Category Archives: Dealing with Loss

A Foster Kid’s Dilemma: Who Gets the Life Raft? (Shenandoah Chefalo)

What happens when youngsters have to make “grown-up” decisions regarding their own welfare? Former foster youth and author, Shenandoah Chefalo, shares this eye-opening, candid account of such an experience and what she learned from it.

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Shenandoah Chefalo, A Foster Kid's Dilemma: Who Gets the Life Raft?Writing for my blog is sometimes problematic for me. I try to be as transparent as possible and talk about the things that are truly affecting my life in the moment. I want it to be honest, of course, but sometimes that means discussing emotions and feelings that are difficult or painful to put into words.

An Unexpected Answer

Recently, I was at an event and a woman asked a question that I hear often: “How did you overcome the abandonment of your mother?” My answer is burdensome and often shocking for audiences. The truth is, I never felt abandoned by my mother. Instead, I felt that I had abandoned her.

I had spent much of my childhood taking care of my mother, worrying about her, and making sure she was okay. When I was 13, she disappeared for a few days, then a few weeks. It wasn’t shocking to me; it was my “normal.”

When she still hadn’t reappeared, and my grandmother was going to be evicted from her housing, I knew I had to call social services. It was a difficult call for me to make; one that I would wish, time and time again, that I hadn’t made. Making that call always felt like I was watching a life raft for one float by, and I selfishly took it for myself.

When people hear this story, I can see a bit of shock come across their faces. It is difficult to put into words the loyalty I felt for my mother, and the betrayal I carry in my heart. As an adult, I cognitively understand my decision, and most do, also, but the betrayal I feel I caused hasn’t lessened.

Garbage Bag Suitcase, Shenandoah ChefaloA Matter of Loyalty

After the most recent presidential election results started coming in, I was struck with the notion of loyalty and how the weight of that emotion can be viewed, oftentimes confused for betrayal. As defined, loyalty is a strong feeling of support or allegiance to someone or something. It is a feeling or attitude of devoted attachment and affection. As a society, it is a trait we hold in high regard. In fact, any sign of disloyalty is often met with cries of one not being patriotic, a traitor, a crybaby, or various four-letter expletives.

And, that is why, after not seeing my birth mother for over 27 years, I still have feelings of disloyalty toward her and feel as I am the one who betrayed her. Abandonment was never my trigger or emotion. It is also why I have difficulty discussing those feelings; any sign of estrangement or retreat creates feelings (and brings accusations) that I was wrong in my decision to save myself.

Complicated

These emotions are complicated when children enter foster care; old families, new families, changing families … the feelings and questions come to the surface:

How can you be loyal to everyone? Can you ever?

Whom do you betray?

How do you protect yourself?

Is it ever OK to be disloyal? If so, who decides who gets the life raft?

Sometimes you just need to pick up the phone.

Shenandoah Chefalo is an advocate and a former foster youth. She is the author of the memoir, Garbage Bag Suitcase, and co-founder of Good Harbor Institute, an organization focused on ensuring sustainable, implemented trauma care within organizations and individuals. You can learn more about her and her work at www.garbagebagsuitcase.com or www.goodharborinst.com

 

Five String Recovery, Part 2 (Guest: Phillip Wadlow)

A 16-year-old musician wins a national bluegrass championship while secretly battling addiction. Here’s the second of his two-part story about his recovery, his music, and his message to young people.

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Five String Recovery, Phillip WadlowThis is the concluding part of 5-String Recovery with guest, Phillip Wadlow. In this part he tells of moving into adulthood with his drug and alcohol addiction, and how it affected his marriage, his children, his work, and his health. He also shares how he came to realize he needed treatment, and he tells of that experience. Throughout the interview, Phil plays some of the music that was such a significant part of his life, and shares how he’d like to use his music as an avenue for reaching out to young people. (Dr. Sutton, the interviewer, plays back-up guitar, except for the sad, but appropriate, guitar solo that represents one of the lowest points in Phil’s life.)

The original message of this interview was a cassette tape program, thus the reference to the cassette near the end of the program. Because Phil did move around quite a bit over the years, it is not know exactly where he is now, but life goes on. His children are grown now, of course, and it is know that he has remarried and, at last word, he and his wife were managing an apartment complex in Missouri.

There is a powerful message Phil wants young people need to hear, and this is it: Although one can recover from drugs and alcohol and work a program of dedicated sobriety, the costs of addiction impose many losses than cannot be recovered. Unless one takes responsibility for those losses, instead of blaming others, complete recovery is difficult, indeed. (20:40)

To listen, use the player below or left-click the link. To access the file right-click and “Save Target as …” to save to your audio device), CLICK HERE FOR LINK


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From Incorrigible to Incredible: What Toby Taught Us, Part 2 (Guest: Charmaine Hammond)

  • URadio-style Interview, The Changing Behavior NetworkAnimals sometimes can teach us much about acceptance, compassion and healing. Toby did just that, as shared here by his owner, author Charmaine Hammond.
This interview comes from the very early archives of The Changing Behavior Network. This is part two of a two-part program.

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From Incorrigible to Incrtedible: What Toby Taught Us, Charmaine HammondWhen Charmaine Hammond and her husband, Chris, adopted a five-year-old Chesapeake Bay retriever named Toby, little did they know what the next few years held in store.

Therapy Dog

Charmaine and Chris were tempted to give up on the big dog, but they didn’t. In return, Toby became an award-winning pet-assisted therapy dog and, in his brief lifetime, achieved Chicken Soup fame and left an indelible paw print in the hearts of all those he touched.

This is a story of love, patience, dedication and faithfulness. It shows us, once again, what can be accomplished when we accept others unconditionally.

Charmaine Hammond

Charmaine is a professional speaker and seminar leader from theOn Toby's Terms, Charmaine Hammond Edmonton area of Alberta. She travels the US and Canada speaking on topics of communication and team building to corporate audiences. But Charmaine continues to promote the values of kindness and caring to Toby’s favorite audience: school children. (17:54)

For more information about A Million Acts of Kindness: Toby’s Global Mission, the movie currently being made on Toby’s life and story, Charmaine’s work as a speaker/trainer, or her heartwarming bestseller, On Toby’s Terms, go to this website:

www.OnTobysTerms.com

TO LISTEN, use the player below or left-click the link. To access the file right-click and “Save Target as …” to save to your audio device), CLICK HERE FOR LINK


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From Incorrigible to Incredible: What Toby Taught Us, Part 1 (Guest: Charmaine Hammond)

Radio-style Interview, The Changing Behavior NetworkAnimals sometimes can teach us much about acceptance, compassion and healing. Toby did just that, as shared here by his owner, author Charmaine Hammond.
This interview comes from the very early archives of The Changing Behavior Network. This is part one of a two-part program.

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From Incorrigible to Incrtedible: What Toby Taught Us, Charmaine HammondWhen Charmaine Hammond and her husband, Chris, adopted a five-year-old Chesapeake Bay retriever named Toby, little did they know what the next few years held in store.

Therapy Dog

Charmaine and Chris were tempted to give up on the big dog, but they didn’t. In return, Toby became an award-winning pet-assisted therapy dog and, in his brief lifetime, achieved Chicken Soup fame and left an indelible paw print in the hearts of all those he touched.

This is a story of love, patience, dedication and faithfulness. It shows us, once again, what can be accomplished when we accept others unconditionally.

Charmaine Hammond

Charmaine is a professional speaker and seminar leader from theOn Toby's Terms, Charmaine Hammond Edmonton area of Alberta. She travels the US and Canada speaking on topics of communication and team building to corporate audiences. But Charmaine continues to promote the values of kindness and caring to Toby’s favorite audience: school children. (15:32)

For more information about A Million Acts of Kindness: Toby’s Global Mission, the movie currently being made on Toby’s life and story, Charmaine’s work as a speaker/trainer, or her heartwarming bestseller, On Toby’s Terms, go to this website:

www.OnTobysTerms.com

 

TO LISTEN, use the player below or left-click the link. To access the file right-click and “Save Target as …” to save to your audio device), CLICK HERE FOR LINK


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Eating and Self-Injury Disorders: Finding the Door to Recovery (Guest: Melissa Groman, LCSW)

BTRadioIntDisorders of eating can affect both young and old. Their self-abusive characteristics are difficult to understand and, at times, can be even more difficult to manage and treat effectively. Melissa Growman, LCSW, shares valuable insights in this interview from some of our most popular programs in the archives. –JDS 

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Eating and Self-injury Disorders: Finding the Door to Recovery, Melissa Groman

Beliefs, and the thoughts they bring on, can either guide a person’s life and keep it on course, or they can erupt into feelings that torment an individual without mercy. When that happens, any behavior that covers and soothes emotional pain and anguish is an option.

Difficult to Address

According to our guest on this program, eating and self-injury disorders are difficult to address because they serve their purpose, at least in the short-term. Like other behaviors that can become addictive, bingeing and starving, or the compulsive cutting of one’s own flesh, provide welcomed distraction and relief from much deeper pain.

These behaviors can become a cycle of self-abuse that occurs in more adolescent girls and young women than you might think. Ultimately, the cycle becomes a trap.

Is there hope for change?

Ambivalence is an Issue

Better is Not So Far Away, Melissa GromanOur guest on this program, Melissa Groman, psychotherapist and specialist in eating and self-injury disorders, suggests that, although recovery from these disorders is possible, ambivalence toward recovery can be a major obstacle. In this program, Melissa will share with us why this is so, what it takes for recovery to become a reality, and what caring parents, other relatives and friends can do to help.

Melissa Growman, LCSW

Melissa’s trademark warmth, sensitivity and profound understanding of human nature permeate her work. She has more than 25 years of experience helping people live healthy, satisfying lives. Although she maintains a busy private practice, Melissa writes regularly for a number of magazines, websites and blogs. This program features her book, Better is Not So Far Away: Decide to Recover from Bingeing, Starving or Cutting. (27:43)

www.melissagroman.com

TO LISTEN, use the player below or left-click the link. To access the file right-click and “Save Link as …” to save to your audio device), CLICK HERE FOR LINK


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Dealing with Media’s Effect on Our Children (Guest: Bill Ratner)

BTRadioInt

Here’s a posting of an earlier interview with Bill Ratner on a topic important to all parents. I appreciate Bill’s perspective on the matter, and I consider this interview to be one of the best on The Changing Behavior Network. We present, “Dealing with Media’s Effect on Our Children.” –JDS

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There is a very real concern that our children spend too much time online or with activities on computers, tablets, smart phones, and other digital devices. Opportunities for social interaction, family time together and even fresh air and exercise just aren’t there like they were before the digital age hit us full-force.

Dealing with Media's Effect on Our Children, Bill RatnerAnd, of course, there are concerns about internet and cyber safety. Predators are out there 24/7; they represent a valid concern to the welfare of our children. We obviously want our kids to be safe.

Digital Marketing Blitz

Our guest on this program, Bill Ratner, author and Hollywood voice-over specialist, suggests there is another presence that overwhelms our children through their digital devices: the media. Kids face a marketing blitz that’s supported by advertisers paying billions each year to target them specifically. In this program, Bill will give us an insider’s take on the problem, and what we can do about it to better protect our children and grandchildren.

Bill Ratner

Parenting for the Digital Age, Bill RatnerEven if you’ve never met Bill, you have likely HEARD him. He’s a leading voice-over specialist and voice actor in thousands of movie trailers, cartoons, television, games and commercials. Through his connections in advertising, Bill has been the voice of many leading corporations.

While raising his family, however, Bill realized his own children were being bombarded by media messages he helped create. This became a driving force behind the development of a program of media awareness for children and the writing of the book, Parenting for the Digital Age: The Truth Behind Media’s Effect on Children and What to Do About It. This book is the focus of Dr. Sutton’s interview with Bill on this program. (35:19)

http://www.billratner.com/parentingbook.html

TO LISTEN, use the player below or left-click the link. To access the file right-click and “Save Link as …” to save to your audio device), CLICK HERE FOR LINK


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10th Anniversary of International Child-Centered Divorce Month (Guest: Rosalind Sedacca, CDC)

Radio-style Interview, The Changing Behavior NetworkIt was a joy once again for me to visit with Rosalind about the important work of those advocating child-centered divorce. From an idea to a worldwide mission, Rosalind has steered a steady course over the years, and the positive impact has been noted in the lives of young people. But there’s plenty of work yet to do, so listen in as we bring you “10th Anniversary of International Child-Centered Divorce Month.” –JDS

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10th Anniversary of International Child-Centered Divorce Month, Rosalind Sedacca

International Child-Centered Divorce Month

January has been established as International Child-Centered Divorce Month. January of 2017 is the 10th anniversary of ICCDM and its outreach in helping parents, therapists, attorneys, educators, mediators and other divorce specialists focus on the needs of children and teens when divorce plans are being made.

Many free resources and gifts related to child-centered divorce are being offered during International Child-Centered Divorce Month. You won’t want to miss a single part of this excellent opportunity.

To help us understand more clearly the importance and methodology of child-centered divorce is our special guest, Rosalind Sedacca, Certified Divorce Coach and the Voice of Child-Centered Divorce. Rosalind will emphasize, using her own story, why the needs of children should be a priority in divorce, how best to explain divorce to one’s own children and why a child-centered, collaborative approach is so important.

International Child-Centered Divorce Month, Child-Centered Divorce Network

Rosalind Sedacca

Rosalind is the author of an innovative storybook approach to communicating divorce to a child, an approach that informs while it supports and upholds a youngster’s identity, dignity and sense of value. Her diligence and effort resulted in a successful and highly acclaimed e-book entitled, How Do I Tell the Kids About the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children –With Love.

Rosalind’s work with the Child-Centered Divorce Network, which she founded, has been acknowledged on five continents worldwide. In her speaking, writing, blogging and media appearances, Rosalind continues to share the message of child-centered divorce. The International Child-Centered Divorce Month is yet another way to showcase what is being done. The link below takes you to the website and a free e-book from Rosalind, Post Divorce Parenting: Success Strategies for Getting It Right. (29:09)

www.divorcedparentsupport.com/ebook

 

TO LISTEN, use the player below or left-click the link. To access the file right-click and “Save Link as …” to save to your audio device), CLICK HERE FOR LINK


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A Salute to Courage: Honoring the WWII Generation (Dr. Davis L. Ford)

The Changing Behavior NetworkHere’s a special program honoring all US military veterans on Veterans Day, 2016. Especially honored are the veterans of World War II. The Second World War has always been an interest of mine (I was born during the Battle of the Bulge), so when word of Dr. Ford’s new book came, plans for this interview went into motion. He and I are both veterans; we hope that sense of service comes through in this special tribute. We are proud to present “A Salute to Courage: Honoring the WWII Generation.” –JDS

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Davis L. Ford, A Salute to Courage: Honoring the WWII GenerationMost of us have never known what it feels like to have our personal freedoms put at serious risk. The privileges that come with being an American are, much too often, taken for granted.

The Greatest Generation

But true freedom is NEVER free. More than ever, our children need to understand that. In this program we honor those that journalist Tom Brokaw calls The Greatest Generation: the men and women of the Second World War.

Our tribute here includes those who bravely fought a war in Europe and a war in the Pacific at the same time. They won them both depending on the support of the workers and families that supplied their needs with an industrial output of ships, tanks, planes and weapons that still boggles the mind today.

With passion and courage, everyone had a part to play. They played it as if their very future depended on it … because it did.

But the attack on Pearl Harbor was 75 years ago. Few of the veterans of WWII are with us today. Their children are,  for the most part, retired. Their grandchildren are middle-aged, and their great-grandchildren generally have few memories of being with them. Their lives and their service are preserved in stories, photo albums, picture frames and a few special keepsakes, like an American flag folded three corners.

The Second World War Through Younger and Older Eyes, Davis L Ford

Dr. Davis L. Ford

To help us honor this special group of Americans we have Dr. Davis L. Ford, author of The Second World War Through Younger and Older Eyes: A Personal Journey. His research and his travels to battle scenes in Europe and in the Pacific, as well as his many interviews with veterans that fought in both theaters, come to life in this engaging interview with your host, Dr. James Sutton.

Dr. Ford is a practicing environmental engineer with over 50 years of experience in the field, plus he’s a scholar and Adjunct Professor in the College of Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin. He has lectured internationally and has written extensively on the treatment and preservation of one of our most valuable resources: water. Other books he has written chronicle the lives of soldiers and cowboys. (37:13)

www.davislfordphd.com

 

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Helping Fathers to Be Dads (Michael Byron Smith)

When Michael Byron Smith‘s son was in preschool, he drew a picture of a person with a second, much smaller person in the upper corner of the page. When asked about his drawing, the younger Michael replied, “It’s my dad; he’s thinking of me.” A child’s need for a father that’s present and involved couldn’t be stated any better than that. Welcome to “Helping Fathers to Be Dads.”

Helping Fathers to Be Dads, Michael Byron SmithEvery child needs the security of knowing they are in their father’s thoughts, yet the truth remains that, in too many cases, those needs go unmet. Some experts refer to this sort of unmet needs as Father Hunger. Quality research clearly indicates how the absence and the lack of involvement of fathers with their children comes at a dear cost. Present, involved, loving and nurturing fathers are needed now more than ever. Michael Byron Smith is sharing that message with fathers at every opportunity.

This is Mike Smith’s second interview on The Changing Behavior Network. He’s the author of The Power of Dadhood: How to Become the Father Your Child Needs, and he also hosts a popular blog for fathers, “Helping Fathers to Be Dads.” Catch the interaction in this interview between Mike and host Jim Sutton as they discuss Mike’s experiences of being the oldest of six children raised in a home with no father present. The lack of a father’s support left them in very difficult circumstances.

The Power of Dadhood, Michael Byron SmithListen in also as they discuss their take on how individuals differ in how they handle adversity and how they recognize and take advantage of opportunities when they come. They also discuss how turning points can create permanent changes in the directions of not only one’s life, but in the lives and futures of their loved ones. Mike will also share about the impact of The Power of Dadhood and his blog for fathers.

Michael Byron Smith is a retired Air Force colonel and a former military pilot. He’s also a retired civilian engineer for the US government in the aerospace industry. Mike and his wife, Kathy, live in Missouri and are the proud parents of three children and grandparents of four. (28:50)

www.michaelbyronsmith.com

TO LISTEN, use the player below or left-click the link. To access the file right-click and “Save Link as …” to save to your audio device), CLICK HERE FOR LINK


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BONUS: From his book, The Power of Dadhood: How to Become the Father Your Child Needs, Michael offers “A Dad’s Self-Inspection Checklist.” Download it immediately and for free HERE.

 

Comfort in Chaos: Understanding Trauma Brain (Shenandoah Chefalo)

I make no bones about it: As a foster child, I don’t think I was an easy person to get along with. I certainly wasn’t trying to make bonds or connections with those around me. Of course, I knew nothing at the time about trauma brain.

Shenandoah Chefalo, Comfort in Chaos: Understanding Trauma BrainI went into foster care at the age of 13. My life prior to entering the system was one of immense dysfunction; I had practically raised myself. My mom was rarely around, and, when she was, it was usually to tell me that we were moving. We moved over 50 times and I went to more than 35 schools in my life before the age of 13.

Chaos had become my normal.

In learning to “cover” for my mom’s actions, and watching my mom talk her way out of almost any situation, I learned a valuable skill early on: lying. It was a skill that saved me numerous times from severe punishments.

Foster Care and Beyond

I thought foster care would be a positive solution to the life I was living. What I found was more of the same as loneliness, isolation and depression followed me into care. I had become disconnected from my feelings and simply accepted that I was unable to love … and was unlovable. I continued behaviors from the past and found no solace in the families that took me in.

I ultimately aged out of the system at 18 and was turned loose onto the world with no real connections to other people. When I hit the college campus, a feat I wouldn’t learn was remarkable until later, I made a pact with myself to never talk about my past with anyone. I was a good liar, and, because of that skill, I kept that promise to myself for more than 20 years.

Trauma Brain

I spent those years, hiding the past, keeping myself at arms length from any real relationships, and doing the one thing I was knew I was good at: lying. I didn’t know it at the time, but I found myself in what I now refer to as “trauma brain.” I would go to that comfortable place in my mind, a place of Fight, Flight, Freeze or Appease.

For me, there was comfort in chaos. When things in my life were going well, I looked for and caused chaos for myself so I could feel “comfortable.” Of course I  didn’t realize, at least not consciously, that I was doing it until I started to become increasingly unsettled with the life I was living. I had a good job, managed to get married and had a child, but I was only comfortable in the unknown.

I wanted to change.

For most of my life, I chalked up my behavior to the idea that I was just “crazy,” a concept I was comfortable with. I figured it was only a matter of time until I turned into my “crazy” mother. I was working in a law office at this time, and I would watch clients with similar tendencies. I had wondered about their past and when I started to ask, I was surprised by how many of them had been former foster kids, also. I had always assumed there had been very few kids like me. The numbers appearing in my office were off-putting, to say the least.

Garbage Bag Suitcase, Shenandoah ChefaloSelf-help Search

Flash forward. In an effort to find peace in my life, I initially turned to self-help books. I found a little relief, but often found myself going back to old habits. I started to realize that hiding my demons was only making me more depressed and more disconnected.

I tried everything: more books, journaling, yoga, meditation. and hiking. Physical exertion was having an impact, but it only lasted a few hours, then I was back in my mind, returning to old habits.

I finally realized that I had to tell my story. I wrote Garbage Bag Suitcase and began diving into an understanding of trauma and its effects on the brain.

The research began turning me onto new books. Suddenly I understood my “trauma brain” in a whole new way. I wasn’t “crazy;” my brain was just programed to constantly be in Fight, Flight, Freeze, Appease mode, and this knowledge changed everything for me.

Like a Sledding Hill

I recently heard Dr. Cathy Fialon explain trauma brain as a sledding hill. When you go sledding the path becomes worn, so you gain greater speed. The well-worn path is easy and comfortable. However, if you take your sled over a few feet to a part of the hill that hasn’t been used, it becomes more difficult to slide down; you can’t gain momentum and you often start and stop a lot. It takes time, she explained, to break in this new path and make it again enjoyable for sledding.

I understood exactly what she meant. My learned reactions as a child had become the well-worn sledding hill. It was easy for me to go down that road, regardless of the effects. But when I started working on myself (i.e. taking my sled to a new hill) it was difficult. Don’t get me wrong, while I’m still working on breaking in my new path, every once in awhile I like to take a spin on the old one.

That is “trauma brain” retraining ourselves, and oftentimes those we care about, how to break in a new way of thinking. I am thrilled to say I have a new career that allows me to help others recognize their trauma brain and the trauma brain of those around them, and to help themselves and others heal in a brand new way.

After all, we all deserve to try out a new place to sled. ###

 

Speakers Group MemberShenandoah Chefalo is a former foster youth and an advocate. She is the author of the memoir, Garbage Bag Suitcase, and co-founder of Good Harbor Institute, an organization focused on ensuring sustainable, implemented trauma care within organizations and individuals. You can learn more about her and her work at www.garbagebagsuitcase.com or www.goodharborinst.com