Scott DeLuzio 00:00:00 Thanks for tuning in to the Drive On Podcast, where we’re focused on giving hope and strength to the entire military community. Whether you’re a veteran, active duty, guard, reserve, or family member, this podcast will share inspirational stories and resources that are useful to you. I’m your host, Scott DeLuzio. And now let’s get on with the show. Hey, everybody, welcome back to the Drive On Podcast. Today my guest is Victoria Volk. Victoria is the author of the book, The Guided Heart: Moving Through Grief and Finding Spiritual Solace. She’s also a grief recovery specialist and the host of the Grieving Voices Podcast. As you probably could guess from that description, we’re going to be diving into the topic of grief and how you can recover from the grief that you may be dealing with. Welcome to the show, Victoria. I’m glad to have you,
Victoria Volk 00:00:51 I’m glad to be here. Thank you so much.
Scott DeLuzio 00:00:53 Absolutely. Not the most fun topic in terms of where people’s minds are when they’re going through but it’s an important topic. I think your background and your insights will definitely help out some people along the way. Definitely the listeners. Speaking of your background, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background, and who you are?
Victoria Volk 00:01:22 I’ve always lived in North Dakota, born and raised, never left. I have traveled some of course. My father passed away when I was eight. I experienced molestation as a child as well after he passed.
Victoria Volk 00:01:52 Consequently, I had developed a relationship with alcohol as a result in my early twenties of all the grief and trauma. Although I didn’t recognize it as grief and trauma then of course. I joined the military and served in Iraq as a medic. My life has been a lot of loss and suffering. At one point in my life, I thought that that’s what life was all about. Like we’re just here to suffer. I started my personal development journey in 2014. I had three kids in four years and kind of had a midlife crisis. At that point, my youngest had started kindergarten and wrapped up my identity. I think my identity has shifted so many times throughout the years. I had a photography business. I would identify myself as a photographer.
Victoria Volk 00:02:58 I would identify myself as a service member. Then a wife. Then I was a mother and I stayed at home with my kids. I had my business, but I was primarily at home with them. When she started kindergarten, it was about the same time where I decided to close my business, which was my fourth baby in a lot of ways. I was just asking myself these bigger questions, like, what do I want to be when I grow up? Because I felt like I was meant for more. I knew I wasn’t living to my fullest potential and I didn’t know why I felt quite crazy really. I would have considered myself a ragey mom. I was just really angry. I was an angry child, although I concealed it really well.
Victoria Volk 00:03:47 I put that anger inward really as a lot of child grievers do either they will implode or explode. I was one of the children that imploded. I cried to myself, I just contained everything. At some point, we do either implode or explode and that started to happen when I became a mom because entrepreneurship and motherhood can bring out the best in you and they can also bring out your worst; bringing up all your insecurities. Those were a lot of growing years for me, where I started to be confronted with a lot of the grief that I hadn’t addressed. I got a life coach. I bought programs. I was reading books and just nothing really resonated with me. Grief is cumulative and it’s cumulatively negative.
Victoria Volk 00:04:49 Like all these experiences stack up in our lives. I think that healing is cumulative too. Although I didn’t find this immediate relief, I was looking for all of the things that I was doing that were accumulating and really benefiting me, but not overnight. It took years. I had another loss that really opened up a can of worms for me. And I realized I wasn’t okay. And found grief recovery and the grief recovery method. It changed my life. It really transformed all of the grief I had been carrying and the anger. It was like this boulder was just removed from my shoulders and I was a different person coming home from that experience. I went through the same experience. It’s like drinking from a fire hose. At times, it was transformative for me.
Victoria Volk 00:05:51 Everything that I’ve done and accomplished ever since then has been because I address my grief. Becoming a Reiki master and, you map certified coach and actually writing the book was actually before grief recovery. If I would write that book now, it would be a very different book. I still think it’s helpful to people. It’s where I was at that time, but I feel like a lot of it was some spiritual bypassing. I thought I was okay. I think that’s where a lot of people can find themselves. You have this period of time where you feel like you got it all under control and it just takes one more hit and then you realize, oh, guess not.
Scott DeLuzio 00:06:45 That’s very true. I’ve experienced something similar where I thought I could just handle it. Obviously, you’re going through a grief process, no matter what it is. In my case it was a loss of a loved one, but, when you’re going through that, you think, okay, well, yeah, it’s hard now, but I’ll get through it. I’ll get over it. If you leave that unchecked, then eventually you end up in a pretty bad situation. Like you said, you’ll either implode or explode, everyone’s situation is going to be a little bit different, but it’s not the direction that you really want to head in. You mentioned the military. What branch of the military were you in?
Victoria Volk 00:07:42 Army national guard.
Scott DeLuzio 00:07:43 I always like to ask that, just to give a little bit of perspective too, who we’re talking to and what their background is. I was in the Army National Guard as well. It gives a little bit of perspective for people who might be out there who may have been in similar situations and similar circumstances. It’s a little bit helpful to have that. Let’s jump into the topic of grief, right? Let’s just start with the basics. What’s the definition, when we’re talking about grief, because from my understanding it could be a lot of different things. What would you just narrow it down to and define what grief really is?
Victoria Volk 00:08:34 Grief is the loss of hope, dreams, and expectations. It is anything that you wish would have been different, better, or more, whether it be your relationship or your career, or with anything in life. It’s reaching out for someone and realizing not there it’s a change in a familiar pattern of behavior. Let’s just say COVID, for example, shook that up for everybody. We didn’t have our normal routines. Maybe you drove to the office and on the way, you stopped at Starbucks and talked with the barista and the same person you’ve talked to maybe three times a week for the past two years. All of a sudden you can’t even have a conversation that you always had with that person. I mean, that’s a really simple example, but it’s all these touchpoints that we have in our daily lives.
Victoria Volk 00:09:37 We’re gone just like that for many of us. It’s those touchpoints and those interactions with people that really kind of adds to our life and our existence. If you’re having a bad day and that barista is the one person that just brings you a little sunshine, that’s what you look forward to. Then that’s gone and let’s say you live alone. Let’s say you’re 80 years old. You go to Arby’s every day for lunch, you can’t go to Arby’s. See what I mean? It’s just all these things that we really take for granted in our daily lives. That really is what adds richness to our lives.
Scott DeLuzio 00:10:29 You mentioned the process that you went through, grief recovery. When I think about grief, I always think that everyone has a little bit of a different grieving process for, whatever it is; whether it’s a loss of a loved one or loss of things like what you’re talking about, Those familiar experiences everyone handles them a little bit differently. What is the grief recovery process that you were referring to and how is it different from maybe other methods of moving beyond grief that people might be a little bit more familiar with?
Victoria Volk 00:11:08 I’ll just use two examples and share the contrast. You might have a therapist, right? You might go to a therapist and it might be talk therapy. It might have medications involved. But if there’s no action, it’s just talk therapy. There’s talk therapy and then there’s support groups. But with COVID, a lot of those support groups moved online. They shifted online. Unfortunately in the social media space, which any rhyme or reason person can join. Again, there’s no action in those interactions. Typically even in support groups, it’s usually a group of people who are experiencing challenging times in loss, and everyone brings their stuff to this meeting. And everyone shares their stuff week after week after week, where grief recovery is different although we still do it in a group setting, which is an option online or in person, there’s also a one-on-one option.
Victoria Volk 00:12:20 The difference is that every week you have something you’re going to be doing. You’re going to be digging into your grief. You’re going to be exploring and connecting the dots of the behaviors in your life, to your losses. You’re going to have awareness around what cycles have been repeating in your life because of loss and trauma. If you’ve had trauma and you get a basis of education that you don’t get about grief with talk therapy, or with traditional support groups, meaning you learn about the myths of grief. You learn about why grief is so hard. You learn that grief is not just about death. We learn about how the things and beliefs, the patterns and things that you learned in childhood are simply repeating themselves in adulthood because we resort to what we know. When we aren’t taught how to process our grief in a healthy way, or how to respond to it in a healthy way, or even to talk about it, which is usually the case.
Victoria Volk 00:13:38 Most people don’t know how to talk about it, so we don’t talk about it. That’s how people address it as they put it in a box and they put it on the shelf and they tuck it away. These things repeat into our adulthood. We take those lessons. That’s a belief about grief. I’m not supposed to talk about it. I’m supposed to talk it away. When you become an adult, you respond to your grief the same way, because that’s what you’ve been taught. Many of us are taught that because we simply don’t know better. We aren’t taught differently. We aren’t given that education about really that grief can really be a teacher. It really is our greatest teacher, and that it doesn’t have to be debilitating. It doesn’t have to define what you do with your life or how you present yourself in your life, because it changes everything in your life.
Victoria Volk 00:14:39 It affects your money. It affects your relationships, your career, your ability to live into your potential, to really even tap into your own intuition, because you so much, you question everything you question your own existence. When someone close to you dies, it’s a great clarifier, but if we’re keeping ourselves blind to the lessons that are in it, we don’t grow from it. Instead, we stay stuck in our story and become a victim, to be honest, especially if we’ve been victimized. It’s really difficult to reconcile that in our minds that I can take responsibility for something that someone else did to me. It is really hard for people to wrap their heads around. But grief recovery is about doing just that; it’s taking ownership of what is in your life today so that you can change it for tomorrow.
Scott DeLuzio 00:15:49 It sounds like taking ownership of the things that you can control. Those are the things that are in the realm of possibility that you have some influence over, and not necessarily dwelling on the things that are out of your control. When you’re talking about the loss of a loved one, there’s nothing really you can do to change that, to make that person come back. Dwelling on that. I wish they were still here. I wish they were still here, that’s not going to change anything. It’s not going to bring them back. It sounds like what you’re talking about is more like focusing on the future, focusing on what you can control, and getting a firm grasp on that. Is that, that kind of in the ballpark.
Victoria Volk 00:16:43 Yeah. It’s identifying how you’ve responded to grief in the past, having an awareness of how you responded to grief in the past or having an awareness of how grief is manifesting in your body in your life because it does, we either implode or explode. That’s what I meant by that. and then taking ownership of what we want our response to grief to look like in the future and having learning new tools and information that guide us in doing that or support. Support is huge.
Scott DeLuzio 00:17:19 I’m a firm believer that after going through my own process that sometimes support is necessary. As much as you might think that you can go out on your own, and just deal with the situation that’s been handed to you, sometimes you do need the support. You need the help. Whether it’s a spouse or another family member, or even a professional, who can help guide you through the whole.
Victoria Volk 00:17:51 I think, especially in the military, there is this mentality among soldiers. People who joined the military were just built differently to say that we’re built differently. I think there is this propensity to be strong. Especially if you were a child that grew up in a home where you had to be strong, or that was a message that was drilled into you and not intentionally, right. Children have eyes and ears and listen and perceive and take in information of what they see and hear. How do I want to say that becomes their story, right? If you’re not told differently or taught differently, you’ll make up your own stories as a child, because we were very imaginative children. We’re very imaginative as children. Those stories become your beliefs.
Victoria Volk 00:18:51 When you grow up thinking that you have to be strong. For instance, when my dad passed away my mother wore her heart on her sleeve. She let herself be a mess, but in that regard, I had to be strong because I had to hold myself together for her. I did not want to upset her. I didn’t talk about my pain. I became her therapist, I was listening to all her problems and listening to her heartache and all these things. There was no space or room for me to share mine. Now, again, I’m not like, poo-pooing my mother, this is what she knew, right. This is how she responded to her grief. But this is what I’m saying. This is why the cycle is so important to break because I found myself repeating these same things with my kids, but it was coming out as anger.
Victoria Volk 00:19:54 My anger was coming out. We project all that stuff from the past that’s unaddressed onto anybody, especially children, because they bring up that stuff for us we project that onto our kids. That cycle continues. That’s why I’m so passionate about grief recovery because it breaks the cycle. Once better, you do better. One of the myths of grief is to be strong. What does that even mean? How do you even do that? Then like with people and in society, just like society, just like drills at home, so they tell people this. You’re not falling apart, so you’re so strong. You’re keeping it together. You’re so strong. I’ve never seen someone so strong, but what does that mean? We’re not robots. We are human beings. So you can either be strong or you can be human, but if you’re not allowing yourself to feel, is that really being human? Is that really living the grief experience? Is that really letting yourself feel that authentically being strong?
Scott DeLuzio 00:21:13 That’s a good point that you bring up. I think when you have someone who, especially, like you said it in the military like that’s just ingrained in you to just be strong quote on quote, be strong and be this tough guy or tough, tough gal or whatever. You compartmentalize. You put certain things in a box. You put it on the shelf and you try to forget about it.
Scott DeLuzio 00:21:45 You have to deal with some of those things. Especially big things. You need to address them. Even the little things, eventually they’re gonna pile up in there. They’re going to become a big thing if not addressed to this whole idea of being strong. I like what you said, what does that even mean to be strong? I know in a physical sense so when you walk into a gym and you see someone, bench us, and you can tell whether or not they’re strong just by looking at how much weight they’re moving. But, from a grief standpoint, what does that mean? What does that look like? Who is there with a certain amount of grief that if you handle this on your own, you’re strong. That doesn’t make sense.
Victoria Volk 00:22:39 Yeah. I admire your ability to not cry and to show me that it gave me the sense of false feeling of control. There’s nothing honorable in that. There’s nothing honorable. You’re dishonoring your own grief by doing that.
Scott DeLuzio 00:22:57 Quite frankly, it’s like you said, it’s not human. It’s not a human response to just not feel any emotion in just stuff that all down. That’s not a healthy way to manage it.
Victoria Volk 00:23:16 What happens though when we allow ourselves to fall apart in front of someone who then it gets uncomfortable, right? I think that is also how society just is these subliminal messages of, “I want to ask you how you are, but I really don’t want to know the truth because then I’ll be uncomfortable with what you say, because I’m uncomfortable with my own grief. Let me hand you a tissue, stop your crying, right?” These are the things that we do. Let me give you a hug, but I’m going to pull away when it gets too close. When it gets too long, I’m going to pull away. We can not sit with people in their grief if we haven’t been giving ourselves the time and space to sit on our own. This is how these patterns in these societal beliefs get just ingrained, just weaved into every part of our lives. It drills the message home. Nope. I gotta be strong.
Scott DeLuzio 00:24:27 Yeah.
Victoria Volk 00:24:28 All the lessons that you’ve learned in childhood, it’s just society just like yep. Reaffirms it.
Scott DeLuzio 00:24:34 That’s a good point that you made as far as trying not to make other people uncomfortable. That’s why maybe some people just bury their emotions. However, they deal with it without trying to make other people uncomfortable. I could think of a number of different scenarios where people are doing that just because they want to spare somebody, someone else’s feelings or they just don’t want it to become an uncomfortable situation. Let’s just not talk about that but like you were saying earlier, talking about it is what helps, talking about the thing that you’re grieving is ultimately going to help. It’s going to help you, but it may also help the other person too. That’s that in that situation. It’s kind of a necessary evil. You might just need to get uncomfortable.
Victoria Volk 00:25:36 A lot of it is because so many of us grow up in these same beliefs. This is why people say unhelpful or hurtful things without really intentionally wanting to do that. But that’s where it’s so important that we surround ourselves with people who can be that person, that heart with ears, for us, who won’t criticize, analyze, or judge, what we share. You can only sit with others in their grief to the extent that you’ve sat on your own. I just think it’s so important that you surround yourself with people that are going to help you move the needle forward, that aren’t going to allow you to stay stuck in your story, and to help you really develop an awareness around what you want your life to be and taking action to do. It doesn’t have to be someone that’s 10 years out from their loss. It can be someone that’s three years out from their loss or a year out from their loss, but they’ve taken a lot of action in that time. That’s another thing when I say to you, time heals all wounds, everybody knows it like that is such a myth two at a time just passes. It does nothing. Time just passes. It’s what you do at that time. It matters.
Scott DeLuzio 00:27:14 Yeah. I think from my own experience, I think all time has really just gotten me more used to not having that person around in my life. it doesn’t make it better. It’s not like,, this is okay. Now I’m happy about this. Obviously, that’s not the case. But I’ve just kind of gotten used to it. If you put on an itchy sweater and the first day that you’re wearing it’s itchy and it’s uncomfortable. But if you wear that same sweater for days and days and days, and weeks, and months and years, eventually you just get used to it and it’s there. You may not like it, but you’ve gotten used to it. I think that’s like the only benefit of time is as you sort of just get used to it, but it doesn’t make it better. It’s just different, I guess.
Victoria Volk 00:28:10 It did. Yeah. Different, you evolve with it. Our grief changes over time, especially, I can say that as a kid, the different stages and phases of my life, my grief changed with me. It didn’t get better, but that’s the perfect example. Then you’ll have people say, well, it’s been over 30 years. You should be over it by now. Or it’s 13 years, or it’s three years. You should be over it by now. That’s harmful. And it’s harmful. Don’t say that people.
Scott DeLuzio 00:28:40 Yeah. And especially for people who are military spouses who have lost their husband or their wife and in combat or whatever. A couple of years down the line, it’s like, well, you should be over him by now or, or her by now, and move on with your life. Well, it may not be that simple to just move on.
Victoria Volk 00:29:07 Well, and especially in the military where there’s many young widows, well, you can get married again. You can get married again. I don’t want to get married again. I want to be with my husband. He should be here today. Another one of those, don’t say that people don’t say that that’s hurtful
Scott DeLuzio 00:29:28 They know that they could get married again.
Scott DeLuzio 00:29:34 Right. Exactly. We all know this. We all know, oh yeah, I can do that. it’s not like this, this far-flung concept that they’ve never thought of before. They obviously know this, but they might just not be ready for that. Some people might be in that and that’s fine too. they might get to a point where they are okay with moving on and finding somebody else and, possibly even getting remarried and everything. And that’s fine. But if someone isn’t doing it, it’s probably for a reason, they’re probably not ready for it.
Victoria Volk 00:30:14 Well, and I think there is a circle back to that point, there can be a lot of judgment by people when you do move on. Right. There can be, I mean, that’s grief too. I mean, especially if there’s children involved and there’s grandparents and parents of the spouse that passed away and all those dynamics of those relationships change and shift when there’s a new relationship and saw, there’s a lot more grief to be had in all of that.
Scott DeLuzio 00:30:43 It goes back to the original point that is maybe not original, but one of the earlier points that you were making about making other people uncomfortable. If you’re dealing with your in-laws, who are grieving the loss of their son or daughter or whatever the case may be, and you’re obviously grieving the loss of your spouse. You’re worried, okay, what are they gonna think of me? When I move on and find somebody else. That’s a pretty uncomfortable conversation. I have to imagine that anyone would have, whether it’s military-related death or not, it’s just kind of an uncomfortable conversation. People obviously do move on at some point, but not everyone does. Probably a pretty difficult thing to have that kind of conversation. Kind of getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. Just kind of rip the band-aid off and talk about things with each other and actually do something and face the uncomfortable situation head-on, right.
Victoria Volk 00:31:59 To go a little deeper, on the whole, remarrying things and moving on one of the other myths of grief is replacing the loss, and that is sometimes what people do. They haven’t addressed the loss of that relationship. So they do replace. It’s not replacing the person, obviously, that’s not an option, but you’re fulfilling a hole that is gaping, right? It’s a gaping wound. You are looking to replace what is missing. Often the first example of this that we learn is in her childhood. We have a pet that dies and our parents say, oh, don’t worry. We can get another dog. We’ll get another dog. They do you get another dog two weeks later, you got the pet store. Here’s the replacement dog, not even ever addressing a missed opportunity there to talk about that first loss.
Victoria Volk 00:33:00 If you have a child who was there, like really only a friend if they felt awkward, a lot of children would feel awkward. They don’t know how to socialize there. They struggle and create relationships and connections with people. It’s much easier to create a connection with an animal. For a lot of children, their animals, their best friend, their best friend just died. If that was a human, it would be a different story. You’d probably think of it a little bit more and maybe actually have some conversations, albeit not probably to the extent that I would in the work that I do, but you’d at least have a conversation, right. And here it’s just totally dismissing because pet loss and miscarriage are two of the most minimized losses, but for some people, they’re the most devastating. I think of soldiers who have service animals or canine officers who lose their canine dog. I mean, you can’t tell me that those relationships, that there’s a bond there that you can’t replace that bond.
Scott DeLuzio 00:34:13 I’m actually glad that you brought that point up with children and animals and stuff. Our family lost our dog back in 2020 over the summer. This dog, my wife, and I got her shortly after we got married. Before we had any kids and she had been a part of my kids’ life, their entire life, up until the day that she passed and just seeing the heartbreak on my kids’ faces. When we told them. When we broke the news to them and told them, and just seeing how sad they were over losing this dog, we knew that it wasn’t something that we could just jump into getting another dog saying, “Next week we’re going to go get another dog”.
Scott DeLuzio 00:35:04 We did eventually get another dog in our house, but it was just a month ago. We gave the kids time to grieve and we talked about it with them. We actually have two dogs now. We kind of joke that they have big paws to fill. With that, they still talk about how, how they miss the first dog and it’s true. You can’t just replace the loss like that. And that’s not at all what we’re trying to do. It’s just the way we are in our house, we just love dogs. And it just didn’t feel like our home was complete without having a dog around. We ended up getting a dog, but we wanted to make sure that we gave the kids and us enough time to kind of grieve over the loss of not having her around because she was around for almost 12 years. And that’s a big chunk of your life, and especially for my kids. She was around for a hundred percent of their life up until that point. You’re right. It is a big loss.
Victoria Volk 00:36:33 In my personal life, my husband isn’t as fond as I am of our dog. He had to convince them that part of my youngest going to kindergarten was that I needed to replace that loss. I know where it replaced the laws very well. I replaced her with a dog. My youngest is going, I have three kids, but my youngest is going to kindergarten. I needed something to occupy myself. I convinced my husband that I needed a dog too. Fill this hole like that. I was feeling like I suddenly wasn’t going to be needed as much right there. They were growing up. I felt this gap of distance was just getting bigger and bigger. Not that it was actually true, but the stories that we tell ourselves.
Scott DeLuzio 00:37:35 We can be our own worst enemy at times.
Victoria Volk 00:37:39 He’s still in our life and he’s an amazing dog. I trained him well, and he just fits in perfectly. I did that. I did research on how to choose a dog. I did all kinds of research. This was going to be the best dog ever made it a mission. He’ll joke about how gizmo, why don’t you go play in the road or he’ll make comments like that. It is this running joke. It is a running joke in our house. But it’ll be very interesting to see that when the day comes and our Gizmo passes away how he will respond, because like I said, there’s no way you can look at our children and laugh or joke. About them losing, like the biggest thing that was a part of their lives.
Victoria Volk 00:38:39 He also hasn’t experienced a lot of loss either. I’m finding it interesting in the conversations I’m having that I have with people and for my podcast, Grieving Voices. It’s usually, obviously people that I’ve had loss, usually lots of it, but my husband is a different cat in that he hasn’t had a lot of deep loss. He’s had losses, but nothing that felt profoundly difficult or challenging for him. I think that that’s where people respond differently to loss. It depends on your life experience and he’s had other loss experiences, like career-wise, regrets, or I wish I would’ve done this, or if I’d only done those types of grief, but it’s very different when you lose a parent as a child. Or experienced trauma. It builds you differently.
Scott DeLuzio 00:39:49 Yeah, absolutely.
Scott DeLuzio 00:39:53 Going back, you kind of mentioned a career loss or grieving that kind of maybe a transition. One of the things I wanted to mention is because a lot of people don’t think of transitioning out of the military as something that they would end up grieving. They don’t think of it in that terms. I think the word grief tends to be associated more with things like death. But when you got out of the military, unless you were just completely fed up with the military, you hated your time in the service and everything like that. But a lot of people, when they get out of the military they had this identity as a soldier, as a sailor, as a Marine airman, whatever branch that they served in they had this identity and then they took the uniform off for the last time.
Scott DeLuzio 00:40:49 They’re now out in the civilian world and they lose that identity. They may not realize it at the time, but they’re sort of grieving the loss of that identity. What are some things that people can do? I know you said that you don’t necessarily want to replace a loss with something else, but what are ways that people can transition from military to civilian life and grieve that loss appropriately and be able to manage it and move on? I don’t want to say move on, but, to be able to continue on with their life without letting that weigh them down.
Victoria Volk 00:41:36 I think you have to take stock of what you’re actually losing, cause it can be really difficult. Well, how does this experience translate to civilian life? Not to use my husband as an example again, but I will. He wishes he would have gone full time. I kind of do too. But he had done two years active duty back to back, or a year back to back. Two years of active duty and then decided not to reenlist, that’s something he kicks himself over because he felt something when you wore the uniform and when you don’t have that anymore, like that sense of belonging. I’m not putting words in his mouth, but this is what I recognize a soldier would feel because as a soldier, myself, but you have a sense of belonging.
Victoria Volk 00:42:37 There’s that comradery right in the military that you don’t necessarily get unless you’re like a police officer or firefighter, that service-connected to a community service type career that’s bigger than yourself, right? Like the military, it’s bigger than you. You have these things that you no longer might not have anymore. Because when you are no longer in the military you might still be keeping in touch with comrades and things like that. But if they’re still in and you’re not, that changes the dynamics of things, the relationships might change. You might actually fall away. The relationships might fall away. That’s even more grief. Even in the case of a spouse dying or, shifting the leadership, like if you changed leadership like that, like dynamics of relationships just change.
Victoria Volk 00:43:37 I think it’s really just taking stock of what you are all losing in. What that grief feels like and finding the support to help you transition. Where do I go from here? How can I relate these skills and this experience that I’ve gained into civilian life to serve, to continue to be of service to others? Because I think that’s really what it’s about too if you don’t feel what’s your purpose is now you’re missing a purpose. For a lot of people too, especially with the military, I think the military is a draw for a lot of people who come from broken homes who didn’t have a lot of stability in their lives who didn’t really know what they wanted to do with their lives. They joined the military either to escape something or to find belonging. But if you’ve experienced grief and trauma as a child and you bring that experience to the military and, we’re trained, what are we trained to shoot to kill. I mean, it’s do or die in situations. I’ve often actually gone to a VA mental health summit. This is pre-COVID and I had a booth there and I talked to one of the psychiatrists for the VA and I said to her, why do they not do the ACE study as a screening for the military?
Victoria Volk 00:45:17 Do you know what the ACE study is?
Scott DeLuzio 00:45:19 I’m not entirely sure I’ve heard of it, but I’m not a hundred percent sure. And I’m sure there’s some people, maybe who are listening, who might not know what it is. So if you could just fill us in on what that is, that would be great.
Victoria Volk 00:45:31 Yep. The ACE study is about adverse childhood experiences. The more ACEs that you’ve experienced in your childhood, the more likely they’ve connected that you’re more likely to have certain medical conditions, mental illness, depression, anxiety, like all these different PTSD. Like you’re more likely to experience these types of things later in life. It is a study. It is proven like this is not hogwash. I feel like that would be a very good screening because when you put someone who’s experienced grief and trauma in childhood and you put them in a war zone multiple times. Then they’re supposed to transition out and go back to life as normal. That’s not going to happen.
Scott DeLuzio 00:46:33 Good luck with that.
Victoria Volk 00:46:35 That’s where transitions can be the make or break of someone’s life. So the more support that you can have and put you put around you the better because I think that’s where a lot of people start to really that’s when the depression does settle in. That’s when the anxiety does settle in, that’s well, what now? What do I do with my life now? I have no purpose. you’re asking yourselves those bigger questions, it’s grief, right? You’re asking yourself those big questions. What do I want to do with the rest of my life? Who wants me in the military, like I’m done now. I’m damaged goods. That’s what a lot of soldiers can feel depending on their experience. A lot of them, they’re just looking for a second chance at life. Just support I think is the biggest thing.
Scott DeLuzio 00:47:28 I think finding that sense of purpose and comradery that you might be missing is important to have the camaraderie, the people that you can,, talk to that, that maybe share some of your, experiences that, that, that might be important., there’s, or there are organizations out there that you can join, veteran organizations like a VFW or American Legion type thing. I know they kind of have a stigma with them as being kind of like an old bands club kind of thing. But, they have a lot of younger post nine 11 veterans joining their ranks as well. It’s not like you’re your grandpa’s drinking club that it goes down to, so things like that are probably a good place to go for, getting some of that comradery.
Victoria Volk 00:48:31 Actually, I wouldn’t even dismiss that as That’s something to lean into because people thought like a generation of Vietnam veterans. To Iraq and Afghanistan, things like that were very different. You can’t even compare. I think I should lean into the wisdom that they have. Honestly, it would probably be very therapeutic for them too, To be able to share stories and perspectives and share different experiences. There’s an opportunity there. Old dogs can teach new tricks.
Victoria Volk 00:49:19 It’s untapped wisdom, I think. That’s also grief too, for a lot of those old dogs, right. That feels like, well, that was my, I guess where do they feel their purpose? I think we miss an opportunity to allow people of the older generation to share their wisdom and their perspective because then they feel purpose in doing that too. It makes them feel good. So when you close yourself off from that experience, you’re actually closing the opportunity off for someone else to feel good. Think of it that way
Scott DeLuzio 00:49:58 Yeah, exactly. I think when we look at it that way, where we’re now not thinking about it, like what’s in it for me. with the military, there’s that selfless service. We’re not looking at the military as what’s in it for me or looking at it like, okay, we’re here to serve our country or community. We’re here to serve. With this mindset you’re now looking at how can I help other people, maybe, share their knowledge, their wisdom, their experiences, because, by nature of time, they’ve had more of them than we have.
Victoria Volk 00:50:55 That’s another good point, but like the veterans, Vietnam veterans, they weren’t welcomed home. Like we have support today as soldiers today have a support that would did not exist in the sixties, seventies. I just think it’s not, there’s an opportunity there.
Scott DeLuzio 00:51:14 Yeah, for sure. There’s a big opportunity. I think maybe more of them, the younger generation should take advantage of that opportunity. I would imagine that that would help the grieving process a little bit, as they’re transitioning back into the civilian world. Before we wrap up today, I mentioned your book earlier on and you had mentioned a little bit about it as well. but I want to give you a chance to tell people kind of what it’s about, and where people can go to get it. where people can go to get in touch with you, to see if they can work with you as far as the grief recovery process.
Victoria Volk 00:52:06 I self-published it in 2017. I mentioned that if I wrote it today, it’d be a very different book. But that’s where I was at at the time. It’s really just things that were helping me at that time and things that I was learning about myself and my own grief. It’s on Amazon, there’s a link on my website, theunleashedchart.com has my links for everything, my podcast, Grieving Voices. I do have a program called Do Grief Differently, and it is grief recovery, as well as another program., I’m a certified UMAT coach. Kind of coming back to service members, transitioning out, what you mapped does is it lets you identify your top five strengths and your 10 valid top 10 values and how you’re wired and your skills.
Victoria Volk 00:53:07 We translate that into we can actually see where your military experience can translate into the civilian side. That is another offering. I can do that just separately as just you map as well. But what I found in working with grievers is that grief recovery kind of took care of what was, but then it didn’t answer what now. That’s really what you mapped does because once you can articulate what you bring to the table and what your gifts are and what you have to give to the world that builds confidence, you have the language. It was affirming for me. I am doing exactly what I’m meant to do. Empathy is my top strength. I also have connectedness and strategic input but all of it is called a you map. It really can be a guide for people on a path forward. That’s what I found was the missing piece in the grief work that I was doing. That’s why I combined the two and now together they’re called grief differently. It’s a 12-week program where I work one-on-one with people
Scott DeLuzio 00:54:22 Sounds like a great program and is a great way for people to start recovering from their grief and getting better, better outcomes. I will have links to all of this in the show notes. I’ll have links to your book, your website, and everything else. I’ll even put social media links and things like that in there as well. Anyone who’s looking to get in touch with you to learn more about what you do, check out the show notes, and we’ll have all of that there. Thank you very much for joining me for sharing your experiences and helping out, I think helping out the listeners who might be dealing with their own set of grief to know that it’s okay to talk to people. It’s okay to have some of those uncomfortable conversations. It’s been a pleasure hearing, your side of things. It’s been sort of refreshing to know that it’s okay to talk about these things
Victoria Volk 00:55:26 It’s normal and natural grief is normal and natural. There’s nothing wrong with you or nothing that needs to be fixed,
Scott DeLuzio 00:55:34 It’s just a process that you are going through at this point. So thank you again. I really do appreciate you coming on and sharing with us today.
Victoria Volk 00:55:44 Thank you for having me.
Scott DeLuzio 00:55:46 Thanks for listening to the Drive On Podcast. If you want to check out more episodes or learn more about the show, you can visit our website Drive On Podcast.com. We’re also on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube at Drive On Podcast.