Since 1988, October has been declared National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. Whether you’re 1 in 4 people who have experienced the excruciating loss of a child, or not, my hope is to inspire you to make Time to be Kind by remembering & honoring those who have lost a child during pregnancy or infancy.
Today’s episode is a raw and vulnerable conversation with Dr. Betsy Guerra who has experienced the tragic loss of her daughter and now teaches others how to move from “Hurt 2 Hope”.
[Scroll down to timestamp 29:18 for coupon code]
Follow @BetterWithBetsy on social media
Dr. Betsy's website BetterWithBetsy.Com
Hey PARKer, I’m Marly Q. and welcome to Episode #28 with Dr. Betsy Guerra. If you’ve been listening this past month, you know my husband Bert and I have been celebrating the birth of our second son but today, we’re making Time to be Kind to remember our first pregnancy which we sadly lost after 12 weeks.
Even though it’s sad & seldom talked about, October has been declared National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month since 1988 and so my hope today is to inspire you to make Time to be Kind by remembering & honoring those who have lost a child during pregnancy or infancy.
Whether you’re 1 in 4 people who have experienced the excruciating loss of a child, or not, we can all empathize with feeling pain & loss. If you’re like me and tend to avoid talking about your pain or feeling sadness then you’re going to connect with today’s special guest.
Dr. Betsy Guerra is a highly sought after Speaker and Psychotherapist, who has focused her career over the past 20 years helping struggling marriages & families cope with grief. After experiencing the tragic loss of her daughter 7 years ago though, she now also coaches and teaches people how to cope with loss and use pain, grief & sadness as a stepping stone to joy. Her heart-wrenching story teaches us how it’s possible to move from Hurt to Hope.
[01:35] Marly Q: I have here on the show today, the honor, the privilege, really the blessing of having someone that has not only gone through this experience, but helps so many people go from hurt and grief and loss to hope, and I'm just so honored to have you here and to share you with my community.
[01:54] Betsy: Thank you, Marly. Thank you, it's my honor.
[01:58] Marly Q: So, I had the honor of meeting you a couple years ago through a mutual friend, Luly B, who was just on the podcast a couple episodes ago, and she's really the spark of awesomeness, right? And great connections. And when I met you and heard your story, heard you speak on her SPARK with Luly B stage and hear about your angel, you know, daughter in heaven, and just how you were able to bring joy to your talk on such a deep and heavy topic, I was just like, "Who is this woman? And I must connect with her and have her be a part of my life.", because if it's one emotion that I've struggled with feeling my whole life, and I'll change the word struggle, I'll say avoid, I've avoided feeling my whole life is sadness.
I think everyone listening or that knows me, even for five minutes can tell that I'm a jovial person, I am light-hearted, I like to be positive and whenever, you know, we're kind of going through dark times and difficult times, I do whatever I need to do to deny that I feel sad, distract myself from feeling sad, or really just dismiss it altogether and move on, right? Let's just get over this as quickly as possible. And what I've learned, even just virtually through you, because we've never worked one-on-one through grief is, you have to allow yourself to feel the sadness, right? In order to be able to use it, to propel you to move forward.
[03:18] Betsy: And I think that's one of the things that pain does, it builds this level of empathy and the ability to connect with other human beings that may be in pain, that's beautiful. And while that's beautiful, it's hard, right? Because sadness has been socially defined as a negative emotion, but
Shakespeare said this once, "Nothing is either good or bad, but thinking makes it so."
And emotions also are neutral, they're not good, and they're not bad; sadness is not bad. But if we think it is, and we think it's negative, and we think it's something to avoid, then we're going to escape it. And I want to start by sharing a little bit about that, because there were two things that you said that I-- that caught my attention based on my journey, and obviously, like I have experienced the journey of grief personally but I've also been on the other side, right? Because I've been a therapist for 20 years, and I've sat with my clients and accompanied them through their pain, and I know what that feels like and I know what it looks like to give them tools, and really at the beginning, just hold space because when you're grieving a loss and when I say a loss, I mean the loss of a loved one, whether it's through divorce or death or because that person moved away to college or whatever, there are so many ways of losing a loved one, like you said, like a miscarriage, stillbirth. There's also the loss of your health, of a job, of your financial freedom, there's the loss of your life as you knew it, the loss of your dreams, of your peace of mind, of your plans. I mean, this pandemic that we've all experienced this year is an example of that; everybody experienced loss this year, everybody, even if it was the loss of their routine, right? So, loss is loss, and grieving, we all grieve. But we think that only people that lose a loved one to death is grieving but the truth is that when you go through something like what you and I have gone through, you realize that we all experience grief; pain is inevitable. And there's a quote that says, "Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional" and that's what I have devoted my life and career to helping others understand.
Pain is hope because pain is the foundation for growth, it's the stepping stone to joy.
If you don't allow yourself to sit with that pain, that pain will stay inside of you and although you may escape it and avoid it, it's not going anywhere. In fact, it'll deepen because it's just becoming stronger and stronger and stronger with time if you don't let it out. So, sitting with pain is the opportunity to overcome it. Now, suffering is pain without hope, it's pain just to suffer, right? Like, when you think of sadness as an experience that you go through, just to feel bad and just to be miserable, that suffering, it's dark, there's no light at the end of the tunnel, there's no point for it, and it's excruciating, and we all go through that. We all go through that at the beginning when we've experienced a loss and have a hard time accepting that this is our new reality but when we are ready to accept and embrace that pain, and understand that it's been allowed for a greater good because it trains us for something greater, then you're able to sit with it, and you embrace it, and you welcome it, almost excited knowing that something amazing is going to come.
Like, every time I experienced pain nowadays, or I'm sad nowadays, obviously, at the beginning, it feels like crap, you can't take away from that, but at some point, when I create self awareness, I'm like, "Huh, I wonder what's building up inside of me. I wonder what gifts I'm developing. I'm wondering what's to come and wondering what I'm training for.", and I almost get excited for it. I'm like, "Okay, Bring it on. I'm going to embrace this pain, I'm going to go through this, I'm going to learn from this" ...
and in that moment, the suffering, the sadness, it becomes something different, it becomes an opportunity.
So, I think we should start by seeing, like you said, like sadness, as the steppingstone to joy, as the opportunity to grow. That's one of the things you said how you, like, avoid sadness at all cost because you may feel like it's the opposite of this joy and sparkle that you have, but the truth is, that it's the path.
Pain is the path to joy.
[08:18] Marly Q: Absolutely. But just real quick here to add, is allowing myself the time and the space to be kind to myself, and sit with the sadness, sit with the loss, sit with the pain, and the grief, it was the first time that I ever allowed myself that time to be kind to me, just be like, "Hey, this is how you feel right now.", not try to move past it, or justify it or anything else. So, I really think when we're talking about kindness, which is what you know, this podcast is all about, I really think that that for me, that's self awareness and that practice, because it's the practice of, you know, shifting your mindset into, "How can I be kinder to myself in this moment, with this emotion?", really helped me to get into a different space and shift my mindset because I know that you said, right? When you are experiencing pain, it sucks at first, right? And being real with that and allowing that to be it, not making it wrong, but through your practice of shifting your mindset and allowing yourself that kindness, you're able to see that stepping stone, that next little step into some hope. Like, "What is this training me for? What am I you know, going to learn from this? What gift can be here for me?", and I think that that's a practice.
[09:36] Betsy: Absolutely. I always say and I have a video about this, it's on my YouTube and it's called "The Real Truth about Pain.", I always say that pain is a fertilizer. What is fertilizer made of?
[09:48] Marly Q: Poop!
[09:50] Betsy: Okay, so pain feels like poop, it smells like crap, it feels like crap too, but it makes us grow; it nourishes us, it makes us stronger, it gives fruits. So, pain really is the path to greatness. I'm not a masochist, and I don't want-- I will avoid pain at all costs but the way I avoid pain is different to the way that I used to avoid pain and that you were describing you avoid pain, right? I avoid pain or suffering really, I avoid suffering by embracing the pain that I'm in and learning from it quickly. So, sometimes I'll say, I pray, and I'll be like, "God, what do you want me to learn from this? Please reveal it to me soon so that I learn it fast and I can get rid of this fertilizing pain.", right?
So, if you have that perspective on pain, and you understand that there's a difference between that and suffering, then you're able to have a more fulfilling life in general.
And I will tell you about the second thing because it has everything to do with kindness. The second thing that I noticed was your comments on disappointing your family, and it made me think of the many times that I felt like Debbie Downer, right? Like, I was-- the first month, maybe more than a month, I don't even know, right? Like, the first month after losing my daughter, I was sad all the time and I used to be very jovial too, very happy, I am actually; I used to be and now I am totally very happy. I was a very happy person and I was fun to be around with and at some point I would gather with my friends or my family and I would always end up crying, or teary-eyed or down or walking like a zombie, and I was like, "Oh my gosh, I am so not fun to be around.", and I was embarrassed and I felt like I was disappointing everybody and I wonder if someone wanted to be around me, and I just, I really felt like a Debbie Downer. And I almost wanted to lock myself inside of my own little world and lock myself in the house and not talk to anyone and not share with people, to not be that Debbie Downer, which in grief creates a sense of loneliness, because you feel like, nobody can get you. And for me, I was fortunate enough to have empathetic people that allowed me to be sad.
But I know from my experience as a therapist, that for many people, like especially people going through a divorce, which is a big grief, a big sense of loss, they hear their family members or their friends be like, "Come on, until when? Get over it already. It's been two years, you know, like enough is enough.". and people think that they know how long your grief should be for, and they don't realize that in a divorce, for example, there's the grief of losing your spouse, there's the grief of losing your sense of security, because your spouse cheated on you and now you have no confidence and you don't trust your judgment, because you're wondering, like, "Oh my gosh, if I couldn't figure this out for years, can I really trust my judgment moving forward, and the decisions that I make?", then you lose your dreams and your life as you knew it, and the holidays, and the dreams you had as a family, you lose your children for certain amount of days a week, you lose the ability to be there for your kids and support them in ways that you were able to do on the day to day, there's so many losses involved in a divorce, for example, that people don't understand that they're not grieving the divorce, they're grieving now, the changes in the parent child relationship, they're grieving now, they met another person, and that they're struggling with like, "Do I trust this person? Do I trust myself, in choosing this person? I thought I had chosen to person I was going to spend the rest of my life with before, this is going to happen again, right?". Like, people don't understand that so then, you're scared and that creates a sense of loneliness because you're scared of being judged, you're scared of not being understood, you live in fear. So, when you were saying, "I didn't want to disappoint my family, and I didn't want them to see me sad.", I thought, "Oh my gosh, like that's how I felt when I was thinking that I was a total Debbie Downer.". And I remember learning through that experience, that people that love you, and care for you, want and crave the opportunity to sit with you in pain, and accompany you and hold space and be of service.
There's nothing more rewarding to somebody that loves you, than feeling that he or she made a difference in your day, that he or she brought some hope, and that builds empathy in other people too.
Now, keep in mind that some people are just as uncomfortable with pain as you are so, they may want to bring you back to joy and be like, "No, don't cry, don't cry. Don't worry about it.", and then they say all these things that you're like, "Really?", like, you know, like they told me things like, "Oh, she's in a better place.", I'm like, "Well, she was really happy in my house, you know? I lived in heaven. I had a heavenly family and relationship with my daughter.", or people will say, "Oh, God needed another angel.", I'm like, "Well, God has enough angels.". Like, people want to remove the pain because they're just as uncomfortable as we are many times and that's sort of emotional ignorance so, it's not that they don't validate or care. There was a client of mine that her mother in law, she had just lost her daughter, it was a stillbirth, it was very excruciatingly painful, and the mother in law was like, "Listen, you need to like write thank you cards for all the people that went to the funeral.", and she was like, "Really, like, I'm in no place to be writing any thank you cards of anything.". So, people may not--- it's true that people may not understand or know how to sit in pain with you because they're uncomfortable with it too so, by trying to remove it or get your attention off of it, they're really hurting you and they don't know it.
But the people that understand the pain, and we're some of those people, so people that understand pain have built a level of empathy and emotional maturity that allows them to sit with you and hold space and bring hope by their mere presence and that is the greatest gift that you can give to someone that's grieving, just being there. That's it.
[16:56] Marly Q: Giving them that time and space to be kind, yes.
[17:00] Betsy: So, don't worry about disappointing other people, and give them the opportunity to be there for you and be kind to you, because that will strengthen your love and relationship in a way that nothing else can. My best friends and the people that I treasure the most in my life nowadays are people that were kind to me while I was not fun to be around them. And I realized that if they stick around then and if they loved me then, gosh, they'll love me when I'm back to my joyful self, and it's an opportunity for them, it's an opportunity for me, and it's a great opportunity for the relationship to be strengthened.
[17:46] Marly Q: With that, I definitely want to transition into talking about your program that you launched a couple months ago, because I know that it's a big deal. It was a big deal for you to create, I think it's a huge service to the world, I would just love for you to share a bit of your program, Hurt 2 Hope, with our PARKers listening.
[18:06] Betsy: I'll tell you this story before I go into that. I lost my daughter in a tragic accident in my pool and to this day, I don't know what happened because I was right there, and like I don't know how it possibly happened. But I found her at the bottom of the pool, I was in the pool so, I immediately went to get her. She had a pulse, like I had an emergency medical doctor in my house that gave her CPR like, it was like the perfect situation for her to be saved. I live five minutes from the hospital, the ambulance came in two seconds like it was just perfect for her to be saved, and she was saved, just not the way I wanted her to be saved. And the day after that accident, I was hiding in my walk-in closet with my husband, we had a lot of people in my house and I felt overwhelmed so, I was-- I felt safe in my closet. And I was sitting there with my husband when our spiritual director, who was a priest at the time, came to our house so, we invited him to our walk-in closet. And we were all sitting down on the floor and my husband asked him with a sense of urgency ...
"Are we ever going to be happy again?
You've done this before; you've seen this before. Like, are we ever going to be happy again? Is it possible to be happy again?", and the priest told us, "Some people are happy again and some people are never happy again.". And my husband continued, he said, "What's the difference? What is the difference? Who like, what do I need to do?", and he said, "The people that are never happy again, honor their children or their loved one, through pain and suffering and they feel that the more they love, the more they have to suffer because if they stop suffering, then they don't care.", right? And that's something that society has taught us about grief, we measure love through tears and sadness, and loneliness and all these things. And he said, "But the people that are happy again, are people that choose to honor their loved one through service, kindness, and love.". And I remember in that moment, thinking, "I'm going to be like the latter ones.", I didn't know how Marly and I didn't think I could possibly honor my daughter in any other way than grieving and suffering and crying, and in the moment, it didn't seem feasible; it was impossible. Like, I'm human, I couldn't.
But in hindsight, I know that I made a decision that day that I was going to be happy again and that's how I was going to honor her. And it was a process, it's been seven years since this happened, but I have evolved, and I feel I have been guided in the process.
So, that's the cool thing about this, you don't have to know how you're going to do it, you don't need to know if you're capable of doing it because God or the universe, the source that you believe in, will give you the strength and the clarity and the wisdom and discernment, and I am a testament to that. And God has guided me and Fofi, who's my daughter, has guided me to learn how to continue her legacy and honor her memory through love, kindness and service.
So, this Hurts 2 Hope program, I originally did it through a foundation that you know, through which we help families that were going through hardships with their kids, then I've continued doing it through my one on one like, I'm a therapist, like I mentioned, and I have a private practice Better with Betsy. And it's not really Better with Betsy, better with Fofi and God who guide Betsy. And in my journey, I found myself not being able to see everybody that was coming to me for help, and that's how this program evolved into what it is today. I created this program with the idea of reaching more people, I am a speaker too, and in some speaking engagements, I was asked to be-- to serve individuals, but I didn't have the time in the day to see them. So, I created this program with the idea of sharing the "HOW". Everybody would ask, "Okay, Betsy, I know you were happy before this happened and then you were in excruciating pain and now, you're super happy again. And I can see it, but HOW?
How did you go from being in excruciating pain to being so happy? How?"
So, this is that program. It's how to go from Hurt to Hope, from excruciating pain to purpose. And it's an online program, and the way I see it is, it's like therapy at the comfort of your home, at your own pace, because the thing about grief is that, like you said, when we're sad and in pain, we don't want to go talk to someone at a certain time about that sadness and pain, because then that means that we're exposing ourselves to be vulnerable. And the thing about this program is that you go to it, you don't schedule an appointment with a therapist, you choose when you're ready to hear something. And this starts-- the first module is pain.
So, when you start the program, you already have permission to be and feel that pain. So, it's five modules that guide you through your journey of grief and it teaches you how to sit with pain, how to implement tools, like clinical tools that worked for me, right? And have worked for many of my clients, how to use visualizations, how to use affirmations, and how to use mindfulness and meditation for this. It also teaches you how to accept, right? Like, they say that the last stage of grieve is acceptance, I feel that's one of the first steps of your journey of healing. So, I teach you how to see pain in a different light and then I teach you how to accept it and work with it and embrace it and use it to serve you rather than to continue the suffering. And then, there's some work that we do in creating purpose and meaning, giving meaning to your pain. We work on a lot of things, I mean, I could go on and on about what we do in each module, but we would be here forever. But I will say that the way we close it is with the glue to all the techniques and skills and exercises that-- the program has five modules, 18 videos, each video has a worksheet which I call Hope Sheet, because we're always bringing hope. And then, we have live coaching sessions regularly, which are really powerful.
So, we create a sense of community in those and it's, I guess it would be the equivalent of a support group but I feel like more powerful because of the clinical components and the angle and the lens with which we're looking at grief is different. So, it's more empowering and positive and fulfilling so, it's different to those support groups in which you go and you share your pain and you almost lose hope because you see people 10 years later feeling like you and you're like, "Oh my gosh, is this what awaits?". So, I feel like the hope intensive coaching session so, you get access to me, but I mean, the program is less than the value of a session of mine so, it's accessible to everybody, and I think-- and that's what I wanted. I wanted to be able to share what Fofi has taught me and what God has given me the grace to discover by making something accessible to everybody, really.
[26:16] Marly Q: I'm so grateful for that calling and for the time that you spent to be kind and creating it and putting that out for people because I do think that therapy is sometimes very intimidating for people, especially when they're going through pain and loss and grief, like you said, going to schedule an appointment with a stranger, somebody that you don't know is very-- it's scary and vulnerable, and you will avoid it. But creating an online program, I think makes it a lot more accessible to people so, thank you for doing that. I know you also have a book that you're working on, that you want to release before the end of the year, is that right?
[26:50] Betsy: Yes. Yes. That book, gosh, that book, I've been writing it for two years now and it's been a process, to say the least. I've had to go back to revisit everything from my grief to be able to write from that place and connect with the person that's reading it and is going through that pain. So, I just, I couldn't write it from where I'm at. There's someone that says that we should teach from the scars, not from the wounds, right? And I am in a place where I've scarred, right? Like, I've healed, I don't know that we ever fully heal, but I've healed, and I am writing from that place of hope but emotionally, I almost feel that I had to go back to the place of the wounds, to be able to connect and be relatable. And I didn't think this, right? Like, I know this in hindsight and trying to analyze what I've gone through in the last two years, but gosh, was it painful to write, and I've had a lot of resistance, and it's kept me human and it's reminded me of what people go through and it builds more, even further, my empathy.
So, it's been hard to write that book, to say the least, but I am putting my heart and soul because while this online program is the way I serve, and continue my daughter's legacy, that book is the way I keep her memory alive. So, that book is my gift to my Fofi, and hopefully to the world. Like, because what I want is for the world to experience her like the way, oh my gosh, I've been writing a lot these days so, I'm very vulnerable. I want the world to experience her and get to know her through our story and hopefully always remember and think of her, right? Because there's something about keeping that person's memory alive, that it gives you hope and brings you joy and keeps you going. So, that book is my honoring her memory and my gift to my daughter. And then, this online program is the way that I continue the legacy and that I serve and I honor her and love her through kindness, service and gratitude, like the priest once said, you know?
[29:18] Marly Q: Betsy, thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you so much for your vulnerability, for your story, for your coaching, your advice, your wisdom, for your online program,
You are so generous as to offer a special discount to our PARKers listening [Click here & use coupon code "JOY50"] and one very special scholarship for one person that decides to leave a review on this particular podcast and is a member of my Kind Qrew, that could really use this online program to help them move from Hurt to Hope.
I am just so grateful and so moved by your story, by your testimony, by your spirit and really just by your kindness all the time. Thank you so much for making the time to be kind today.
[30:07] Betsy: Thank you for having me.
Thank you for making Time to be Kind with me & Dr. Betsy Guerra today to honor her & her family by holding space in remembrance of her daughter Fofi and all families who have lost a child.
If you have been hurting and grieving loss - of any kind - I want you to know you are not alone and you can reach out to me personally. Honestly, I’d be humbled to listen to your story & would be happy to PARK & connect you with Dr. Betsy directly.
She generously offered a discount for her Hurt 2 Hope program for members of our Kind Qrew and even a sponsorship for one lucky PARKer who leaves a kind review referencing this episode. For direct links to do so, Just visit marlyQ.com/28 for this episode’s show notes and transcription.