"Heart to Heart with Michael" starts off the new year with returning Guest, Nancy Jensen. She and Michael talk about the path forward from devastation towards peace. Along the way, she shares stories of her own personal healing.
Nancy Jensen has been on "Heart to Heart with Michael" at the top of each season since its inception. She is mother to Jessica, a daughter she lost due to complications from her congenital heart defect. In addition to being a long-time to Host Michael Liben, she is also the Producer of "Heart to Heart with Michael."
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I kind of had to tell myself, I'm done. I need to afford now
Welcome friends to the first episode of the third Season of Heart to Heart with Michael, a program for the bereaved community. Our purpose is to empower community with resource is support and advocacy information. In this season, we're going to be taking a longer view of grief. Can we find peace and healing?
Is there a way to move on despite our losses? What about the guilt Some of us feel just even thinking about moving forward in a life without someone would loved and cared for? We're lucky to have returning guests and our producer and graphic artist Nancy Jensen. Today's show is Release Relief and Peace. We'll be talking with Nancy about dealing with grief in the long term Nancy S.
Um unique perspectives to share with us as a bereaved parent and as a person who has suffered other losses as well. Today we'll talk with Nancy about how healing can occur after the loss of a loved one. What advice she has for others and how others can also achieve a sense of peace after the death of a loved one Nancy and her husband called have three heart healthy sons, Austin, Brandon and Justin. And a daughter, Jessica. Jessica was born with complex congenital heart defects. Sadly, just got passed away on October 4th, 2010. She survived 22 years. Despite all her medical issues, Nancy has been a guest on heart tarred with Anna. She was also the first guest on heart to heart with Michael for what she's also the producer. Nancy serves hearts, Unite the Globe as a graphic artist, and she serves the congenital heart defect community by offering compassion to CHD warriors, their families and especially to breathe Parents. Welcome back, Nancy. You started off Season one and Season two, and now you're starting off Season three. So I'm really eager to see how we're gonna help others this year with coming to a sense of peace and finding healing. Let's get started.
Thanks, Michael. I look forward to seeing what this season brings as well.
We know that grief is a process. 1st 1 feels bitterness. Eventually we achieve a sort of bittersweet, and finally we can arrive at a state of sweetness. We're remembering our loved ones, is pleasant and brings us happiness. One of the ways I believe we achieve healing is to remembering our loved ones. So tell me some stories about Jessica that make you smile.
One of my favorites is the story about when Karl would come home now Jessica was tethered to an oxygen to being so she couldn't go very far, and she was mostly bed ridden. In the last several years of her life, however, she could get up and walk, and when Carl came home from work, he would open her bedroom door. I didn't say hi, Jesse and he closed the door and he'd hide right around the corner, either in the kitchen or the living room or different door, which was all very close. And she would yell, Daddy's home and she jumped out of bed and come open the door and go find him and give him hugs and kisses. And that was something he always looked forward to. And of course, that's something he misses. But that was just something really, really fun for them to have together.
You know, that's really great, because we used to do something in our house. Um, my kids would call me up when I was on the way home and asking when you're coming home and it got kind of annoying and every few minutes when you coming home. So finally they would call it on the stairs, coming up the stairs, coming home, and I would say, Count to 10 and they would count to 10 in a 10. I would open the door and come in, and it was always a kind of a nice thing. And now my daughter's appear is 22 years old and she just pulled it on me last week should count to 10. Oh, and he said, You, are you in your value here? Yes, she's a count to 10 and I looked in there. She what's outside the store so that that's kind of sweet. Yeah, I like that. I know you have a story about The Nutcracker, so let's hear that
01 here. My sister and my sister in law and I took our girls to go see The Nutcracker, and Jessica was absolutely enthralled the whole time. She just loved the music and the dancing, and, um, she says, Mommy, it's just like silang guage. I can understand what they're saying and, um, you know, she had to learn sign language to facilitate speech. And so that was just so attaching that she could relate to it that way. And she swore the Nutcracker wave to her. And so we're siente of course. Santa brought her Nutcracker. And when she opened it, she has grabbed it and the hug it so much. And I have a picture of that, and that is just one of the really wonderful memories that I have of her. Plus, you know, her cousins were there, and we just really had a good time. And so I always think of Jessica and that Nutcracker and how she just absolutely loved the ballet.
That's really sweet. Do you think maybe because the ballet is music and its visual and it's dancing and all of that going on at the same time? Do you think it was just like an overload? And she just, you know, drink that in
It could be She always wanted to dance always and she was always to blue. She gets short of breath walking across room So obviously dancing wasn't something she could dio nobody flying freedom It is it waas and You know, the funniest thing the lady with the cake dress was her favorite part. When that lady lifts up her dress and all those Children run out from underneath the gate dress, she just burst out laughing. And so Jessica was when something scared her. She talked about non stop for weeks. If something. She was fascinated with our enjoyed. She talked about it nonstop for weeks. And this She talked about months and years. She just absolutely, thoroughly enjoyed it. And, um so it was that she loved music. And so this is really something that that really touched your heart, and it was really awesome. So we got to go and see that together.
We can't talk about Jessica without talking about the butterflies. So tell me about the butterflies.
Well, it was probably just about a week or less before she passed away, and she knew she do. She was dying, and, um, she had kind of made her peace with it. And, um, she woke up one time when I was sitting with her, and she just said, Mommy, I'm going to send you butterflies from heaven, OK? And it took me by surprise. I Never. I thought she would say anything like that. I said, Of course, Jesse l look for every single one and we see butterflies everywhere all the time. And that is just something that's so close to near and dear to our heart. People give me butterflies. I I have butterflies everywhere. I put butterflies and blood of my artwork that I do. And I just you know, even when Carl and I were watching a movie and I see a better fly, it's like, Hi, Jessica, uh, I haven't have friends in Australia and England. Tell me, Oh, I saw a butterfly and I said, Hi, Jessica. So she thinks
it's true that I now thank you for every time I see butterflies as well. You have done
that to me, huh? That's now just a part of me forever. You better be
Forever by the Baby Blue Sound Collective. I think what I love so much about this CD is that some of the songs were inspired by the patients.
Many listeners will understand many of the different songs and what they've been inspired. Our new album will be available on iTunes amazon dot com. Spotify.
I love the fact that the proceeds from this CD are actually going to help those with Joe Hart effects.
Home Tonight forever You are listening to heart to heart with Michael. If you or someone you know would like to be a guest on Michael's program, please email him at Michael at heart to heart with michael dot com. Now back to our program
Let's talk about the relief that comes with death. Now, this isn't something that we often talk about because people get all caught up in the guilt. But I think you and I can address this topic and separate the feelings. I know. For example, you told me recently that you had a chance to go out for lunch with Carl, your husband, which is more like dinner for you but lunchtime for him. And you had a chance to go out and you were able to just drop everything and go The idea being this is a kind of a freedom that you could not have done before. Taking care of Jessica, you know, 24 7 So tell me, what's that like to go out and what's it like to do things that you don't normally do. And then tell me, do you
feel guilty when you do that? Well, Michael, I used to and since I really did have take care of just get 24 7 and her emotional needs were so strong that, you know, I'd go out and she would call me every five minutes. Mommy, I need you to come home. Where are you and all that kind of stuff? And so I really had a lot of anxiety just leaving the house. And that anxiety did not go away after she died. And so I'd only being able to go out for a short amount of time. And I would have this anxiety that I had to go home. And so now that I'm eight years out, sometimes I'll stop and think, Oh, yeah. I remember when I couldn't leave the house without making sure that she had a home health aide, that she had her meds. And then she was calm down that, you know, she tried to stop me five or six times because I wanted out the door just because she needed just one more minute with me. You know, it doesn't
really do that.
Yeah, And so now I can go out and I can actually go and do something, and I don't find anxiety anymore. And even when that anxiety had been lessening, there were times that I kind of felt guilty that I get to go out and I get to do this and she stuck at home. I
think there's a difference between between anxiety and guilt in this kind of situation because you missed the times. Maybe when you know, you had to be there. You missed the times when you have to do all of these things. But on the other hand, there's a whole world out there that that is now available to you in a way that it wasn't before. I know. And exactly the same thing I used to worry get. I used to get up in the morning before going to work. I had to worry who was gonna be home at four o'clock to get Leo off the bus. And who is going to stay home today? And who is gonna be wearing who's really when All of a sudden, Now I can come home from work, And if I have to go out and do some shopping. I just do it. I don't ask anybody. I don't think about it. And there's that guilty, miss. So why am I doing this? Don't have to be somewhere. The answer is no, because she's all wrapped up and taken with me wherever I got and I feel her presence and it's nice and I have it with me. And it's almost as though I'm taking her with me on these errands and she's okay. Do you get
that? 0 100%. That's a very, very nice way of putting it because, you know, for a while I did have killed that I was moving on with my life and doing things that I never could do before. But one of my sons taught me something very important. After his sister died, it was like his time to live because of her anxiety, because noise bothered her because of all these things of her being so sick the last five years of her life, my sons did not invite friends over. They did not have parties, the exact and they didnt go out much. And so once she was gone, my middle son, who was, um, going into his junior year of high school. He was like, Mom, can we invite friends over? I said sure. Really? Yeah, sure. Are you sure? And I'm like, Yes, I would love it if you had friends over on and he was like, Wow, we can actually do this now. And they started having game night every week. I loved it. We'd have up to 14 15 kids here. That's great. Having so much fun. And at first I kind of felt guilty. But then I thought, You know what? They put their lives on hold, and Jessica is safe. She's happy. She's hold ill. And I don't need to worry about any of her anxiety issues or medical issues. And it was wonderful having all these the youth in my home having fun. So yeah, he taught me a lot by by doing that, and he went out and was in drama, and he went to parties and he went to dances. He went on dates, and that was just really awesome.
We really can't change anything. And, you know, our loved ones have gone, and we have to accept that as a final fact. What we can do now is we can remember them and we can bring them along with us and live for them and they can live through us and we can show them the world that we now have. We have different opportunities now, and part of healing, I believe, is coming back into the world. Part of healing is understanding that the world with me or without me is going to keep going on, and I'm gonna be a part of that. I'm going to be and it's a conscious decision. But I'm not leaving anyone behind what I do it and that's that's difficult. I think for a lot of people it's an important stage to pass. I don't know if it comes at five years or six years or two years and I guess for some people, for everybody it comes differently. But they all have to pass through that stage.
In the beginning, I didn't want one more day to pass because it was one more day, further way. For the last time I help my daughter. I had to turn my thinking around, too. No, it's one day closer to the next. I might hold her again. Hopefully that will be a long time off. But instead of thinking how many days or months or years it's been since last time I held her thinking about, I will hold her in the future and my faith in that that she is still alive and well in heaven or wherever you want to call it. She is better now than she ever waas on Earth, and I envision her dancing and singing like those people in The Nutcracker that she always wanted to dio. And now she can do it. And I feel that she's happy and she has that piece.
understand you're saying, and I felt the same thing about my father when I had a right, the notice that my father had passed after a long and really difficult struggle, I said that we will love him forever. But we're mindful of his release an hour relief, and I think I took it on and faced it right away that it was a moment where we could breathe and we could think about it and think of his release. And when we talk about his release, I'm reminded of an earlier guest, mad Cretan was on season two, and he was talking about the day his son Chase died, and he said he felt as if God was reaching down to rescue his son. And when you think of his son in terms of being rescued, he was released from his pain and from his difficulty in much the same way that our Children were and and my father. It's a serious release for them, and it's okay to understand that. That's also relief for those of us around who had to take care of them and who had to to hold on to them and struggle along with them. And in the sense we have an obligation after that, I think to continue and to live for them and to accept that, you know, there are things now that we're going to do that we couldn't do before. It's not that they were holding us back, but we were busy taking care of them, and that part falls away. But we're left with the memories that are really nice. We're left with the good parts and thinking of them and remembering them makes us smile. Tell me about your sense of relief and the kind of relief that you have now that you didn't have when you were caring for Jessica.
Well, Jessica had, like I said, someone emotional needs but medical needs and so much pain. She had a skim it bells and those air extremely painful. And she had a very long, difficult death. I just really feel this overwhelming. Just I don't know how else to put it, but relief and thankfulness that that part of her life is over. And now I can go on to remembering these fun memories that I have with her, and I can set those painful memories aside and focus on the positive.
If you've enjoyed listening to this program, please visit our website hearts. Unite the globe dot org's and make a Contribution. Things Program is a presentation of hearts, unite the globe and is part of the Hug Podcast Network are tonight. The globe is a non profit organization devoted to providing resource is to the congenital heart defect community to educate and power and enrich the lives of our community members. If you would like access to free resource is pertaining to the CHT community, please visit our website at congenital heart defects dot com for information about CHD hospitals that treat CHD survivors, summer camps for CHD families and much, much more. Okay,
I was five hours old when I had my first surgery.
The only advice I really give someone like that is to be there for your family.
This is life and you have to live it or you sit in a corner and cry.
I am in a Gorsky and the hosts of Heart to Heart with Anna. Join us on Tuesdays at noon Eastern time on speaker are blocked. Talk radio. We'll cover topics of importance for the congenital heart defect community. Remember, my friends, you are not alone. You are listening to heart to heart with Michael. If you have a question or comment that you would like addressed on our program, please send an email to Michael. Even at Michael at heart to heart with michael dot com Now back toe heart to heart with Michael
Nancy We've been talking about some really tough topics today, dealing with guilt. I'm coming to a level of enlightenment about how we move from one chapter of our lives to another while we're still dealing with the grief. Remembering our loved ones is something that is so important to us in the breeze community and why we devoted an entire year to celebrating our loved ones. So now let's talk about what advice he would give to those who are just beginning their bereavement journey with regard to maybe showing themselves compassion for the feelings of guilt they will experience and the combination of contradictory emotions that all of us go through as we grieve
well, part of my advice would be to everybody grieves differently. There's no one right or wrong way to grieve and know that your life is going to go on and you will be able to breathe. You will be able to move forward. And, um, my uncle who had lost a son to cancer about 12 years prior to Jessica's death. He came to me at Jessica's funeral. He gave me a great big long hug and he said, Stay busy doing good things and he said it like that
and so true.
And, you know, there have been times when I caught myself wandering the house, not knowing what to Dio, because Jessica had been my full time job. 24 7 for over 22 years. Carl and the boys were at school and at work, and I don't know what's to and that would remind me, keep busy doing good things. I would find something to do to serve others reach out with CHD community and And I worked with Anna on heart heart with Anna. And now we're working on a hard heart with Michael for the bereaved, and I find a lot of peace, a lot of healing coming from helping others. And that was one thing. Keeping busy, doing good things. Well, a few years later, my aunt passed away, and at her funeral I went up to my uncle and he gave him a great big long hug. And he just had me real tight and I whispered easier, keep busy doing good things. And he teared up, remembering he had given me that same advice. He promised me I will, I will. So I think that's excellent advice.
If I had to give some advice, I would I would say to people, Don't beat yourselves up. Um, there is nothing you can do to change where you are. The only thing you can do is to go forward because to stand still is to lose yourself and to lose your memory of your loved one. The only thing you can do from where you are is keep moving forward. And if you do that and if you take your loved one with you, then you will help others to remember that person the way that you want that person to be remembered. And that's my best advice for this. And I think that and keep busy doing the things I'm definitely gonna take that with me. I think that's one of the best things I've ever ever heard on this subject.
Yeah, I agree. And your advice is really excellent to you. Have to keep moving forward.
Well, you know, I've seen people stagnate. We talked about this at the end of last season. People stagnate, and then they find a reason to get up. They find a reason to move. They find a reason to do something in somebody's memory every day, and then that helps them get back into the world. That helps them come back to where they need to be. And in so doing, so you know, you're helping yourself and you're also helping the memory of your loved ones. So it's it's a it's a very good thing for everybody involved. And then later you know, we passed the torch to those who come after us, who will remember those who came before us, and it's our job to do that. And if you look at it that way, then you have a reason to move forward and then you can. But I'd like to end the episode by talking about peace. Tell us about how you've started to come to a sense of peace, about your loss and what does that feel like? Will we ever stop crying over those we've lost
as Faras? Will we ever stop crying over the ones we've lost? There are maybe different days or something will come up and I'll find myself in tears. Um, I just recently lost my father in law just less, but And he was a dad in every sense of the way for 33 years. And so I you know, I'm grieving his loss. However, he got to grow up in a normal childhood. He got to go to college. He got to get married you got to have an excellent career in biochemistry. He got to have Children and raise them, and he got to have grandchildren and even a great grandchild. And those are things the Jessica Denver got to do. And so I've had to make my peace with that part of her loss. She was very sick little girl, her whole 22 years, and I've had to make my peace. That just wasn't going to happen for her. And I'm be grateful, truly grateful for the time that we did have and the good memories that we did have and focus on that. And so, um, we had discussed the difference between losing. Um, the parent persists in a child because parents most likely has been able to do all these things and accomplish all these things. But losing a child is also our loss of being able to parent that child
know for sure
through through these different milestones. And so part of my piece has had to come from making peace in myself that her life was good, her life. We made my husband night the best possible, happiest life for her as we possibly could, and that we can rejoice it, and that could bring us peace.
I think that's really critical to understand the difference. The loss of an adult is a summation. The loss of a child is a loss of hope and for us our job, our position, what we know we're supposed to be doing. And suddenly we're floating. We don't have that, and that's really hard thing to get over. But it seems to me that you have found ways to do that. It seems to me that you have figured out in some way that moving forward is a good thing and then finding good things to do, perhaps in her memory is a good thing to do. And these are the things that that helped bring you back to a sense of who you were and where you need to be now and a sense of real inner peace. And I really admire that about you, and I hope that other people can can pick that up from this conversation because I think it's really, really important. Do you feel more at peace with yourself? Do you feel more at ease with what you have now and how things are and your inability to change that.
Yes, I dio I have a strong faith. I've had to make the decision to find peace with it. Jessica would have turned 30 this year for a year before that, I mourned the loss of her being able to have fallen in love and got married and had a family. That's all she ever talked about her whole life. Her very first sign was Baby. Her 2nd 1 was Mommy. She talked about it. She acted. She wrote stories about being a mom, she, you know, with Harry Potter and different characters. She acted out with Barbies and she would even play games on her game. Boy that depicted Mommy, I love this game because I can do things on it that I can't do in real life like it married to have a baby and go shopping things like that. So it was a loss that she had have never been able to do that, but was lost for me to never be able to do that with her. And I finally had to just tell myself, Am I going to be stuck in this grief being upset that if she had been healthy by now. She would have been married and having Children, and I would have been able to been the grand parent and been able to go through that with her. And since I made that decision, I lab myself time to grieve that loss. But then I kind of had to tell myself, I'm done. I need to move forward now. I need to have other things to rejoice in. And she has a legacy of being happy and grateful and, um, joyful, even in the most difficult situations. And so what am I gonna take with me as part of her legacy? I need to strive to take her legacy, tell her stories and try to bring hope to others that we can re Ford and I have really this past year receive such peace by doing so. And I think my faith has had a lot to do with it, but also making that conscious decision that Okay, it's time for me to move forward now.
Well, Nancy, I want to thank you for joining us on this program. First of our third year, first of our second year and the first to our first year you always bring a special outlook to our programs and you set the tone for the year, and I thank you for that.
Well, thank you.
And that concludes this episode of heart to heart with Michael. I want to thank Nancy Jensen for sharing her thoughts on healing with us, and I hope her stories brought some hope to those who are listening. Please join us at the beginning of the month for a brand new
podcast. I'll talk with you soon. Until then, remember, moving forward is not moving away. Thank you.
Thank you again for joining us. We hope you have gained strength from listening to our program. Heart to heart with Michael can be heard every Thursday at noon Eastern time. We'll talk again next time when we'll share more stories.