As a 12-year-old, I went SCUBA diving for the first time and all I found … was the life motto I had already been living by but didn’t even know it yet: Dive in and breathe deep.

Easy to say, maybe a little tougher to do, even when the dive is one you choose to make. When that leap holds the possibility of joy, happiness, and even adventure. But what happens when you don’t choose to dive in? What happens when you are shoved in? When the act of plunging into deep waters holds only the possibility of pain, suffering, fear, and even death. In those moments it feels impossible to find any air at all, let alone enough to breathe deep.

Me and my daughter, Lily, on her first SCUBA trip.

Soon after discovering dive in and breathe deep was going to be my roadmap, I experienced a violent and traumatic event at age 15 that shoved me into extremely deep waters. Not long after that, I endured two more painful incidents. These excruciating experiences made me start to question the validity of my life motto, or at least wonder what was missing. . . and in 2011, I found out what was missing…step 3 – buddy breathe when necessary.

In the minutes, hours, days, weeks, and even months after my husband Eric died, I needed people to remind me to breathe deeply. I just needed them to remind me to breathe, period! Asking family and friends for help when I was running out of air was incredibly difficult. Demonstrating or being vulnerable enough to show I needed help was not a skill I had developed. In my family, self-sufficiency was highly valued. As a woman, I was raised to help others. As a Clinical Social Worker and Narrative Therapist, I was trained to be the helper, not the receiver.

And so when my friends had to literally lift me out of his hospital bed after he passed, bring me groceries so my daughter and I would eat, and lay beside me on the floor while I wept and wailed, I discovered this simple but critical truth – we ALL need help sometimes. Now here I am in 2019, approaching the 8-year anniversary of Eric dying in my arms. I live in this exciting city, and I am surrounded by some amazing new friends. I’m now a full-time single parent to my incredible 15-year-old daughter. In her young life, she has already faced some incredible losses. As her mom, that breaks my heart. AND, just like her mom, she too has become a SCUBA diver. That means she is learning the incredible instructions she will need to survive and thrive in this world:

Dive in, breathe deep, and buddy breathe when necessary.

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  • Lisa Keefauver, MSW

    Grief Activist, Writer, Speaker, Educator and Podcast Host

    Reimagining Grief

    A nationally known grief and empathy expert, Lisa Keefauver’s wisdom runs deep, from her personal and professional experiences over the past 20+ years. At 40, her husband Eric died in her arms, leaving her a widow and single mother to their 7-year-old daughter. Just a few years later, she was by the bedside of a close friend when he succumbed to the ravages of Muscular Dystrophy. Professionally she spent the past 2 decades as a clinical social worker and narrative therapist, witnessing the unnecessary suffering of so many individuals because their families, communities, and culture weren’t supporting them in their grief. Called the “Brene Brown of Grief and Loss,” (Tracey Wallace, Eterneva) Lisa uses her warmth, vulnerability, humor, and therapeutic skills to reimagine grief, leading a movement to change the narratives of grief.