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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Julie Lange Groth, Author - An Interview

Julie Lange Groth

Today we honor Julie Groth, author, wife, and mother. Twenty four years ago Julie experienced the loss of her son. Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting Groth and was deeply impressed at her resilient loving spirit. I requested an interview. So, here it is.
First, to Julie Groth, my sincerest condolences and appreciation for honoring BookOrBust with your sage words.

Next, tell us a little about yourself.

Q: Who you are? 

A: I am someone who has traveled that dark road every mother dreads above all others, the death of a child. As part of my own healing journey, I discovered shamanism and have followed a shamanic path for almost 25 years. I have become an experienced practitioner and teacher and I lead shamanic grief work programs with groups as well as with individuals to bring comfort and healing after a deep loss.

Q: Where do you make your home? 

A: I live with my husband Lou in rural northwest New Jersey.

Q: Do you have pets?

A: We have a cat named Kiva.

Q: Can you tell us about your son.

A: My son Justin was a lovable, freckle-faced 16-year-old with a huge heart and a quirky sense of humor. He died while using nitrous oxide (laughing gas) with friends.

Q: How did you react to the news of his death?

A: When Justin died I was a 46-year-old single mother of three with a mortgage and a failing business. I had dropped him off at school that sunny September morning without a clue that this would be the day that changed everything forever.

That afternoon after school, he and some friends were fooling around huffing from a tank of nitrous oxide that his friend had stowed in the basement of our home and he overdosed. After three days and nights in a coma, he was declared brain dead.

Losing Justin flattened me. Some days it was all I could do to keep breathing. For almost a year I was emotionally disabled, eviscerated by grief, unable to save my business from bankruptcy and incapable of finding new employment. My home went into foreclosure and my car was repossessed, but none of it mattered because Justin was gone.  Meanwhile, my father was dying a slow, brutal death from colon cancer. He was buried on my birthday a year after Justin died.

That year between Justin’s death and my dad’s was a purgatory of sorrow, doubt and confusion. For the first time in my life, I understood how it might be possible for someone to contemplate suicide. I understood how a strong, intelligent, middle-class person could decline into homelessness and hopelessness. But it was also a time of deep transformation, and ultimately birthed me into a new life of meaning, growth and joy.

Q: How did you get through those early days?

A: I had no particular spiritual beliefs at the time Justin died. I saw myself as an agnostic, someone who didn’t pretend to know the source or purpose of creation. But from the moment Justin passed, I began to sense larger, loving forces operating in my life. In my moments of greatest despair, I felt invisible hands holding me up, and when I was destitute, providence intervened with just what I needed, whenever I needed it. I came to think of this as grace, the only word I could think of to describe being held in the loving arms of a power far greater than myself.

Synchronicity brought me many unexpected gifts and surprises during those first few years, and one of them was a new friend who told me about shamanism and taught me how to connect with the spiritual realms during a type of drumming meditation called journeying. Not long after meeting her, I began my formal training with the Foundation for Shamanic Studies. What I learned and experienced was such powerful medicine for me as a grieving mother and it helped me heal on many levels.

Q: How do you get through now? Do you ever have those days?

A: It's been 24 years since Justin died and I still miss him every day. I think about who he might have grown up to be, what he would be doing with his life, and how many children he might have. But I also have come to believe that the soul is eternal, that we came into this life together to learn certain things and fulfill certain purposes.  And I feel that in a certain way, we are still working together on our souls' plans.

Q: Tell us about your books. Please name them. What inspired you to write them?

A: My first book was Life Between Falls: A Travelogue Through Grief and the Unexpected,
It's a personal account of my life during three pivotal autumn events: the death of my son Justin, my father's death the following September, and the death of my grandmother one year later on the anniversary of my son's death. During that period my advertising business also went bankrupt and I lost my home to foreclosure.
The book is a travelogue through the rockiest territory of my heart, but it’s also a kind of resurrection story. Time and again my grieving process was mitigated by little miracles, messages and moments of pure transcendence.
A big part of my healing process was writing. Although I had not thought of myself as a writer before, writing somehow helped me get through my darkest moments, and so I kept a journal. While the book is largely based on that journal, it also offers the reader some practical tips for moving through the grieving process without getting stuck in it, based on my own experiences.

By the time the third “fall" arrived, I had become a professional freelance writer and a passionate community activist. All the trappings of my old life had fallen away and a meaningful new life was unfolding for me.
I began writing Life Between Fallabout 10 years after Justin died because I felt my story might bring encouragement to others during their own dark night of the soul.

Shamanism became a powerful avenue of healing for me personally in the years after my son’s death, and it brought me some huge, unexpected breakthroughs along the way. My deep gratitude for these gifts made me to want to share what I learned through my work as a healer and author, and so I wrote my second book, Healing What Grieves You: Four Steps to a Peaceful Heart, as a step-by-step guide through the grieving process using the tools of shamanism.

In my work as a shamanic healer, I noticed that many people sought my help because they were feeling blocked, inexplicably weary, unable to make decisions or move forward in their lives. In many cases, the problem was simply that they were weighed down by unresolved grief from some past loss.

When I work with people who’ve lost a child or spouse, I’ve heard them say things like, "I’ll never be happy again," as if something has been ripped out of them, never to return. They can’t even imagine themselves being able to reclaim joy in their lives. While it’s true that such a loss does change us in fundamental ways, grieving mindfully can also bring comfort, healing and a deeper understanding of life and our purpose in it.

Shamanism presents us with the opportunity to look within ourselves and discover the deeper meaning in what happens to us. As I describe in my book, it can help us gain the will and the strength to begin the healing process, it guides us through the hard work of grieving and it supports us as we regain our balance in life.

In my own spiritual journey through what had seemed unthinkable and unsurvivable, shamanism helped me find my way into a life of newfound meaning, self discovery, fulfillment and happiness. What better way to honor the dead than to live a life of purpose?

Q: Can you talk about any of the methods you share in your book?

A: I think of a major loss as a sacred wound. It changes us in deep ways. Our grief deserves to be honored and attended to on a spiritual level so that we can move through the pain with awareness and intention rather than getting stuck in it.

As part of that spiritual process I recommend creating a sacred space in your home, a special place where you can spend a little time each day attending to your grief, checking in with yourself and opening up to whatever feelings may be bubbling to the surface. Having this dedicated space and time can help you free up more of your day for attending to your life.

You might create a little a "altar" with a candle, some sage or incense, fresh flowers, your journal, and perhaps a small picture or keepsake that reminds you of the loss you are grieving. Some people like to hang a wind chime there or play soothing music when they're in their sacred space. I recommend getting yourself a rattle or hand drum that you can play in a steady rhythm for five to ten minutes at a time when you're feeling unsettled or stirred up. You'll find that it helps you shift from your present emotional upheaval into a calmer, more reflective state that allows you to work with your grief more productively.

Q: One more thing, Julie, how would a reader contact you?

A: My website is You can find more info there about my grief retreats and online programs as well as my books, how to order them, articles I've written, and lots more.

My contact info is there also, including

By email
On Facebook.
I don't usually give my phone number out in articles, but of course if you need to call me, my number is 908-399-9762.

On behalf of BookOrBust and BookOrBust readers, thank you Julie Lange Roth for your inspirational and informative interview. Best wishes for continued success.

1 comment:

Crystal Collier said...

What a trying season! I can only imagine. I have a 16 yr old right now, and to lose him... Thank you for sharing your beautiful story.