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  • Writer's pictureSuzanne DuFour MPS,ATR-BC

Surviving the Holidays when you are grieving.

Updated: Jan 31, 2019

A bit before the holidays I invited Janeen Mary Chasan MA, ATR-BC, LCAT to join me in my private Facebook group The Art. Mind. Soul. Tribe. to talk a bit about how to make it through the holidays when you have experienced a loss and are grieving. Janeen is an Art Therapist and filmmaker from New York. Janeen has a private group she leads on Facebook called Grief Story Connection where she helps individuals who have experienced loss tell their story and connect with others. I know its now past the holidays and you might be wondering why Im posting this now. Currently it's that mid winter slump. It's after the Holidays, all the decorations are pretty much put away and now it's just quiet. Quiet. There is a word that can be filled with many things when you have experienced a loss. Quiet can be filled with guilt, anger, why and the wonders of 'what if." So this interview while based in the time frame of the holidays can really be applicable to any time of year. All you have to do is substitute the word "Holiday" for the words " Birthday", "Anniversary" or other occasions you may have celebrated with your loved one and family. Another big one right around the corner is Valentine's day. All of those dates and events can really really trigger a flood of memories and feelings that can be overwhelming and intense if not planned for in advance. So, with that I give you the transcript and video of my interview with Janeen Mary Chasan MA, ATR-BC, LCAT..

This Interview with Janeen Mary Chasan MA, ATR-BC LCAT originally aired 12/18 in the private Facebook group The Art. Mind. Soul. Tribe.

Sue DuFour: Hi, everyone. Trying again to see if I can get Janeen on. Hopefully, this time ( it will work properly). We both have headphones so let's see what happens. Janeen, you have not popped up yet. I have my little (dog) buddy, Cooper, with me today. So if you hear like snarfing and all kinds of sounds it's because he's very old. He coughs. He's 14. All right, let's see. Here we go. Let's try this.

Janeen: Hi, how are you?

Sue DuFour: Oh, I don't hear feedback.

Janeen: Me neither


Sue DuFour: Guess what, this is working.

Janeen: (The) headphone's (are) working.

Sue DuFour: Who-hoo. So now you just might hear Cooper because he's going to sit on my lap so he's not a (barking) grouchy little dog while we're talking.

Janeen: Hi, Cooper. He's so cute.

Sue DuFour: He might bark (during the interview at something). So I'm Suzanne DuFour. I am the founder of Art Mind Soul. I have created this group so that artists, therapists, healers and other individuals can work through life's issues and challenges using their creativity. Today is a redo of an interview that I had with Janeen where we had (experienced) some technical difficulties earlier but we've now solved it with earphones. Woo yay!

Janeen: Yay. We've got headphones.

Sue DuFour: We figured it out! We've been trying to go back and forth for a long time to figure this (live video stuff) out.

Janeen: Yeah.

Sue DuFour: I will give Janeen a little bit of an intro (to start with). Janeen Mary Chasan is a Licensed Creative Arts Therapist, filmmaker, and writer from New York. She works with people who are grieving the loss of a loved one and utilizes Art Therapy and creative writing to help her clients heal from the loss while still honoring their personal grief story.

Sue DuFour: I've invited her here today again to discuss the topic that many of you (in my private Facebook group) have expressed interest in. She has a unique, wonderful take on grief and different components of it which is why I've asked her here to join us today. So Janeen, can you share a little bit about how you got interested in grief work?

Janeen: Yeah. Thank you so much for having me here again.

Sue DuFour: You're welcome. We got it to work, that's all that matters.

Janeen: Yeah, I know. We stayed the course in the face of challenges.

Sue DuFour: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Janeen: So yeah, I am a Creative Arts Therapist in New York. I kind of got thrown into grief work because of professional circumstances and personal circumstances. So I've personally done my own grief work for a very long time because I was 20 years old when my father died. So I've been kind of working my process with grief. Then more recently, about three or four years ago, I was invited to work at a hospice. So that kind of like really opened my eyes to a lot of different avenues working with people who are dying and also the loved ones, to cope with the loss of their loved one. So that's kind of like my little grief journey in a nutshell.

Sue DuFour: Janeen, in my (private Facebook)group, I have a number of people who've expressed interest in working with art, how that can help with grief and loss and how they can kind of work through things using creativity. Could you explain a little bit about that?

Janeen: Yeah

Sue DuFour: I mean, I can too but you have a different perspective.

Janeen: Oh, absolutely. Basically, in a nutshell, when we lose a loved one and we're going through the grief, a lot of things that we feel and that we think are really kind of beyond words. The most powerful way or the most effective way to kind of externalize our feelings I feel is through art, making art and also doing creative writing such as poetry or free writing, things like that. In my practice, I kind of meld the two together. So I see a lot of people, (some when) they are just really very early on in their grief process and when the loss has just happened, they really don't have any words to express how they feel because it's such a deep feeling.

Janeen: And as you know, as a fellow Art Therapist, the things that are really kind of inexpressible through words and are better expressed with images.

Sue DuFour: It's true.

Janeen: Yeah.

Sue DuFour: So I had originally timed this, in my ( private Facebook) group (to air at a certain time), I have a 30-day challenge running at this moment. It's a clarity challenge to increase (your personal) energy vibration before going into the new year. I'm kind of starting off the new year with a fresh start. So originally, I had this interview timed right in the middle of it. It is just before the holidays, and so many times often holidays are triggers. When you lose someone and it comes around to the holidays, anniversary or a birthday, it becomes really difficult. So what are some ways that people who are grieving can kind of get through the holidays?

Janeen: Yeah. That's a great question. I see it a lot ( of individuals) around this time of year in my practice, things are coming up a lot more around this time of year because the holidays are so charged with family time and tradition and things like that. Then when we have lost a loved one or somebody's grieving (even if you haven't recently lost loved one) it could be like 10, 20 years ago, these feelings come up around the holidays and like you said, anniversaries and birthdays.

Janeen: So what I usually tell the people that I work with is to really have a plan going into the holidays and really get clear. It's funny that you're having a clarity challenge and my whole thing is to tell people really to get clear on how they want to (do)... I ask how they want to attack the holidays, how they want to really kind of receive the holidays and what they want to do. Do you want to celebrate at all, make the choice of whether you want to celebrate or whether you don't want to celebrate? And both are okay.

Janeen: With people who are grieving, I do a lot of normalization because it's a very lonely journey . A lot of people don't really realize that what they're feeling is normal.

Sue DuFour: And I would think too that it is very important to not just (brush off that importance) ... if you ( make sure to) have something do like that, not just sit around and sort of think about it. Like you said, have a plan.

Janeen: Right.

Sue DuFour: So maybe you're not going to do the traditional Christmas. Maybe you go to the movies or maybe go take a walk in a park.

Janeen: Exactly.

Sue DuFour: Or maybe you spend it with friends or maybe you create new traditions.

Janeen: Exactly. You know, that's what I was going to go on to say. (It) is like if you are going to celebrate the holiday, and you've made the choice that you're going to celebrate how do you want to celebrate it? Do you want to celebrate it in the same location that you did year after year or you want to try something new? Maybe that (traditional) location (triggers emotions), maybe people had gone to their mother and father’s house and (now) one of their parents is gone. Maybe it's too painful so you want to pick a new location. Maybe you want to stay in the same location but pick a couple of new traditions. And like you said, maybe you want to go to the movies.

Janeen: And one of the things that I think is really important is if you are going to be celebrating the holiday is to pick something special to honor the loved one. So you just don't necessarily kind of forget about them. Do one thing special whether it's take a quiet moment in the morning before the whole family comes over and just speak to them from your heart, write something down, maybe make a piece of art to honor them. (Do) something special that is for you only.

Janeen: I live by the beach. When I was younger, every Christmas morning I would just take my own time and drive down to the beach. And I wouldn't say or do anything but it was just my kind of moment to be alone and reflect in whatever feelings had come up where I was missing any of my loved ones that are gone.

Sue DuFour: I apologize. The dog tripped over the light cord, the other dog tripped over the light cord. [inaudible 00:08:34] so I quick grabbed the light. So, it's oh, my gosh.

Janeen: I love it.

Sue DuFour: We have a little bit of a nutty household here.

Janeen: That's okay.

Sue DuFour: So my other question was so you have a very unique and fantastic way at describing different types of grief. And it's a little bit different than Kübler-Ross, for those of you who are familiar with [inaudible 00:08:54] discussed. And you describe them as archetypes.

Janeen: Right.

Sue DuFour: So I was wondering if you could tell me a little bit about those (archetypes)?

Janeen: Sure. Yeah. So I have this kind of philosophy that I outline when I work with my clients who are grieving. And it's basically six archetypes to transform grief. So the six archetypes are ... basically like little like characters that might live inside of us while we grieve. So I'll just kind of go through all six of them really quickly.

Sue DuFour: Sure.

Janeen: So the first one is the Wanderer, and the second one is the Collector, and the third one is the Storyteller, and the fourth one is the Observer, and the fifth one is the Regulator. Those are the beginnings of the archetypes in a nutshell. I've found that each one of these archetypes have a light side and a dark side. When we can channel them and really bring them into our knowing that they can help us or they can hinder us. Sometimes if you're like, for example, the wanderer, (and) you' are engaging in the wanderer archetype might not feel as grounded. You might feel very lost and alone and kind of wandering around. And that's usually very early on after a loss occurs.

Sue DuFour: I really like the collector. I think that's what I am.

Janeen: Yeah. So the collectors, and it's funny because I think about myself in these different archetypes and I can kind of pinpoint exactly when I was the wanderer, when I was the collector, when I was the observer, all these different ways. That's why I say all six archetypes live within each of us. And it's just a matter of which one's at the driver seat.

Sue DuFour: Right.

Janeen: So you had said you relate to the collector. That is somebody who kind of amasses objects and things that are tied to their loved one. That could be a good thing just to have different actual physical objects around us that remind us and provide comfort to us. But then the darker side of the collector is a hoarder.

Sue DuFour: A lot of stuff.

Janeen: A lot of stuff.

Sue DuFour: Yeah.

Janeen: Like my mom is not a hoarder per se, but she has a lot of things and they're all very meaningful. Like, "Oh, that was my mom’s, that was my dad's. You can't move this. You can't touch this." And it's all very meaningful for her.

Sue DuFour: Right. I think for me, part of it is that when you inherit things from someone who was like my grandmother. She was very much the collector archetype. So she has passed them through my mother to me and therefore, I have things that you have to decide what is ( going to be kept or not) ... but then that's a whole other process. (When) you're deciding what you're doing with (all the stuff).

Janeen: Right. Yeah.

Sue DuFour: But I really appreciate how you have broken down these archetypes because I think that when you see them on paper, read about them and you can identify different things. It's a good way to kind of break down where you are without feeling bad about it. You shouldn't feel bad if you're the collector archetype or you're the wanderer archetype because they are positives. It's not a negative thing. It's a process.

Janeen: Right. Another challenge that I see with people that come into my practice who are grieving is (that) their loved ones, friends or other distant family members can't understand their process. So I think for someone like you who identifies as a collector, maybe your husband or something like that doesn't identify as being a collector. But the fact that he knows kind of where you are in that process (he) can (then) have a little bit more of an understanding of why you might be collecting things or why.

Sue DuFour: Right. It's not the hoarder level. It's just that I have things that I know belonged to certain people.

Janeen: Yeah. Right. Understanding where somebody is in their process with each one of these archetypes only can increase understanding and the communication between one another.

Sue DuFour: Right. I think (that) is interesting because right over my head (on the shelf behind me) , are all of my great grandmothers little (vintage) Christmas ice skating figures.

Janeen: Wow. I love it.

Sue DuFour: I just happened to think of that (off) the top of my head (as) we're talking about this, and it leads right to (our conversation), Janeen.

Janeen: Yeah. It's funny because you made me think of something just now when you pointed those out. So I had when my grandmother died, (so many) beautiful plates, dishes and things like that. She died before I was married. I was living on my own (before she died). I had taken a bunch of cake plates of hers from the '40s, '50s, '60s (that) are really cool. I was like, "I'm going to use these when I move (into) my own home". I had them just stored away.

Janeen: When I married my husband and we moved in together, I had these plates. But it was kind of like a miss-matched plate thing. I said, "I don't know what to do with these." He is a collector. He would identify as the collector. So he said, "Well, why don't we take each one of these plates," I had like a set of four for each one. And he's said, "Why don't we hang them on the wall because I know they're your grandmothers." So he helped me to honor her by doing that. I (told him), "That's a good idea." I really was (thinking), "I'm not going to use these ( in daily use). They're so special to me but I don't want to have them in a closet." So he (helped) displayed them.

Sue DuFour: I think that's an important too. I'm getting a little off topic but it still related. If you are someone like the collector and you don't want it to turn into a hoarding situation, maybe pick one or two things that you really identify with and use them in a different way. Perhaps turn them into art or like you did hang them on your wall. Use them for a different purpose from what they are intended. I think that's a great way to (use objects that are special to you).

I wanted to ask you ( a question on the next topic). I know that you have a gift that you wanted to give everyone (today).

Janeen: Yeah. Yeah.

Sue DuFour: So I'm going to have you ( tell everyone again) about it. We spoke about ( your gift) the first time I interviewed you. But again, it was all (technical issues and) glitchy. So I'm just going to have you go through that again and discuss a little bit (about your gift). I have a lot of new people that have just joined (the private facebook group) too. So we'll have a new group of people watching ( this time we go live). Can you tell me a little bit about the PD ... I was going to say what it was.

Janeen: Oh, no, that's okay.

Janeen: It's a PDF.

Sue DuFour: It's a free download for you ( for watching the live video).

Janeen: Yeah. I created a little guide, about these archetypes. It's called “The Six Archetypes to Transform Grief.” It outlines each one of the six archetypes that we just kind of touched upon. (The PDF) talks about the light side and the dark side of each archetype. Maybe somebody in your group might be feeling a little bit blocked in one of these areas. In the guide, each archetype is tied to a chakra. I talk about which chakra governs each archetype. Then I also give you in the PDF, a mantra for each one of these archetypes. So if you might be feeling blocked, you could do some chakra work and some meditation with the mantra (connected) with each one of these archetypes.

Sue DuFour: That sounds so awesome.

Janeen: Yeah.

Sue DuFour: I know that you guys are going to super love that. You really have to check that (PDF) out because it's very cool. Before we go, real quick, is (something) you would (say) is the most important thing that people should know when they're grieving in your opinion?

Janeen: I think that the most important thing for people to know is that they're not alone. Although your grief process and your grief story is very unique to you, you're not alone. Definitely reach out to some good people in your life for some support. As an art therapist, I can't leave art out. Making art, writing poetry and continuing to tell your story about your loved one is extremely helpful.

Sue DuFour: Well, thank you, Janeen. I'm so glad that we got to redo this ( interview) and we got it to work.

Janeen: Yeah. I know. Headphones.

Sue DuFour: Headphones. Now we can have you back in the future and we know the headphones are the key on both ends.

Janeen: Yeah.

Sue DuFour: Awesome.

Janeen: Thank you so much for having me be here.

Sue DuFour: All right. You're welcome.

Janeen: Yay.

Sue DuFour: So if you guys have any questions, I'm going to (tag) Janeen (in this video and she is part of the private facebook) group too. I'm going to post this “live” and if you guys have questions, just post them below ( this video in the feed) and Janeen can answer them. We can always have Janeen come back again. This time we'll have (the video done) right the first time.

Janeen: Awesome.

Sue DuFour: All right.

Janeen: Right.

Sue DuFour: Have a good day, everyone. Thank you, Janeen.

Janeen: Thank you.

Sue DuFour: And it was really lovely having you.

Janeen: Thank you so much.

Sue DuFour: Bye.

Janeen: Bye.

To download the PDF discussed in this Video and transcript please click:

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