Rachel Ricketts isn’t afraid to drop f-bombs when she’s talking about grief and loss. The former corporate lawyer was forced to re-evaluate both her self worth and her definition of success when her mom passed away and a series of other traumatic life experiences clogged her will to continue down a very stressful and lonely path. Now a grief coach, she guides people through grief of all kinds with an open heart, an open mind, and honest – sometimes colourful – language. Her organization loss&found pairs intuitive coaching with physical healing practices like reiki and transformative breathwork to help people through grief of all kinds. She also works to raise awareness and acceptance of a subject that often makes people feel uncomfortable. Not a day goes by that Rachel doesn’t think of her mother and the resilience she exemplified, and she strives to do her best to mirror this quality in her work and personal life. Rachel truly has a gift for helping people and feels honoured to do so, but she makes sure she’s realistic about the process. Doing her best to ensure she doesn’t take all the heavy energies home with her by completing daily rituals and focusing on self care helps her continue to deal with her own grief and achieve success. She continues to follow her intuition and to get real about the twists and turns of life because though life is beautiful, it can sure be the shits sometimes.
My Goddess Guidance Oracle Card Deck
Connecting with Spirit
I found myself on a journey I never initially intended to travel
Community is everything
Living in Choice
Candles help keep me focused
The importance of healthy boundaries
Being of Service
Spending time outdoors is very healing and grounding
Tell me about loss&found.
It’s an organization that I started two years ago to help people move through and minimize the pain of loss and grief from whatever life has thrown their way. I help people dealing with death and divorce but also heartbreak, job stress, burnout, and larger collective consciousness issues like racism, sexism and political upheaval. I started loss&found after my mother died and I experienced what I call the dark side of the soul: really acute and intense grief. Despite being very well versed in personal and spiritual development and growth, it really took me by surprise how sad, isolated and misunderstood I felt. I wasn’t able to find a space that really resonated with me to help me through that time, so I wanted to create one. I didn’t want other people to feel as alone and isolated in their grief as I had.
So your mother passing in 2015 was the catalyst - could you speak more on that?
My mom had been sick for essentially my whole life; she had Primary Progressive MS from when I was 13. I was in a state of anticipatory grief from then on as she just slowly became more debilitated. At the end, she was fully quadriplegic – she couldn’t move anything aside from her mouth and eyelids – and she chose to die, she wanted to die. I understood that death was her only opportunity for freedom at that point, and I had a lot of time to process the experience, but there’s really no way for the human mind to wrap their head around what it means to not have a mom anymore. I’d been in a state of loss and grief for a long time – lots of us are – and once she was in hospice I knew I wanted to write about the experience as a means to help other people. It was a year later that I launched loss&found.
I’m so sorry; it’s incredible that you were able to take something so difficult and turn it into something positive.
Thank you. I hear that a lot – I just had to. It was the only way for me to help myself and make it mean something. I’m a grieving grief coach, and all of the practices that I offer other people also inherently help myself. I believe we’re all interconnected, so it’s not an egotistical, selfish thing that I do; I’m here to help other people but you absolutely help other people by virtue of helping yourself. I learn new things from others all the time because there’s no one way to deal with grief.
Can you tell me about what you offer?
It’s a vast array, but generally speaking I provide intuitive grief coaching and spiritual offerings. It’s different from counselling in that we don’t spend a ton of time reflecting on the past; we work through present moment and moving forward experiences. It’s intuitive and spiritually rooted, meaning I use modalities such as reiki energy healing and transformative breathwork, yin yoga, guided meditation, oracle card readings and intuitive coaching to help people figure out what’s going to best work for them. I don’t believe the answers are found externally; I think we’re all equipped internally with what we need to heal ourselves. I’m just a guide to help people figure out what works for them and resonates with them.
So you also incorporate a physical aspect to promote healing?
Yes, I try to do something all-encompassing because grief is all-encompassing. I was a lawyer, well, I’m still a lawyer, so I can be super analytical and right-brain and talk things out that way – and I love that. But I also feel like life challenges literally flare up in your physical system, especially once there’s been a conversation around it, so it’s really helpful to get at it in a physical sense as well. The breathwork and the yin yoga help physically cycle it out of our systems; grief is a full psychosomatic experience. A lot of people in heavy states of grief say it feels like their heart is broken. There is a physiological response to our emotions and that’s true on all levels, whether we’re conscious of it or not.
How do you deliver your services?
I do virtual one-on-one coaching on Skype or Facetime or Zoom calls. I do corporate workshops, grief education, grief retreats, keynote speaking, and I lead public events and workshops. I collaborate a lot; I work with government agencies to help frontline crisis responders, like those dealing with the opioid epidemic. I also provide an online grief support workshop full of exactly all the goodness that I wanted when I was going through my dark side of the soul – it’s two and half months (10 weeks) with emails every Sunday morning and guided worksheets, breathwork, yin yoga and group calls – kind of the best of both worlds and it can be done from home.
Tell me about some of the grief symptoms you've dealt with.
Grief brain is a thing. I always say it’s like baby brain, like when women are pregnant and they just can’t focus or finish shit. Grief brain is real! Going back to the notion that it’s psychosomatic, a lot of our energy is compromised because it’s taken up in the grief process; you’re just trying to basically survive. If you’re in an acute stage of grief your energy level is really low so it’s hard to think at a high level or do complicated tasks – you’re preoccupied. I also say grief is like a baby; it never goes away, it stays with you all the time. It’s on your hip and sometimes it’s screaming and there’s nothing you can do to make it stop; or sometimes it’s super chill and you can get all of your shit done – but it’s always still there.
One of the big things that both my clients and I experience is a general physiological sensation and mental impact that’s really hard to explain and really hard to anticipate. I remember some work things I sent out a couple months after my mom died; when I looked at them later I asked who sent them – they were a mess. And then someone told me I did and it was like, ‘what? This is terrible!’ You just don’t have the capacity to show up for yourself or for other people, or to do your work. It’s really challenging, especially in today’s super fast-paced, high-stress environment.
And then how do you overcome those challenges?
It’s a rare opportunity, but people need to step away and allow themselves time to grieve. We don’t acknowledge or honour rest and how it is actually truly productive. We need to get the ego and the analytical mind out of the way for a time so that the body can fully process. Prioritizing sleep can be exceptionally challenging, but generally speaking people need more rest when grieving; we resist because we feel bad about what we’re missing or giving up when resting more, so it can be compounded loss-on-loss in that way.
So how did you manage to get from heavily grieving to a place where you were able to build your own company?
Trial and error, and truly reaching a bottom that was so low that I was like ‘OK, this is really bad and if I don’t take some really active conscientious steps my mental health and physical health are completely, utterly at risk.’ I was working an overly demanding job; I was in the midst of a lawsuit involving my recently deceased uncle’s estate; I was dealing with chronic pain from a car accident the year prior; and I was still going through an identity crisis having left my private practice job as a corporate lawyer. I was trying to show up for my partner, whose Dad had died very suddenly over the course of three weeks, 15 months before my mom passed. All of this was happening at the exact same time and it was absolutely overwhelming. I couldn’t do it anymore – I had to put myself first for the first time in my life, which for me was one of the big gifts of grief. I was like ‘okay, I’m not going to make it out alive if I don’t put myself above everything else, everyone else, my job, everything,’ so I committed to doing that. I took time off, which was terrifying for me; I wasn’t really in a financial position to do that, but there wasn’t really another option so I made it work. I tried to find a really amazing grief retreat but couldn’t really find anything. I did see a grief counsellor on Salt Spring Island for five days; I stayed there, had two hours of therapy every day and spent time in nature and just took the time, or rather gave myself the time to process. I wasn’t just processing my mom’s death, but also everything else that had happened in my life.
So you think those other difficulties in your life were compounding the grief you felt about your mom’s death?
Yes. I have a long definition of grief but essentially it’s a response to a loss or change of any kind in our lives, and so it happens all the time. Anytime you experience heartbreak, you move, you lose yourself, you’re abandoned somehow or lose trust in a friend or parent – anything. Grief encompasses so much more than just death. When my mom died it was the most acute grief event I’d had to date, but it also made me realize all of this other grief had gone unresolved. It really came to a head all at once.
It’s another part of why I started loss&found; I wanted to educate folks around the pervasiveness of grief and why we need to learn more about it. Talking about it is the first step in cycling through the loss and grief that occurs daily, so that when the larger events happen – when our parents die, when we get divorced, when we lose a job, or whatever it is – we’re better equipped to deal with them because we’ve addressed and honoured and dealt with all the other grief. Trying to deal with everything at once is the kind of thing that kills people.
Why do you think you had trouble finding something to support you when you found yourself in that situation?
I have so much to say about this: because we are grief advert. Because we live in a culture that doesn’t honour or create space for real negative emotions. I hate that term, ‘negative emotions,’ because all emotions are valid and useful. If you’re angry or if you’re sad there’s a reason; there’s work you can do around it and it’s not necessarily a negative thing, but we demonize it.
We live in an Instagram culture where everything is fucking happy and smiley and if you’re not taking photos and selfies, what are you doing? But it’s not the truth. Everyone has an array of emotions and a spectrum of ups and downs throughout life – that’s just life. But there’s this low tolerance for sadness, anger, and definitely grief. I think it’s hard to access resources around it because it’s not a topic of conversation that is raised enough. Even in the year that I’ve been in this space it’s gotten way better; there’s way more out there. I didn’t mean to say there weren’t resources out there – there were, but not that many. There were a lot of religious or faith-based opportunities, but those didn’t really speak to me.
Can you tell me what was missing from the resources you found?
I think when it comes to grief in particular, your morals and values need to be in alignment with what’s offered – it needs to resonate. Otherwise you aren’t going to trust or respect what the facilitators have to say. For me, I just didn’t see myself, people who were my age or like me, in any of the spaces. A lot of times when we’re dealing with really tough stuff the question we come back to is ‘am I normal? Is it normal that I’m thinking this?’ We can learn so much from each other but if you’re surrounded by people who aren’t your people, then it’s not that helpful.
That’s what I wanted to create: a virtual space open to anyone, and somewhere people could see themselves. In my particular friend group there are a lot of us dealing with dead, dying or sick parents or family members. People going through those experiences need a specific space to move through it together. I always joke that no one was swearing anywhere that I went – and if you’re not swearing when you’re talking about grief, I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about! I don’t know, for me I just think it’s weird; I was like ‘these are not my people if they can’t swear when talking about the most life-altering, crippling experience.’
So you wanted to go with a very ‘real’ approach, right?
Yes, because I came from a place where I wanted people to feel seen and heard and supported as they are; and this is how I am. If you relate to this, then cool. It was important for me to be really authentic and really integral. I honour those two things so much. I also think when you’re holding space for other people it’s absolutely required to be fully who you are.
What kind of education or training do you have in grief counselling?
I did a grief and loss professional training program through the Living Through Loss Counselling Society. I’m a psychology major and I also have yin yoga teacher training and breathwork training among other things. I always say I’ve learned the majority of my intuitive coaching from the school of life though; because most of what I do is intuitive, there isn’t a grief coaching program that exists so I’ve just pieced together a whole bunch of different training to make it work for what I do.
You talk about intuition a lot. Have you always been intuitive?
Yes. I think we are all intuitive but there’s a spectrum for sure. I think we tend to succumb to the pressures of a generally toxic and sick Western culture that wants us to be disconnected from our intuition. Emotion and intuition kind of get linked together and we’re taught not to trust our intuition. I think this happens to women especially; we hear ‘oh you’re being crazy, don’t be so emotional, don’t be so sensitive!’ We’re raised being told that kind of shit and it cuts us off. A gut feeling is real – it’s your intuition talking but we’ve been trained not to listen, so it’s been a process of unlearning for me. But yes, I’ve always been intuitive. My mother was highly intuitive and quite a spiritual person as well so it was a part of the environment I was raised in.
Is there something your mom taught you that’s especially stuck with you and continues to be a guiding force?
She exemplified to me what resilience and strength are, and she really instilled in me the sense that I can do anything that I put my mind to. I think I really took that for granted when I was young – I thought everyone had that, but they don’t. I think believing in myself has been a huge piece in me being able to do this work at all, especially with quitting my life as a big firm private practice corporate lawyer and moving into this in the first place.
Let’s talk about that big career transition - what was it like moving from corporate lawyer to loss&found?
I always joke that I learned a lot about grief because I was a lawyer who worked 16 hours a day and the person I saw the most was the cleaning lady who came at 9 p.m. – but I’m not joking. My life wasn’t my own. I was at the whim of others’ schedules and needs. I got so burnt out that none of it was possible anymore; I would walk into my office and cry. My mom was doing very badly at the time and I hit a wall and decided to leave – life is way too short for my priority in life to be putting together $10 million dollar deals to make rich people richer.
What was the precise turning point for you?
I was sharing an office with someone, which was abnormal at the time, and my mom called in some sort of crisis, which was actually a very normal thing for me to be dealing with in the middle of the day. I don’t remember what it was or what I said but when I hung up the phone and turned around my office mate asked if I was okay. I wasn’t used to anyone being privy to those conversations and having someone witness it made me realize that no, I wasn’t okay – the situation was terrible and completely unsustainable.
I made the decision to quit and make my job resting – but I didn’t know how. And again I think that’s part and parcel of the times and culture in which we live. My entire worth was wrapped up in being a lawyer and doing, doing, doing and being productive. I was totally burnt out; my adrenals were shot, I was exhausted and I still wasn’t resting.
And what came next?
Two weeks after I left my job, I got into a car accident and I was literally on the side of the road laughing and crying. I think I wasn’t listening so the universe was like ‘if you’re not going to fucking listen, we’ll just have a car smash into you so that you’ll fucking lie down and rest’ and so then I did. But I still have that go-go-go in me. I still have to be very careful; running my own business has a myriad of its own challenges and I’m learning how to navigate all of that. The difference is that it’s mine and I know that I’m really helping people. It lights me up to be able to do this work – it’s an absolute honour – so the stress that comes along with it is more enjoyable.
Were you afraid to go from corporate law to running your own business?
Yep, I was terrified. I quit without any job; I had no clue what I was going to do! I needed to do anything but what I was doing. I took other jobs out of fear and they were awful – not surprisingly they didn’t work out because they were totally fear-based. I had a sense that I was meant to do something better and offer something to the planet that wasn’t just pushing paper, but I didn’t know what it was. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to figure anything out while still practicing law – and it was exhausting me. I mean, it’s not an awful or useless thing, I have tons of lawyer friends who do really amazing, awesome, cool, interesting, purposeful work. But I wasn’t and I needed to leave…and yeah, it was terrifying.
How did you deal with the fear?
I had a lot of naysayers in my life who were like ‘what are you doing? That’s crazy, you can’t do that. You at least need to have another job lined up!’ It really hurt hearing that from people who had been mentors to me in the past, but what I realized was that all the shit they were putting on me was their own insecurities and fears. I worked really hard to protect myself and not buy into their doubts. I knew deep in my core that there was something better that I could be doing. I had to focus on what was important – I probably wouldn’t be making as much money, but money isn’t everything and I’m not just here to have money in the bank. I’m here to live a life, help myself, and help other people.
It almost sounds like you had to reevaluate what success meant for you - is that accurate?
Yes, absolutely. It was so easy to get stuck in the machine, to get on the hamster wheel and be unable to get off it. Now I’m a million times happier.
Do you have any daily rituals or practices that help ground you?
I meditate, which is sometimes really fucking annoying, but I feel so much better when I do it. I do kundalini yoga at Dharma Temple, which is something everybody should do – super, super grounding. Sometimes there will be two or three weeks when I haven’t made it to class and I’ll feel a little crazy until I go again. I take hot baths in salt water to cleanse myself too. Holding space for other people has required me to be really airtight about my self care because I can’t hold space for other people without holding space for myself. Everyone else’s energy is all up-in-and-over me so I’ve had to lock in my rituals before and after sessions: washing my hands, making sure I meditate with a certain crystal, spritzing my rose spray. I’m into all of it – saging, smudging, it all has to happen, and I absolutely notice a difference. As someone who’s HSP – a Highly Sensitive Person – I feel other people’s shit so much. It makes me good at what I do, but I also have to be so fucking careful about my energy and my space, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to keep doing this work.
You’ve been running loss&found for two years now and it sounds like you’ve had some real wins. Did it take a while to get there?
Yeah, and thank you for saying that. It’s still a struggle, especially for a super analytical person like myself. Lawyers are generally risk averse, and I’m a virgo so I’m a total organizer – I want to know what the next six months are going to look like and that’s just not how entrepreneurship works. It’s been a struggle for me but believing in the work I do and having that trust and faith has been an absolute life shift for me. When I started this I was constantly asking ‘who am I to do this? Like who fucking cares what I have to say?’ I was worried this might be a totally egotistical thing to be doing. But I believe strongly that this isn’t about me and that I’m just a conduit for the work. I do my best to check my intentions all the time. This isn’t so I can become rich and famous and everyone can know who Rachel Ricketts is, this is so that I can help people, truly.
How have you tried to overcome your imposter syndrome?
I don’t know if I have. I have really phenomenal women in my life who help remind me who I am and why I do what I do. They encourage me to take myself seriously and believe in myself. I still question, and that’s my journey as I continue to do the work. I think most women in entrepreneurship face imposter syndrome a lot. I faced it as a female lawyer too – especially as a female lawyer of colour. As a woman of colour in the world I wonder ‘who am I to have a voice and say things and have people listen and respect what I’m saying?’ But I think being a woman of colour makes it even more important for me to battle and take up that space.
I don’t know if you ever saw that Lady Gaga documentary that was on Netflix? I was balling because she is fucking Lady Gaga and she still was like ‘No one will like it, no one likes me.’ You know what I mean? It doesn’t go away, you just have to learn to keep tolerating it and keep going in spite of it. It’s terrifying but you just keep doing it. I think for me the more I see that I’m helping people and getting positive feedback from people, the more I’m motivated.
What else can you tell me about Rachel Ricketts?
I’m deeply passionate. I’m very funny, mostly because I laugh at my own jokes and I love to laugh. I love champagne – I got that from my mom. I am very thoughtful; I like to think I’m compassionate and kind. I care very deeply about other people. I’m super spiritual. I’m obsessed with murder porn, which sounds like it’s pornography but it’s not. It’s just those really gruesome murder shows, especially the French and British ones – I love them! And I love food, especially donuts.
Just a typical health & wellness professional who’s into donuts and murder porn, right?
Sometimes doing this work requires me to put my name and face out there and be on a “platform” but that doesn’t mean I have to be or look any particular way. That was actually a huge lesson for me – there are a lot of people that I see who are in this “spiritual space” who are not actually spiritual people in my opinion. They’re propagating spiritual bypassing and are all about ego and fame and it’s really toxic and I think really, really problematic. There’s a large part of me that wanted nothing to do with this space, this wealth and hellness space, as I call it sometimes. It really turned me off, but then I was like, ‘that’s OK, then I’m needed even more because I’m not about that at all.’ Even if there’s negativity, it’s worth it, I can keep going. I often think that if I don’t do this work, then who will?