Excellence Above Talent Podcast

Reshaping Grief: Counselor Bryn's Journey from Sorrow to Service

June 30, 2023 Aaron Thomas Season 2 Episode 11
Excellence Above Talent Podcast
Reshaping Grief: Counselor Bryn's Journey from Sorrow to Service
Excellence Above Talent Podcast +
Exclusive access to premium content!
Starting at $10/month Subscribe
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Have you ever wondered what kind of strength it takes to turn a personal tragedy into a purpose? Join me, Aaron Thomas, for an intimate conversation with the inspiring Bryn, a professional counselor, who has navigated this very journey following the heartbreaking loss of her son. Bryn opens up about the harsh realities of grief, and how her faith became a beacon of light during the darkest times. 

We delve into the invincibility mindset of 18-year-old boys, their skewed prioritization of social life, and the grave consequences of ill-thought-out decisions. Bryn enlightens us about the importance of leveraging our innate talents to effect positive change while sharing her inspirational mantra - the 999 quote from Juice World. We navigate the choppy currents of grief and the importance of confronting it head on. Bryn emphasizes the need for creating a safe space for grief and how services like Agape Counseling and Teen Court can provide invaluable support. 

Finally, Bryn emphasizes the capability of human resilience and the transformative power of a positive outlook. In a world that often seems bleak and challenging, she encourages listeners to persevere, reminding them that they are never alone in their battles. Join us for a soul-stirring episode and be inspired by Bryn’s unflagging spirit, as she turns her tragedy into a purpose.

Support the show

#excellenceabovetalent #EAT #dontgiveup #youdeservethebest #youareenough ...

Speaker 1:

You're listening to Excellence Above Talent, a podcast where we have the hard conversations about the lives of men and what leads us to achieve greatness and suffer defeat. Hear from other men's journeys as well, as we all learn and grow together to become inspirations to ourselves and those around us. And now your host, aaron Thomas.

Speaker 2:

What's up my beautiful people, aaron Thomas, with Excellence Above Talent. I am here with Brynda, but I'm going to let her introduce herself.

Speaker 3:

Aaron, thanks for having me. My name is Brynda and I'm a licensed professional counselor here in Odessa at Agape Counseling Services.

Speaker 2:

So been in Odessa all your life.

Speaker 3:

Born and raised moved away a couple times, but always ended up back here.

Speaker 2:

What do you think is like the pool that kept you in back?

Speaker 3:

Man, family, family. My parents are here, yeah. So moved away for college, moved away for a relationship but ended back here to be a family, family, kind of what Odessa does.

Speaker 2:

My family here, odessa is a good place to be, so I believe humans were created to help each other out. What story or message do you have that could help the next generation young?

Speaker 3:

people. Well, in 2020, my family and I had a huge tragedy that happened in our life that basically shifted our whole world and the outlook that we have on life. I've been sharing my story quite often, especially with youth and parents, and I'm so glad that you've asked me to kind of share today, so I'll just tell you a little bit. On September 19th of 2020, my day started out as a normal Saturday and About 10 o'clock that morning, i had four officers on my doorstep telling me that they thought that my son had been in a car accident that morning early in early hours and they thought he was deceased. Later on that day, i did find out that he was in a car accident and he was killed on impact. Two other boys died in the car wreck with him, two not-teen-year-olds and he was 18 at the time. We would later find out that alcohol was involved. Also, several choices made that night that I like to tell people about. Evan didn't come home that night. He had a curfew of 130 and he made the choice not to come home and went to a couple parties with some friends and got in a car with somebody he wasn't real familiar with, but he knew and had a friend with him, and they took off from a party and drove north on Clover and it was about 2.55 am And they ran the stop sign. I don't know why they ran the stop sign, i'll never know but they ran a stop sign and they collided with another car driving on 52nd. That car was going over 80 miles an hour at a 99 acceleration rate, which means the impact was pretty severe. Evan was killed on impact, the driver of the truck was killed along with him on impact and the driver of the other car, who was not teen, was he died a little bit later at the hospital. So we lost three boys that night. We would come to find out that the two boys in the other car were highly intoxicated and they had been out at parties that night too. So lots of poor choices that night on everybody involved, my son included, and those choices have led me to where I am today. Again. My world has just been rocked and I've had to pick up the pieces from that night.

Speaker 2:

So how do you have those days where you don't want to get up and it's just tough and there's just a lot of I guess you're digging in negative ways and you're just in a bad headspace. How do you get up and keep moving?

Speaker 3:

Well, especially with grief. Grief is complicated and it's messy, and something that I've learned personally in all of this is that it's like waves. Some weeks I do fairly well and I can function and I've got motivation and I'm on top of it, and then there's some days and weeks that I'm just I'm not on my game. I have no cognitive skills, i don't feel good, i just want to cry, nothing motivates me, i can't find joy in things, and you know God's a big piece of that. But also, remembering that there's purpose here, you know there's purpose, and when I tell my son's story, all the time I talk about God gives each of us a gift. I truly believe it. He gives all of us gifts that we are to use in this world to make it a better place. He gave my son the gift to take care of others and make them laugh and make them feel good, no matter what was going on, and that was his skill. I believe that he's given me strength. I'd like to talk to him about it. I didn't want to get it this way, but I do believe that God's given me strength and I don't think we need to waste our gifts, and so I really challenged myself on those hard days to think about the strength that I've been given to get through this and and the purpose that there has to be out of all of this, to keep pushing forward. I love my job As a counselor. I get to work with teenagers and adults and I get to be there for them and support them and teach them skills and and help them walk really challenging paths. And after I lost my son, i didn't think I was going to be able to do that anymore. How could you help somebody when you're so broken? And over the last 33 months I have really saw how strong I am and how God is in my life and he's opening doors for me now that I know that this tragedy there was purpose in it somewhere along the way. There's purpose in this, and so that strength is driving me and I'm going to keep pushing. That's all you can do.

Speaker 2:

So you said something. You said you were broken, but I believe broken people help people, because if you're not broken, how can you really understand and help someone who might be going down a different path or might be doing something that you see and know? hey, i've been here before and you need to switch it up and make better decisions. When did you start going to talk to the kids about your son's story and about making better choices and decisions in their life? When did that happen?

Speaker 3:

So within about six months after losing him, i started getting some calls from local crime stoppers and individuals in the community and I think it was December of 2021. so right after his one year angel nursery, i went and spoke for the first time up at the hospital and we started our teen driving class. We called the key driving class through medical center and teen court. It was the first time I stood up there and told that story and, man, it was hard. It was hard and it over time kind of tailored the story about decisions and choices and actually was able, invited for the state conference for crime stoppers to tell my story to about 300 teenagers from all over Texas. And so it all started that way. and then we've just we've been hitting schools hard. recently We've been able to hit Permian and OHS and talk to the senior classes. this year We're doing our driving class up at the hospital and we're trying to get out there, but pretty quickly after people were trying to get me to do things and I'm not sure I was ready that first year, but that second year I really pushed myself. I had somebody tell me once you talked about broken Right after Evan died. I was serving on three different boards. I served on the hospital board. I'm selected position and I was serving on two other nonprofit boards And was trying to figure out what do I do with myself? because I couldn't function those first three months. I couldn't work, i couldn't see clients, i couldn't do anything. And I had somebody that told me that I should step down from those boards because you're broken and how can you do anything for others? They made that comment to me and that I believed it. for a while I even resigned from those boards, except for the hospital board, and so that that statement was very powerful to me and over some time and the help with another pastor, i realized that that wasn't true. That was absolutely not true. We're all broken in some way, shape or form Everybody is broken. Every one of us And man, I think of a broken heart and I think of the lock that shines out through it. You know, and I want to be that locked, you know.

Speaker 2:

And it also takes courage to be broken and still tell your story Like no one really understands the courage it takes to not only feel you know what you have felt but also, i'm assuming every time you tell that story there's some level of feeling that you still have The loft, the hurt, the why, but you still get up and you still do it. So the amount of courage that it takes is bar none. No one can can ever question the courage that you know people have the courage that you have to just get up and want to tell that story Because the story again is needed. I think God puts us in places and allows things to happen to us, not for us to go within and kind of keep it and be mad at him, but just to find ways to help this next generation not hold on to. You know the information that could have, that could potentially change one person's life. So at the end of the day, like if you can change one person's life, that trajectory they're able to change. You know that next family and that next family like you have, you know, touched and inspired. You know a generation, you know 10 years or five generations down the line just because of the story that you had. You know the courage that you have and the story that you told to help these kids out. So I think that is that is pretty awesome.

Speaker 3:

I think that a lot of people don't realize that you know, if we stand in front of a group of people and we touch one person, one person in the room, or if we wake up in the you know, every morning and have the goal of bringing a lot to one person, by just smiling at them, being kind, we're making a huge difference. We don't have to change a whole room, we don't have to have all the magical powers, but I mean just one person. And when I, when I talk to a group of teenagers or I stand in front of a room, that's one. My goal is one. I do more than that's amazing, but one, because that one matters Absolutely.

Speaker 2:

So you were talking about. So this podcast was created through a buddy of mine from the Army Committing Suicide. We had had a conversation the day before or two weeks before we were talking, he was having issues. I told him to come down here to you know, get in the oil field and you know I can, we can help him, you know figure it out. And then two weeks later he was gone. And it hurt me because you know, i had, i had talked to him previously and I didn't hear it, or my life was so busy that I was just like, hey, like you know, i'll give you money and come down here, but I didn't stop to like listen to what he had to say. I mean. So for a while that really bothered me, but then I started to ask the question of you know, do men have places to go and talk? Do young boys have places to go and talk to Or people to talk to about? you know the issues and the struggle, and so I hear in your story that there were a group of young men that lost their lives from decisions of you know partying and you know not coming home. Do you think that you know as just as a young boy, as far as raising a young man like, do you think he had not issues with the trouble, like expressing his feelings and emotions as to what was going on in his life?

Speaker 3:

My son, no, aaron, he was actually really outgoing and was a really positive person. You know the I can't speak for the boys that way he was with. But you know Evan was a really good kid, never got in trouble, was locked by, all very positive. You know, after he passed we heard some of his stories about who he was and just the good kid he was. I mean he was. He got in trouble some for being late, for curfew. I ended up finding out was because he was driving other kids home, because he didn't want to get in trouble, you know. Or I'd get on to him because he didn't have money. Well, it's because he lent it to his friend and never asked for it back. That was the kind of kid he was. He was also the kid that would have stayed out to be with friends because he was a social butterfly and he loved life. He loved it to the fullest and he lived his best life. That day before He went and did all kinds of fun stuff with his friends and it was just. He was bright. You know He just made a stupid decision and didn't come home that night. You know he'd only done that one other time and we talked about it and I told him. I said if you're going to stay with your friends, you've got to tell me. You know he was 18 and we were trying to give him space. I was trying to navigate being his mom and him still sort of being a teenager and immature at 18 and not developed fully, and you know and I know what decisions can do. But at 18, we're all invincible, right?

Speaker 2:

Especially boys, especially boys, you know you think that you're gonna go out to What do you think that comes from now? Like what like is this innate in us? or like why do you think you know young boys, just think at 18, like?

Speaker 3:

nothing could hurt them. I don't know. I just think they're invincible, gotcha, i mean, unless something tragic has already happened to them. that's something that we can't even perceive at that point. you know, and what's priority? It's social life. it's, you know, meeting the girl, you know those kind of things. it's social life And so that's their priority at that time. And I do think development has a lot to do with that age group that you know, when he made the decision not to come home, or they made the decision to go to a party and drink, they never anticipated that that would have happened. They wouldn't have done it if so, that they didn't sign up for it. then They just thought they were gonna go and hang with friends. And how many of us have made a decision that probably could have changed our life forever but we just got lucky And they didn't that night, you know. So I do think it's development a lot, and that's why I tell this story about decisions and choices, because when you're young you don't think of it that way. You don't think that I didn't go home that night and I'm gonna go and hang out with friends would change the trajectory of everybody's life and end his. I mean, just don't.

Speaker 2:

That makes a lot of sense. So what motivates you to keep pushing after dealing with heartbreak?

Speaker 3:

My girls. I've got two girls In Evan. You know my son. Being able to tell his story and keeping his name alive is very important to me because I really wanna save a life, at least one. If I can save at least one life, and especially a kid's life, and keep other parents from having to go through the heartbreak and the grief that I have, i would spare everyone from this. It's absolutely unbearable to go through And, again, i really believe that God gives us that gift and our world's not a good place. We need to use these gifts that God gives us and make the best out of this world and make it a better place.

Speaker 2:

When you say our world's not a good place, i think that that is one of the main reasons why it's not a good place. Everyone is afraid to use their gifts that is given to them, and I'm not sure is it just because of society or not wanting to be left out, but there's a lot of. I see it now with kids, with adults, that they try to sit back and just allow it to happen for them and not go out there and just kind of live within the means of what God has placed upon them.

Speaker 3:

So yeah, and I think like a level of confidence and some people not even realizing that they've got those gifts. Maybe they don't even realize that that is special and that they can do something with that. And there are. it might not be anything, but again, if we wake up and have that goal to make a difference and just one laugh that day, we're using a gift and we'll learn what it is because we all have them. All of us do.

Speaker 2:

I am a big believer in that. What is the best advice you have received?

Speaker 3:

So it's kind of funny how I received this. My son's favorite rapper is Juice World. That's great because all the teenagers now know Juice World and he was very popular And I liked his music. My son was very much into music and dancing So he shared with me music all the time that was coming up and big, and it's something that we always did together, listening to music and stuff. Right after he died I learned about Juice World's 999. And I thought about this for a while afterwards and it just resonated with me. And it's actually something you know. A lot of people tried to give me advice over the last 33 months, but until you sit in the seat it's really hard to hear other. You know to give advice to somebody unless you've been sitting in this chair and lost a child, but you know. So Juice World's quote about 999 is that 999 represents taking whatever hell, whatever situation or whatever struggle you're going through and turning it into something positive and using it to push yourself forward. So we use 999 all the time to find motivation and I say push yourself forward. All the time I wear a bracelet that says live like Evan and it says push yourself forward. I've been handed this new life. I always tell people I see my life on a timeline before and after, and this after is hard, but I've got to find purpose in this tragedy and I got to use it to push myself forward. That's the motivator and that quote from Juice World man that's been big for my family and for his friends. It's what's, and I feel like he kind of left it for me. If that it's a weird again, it's weird how I got that, but it's. I feel like Evan left that for me and I needed it from him. I also something I've learned through all this and I tell everyone this is by the ticket Before Evan died I had gotten him in his older, my middle, his youngest sister, but the oldest of them. He was very close to her. I got them post Malone concert tickets Again love music and I I nearly bought myself one to go with them and I thought, no, i don't have the money, i don't need to spend the money on it. But I spent the money on them. I took them to the concert and they went in and I didn't. I regret it all the time because it was what was. Three or four hundred dollars could have been made again and I could have been there with Evan at that concert. So I tell everybody to buy the ticket. Take the trip, take the picture, take the video, do whatever you need to do. The money will always be there, the time will not and the people will not. So buy the ticket.

Speaker 2:

You have talked about purpose multiple times on this podcast. Why do you think that is important? Knowing your purpose, figuring out your purpose. Why is that important?

Speaker 3:

It's important because if we don't identify that or if we don't have purpose, then what are we going to do? We don't have much motivation behind that and especially if you've had a hard life, if you've had some tragedy or hard things happening to you, without that purpose, you don't have a lot of motivation and we've got to find it. Purpose is what drives us and we all have it. We're all here for a reason. Every one of us has something to contribute. It's important. That's awesome.

Speaker 2:

So last question what impact do you want to leave as Ms Irv, the DSL, as a community person?

Speaker 3:

Well, just, i think leaving this world in a better place than what I found it is a huge goal for me and I think that I can do that by being there for others, inspiring others, modeling positivity and kindness, and also just telling my story and my son's story and being very vulnerable about my grief and about this tragedy, because A lot of people don't know how to walk grief. They don't know how to walk through it, they don't know how to handle mental health issues. They don't know how to do that. And if me being vulnerable and being honest about what I go through and how I feel and it helps somebody navigate it in a healthy way, then I'm leaving the world in a better place, because I think there's such a stigma in that we have to get over things and we're just supposed to be okay, and we don't just get over things and we don't have to just be okay. There's a way to get through it in a healthy way, and sometimes it's messy, but you can do it and it's okay for you to go through it that way.

Speaker 2:

So I know I said last question, but you talked about grief. How are you, how have you dealt with it and how are you dealing with it now The grief of a loved one dying.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, grief's messy, so you know everybody handles it differently. I think the worst thing you can do is avoid. I meet so many people that avoid and it ends up coming back to get you. But the way that I've handled it is I've embraced it and I have leaned into it And as soon as I lost him I knew I was going to need help. I'm a counselor and I thought I knew everything about grief and I don't. I didn't know anything about it until I went through it And so, leaning into it, i got a counselor immediately. I found a support group locally that have a child loss group, so they understand what I go through. The counselor has really helped validate you know my feelings and given me permission to feel what I need to. I've kept everything the way that I want it to be at the house for him. I started new traditions and kept old ones to honor him. You know my grief looks different than my girl's grief and my husband's grief, and that's the challenging part I think in grief is learning how to respect everyone's grief around you too, because everyone grieves differently and what we need is different than somebody else in our household, and that's a big challenge after you lose someone. So, just again, embracing it and moving through it and finding the courage to talk about it makes a huge difference. If we don't talk about our grief and what we're feeling and experiencing, i don't think we start the healing process. So telling his story has really helped with my healing process and finding this purpose and keeping myself motivated to keep working as a counselor has helped heal as well.

Speaker 2:

So you said something about people avoiding grief. What are ways that people try?

Speaker 3:

to. You know, people might take pictures down and not look at them anymore or get rid of all belongings and again not talk about what happened at all. Some people go right back to work and move on and dismiss the feelings and push through it, versus embracing it and actually leaning into it and acknowledging that it's there. Something that I've learned is that grief is always going to be there. How could it not be? It's love. It's now replaced that love that we had for that loved one, and it doesn't get smaller and it doesn't get better. What we do is we learn to grow with it and we learn to accommodate it and to accommodate to the grief and we make space for it. I mean, i make space for it. When I know that my season's coming up in September, i plan I take a week off during that angel-versary time at Christmas, around Christmas that's hard and his birthday I take time off. I make space for it, i acknowledge that it's going to be there, i embrace it, i allow it, i give it permission to be there. And again, i think that remembering that that's love is important, that it's okay for you to feel that love still.

Speaker 2:

What did you find the awareness to start taking a week off in September or taking days off in December? What happened in your life to where you realized, okay, i need to be more aware of how I'm feeling and make choices, and make decisions that's going to help me, you know, not put me in such a negative state.

Speaker 3:

I think, unfortunately, it's a little trial and error. For sure, you know that first year after you lose someone, you kind of start navigating the holidays a little bit. You realize what's going to be challenging or what's not, and I think immediately then you can start planning for the next time. Unfortunately, again, it's trial and error. We don't know what someone's going to feel like or what that experience is going to be like till we encounter it that first time. Those firsts are hard. But after you've done that, i think that you go ahead and start making that space and that plan. That is really important that we do. That It's self care, it's taking care of ourselves, it's giving ourselves permission to be however we need to be to get through that hard moment.

Speaker 2:

Is there a nonprofit or you know something here in this community that you're a part of or that you're trying to create that people can know more about or should know more about?

Speaker 3:

Well, i work for Agape Counseling Services. We're a nonprofit, we are faith based, we take, you know, insurance, but we also have a scholarship program. The beauty of the nonprofit is that we want everyone to get help, and so we raise money to provide services to anyone. We work with Thirteen and Up, and it's a great organization. You know Centers for Children and Families, another local nonprofit that does amazing things in this community counseling wise For teenagers or parents that want 13-agers to be involved in something related to these decisions and choices, and especially if it's in a drive, the driving class up at Medical Center that we're doing. The key driving classes is phenomenal. It's a day where they get a tour at the hospital. We're talking about lots of different types of incidents that can happen when you're driving and we end it within paired driving. It's a powerful class that Medical Center and Teen Courts put on and it's wonderful.

Speaker 2:

Is that through Medical Center and Teen Courts?

Speaker 3:

Yes, like, how would someone?

Speaker 2:

get that information.

Speaker 3:

Rebecca Grissom at Teen Court would be the contact. But yes, it is held at Medical Center in our boardroom and we try to do it every other month. Again, we're trying to get out to the schools and teach some of this too, but we all. There's also a child loss support group, local that you know. It's not a non-profit, it's just a bunch of parents that we've got a Facebook page. It would be a great support to anybody that's lost a child. It doesn't matter what age, doesn't matter how you lost them, but being in the presence with others that understand you. There's something powerful about that. So you're not alone, and I think, anytime that you're struggling and finding a support group or finding a group of people that can connect with you and understand what you're feeling, there's nothing better than that when you're having a hard time.

Speaker 2:

All right, i really do appreciate you because, i mean, i reached out to you on Monday I saw a post, i think, monday, yeah, and I reached out to you on Monday and you were very open to having a conversation with me. so I appreciate that for allowing me to come in you know, have this conversation with you. So if anyone having told you today if they love you, let me be the first to say I love you. You're awesome, you're an amazing person. you deserve the best that this world has to offer. Do not give up, do not quit. The world does not get easier.

Speaker 1:

Thank you for listening. Be sure to subscribe to the podcast so you never miss an episode and for daily motivational and up-to-date content. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram at excellence above talent. And remember keep moving forward, never give up and you are never alone in this battle. We'll see you next time.

Turning Tragedy Into Purpose
Purpose and Positive Impact
Navigating Grief and Finding Support
Never Give Up