In her early years, Chelsea Hanson’s young life was tragically interrupted with the loss of her two parents. After pulling herself from that devastating place of grief and learning how to heal, she knew she wanted to help others do the same. Using her degree in finance as well as her education in grief support with certifications in holistic life coaching and life legacy preservation, she turned her life experiences into lessons for others.
Chelsea is now an entrepreneur who has created programs and products, as well as her store With Sympathy Gifts and Keepsakes- an online memorial gift store and grief support center, to help guide anyone struggling with loss to a better place. Chelsea has successfully taught countless people how to understand and move forward with their grief in a healthy and meaningful way.
Chelsea now lives in Green Bay, Wisconsin with her husband and son.
Your book, The Sudden Loss Survival Guide, was inspired by the sudden loss of your mother, how did you find the strength to put pen to paper and write this guidebook?
The Sudden Loss Survival Guide is the book I wish I would’ve had when my parents died.
Providing comfort to others was the impetus to continue writing when I wanted to quit. I knew firsthand how devastating the loss can be, and I wanted to provide a useful guide to soften the profound, deep sorrow of life-changing loss.
After the sudden loss of my mother, I didn’t know where to turn for help, nor how to put the pieces of my life back together. My healing was not easy, and I wanted others to have a less arduous journey. I wanted other sudden loss survivors to have access to the necessary tools and information to navigate loss. That’s why I wrote the Sudden Loss Survival Guide—to offer the bereaved and those supporting them, a concrete road map to move through life’s challenges and seemingly insurmountable obstacles.
What was the most challenging aspect of writing this book? What was the most rewarding?
The experience of writing The Sudden Loss Survival Guide and working with those grieving has shown me that healing from loss can and does occur with proactive grief work. I enjoy sharing the healing practices and tools that allowed me to mourn, grieve, and honor the memory of those I love. With the desire to heal and the willingness to do the hard work of mourning, it’s possible to integrate loss into your life, and over time, embrace life again. What I find most rewarding is that I know healing is possible for anyone.
The most difficult aspect of writing was sharing my grief story and recovery. This book was personal. It’s often said we write what we need to learn. The Sudden Loss Survival Guide has helped me transcend the sudden deaths of my parents and release cumulative and generational grief. When I started writing this book more than seven years ago, I was not sure if healing fully from sudden loss was possible because I had not experienced it yet. But, by using the practical tools and empowering exercises in this book, I’ve released grief completely and now enjoy peace. And others can do the same.
The most fulfilling facet of my work now is when a griever has a shift in perspective – when they see their situation differently. The mourner sees not only their pain, but also the possibility of change, personal growth, and renewal. When a reader says, “I never thought about it that way,” a change in perception has occurred and this brings healing. And isn’t that we all truly desire deep in our hearts, to be healed, whole, and complete.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to support a friend who is going through a sudden loss? Is there a “best way” to comfort someone who has lost a loved one or is it different for every situation?
Many people do not know what to do or say to comfort a grieving person so they often remain silent or do nothing. Instead, the best thing you can do is acknowledge the griever’s profound loss in any type of situation. Say the name of the person who died, validate the profound sorrow of the griever, and verbally express your feelings. Do not offer platitudes, try to minimize the pain, or compare griefs. And remember you cannot understand how the griever is feeling because you are not that person. Allow the mourner to grieve in his or her unique way.
While writing this book, did you discover anything new about yourself or your own recovery journey?
I discovered that I could cultivate an enduring, meaningful spiritual connection with my loved ones. I was able to let go of grief by learning that the relationship with those we love continues. I formed a different relationship with the ones I missed based on love and spirit, instead of sadness and pain. I found a place in my soul where death does not sever the relationship, but where the continuing bonds of love flourish and my beloved moves forward “with” me in memory and daily life. This is the place where the past and present co-exist as a part of me.
While your book focuses on reengaging with life after the loss of a loved one, you also emphasize the importance of remembrance. Do you have a favorite way to honor a loved one who has passed?
I have a photo of my parents on my desk, which I see as I work, to serve as a physical reminder of their presence. I appreciate their continuing influence on my life through words remembered, experiences shared, and memories that cannot be forgotten. I picture in my mind’s eye a favorite look, a characteristic smile, or a moment of joy. On a spiritual level, I simply recall the essence of my loved ones as I go about my daily life. I feel their steadfast love and enduring spirit in all that I do. By remembering a beloved person in daily life, love continues to exist. As you remember, you’ll never forget. And isn’t that what we all want?
If you had to choose one, what would be your favorite quote/lesson/passage from The Sudden Loss Survival Guide?
My favorite personal lesson in The Sudden Loss Survival Guide is that love lives on, always. Once you have love, you cannot lose it. It’s yours always. It doesn’t diminish over time, but continues to grow stronger, especially from the spiritual realm. The deceased’s physical presence may be gone, but the relationship continues in a new way based in spirit, love, and memories.
The most important concept I want my readers to know is that change is inherent in life, whether birth, death, illness, aging, or other unwelcome losses. But these changes do not have to cause permanent, ongoing suffering. The death of a loved one is inevitable, but being paralyzed by fear, anxiety, and grief is not. Joy, love, and even peace is possible again when you desire healing. While you cannot control loss, you can proactively guide your own healing. Time along with effort, the intention to heal, and conscious mourning will gradually bring comfort.
How do you want your readers to feel after they turn the last page of your book?
Comforted and loved, knowing that healing from loss is possible.
On a personal note, how are you nourishing your own soul and taking care of yourself during this chaotic time?
I am turning inward for rest and renewal. I limit social media, do not listen to the news, cultivate daily gratitude, and send silent, gentle blessings of love and light to others. I find myself spending more time in nature. I walk, sit outside, and simply appreciate the blue skies in Wisconsin.
Rapid Fire Questions:
Favorite place in the world? My home
Go to coffee (or tea) order? Diet Pepsi (not a coffee drinker)
Summer or winter? Summer and more summer
Pancakes or waffles? Pancakes with chocolate chips
Last book you read? Say It Now: 33 Ways to Say I LOVE YOU to the Most Important People in Your Life (It was so packed with helpful ideas that I read it for a second time!)
Seven Essential Practices for Healing Grief (Grief and Bereavement Book)
The audience for The Sudden Loss Survival Guide includes readers who have suffered the unexpected loss of a beloved person. These losses occur from natural causes, undiagnosed medical conditions, accidents, road crashes, suicides, natural disasters, and acts of violence.
The readers are college-educated adults who are interested in self-help, continual learning, and balanced lifestyles. They read at least four books per year and keep them on their bedside or living room tables for easy access.