If there is one thing we have in common, it’s that we all experience the loss of loved ones during some point in our lives and the grief that comes along with such a drastic change in our relationships and lives. To help those seeking healing we have Rachel VanKoughnet, a woman that has dedicated her life and work towards helping others though their loss, grief and healing.Thank you for doing this interview Rachel. To start, I’ve noticed you use a word that not many people think of when it comes to losing a loved one and that word is PTSD. Can you tell us why you focus on post-traumatic stress disorder in relation to death and explain how someone might know if this is what they are experiencing?
Thank you, I am so grateful for this opportunity to connect with you! Great question—in my world, PTSD and grief are married to each other, they go together like bacon and chocolate. Have you ever heard that saying, write about what you know? For the longest time, the only thing I could focus on were my PTSD symptoms (nausea, cyclical vomiting, dehydration, exaggerated startle response, anxiety, nightmares, insomnia, depression, anger…) and how this was my life now because the old Rachel was not coming back, like my former Self had died. GRIEF. I was grieving ME–the kick-ass person I used to be before PTSD interrupted my life. If anyone thinks that there is a possibility they might be suffering from PTSD, please do not hesitate to get treatment. Do your own research, take that online quiz, bring your findings to a medical professional, follow your instincts and be prepared to trial and error your way through the healing process.
During my own life I have lost people like my father and through my own experience there comes a point where people really expect you not to be affected in a way that is noticeable anymore. This is why I love the name of your App: iHeal Because iFeel, available in iTunes and the Google Play Store. Can you talk a little bit about what your App does and how it can help others feel they are being proactive about their healing; even when the people around them may not want to talk about it.
First of all, I want to give you a big hug. I’m so sorry that you lost your dad! I hope you have a loved one who will listen to your stories because talking about our loved ones heals the pain. That “aren’t you over it by now” mentality is exactly the reason why my grief-healing app was created in the first place and I love that you picked up on the spirit of the name: iHeal because iFeel. Grief can feel awfully lonely. You know you’re supposed to “get over it” within a certain amount of time, but how? Like literally, what are you supposed to even do, the clock is ticking…the window of opportunity to cry on shoulders is rapidly closing…pretty soon you’ll be all alone with your feelings. Gulp. This is the moment to download my app—avoid feeling overwhelmed by cyclical feelings of depression, anger, denial, acceptance, and bargaining. Instead—get organized. The iHeal because iFeel app calendars and charts your own personal grief cycle—plus, it keeps track of what healing exercises you are doing so that you can know what works for you and what doesn’t. With a 10-15 minute guided meditation dedicated to each stage of grief and daily journaling prompts, you’ll feel more proactive about grief healing than you ever thought possible.
When my dad died, my Mom just broke down, she would not have been someone able to journal but, not everything you offer requires a lot of personal effort. I see you also have meditations available that correlate to the five stages of grief. Would you agree that your grief meditations would help people that may not yet be able or willing to open up or personally do much about their loss and that your meditations would be an easy starter method to help them move though the five stages of grief?
Absolutely! Meditation—the gateway to grief healing—because really all you have to do is listen–lay down, close your eyes, breathe deeply, and listen. It’s the most relaxing thing in the world. Give that gift to yourself. Every single day. Meditation is the first thing I recommend to someone who has come to me for grief relief. If you can’t get out of bed, if you can’t stop crying, if you haven’t left your house for awhile, if you feel like you are stuck—I recommend meditation first and foremost because it eases you into the business of living your life again by helping you sleep, which in turn helps you eat and drink, which then helps you consider exercising, journaling, and showing up to that therapy appointment.
Looking at your website, I see a lot of correlation to the seven main chakra colors including the handmade healing art that you offer and your free chakra balancing video. Would you say that experiencing the death of a loved one effects our chakras and if so, how?
Yes! The healing power of the rainbow! Grief is cyclical. Chakra, in Sanskrit, literally means: wheel. When a loved one dies, you can feel it in your heart, in your gut and in your head—it’s as if your wheels have stopped spinning or like they’re going in the wrong direction. This concept can be hard to grasp and that is why I use color, as a litmus test for feelings. Do you feel grounded, creative, powerful, loving, able to speak your truth, able to follow your instincts, and open to the divine? If you aren’t sure—ask yourself how you feel about red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. What color is in your closet or your home? What colors do you shy away from? Color heals! We can achieve inner balance at any time. I like to start and end my day with my 10-minute chakra balancing yoga video because the guided meditation is incredibly healing. Are you feeling blue? Are you seeing red? Address that imbalance—we are supposed to be rainbows.
I know you do a ton of writing on your blog but, you also have a self-help meomoir available in paperback, ebook and audio. Can you tell us a little bit about how your book Good Grief: iHeal because iFeel helps your readers and how someone might use this book in conjunction with other healing services you offer?
My baby! My first book is an incredibly powerful healing tool that I am so proud of. Storytelling is my favorite healing modality and this is the story of how I spent many years and many tens of thousands of dollars trying to heal myself. Read about my pitfalls so you don’t have to experience them, too. Good Grief will teach you to define, identify, feel, and work WITH the 5 stages of grief; how to forgive your Self and everyone else; how to discover who you really are; how to love your Self; how to journal your way to better health; and how to heal your own grief. If you enjoy the vulnerability and emotional honesty of my blog, you will love this book even more. The app, the book, and my FREE 30-Day Grief Healing Challenge video series all compliment each other. I got you! Use the App, read the Book and watch the videos according to the needs of your actual grief cycle. Everyone is different and everyone has his or her own personal grief cycle. In order to consciously heal your Self, you need to identify what your grief cycle looks like. Read about how I discovered mine, use the app to discover your own, and take the 30-day challenge so you can see healing put into action. My website, RachelVanKoughnet.com is the place to be when you are struggling with overwhelming feelings. You are not alone. You are loved.