Grief Talk w/ Vonne Solis

Ep. 45 Unapologetic Grief with Maria Belanic

June 28, 2023 Vonne Solis/Maria Belanic Season 3 Episode 45
Grief Talk w/ Vonne Solis
Ep. 45 Unapologetic Grief with Maria Belanic
Show Notes Transcript

This is a frank discussion between two bereaved moms about what it's like to live with long-term grief after losing a child. Maria experienced what was sometimes a harrowing journey caring for her son who was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 16 and died 11 years later. She is a wealth of knowledge, not only from the aspect of caregiving in general and what that does to you, but in the caregiving of a terminally ill child and the impact that type of child loss has had on her.

From questioning what was wrong with her, to friends leaving her behind and the expectations family and society has on bereaved parents, Maria is unapologetic in claiming her right to be a grieving mom and through this, how she found herself a voice for change personally and in the public arena.

Now as a Certified Grief Educator and speaker, you are guaranteed to learn  a lot from Maria in this conversation if you are going through, have gone through or want to support a loved one or friend through this type of loss experience.

0:00    Welcome
1:11    Meet Maria
4:19    Maria's loses her son
6:11    Something's wrong with me - I'm still grieving
8:19    Stages - toss them out the window
11:21  So-called friends disappearing
13:28  Roller coaster grief
16:32  I must not have been a good mother
18:54  Surviving siblings
20:19  Stop asking why!
23:19  Family and friends - get over it!
25:39  Child loss contagious?
29:58  The driving force to not stay in despair
32:33  Unapologetic grief!
39:54  Our body in grief - even a hug was excruciating!
44:35  The last photos and mementos
49:15  Changing what's happening for us
53:06  Suffering needlessly
55:24  Support and what we need
57:21  Self-love and self-care
1:02:44  Striving for perfection
1:07:04  The 5-Pillar system
1:12:55  Maria's resources
1:14:54  Closing
1:16:55  End

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Vonne Solis  0:00  
Welcome to another episode of Grief Talk. Everything you want to know about grief and more. I'm your host, Vonne Solis. As an author, life transformation coach, online instructor and bereaved mom since 2005, I'll be bringing you great content that is informative, inspiring and practical. Whether you have suffered a loss or other adversity, stay tuned and tapped in as I cover a variety of topics to help you get where you want to go on your journey to heal and grow. Today's guest is Maria Belanic. A bereaved mom since 2009, certified grief educator and speaker. Maria will be sharing with us her journey to navigate the emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical scars of her grief and the ways she found to embrace grief as a form of love. Maria is passionate about helping other mothers on their own grief roller coaster reclaim their inner peace and love for themselves. 

So welcome to the show Maria. I have been really looking forward to our time together. So I want to welcome you finally to the Grief Talk Podcast.

Maria Belanic  1:11  
Well, thank you so much, Vonne. I was looking forward to it. And of course, I know you and I already had a conversation. And just with the journey that we both had, which is different, but yet similar in some ways, I think this is a great opportunity to speak with you and share with your audience. And I thank you so much for that opportunity.

Vonne Solis  1:33  
You are so welcome. So I'm going to start audience, from the introduction, I did introduce Maria, as a bereaved mom, like myself, since 2009. I'm 2005. She's 2009. And I went to your website, Maria and it's beautiful. It's a beautiful website We're going to be talking about your resources throughout this episode. But one of the things that I got that you said, and I wanted to read it here, so I got it absolutely correct is that: when a mother loses a child, we feel a pain that is so profound, it is almost impossible to put it into words. You also said that society is afraid of having a conversation about grief and loss. So you and I are absolutely kindred souls in not only our experience that way, but also in the work that we are doing to try and change this. 

The other thing I want my audience to hear. I got this from, I believe it was your most recent blog post. And again, I've got to read from my note here, but that grief is not linear. It does not occur in set stages and cycles. I'm paraphrasing a little bit. It is messy, chaotic and unpredictable. We're going to talk a little bit about that because this is part of the reason I feel that people don't want to, I don't want to hear about it. And the other thing I just wanted to point out that I totally agree with and we may touch on this a little bit too, throughout the work that you do in self-care, self-love. At the root of it all is, you say, Our love evolves when our child dies, forever in our hearts, unconditional and selfless. And it's so aptly and beautifully put because it's so true. And it is a journey that takes us through levels. That's the best word I could come up with. Like I felt that I discovered a completely different level of love. Unconditional love after my daughter died. And it wasn't just for her. It was actually for mankind, if you will. Humankind. So we may get to talk about that a little bit. I can't imagine that you don't work in compassion and empathy as part of your work because you are a very compassionate and empathetic person. So I'd like to turn things over to you by asking you if you'd just like to, for our audience, explain a little bit about your experience and how you came to do what you're doing as a grief educator, speaker and the coaching you offer. The work, the resources that you offer.

Maria Belanic  4:19  
Well, thank you, Vonne. And you're right. It's not something that you wake up in the morning going, I think I'm going to be a grief worker, or in that aspect of grief. It's through the journey that has been harrowing at times. And so my son had cancer for 11 years. So we did the the long journey of that. And then I think when he, well, when he passed away, all of a sudden it just seem to my life stopped. It was like one of those things where you kind of give, give, give, and then you're just spent. And it actually took me 10 years to actually get back on my feet, so to speak. Of really connecting back to myself. I mean, I went through the motions. So it's not like, I hadn't done anything in those 10 years. It was just, I just felt that I was hiding. Like I had this mask. This persona that you're out in the world. You do everything by sort of automatically. This mute thing of what's expected. But underneath I was hurting. I was in pain. And there wasn't anyone that really understood. And I'm sure most mothers who have experienced loss and as yourself, getting everyone to say, move on. Aren't you over it yet? Like you're still grieving? Oh, you have another child. And it made it even harder. And it just seems like, I just withdrew even more so. And that aspect of all of a sudden, trying to figure out like, who am I? You know? 

Vonne Solis  6:10  
I do.

Maria Belanic  6:11  
These core beliefs that we used to have, and then you feel like something's wrong with me, because I'm still grieving.

Vonne Solis  6:19  
That is a big one. I want to circle back to that. Yeah. Yeah.

Maria Belanic  6:23  
And I think that's the thing. We get a bombarded. And it's almost like, and that's why I said, it's linear. Because it's almost like everyone else is giving you a timeline. Well, you have six months. Okay, maybe your child passed away, you might have a year. Maybe two years. But still like, why are you still sad? Why are you still like this? And that's what I kind of was thinking like, it was my child. Yes, I have another son. But my other younger son doesn't replace my older son. Right? There isn't a replacement. And and I think people sometimes because they're not living with it, and I understand. There's a lot of misunderstanding about grief. About loss, about traumatic experiences. And yet because of that, and I think society is also led to believe about these stages, right? Like, we go into these five stages or seven stages. And it's like, now let's tick a box off. Oh, I'm in the other one. So I'm still in anger. Well, let me, and so when you're looking at it, that is sort of linear. I always go and I dislike the word acceptance when it's used with grief. Because I kind of go, as a mom whose son has died, I know who died. And I accepted that he died. So it's not that the acceptance is there, not there. Because I live with it every single day. And other mothers who have you know, their children have passed away. And so I'm thinking like, when we look at acceptance, there has to be a different meaning attached to it. And so what I've used acceptance as is, I've accepted the fact that I am a grieving mother. And I can be a grieving mother as long as I live.

Vonne Solis  8:19  
Yeah. I love what you're saying. Probably we're gonna weave in and out with respect to what you're doing today. So I want to say one thing. When you said you felt something was wrong with you because you were still grieving, so I battled with this for probably 15 or so years. Um, it was interesting because I literally did. I didn't know why I felt that pressure because we're not competing with anybody. But when I would see, particularly in the first few years of my bereavement, when I would see people who had lost, you know, all their kids on Oprah, or, you know, horrendous, you know, circumstances. Like their child murdered or something. And they would present themselves as forgiving. And, okay! And I would go, what the heck's wrong with me? And, like there's no way I'm okay There's, there's no way. Maybe I loved my kid too much. Not saying another mother didn't love their child enough, but just like, there was something wrong with me. It took me years to really understand it was all basically, and I'm not gonna say everyone puts on a front, but my evidence is if any of us were to watch any bereaved parent even 30 years, and dads too, be interviewed. Or they, you know, you just, there, I've seen many, many, many videos of you know, things on YouTube and related to well, not many, but related to bereavement. But anyway, the point I'm making is whenever you see for real, a parent, mom or dad, talking decades after their child has died, they still tear up. That you can still see the pain. You can still see sometimes the anguish. 

And so I, in terms of talking about acceptance, I was like you. I was like, Okay, I'm just going to accept that I'm in this pain and I'm going to see where it takes me. Instead of beating myself up for so many years thinking I needed to be different and better and over it. And you're right. Largely, it's because of society. Don't you think? It's because you said, and I don't want to knock any foundation or any work out there that talks about set stages, and maybe cycles. But when you apply it to the death of a child, I think you've got to toss all those things out the window, and go it on your own and find your own way. What do you think about that, Maria?

Maria Belanic  10:55  
Totally agree on that. And that, I think, is the aspect. I mean, I ended up reading so many different books on grief, you know. I think, wanting to find the answer. The answer to fix me. The answer. The solution.

Vonne Solis  11:15  
Me too. Oh, God, I'm so glad that you're saying that. Me too. And there wasn't one.

Maria Belanic  11:21  
Yeah. And I think that was it. It was like I was devouring all these books going, there's gotta be a solution. Like, what's wrong with me? Why am I still on here? And of course, it didn't help that some of the people that I hung out with, so called friends, kept telling me that there had to be something wrong with me. Like, they didn't like who I was becoming. They liked me better from before. And it was kind of like, Yeah, but before my son was alive. Now he's not. 

Vonne Solis  11:48  

Maria Belanic  11:49  
That too, doesn't equate.

Vonne Solis  11:51  
Yeah. That, you bring up a really good point. Did you lose friends after your son passed?

Maria Belanic  11:59  
Yes I did. Some kind of disappeared. Because I guess they kind of figured that. I wasn't the joyous, happy person anymore. Other ones that had stayed a little bit longer, after a while, it was kind of like, Yeah, you're still in grief. I'm sorry. The only person that I think that I kind of still kept in touch with, and she was actually quite honest at the very beginning. And so I hadn't deep respect for her. Because she told me, she goes, Maria, I don't do sad. And she goes, because I have enough problems of my own. 

Vonne Solis  12:43  

Maria Belanic  12:44  
I can't deal with somebody else's sadness. And for me, that was actually freeing. Because it was sort of like,  I got ya. You're telling me right off. So I know that on days that I'm sad, not to call you. 

Vonne Solis  13:00  

Maria Belanic  13:00  
Right? On days that I'm okay, we can hang out. 

Vonne Solis  13:05  

Maria Belanic  13:06  
So, for her, I had way more respect. For other people who wanted to be there and say that they were offering support, but then afterwards, you could kind of like, as soon as you, like soon as I mentioned my son, or I was saying something, you could see the eyes glazing over. Almost like oh my God, there she goes again.

Vonne Solis  13:28  
Oh. And my audience listening, my hope is that this reaches bereaved parents. Moms, dads, who have these similar experiences, I want you to know you're not alone. Everything you're saying Maria, I went through. I felt. And the thing that I want to stress is that, you know, just because we're bereaved, we're not like, maybe in the beginning, we're kind of lost souls. But certainly the longer we're in this and certainly for those of us that choose to have a different experience in our grief. In other words, try and move, you and I've talked about moving beyond. Your work is centered in moving beyond. You know, we can still, we can still have a good time. Now, it will take everybody a little bit different time to learn how to laugh again and really enjoy a belly laugh. And for me, it was about five years. And I remember my first belly laugh. And I remember I still felt guilty. You know? But the thing is, I remained an optimist. 

I actually discovered Maria I was an optimist after my daughter died. Because I didn't really think about it before. How do you view the world? I don't know. I just do it. I function but you know, from a, you know, a solution oriented place/ But I really didn't have to test those skills on the level I had to for my own survival until she passed. Did that happen to you? Like, I want to move into my next question. And so for me, the reason I'm sharing that is because I was an optimist and because I was sort of solution driven, without really having those words back then. Because quite frankly, I didn't want to hear any optimistic words, or think about, in my world, healing and stuff like that. But nevertheless that was what was driving me. Is working towards a solution. Working towards being an optimist. Working towards wanting to live. Which is the complete opposite of surviving and dying inside. Actually being and feeling dead inside. So it takes years for us to evolve on this journey. You call it a roller coaster ride of grief. Roller coaster grief. So you're saying it took you about 10 years before you even could have a sense of self. My question is, what do you think was your driving force to want to not stay where you could have and like many people do?

Maria Belanic  16:10  
Well, there were different time periods. One, I think even when my son had cancer, I already had the optimism. The  reframing. The gratitude. Things like that. And even so we already had started that from beforehand. And I think that is my go to anyways. 

Vonne Solis  16:31  

Maria Belanic  16:32  
And so for me, it was having faith. I mean, I had faith from beforehand, and then it seemed to have deepened. And that is one thing that I never really questioned because I always thought it was my faith that kind of kept me but together. And it wasn't, I think, for me, it was more the mask because other people, of what they were saying. And I thought something was wrong with me. You know? One of the aspects that I've shared even with other people that I've spoken to, is after my son died, you know, your thoughts are kind of all jumbled up. So one of my thoughts was, I must not have been a good mother.

Vonne Solis  17:16  
Oh. Yeah. I had that one.

Maria Belanic  17:18  
That kept playing in my mind. And one of the aspects was, I was not a good mother was because I had never taken my sons to Disneyland. When I say it out loud, it sounds like, what the heck? What the heck are you taking? But all of a sudden that thought had been in my mind for so long that, you know, I must not have been a good mother. Because when my boys were small, I had never taken them to Disneyland. And it just kept playing on. And then it's like, Oh, I must not have been a good mother because did we have a really good doctor? My son had cancer. Why didn't I find the cure? Right?

Vonne Solis  17:58  
I just want to say I'm really glad you're sharing that. Because my guess is that every bereaved mom, and I will add dad, thinks like that. Do you think so? Would you, would you think so?

Maria Belanic  18:12  
Yeah. The bereaved moms that I have talked to, yeah. And I don't know if it's the society thing that when things go, right, I don't think mothers get the credit for it. But no matter what, anything goes wrong, it's always the mom's fault. Like, you know, why did you do this? Why didn't you do that? Why? You know, right? It's, and sometimes I'm thinking, we have to stop with these why questions. Especially when there is no answer to anything.

Vonne Solis  18:39  
I love that. So you're saying stop with the why questions. I agree with you. It took me years to do that, though. It took me til 2018, 2019, 2020. Oh, my. Because that's a big one. 

Maria Belanic  18:54  
That is a big one. And one of the other aspects, because I did have my younger son. I guess after a couple of years in, one of the aspects I thought is, Oh, I gotta start getting my act together. Because then what am I showing my younger son? That he doesn't matter? Like his brother was more important than he was. So all of these things were kind of in. And it's really difficult because you're dealing with my own emotions that are all shattered all over the place. And I really could not deal with my spouse's emotions. I couldn't deal with my other son's emotions. And even though I wanted to help, well help my younger son, I kind of figured to myself, so you're on your own too. I'm on my own. And, and it's one of these things where all of a sudden, they're all looking to me as a lifeline. And I guess because the older son had had, you know, Stephen had had cancer for so long, I handled it everything. And all of a sudden it was kind of like, okay, you're the fixer. You're the, and it's like I had no energy. I was just spent. I was done. It was like I was an empty shell walking. And I couldn't give anything that I didn't have. 

Vonne Solis  20:17  

Maria Belanic  20:19  

Vonne Solis  20:19  
Yes. And I want to just jump in here. So again for the audience, so anybody watching this that has lost a child. Is facing a situation like Maria was for years. Your son had cancer, and you were on this journey for years, which had to be incredibly at its, at its moments traumatic, but you'd have to speak to that. My daughter died by suicide. So it was super sudden. And what's interesting, though, Maria, and you and I've talked about this, is it doesn't really matter how your child goes. You're left with pretty much the same grief baggage and roller coaster. And you and I have experienced many of the similar things. Every bereaved parent I've ever met, which has been quite a few over the years, we've all said, yep, yep. Yeah I felt that. Yeah, I felt that. Yeah, I felt that. And we didn't even get into well, how did your kid die? You know? No, that wasn't important. 

But you speak about something that is really important. And I'm going to throw out there, this and then Maria, I want to know how you feel about it. So for anybody that may be struggling with a child loss. With some other trauma, adversity. When you feel like you can't control it, and there are no answers, stop asking why. And I was just wondering, Maria, is it as simple? Let me rephrase that. Was it as simple for you just to stop. Like literally condition your mind, your brain to just, I'm not going to ask that anymore. Or were you like me and struggled with giving up. Asking, giving up searching for certain answers that certainly in my case, I'm never going to get?

Maria Belanic  22:01  
Oh, so true. And that is a good question and a good point, how. And I don't think it happened overnight. Like, it's not something that, you know, all of a sudden, oh, yes, this is what I'm going to do. I guess it was a gradual matter. There were certain aspects that I think even from the beginning, I didn't really use the why question, in the sense of like, my son was 16 when he was diagnosed with cancer. So my spouse, you know, his thing was, Why me? Why me? And I kind of looked at him going, you don't have cancer. Our son does. So I didn't really look at it like, why did my son get cancer, you know, out of everybody else, right? It's one of those things like, it's like, why not us? Like what makes us special that we're not ever going to get touched by anything? So that I think was for me a little bit easier to say, the why questions don't, don't happen. But one of the other things I think that lifted me up was about when I chose to say, You know what? I don't care what anybody else is saying about grief. 

Vonne Solis  23:19  

Maria Belanic  23:19  
It's just part of me. So I think that was where, for me this burden lifted, is because everybody else around me, and that's including, like, my brothers and things were kind of constantly like, Oh, you know get over it. You're gonna you know, almost with that all of a sudden, there was a magic year that was going to appear and that I would not be grieving.

Vonne Solis  23:46  
Yeah. And again, just let me throw in here really quick. And Maria, you're just essentially saying this. Our family, our friends, and maybe co workers. Anybody that we've had a relationship with. Our spouses, for sure. They want us to be who we were. Even when they're messed up! And this is specific to losing a child. I could, it probably it probably happens in anything that changes a person. But when you lose a child like, you know, you can, I lost my identity completely. So if I didn't know who I was and Maria, you said, you know, it took you years to find out who you were, it doesn't matter that we have a family intact. Even surviving children who we love dearly, dearly. Maybe even more than we ever, you know, dreamed we could today because of understanding they could be gone. But when you've lost yourself, and everybody wants you to be who you were, or get over it or whatever. Be somebody that they can connect with, this is I think what is responsible in large part, not entirely but in large part to the silence. The silent culture we have around for sure child loss. To some extent suicide. And and for sure, the bereavement part of it. Because nobody wants anything bad happening to them. And we represent what they don't want. The worst of what they don't want. Yeah.

Maria Belanic  25:27  
Thank you so much for touching upon that because that, I think is another aspect that I found earlier on too. Sometimes why some of the friendships don't last. 

Vonne Solis  25:38  

Maria Belanic  25:39  
Is because all of a sudden, people are kind of like, Oh, if you lost your child, is that contagious?

Vonne Solis  25:47  
Yes, yes. I actually had people leave, leave my our life. Yeah.

Maria Belanic  25:54  
It's almost like, Oh, if it happened to you like they can't be around you because then it could happen to them.

Vonne Solis  26:00  
Yeah. And it's the absolute worst feeling when you feel people are afraid of you. Would you not agree?

Maria Belanic  26:10  
Yes. Yeah. And that is not spoken about. And

Vonne Solis  26:16  

Maria Belanic  26:17  
another young mom had shared and she was like, Oh, we were someplace and this other couple who had lost their child were saying, you're going to lose friends, you know, this and that. And they're going, Oh, don't talk like that. And it doesn't happen like right away. Sometimes you're gonna get some friends that leave right away. And I go, maybe they weren't your friends to begin with. 

Vonne Solis  26:38  

Maria Belanic  26:39  
The other ones it happens over a period of time. And some people, I mean, there are, um another woman that I know, whose son died by suicide, and her friends are very supportive. So sometimes it's the caliber of friend. 

Vonne Solis  26:57  

Maria Belanic  26:58  
Right? It depends on who that person who is your friend and what their core values are, and how supportive they are. So it's not going to be happening to everyone. 

Vonne Solis  27:11  
No, yeah. 

Maria Belanic  27:12  
So we don't want to scare people off.

Vonne Solis  27:14  
No, no. Yeah, and it really also depends, I think, largely on if you have a community already in place when you lose a child. I didn't. And I wasn't the kind of person anyway, that had loads and loads and dozens and dozens of friends and super sociable and all that kind of stuff. I've always been sort of just a really tight, tight circle. And I do still have some people from long, long ago in my life. But regardless, not going down the rabbit hole on this issue, it happens. That's all I want to say. It happens. Expect it to happen when you have even some really positive changes in your life. I know that from working with individuals over the years. You know, and people can't keep up with that either. But you know, we do connect with each other when we have something in common. And so we won't scare people about that. But it does happen. And I also want to honour that for people that are going through that for whatever reason. Whether it's loss or some other kind of adversity. And you know what? You can make new friends. And I have made some wonderful new friends. And grief and bereavement aren't the foundation of that friendship anyway. 

But as we get stronger ourselves, and we're not so consumed by whatever it is that is causing us the pain and suffering, we can also be more open to having experiences that aren't totally defined by that suffering and pain or experience. I just want to throw that in. And I know for me, my loss in the early years, unless I had to go and do something. Like go to work or something, that really, it really did consume me. And it took me a while to open my heart and allow myself to have experiences that weren't tied to that. Do you understand what I mean? And, and so it's like, if you want to have fun, like people don't necessarily give themselves permission, to be cheerful, to be happy, to be positive. To go and have fun. You know, to find new hobbies. To find things that might bring them joy. To live. To actually live. And it is a journey in itself in my view and experience to want to choose to live because sometimes the pain and suffering can just seem like more of a good old friend you can rely on. And it's there when you want the company. All the time. So it's a slippery road. You know? And so I am, you know, quite curious, what was the driving force for you, Maria, to not stay in that depth of despair? Whatever your depth of despair was when your son passed? 

Maria Belanic  29:58  
Yeah. I'm the thinking okay, that's a great question.

Vonne Solis  30:01  
I'm super curious about this. I'm so yeah, it's about what drives people.

Maria Belanic  30:06  
I was curious about self-development anyways. I was taking different courses and, and sometimes it was about, for me it was about giving back. Even before my son died, one of the things that we had done was we had, we're doing a function or a fundraiser for leukemia. And that was really only to keep him busy. Right? 

Vonne Solis  30:06  

Maria Belanic  30:07  
So, we wanted to give him something to kind of keep him occupied. And so we continued on with that. So I think it was one, about giving back. And so originally, it was about giving back to leukemia patients. Like the Leukemia Society. How can you help blood cancers? And then over the years, it kind of shifted to hospice care. Because my son was also in palliative for a little bit. And so it was sort of like, oh, you know, there's the dignity of giving someone respect and dignity as they're going through an illness. And then, of course, COVID hit. And I mean, I think by this time, it was sort of like, when I really grasped and this is where I think the joy came from and I don't really want to say joy, because my son passed away, but just joy within me.

Vonne Solis  31:32  
Yes, that's what I'm talking about. Yeah.

Maria Belanic  31:34  
Was when it all of a sudden that I stepped in, that this is where the arena I'm supposed to be.

Vonne Solis  31:44  

Maria Belanic  31:45  
Like for some odd reason I was getting messages that the arena of grief was where I supposed to be. And I go like, yeah, I don't think so. Who's gonna listen to me? But it was when I stepped into that and I was in a coaching call with a different group. And when I said that, even the other woman on the other side, because I was in a business course, because I was going, I was into the self-care arena and the wellness. 

Vonne Solis  32:11  

Maria Belanic  32:12  
And as soon as I said it was about grief, all of a sudden she goes that something lit up inside me. She could see the light shine. And I think I've always been a helper anyways. Like I've always wanted to empower other women. And this just kind of fit in. 

Vonne Solis  32:32  

Maria Belanic  32:33  
This is the topic. Because I'm kind of like, I don't want to shut up anymore. 

Vonne Solis  32:41  
Oh, we're so similar. We're just so similar. Ditto.

Maria Belanic  32:46  
Another lady that I was talking to her tribe is called the unapologetic woman. And so she's, it's a, it's not, it has nothing to do with grief. It's about women stepping into their own powers and doing things their own way. And I really liked that word. And I'm like, is it okay if I use unapologetic. I love it. She said like, go right ahead. And I'm like, Yeah, I'm an unapologetic griever. Like, 

Vonne Solis  33:11  

Maria Belanic  33:12  
I'm not going to apologize for grieving. For grieving my son. And if you don't like it

Vonne Solis  33:20  

Maria Belanic  33:21  
go find someone else to hang. 

Vonne Solis  33:23  
Yeah. I totally, totally love that. I just want to, I didn't want to bypass the idea of the gratitude and faith as being a foundation for you as well. And all of these things audience, so it's whatever has, you know, really rooted us in something that can often be a kickstart when you find yourself in just the most unimaginable situation. Suddenly or long-term like you Maria know, the end is coming. I mean, I could say to you, well, I just can't imagine knowing the end is coming. Well, yeah, actually, I could imagine that. I didn't get that. But that in and of itself is just something that you know, is it's that old question. And I'm not asking it. I'm just saying I'm just making reference. Which would be worse? Losing someone suddenly or knowing they're going. Ugghh, neither is good. Neither is good. That's all I'm gonna say.

So I was just going to come up to unapologetic grief. You've, all of that foundation of you allowed you to eventually in whatever your own timeframe, say, I'm claiming this. And I am not going to apologize for who I am and my grief. And I want to, I want to, you maybe didn't say I want to yell it from the rooftops, but I want a voice now. And you and I arrived at the exact same place, just different ways. My journey almost exactly. 

So, I would like to ask you, you're passionate about changing how grief is viewed. And me too. And I love this part, and creating meaningful ways to remember our loved ones. I love that. I love that. And so I was going to ask you, I think it's a no brainer for those of us that are in grief as bereaved parents or any other kind of struggle, we need to, we need to change the discourse on death loss and, and grieving. You know, we need to not be afraid to talk about it. And your voice, Maria, and my voice and others who are doing this, it is so needed. I'm going to say publicly doing this podcast, folks, there's no directory category for grief or bereavement in any of the big streaming services. I would dearly, anybody watching this working for a big podcasting streaming service, like, you know, Apple, Google, Spotify. Any of them, please, we really, really need a category where we can park our work. So that's one way of changing cultural discourse is when people are looking for help, AI can find your search. Because other people are looking for, you know, you know, language in YouTube, and so on. Which would be grief, bereavement, suicide, you know, child loss, all of these hard words, that feels like they kind of get hidden away. And anyway, it's we need to change it. But creating meaningful ways to remember loved ones? Can you tell us more about how we can do that Maria?

Maria Belanic  36:40  
Well, it's really up to the individual. And that's why I go, it's about creating a memorable way of honouring your child or anyone that you are grieving. Because the meaning is going to only be to yourself, right? Of what you find is special in how you remember them. I mean, for my son, I actually have, you know, I put it on after he died. He had a bracelet. And so I sized it to my wrist, and it never comes off. 

Vonne Solis  37:17  
I love that.

Maria Belanic  37:18  
And it never comes off. And there are times where, you know, I light candles for my son on different days. Or now, it's like right now like, I mean, he loved orchids. So I have orchids, usually around. So that brings meaning to me. One of the other ones, and I never really thought of it beforehand, is about that we buried my son, because he had a stuffed turtle. I mean, he was 27 when he passed away, but him and his girlfriend at the time, had this private joke. And so I never even thought of it. And then turtles seem to kind of come up and I researched it or googled it or whatever. And turtle is actually seen as a spirit animal for healing. And I'm thinking, Well, isn't that funny? My dad used to call me a turtle all the time as a child. 

Vonne Solis  38:16  

Maria Belanic  38:16  
Because he thought I was always too slow to grasp things or just in movement. And to me, it was like, Oh wow. Isn't this great because the turtle actually moves at its own pace. Does its own thing and it has longevity, but it goes back into the water and on and on the ground like on earth. So it kind of moves in both. But one of the other aspects is it's about the shell. Like it comes out when it needs to come out, but when it needs to have that time to retreat, it goes into its shell. And that's where I got the self-care and self-love is that realistically, a turtle is showing itself when it needs to care for itself. When it needs to love itself. And there's something in the ancients also. Because I mean, I hadn't really ever thought of it because I always thought, Oh, if you're going to have a spirit animal you want like an eagle you want right? You're never thinking of a little turtle or I guess sea turtles are big. And that's where the, the part of the self-care and self-love came in. I mean, I already had been on that journey of self-care. 

Vonne Solis  39:28  

Maria Belanic  39:29  
Health was starting to be affected by the grief. And that is something that the focus is so much sometimes on the emotional. The emotional and the mental. Whereas our bodies are feeling everything that we are feeling. And what I found was because I was being closed in and not voicing my emotions, 

Vonne Solis  39:53  

Maria Belanic  39:54  
my body was showing it in different ways. I mean, one of the aspects after my son passed away was I couldn't receive hugs. Like no one could touch me because my body all of a sudden, as soon as someone even tapped me on the shoulder, sent excruciating pain throughout my body. 

Vonne Solis  40:12  
Wow. I'm not I'm not surprised at all.

Maria Belanic  40:16  
Right? So it's like my body was so rigid and keeping things in that and so

Vonne Solis  40:23  
So was mine. So I just want to let you know you're not alone in that Maria. Stiff as a board. And I still get that way. Like, don't ask me to dance. You know? It's pretty hard for me to move.

Maria Belanic  40:38  

Vonne Solis  40:38  
Yeah. Because we can hold pain audience. We can hold pain and we do hold pain in different parts of our body. And when you've lost a child, you're gonna hold it in different areas. I'm just saying if you're sore, and you've gone through loss, it could be the grief.

Maria Belanic  40:56  
Yeah. And no one ever says that.

Vonne Solis  41:00  
No. No. And that's why I'm saying it. And also stress. They may look at it and diagnose. And it happened to me with all this weird stuff and weird feelings going on as just stress. But it really wasn't just stress It was actually carrying trauma, and shock, and deep, deep suffering. Like pain in different parts of my body. And I don't know, if doctors at the time, I'm not knocking doctors. No one think I'm knocking doctors. They're just not educated enough. And I actually will gratefully say here and respectfully say here, I had a number of doctors that I saw at clinics and my private doctor and stuff like that. And they really wanted to know. They're still probably today super curious about my bereavement experience. Really interesting. So it's not that I don't think medical professionals don't want to learn. It's we have to be astute enough ourselves to understand what's happening in our bodies and what we think may be happening. And then explain it to them so that they can maybe explore it further with us and even professionally. But at the same time, I just want to say for you Maria and the audience, I was terrified to share anything with doctors. On a on a really, like on that level. I would give them surface stuff. But I didn't want to be probed too deeply. Because I didn't understand it. I didn't understand it. So I just, it was easier, if I could avoid going to doctors, I would but my health deteriorated so much like you're saying yours did, I had to go to doctors. 

So tell me about your health deteriorating. I want, we are moving into self-love and self-care. So you became astute enough to understand. And this is how many years into your bereavement, that your body was feeling the effects of not expressing emotionally. I did just I did just want to say one thing, though, when we were talking about the turtle? So and I was asking, and when we we sort of skimmed a little bit about what people can do to honour their loved ones. So a) what do you what does the turtle mean for you today? And I also want to just circle back to that a little bit before we jump into self-care. Do you place an importance on being able to honour our lost loved ones in meaningful ways, as something quite central to your own personal beliefs? And probably maybe your work as well, because we don't feel we can do that?

Maria Belanic  43:35  
I feel that sometimes people feel like they have to do things sort of on the side. Whereas you know, and it and that's why it's going to be very personal to each person. Maybe you're going to make something that was their favourite dish. Or maybe it's a place that they used to like to visit. So that is really personal that you think you're going to honour. I mean, for me at the beginning, it was we were honouring him by doing the fundraisers. Right? And I mean and that was sort of public. And at the beginning, people, you know, would come and things like that. But we also noticed as the years went by, less and less people were coming to the fundraiser. And we knew because one, he had died, right? It was kind of like and they're becoming like distant. The other aspect was, we never really took photos of my son when he was really ill. 

Vonne Solis  44:34  

Maria Belanic  44:35  
Right? We always had him when he was his healthiest. And I understand he didn't want us to have any photos of him. Because basically, even when he was ill all those years, he never looked ill. And all of a sudden we had to watch him slowly become skeletal. 

Vonne Solis  44:53  

Maria Belanic  44:54  
Right? And as his mom, even though I saw that, it didn't register. Other people who saw him I think got the shock, because all of a sudden it was like, and they'd look at me like how can you not see it? And that is one of the things that I always go, it was a blessing and thank you Lord. As his mom, I just saw my son. Yes, I saw the signs. But to me, it was my son, and it was from love. And I'm sure if we had pictures of him, it would be a shock. We never took pictures of him. So, but I do have pictures, you know, of him that I have on my mantel with a fireplace. And I wouldn't have been able to post pictures of him before. It took me a while to even see pictures of him when he was younger, without, you know, crying and having an episode of like, really deep pain.

Vonne Solis  45:48  
I still don't look at childhood pictures, though. So that's quite understandable. Again, for anybody out there going through that, no, I can't look at pictures. And then there are the people that just can't get enough of them. Now, the sad thing is, they always stop at one photo. The last photo. They never change. And that is something that can be difficult to live with. Honestly, it can be. You know what? I did meet people that lost a child, and they would never say their child's name again. Or there were family members where someone lost a child and wouldn't let that parent say their child's name again. I've actually met people where that's happened. And so society, I'm just saying, it anything we do just to close this, this off about having meaningful memories. Meaningful things that we do to honour our loved one, because we have to do it seemingly in secret, and in private, it makes it that much more important. And if talking, you don't necessarily have to have rituals, traditions. I've tried a bunch of different things. But the most important thing I'll throw into the ring, having had 18 years experience in July. Which is not as much as some people but longer than others, is we just talk about my girl. And our girl, and not and not like she's still here, although I kind of think they are still around us of course. I've had, I don't think I know, for my experience. But it's that not shunting them away in a compartment in our mind or a closet in our home where they didn't exist. And that again contributes to such a difficulty for us talking about grief. Changing the discourse on grief. That's all I want to say about that. 

Maria Belanic  47:45  
And I'll just add another aspect because I just remembered. I still have a lot of my son's clothes. Some we gave away to some family and some friends and I still have some and I wear his shirts. And and I want to point out to to your audience, especially because sometimes people will kinda like oh, you're wearing your, your son's clothes? Like to me, I'll be quite open on it. It's like, I still want to wear it. I'm not giving them away. My mom gave me a vest of my dad's. 

Vonne Solis  48:19  

Maria Belanic  48:20  
So I wear my dad's vest.

Vonne Solis  48:23  
I was just gonna say, I don't think there's one person that would ever say anything negative about it. In fact, I think that's the luckiest thing in the world that you have. I don't have that. And one, my daughter was really tiny. I couldn't have fit into any of her clothes. But the one thing that does come to me right now to share is sometimes people give things away too fast. And sometimes we hang on to things that are just painful for us to hang on to. So what I would say about that, is if it doesn't cause you pain to hang on to it, keep it! You know? Keep it. And I think you're the luckiest mom in the world for being able to wear your son's clothes. I really do. So, that's what I want to say about that.

Maria Belanic  49:06  
He wa 5'11". And

Vonne Solis  49:08  
Oh, wow. How cool is that?

Maria Belanic  49:11  
So, instead of like, I don't really care if they're big or anything and

Vonne Solis  49:15  
One memento I have that is very special to me, is I have probably the one and only letter my daughter ever wrote me. And it was when she moved to Toronto. And I have that and then she made me some music, actually. Alright, this is before you know, downloading was really, really cool. But anyway, she made me a little album of music that she picked out herself. And they were on CDs that you know, one day she just gave me these five CDs. And I'm like, Oh, gee, thanks, hon. But they have become something that is you know, like they're in a safe and I have them on my computer and stuff like that. So that's what I would say what I have. And her and some ID. I kept some ID. And so we all keep different things. But I don't obsess over it because it was too painful. I'm not saying anybody's obsessing. Not here, I'm not. But I've also known about people, I don't know anyone, personally, who have created shrines of rooms and stuff like that. It's a painful place for them. But they have an attachment to them, that's holding them in a place that I personally would consider unhealthy after X number of years. So it can work both ways. It's like anything. An addiction or anything. If it's impacting your life, your current loved ones and other people are missing out on you? And you're missing out on life? That is an opportunity when we get to choose whether we want to start changing what's happening for us. Which all has to start from within. Would you agree Maria?

Maria Belanic  51:03  
To a certain point. Sometimes I think we hold on to something more because we sometimes a parent, mother, a parent may not feel that they've been acknowledged in their grief. That they're, they have to hide it.

Vonne Solis  51:23  
Good point.

Maria Belanic  51:24  
Right? And that would be my concern. And that's why sometimes I think, even in my 10 years, it's because the people that are around you, you can't openly express your sadness or whatever, or your anger or your emotion.

Vonne Solis  51:40  
Anything. Yeah, what a good point you're making. Yeah. 

Maria Belanic  51:44  
Other aspects and I'll go because I happen to be a Christian. So I can use my religion.

Vonne Solis  51:50  
Absolutely, absolutely. 

Maria Belanic  51:52  
So sometimes I'll go, and Christians are the worst.

Vonne Solis  51:55  
Okay. Why? Why?

Maria Belanic  51:58  
They mean well, but most of the time, they'll always go, It's in God's hands. It's in, God had a plan. Oh, you need to have faith. You need to have this. Like, well, you know what, a) you don't know how much faith that mother, that dad has. And if something happens, I always go, Look, be angry at God if that's what you want to be. God can take it. And it doesn't matter what God you pray to, or who you believe in. Go ahead and be angry. And a lot of times if you're in a faith based community, showing that you're angry at times feels, you know, they people will look at you like, oh, they certainly don't believe in God. That's one of the reasons why their child died. I have this other underneath things that people will, it's sort of like a judgment. Like, whoa, what have you done that God got angry at you? Well, stop the BS because good things happen to to everybody. Bad things happen to good people too.

Vonne Solis  53:06  
Okay, really good point. Really good point. So I'll clarify what I'm just, what my view has always been concern for people suffering needlessly. So I just want to say about what I'm saying about bereaved, anybody bereaved, or anybody in a bad situation. Hanging on for it. for a really long time, if it's not serving you well anymore? My whole perspective comes from wanting and desiring people to want more. And I think I'm just in that space, because it was horrible suffering. It was horrible being in like, the worst pain, which you can only know if you're in it. And so that's where I'm coming from. I'll clarify so if someone has a shrine, and someone needs that shrine until the day they die and be miserable. Like sad, hurt. Behind all misery is just pain. But be in that pain, I would want more than anything that one day, you would not want to have to experience that pain. But I respect if that's your journey. That's the nicest way of me saying that because I couldn't han, the reason I'm saying this Maria, because I couldn't handle that pain, but my only other choice was dying. 

Maria Belanic  54:28  
Mmmm. And I think that pain sometimes comes from the same thing. But the misunderstanding about grief where we're told to move on. Get over it, and it feels like an either or aspect. It's either you choose grief, or you choose to move on and you forget about. That's where the self-love and self-care kind of comes in too. Because what I ended up believing afterwards is that my grief and my love? They're together. They coexist. It's not an either/or aspect. And sometimes, unless you are around other people that can say, Hey, it's okay to grieve. It's okay that you're feeling like this way. And you can still move forward in life. In honour.

Vonne Solis  55:24  
Yeah, you are bringing up we're going to talk about grief and love together next. Right now, actually. But you're prefacing that you are bringing up something so key, and it took me years to understand. If we were supported by everybody. Everybody, but in our communities, in our churches, in our workplaces. Medically. I'm not saying any of these people or any of these institutions don't care. But you have to be all in and invested in someone else's troubles to make changes. Someone else's pain to make changes. And the key thing that you said for me, was not feeling supported, right? That we can't talk. It's not about just not talking. It's about hiding a huge part of our life and our child's life, who lived. Like, it's like wiping them, erasing them, and their existence off the planet. 

And so, in my view, I realized that was one of the biggest things preventing me from feeling like I could even have a chance at a better life. You know? And we can call it moving forward. We can call it healing. We can call it whatever we want to call it, but not staying in that same place of suffering. And I'm really going to think about what you said, and I appreciate and respect you bringing that up. That not feeling heard is a big part of that. And what do you do with your pain? If no one wants to hear it, what do you do with it? Well, folks, you stuff it down inside of you. Talking about self-care, let's talk about how you put grief and love together Maria? 

Maria Belanic  57:21  
One, I mean, and I started with the self-care aspect. That's why I

Vonne Solis  57:25  

Maria Belanic  57:27  
typically accompany it that is wellness, because it was more about okay, so healing my body. And I found that oncce I started healing my body, and I really look at my emotions. Because, especially when you're in the early throes of grief, where everything just bombards you.

Vonne Solis  57:48  

Maria Belanic  57:48  
You don't know what it is that you're supposed to be doing. And, that sort of makes that indecision or that frozen limbo. Because all of a sudden, we're and one of the things even with self-care is don't ever make any life changing decisions right at that moment when you can't really look at things. And self-love sort of evolved from that. Because as a grieving mom, you know, I really questioned my worth. My self-esteem. My self-identity. 

Now, that also comes from childhood. Because one of the things about grief is that all the things that came up, as my growing up years, also resurfaced. You know, things that I thought I had dealt with from growing up. Because I mean, in my family, I always go, they actually told you, you were stupid. Thinking that that would make you smarter. 

Vonne Solis  58:50  

Maria Belanic  58:50  
It was a culture I grew up with. 

Vonne Solis  58:52  

Maria Belanic  58:52  
And I mean, I grew up being hit. And I thought that was normal. It's just the culture. But not only that, but so some of these, the self-esteem issues that I had in my growing up years, had popped up. And I think I ended up realizing that wow. Like I, you know, I thought I had dealt with them. But it was still there. So it was almost like, do I really love myself? And I actually had talked to a woman like, what do you do to celebrate yourself? And I'm like, I don't do anything to celebrate me. Like, and I realized that, you know, as many years as I've been on Earth, I've never really appreciated myself. For me.

Vonne Solis  59:40  
I don't think you're alone. Maria. It's one of the biggest things we have to learn if we choose to, to love ourselves and to respect ourselves and really just have self-worth. Why do you think it's so hard? First of all, I want to say I'm really happy that you tapped into that. So essentially what you're saying is your bereavement brought out childhood issues that you thought you had dealt with. You hadn't dealt with. I personally didn't go through that. But I had been on a 23 year journey in metaphysics when my daughter died. So I'd already dealt with stuff, you know? And I'm, it wasn't my issue and I came from a lot of dysfunction. I would say that the bereavement was like, you said earlier. Bad mother. No worth. I must have deserved, you know, I'm just throwing this in. We deserve this. Like, a lot of stuff happens when you get hit by this. So for you, becoming aware that these issues were happening for you. And you need to take care of yourself, your body. Listen to your body. Take care of yourself, but then start dealing with the emotions, right? What was that journey like for you? And I will ask this as well. Is this something that you have to pay attention to on a regular daily basis to watch you don't slip?

Maria Belanic  1:00:58  
It is a constant, because it's something that is ingrained. A, I think women have it more so than men. It's a self-esteem issue, either growing up in a dysfunctional family. Watching what the media says about what a woman should be. What should they look like, and all of these kinds of things. But it's also about how we treat other people that may think different than what the norm is. If you sort of think outside the box, or if you're unique. And sometimes that can be put down because you're not following the regular norm aspect. You know, growing up. But through my grief journey, that was when I realized that and doing the work was about the self-development. Was about, Okay, so what do I really think of myself? And when am I going to let go? I mean, I wasn't really a people pleaser. So I didn't have that aspect. But it was also about, Do I really love myself? Yes, I was okay spending time with my own self. Like, I didn't have that aspect. But I didn't see that as self-love. Because love is one of those things that's kind of bandied around, like, you know, a buzzword or whatever.

Vonne Solis  1:02:23  
Yes, it is.

Maria Belanic  1:02:25  
In actual fact, when you think about it, is about how do I show me love? Like, do I show myself kindness that I show another person? Do I show myself compassion? Like I can be compassionate towards someone else, but am I compassionate towards myself? 

Vonne Solis  1:02:43  

Maria Belanic  1:02:44  
You know, one of the aspects that I always dealt with, is that I was striving for perfection. I mean, as a teenager, as a young woman in my 20s, and my 30s. It was even in my 40s, striving for perfection, which perfection doesn't even exist.

Vonne Solis  1:03:04  
I know. 

Maria Belanic  1:03:04  
And that's where I, did sort of the five step a path to self-love, is because a, it's about releasing what we think we're supposed to be. It's releasing all the baggage that we've had. Recognizing that that doesn't really suit me. That isn't me. Like how am I supposed to be my authentic self and live my truth?

Vonne Solis  1:03:31  
You're just speaking to me sister, like a sister. I, all these things that I think perhaps we can either struggle with before bereavement or not think about. And when you're brought down to your knees or flat on the ground, you start thinking about a lot of these things when and if you reach that point. That you deserve, and maybe want more. There are a huge number of factors that make us want to have more in this life. But I do believe it starts with a recognition of self-worth, acceptance, and then the self love through the compassion and empathy. But I just want to throw this in and then I'd like to ask you about your five pillars. Because, the thing is that when you can accept, so my work is partly about accepting, this is what happened. And if you're gonna go down metaphysics and spirituality, okay, you chose this. And then that's really fun, because then you can start getting into why, soul contracts and stuff like that. 

But anyway, it being able to accept, this is what's happened. This is my experience. This is who I have become as a part of it. And then when I went through that, it almost felt like the ball was in my court about what I wanted to do with my story. I had made my daughter's story more important than my own. Her story, meaning her death. Her experience. Her life. Everything. I was lost for so many years. So having the courage, the guts to claim yourself? Specially when you're rock bottom, and you don't think much of yourself, if anything at all, that takes something. Do you know what I mean? And your foundation, I'm going back to that. Your foundation, but whatever that was in you going at whatever level. It could have been subconscious and then it hits the conscious level saying no. Wait a minute. I deserve more. I want more. Right? And this is how I'm gonna get it.

Maria Belanic  1:05:40  
We cannot change the circumstances that happened. As much as we want to wave this magic wand and kind of go back to a period where they were alive. It's not going to happen. Alright? I mean, I'd like to have a magic want too. And so it was throughout my journey. So again, this wasn't something that happened overnight. It was a gradual journey. And then I think within the last year or so is when I'm thinking wow, okay, what did I do? And what I found was, it's a place of where I have inner peace. Yes, I accept that my son passed away. Yes, I accept that I'm a grieving mom. I cannot change what happened. However, I can honour my son's life. And I can honour my life. And I just tap into my power.

Vonne Solis  1:06:37  
Yes. Yes. We're speaking the exact same language. And yeah, we probably arrived at it at relatively the same time. Having the power to do that, but have a voice. Not be silenced because of what's happened to us, but have a powerful voice because of what's happened to us. Despite what's happened to us. And being okay with it. So Maria, what would you like to share with us about your five pillar system?

Maria Belanic  1:07:04  
Okay. So the five pillar system is for mothers to get to a place of where their peace is. Where their inner peace and self-love is. Because what my inner peace looks like is going to be, of course, completely different. And as I said, it's about tapping into the power that's within, right? Because one of the things is that when we tap into our own power, then what life are we going to create that's going to reflect who we are, and how we honour ourselves and our child. And a lot of that is I think what we've discussed is about releasing the emotions that are in our bodies. How do we forgive ourselves? 

Basically, it's dealing with all of that, but it's about having tools. I mean, over the years, I found different tools that have helped me. And that's, one of the things is what do they say? Don't reinvent the wheel? So some have already gone through it and these are the tools. That's part of what I would share. And again, we have different tools, because each tool, one person, it may resonate with them. And for another, it may not. But again, it's finding ways or creating ways to release this emotion that becomes stuck in our bodies. 

And also recognizing our strengths, too, because they're kind of like that Yin and Yang sort of thing, right? Like our strengths and weaknesses are kind of the same. And so it's working within that. But it's also about unleashing our authentic self with self-love. Because only when we love ourselves is when we can really embody who we really are. Right? Like, we're not, we're going to do away with this mask sort of thing of hiding behind a facade. 

Vonne Solis  1:08:57  
Yep, yep. 

Maria Belanic  1:08:58  
And so it's really showing that compassion and kindness nor ourselves, because realistically, moving forward only happens when we do all of this. And it's not so much as this episode of, oh, we're going to be forgetting. No, I always go, it's about the again, the yin and yang. Like grief and love are yin and yang. I mean, we won't have love unless we really miss the person and are grieving their presence. And we're in their presence because of the love. So I don't want to have this union sort of separated. It's not where it's like, grief is on one end, love is on the other. Which one are you going to choose? No, it's like that life of dance, right? It's like we're dancing in it together. And that's just the word I'm using. But again, it's a word. That's why each word is going to resonate with someone else. Someone may call it healing. 

I don't use the word healing. I prefer using the word of either coexisting, or moving forward. 

Vonne Solis  1:09:06  
Mm hmm.

Maria Belanic  1:09:07  
Right? And so that's why I go, it's because it's a path. It's a path to self-love because it's not something that all of a sudden snap of your finger. I've gone through this. Oh, yes, I now love myself. It's a constant daily aspect what we have to do. And it's, it's the loss that yes, that we're dealing with that causes all this pain. And yet there's other things that have happened throughout our experience, as I said beforehand, that came up to my forefront. If those hadn't come up. would I have thought about loving myself? Maybe not. It would have been tied up only in the grief and the death of my son. But because everything else was popping up too, it actually started me questioning about, oh, what else is there that's lying beneath the surface?

Vonne Solis  1:11:01  
Yeah, for sure. That is, I'm 100% sure that is an experience for a lot of people. And just the bad stuff can really get us on our path to be who we're authentically meant to become. Would you agree with that Maria?

Maria Belanic  1:11:18  
Oh, definitely. And I also think, and especially with your audience, because sometimes this has always been a question for people sometimes. Because we're laughing. Because we hav joy in the moment, doesn't mean that our grief or loved one is forgotten. Like my child is never forgotten, as is your daughter, right? I always call them, they are unforgettable.

Vonne Solis  1:11:45  
Yes. And some of us do things. Like I've written three books. And essentially, they're for my daughter, mostly. And we do things. A lot of bereaved parents, well I don't know. I shouldn't say a lot of bereaved parents. Let me just say there are bereaved parents that create foundations, organizations. They are active in changing legislation, improving laws. Mothers Against Drunk Driving was an example of that. The Compassionate Friends support group is another example of something really global, and has taken root over a number of years. But it's also a-okay if you're like super behind the scenes, and just remembering, like you were saying earlier, Maria. Keeping that, I don't like the word memory, but keeping that existence of your child alive. And not being afraid to speak about them. It's like it's so freeing to be able to say our child's name. So one of the things you do offer is like a Q&A, and you can have people submit questions to your website? How often do you do this Maria?

Maria Belanic  1:12:55  
I'm going to be doing the Q&A's at least once a month.

Vonne Solis  1:12:58  
So audience, if you go to, I will have the link to your website, but it is And you have resources, your blog. You've got these Q and A's, which is pretty cool. So you register and then you have a Zoom meeting. And you're offering workshops. I see that you also do coaching one on one, and group coaching as well. And people can register for that on your website?

Maria Belanic  1:13:23  
Through my website and they can email me at

Vonne Solis  1:13:28  
So I'll have all of that information in the description. And I know we've covered so much here, Maria. Just so so much. And I just want to say, I really appreciate the work you're doing as well. I know there's people doing work in grief and bereavement. But, it's not, you know, necessarily easy to find the support and resources. And I believe and I've always believed since 2005, that we still need a lot more. There can never be too many voices, and too many people working in this field. And we need to be found.

Maria Belanic  1:14:06  
Totally agree with that Vonne. And I thank you so much for having me today. And it's true. I mean, we've had different experiences. 

Vonne Solis  1:14:16  

Maria Belanic  1:14:16  
But some are similar. And you're right, it doesn't matter how our child passed away. No, we're going to be a grieving mom. And I think that's what for your audience is basically saying, find the support that you need that resonates with you. And I'm sure your audience and clients just love you because you are. You're a very warm, compassionate mom that understands what someone is going through. And especially when it's death by suicide. Because that again has a different element than the way my son died of cancer.

Vonne Solis  1:14:54  
Yes. But I did just want to reiterate. Maria, her experience audience, is going through an 11 year journey with her son who was diagnosed with cancer. Leukemia, at age 16. She is a wealth of information to help anybody else, if you want some mentoring, handholding, some coaching. Anything. You've got lived experience with that. And you've also got some years in between where stuff can gel and this is where our wisdom can come forth. And we can put together things such as you've done in your five pillar system. And you know, and I have my own grief, coaching practice and stuff like that. 

It takes time for us to be able to go out there and offer it to the world, because we have to show up folks. And we still have to battle our own stuff.  Well, maybe I shouldn't say battle, but you know. We have our own stuff that we're going through it. It never kind of ends. But it is the compassion and the empathy. And it's the understanding. It's the knowing. It's being through what is the same for us all is the the pain. The suffering. All you have to do is you know, meet another bereaved parent. Yeah, I get it. 

So again, it doesn't matter your experience. But on that note, if any of you are going through something like what Maria has gone through, please go visit her site. And your resources are like right there. And your blog is wonderful too, Maria. I just want to say that. It's just wonderful. Wonderful. 

So I think that's probably all we have time for in this one. Maybe we'll do another episode sometime and talk again about some other stuff because as you could see, we can get really, really deep in the roots with this stuff. But for today, probably past the top of the hour, I'm going to close this one out. And thank you so much for sharing Maria.

Maria Belanic  1:16:48  
Vonne, I just love what you do. And I thank you so much for this opportunity to be here with you and talk about grief.

Vonne Solis  1:16:55  
Thanks, Maria.

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