In Part Two of The Story So Far Lisa shares more about the year that was 2019.
She went from married, to separated, to widow in nine months – all while parenting her three amazing kids solo and keeping a business afloat. The worst case scenario eventuated, with addiction taking the life of Nick.
In this episode Lisa talks a lot about grief. And shares about the support she gave to her children throughout a challenging year of their life.
You hear about the toll the end of the marriage took on Lisa and the children and how there is no rule book for navigating grief (even though she wished there was one!)
She shares the two concepts that helped her immensely in this time. (Found inside The Mood Shift – link below).
It’s an emotional, deep and in many ways uplifting episode of one woman moving through a tough season.
Content Warning: Alcohol addiction.
Alcohol is the most commonly used drug in Australia and there is no shame in seeking support about your consumption.
If you or someone you love is struggling with Alcohol Use Disorder (or are questioning whether you/they are) then pick up the phone and make a call. There’s nothing to lose. Everything to gain.
Lifeline 13 11 14 (24 hours/day, 7 days/week)
Beyond Blue 1300 224 636 (24 hours/day, 7 days/week)
Al Anon al-anon.org.au/contact to find the best contact in your state
Alcoholics Anonymous 1300 222 222 (24 hours/day, 7 days/week)
Kids Helpline 1800 551 800 (24 hours/day, 7 days/week)
Lisa refers to the Mood Shift in this episode – get access to it here.
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Prefer to read? Access the transcript here
Hi, it’s Lisa Corduff. Welcome to the podcast where you can expect inspiring, raw, energising, and transformative conversations with people on the path of personal evolution. I’m here to really live my life, and if you are too, these conversations are just for you. I’m really glad you’re here. Enjoy.
Hello, and welcome to part two of The Story So Far. If you listened to part one and you are here for part two, thank you for witnessing my story. I promise that once all of this is out then we’re going to be diving a bit deeper into some of the big ticket issues, stories, lessons from this time. That will be happening in the next few episodes, but it’s really important that this story gets told and there will be a place for people to come and hear it if it at all interests you. I know the power of hearing other people’s stories when I was going through hard times and how it helped me feel less alone during a very lonely time. So I hope that this is of service to the people who need to hear it, and anyone, really. Oh, we can do really hard things as the amazing Glennon Doyle says, and I guess this is my story of hard things.
I left you in 2019 when Nick had entered a six-month programme, rehab programme. And I was thrust into solo parenting the kids. I had actually been building up a muscle for this. He was in and out of different rehab situations over a few years period but I think the longest was a five weeks stint whereas this was the new way it was going to be. And there are a few things about that time, at that particular time when I knew the marriage was over, when I felt a sense of relief that other people were taking care of him, but also that I had three little children whose lives had changed massively as well.
I was spent
On a personal level, I absolutely and completely had just nothing left in my tank. And coupled with that I found it very hard to eat. I completely lost my appetite. I was existing on a diet of a coffee a day, an apple and Kettle salted chips. That was it. Literally the grief around losing my marriage and the losing… Wrong word, the grief around, I guess, this evolution of our relationship, I love you and I let you go. I love you and this doesn’t work anymore. I love you and it’s time for me to heal. I love you and you need to own this more than anybody else and I’m just praying to whatever forces that that’s something that you choose to do, was devastating.
I would say there was huge grief a few months later when he passed away, but this grief was so huge. Anyone who’s gone through a separation from the person who they thought, I mean, we had three kids together. We had dreams, we were building a life together. It wasn’t meant to be anybody else, he was it for me and I was going to do anything I could to make that happen. And then that stopped and you have to completely form a new identity. And for me to come on the back of just a lot of traumatic times, I mean, he never ever… He was never abusive or violent or anything like that, he just was never like that. He was loving and kind, he was really in the grip of addiction but, yeah, there was never any harm, meaningful harm done, but it was traumatic to live through that period of life.
Taking responsibility for my own health
By the time it came to me then having to navigate the kids through this change and myself, keep the business running, and just try to survive, I mean, there was literally nothing in the tank. I knew I had worked on myself long enough to know that I absolutely couldn’t even expect myself to be able to do all the things. And I’m so glad I had that wake up call that I mentioned in part one of the story where my mentor had really encouraged me to take responsibility for my own health. And in doing this I realised I was going to need to ask for help, which traditionally has been a super uncomfortable thing for me to do. I mean, if you only saw the text messages of me trying to ask my parents to take the kids so I can have a break, it’s like I apologised 17 times before I even actually just asked the question. It must be very funny to them to have witnessed me leaning into asking for and being able to receive support over the years.
But I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to maintain the house by myself and do all the things, so I set about hiring a cleaner. Just on very practical levels I held to myself not do all the things and carpooling became a big part of my life, having people help me do things with the children. I realised that I was spending a lot of time, I mean, my youngest was at kindergarten so she was doing, I think it was 9:30 till 3:00, three days a week so they were my working hours and then I had her the other two days. And I was just stressing out the day before these cleaners came. I wasn’t able to hang out with her because I was running around, tidying up, doing the clean for cleaners and I realised I didn’t have to do all these things.
And so I hired an amazing housekeeper to come in for three hours and she’s just tidy, she’s like an angel in my life. She started to rearrange furniture and she would find little things at op-shops and bring them into the home. I mean, she could see this was a broken woman in front of her and she’s still with me now and so are the cleaners and I’m so grateful to them. And I knew that I couldn’t exist on the food that I was eating, that it wasn’t good for me. And even although I wasn’t hungry I needed to get nutrients in. I would buy a whole stack of cold pressed juices and just sip on juice to get some nutrients in. I mean, I lost a lot of weight in that time and I knew it wasn’t good.
But I knew that it would pass
I didn’t get too attached to it. I just tried to support my nervous system which was completely shot. My adrenals were completely shot. It was all just… I mean, yeah, to say I had nothing left in the tank. Yeah. And then there were the little things like I really hated being in the house on my own. I really got nervous. I used to hate when, for a few years Nick would have to go away for weeks or for a week. When the kids were really, really little he had a few years working for an engineering company and had to go to mines and I’d sleep with the lights on, I’m a really nervous at nighttime person.
And suddenly I had to be a big girl. Suddenly I was responsible for all the things. Putting out bins was never my job and I had to do that. And I had to do the reading with the kids and I had to do pick ups and drop offs and it was just like, wow, I’m stepping into a whole new role here. And my identity was so connected to being Nick’s wife, and I will be talking more about co-dependence in a future episode, but my whole identity was around being responsible for him, trying to fix him, thinking about what he needed every single day.
That there was also this weird freedom. There was a lightness, there was a big time release and I realised how tightly wound I had been for years. How I’d walked on eggshells few years, how I’d placed someone else’s needs above my own fears. And suddenly the future seemed daunting and exciting in equal measure, which is strange to say, because it was also a ridiculous amount of grief I had to process, I mean, ridiculous. I cried all the time, but I had to sort of keep going.
And during that early time there was also this man who came into my life, a neighbour who knew I was not in a good way. He’d help me out with a little handyman project around the house. He was doing some local handyman stuff, and sat in my back garden one day on a particularly bad day and I shared my story. We started talking and he just held this space for me to tell me my story. I’d never, I really did not know this person. I don’t know why I was doing it. I felt really, really safe with him and I felt heard and it was beautiful. It was really beautiful now that I really think back to that moment. And then so suddenly little Bircher muesli was being dropped on my doorstep, chicken tagines, stews, things would just start sort of appearing.
And he was trying to feed me and the kids. And has two kids of his own who are the same age as my older two, so would start to offer to take my kids out on little weekend adventures that he was doing with his boys. And I just felt like he was some sort of angel in my life. I feel like I was supported by lots of angels at this time, actually. And so we had this beautiful friendship. We were doing a lot of honest sharing. He had been processing a lot of stuff, doing a lot of his own inner work and own healing since his relationship had ended a few years before. And I was certainly not looking for a replacement or a relationship of any kind.
But there was also a ridiculous amount of chemistry between us. And after a while I ended up just allowing myself to explore pleasure. It was so uncomfortable to even just receive the food this man was giving me. He could obviously see it wasn’t the time for a relationship or anything like that but we absolutely, we had a really, really strong connection and amazing conversation and chemistry that I think we both just ended up giving into. And I had no attachment. I remember saying…
“If this is what gets me through this particular time I’ll take it.”
And anyway, I will share more of that story. We are together now, there was a period where we weren’t. That’s when Lisa discovered dating apps and all the fun things. Anyway, that’s another story that’s probably not going to be shared at this stage, but I’m so pleased that I allowed myself to experience him at that particular stage even although it made no logical sense whatsoever to be doing that.
Anyway, throughout this time, I mean, people often ask me about the kids. I mean, I was deep in all the stuff. There was so much I was realising about how I had shown up in my relationship with Nick and the kids weren’t great. They knew, they saw Nick, they had access to him. Took them out for dinner once a week and bits and pieces like that after a certain amount of time. And I was always bringing him… Well, I got support to help me take the kids to him in the beginning and then I took over doing that because it was always so important to maintain that relationship with the kids and stuff. But they were experiencing very big change in their lives. This man who they just adore wasn’t there anymore, I was not okay.
Helping the kids to cope
And so I think I started to have big time separation anxiety, lots of trouble sleeping. There was a lot. The kids weren’t great. My son moved back into the room with the girls for a while. He’d been in his own room for a while, and yeah, it was a really hard time, I’ve got to say. And there were lots of things that I did. And I often get asked this, especially around helping the kids cope with the grief of his death. Strangely him being out of our house and not a part of our daily lives, by the time he passed away a lot of work had been done with them to process a type of loss.
Now, nothing compares to the death of a parent, so I’m not going to say that they dealt with it or were okay when he died because they certainly weren’t. But I did a lot of energy work with them. It’s really hard to sometimes know because kids can’t communicate themselves what’s wrong, but kinesiology, a chiropractic body talk, psychologists, a lot of family support, special people who they could talk to and open up to and just so much physical touch. Being physically available to them and emotionally available, for them to process, for them to learn that there are no such thing as bad feelings. For them to be able to express without judgement and without me also necessarily getting in the weeds with them, just being able to be a support, a witness, and hold them, hold a space for them to process whatever it was they were needing to go through.
But I tried, there’s been so many different methodologies, so many different, I mean, meditating, Aura-Soma, all sorts of things that we’ve incorporated into our lives so that their nervous systems can be brought under control, just brought back to base. And I realised I was a key, key part in this, that I got to set the tone for the house. I got to set the tone for the pace of our lives. And I guess I could have done that at any time and there are lots of things I’ve been doing over the years and if you have listened to any of my workshops or teachings, that chaos that I talk about, the overwhelm that I was living in a lot of the time, I mean, there was a part of it that was circumstantial, certainly living amongst a relapse and sobriety, that rollercoaster brought its own level. But I was also operating as a pretty chaotic being for a long time.
I was really glad that I’d put so much into practise
That I’d learnt so much about myself and how to choose a new way of being in order to completely shift my energy. I mean, The Mood Shift training, if you haven’t done that go and do that straight away. They are basically the two pillars of energy and responsibility that really I was drawing on them every single day. I was doing gentle movements, I had my yoga mat out every night so in the morning I’d wake up I’d do some stretching and a self-hypnosis. I would get out of my bed and I would put my feet on the ground and I would say thank you three times. I was doing everything I could to ground myself, nurture myself, support myself, because I had an immediate and very obvious effect on the children.
And I wasn’t doing it for the children, I was doing it for all of us. And this is where really a lot of that stuff around stories comes in. I knew that I could tell myself whatever story I wanted, about what this next stage of my life had to mean. Was it going to mean single motherhood, overwhelm, chaos, angry, whatever, or could I craft something that actually really worked for us? And I used all my tools and I am so proud of how as a crew the kids and I have navigated these last few years. I had to take the lead in that I was the leader of the pack.
And so amongst all my grief, all the crying, all the communicating to them that mommy is not okay today, I’m not feeling good today, this is a time when I’m going to need to cry, I’m going to go and have a bath because I need to support my body and my body loves being in the water. We got to create language around feelings and processing our feelings. And this is why we don’t realise how powerful we are, we don’t realise our state… I mean, we set the tone and it’s within control. It was almost like I was testing myself. What about in this time? In this time does it work? In this time can I choose to shift my frequency? In this time what does feeling my feelings actually look like? And I tell you, it felt like a deep dark pit. And I didn’t know if I was going to be able to manage myself but I knew that it was absolutely a part of the process, and so we moved through and we created a new version of our rhythm.
They say relapse occurs way before the first drink
Then Nick left the six-month programme and he was already showing signs of instability. The night that he left that programme, my youngest daughter FaceTimed him, she wanted to say hi to daddy. And I was with her and I could tell he was drinking. And I can’t even tell you how just devastating that was, for him. Oh, I was just, oh… When I say addiction, it just does not make sense, it doesn’t make sense. And the thing is he had his ticket to India booked. He had a ticket to the Gold Coast booked, he flew up to the Gold Coast. Oh, no, it was the Sunshine Coast. And he was in relapse and none of us could quite believe it.
I wish I could talk to him about that particular phase because our hearts were just broken. And this was the chance he’d been talking to the kids about moving into an apartment and they were so excited about that and then suddenly everything was off the table and he was going to India. And I remember sitting down with his brother at the table and saying, “We have to be prepared for him not to come home.” One of the main causes of death for addicts is accidental death, taking themselves so far to the edge and not knowing or doing silly things like walking in front of a car. It’s just so often accidental.
And we had our last dinner with him, the kids and I, the night before he left and he wasn’t in a good way. His family had been with him throughout the day to help him stay sober to see the kids that night. I mean, it’s still shocking to me. And I can remember hugging him. I said to him, “I hope that India gives you what you need.” I smelt him, this man who I loved. I saw him hug our children and he walked away and the kids were confused because he was shaking so much. And I didn’t take a photo that night of them all together and I wish I had, because a few weeks later his brother knocked on my door at night and they’d been told that he had died.
And, while I was fearful that that was going to be the outcome of his trip, while I thought I was prepared for something bad to happen, nothing would have prepared me for that. Nothing would have prepared me for having to tell my children that their dad had died. I mean, to anyone else who has been in this position… It was just, it was out of control. It felt completely, I mean the kids were five, seven, and eight. And the girls were at my sister’s house because I was trying to make time for one-on-one time with the kids, they were really desperate for it. So this was my weekend with my boy. We’d had a fabulous day and he was in bed and he didn’t wake up during the night and the next morning I asked him to come to my bed and that is the worst conversation I’ve ever had in my life.
How am I meant to tell my children?
And so began my absolute desperation for some sort of rule book here. How am I meant to show my children? How am I meant to do this by myself? This was not the plan. He was meant to get well. He was meant to get sober and bring all of his amazing gifts to those children for the rest of their lives. He had so many things to share with the world, his music, his paintings, his writing, and it was gone. And that grief, I mean, yeah, it was just shocking. It was just, how has this happened to this man? How did this happen? And because it happened in India then there was expatriation, autopsy over there, autopsy here. I mean, it was a total mess. And his brother really did so much, he did it all.
And I just had to work out how to get the kids through this phase. Four days after we were told of his passing we were due on a flight to Bali. The kids and I were going there for my 40th birthday, it was their first overseas trip and I didn’t know what to do. Do I keep them? Do they need their people, my parents, their cousins, Nick’s family? What do I do? And I decided to take them and it was the first lesson amongst all of this that I learned, which was, you are so much more capable than you give yourself credit for, Lisa, to get packed up and get kids on an overseas flight and get yourself to a whole other country. I mean, I can’t remember much of that time but we did it.
And then the next lesson was that it was actually an amazing holiday because I allowed space for their grief, for mine, and space for joy, laughter, playing, allowing them to be kids on holidays in Bali, going to water bomb and going down water slides. And this awful horrible thing had happened and we were laughing. We were also crying. We were so, we were together. We were so together and it was actually perfect. There was no funeral, not for… I didn’t even know how long it took for the funeral to happen. Five weeks, six weeks, I don’t know how long. And once again I was like, “Man, if someone’s got a rule book I’ll just, skip me the steps. How do I get up in the morning and get my kids to the funeral of their dad?”
And I’m sharing this and it’s embarrassing to be crying on my podcast because so much processing has been done of this, but I’m sharing it so if ever you feel yourself, and I’m sure that there’s loads of you who’ve been in situations just like this, this depth of feeling, this absolute rug pulled out from under you. I mean, some people, the lockdowns and the uncertainty I’m like, “Oh, man, I guess I’ve built some muscles around this. It sucks but it’s certainly not the worst thing in the world.”
You’re so capable…
And I think for a lot of people who’ve experienced hard things or navigated times where they were on their knees, on their knees, I was just unable to figure out how to do much and I did it. How does that happen? Humans are freaking amazing. And so I just want you to know that when the rubber hits the road you’re so capable even when you don’t feel like you are, and that there are people around you who will help you through, those people with magic. Those people are your earth angels. I couldn’t have done it without people.
And so then there’s this other journey that I had to embark on which was then knowing that it wasn’t going to be a co-parenting situation. That I was a solo parent, that these little humans, now it was the four of us, and still amongst all this I’m showing up to work. I definitely took some time off around his death and then felt really burning with desire to serve. I absolutely used work as a distraction, but thinking about other people, what I was going through, the tools I was collecting could possibly help them. How if they were helping me through this stage of my life, through this level of hardship, what they might do for all of the other times.
Literally everything I teach I put into practise in my life and these things have helped me navigate the really hard stuff. Standing in my own power these days which is not about being strong, it’s about having to allow myself to actually feel and survive that. Allowing myself to receive from other people, be supported instead of constantly being the supporter. I mean, there’s power in that. And I wasn’t practised at it and I’m still having to practise all the time. I’ve had to surrender, I’m living a life that I could never have imagined, and I’ve also been able to see the gifts. When someone is living such a tortured life like Nick was, I mean, it was really, really hard. His life was really hard.
I have a relationship with him now and I know I am supported by him because it gets proven to me in so many different ways that I’m so grateful for. And there’s an acceptance that I have around death. I believe, my personal belief is that we are energy beings and we occupy a human body for a particular lifetime, and we learn, and we live, and we evolve, and we can drop the body but we’re still energy, we still exist. And I’ve asked for proof of that. I have been told he has come through.
I mean, I’ve had conversations with him that you literally couldn’t make it up, that I couldn’t make it up. I got answers about his death when there really were none and I feel a peacefulness for him, for him. I’ve got this even when I feel like I don’t. I will give our children as much as I can in this lifetime. And for some reason this was their particular journey. It so sucks. Oh, Father’s Days. One of those is coming up soon. And they will grow up and they will have access to their dad through his music. He was a song writer of so many songs and his artwork, so many paintings. And there’s journals upon journals that they will read one day and discover about their dad. And there’s so many people who loved him… And it sucks, really sucks. They miss him. They miss having a dad because no one will ever replace him. No one could, no one should.
But they have a village of people around them. The people who have shown up for my children throughout this time, I’m indebted to for life. They will be okay because of them. And I hold a vision for all of us. They’re such amazing kids and I think that’s the thing that upsets me, most often is I just have to believe he’s witnessing them but I wish the other person who created them loved them like I did, was here. Even although I can be peaceful about this being his journey, our journey, I moved to acceptance pretty quickly which shocked the people around me. But because I loved him I knew he was peaceful. I knew he would also never leave us, and he hasn’t.
I moved to acceptance but it still sucks
And my friend, Lisa Carpenter, always says, “You don’t have to like something to accept it,” and I really know this to be true. That wishing things were another way is a serious waste of energy.
So, yeah, that’s the story. Since then it’s been almost two years since he passed away that I am recording this. And COVID, I mean, I was pretty cross at him for leaving me with three kids to parent and homeschool and work and all the things during lockdowns in Melbourne. Oh, I had a yell or two at him, for sure. But I also thank him. Our journey together has helped me immensely through this time because all of the lessons that I learned, all the things I had to put in place to support myself through uncertainty came into play and I’ve been able to share with other people his belief in me all those years ago to start a little blog, to sell a little course called Small Steps to Wholefoods. His cheerleading me along the way.
That led to me creating a business that supports our family. I mean, I don’t know where I’d be without that. I don’t know where I’d be without you listening to this, staying connected to me, learning, trusting me, and jumping into workshops and trainings. That not only allows me to employ people to help me run this ship and get the message out to more people, but it’s literally given me a reason to keep going through really hard times. And I can keep a roof over our head. Every time you buy a programme or anything, it might’ve been a little ebook over the years, that has a direct impact. I’m grateful.
And I’m sharing my story because I’m not afraid of you seeing me, hearing this. I’m at a stage of my life where I need to lead myself through the next evolution. And sharing this story, being able to point people to a certain direction when they’re like, “Who is this Lisa Corduff?” Well, this is the shit that was going down for a few years. This is how I have been building myself back up. This is me. And in the next few episodes I’m going to explore some of the deeper issues that really came to light throughout these things that I’ve specifically had to work on, realisations that I’ve had about myself and the ways of being that I operated in, that I am shifting. And a lot of these themes are what I help people move through in Ready for Change. That level of peace in my life after all that, it’s possible for me. Oh my gosh, it’s possible for everyone.
And I’m sharing this too so I think people can have an idea of what’s going on in people’s lives or see a bloody-happy, put-together person on social media and assume all sorts of things. A life of rainbows and unicorns, perhaps, but in fact there was a lot going on all the time. And I look for transparency, I look for honesty amongst women who I’m going to give my attention to, and so I just figure you deserve that too. I deserve to tell the story in an honest way. And as I said, I mean, this is the highlights. There’s so much more that can be said, which I’m sure you’re aware of, you’re a smart woman. But it’s been on my heart to do this for a while and now felt like the right time.
I’m really appreciative if you’ve listened to this because I’m sure that wasn’t easy going. God, what did I just say? Now, I’ll have one of those moments of wanting to run and hide. But I hope you got something out of it. Not too sure what that would be, we’ll do a lot more of the delving into things in the next few episodes, so I’ll see you then.
Hey, thanks for listening to that episode, I definitely hope you enjoyed it. Now, I wanted to let you know that we have a bunch of free stuff available for you at the website. You can go to lisacorduff.com and check out my free stuff section and download something juicy to help you with your transformation. You can also go to our programmes page where I have made available some never-sold-before workshops and a bunch of short courses to help you with things like creating extra time in your week, moving through your overwhelm, getting on top of your tech habits and getting unstuck. I’m here to help and you’ve got brand new ways for me to do that beyond this podcast, so to lisacorduff.com and check it out.
Hey, if you’re enjoying the conversation then it would mean the world to me if you head over to iTunes and give us a rating and review, it really makes a difference. And it’s my intention to get as many of us involved in real conversations that really change the game as possible. Thanks so much for your help, and I’ll see you in the next episode.