Welcome to NABBW member and grief recovery coach Ann Leach. Ann is a certified grief recovery specialist and an award-winning writer. Her organization, Life Preservers Grief Support, is a global grief support community designed to assist people in shifting their beliefs about death from fear and dread to acceptance and celebration. Ann will be a guest on an NABBW teleseminar November 11th, at 8 PM, Eastern time (5 PM Pacific.) Our topic will be “5 Steps to Holiday Grief Survival.” Being as the holidays are fast coming upon us, this is a really timely topic and we hope you will join us on the call, which is presented at no charge.
Ann gained experience with dealing with grief at a young age. She lost both parents to cancer and, by the time she was sixteen years of age, had lost every male in her life through death. Ann’s experiences with loss have shaped her approach to life, causing her to celebrate each moment and explore what’s truly important for her life.
She started Life Preservers as a way to support others in doing the same. She encourages you to sign up on her site for her free ezine, “In the Flow,” and receive a special report, “From Pain to Peace: 5 Tips for Riding the Waves of Grief.”
Using one paragraph, tell us a bit about yourself?
Tell us about your family; married, divorced, children, grands, boomerangs or parents living with you, etc.
This is pretty easy since I don’t have much of a family left! I am currently single and was an only child. By the time I was 16 every man in my life was dead and over the years most of the women have died too.
I’m down to four cousins (and their families) on my mom’s side and four cousins on my dad’s and that’s it!
I knew in high school that I didn’t want children myself, but I sure admire my friends that have them!
What is your favorite childhood memory that is reminiscent of growing up in the 50s, 60s or 70s?
My mom took me to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida one winter a few years after my dad died. I remember asking her if we would get to see some hippies when we got there?
We drove down a main street of town and I kept bugging her by asking “is that one?”
What qualities do you have that speak of our generation of women?
My first thought was ‘resilience’. Having moved through my many life losses has taught me some survival skills that I probably wouldn’t have gotten any other way!
What inspires you?
Positive people who can see the big picture and aren’t afraid to throw their ideas out and ask for help in seeing them manifest.
Art also inspires me to look at things differently and release judgments by considering a new way of looking at things.
What brings you the most pleasure in midlife?
Being in nature and by water. Enjoying good conversations with friends. Watching a group of people work together for a common goal and making it happen.
Do you have any interesting hobbies?
I enjoy making jewelry and am also a visual practitioner: I capture key concepts from meetings and speeches in a visual way, using common icons and words on large sheets of paper.
Do you have a favorite book or movie? If so, tell us why it’s your favorite.
I’d have to say ‘chick flicks and nice romances’. It certainly wouldn’t be a drama or action film or scary book — I think we have enough drama/war/upset in the world and when I get to relax at the movies or with a book, I want to be relaxed and entertained.
Do you travel and if so, who are your favorite travel partners and where do you like to go?
I do enjoy travel, though it is usually by myself!
I always tie on 4 days after attending a conference so I have time to relax, absorb the information I learned and enjoy the city I am in. If there is a beach involved, all the better!
Do you practice preventive medicine? Please elaborate.
I meditate regularly, do tai chi and use Young Living essential oils and vitamins regularly. I’m convinced these things help me stay calm and healthy!
What do you stress about?
I don’t anymore. I’ve found that if I shift my mindset then I can manage just about any tough time. I try to look at the difficult times as learning opportunities and see what I can gain from them, rather than resisting them.
Is it important for you to retain your youthful looks, and if so, to what degree are you willing to go?
I started to say it wasn’t that important to me, but each month I notice a reaction to my hair when the dirty blonde color starts to fade! It seems it is harder and harder to cover the gray, though my hairdresser assures me she still has a few other tricks up her sleeve!
Have you re-invented yourself, and if so, how?
Not really, though to the outer eye it may look like I have. I started out with theatre and journalism degrees and worked as a publicist for professional theatres. Then my mom got sick and I moved to be with her.
After she died, I moved into counseling, working with kids on drugs and with cancer patients. I got an advanced degree in psych and counseling. For many years I worked as a freelance writer and now as a grief recovery coach.
I see it is all tied together….the journalism training helped me ask powerful questions with my counseling clients and the theatre training allowed me to find creative ways to express myself with my clients.
Do you plan to retire?
I can’t imagine doing so right now! I love what I do and am fortunate that I get to do it from my home office and could do it from anywhere in the country.
Are you doing anything to GO Green?
I am a big recycler and use green products in cleaning my home and lighting it. I have been known to load up my car with plastic water bottles, paper and cardboard boxes used at conferences within driving distance, bring them home and take them to my local recycling center. I hate seeing someone toss their bottle or can into the hotel trash can!
Can you pinpoint major turning points in your life that led to your life’s work/play at midlife?
It would have to be my mom’s death. That event led to a new spiritual journey and helped lay the foundation for Life Preservers. So many say “what a great memorial to your mom’ and that’s true to a certain extent. But the reality is that there just wasn’t that much support for me as the caregiver when I went through that experience and had to cope with her death.
Do you still have unfulfilled dreams, and are you doing anything to accomplish them?
Well, I wrote the book on goal setting for women (Literally- the book was called Goal Sisters: Live the Life You Want with a Little Help from Your Friends and was published by New World Library, 2004), so I have a tendency to fulfill my goals and dreams! I just keep adding more and love seeing them come into being.
How do you make a difference in the lives of others, your community, your world?
I believe in volunteer service and give back regularly to my community through service on the Community Foundation of Southwest Missouri board of directors and the George A. Spiva Center for the Arts board. I love that the foundation helps individuals and businesses set up their own giving funds to supports causes they care about.
Spiva is an amazing place and does so much to introduce the arts to children in the area. I believe our creativity is of high value, so I am happy to help this group grow.
I also volunteer for a couple of Chamber of Commerce committees too.
Who has had the biggest influence on your life and why?
Dr. O. Carl Simonton. He and Larry LeShan are considered the ‘grandfathers’ of the mind/body medicine movement. When I counseled cancer patients and their families, I attended workshops led by both of these men. I later hosted Dr. Simonton in my community for a 3-day workshop and got to see that he truly walked his talk.
Another important figure to me was Noel Harrison, Rex Harrison’s son. He too was an actor (I had a big crush when he appeared in The Man From U.N.C.L.E.!) and came to the theater I later worked at. I had to usher him around to press events and he stayed in town on his day off, asking me to take him to lunch. I asked what time he’d like to go and he said “I’ll have to call you. When I have a day off I don’t wear a watch and just do what I’m inspired to do, when I’m inspired to do it.”
I loved that idea of truly taking time off to relax and do what you want to do with no expectations. That was a foreign concept back then!
If you were to have a personal mission statement, what would it be? Feel free to be as serious or fun as you choose.
Always practice the Universal law of giving and receiving.