Ask yourself, “What’s good about this?” It’s a tough question and may take some time to figure out. For years I let my ego get in the way of following a simple “system” in my business. Having to keep things simple not only made things easier for me but also gave me an opportunity to help others achieve the same success!
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 Rachel Rosenberg.
A resident of Chicago, Rachel Rosenberg was born and raised with a younger brother in “Motown.” As a youngster, she had a passion for art and for fashion and made her dream of living in NYC — “ASAP!” — possible by waiting tables. She is currently a senior vice president for Arbonne and an executive business coach.
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?
I was born and raised in Motown — Detroit, Michigan. I feel blessed that from a young age I have always had many good friends and great people in my life. My father managed one of the “hottest” clothing stores and was a “local celebrity” in town. I wanted to be just like my dad. I went with him to work every Saturday, taking inventory, helping customers, and, in between, going to lunch at one of our favorite restaurants. My grandfather was a successful architect and I loved going to my grandparent’s house for dinner and holidays, playing with my grandfather’s compasses and mechanical pencils.
My father invited me to go on a business trip with him to New York City when I was 13. From the moment we landed, I felt a peaceful familiarity. We experienced all that NYC has to offer. Running up the steps of the Statue of Liberty, jogging through Central Park, experiencing great restaurants and indulging in chocolate as we passed what seemed like a Godiva on every corner. After that trip, I knew that is where I had to be.
Upon my arrival back home, my mom drove my younger brother and me to the mall, announcing on the way that she and my dad were getting divorced. I was 13. What felt like overnight, I was forced to become an adult, a parent now to my brother and myself. The expectation at home was to be “perfect” in every way, considering the situation. My mom went to work and I was no longer allowed to work with my dad on Saturdays. When I was in high school, my father wanted me to spend weekends at his house but, as a teenager, I had other places to be. As a result, a distance was created between us. He was everything to me, but I felt alone. I felt uncomfortable in high school. I had lots of friends and was popular; however, the separation, scrutiny and judgment were more than I could bear. I secretly battled an eating disorder, withheld my feelings and was afraid of losing control. I had a passion for art and fashion and knew I had to get to NYC as soon as possible.
I made it to NYC! But although I had my dream job in fashion there and my art was in the mayor’s mansion, the jobs there just didn’t support my lifestyle. So, after a whirlwind career in New York, I decided to return to my Midwest roots and landed in Chicago to head in a totally new direction. With a fashion background, I managed to work my way into the world of finance and moved up the ladder quickly. As I was sent around the country to train people in new markets, I discovered my passion and excitement for building people and empowering them to achieve success in the business world. I added Arbonne to the finance world, and again, found myself in love with teaching and training consultants to become confident entrepreneurs and leaders. My role as an executive business coach with an emphasis on working with women was established through these experiences.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My favorite “life lesson” quote, and one I often share with the clients I coach, is: “There is always a blessing or a lesson.” It is up to you to uncover it! Through much of what could have been seen or felt as obstacles, battles and defeats in my life, I have always looked for what was on the other side of what I was “growing” through. I believe I was blessed with the gift of having “rose-colored lenses.”
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.
One: I have never allowed anyone’s “NO” to discourage me from going after what I wanted. As a result, I moved to NYC and attended a college my family could not afford, because I built a portfolio with the help and encouragement of my favorite middle school art teacher and worked two jobs — waiting tables and working at a clothing store (to get my “fashion fix”).
Years later, while in Chi-Town and looking to venture into new beginnings once again, I applied for a finance job — with an art and fashion background. I began in sales and after 10 years, I achieved the title of vice president.
Along the way, I was introduced to a line of holistic health and wellness products. I tried the products out of obligation, eventually falling in love with Arbonne. Simply sharing what I lived and loved around my finance job, I had unknowingly built a safety net “preparing for impact” when I was unable to work. Additionally, I had arrived at the regional vice president level at work and was able to share my life experiences with others as a keynote speaker and executive consultant and coach.
Two: I am courageous. I believe that everything we want is on the other side of FEAR: False Evidence Appearing Real! I moved to NYC alone. I traveled to the Middle East with 14 strangers. I overcame my fear of water, earning my certification as a scuba diver and, most recently, since COVID, extinguished my severe claustrophobia and choosing to holistically heal from the return of my Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and engaging weekly in the Hyperbaric Oxygen Chamber.
Three: I feel in addition to having “rose-colored lenses,” I was born empathetic. I “feel” people. It’s so important to learn about the individual journeys of those around you. Even in my personal life, I extend this principle. From the time my children were small, we volunteered our time to help individuals in our community who needed a little support and a temporary hand-up. I taught my children to ask questions, to be interested in getting to know the people we were helping as individuals and learn what they were going through. This has also served them well in their own lives as they move through the world as teens and young adults. They are genuinely interested, more aware and thoughtful of the people they meet or encounter.
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?
I had always wanted to learn to surf or snowboard. In 2017, as a newly single mom, I met a snowboarder and without any hesitation, began my next chapter: I “geared up” with everything I needed but with no specific plan or experience. I soon found myself “all dressed up with nowhere to go.” No snow had fallen that winter in Chicago, where I was living. Then, while in Michigan for a funeral, I was offered a chance to visit a vacation home near Boyne Mountain.
During my snowboarding venture there, I fell 100 times, probably more — but I had my helmet, knee pads and elbow pads and felt fearless and determined. I figured out how to steer to the right pretty quickly, leaning forward, but steering left meant leaning backwards and my tailbone couldn’t bear another fall. I braced for each backward fall with my elbows, forcing the back of my head against the ice each time. Little kids on chairlifts over my head were shouting, “You can do it!” I remember thinking to myself, “I am getting this down if it’s the last thing I do!” Midday of Day Three, I remember smashing my head against ice so hard I felt my molars. I resigned myself, returned to the lodge and fell asleep in front of the fire.
Four days later, I returned to my life as a mother of three, running my own business. I began to fall out of focus. I didn’t know what was going on around me or understand what people were saying. I met a friend for dinner downtown and couldn’t make it back up north that night because I NEEDED to sleep. I woke up the next morning so hungry I had to stop for my favorite egg-white omelet before heading home. Soon after, I began vomiting. I knew I wasn’t sick. I called my mom and she told me I had a concussion and needed a CT scan ASAP. It had been five days since I had returned home from vacation — how could I have a concussion? I took my youngest son with me to the hospital, promising him he would soon have his favorite lunch, thinking it would only be a short hospital visit to put “nanny’s worry” at ease.
I was told to wait in the emergency room for my CT scan results, expected in approximately 45 minutes. No more than two minutes later a doctor returned, asking who could pick up my son and saying that there was an ambulance downstairs to take me to (NorthShore) Evanston Hospital trauma center. He explained that I had a “subdural hematoma” from the front to the back of my brain, drawing an illustration on the paper lining of the gurney. My nine-year-old son was hysterical as he witnessed this alarming diagnosis and illustration, realizing that we would have to be separated.
What was the scariest part of that event? What did you think was the worst thing that could happen to you?
In the ambulance, I asked them if I might get a private room at the hospital. Later, as we exited the elevator, I saw a sign over the door that said “Intensive Care Unit.” My “private” room had no walls, only windows, for 24-hour observation; even the toilet was exposed. I was then asked for a copy of my “living will” and was told that they were going to prep me for brain surgery, assuming they would be unable to stop the bleed.
I don’t remember thinking I might die, but I was afraid of possibly not making it through the surgery without severe physical or mental disabilities. I was later told that I had suffered severe neurological impairment and at best had a 60 percent chance to regain full function.
How did you react in the short term?
I was determined to do whatever was needed and beyond what they saw possible, so I did what they directed, outside of taking the medicine they prescribed.
After the dust settled, what coping mechanisms did you use?
I trusted my own intuition and refused their recommendations. Physical therapy was making me feel like I was going crazy and I was too afraid to take medication because I didn’t want to become addicted. I drank hot sake to calm the craziness and anxiety that a TBI induces and made art collages. I was unable to read, listen, sleep or look at anything on screen. I couldn’t talk, text or scroll, but I could look at pictures.
Can you share with us how you were eventually able to heal and “let go” of the negative aspects of that event?
I was determined to get better but also fearful that I would have to accept my limitations. Within three months of the subdural hematoma, I suffered three consecutive concussions and a Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) or mini stroke. It felt like my head became a magnet for injury. That’s when I reached out to a holistic neurologist. After a 90-minute consultation by phone, before I was even his patient, he had me admitted to the hospital to confirm that no additional permanent damage had been incurred. I began treatment with him the following week. I KNEW he would help me! The numerous blessings and lessons would be revealed in hindsight after living “it.”
Aside from letting go, what did you do to create an internal, emotional shift to feel better?
I stopped trying to return to who I had been and doing what I had been able to do and began looking for the blessings of who I was becoming. I believe that living through crisis while looking for the lessons and blessings can create an amazing opportunity. That has been proven scientifically and is called post-traumatic growth. I began to reevaluate my life, my relationships, my priorities, my gratitude and appreciation and how I was showing up. I began to celebrate and appreciate and live every day “above ground” as an amazing day!
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?
My father and I rekindled our extremely close relationship that had regretfully changed through life’s “busyness.” Unable to drive outside of a mile from home, I had no way to get to daily therapy and to my new neurologist 23 miles away. I also had no way to get my kids to and from school and their activities. My father stepped in. We spent hours every day in the car together. My kids became extremely attached to my father as they, too, were with him daily.
Were you able to eventually reframe the consequences and turn it into a positive situation? Can you explain how you did that?
My new neurological limitations created new opportunities in my business and my relationships. I was now forced to follow a system in my business and to teach others, as I wasn’t able to do it “my way” anymore. I have a child with processing issues and my condition changed our relationship. For the first time, I was living his daily frustrations and obstacles, which created an opportunity for me to share a new level of patience and compassion for him, bringing us closer. It reestablished a closeness between my father and me, and my children grew closer to their grandfather.
For the first time, I got to be a “stay at home” mom with my now teenagers. I had previously worked crazy hours in corporate America as the breadwinner when they were growing up.
I was forced to slow down and not handle everything alone. These are important lessons that I now share with others through my speaking and business coaching to inspire hope and growth.
What did you learn about yourself from this very difficult experience? Can you please explain with a story or example?
That I’m not immortal. That I needed to make some radical changes in the way I was living my LIFE. That everything can change in a day. That I was worthy and deserving and that I needed to “secure my own oxygen mask” FIRST before taking care of everyone else. And that we have NOTHING without our health.
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.
1. Ask yourself, “What’s good about this?” It’s a tough question and may take some time to figure out. For years I let my ego get in the way of following a simple “system” in my business. Having to keep things simple not only made things easier for me but also gave me an opportunity to help others achieve the same success!
2. Do not be afraid to ask for help. I felt so uncomfortable asking my 80-year-old father for so much help, but he was my only option. Instead of feeling imposed upon, which is what I had expected, he actually thanked me for allowing him to help, which in turn helped him through one of the toughest times of his life. It gave him purpose and an opportunity to be part of my family’s lives, surrounded by so much love. I had felt that if I asked and accepted help that there would be something attached to it. It’s only now after living through my experience that I know asking for help can actually strengthen trust in a relationship and bring you closer. Give someone else that gift of allowing them to feel they are contributing or making a difference.
3. Don’t be afraid to share your needs and talk about your challenges. When we bare our struggles and pain, we give others an opportunity to connect, empowering them. We don’t inspire people by being perfect but rather in how we deal with our imperfections. I realized this when traveling to an international conference and not being able to leave the hotel room or “power through’ as usual. I had to rely on other people to do everything on my behalf. The hotel streamed the conference into my hotel room. And, instead of hosting dinner at a restaurant, everyone came to my room and I was able to participate. It was okay for me not to be “perfect.”
4. Have compassion for yourself. Give yourself the time and space you need and don’t compare yourself to anyone else. This is your journey. You don’t “go” to the next level, you “grow” to the next level. I worked with a woman who needed to promote within her business to help contribute to her family’s desperate financial situation. What some had achieved in a few months took her more time. She beat herself up, felt ashamed and frustrated and doubted what was possible. As her coach, when we began to focus on WHO she needed to become to acquire such an achievement, not only did she hit her goal but, in addition, was recognized for being in the top 13 in her previous position. Instead of focusing on where you are not, focus on how far you’ve come.
5. Be open to acknowledging what we can control and what we cannot. Find the balance between effort and surrender. I learned that it didn’t work when I blamed myself for who I wasn’t anymore, in having no control over every situation. The more I pushed, the more stuck I felt. Then I began being open to everything. Instead of trying to return my life to how it was, I began surrendering and allowing things to happen. I found my relationships were better, that the best people continued to come into my life. Because of this, I feel that I’m living my best life, inspired by all the lessons and blessings. It’s an amazing feeling to not have to be certain of everything and to offer hope, encouragement and inspiration. My goal, ambition and purpose are that my hindsight will be someone’s foresight and will encourage others to approach a second chance more intentionally, more courageously, more gratefully. To replace the old saying of “seeing is believing” with “believing is seeing!”
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?
As both an executive business coach and a regional vice president with Arbonne, I work extensively with women. I have tremendous admiration for all women, so it would be a movement of women, young women and girls loving and celebrating themselves and one another. They need to build one another up, love and support each other, instead of working in comparison and competition. Through my own life struggles and obstacles, I would encourage and support them to give themselves unconditional love and compassion, to honor their own individual uniqueness. I would tell them to OWN IT, to focus on YOUR journey, find YOUR voice, do not be concerned with other people’s opinion of you, it’s none of your business what other people think of you! Do not let the word “no” ever stop you. Find your gifts and realize that your potential is limitless and do not stand in your own way. Don’t believe everything you think!
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. :-)
Lady Gaga. She exemplifies the movement that I want to create. She is living her truth authentically. She shares every part of her journey in the poetry and lyrics she shares. She allows herself to be vulnerable, to evolve, to be and grow in front of the world. She speaks to find her own voice and bares her pain and struggles with a goal of reminding every girl that what they have to say is important. She teaches us to fight for our own identity and to stand up for our beliefs and how to create human connection.
She promotes mental health awareness and is open and hopeful about her own struggles and her continuous investment and work to overcome.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!