Edie Gudaitis: 5 Things You Need To Heal After a Dramatic Loss Or Life Change

Pirie Jones Grossman
May 5 · 16 min read

I focus on the positive memories we had together between the diagnosis and her death. And all the amazing moments before she got sick. I practice gratitude throughout the day — as I did before she was diagnosed and throughout the whole experience. I take a step back and see the bigger picture, the silver linings and love and signals that she is still around us.

The world seems to be reeling from one crisis to another. We’ve experienced a global pandemic, economic uncertainty, political and social turmoil. Then there are personal traumas that people are dealing with, such as the loss of a loved one, health issues, unemployment, divorce or the loss of a job.

Coping with change can be traumatic as it often affects every part of our lives.

How do you deal with loss or change in your life? What coping strategies can you use? Do you ignore them and just push through, or do you use specific techniques?

In this series called “5 Things You Need To Heal After a Dramatic Loss Or Life Change” we are interviewing successful people who were able to heal after a difficult life change such as the loss of a loved one, loss of a job, or other personal hardships. We are also talking to Wellness experts, Therapists, and Mental Health Professionals who can share lessons from their experience and research.

As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Edie Gudaitis.

Edie Gudaitis is a certified Yoga + Meditation Instructor and Mindfulness Coach. She helps individuals and organizations reduce stress and prevent burnout by helping them cultivate greater self-awareness, resilience and compassion in their lives. Having worked in the Corporate world and hit burnout firsthand, Edie’s main focus is Employee Wellness; seeking to help clients feel grounded, present and more relaxed. Edie has a BA from the University of British Columbia and a post-graduate certificate from British Columbia Institute of Technology. Outside of Yoga + Mindfulness, Edie loves to dance, hike, ski, travel, be in nature, read + write.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

Sure! I was born in San Diego California, but largely grew up in Toronto, Canada (we moved to Canada when I was 6 years old). I grew up dancing, swimming, skiing, playing outside and was encouraged to create (sing, draw, act etc.). I loved dress up and writing stories. I was known for making friends, being super welcoming + kind and even tempered. I was very close with my family and was a bit of a homebody, until I turned 18 and moved across the country for university. I worked hard in school and my extra curriculars and was regarded for being honest + having integrity. I attended an arts high school for dance (it was like Glee in real life) and was fortunate to travel to Europe when I was 16 — it was so amazing that I lived in England for a year, while in University. Overall, my childhood was loads of love and laughter. I realize my childhood and adolescence was a real gift and am grateful for the experiences my family made possible for me. I would not be who I am today were it not for my parents support and their trust in my independence.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”

Life is a series of curveballs and speedbumps — I know that now more than ever before. Life wasn’t always easy for my parents as I was growing up. There was loss, there was hardship, there was pain. As a child I witnessed it — whether they knew I did or not. I learned about resilience (without knowing what it was) through them and how they navigated some tougher moments in life. I also learned how to navigate my own challenges in adolescence and young adulthood through quotes like this one. I came to know that life isn’t always sunshine and rainbows, and I can’t sit around waiting for everything to be “perfect” for me to start living. Life is messy, painful, confusing, beautiful, joyful, weird and awesome. Being about to hold space for ALL of it makes it enjoyable and interesting. So learning to dance in the rain — to embrace the high and lows — to find the silver linings and light within the darkness — is my guiding mantra. It keeps me present, grounded and sane… especially when life gets super tough.

You have been blessed with much success. In your opinion, what are the top three qualities that you possess that have helped you accomplish so much? If you can, please share a story or example for each.

Integrity

My mom was a person of integrity. I learned to keep my word from a young age. When I say I’m going to do something — a client project or a personal goal –I am committed to all that I do. When I speak I am truthful, respectful and extremely self-aware.

Resilient

When I hit my “rock-bottom” in my early twenties, I used it as a pivotal moment to change my perspective on my life and my relationship with myself. Since that moment, I’ve been continually learning how to flow with life. I recognize that I’m stronger and more sure of who I am having navigated every hardship up to now. When I want to shut down + give up, I turn to my breath and slow down. Taking that moment to get centered and grounded is everything to me. Yoga + Mindfulness have been + continue to be some of my greatest teachers for cultivating resilience. I stay open to the lessons from my choices and my experiences. I take time to reflect + integrate. All of this is the foundation of the woman I am today.

Compassion

I feel that compassion starts on the individual level. After years of putting in the work, I can say that I totally love myself — mind, body + experiences. My acceptance and growth is a constant practice of self-compassion and grace. From my self-compassion, I connect with the people around me. I am accepting, thoughtful + observant of the needs of others. I am caring, supportive + encouraging to my family, friends, peers, clients and community. I believe we all have a place in this world and a powerful story. I believe in living from the heart vs. succumbing to fear. I believe in creating and sustaining inclusive communities rooted in equality, respect, honesty, love and trust — because I feel that’s how it always should have been. I know that being able to hold space for myself — to be gentle, judgement-free and forgiving — allows me to be compassionate and understanding of other people. Compassion leads to connection, which we all seek.

Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about ‘Healing after Loss’. Do you feel comfortable sharing with our readers about your dramatic loss or life change?

Yes. My mom died of Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease (CJD) in March 2019. She died within 8 weeks of the diagnosis… where she was given roughly 3 months to 1 year to live. It’s an extremely rare neuro-degenerative prion disease with no cure. Literally 1 in a Million people are diagnosed with the disease… so little research has been done on it AND each case is vastly different. We were fortunate that she was very gracious, happy and calm as she declined — I’ve learned that some people can become quite aggressive and violent — it all depends how the disease affects the different parts of the brain.

What was the scariest part of that event? What did you think was the worst thing that could happen to you?

The scariest part was witnessing her decline. The disease affected her cerebellum first — so she experienced issues with balance, developed a parkinsonian tremor in her hands and her vision became impacted. Her short term memory was affected shortly after. All those changes happened within a couple weeks — before we received the actual diagnosis. After the diagnosis she declined quite quickly. Her speech was impaired, her walking was massively compromised (she was in a transport wheel chair within 5 weeks) — my dad sister and I helped bathe her, dress her and feed her. By week 6 she was moved into the hospice. That part was really hard. She was still mentally with it but her body and systems where shutting down so it was becoming unsafe from a care perspective, for her to be at home. She passed within 12 days of being at the hospice. My dad, sister and I witnessed her change from a 64 year super energized, driven and independent woman to a more quiet, tired and totally dependent woman who looked like she aged about 5 years within a few months. It’s still hard to wrap my head around. She will always be remembered as the youthful, vibrant, force that she was (before the diagnosis).

The worst thing I thought could happen to me was already happening. My biggest fear was my mom dying.. and then it happened. She was the most amazing mom, my first teacher, one of my best friends, my cheerleader, my sounding board, a hiking and travel buddy and so many other roles in my life.

The absolute hardest part of the whole experience (aside from receiving the diagnosis AND packing her bag to move into hospice — I brought artwork from home and cards, flowers and music, and decorated the room so it was familiar to her and cheerful… since it was the last place she was going to live) was saying “Good-Bye” to her and giving her “permission” to let go. It was the most surreal moment in the whole experience. I firmly believe that our spirit is everlasting and at that point I could tell her spirit had left her body, but it was still so tough. It’s amazing how much we grasp and attach to tangible forms.

How did you react in the short term?

I was in a job and life transition when my mom’s symptoms surfaced, so I took time to process her death and heal a bit. I kept working with my therapist. I stayed committed to my yoga, meditation and workout classes. I walked in nature and by the water each day. I journaled, I cried — a lot — and I reached out to friends for support. It wasn’t easy but I kept showing up. I avoided alcohol and kept opening to my varied emotions. Some days I was ok. Some days the tears kept flowing. It was tough but I’m so grateful I stayed present and didn’t revert to fear based, defensive or old numbing habits.

After the dust settled, what coping mechanisms did you use?

The dust is still settling. I’m told mourning takes 3 years and grieving can be intense for a number of years. We don’t get over an experience like this. We get through it… with compassion, gratitude, patience, love and awareness.

Now, just having passed the 2 year mark, I continue to practice yoga + meditate each day. I work-out, walk, hike, journal and connect with my breath. I eat healthy, I talk about the experience. I take time to be by myself in nature whenever I need it. I practice gratitude. I teach yoga to other families going through the palliative care system in my area — it feels good to give back and to share some of the main practices that helped me and continue to help me navigate the death of a loved one.. and grief.

Can you share with us how you were eventually able to heal and “let go” of the negative aspects of that event?

To be honest I’m still working through it. I’ve done a lot of work with my therapist. And attended a lot of meditation classes and workshops. I find by getting to the root of the trauma — which I do through conversation with my therapist and in guided meditation experiences — I’m able to acknowledge the fear and nurture that aspect of myself, and then let that fear go. It’s such a dance.

Grief is like a wave — comes and goes — so much of my experience is holding space to feel whatever surfaces and then giving myself permission to let it go. It’s a lesson on self-trust and a deepening of my resilience.

Aside from letting go, what do you do to create an internal, emotional shift to feel better?

I focus on the positive memories we had together between the diagnosis and her death. And all the amazing moments before she got sick. I practice gratitude throughout the day — as I did before she was diagnosed and throughout the whole experience. I take a step back and see the bigger picture, the silver linings and love and signals that she is still around us.

Being able to see the silver linings of the whole experience and knowing she is present in the qualities of my friends and family — and that she lives on through me, my sister and my dad — is quite comforting and incredible to witness.

It’s like she’s nowhere and everywhere. It’s quite remarkable. Perspective is everything.

Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to cope and heal? Can you share a story about that?

It was a group of people that helped me move through the pain and sadness. My family, close friends and my yoga instructors played a huge role in my coping and healing. I’m so grateful for the outpour of love and support from everyone in my life at that time (and now). It was a very heavy and hard time for me. At one point (while in Sri Lanka for my YTT — and deep in my grief) one of my yoga instructors reminded me the importance of reaching out + speaking with a “mom-like” figure in my life — her advice and support was very appreciated. I’d been trying to cope with my feelings on my own… but me “coping” resulted in me getting super stuck in the pain and darkness of my grief. I didn’t want to burden others with my sadness and I also couldn’t stop myself from thinking about her death most of the time. I felt like a huge thundercloud and my energy apparently reflected that. I’d gotten to a point where I felt bad reaching out to my family and friends about my feelings, and I felt self-conscious about feeling so sad when my other family members seemed to be ok. So I tried to be “ok” as well. That back fired. I learned (from severe sleep issues, feeling deep sadness + experiencing brutal acne) that I needed to talk about my feelings and acknowledge my pain in order to transform it. I also was reminded that though my mom was physically gone, her energy was/ is everywhere — so she is actually always with me. Once I shifted my mindset around the situation and opened up to my heart, a lot changed for the better. Today, the main reminder that helps me move forward is that the spirit is everlasting (made of energy). Energy cannot be destroyed — only transformed. So my mom is literally always present and will forever be a part of me. The life a lead now is a testament to the impact she had on me and the world at large.

Were you able to eventually reframe the consequences and turn it into a positive situation? Can you explain how you did that?

It never was super negative for me. Yes It was awful, scary and super painful… but I never viewed it as negative per say. I definitely had the victim mindset of “why is this happening to me or to her” many times…. I also know that death is also a part of life — just like birth. Yes, she died younger than we wanted. She also lived a wonderful life and we repaired our disagreements before she passed — that to me is a massive gift and positive scenario.

Once she was diagnosed and after she passed, I felt a lot of anger and blame surface. When those feelings arose, I sat with them to get to the root of the pain and fear that was beneath the anger. Once I felt and released the pain, I reframed the experience reflecting on the time we had together, the amazing relationship she and I shared and the blessings in my life as a result of her and the entire experience.

In order to have this perspective on the experience — despite the immense pain and sadness — I acknowledge my gratitude practice. I realize that being grateful for the entire experience AND continuing to see the light and silver linings within the situation helped me view it all in a more positive and loving way. Whenever I feel big grief waves surface, I allow myself to feel whatever I need to feel and then I tap into my gratitude practice. That combination of acknowledgement, feeling and gratitude helps me shift into a more positive mindset.

It’s an ongoing, work in progress. It’s all part of the practice of self-awareness, self-compassion and resilience.

What did you learn about yourself from this very difficult experience? Can you please explain with a story or example?

I learned that I can make it through anything. I am stronger and more powerful than I ever gave myself credit. I also learned that though I felt broken when she died, I wasn’t a mess and unlovable. I was broken open. I was connected on a deeper level with my Self (body, heart + mind). It was a pivotal moment of me truly trusting and following the wisdom of my heart. It also reminded me that life is short and unexpected. So much of my happiness, success, joy and freedom is rooted in how I respond to life happening all around me. It catapulted me into the work I do today and continues to shape the woman I am becoming.

Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experiences and knowledge, what advice would you give others to help them get through a difficult life challenge? What are your “5 Things You Need To Heal After a Dramatic Loss Or Life Change? Please share a story or example for each.

The 5 tips I share with others navigating loss/ big changes:

1. DON’T NUMB. FEEL YOUR EMOTIONS + MOVE YOUR BODY
Be brave — don’t suppress them. Emotions are energy in motion. When you suppress them they get stored in the tissues of your body. This can lead to feeling stiff, sore, tense, more angry or exhausted AND it can create various types of illness and mental health challenges. Feel them and release them. Movement helps to process and release emotions. Walking, Yoga, dance and hiking are great forms of movement that help me process and move energy.

2. TAKE TIME TO BREATHE
Take time to connect with your breath. Slow, deep breaths help to calm the body + mind. When you direct your breath into the low belly, you tone the vagal nerve (that runs from the base of the brain to the low belly), communicating to the nervous system that it can relax — that it can shift from the sympathetic nervous system (stress response and defense) to the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and reset). Healing takes place when you are in the parasympathetic nervous system.

3. GET INTO NATURE
If you can, go to a park, a forest, sit near a river, lake, pond or the ocean. Nature is so peaceful, grounding, energizing, cleansing and healing. You can learn so much when you unplug, slow down and spend time in nature. I find it helps me see the bigger picture and the interconnectedness of everything. It helps me get out of my head and back into my body and the world around me.

4. SPEAK UP, GET SUPPORT
You are not alone in your experience. Your story matters. Talking about it might be painful and it will also be healing and freeing. There are many experienced professionals who can help you navigate a big loss or life change. Some modalities include: therapy, psychotherapy, counseling, phoenix rising yoga therapy, sound healing, generational healing, reiki, other types of body work.

5. PRACTICE GRATITUDE
It brings you back to your heart and the present moment. It helps you shift from a scarcity, fear-based and defensive mindset, to one of love, abundance and contentment. Gratitude helps to reframe your perspective so you remember and celebrate all the beauty, triumphs and good in your life. Gratitude helps you feel grounded and connected. It helps you stay open to your healing and helps you cultivate more empathy + compassion towards yourself and others.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

This is a tough question. The first thing that comes to mind is a movement that focuses on normalizing FEELING our feelings. When we FEEL we HEAL. I believe that talking about, acknowledging and FEELING our emotions — joy, excitement, pain, fear — will help to empower us and enhance our wellbeing. It seems that we spend so much time upholding a façade that we are “OK” so we’re not labeled “weak” or “broken” that we add to our stress and illness. I firmly believe that if we speak more openly about how we feel AND actually feel it (and learn how to nurture ourselves) then we will empower ourselves, become more compassionate AND be able to move forward in a more connected and peaceful way. At the end of the day, we all want to be accepted and feel that we belong. Acceptance and belonging starts on the individual level — with support on the global scale by normalizing our feelings and sharing our experiences.

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them. :-)

This is also a tough question!! There are SO many phenomenal people in the world! My top three are Michelle Obama, Lindsey Vonn and Brene Brown.

Michelle’s story is SO inspiring — it helped me find strength to move through the grief with my mom. Her story also helped motivate me to follow my heart and lean into the work I am doing out of service to others.

When I shattered my tibia-fibula in a ski accident at the end of 2019, thinking of Lindsey Vonn and ALL the injuries and surgeries she’s navigated and healed from helped me power through the healing journey of my left leg. I used to watch ALL of her races and whatever documentaries she was in. I find her story to be SO inspiring and such a testament to leaning into the power of the heart. Having navigated many challenges with body image (from my life in dance) and numerous injuries (from dance and skiing) I found Lindsey’s resilience to be a huge motivator to my healing and recovery.

Brene Brown’s book “Daring Greatly” was one of the first books that started my self-awareness journey. Learning about vulnerability and shame changed my life. I have read all her books and love her podcast. I love how she’s brought SO much attention to FEELING emotions, understanding emotions and taking responsibility for our thoughts and actions.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Website: https://ediegudaitiswellness.com/

Instagram: @ediegud.wellness

LinkedIn: Edie Gudaitis

Contact: Hello@ediegudaitiswellness.com

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Pop Culture, Wellness, Social Impact, and Tech. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

Pirie Jones Grossman

Written by

TedX Speaker, Influencer, Bestselling Author and former TV host for E! Entertainment Television, Fox Television, NBC, CBS and ABC.

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Pop Culture, Wellness, Social Impact, and Tech. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.