Rowena Mabbott is a Life and Transitions Coach, writer, speaker, mother and consultant. Through her coaching practice JoyHopeLove, Rowena works with women from around the world who are going through a time of transition and are seeking more clarity, confidence and joy in their life. Rowena has established a free support group for parents who have had some time pass since the loss of their child, and would like to connect with a community of other parents who are evolving and transitioning after loss. Based in Sydney, Australia, Rowena lives with her husband and two living sons.
We talk to Rowena about transitions, loss and evolving to joy.
SSC: It is such a beautiful thing you do working with women who are transitioning through loss – can you tell us what brought you to be working in this space?
Rowena: I haven’t always worked in this space. But in 2008, my second son was stillborn at 35 weeks. This was a sudden and unexpected loss, as my pregnancy had been completely routine and uneventful until that point.
When we lose a child, the grief we feel is complicated. It’s not simply the loss of that longed for and very much loved child. It’s also the loss of that child’s future, and our future with that child. All the life experiences we subconsciously, or consciously, look forward to when we first get that positive pregnancy test; we then experience a deep sense of loss and grief about those experiences as well as the little person we will never get to watch grow up.
This experience led me to want to help other mothers who, like me, had lost a child. At the time of our loss, I wished there had been a coach to speak to and work with. Counselling helped, but I wanted something more forward looking. As I couldn’t find what what I was seeking, I decided to retrain. And so, with my corporate HR background, and a lifetime of informal coaching and mentoring behind me, I embarked on the Beautiful You coaching course. It’s heart-centred approach felt right for the type of work I knew I wanted to do.
Working with mum’s to help them find, or rediscover, the joy in their life after the loss of their child is what I am passionate about. That said, the women I work with haven’t always lost a child. Other forms of loss include the change of identity around motherhood and career, as well as career change or promotion. Helping women live a life that honours themselves (and their angel baby if applicable) is the most beautiful feeling.
SSC: What practical steps can you share with others who are going through something similar that might help them?
Rowena: There are two things that I can recommend for others who are experiencing grief and loss. Whether you’ve had a child die, or any other form of major life transition, these approaches should help.
Firstly, be kind to yourself.
Grief and change are exhausting. Getting through each day is an effort. Therefore, lower the expectations you place upon yourself. Be as kind to yourself as you would be to a small child or beloved. Make things easy for yourself. That may mean the house isn’t as clean as usual, or you eat more easy dinners. It might be that you say no to requests that feel too much. By making it your priority to be kind to yourself, you give yourself space to mourn and heal.
Secondly, find your people.
Personally, finding other mums who had been through the same experience was one the best things I did, and something I would recommend for all bereaved parents. Talking to others who have had a similar experience, and connecting with them helps ease the burden of grief. Knowing there is someone outside of your immediate family and friends who ‘gets it’ can alleviate the pressure on your close friends and family too. It’s invaluable to have the support from others who have been through what you are going through.
SSC: Grief and loss are such huge emotions to hold space for – how do you manage your own energy levels while supporting others?
Rowena :Managing my energy levels and emotions is a vital part of my work and life. Self-care and self-compassion are key for me in this space.
I start the day with a morning practice that includes a short meditation, gentle yoga and journaling. Everyday I walk in nature (we have a lovely large parkland nearby) and take some quiet time. Sometimes that quiet time is another meditation, other times it might be as simple as taking my cup of tea outside and listening to the sounds of the garden.
Lastly, I schedule breaks throughout my day and week based on how I’m feeling, to give myself space to recharge. Being present in the moment and emotionally aware is vital for my work, and I use that skill to help care for myself too.
SSC: What does a joyful life mean to you?
Rowena: Living a joyful life is what the loss of my son taught me; that life is short and so precious. And therefore, it’s too short to waste doing things that don’t bring you joy. This is it – our one life. Let’s spend it doing things that bring joy to ourselves and others, and that make a difference.
For me, the phrase ‘joyful life’ is a powerful reminder we have choice – we can choose how we view the world and choose what we do. By focusing on the joy in our life, the more joy we will feel. Even in the terrible, tough and grief-stricken times, there are glimmers of joy if we look for them. The more we keep that focus, the more likely we will live a joyful life.
I aim to embody this for myself and to role model it for my living boys and my clients – live every day with joy.
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