Learning to Dance With Grief | Edy Nathan | Episode 35

Learning to Dance With Grief | Edy Nathan | Episode 35

Join Kimber as she talks  with Edy Nathan– licensed therapist and author of It’s Grief: The Dance of Self-Discovery Through Trauma and Loss. In this episode our discussion is focused around the following  questions:


  1. What is grief?
  2. When do we experience grief?
  3. How do we learn to navigate a landscape of grief?
  4. How do we interact with and support people who are grieving?
  5. How do we learn to embrace and dance with our grief as a partner in life?
  6. What is sexual grief?
  7. What is the difference between using medication and self-medicating to help us cope with grief?

Edy Nathan MA, LCSWR, CST is a public speaker,  licensed therapist, and author of the book It's Grief: The Dance of Self-Discovery Through Trauma and Loss.

She is an AASECT certified sex therapist, hypnotherapist and certified EMDR practitioner with more than 20 years of experience. Edy earned degrees from New York University and Fordham University, with post-graduate training at the Ackerman Institute for Family Therapy. She practices in New York City.

Grief is hard to talk about. Edy teaches you to dance with your grief, To know it as a way to know yourself. Whether it is the loss of a loved one or the loss of a limb or the loss of the life you once knew, it is your soul that offers the answers to relief. An essential element in her practice is to offer clients the chance to combine psychotherapy with a deeper, more spiritual understanding of the self. She is dedicated to helping people understand their grief, cope with the fear and struggle that holds them back, and learn to live fully.


Follow Kimber on instagram @justbeyourbadself  or join the JBYBS facebook community here for more interaction!


For guest bios, episode transcripts or to leave a review, please visit: www.justbeyourbadself.com


Resources for further study

Find out more about Edy, or purchase her book here: https://edynathan.com/

Transcript

Edy--On Grief

Kimber: Today, I'll be talking with Edy Nathan, a public speaker, licensed therapist and author of the book. It's grief, the dance of. Self discovery through trauma and loss. Grief is hard to talk about. Edy teaches you to dance with your grief, to know it as a way to know yourself. Whether it is the loss of a loved one or the loss of a limb or the loss of a life you once knew.

. She's dedicated to helping people understand their grief and learn to live fully Thank you so much for being on the podcast today. EDI,

Edy: It's great to be here.

Kimber: can you give us a brief introduction of who you are and what you do?

Edy: Brief is easy. It's getting into the deeper conversation. That can be a little more complicated. we all end up in a cave when we're in some form of grief and. What I do?

is I help people navigate the hero's journey of finding that what people knew as their lives, the ordinary life is forever changed because of the grief that they meet as they're going along their life's journey.

And. What happens in the hero's journey she's journey is that we ultimately end up in this metaphorical cave where we need to take on our demons and we need to look at what stops us and our shadows. And I'm a witness to those shadows and I help clients. I help groups of people from all different walks of life.

Tangle with the shadows, with what they don't wanna look at and what gets in the way of them living the lives that are worth living.

Kimber: That's so beautiful. You know, when I hear the word grief. It, it's been interesting to me to, to read about you and the work you do, because usually when I hear the word grief I think of death, right? I think that's probably a really common association and I have been fortunate enough so far that I haven't had anybody really close to me die.

And so initially, initially, when I. When I reached out to you and brought you on, I thought, oh, this is, this is an important topic to talk about this aspect of grief and how it relates to death. But the more I read about you and what you do, the more it occurred to me that, oh, grief is more than just dealing with death.

Although that's a really tough one. Can you talk to us about the different things that people grieve over?

Edy: There are many things that people grieve over?

Tell a story in my book, it's really more like a like a, a. Paradoxical story. And it has to do with this huge Sandhill crane that I came upon while I was on a walk in Florida. And this huge big bird was standing, I don't know, 500 feet away from me. And usually when, when I get presented with, with, with an, an animal, a bird, I stop.

I, I, I take note because life is so precious that taking note that taking those moments. To me, it's really important to take stock of maybe what we don't understand what we do understand the beauty before us. And there was this bird. And so I stopped and she was like, Just kind of standing there and she was really kind of cool jewel as she was standing there.

And I looked at her and I, you know, said, hello. Wow. You're like pretty amazing. And with that, she hopped toward me and I'm like, oh my God, this is kind of cool. And, and then I kind of walked toward her and then she hopped toward me. And pretty soon we were pretty close and I was like, this is like, amazing.

This is so amazing. And then I realized that she'd been hopping like on one leg. And then in that moment, I realized that she only had one leg and here was this bird thriving in the wild with one leg, she looked healthy, she looked like she could fly and she was missing a leg. And it really started a conversation in my head about grief that it is.

It is about that lost limb. It is about that lost sense of self. It is about an innate intense yearning for something that is missing and that we cannot replace, and

it can be the loss of a, of a loved one. Absolutely. And it can also be the, the losses of the self, the losses that you, your life did not follow the trajectory that you wanted it to, to, to follow you didn't get the job or you lost your home or you lost a marriage or. You thought you'd get married or you thought you'd have kids.

And so grief is, is everywhere. Sexual grief. It's, it's, it's a yearning for something and it. It can often happen happen because we've experienced something traumatic in our lives and that trauma causes a part of us to shut down and that can be crossed the board. So when I think of grief, I think of it as there's something that's lost, you can't necessarily retrieve it because it's lost and you might be able to retrieve or.

Find other parts that you didn't even know existed and therefore grief becomes Hmm. Part of a new conversation. Maybe it's one of your greatest allies because it's the development of a bigger self of a more, Hmm.

You expansive self.

Kimber: Mm. So, I mean, most people I think are familiar with what what's been termed the, the stages of grief. Right. But I.

When, when you go through grief, it just, it feels like an ending, right? grief feels like such an ending. And I think that's why the title of your book appealed to me so much, this idea of dancing with grief and self discovery through grief. But how do we get there? how do we, how do we navigate this landscape of grief?

Edy: One of the things that people often think about when working through grief are the stages of grief. The stages of grief were created designed by Elizabeth Koler, Ross who really brought the conversation of, of, of the stages of dying into our conversation. And when she wrote the stages, they were the stages for somebody who was dying, not for someone who was grieving. often those stages get very mixed up with, oh, those are the stages for someone who's grieving. I think her stages were, were much more compartmentalized, much more finite. You start with this, you end with this. And they were five very congruently aligned stages that you went from one to the other, to the other, to the other, to the other.

That's why I've changed the vernacular of stages to phases and that we move through what I see as 11 phases of grief?

and those 11 phases. The only. Phase that is consistent is that first phase, which I call emotional armor and emotional armor is exactly as it sounds. It armors you when you are in the most pain, it is the numbness.

It is the despair. It is the, the denial. No, this is not happening. I'm not gonna, I'm just not going to accept this. I'm not going to admit that this has happened and we can use that string of. Of thoughts and ideas and protections in anything that we've lost. No, I, I refuse to admit or look at the fact that I lost my job or that this pandemic has really been hard on me and has changed every part of the way that I saw myself.

Maybe I saw myself as cocky, or I saw myself as I can do anything. And then all of a sudden, you're alone in a New York city, 300 square foot apartment, and you are not to go outside or interact. And your head and your emotional extremes are a shock to you and you don't know how to handle them. And because of that, you go into a deep, some people would call it depression. I'd prefer to call it grief. Because there is something that you are, that you are reckoning with, that you've lost.

And maybe it's not a depression as much as this lost sense of knowing who you were as you are really battling with who you want to be and what the possibilities are and how are you going to learn to pivot? And the second. Part answer to your question is how do you do it? And that's when you start to take on what I call learning hostage negotiation techniques, because listen. And that listening that experiential self listening is the first stage. Of a good hostage negotiation. And when someone is stuck in their grief, it's like that grief is like a hostage taker and they've taken you and they want you to listen.

It wants you to pay attention. I say they, because grief shows up in so many different forms. It's a, it's a room full of, of all the different areas and aspects that you must look. If you, if you can't listen first, you're not gonna be able to have that successful negotiation of healing.

Kimber: It can be, so I almost scary to listen. I think I. Not just, I mean, listen, it's scary to listen to yourself, but sometimes I think we also want other people to listen to our grief and it's scary for them. I think grief is something that I imagine a lot of people are gonna listen to this podcast or see, you know, it's, it's about grief.

Great. How do I get rid of it? Right. How do I just move through it? And it's no longer a part of me. And what you're saying is. It's it's important. it's not something that's necessarily supposed to be. Gotten rid of and dismissed. It needs to be listened to, but how do we talk ourselves into listening to it?

Because it's not, it's not comfortable. Like you talk about these emotional extremes. I think grief brings out all of them, the anger, the, the sadness, the sometimes joy. And you feel guilt about some of those emotions as you go through. 'em you feel crazy as you go through some of those emotions. Are there some things we can tell ourselves?

To, to normalize it and to keep moving through it, even when it gets uncomfortable.

Edy: one of my greatest teachers, David sch said, you need to be in pain for growth. And challenging yourself to be in the pain for growth is a big deal. And to answer your question, there is no moving on. The reason the metaphor of dance is because you partner with it. And what we know even like around anxiety, anger, when we, when we acknowledge.

Those parts of us that, that those parts exist instead of getting bigger and bigger and bigger, it is the listening. It is the acknowledging. It is the labeling that allows us to actually tangle with them to say, oh, there's my anxiety. And instead of feeling ashamed that this is what I'm experiencing. I'm gonna share this with one or two people.

I'm gonna say, you know, what this experience right now is making me feel very anxious because it, it is when we want to hide or shroud, what we're experiencing that actually increases its veracity. So one of you know, the listening, it's a much bigger deal than just let me listen. It's it's an acknowledging, it's a labeling.

It's a saying. Yeah, this is what's going on rather than Nope. Not gonna deal with this. Nope. I'm just gonna move on and forget it. Well, you know, I've got this great Pirate's chest magnet on my refrigerator and, and it's like this big Pirate's chest and there's this button. And when you push the button, there's a knock.

And then from the knock, there's a voice that comes after the knock. And it says, let me outta here. And it's kind of like, that's the way I like to think about grief. It's hungering, yearning, urging to come out and it wants. I know it sounds crazy, but it, it it's like it's demanding that you play with it.

It's demanding that you give it attention. And when you don't, this is what we know. Poor coping mechanisms, drinking. Too much eating too little eating starvation, too much sleeping, too little sleeping. You know, some people turn to sex. Some people turn to isolation, so you know, it, it can be coping mechanisms of extremes, whatever those extremes happen to.

And for someone looking on the outside in, if you notice somebody, if you have a loved one who is exhibiting any of these extremes pay attention and, you know, let them know that you are there without a pressure, a curiosity. A curiosity, and go into the conversation with a term that I, that I love to use, which is it's a Japanese Buddhist term show shin and show shin is the beginner's mind.

And, and, and in having a conversation with anyone who has experienced that loss sense of self or agree, or that loss of a loved one. Partner with them with show shin that beginner's mind be curious.

Kimber: that's such a beautiful, I, I think that's what I, that's where I was gonna go next is as someone outside of the grief, how do we, how do we communicate? How do we hold space for that person in? And I love this idea of the beginner's mind, because I think. A lot of the times, I think a lot of times the reason that we don't let ourselves be seen in our grief in our big emotions is because we don't want to be.

Looked down on or pitied or, you know, people to say, oh, I'm, I'm so sorry you went through that. I'm so glad I, you know, I had, didn't have to go through that. I'm so sorry. You did. And it, it can feel very otherizing. And so I love this idea of be curious, ask, like, what are you going through? It's about holding space, not about feeling bad for the person who's there is that would, would you agree?

Edy: Oh, absolutely. Kimber. That's exactly it. That's exactly it.

Kimber: So I guess you should know this. You probably don't know this, but a lot of the people who listen to my podcast are, have gone through, of course, all kinds of. Different types of grief, but I resonate a lot with people who are going through faith transitions. I grew up in the LDS Mormon church.

A lot of my listeners either do attend that church or have left that church and, and there's so, so this is. That this podcast is a lot following my own journey through my own big emotions. And until talking to you I didn't realize that I am probably experiencing grief. Right? All these emotions, relief, anger, joy, and it comes with, I think I thought grief was an emotion in and of itself, but it's, it kind of is all encompassing.

Isn't it?

Edy: Yeah, grief is a thing, you know, it's it, it is definitely all encompassing. You said it, you said it there's there's no, you know, I think we come into the world with grief, you know, we leave the safety of the womb. it?

feels warm and loving, or maybe not which, which is a whole other conversation, not necessarily for right now, but, but, you know, I think we come in with a loss and, and how that loss is held. and how the, the shift out of the womb into the, the, hopefully the warm, loving arms of parents and and those parents offer as much unconditional love as they can.

And, and, and they say, okay, well, you just left what was safe and warm, and we're going to. Do our best to create more safety and more warmth. And sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't, but there is a leave taking from something that was safe. And how does that safety get recreated? And so I think we come in with grief and then when, when it hits us or strikes us, we wanna maybe we're reminded of something that we lost that was safe.

And we. We don't wanna revisit that. And it becomes only when someone dies, do we grieve? But meanwhile, the grieving is there a lot when we, when we graduate, it's thrilling and it's exciting. And there's grief when we change jobs. Those are like what I call, you know, the little G's and then there are the big G's you get fired from that job.

And you don't have another job in sight. The big G's are you you've been sexually abused or have been sexually traumatized by something that happened along your lifeline? A big G can be leaving a community. There is a big G there leaving a community and the disorientation of leaving a community and then needing to figure out who am I, if I'm not in this community.

And does that community shun you or do they say, okay, sure, that's fine. You know, you don't believe what we believe, but that's fine. We we're gonna love you anyway. A lot of times that's not what happens when. A community is left. That is a community that has its own rules and laws and structures in place.

Kimber: so I'm starting to see, I'm starting to see the big picture here. That grief is just an integral part of life. And I'm the picture that keeps coming to my mind as you talk is this idea of yin and yang, right? This light side, this dark side, but it's together. They make a hole. So what is, what is the counterpart to grief?

Is it, is it growth? Is it what's the opposite? What's what's the thing that together makes grief whole.

Edy: Can grief stand on its own. And does grief just mean, you know, the yearning or the loss, or does it mean that the, it cycles through many of the different phases and that when. You the last phase that I talk about is grace. And so it's not a religious grace. It's a, a grace that exists within the soul though.

And grace can be growth. I, I use such a, kind of a, an open term because we can take it however we want to to mean it. And. If one thinks of grief as perhaps being one of your greatest teachers, it's an ally. It's an unexpected ally for your own sense of self for your own growth. That's how I see it. It's it's it is a grief. Is. opens doors to understanding the self. And one of the things that I talk about in the book actually because it is self discovery are three different ways of kind of assessing the self. Are you an introvert extrovert, ambivert? Are you more of a fixed personality or a mutable or Cardinal? You know, if, if a, if, if there's a big Boulder in the middle of the road, a fixed personality and you want it, you need.

Get to the other side you need, but there's that Boulder. That Boulder can represent grief and the fixed personality is gonna go and gonna get a chisel and start just knocking away. They're gonna knock, gonna really ask for any help, but not because they don't think someone could help them, but because they they've got their own way of doing it.

And then the mutable is gonna stop everybody on the highway and say, you're gonna help. Come on. Let's do this. Let's move this Boulder. And, and then the Cardinal will climb the Boulder stand on top of the Boulder and say, ah, I don't need to drive through this. I'm gonna just climb up and go to the other side and I'll see you all later.

And I got this and those three different ways of dealing with a Boulder. Are there perhaps the three different person per personality with, within us that helps us understand what kind of tools will help us through this. What do I need a group? Do I need individual therapy? Do I need to just talk to my friends or do I feel like I just need to do this on my own, but I will.

I'll read and I'll and I'll, and I'll think about things and I'll go through my journey.

Kimber: Hmm, I don't. Will you tell us the name of your book? I don't think we've mentioned it yet. And it's a long name, so I don't wanna mess it up.

Edy: The book is its grief, the dance of self discovery through trauma and loss. A lot of people knocked me for that long title. I couldn't help myself. You know, it's just, cuz I see that, that the, the journey of grief is a journey of self discovery. And what is the gift? The gift is I get me, I get to know how I am in the world.

And does it fracture you? Yeah. Is it excruciating? Oh my God. A thousand times over. Time and time again. Does it, does it feel like you like, like the Sandhill crane, like some part of you is missing? Yeah. But like the Sandhill crane she's she's surviving. She's she's not just in survival mode. She's thriving.

Kimber: Yeah, I. I was thinking about you talking about, you know, grief can kind of stand on its own. And maybe it's not about finding the opposite to grief, but just dance. Yeah. Dancing with grief. That's the answer, right? Embrace it. Grief doesn't mean there's something wrong with you. And, and now I'm realizing maybe that's what my whole podcast is.

is me trying to overcome the sense of grief of leading. religious community, my faith, this idea that I was raised, believing like you can become perfect. Right? And I'm, I'm grieving so much. And grappling with this idea of if I can't become perfect then am I enough? And so this podcast is titled, just be your bad self, and maybe that's my way of embracing the grief.

Like I'm not gonna ever be perfect. No one is ever gonna be perfect. And that's a hard thing for me to grapple with. And I'm trying to embrace this idea that that's okay. Like you're bird, right. There's nothing. There was nothing necessarily wrong with the bird for not having a leg.

Edy: that's

Kimber: That bird was still thriving.

That bird was still okay. The way it was, even if it wasn't

Edy: right.

Kimber: whole, the way we think of things as, as whole, or, or perfect.

Edy: That's exactly right. Yep. You said it.

Kimber: Just like my mind's just processing I just I was just talking to a friend this morning and saying, I do not know what is wrong with me this week. This week I've kind of tapped into some feminist rage, which now I also am understanding that's some grief too. That's that's got some grief in there too.

And I said, I don't know if this is. The symptoms of this feminist rage I'm feeling, or if I need to get on medication because every day, like one day I'm just, and I'm have never considered myself a very emotional, especially, not visibly emotional person, but I have been working on like, Being seen being authentic moving through these emotions and it is a rollercoaster because one day I will be just so angry at something.

And then the next day I'll be feeling so in love with my husband. And then the next day I'll have a panic attack. And then the next day I'll feel so giddy and like, look how far I've come. And I keep thinking like, when does this end, like. I feel when you talk about these extreme emotions every day, sometimes every hour, I feel a different extreme, and it is it's exhausting.

Edy: It is isn't it? It's exhausting. Yeah.

Would it be so exhausting though? I wonder if you met the emotions with curiosity rather

Kimber: That's the path, right? I have started meditating again this week and what an awesome strategy. It's hard sometimes to make the space for that, but it is, it is really good to be able to step back. And like you said, at the very beginning, listen, What are you? There's nothing. And this comes back kind of to my feminist rage, is that for so long, I felt like, why am I feeling this emotion?

My life is so good, you know, whatever. And so I spend all day. Invalidating invalidating pushing it down, pushing it down. You're crazy. You're broken some, what is wrong? Like that's what I keep asking. What is wrong with me? What is wrong with me? And maybe right with me. Maybe my body is telling me something.

Maybe every emotion I feel has a very, very good reason to be there and I've gotta stop pushing it away and saying, what is wrong with me? And instead say, I'm feeling this emotion. why might that be and trust that it's there for a reason, instead of assuming that there's something wrong with me.

Edy: I, I really like the way that you just framed that you don't strike me as somebody who hasn't tapped into her emotions or is not, you know emotionally available to herself. And so if that's how you've been. Wow. And to, to go from, you know,

I wanna be perfect. And that's the goal to, how am I going to, to beyond this path of imperfection and be okay with the imperfection? Is instilled in, in that and the dimensions of that, which are so rich is also a leave taking of one thing to honor something else.

Kimber: Hmm.

Edy: And we have, we have big leave takings we have, and those leave takings. Can can be part of the big G can be part of those big grief moments when we need to

Kimber: Mm-hmm

Edy: no longer align ourselves with something that no, that does not feel true. It is. It is being in discovery of what is truth for the self

Kimber: Mm-hmm

Edy: and how do you honor that truth? My grief and my stories any one of those, those parts of my life could have rightly just brought me down. And at times did, and I, I, I met the, the grief demon many, many times and realized though that. I, I was going to thrive and I was gonna have a voice. And when I start to feel stuck or timid or shy, I know, oh, there, there there's my grief. There she is. Or there he is. It manifests in different ways. Sometimes it feels masculine. Sometimes it feels feminine. Sometimes it just feels like a they, and I think the idea here is to begin to have the conversation around grief and instead of thinking I need medication or, and, and it's not that I think medication is a bad thing. I have certainly. Had my own rounds of medication for anxiety, for issues of my own sadness. And yet what I, what I realized is when I started to listen and I was able to push at, and with

Kimber: Mm,

Edy: that dance, I found myself. And you know what grief does not follow any particular line, you know, it's, it's not linear in any way. It doesn't follow some normal path. It's it's a roller coaster ride and we're gonna get triggered or something will arouse us in many different ways for, for, you know, and the same person can, can, can get the grief triggers or the trauma triggers.

In, in, in different ways in the same day, it can be a smell. It can be a sound, it can be, somebody is walking and, and it has a pace to their walk that looks very familiar and that familiarity drives home an emotional response that is very much filled with the yearning or that lost sense of self.

Kimber: Hmm. Can we talk a little bit, I'm really curious about the book that you're writing right now. Can you tell us about sexual grief? What, what is that?

Edy: Absolutely. So. You know, I think I, I, I don't, you asked me about, about the title of my book and I don't know if I completely said it. So I just wanna go back because I, I tend to go off and, and then I lose, I lose threads sometimes, which you know is great. And I like to honor those threads, but so the book is its grief, the dance of self discovery through trauma and loss. anybody who's listening. If you go onto my website, just as an aside, which is my name, Edy nathan.com. If you register to be on my emailing list, you'll get a copy of one chapter from the book and the book you can easily find. You can order it. through me on the website, or you can go to Amazon or Barnes and noble.

It's a Kindle download,

Kimber: I'll link to it in the show notes and I'll link to your website so people can find it really easy.

Edy: and if you read it, reviews are always welcome because that's what helps us authors get our messages out and just like you and I are having this conversation. So the next book I'm writing is about sexual grief. And right now my working title, I don't know that that's what it's gonna end up being is sexual grief.

The human condition and sexual grief is a natural response. To an unnatural, traumatic, sexually traumatic experience and any sexually traumatic experience is unnatural, but sexual grief is that natural response. And so when I, when I think about sexual grief, you know, For anybody's who's had any kind of sexual trauma. And I talk about sexual trauma, not just as abuse, because abuse definitely falls under that dimension of what is sexual trauma, but also sexual trauma. If we think about a developmental timeline, Sexual trauma can happen when something that's supposed to just be the normal way, things go gets interrupted because of something that happens. So if you are. A teenager and you're a young girl and all of a sudden you get your period and no one has told you that this is gonna happen. There's been avoidance about this conversation. You've been, perhaps you've had limited information about what's gonna happen with your body. You think you're bleeding to death when this happens, you're terrified.

You might not wanna share this with anyone, anyone, so you keep it to yourself, but you think you're dying. You then realize you do share it with someone, however long you hold onto that secret. And then they, oh, this is, you know, this is a natural thing, but the effect of that. Normal developmental Hm.

Thing that happens to young women.

It, it it gets shrouded by the trauma of what happened to you and your body. As you experience something you didn't realize was gonna happen. And if you don't get help around it, every time you get your period, your body can start to respond to. To what it's doing naturally, which is cleansing itself. And you then create a whole formulation of shame or disgusted.

And so you don't wanna tell anybody about it. You don't wanna talk about it, and even if you are having cramps or you're feeling uncomfortable, You, you may not even share it because they're such shame and take that now to having a relationship with someone. And because you already have a discussed factor, whoever you may want to have a relationship with you're going in with a lot of anxiety and some self discussed, or maybe hate or grief and grief.

Kimber: This is, this is such a relevant topic for my audience. And I know this on a on a definite level now, because I've been preparing for this reclaiming female sexuality retreat that I'm, I'm doing, I'm partnering with another ASEC certified therapist because I'm not, qualified to, to, to. Hold space for all that needs to be held space or that all need, well, I cannot talk.

I'm not qualified to hold that space, but I have been using my Instagram to just ask questions to, especially the women that follow me and say, what would, what were your sexual experiences growing up? How were you taught about sex? How were you?

You know, how do you think about sex? Were you sexually abused? And it has been so sobering. I know that this isn't like a, a clinical study or any kind of rigor or testing or anything, but just from these simple Facebook or Instagram polls I've been doing according to these unofficial polls, about half of.

Audience that's voted on. These has been sexually abused or harassed or assaulted. I'm sure, actually more than I didn't ask the harassment question, I'm sure more than half has been sexually harassed, but I asked the question, have you been sexually abused or assaulted and half the people that voted on that pulse that they had been?

I've have, I have followers who were never taught about sex at all until they got married, they didn't, they didn't have a clue. Most females, at least the ones that follow me, I've, I've been discovering, were raised thinking that you know, sex is something you do to please somebody else. It's to have kids.

I know from my own experience that I I was taught kind of in this way. That's like, yeah, you're gonna grow up and you're gonna be a mom. And this is what sex is. And. I was grossed out by it. I thought it sounded really yucky. And I, I remember wanting to grow up and be an oyster because I watched some national geographic channel that they could mate, without touching each other.

And I was like, okay, if I have to be a mom, that's how I wanna do it. And, and there's so many forms of this, I guess. I don't know if you would term all of that trauma, but kind of. Stunting or not naturally growing into, into something that's like this pleasurable experience that we have all these traumatizing thoughts and, and stuck thoughts around around our own bodies and sexuality.

It's been really sobering to have those

Edy: it is. Yes. And, and I, I, they're very lucky to have you. They're very lucky to have you as a touch point to even say yes, I was sexually abused or yes, there's been sexual trauma. I've been sexually harassed. And you know, when we talk about, you know, cloistered closed religious communities, we can also talk about the men and women within those communities, those children who are non-binary or who, who.

Have questioned their sexual identity or their sexual orientation and have nowhere have had nowhere to go. And what happens is they either live li lives of lies and there is grief, or they live li lives of flies. Which can, and I, I repeated it twice because the lies can be different. One of the lies is I'm gonna marry and I'm going to procreate and I'm gonna look like I'm gonna make this look like I'm not who I am and it's forever shielded.

And then there's the lie of. I'm gonna hide who I am, but I'm gonna have a side game. I'm going to be able to fulfill who, who I know I am throughout through other outlets, whatever those other outlets are. It's not for me to define. And the idea here and the idea here is that that sexual grief and. Really it's a traumatic moment and moments in time for anybody who must go into hiding or must lead double lives or decide to break from the community and honor themselves and live in the worlds that best honor who they are as people.

And. Are SHN from the family or the community to such a degree that it creates such grief and emotional disorder within them, that they stop honoring who they are to go back into what they perceive as the loving arms of their community.

Kimber: And it's no wonder that suicide rates are so high. Because the stakes are so high to be, sometimes the stakes are so high to be seen as who, who you really are.

Edy: absolutely.

Kimber: And if you have no safe space to go,

Edy: That's right.

Kimber: then it feels like that's the only way out.

Edy: That's right. That's right. And, and so you're, you. You're trapped. You're being held hostage. I have more choice words, but I am curtailing those other choice words right now.

Kimber: Mm.

Edy: However being a sex therapist, you mentioned ASEC and I'm part of, very much part of that organization. We, we must have these conversations because if we don't, we're not honoring the people who need the help.

And I'm really saying people because if we talk about human beings and we talk about people, then whoever you are, and however you identify. Whatever that means. It's not for me to even give you a signature of, you know, letters, but just say all people, this is all people. And so I do that in all, you know, all people, all races, all religions.

It is people. It is human kind because grief touches everybody. I don't care what you, who you. It touches everyone. I also happen to believe that sexual trauma based on not just sexual abuse, cuz I don't think that sex people, all people are sexually abused, but I th I do believe that most of us don't escape without some kind of sexually traumatic event. And whether that is the beginning stages and evolving sexual self and exploration in something that goes wrong or it's menopause and just not realizing what you are. Having to face and the lost sense of your own sexual self or for men, the inability to, to perhaps perform sexually the way they, they once did or because of illness or medication, their virality is their, what their idea of their virality is taken away, their sexual grief and.

Too often, it's just you're depressed or you're anxious or you're this or you're that, but the reality is, is that it's so much more than that.

It's so much more than that. It is a grief that lays within the body and wants to be acknowledged and is often too often, I feel medicated away.

Kimber: mm-hmm mm-hmm. I, I think that's the, you know, we talked earlier about medication and how there's medication can be so helpful. Right. And, and sometimes it's very stigmatized, but sometimes you need it to be able to, to just function. Right. But, but I would imagine that the tricky part is when we're using it to.

Mask our feelings. Right. I don't want to feel this. Therefore I wanna get on medication, so I don't have to feel this at all. And that's, that's a tricky, that's a tricky line to navigate.

Edy: You know what it really is a tricky line. And, and the, the whole idea about medication is

let's give enough medication to help the person do the work they need to do when they're in the process of. Dealing with the fight of survival. And, and, and that, you know, sometimes medication is needed to, to, to take the leap of faith that there's healing on the other side. And that leap of faith is so, so, so important. And I know that I had a terrible anxiety disorder. My early twenties, I had such bad agoraphobia.

I couldn't walk outside my front door. I couldn't. And I was living in Brooklyn, New York, and I couldn't. Down 10 steps, not 10 flights, 10 steps to go outside. And if you've got an anxiety disorder, one of the things that happens is you, you, you don't wanna take any medication because you don't trust and it's terrifying.

And yet it was the very medication that enabled me to take those first few steps. Outside to, to, to push myself to be in a, in, in a bit of pain and discomfort, but it enabled me to push myself to, to face the limitations of that anxiety disorder. And oftentimes medication can just help you do that. And then of course, there, there are folks that, that really need the medication and it's.

It just helps period. And that's fine too. It's not about having a judgment. You should, you shouldn't, it's just, what can you do on your own to help your brain help you get through the tougher times?

Kimber: what's gonna, what's gonna be the best support to you, right? Sometimes I think we look at it as like, well, am I not strong enough? am I not intelligent enough? Or, you know, whatever the, the word we wanna use is can't, can't I be tough enough to get through this and figure this out without the help of medication.

And it's like, well, maybe , but if it's gonna help you, if it's gonna support you, why make the battle that much harder?

Edy: Completely why make the battle that much harder? . And, and if there's some freedom at the end. Oh my God. Yeah. Take some medication. It's amazing how, how much medication can help, but there is a difference between medication and self-medicating

Kimber: mm-hmm

Edy: and some people do self-medicate and that they're using alcohol or they're using pills or they're using weed to just help them get through the day.

And for some. If that helps you cope and you've been able to figure out a way to thrive with that. It's not no judgment on the other hand, I'm not so sure that the limits of I'm going to self-medicate necessarily can work. And whereas sometimes medication that is not self prescribed you know, we understand a little bit more of how it works with the brain, and sometimes you need like, Combination of meds, a little bit of this and a little bit of that to actually conquer what you the obstacles of, of me, of the, the, the emotional mental stuff that keeps you stuck.

Kimber: Yeah, yeah. Again, this idea of what's what's gonna support. What's gonna be the optimal thing to help you. What's gonna support you. And without crossing that line of it. It hinders you more than helps you,

Edy: Right. That's right. That's right. And, to enter into the conversation of medication with that beginner's mind with the show shin.

Kimber: It's about time to wrap up this episode. What are, what are the big takeaways, big picture things that our listeners can come away with today as they, as we all do this dance with, with grief.

Edy: don't know if you're familiar with the the story of the wizard of Oz.

Kimber: Oh yes. Mm-hmm.

Edy: It's one of my favorite stories and there's a book in there for me as well. And the idea that Dorothy was be stowed these red shoes, right by, by the good witch Linda, the good witch. And she didn't really understand, you know, those red shoes.

But she started on her journey and the journey. She had no idea what the journey was gonna be none whatsoever, but she knew that she had to leave where she was so that she could get to the Emerald city of Oz and you know, where it glistened and where there was hope and where, you know, she was gonna figure out a way to get back home.

The metaphorical home. And yet at every juncture, she, as she met the scarecrow, as she met the tin man, as she met, you know, the lion. As she met the wizard, she was also meeting parts of herself, the parts of herself that needed her brain and the parts of herself that needed a mature, a more mature heart, the parts of herself that needed to have the courage to continue to go to the quote unquote, Emerald city or home, and the courage to be able.

To shout at the wizard and say, who are you? You're nothing. Who are you? And that throughout that entire journey, she was meeting and letting go. Meeting parts of herself that she needed and letting go of maybe her youth or maybe her, her childishness, or maybe part of the grief of losing home. But while losing home, she was connecting with these very strong elementary parts.

Of the self that the self needs to have a heart and we need brains and we need courage and we need to call on the stuff that seems fake to us so that we can be in the world. And that is the broader message to me about grief.

Edy Nathan Profile Photo

Edy Nathan

Author/Keynote Speaker/Foremost Grief Authority

Edy Nathan MA, LCSWR, CST is an author, public speaker and licensed therapist. She is an AASECT certified sex therapist, hypnotherapist and certified EMDR practitioner with more than 20 years of experience. Edy earned degrees from New York University and Fordham University, with post-graduate training at the Ackerman Institute for Family Therapy. She practices in New York City.
Grief is hard to talk about. Edy teaches you to dance with your grief, To know it as a way to know yourself. Whether it is the loss of a loved one or the loss of a limb or the loss of the life you once knew, it is your soul that offers the answers to relief. An essential element in her practice is to offer clients the chance to combine psychotherapy with a deeper, more spiritual understanding of the self. She is dedicated to helping people understand their grief, cope with the fear and struggle that holds them back, and learn to live fully.