mean, you went above and beyond starting a nonprofit and sharing your story with the world that is spreading hope, my friend, that’s amazing.



Yes. And then another really significant celebrity that gave me hope to take this even farther, again, was Betty White. And she kind of pink met Betty, there’s a whole story about that. And that’ll be there is a link in my link tree to that video and story. But Betty was returning in the media in a big way around 2008. And that was the time where I was well from 2002. On after toasters, puppies were born, I was on a path to get myself back to my life calling which is to help others toaster gave me a different direction to help others then than I had been, but it was it was it was a clear path with a lot of difficulties, a lot of obstacles, partly because of my health, and the constant struggle, you know, with pain and sleep problems. So in those years before Betty Reese, you know, resurfaced in the media. I had been working on a book called seven steps of hope, healing the emotional, mental and spiritual impact of chronic illness. illness and disability. Now too long a title. So I’m, I’ve rebranded that had changed it. But that’s where I channeled my energy because for me part one of my seven practices that were formerly called The Seven Steps was all about seeing the glass half full and being grateful about never giving up about learning how to take care of yourself and love yourself. And of course, the number one step was surrender. So I was toaster, and then with pink, who was born on Animal Planet, you’ll see her being born have Kleenex, it’s an amazing story. But pink had a luxated patella that was diagnosed at age that six weeks old, she ended up coming back to me after going to the breeder who was supposed to fix it, coming back to me with this with the leg not being fixed, had a surgery, broke her femur above her knee, and ended up I ended up having to make one of the toughest decisions ever in my life, which was to give permission to have her leg amputated. And so she became a three legged dog. And I wrote her story as pink, the three legged dog who lost her leg and found her courage, again, all about hope my two dogs were were in so instrumental in continuing to give me hope, continuing to mentor me about how to change my relationship with my own disability watching pink, learn very quickly, how to balance herself and how to have leverage and do whatever she used to do, but just differently. That’s the theme. And the one of the three themes in her book. It’s they were they had such an incredible impact on me. So when I met Betty and we ended up inadvertently unplanned, quote unquote, meeting Betty in person, you’ll see that video. And I, I saw somebody who was, I think 90 At this point, or maybe late 80s. Anyway, she was quite, you know, getting up there. And yet she was reached returning to her path in a big bigger way than she had been for a while. So that’s the that was the second really big impact of hope on me in terms of getting myself back to helping people. And that’s what I do now.


Lindsay Recknell  17:58

And so tell us about what you do now, because it is very impactful for those that you are supporting. So tell us a little bit more about that.



So I have the seven steps or the seven practices. And we’re you know, finally went back to a very small start of a small practice. What happened was toaster had both toaster and pink had chronic health issues from very early age. And over the years, I began to see the impact on them of their own chronic illnesses and their aging. So I began to experience something that I experienced with my mom because she had a cancer. Literally I got toaster three weeks before my mom was diagnosed. I don’t find that any coincidence. But it was really a very difficult time. I sort of knew with a two year experience with my mom what it’s like to experience what’s called anticipatory grief. And that’s the grief when you know, something is coming around the bend, you’re going to experience the loss whether it’s a person or a pet, or even a job or divorce or and all of those still fall in the grief category and the anticipatory stage, which I believe is really the first stage of seven stages and that that differs a bit from Kubler Ross has five stages. And that’s what I’m writing about. So, anticipatory grief is a huge gut wrenching experience. But like anything, how you deal with it, how you handle it is what makes all the difference in your experience, whether you are hopeful or not hopeful. It’s all about mindset. It’s all about how you experience and then how you take action about what you’re experiencing. So as toaster got older, about a year before I, I ended up lifting her up, which I call I coined that term lifting up instead of putting down. So before I lifted her up, about a year, it was becoming really clear, she started having many more conditions diagnosed and difficulty walking with compressed discs. And I really began to, to see that the veil, my veil of denial about losing her was starting to crack. And I, I experienced that with my mom, because she had a two year journey with her cancer. But this was different toaster was my baby, she was my child, as well as pink. And she had so many rolls with me, which again is another part of the grief process that’s impacted how you grieve and how deeply you grieve. It’s mirrored by the role of whoever or the being like a pet had in your life. So I went through a whole year before her, her lift up.



And I I went through again, all the same seven practices that I experienced, and learned through them from them from my own journey, combining my professional skills with my own personal journey, and came up with this, this basic meta methodology that works for almost any kind of obstacle and challenge. So I began to start writing about just my just journaling about what angst I was experiencing, knowing that I may have to help toaster sooner than later. And as I started writing, again, I knew this in my head, but I began to experience as I was writing each of the seven practices Oh, that’s step, step one, oh, that’s step six. So that’s step five. And so I got another round of that experience of surrender, for example, and on a much deeper level, a different level level than I experienced when I closed my business and thought I had surrender, which I really had just given up. But I called it surrender at that time. I got very humbled after I closed my practice, Oh, you didn’t really surrender. So, um, so I went through a process of myself using my practices and and finally facing really facing that I was going to have to help toaster and so I did. I made a plan. I talked with her vets and made a plan. And we we spent three weeks before the appointment we had for her to for a mobile bet one of her vets to come to the house. And we had a whole ceremony and it ended up being what I call her Reese’s Peanut Butter lift up. She toaster toaster was one of those dogs who loved chocolate and somehow she managed to get it a few times in her life and always ended up in the urgent care getting your stomach pumped. Well, one of the things that I did and this is again, part of how you deal with anticipatory grief, that brings some hope that brings some joy in the process of the loss is that you can plan if you have time, whatever time even a day. I’ve helped people who’ve only had a day before their pet was gonna go and they changed it changed everything what we did. So I plan to give her some chocolate after she was administered the medication but before she was gone and We did that and she had a Lindsay she had I, my biggest regret is that I didn’t videotape this. I wasn’t I didn’t even cross my mind. But I wished I had captured the look of absolute bliss as I held a little miniature HERSHEY’s Bar in my hand and made her lick not she didn’t get the whole thing all at once she licked the HERSHEY’s Bar till it was gone. And i Her face was like, Are you kidding me? I get to do this. This is, this is heaven. This is bliss. And then when she finished the HERSHEY’s Bar, she was still with us. And so I asked one of the people there, Quick, get me a spoonful of peanut butter. You know, most dogs like in toaster did like peanut butter. So I held the spoon and she liked the peanut butter. And then that was her ending could Pink. Pink was there and gave her some kisses and licked her face. And you know that just just creating the whole ceremony of letting her go was such an honor. I know. She felt so honored. And this so loved.


Lindsay Recknell  26:14

It just feels so beautiful. Nancy, I just I can picture it. And longtime listeners of the show. No, we have two golden retrievers. And they are we don’t have kids, they are our babies. They are our whole world. And our big dog, he’s 10 and a half and he two months ago, so this is middle of January 2022 that we’re recording this session. Two months ago, he was diagnosed with cancer. And so we have been going through this and anticipatory grief, not knowing when his end is, but feeling quite grateful, truly feeling quite grateful that we have this time with him to be intentional to make decisions, like you’re just like you’re describing with toaster because, you know, often with dogs, and I imagine with other pets as well, but often with dogs, they’re so good at hiding things for so long. And then and then it goes fast. Right? They they tip over that edge fast and but with you know, we caught it soon enough that we he’s not in any pain, at least that he’s telling us, you know, he feels really good. And we’re just what we’re in that like middle ground where we’re anticipating when that end might be and trying to make, you know, really intentional quality time kind of decisions with him in the meantime.



Yes. And that’s really great that you’re doing that because that is one of the aspects of what window of opportunity we have to be grateful for in that anticipatory grief. It’s the other thing I would say to you and anyone else when you know you’ve got a terminal diagnosis. Regardless of how long you think you might have, it’s never too early to plan. It’s never too early. In fact, it it saves you so much grief and guilt and regret if you do plan. And I wish humans did this more and sooner. Because you can make such a difference in how the whole thing unfold. I’ve had so many clients call me new clients, you know, who found me somewhere, say you’re in tears saying My dog is dying. The vet is coming tomorrow. And I’m, I can’t stop crying and I feel guilty that my dog is experiencing my grief while his dog is dying. And one of my missions about changing how the world perceives and understands and experiences and supports heals grief, human and Pat is to to realize that facing it even though it feels unfavorable is a path to not only transformation and personal growth, but it also helps healing within the other person who’s going whether it’s a dog or or a person. And the gift of anticipatory grief is you get to ask yourself that question. Well, what what do I need to do here? What would I regret not doing or not saying or saying and not you know, and doing all of that. If if I were to look back afterwards. And that’s one of I think that’s that question. When you ask yourself that question, it really makes a lot of things that you need to decide much easier.


Lindsay Recknell  30:16

It just it. I like what you said about the gift of anticipatory grief, I’ll tell you two months ago, it did not feel like a gift. No, but now with the with the benefit of time and perspective. And, you know, intention, it definitely it truly, I can say with every ounce of my being, it feels like a gift. So the work, the work that you are doing is incredible. Nancy, thank you for sharing your gift to the world. I’m so glad that you came around to this, over your cricket journey to get here. And the and the gifts of pink and toaster, we are coming to the end of our show. And I asked the same question at the end to all of my guests. And that is Nancy, what gives you hope.



This may sound strange, but the pandemic, the global pandemic has brought grief to the forefront, you cannot escape it. Globally, we are all experiencing in our own way multiple times through this whole several years so far, of this pandemic. And the gift of that is that it’s it’s bringing the world together about how to deal with grief, how to help each other and lift each other up, how to face it, how, and especially with anticipatory grief, it’s so important for people to take the time to deal with their denial to deal with their depression to deal with all the stages that go in to facing loss and get help. So I think what’s hopeful is more and more of us, especially in the pet grief world are coming out and helping people, people are finding us people are starting to recognize that pets are as much of your life and your family as any human. Sometimes even more. I have clients who say this is harder than losing my parent. And that’s not actually uncommon. So it gives me hope that we’ve you know, again, see the glass half full, we’ve all experienced around the globe, such loss, such you know, whether it’s our own loss, our own death, or other losses that go along with it, the work, change all of that. It it’s an opportunity for the whole world to experience transformational growth, through grief.


Lindsay Recknell  33:08

That’s why I love it. That’s beautiful. It is so beautiful. And I couldn’t agree with you more, you know, nothing like a global pandemic to help us really see what’s important and prioritize and to focus on the things that matter. And throughout all of the the horror of of the pandemic as well. There is so much to be grateful for within it and work like you are doing experiences. Like we’re all having that perspective that’s coming along with it. I think that that is super, super hopeful. And I love what a great way to wrap up the show. Nancy, thank you so so much for being here with us. Absolutely. We’re going to link all of the things that you mentioned in the show notes, and your your website, your videos, your books, all of those things. So when the audience is listening, they will know exactly where to find you. And it has been such a pleasure to get to know you. So thank you for being



thank you so much and, and thank you for sharing your own current experience with your dog and I think you will you have handled this. I couldn’t have handled it better from what you’ve said. So.


Lindsay Recknell  34:22

Well that feels nice. Thank you very much. Yes, we’ll connect with you again very soon. Okay, okay. Take care. I hope you enjoyed this latest episode of the hope of motivates action podcast. These episodes are a labor of love inspiring conversations with hopeful people make my heart happy. If you also love this episode, it would be amazing if you could go to Apple podcasts and leave a review five stars if you’re into it. It’s these reviews that encourage Apple to promote this podcast to their network and the more people that listen, the more hope we can spread into the world. Don’t forget to check out the show notes of this episode to find all the links to my guests books and other The resources referenced in this episode. You’ll also find the link back to my website where you will find additional support and resources for you, your team and your community. I truly believe that the future will be better than today. By taking action over the things we can control and hearing from these guests on these episodes, I know that even more hopeful future is totally possible. I’m always looking for inspirational guests so if you or anyone you know would like to be a guest on the show, please reach out you can find me on the contact form of my website at expert in hope calm or by email at Lindsay at expert in hope calm. When I was a teenager, my sisters were leaving the house to go out for the night. I always made it a point to remind them to call me if they need me. It was my way to tell them that I cared and would always be there for them. I’d love you to know the same so all of you listening out there Call me if you need me. Again, thank you for your love and support of this podcast my work in hope and your intentional focus on making your future better than today. After all, hope without action is just a wish.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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