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We sat down with Nesreen Ahmed, inspiring grief coach and founder of Harbor Light Coaching. She has dedicated her career to supporting people through some of their most challenging times of life.

DBN: Tell me a little bit about yourself, and how you got into grief coaching.

Nesreen: Honestly, it was my sister dying, a very sudden death. She was 37 and I was 34. She was my hero. When I was younger, I was like, "I want her clothes. I want her toys. I want her friends. I want her life." And she's just brilliant. She was so smart and so savvy. And I just always looked up to her. I was out living out in San Francisco at the time when she passed away. It was Saturday afternoon when I got a phone call, and she had died. And I remember thinking, well, now I can never breathe again. Everything shut down with an instant. I went into complete shock. And those questions, like how is this possible? Especially in those first few days - how your mind goes, What's going on? Where are her belongings? What needs to happen?

"Grief comes in all different shapes and sizes and comes from so many different life experiences and I think it's really important for us to start recognizing that and understand that."

She was actually working on a national touring production of Book of Mormon. Such a great show. But she was living out of boxes, bags. It was a lot easier in some ways to kind of deal with logistically because there were so few belongings and all that stuff. But at the same time, there are so many questions and so many unknowns. And again, just a shock. I also kind of went through a process of, okay, what's my path in life? Am I doing something that I love, that I feel like is really speaking to me and also supporting other people? And what I realized was no, I'm not.

I pursued therapy and a variety of different support systems, but I felt so stuck in my grief. I needed another part of my life to be moving forward. I needed something to work, if that makes sense. So I hired a coach. We did one free session and in the middle of it, I was like, "Stop everything. Christine, how do I become a life coach? I want to be a life coach."

It was amazing, a conversation I always wanted to have but never knew what it was called. I signed up for the year long training, and during that somebody mentioned a grief coach because I was talking about how I was still really grieving. I was like, that's a thing?

So I went back out to San Francisco, and I got trained in the grief coaching and grief recovery program, and started my business. I've been really kind of straddling both life coaching and grief coaching because I love both. And I think they're very related. Usually, what happens is people come to me for grief coaching, and then eventually we switch to life coaching after a while.

DBN: What are some reasons people might start grief coaching?

Nesreen: People come to coaching and counseling for a variety of reasons. Most people, I think, will look up a grief counselor if they have gone through a death. But there are at least 60, if not more, different life events that cause grief. So it could be a divorce. It could be the end of a friendship, relationship, a breakup. It could be job loss.

Certainly, a lot of people right now are grieving the loss of their work, of their employment. If you have cancer, or if you have COVID.

There's a lot of grief of, like what's happening to your body, the wellness that you're used to. Having a child could cause grief, in the form of postpartum depression. Empty nest syndrome. I mean, I could go on. There are so many different things that people don't necessarily associate with grief, but are very much grieving experiences. Basically, the way that most people I work with define grief as the loss, change, or end of a familiar pattern and behavior. It can be so broad, right? It's really not just 'my loved one died.' Think about what we're going through right now, how many people are mourning their normal life and every day routine, let alone the mass loss Covid has brought. Some people couldn't even attend their loved one's funerals. Grief comes in all different shapes and sizes and comes from so many different life experiences and I think it's really important for us to start recognizing that and understand that.


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