Episode 356 | February 6, 2024

Ambiguous Grief: Navigating the Loss of a Loved One Who Is Still Living with Stephanie Sarazin

A Personal Note From Orion

Greetings, Stellar Life family! I am beyond excited to bring you an episode that explores the layered world of grief. My guest is the incredible Stephanie Sarazin, a remarkable writer, researcher, and ambiguous grief guide.

Stephanie Sarazin is a grief expert and a compassionate soul. She’s on a mission to guide others through the complexities of grieving the loss of a relationship with a loved one. Stephanie’s journey began with her personal experience of loss that ignited her spiritually and a quest for healing that led her across the globe. Stephanie created a groundbreaking definition for ambiguous grief, and she offers solace and understanding to those who find themselves in the intricate emotional landscape of grief.

Her award-winning book, Soulbroken: A Guidebook For Your Journey Through Ambiguous Grief, is a testament to her wisdom and has rightfully earned the 2023 Nautilus Gold Book Award. You can find this gem wherever you prefer to buy your books.

Stephanie brings heartfelt wisdom about grief, forgiveness, and self-alignment. This episode is perfect for anyone who wants to understand ambiguous grief, honor their emotions, or simply feel seen and heard during difficult times. Stephanie’s words will open your mind and soothe your soul. Wishing you light, healing, and growth on your journey ahead! So, without further ado, let’s dive into the show!

In This Episode

  • [02:37] – Orion welcomes Stephanie Sarazin as they discuss ambiguous grief and forgiveness, sharing their personal experiences.
  • [05:59] – Stephanie describes ambiguous grief and elaborates on its impact on mental health.
  • [13:21] – Orion and Stephanie talk about the gradual nature of abuse in the relationship, how it didn’t start with obvious red flags but rather with a strong attraction and gradually escalating manipulation.
  • [19:43] – Stephanie emphasizes the importance of honoring and acknowledging grief as a natural response to loss rather than viewing it as something to be avoided or hidden.
  • [24:13] – Stephanie explains her view about forgiveness, including what can lead to fake forgiveness.
  • [32:29] – Orion shares a personal story of loss and grief and the significance of witnessing and bearing witness to others’ experiences.
  • [39:19] – Stephanie briefly defines disenfranchised grief, relating it to Orion’s story.
  • [43:09] – Stephanie offers top tips for living a stellar life.

Jump to Links and Resources

About Today’s Show

Hi, Stephanie. Welcome to the Stellar Life podcast. Thank you so much for being here.

Hello, Orion. Thanks so much for having me. I’m delighted to be with you today.

Me, too. Before diving in, can you share a little about yourself and your origin story?

Sure. What’s interesting when you say that is we have so many origin stories, don’t we? In life, depending on who’s asking or where we are, that’s a really fun question. I’m a grief educator, writer, and author focusing on the experience of ambiguous grief. Probably for your listeners today, I think that’s a good place to start my origin story.

This isn’t anywhere I thought I would be, Orion. I’ve yet to meet a child who wants to grow up to be working in the grief space. It isn’t a conversation starter at dinner parties or social events. Grief is something that I have come to engage with, not by choice, which I find true for so many of us, and yet it is a universal human experience.

I may not choose to engage with grief, but it’s a universal human experience. By engaging with grief, I can become my most authentic and healed self.

Over the last seven years, I’ve come to work in the grief space and work with people going through grieving experiences. It’s become such an important part of my life. For me, it didn’t begin with the physical death of anybody I loved. It was the death of my marriage that I didn’t see coming. It was a marriage I loved.

In my desire to feel better and understand my own emotions, I started reading whatever I could find and listening to anybody who was talking about it because I knew that I was grieving the loss of this marriage. I recognized that it was different than the grief I had experienced before when a loved one had died a physical death.

That started me out on my experience of really unpacking what it is that we experience when we suffer grief, but the person has not died a physical death. I felt, and I say, “This with the most reverence and respect for widows because having worked with people who have experienced the death of their spouse is heart-wrenching.”

I did not experience the physical death of my spouse, yet I felt like I had lost that person and the relationship. Nobody was comforting me like the widow I felt I was. I was also grieving my spouse and marriage, but there were no casseroles coming over, Orion. There were no societal norms for me to engage in that allowed me to express my grief and have my grief witnessed. 

In trying to kind of understand how I was feeling so that I could feel better, I started myself on this journey to understand ambiguous grief. Now, I help others understand it and work with it.

What is your definition of ambiguous grief?

It’s the grief experienced with the loss of a loved one who is still living, marked by hope. Hope is a really interesting outlier that I found in this experience. When our loved ones die a physical death, we understand that. We all understand we are mortal and we are going to one day die.

When we experience ambiguous grief, our brains look for opportunities and narratives that lead to a reunion or reconciliation.

When that happens, our minds don’t expect it. We don’t look for a way to believe that the loved one we’re grieving will ring our doorbell, call, or send a text. But when we’re experiencing ambiguous grief, and the person is still living, our brains begin to look for opportunities and narratives that have us hoping for a reunion or reconciliation.

Once I understood that hope presents ambiguous grief the way it doesn’t present with physical death, that was a game changer. Once we know what it is and how to identify this kind of hope, we can offer ourselves compassion and work with our grief differently.

The two things you mentioned are one, nobody witnessed your grief when you are separated, when you lose a relationship, whether it’s a romantic relationship or an intimate relationship with a best friend. There is a grieving process for that.

The second thing you said is that hope torments the one who has experienced that grief. I know that because I had a crazy, abusive relationship. Not only that was the grief of finding that guy who was an abuser, and I ended up at the hospital. He tortured me for a year because I think he was narcissistic or something, some of those mental illnesses that are not very good for the other person.

He would put me on a roller coaster between “I love you, I’m sorry, and let’s get together. You’re the most terrible person on earth. I don’t want to see you.” There is a hope and a crash, a hope and a crash, and maybe a few within 24 hours with endless texts. It was torturing me. I broke the pattern, and the way I healed from that is when I took responsibility for being involved in the relationship and went from “I’m his victim” to “I was willing to participate. I’m not a victim.”

The way I took my responsibility was to call and say, “Hey, I’m sorry.” I was in a seminar, and that’s what they offered us to do to actually call that person. Everything in me screamed, “No, don’t do that. He’s the bad one. You have the evidence on your body and in your scarred mind and soul of what happened there in the torture that you’ve been through. Why do you have to ask for forgiveness?”

Forgiveness is incredibly personal— and so is grief.

The moment I did that and called him in the beginning, it was just like, “You’re a bad person,” whatever mean things he said. Then, toward the end, he said something nice. When he said something nice, I broke down in tears. It was the most liberating moment for me.

That didn’t happen the first year, and it happened a year and a half or two years after that relationship, where I was able to go and do this whole process because it takes time to figure out where you are in life and who you are because your identity all of a sudden changes. You’re not the same person as you were with the other person, or the perceived future is completely different. Taking the responsibility for me was the most liberating thing. Even though some people will not agree with me and say, “You should never ask for forgiveness,” I needed it for myself.

Thanks for sharing that. Forgiveness is so incredibly personal—it’s like grief itself. I explore forgiveness in my book because it is a common experience that people have, no matter what has brought on the ambiguous grief. I’m glad you mentioned a friend and your relationship. Even an abusive relationship can still create space for this grief.

What I found in my research is that it’s not just a divorce, like in my experience, or a romantic relationship that you described, that can activate ambiguous grief. But many experiences where a loved one has changed, the relationship dynamic has changed as it once was, can activate ambiguous grief. Some of those experiences, for example, would be dementia or Alzheimer’s, any kind of cognitive decline. Addiction was a really big one that I found, whether it is a person whose child has become addicted to a behavior or a substance, a friend, a spouse, a parent, a sibling, or a best friend.

Everybody can be impacted when the relationship changes. Incarceration was another one. I worked with a woman who talked about the shame of her husband’s incarceration being so heavy for her that she was grateful for COVID because being in lockdown was a cover for her, not to have to share where he was or why he wasn’t around. She wasn’t sure what she would do, and she was hoping the lockdown would be extended so that his lockdown would not be revealed. We don’t think about grieving somebody to incarceration because they’re still living, but they are not in the relationship as they once were. They can’t be.

Traumatic brain injury is another one, any kind of identity change. Estrangement is a prevalent activator for ambiguous grief, somebody just ghosting you or somebody saying, “I’m not interested in being in a relationship with you anymore.”

I don’t like it when people do that. Why can’t you just be upfront with me and let me know what’s going on?

Estrangement often leads to ambiguous grief.

Right, and there’s a whole host of reasons. “What do we do with it?” As you say in your experience, “Are we victims?” Do we identify as victims and say, “Well, some people are horrible because they won’t tell me why they won’t be my friend or whatever the case may be?” Or, as you did, “Do we accept it?”

Some people may have trouble taking such responsibility as you did in saying, “I didn’t cause this,” and kind of letting that go. No, you didn’t cause it, but you are responsible for your healing. How are you helping your own healing?

Looking back, I was responsible for wanting love so much that I would ignore all the red flags. I was responsible for not taking care of myself. I was responsible for not knowing my boundaries and allowing them to be crossed. It’s not like an abusive relationship starts, and all of a sudden, “Yeah, I’m your abuser. Let’s have fun together.” It doesn’t start like that.

It’s like the frog in the boiling water. If you put a frog in boiling water, it will jump, and you’ll know it’s bad for it. But if you put it in cold water and turn on the heat slowly, it will stay there until it dies. Fortunately, I didn’t die. It may be possible if I stay there longer, but it doesn’t start like that.

The way it started for me is that there was a very strong attraction. He was very handsome and extremely intelligent, really good with his words. He told me everything I wanted to hear. I was a goddess put on a pedestal. We planned our life and retirement together. Everything was so beautiful.

In trying to process my emotions so that I could feel better, I started on a journey to understand ambiguous grief. Now, I help others understand it and work through it.

That’s his part of the manipulation, but I played along because I wanted to be a part of that fairytale. This is part of my responsibility within it. It doesn’t mean that I’m taking everything on myself. What he did was just bad, and I was a willing participant.

Some people I can imagine will say, “Why are you grieving? He was a jerk. He was horrible to you. Why would you grieve that?” But the reality is, you just said, it didn’t start that way. In my own case, at the end of my marriage, I didn’t know our marriage was in trouble. I loved my marriage and learned it wasn’t what I thought it was.

How did you learn about it? All of a sudden, he gets up in the morning and says, “I’m going, bye” after so many years.

No. I write about it to give context. One morning, I learned through chance. I don’t believe in chance. It was divinely timed. I discovered emails that showed that my marriage wasn’t what I believed it to be. Having a family and terrific children it was an absolute shock. It was being put in boiling water. I had no hint.

People can get angry on our behalf and say, “Why would you grieve knowing what you know now?” When you look back and see that there was no physical abuse, but there was integrity abuse in my marriage. In your case, physical abuse, so people will say, “Why would you grieve that?” But the reality is grief is equal and proportionate to the love.

You didn’t fall in love with somebody who started abusing you emotionally, physically, financially, and integrally. However, if that person is abusing you, it doesn’t happen first. The love happens first. As the rest is revealed, wherever there is deep grief, there is deep love.

When our Starbucks barista transfers or our mail carrier is assigned to a different route, we’re probably not grieving that, even if we see them daily. Those relationships we build and nurture that we care about are the spring in which the love comes. That love is what is grieved when the relationship is no longer there.

Many of us try to avoid grief and pain. However, we’re often quick to forgive before allowing ourselves to process through our traumatic emotions.

If we can learn to show up for ourselves and recognize, “Oh, I’m not just in a funk, or I’m not just sad. This is the grief I’m experiencing,” no matter who the relationship is, that’s no longer there. We can learn to carry it with us. We can learn how to integrate it and how to feel it. I believe grief is a transformative human experience that is a portal to our greatest and highest self if we allow it. The problem is we’re so grief-phobic in our society that we don’t allow it. We don’t talk about it.

Grief is like the metamorphosis of a caterpillar inside the cocoon. We need to go through that and break through the cocoon to spread our wings. If somebody comes and tries to even open the cocoon, that butterfly will never fly a day in its life.

We have to do it for ourselves. That’s right.

Our soul chose that. We can rise or try to avoid, never get the lesson, and just have it as a repetitive pattern. You don’t know me. Right now, I’m happily married to a really amazing man. When I look back at that moment, it was like a gift with a bow on the bottom. I couldn’t unpack it at that moment, but years later, it brought me to who I am today, even building this podcast for the last eight years, having incredible people like you and sharing all this.

The relationships we build and nurture are a wellspring of love. We grieve the loss of love when a relationship ends.

Something we share today can touch the heart of someone and create a real transformation in their life because you talked about being seen, and the first person we need to be seen by is ourselves. When you have people like you who share this amazing information, and you come and tell somebody, “Hey, you are grieving, and that’s okay,” and that person sees themselves, they can love and accept themselves more. Their metamorphosis process is going to be so much faster and more profound.

Yes, you’re right. It is. It’s something we have to do, work through, and experience. Grief isn’t something that is here, and then it’s not. It’s not something that we are going to do these things in this order, and then we’ll go back to how we once were. Like love, it is transformative.

We learn to integrate it and carry it as a part of us, not as something ugly and hideous that we don’t want to ever look at or something so painful. It’s something that is a normal and natural response to loss. That is what grief is.

You’re right. The more we can honor ourselves and say, “Oh, that’s what this is,” the more we can see it in others and help one another. You’re right; no friend could have opened your cocoon for you, but they could be around you, showing love, sending support, holding space to say, “You can do this. This is what this is, and it’s okay.”

I have learned about myself through contrast, and I learned quickly through contrast. Having an experience that I don’t like or that doesn’t feel aligned is a gift for me because I’m able to say, “Oh, well, that’s what I don’t like.” Now, I can see more clearly what I do, what is for me, and my path.

Grief is one of those things that we want to turn off right away because it doesn’t feel good because it is awkward, uncomfortable, or depending on our family of origin or our culture, we might not have been witness to the grief of our families. We might not have been permitted to grieve. We don’t know how or what’s okay; we only know what we’ve witnessed.

Ambiguous grief is experienced when you’ve lost a relationship with a loved one, but there’s still hope for restoration. Share on X

Some haven’t witnessed grief in their lives, so when an experience comes to them, they don’t know how to handle it. Learning, by contrast—and you described it without saying as much—you’re in a relationship now that is fulfilling and aligned with your soul. You know it’s aligned because you had a relationship that was not.

For people who are just going through grief or any of your listeners who are just going through a really difficult time, looking at it through the lens of contrast might be helpful. It is hard to move through it, and allowing people to hold space is a gift to them and you.

Yes. I follow Abraham-Hicks. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Esther Hicks. They talk about your vortex, which I can describe as an energy field around you where everything you want is there, with infinite possibilities of infinite timelines and futures that you can tap into. Through experience contrast in life, through experiencing the darkness, you know what the light is. The next level after forgiveness is gratitude for yourself, that situation, and that person who came and taught you that lesson.

The problem in our society is we’re so grief-phobic — we don’t allow grief. We don’t talk about grief.

Neale Donald Walsh has this little book for kids that I love: The Little Soul and the Sun. It’s a story about a soul wanting to come to Earth to experience itself as forgiveness. Another soul volunteers to dim its light, become dark, and show up to teach that soul a lesson so it can experience forgiveness.

I’m getting goosebumps just saying that it’s a beautiful book. I read it to my little son. It’s so profound. Some children’s books are profound for adults and kids as well. But it’s a few steps later. Why don’t you tell me because you’re the expert?

I don’t know if I’m the expert, but I’m certainly sharing what I’ve discovered. Forgiveness is something that I’ve learned a lot about, and not in the way you might think. What I learned was as much as our culture is grief-averse, we are forgiveness champions.

I would have people tell me in the beginning that you have to forgive. “You will not heal unless you forgive, so you may as well forgive now.” I take real umbrage with that. It did not align with me then. No.

Personally, I’m clear when I write about this, and when I talk about it, forgiveness is a good thing. Forgiveness is a great thing. It is a virtue in Catholicism. It is found around the world. People have been writing about forgiveness for millennia. I am not a hater of forgiveness. However, I am not an advocate.

If we say we forgive, but internally hold onto hurt or anger, we fall out of alignment with our integrity. Share on X

Because it isn’t mine for one or the other. It’s yours. It’s each of ours individually because I don’t know what your soul is here to do. I believe that we feel so much pressure to forgive because we want to be a good person because society tells us or because of the etiquette books in the late 19th century. I found through my research that this is what a proper person does.

The etiquette of this Victorian age said this is what we do. Somebody harms you in any way, steps on your gown splatters you with their carriage wheel, whatever it may be, and they say, “Sorry,” you say, “it’s okay.” That’s such a transactional experience. We don’t allow ourselves to feel actual hurt, anger, and disappointment, and then we don’t allow ourselves to feel real forgiveness. We just want to be a good person.

If you go to any sandbox at a park today and watch kids, and I have three children, I am guilty of this. You want your children to be invited back to the play date when they are young. You want your children to build relationships, so you play in the park. Somebody takes your kid’s toy, and we might quickly say, “Oh, no.” Tell him, “It’s okay,” or tell her, “You’re sorry.” Why aren’t we giving our children agency over what that feels like?

When we rush to forgive somebody but don’t truly feel forgiveness, we offer faux-giveness—fake forgiveness.

“It’s not okay, and this kid just took my toy again.” Why do I have to say, “It’s okay?” It’s not okay. That’s a special toy to me. If we can advocate for our kids and not worry about what the etiquette books say but allow them, we can teach them not to harbor anger. We can teach them to feel it, to release it, and to dialogue with one another on that hurt my feelings, Orion, that you took my toy. “Well, I want it. It hurt my feelings. I don’t want to share it with you.” There’s no apology.

When we rush to forgive somebody without feeling it, I call it faux-giveness, fake. It is faux-giveness. I wrote an article for Spirituality+Health magazine about the dangers of faux-giveness because when we forgive and don’t feel the forgiveness, we are out of alignment with our integrity. There are physiological responses that happen. It increases our blood pressure and our heart rate quickens. We might develop headaches.

Our bodies respond if we’re living in a state of perpetual faux-giveness. “Oh, I forgive you,” but you really don’t. You’re only hurting yourself. Instead of chasing forgiveness and looking for forgiveness because I want to be a good person, I will just say, “I forgive. Let forgiveness find you instead.” You don’t need to go in search of it. It will present.

In that seminar, I was not expecting that exercise of forgiveness, and it came to me. I was not ready to do it until the very end, the very last day, because I was like, “I can’t do it.” I love what you’re saying. It’s about alignment. It’s about feeling all your feelings and going through the process. Some people take decades and decades until they forgive someone, and that’s okay. Even if they don’t, that’s okay too. Whatever they want to do, we’re all sovereign people. We all do what’s right for us. We’ll need to listen to our hearts first.

It’s about the intention of forgiveness. “Me forgiving him was not to be a good girl. Me forgiving him meant letting go of all this heaviness in my body and my lack of ability to date anybody else since that relationship.” The moment I did that, I was able to date again. I think it’s also the intention of forgiveness where you look inside and you’re like, “Okay, my cup is full, I had enough, I’m ready to let go of this.”

Soulbroken by Stephanie Sarazin

To your point, that may never come, and that’s okay. As long as you’re not ruminating in the pain of it all and wearing your victim cap, then you’re poisoning yourself. They say anger held without forgiveness is your own poison.

Again, just like grief is love, I relate forgiveness to the idea of love because if I said to you, Orion, you need to go and call this person you know and tell them that you love them. You’re like, “Who?” No, tell them you love them madly and deeply. You can say that. You can say it and not feel it, and it wouldn’t be true. Why do that?

You know when you feel love. When you feel that inside of you, you know what that is for you. “Oh, I love this person. My feelings are growing.” Love rarely happens in a snap instant with a romantic partner. This isn’t a parent-child bond. A romantic bond doesn’t always happen at first sight.

Just as you wouldn’t tell somebody you love them because you think you should, even though you know you don’t, you’re not sure, or all of the things, check yourself with forgiveness that same way. “Am I saying this because I feel like I should because it’s the right thing to do because I don’t want to hurt their feelings?” It’s okay not to tell somebody you love them madly and deeply if you don’t, and it’s okay not to tell somebody you forgive them.

Tell yourself you forgive that person because forgiveness can happen without the other person hearing you say that. In your case, you were invited to call, and you met that. That felt okay to you. In many situations, re-establishing contact with somebody you have forgiven is not a good idea.

I don’t need to call my ex-spouse to say, “Hey, I just want to let you know I forgive you.” I don’t need to do that. I can still feel forgiveness, but I don’t need to make it ceremonial in any way but for myself. I call it the other F-word. Forgiveness is a hot button for many people, but I invite you.

Everything that you do because it’s a thing is not a good thing to do.

Put that on a coffee cup. That’s a great line to remember.

Much like love, grief is a vital part of life. We need to allow ourselves to grieve, work through our complicated emotions, and journey toward healing. Share on X

Also, if you look at the language, instead of “I should do it,” you can say, “I can do it, or I’m choosing to do it.” When you’re choosing, when it’s a choice, it’s a good thing. But when you’re doing anything because you should, you’re stepping over your own boundaries, and it will cause you harm.

Right. If you’re doing it out of an obligation to somebody else, that’s often an invitation for resentment to start building.

Talking about forgiveness, I have a lot of people I haven’t forgiven in my life now. When I say a lot, I’m Israeli, and October 7th happened. Women were brutally murdered, raped, dragged through Gaza, babies were burned alive in ovens. Those were unprovoked citizens who were just in their sleep, and the horrors went on and on. I don’t want to even go into the gory details of what they did to young children. I cannot forgive those people.

I don’t think anybody in my country will ever forgive those people. How can you forgive somebody who does such atrocities? I’m not in a place to forgive. Right now, Israel, Israelis, and our soldiers, we’re in a place of no revenge. It’s a war for protecting our children.

If you say you forgive out of obligation, but haven’t processed through your feelings, it’s an invitation for resentment to build.

If we’re not going to go there and eliminate all this terrorist establishment and the city of tunnels that is under Gaza, that is full of explosive and very smart weapons, because they’re saying out loud, if we can, we’re going to do October 7th again, their plan was bigger than 1500 people, their plan was somehow there was a miscommunication between them and another terrorist organization, I didn’t understand exactly, but they want to do it again. If you’ll give them a chance, they’ll do it again.

You can’t be like, “Oh, I forgive you, my brother, because throughout history, we did it.” There were so many agreements offering some. Gaza has its own government. We gave it here, it’s yours, take it. But you can’t forgive somebody who just raised their kids from a very young age to kill you.

There was a story about this Palestinian lady. This happened a few years ago when they had access to Israel back and forth until they were like, “Well, we have to put a fence on because we just don’t want to have any more bombing happen.” She came, and she was put in a hospital. Israeli doctors treat her with kindness and respect for six months. She came back a few months later with an explosive on her body, trying to bomb the whole hospital. When asked about it in jail, she said, “I was dreaming about being a Shahid from a very young age as a girl. That was my dream.”

I don’t know how to have forgiveness for these people. I’m not there. I’m not there at all. I have zero tolerance and zero forgiveness for somebody who wants to destroy my family and my country. From the river to the sea, it was never a Palestine state.

I don’t think you need to, especially at this time, put any pressure on yourself for forgiveness. I’m not saying you are putting pressure. But what I learned from the October 7th attack was something that I wish we all knew, and that is this beautiful tradition of Shiva and bearing witness. Just like love needs to be witnessed, grief needs to be witnessed, and you share that story just now is bearing witness.

It is a tradition that has been part of Judaism for millennia. It is a beautiful ritual that says, “I see your grief, as you know.” This was back to the beginning of our conversation here today. I imagined this might be how a widow would feel, but nobody was here to witness.

Grief is love turned inside out.

I had hundreds of people at my wedding celebrating our marriage. I had very few witnessing my grief over the end of that marriage. That’s what we need. That’s what grievers need. We need to tell our stories. We need to speak of the love and our loss. And we need people to Shiva and hear us.

For people who don’t know, Shiva is after a loved one dies, you sit for seven days. You don’t leave your home. People come and visit you, comfort you, and bring you food. It’s a big Mitzvah. Mitzvah means a good deed to come and comfort even a stranger.

I can say that as an American Israeli, I have a very strong American identity and also a very strong Israeli identity. I have been going through tremendous grief in the last two months. Not only that, there is also the grief of seeing all the antisemitism in a country that I thought was so cool.

Antisemitism is like World War II. Those are Holocaust times. All of a sudden, you see it on the streets. It’s like, “Whoa, it’s another type of grief.” How can people twist what happened at Yale University, saying it’s okay to the call to have that call for the genocide of Jews? I guess I am dealing with that type of grief. It’s not my grief, but it’s like a national grief. It’s grief as being like being Jewish.

If we allow ourselves to fully grieve, we can experience transformation and beauty. We become our fullest, most authentic selves when we work through grief. Share on X

I’ve never felt so Jewish until all those calls for antisemitism. I love everybody equally. I have friends from Jordan, and I have friends from Syria. In Israel, when I lived in Jaffa, my best friend was an Arab Israeli. But when you see so much hate, that brings your identity out, and that brings a lot of grief. I know we don’t have much time, but maybe you can give me some tools to deal with all this.

Thank you for sharing that. It is grief. It’s grief rooted in fear because it isn’t a grief you experience when love is intact. If your grandmother has died, you can grieve and be filled with love at the same time. How wonderful to have that kind of grief.

To have grief that is rooted, born from fear, is scary, it’s difficult, it’s gnarled, and it’s nuanced. It’s a different kind of grief. Added another layer to this is grief that not everybody feels. In this way, it’s ambiguous.

It’s very ambiguous. I went to a mastermind a week after October 7th. I painted at the airport because of stress. Everybody had their normal life, and nobody understood what I was going through. It isolates you from your small community and small identity, whereas I’m the type of person who loves to feel everybody’s equal. I love oneness, and I love expansion. We’re all in it together, and all of a sudden, you feel isolated in your grief.

The Little Soul and the Sun by Neale Donald Walsch

Absolutely. That’s something called disenfranchised grief, where it isn’t recognized or validated. Some people might look at your grief and say, “Oh, she’s being dramatic, or I don’t know why she’s grieving about this or talking about this. She didn’t have any loved ones impacted by the attack. Nobody died in her family.” I say this glibly, but I don’t feel that way. These are narratives that might bring about the disenfranchised grief. That’s why you’re not feeling arms around you.

A side note: there is no one family in Israel that wasn’t affected.

This is what I’m saying. Of course, you’re impacted. We’re all impacted, if we understand what happened. I am not Jewish. I understand what happened. I am impacted.

My friends are deeply impacted, and I care about my friends. Yet if there is no direct link, “Oh, Orion didn’t have anybody die from her family, so why is she behaving this way?” This is what people will think. That is why your grief is disenfranchised because they’re connecting it incorrectly. Again, I’m not giving everybody the benefit of the doubt by giving grace here.

But also, there is a lot of fear because they’re still sending rockets to Israel.

It’s far from over.

In half a mile, near my mom’s house, there was a rocket that fell. My sister was driving to a New Year’s party. Exactly at 12, it was an open field. She saw the rockets in the sky. It actually happened to her twice. So yeah, we’re all impacted.

Absolutely. This is where grief and any life experience that is out of the ordinary to what we’re expecting puts us at risk for diagnoses such as PTSD. This is a traumatic event, and that’s why you fainted at the airport. Your physiology is trying to process and comprehend. Again, when that deep sense of grief, your feeling is rooted in fear, I feel so much compassion because it is so hard.

Thank you. I feel seen by you. I feel you.

Thank you for sharing this with all of us and allowing me to bear witness in some small way and allowing the rest of us to bear witness. If there is one thing we can do for each other to transform grief, it is to bear witness and allow others to grieve openly and honestly. I see your grief.

We need to feel free to share our stories of grief, love, and loss. Giving voice to our hard experiences can lead to catharsis.

I really appreciate you. You’re a very kind soul. They say you can look at people’s faces and see who they are. When I look at your face, regardless of holding the hands of so many people and dealing with the worst, terrible thing in life, which is grief, your face looks like a person who loves life. So much joy inside, so much empathy, and so much care. I’m very happy.

It’s a good reminder that there are many amazing people in the world. We see life, and we can focus on what’s dark, but in this concept of the universe, Yin-Yang, and light versus darkness, there’s a lot of darkness, and there’s also a lot of light in a lot of people like you that are good and just bringing more light, more care, and more love into the world. So thank you so much for that.

You’re welcome. Thank you for having me in this discussion and all the conversations you’re bringing to the Stellar Life podcast. I hope we stay in touch, Orion—much love to you.

For people just going through grief, looking at it through the lens of contrast might be helpful.

Yes, me too. Before we say goodbye, two things quickly: what are your three top tips for living a stellar life, and where can people find you?

Three top tips to live a stellar life. (1) To be in alignment with yourself always. (2) To figure out who you are. (3) Allow yourself to give and receive love, even when it’s hard. People can find me online. On Instagram, I’m @stephing_thru, and my website is stephaniesarazin.com

Thank you. What’s the name of your book?

My book is Soulbroken: A Guide for Your Journey Through Ambiguous Grief.

Beautiful. They can get it anywhere.

Anywhere books are sold. Yes, thank you.

Perfect. Stephanie, thank you so much for sharing this wisdom. Thank you for allowing me to be open and vulnerable with you and our listeners, sharing my heart, and being witnessed and seen by someone who can hold space as you do. I’m sure you help a lot of people. Yes, everybody who needs help, get the book or contact Stephanie because she’s a gem.

It’s an honor. Thank you, Orion.

Thank you. Thank you, listeners. Remember to be in alignment with yourself, figure out who you are, allow yourself to give and receive love, and have a stellar life. This is Orion till next time.

Your Checklist of Actions to Take

{✓}Experience your grief fully and honestly. Don’t bottle up your emotions or pretend to be fine when you’re hurting. Create space so that you can process, vent if needed, and be kind to yourself in difficult moments.

{✓}Understand the ambiguous grief you feel. Ambiguous grief occurs when your loved ones are still alive, but your relationships have drastically changed. This grief is still valid—learn to honor it.

{✓}Don’t rush to forgive to feel like a “good person.” Fake forgiveness can cause you resentment and physiological stress. You need to be authentically ready to forgive, no matter how long it takes.

{✓}Align your actions with your true feelings. Don’t betray your heart by saying things you don’t yet genuinely feel. It’s vital to live authentically in order to grow and heal.

{✓}Share space and compassion for others to grieve. Become a nonjudgmental listener and a shoulder to cry on. Help those who grieve to feel seen and heard. Community support makes a huge difference in the healing process.

{✓}Share your grief with others, even when it’s hard. Sharing your grief connects you with others and can provide catharsis. Grief is a universally shared experience.

{✓}Discover your true, authentic self. Self-reflection is hard work, but it can erase your false narratives and allow you to experience genuine growth. Align your actions with your authentic self to experience fulfillment.

{✓}Connect your thoughts, emotions, and actions. Wisely choose your path and avoid making decisions based on external pressure. Peace comes when you align with your authentic self.

{✓}Intentionally give and receive love. Open yourself to love’s transformative power. Your highest self emerges through love, especially in periods of grief.

{✓}Visit Stephanie Sarazin’s website to learn more about how to navigate through ambiguous grief. You can also order her guidebook Soulbroken to help you as you grieve. 

Links and Resources

Connect with Stephanie Sarazin

YouTube Video



Further Resources

About Stephanie Sarazin

Stephanie Sarazin is a writer, researcher, and ambiguous grief guide, who aims to help others grieving the loss of a loved one who is still living, but no longer as they once were. Her work began with her own experience of loss, which sparked an ambitious journey spiritually and around the world to understand, name, and heal the grief she found within her.

Her efforts revealed a first-of-its-kind definition for ambiguous grief, whereby grief is onset by the loss of a loved one who is still living and wherein the experience of hope presents as a stage of the grieving process. Stephanie’s work brings new resources to reframe disruptive, activating events as a gateway to discovering your highest self, in turn championing ambiguous grief as nuanced, natural, and navigable. Her book “Soulbroken: A Guidebook For Your Journey Through Ambiguous Grief” is the 2023 Nautilus Book Awards GOLD Winner.

The medical, fitness, psychological, mindset, lifestyle, and nutritional information provided on this website and through any materials, downloads, videos, webinars, podcasts, or emails are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical/fitness/nutritional advice, diagnoses, or treatment. Always seek the help of your physician, psychologist, psychiatrist, therapist, certified trainer, or dietitian with any questions regarding starting any new programs or treatments or stopping any current programs or treatments. This website is for information purposes only, and the creators and editors, including Orion Talmay, accept no liability for any injury or illness arising out of the use of the material contained herein, and make no warranty, express or implied, with respect to the contents of this website and affiliated materials.

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