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Lisa Athan, MA, is the Founder and Executive Director of Griefspeaks 
 
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Contact Lisa for more information about speaking engagements, keynotes, workshops and counseling
(Phone or Skype sessions also available)
(973) 985-4503 or email her at lisa@griefspeaks.com 
 
My passion is to normalize grieving in our "get over it" and "move on" society. I also love to teach people how to be loving listeners to one another, to be more gentle and compassionate with themselves and others and to be more mindful.  Grief is not only something we experience around a death loss, but any kind of loss. We lose such things as relationships, jobs, dreams, abilities, trust, our identity, our purpose, a sense of safety, routines and sometimes even hope as well to name a few. I love to encourage people and provide hope and resources for times when they are in the darkest times of life, as I too have been, when things in my own life have at times seemed pretty hopeless. I love speaking to teens and to those who work with teens. I have been told by teenagers that I have a gift for reaching teenagers. They say I really understand them and that I don't preach to them. Doing high school assemblies is such a great opportunity to reach so many teens who really need to hear what I have to share. Receive much positive feedback from students and teachers. They tell me that they leave my presentation feeling kinder and more understanding of themselves and their peers.  
 
My passion is helping children, teens and adults learn healthy ways to cope with some of the toughest things in life. I do so in presentations, assemblies, keynotes and through my grief counseling. So many of us at some point in our lives are faced with a death of a friend or loved one, illness in the family or for ourselves, a break up or divorce, a job loss or loss of safety or routine. We lose friendships and move away from our homes and neighborhoods. We get diagnosed with depression or our loved one does. We have a child who has cancer or bipolar disorder or suffers with addiction and we feel alone and often ashamed. Perhaps we have lost the one person in our lives who was our rock, the one we could turn to during adversity who would give us hope, encouragement and inspiration when we most needed it.
 
I have worked many years with those suffering with addiction, mental health disorders, bereavement and eating disorders as well as parenting issues and relationship conflicts. After a time I decided to focus my work in the field of grief and loss. I worked for a few years facilitating group therapy in a psychiatric unit of a local hospital and it was there that I realized that most of the people who found themselves in that locked unit were there due to issues that stemmed from grief and loss.  Whether the person had clinical depression, bipolar disorder, was grieving a spouse who had died or left them, lost a child,  lost all hope and felt nothing but despair which may have led them to a suicide attempt, experienced a loss of purpose and meaning due to retirement, illness, aging or loss of ability, or had an ambiguous loss, such as loving someone who was suffering with addiction, mentally ill, or dementia, they all had grief. Their loved ones also had grief as well. I wanted to reach folks before they got to the locked psychiatric unit.  Not that there is anything wrong with an inpatient unit, as it can save one's life. But I thought if I could reach some people when they were younger, teens or college students or young adults and talk to them about losses, grief and healthy ways to cope, it could make a difference in their lives.
 
I am so blessed to have four young adult children ages 28, 25, 22 and 19 as well as two dogs, Miles and Cody who have been in YouTube videos about coping with loss.  I reside in New Jersey and speak all over the United States.
I am often asked how I can listen to so many painful and sad stories and still be so upbeat and positive. I think it comes down to a few things. My personality has always been one who sees the glass half full and I always look for the good in every situation. Sometimes the only good at first may be that someone showed up to help or that the painful event has ended. I also practice self care which for me primarily consists of coffee with friends,  running, mediation and time in nature. I also find so much meaning and inspiration in what I do. Everyone has a story and as they share their story with me I always come away with so much more. I am grateful to all those who share their sacred healing journey with me. I have learned through the grieving folks I work with to appreciate life, take nothing for granted and to enjoy every moment we have. I look for the beauty, tell people that I love them, share laughter and tears with others and feel grateful and honored that so many people invite me to be with them in the midst of their own suffering. I also know first hand that we are truly so much stronger than we think we are and that at crucial times in our lives, we also need to find the courage to trust another person and to let them in and let them be there for us. That is not an easy thing to do especially since many of us have been hurt or wounded by people before. 

To balance my work, I enjoy running, hiking in the woods, biking on trails, spending time in the mountains, camping, chasing sunsets and sunrises, walking by the ocean or a waterfall, meditation, being anywhere in nature, traveling, photography, listening deeply to people share thier sacred stories of loss, strength and resilience, reading and having coffee at Dunkin Donuts around the US when traveling to speak. 
 
I have a Bachelor's degree in Psychology and a Master's degree in Counseling and am a Grief Recovery Specialist. I serve on the N.J. Traumatic Loss Coalition for Youth as a Lead Responder in Union and Essex counties. I am the co-founder of Camp Clover, which is a NJ bereavement day camp for children and teens where I am the on-site bereavement specialist and facilitate sharing circles for campers as well as run the staff training. I am currently writing a book for teens, their parents and teachers on grief, loss and other tough stuff that teens experience.

My experience has been in working in the fields of bereavement, addictions and mental health. I worked at Fair Oaks Hospital in Summit, NJ in the outpatient recovery unit working with people dealing with drug and alcohol addiction and their families.  I also worked at The Center for the Treatment of Eating Disorders as the Director of Outreach and ran groups for people dealing with eating disorders and their families.  There I started a NJ Eating Disorders Hotline.  I also worked at Overlook Hospital on the in-patient psychiatric unit as a counselor and facilitated daily group therapy, and met hundreds of teens and adults suffering with grief, often unacknowledged or unaddressed, which presented itself through substance abuse and addictions, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, psychosis, self injurious behavior and suicide attempts. 

 
I speak to various audiences including children, teens and adults in many different venues such as universities, keynote addresses at conferences of all types, schools, service organizations, hospitals, addiction organizations, school based programs, juvenile detention centers, assisted living communities, companies, police and fire departments, first aid squads, agencies, religious affiliations, support groups, parent groups, and more. I love speaking to students, K -12th and college students, in their classrooms as well as for assemblies.  I have received countless letters from children, teens and adults thanking me for inspiring them to empathize more with others who may be going through a rough time, to treat others in a kinder way, to find the courage to ask for help, helping them to feel less stigmatized about mental health issues, and for normalizing grief in our "move on" and "get over it" society.
 
An aim of my programs is to leave participants with a wealth of knowledge, skills and tools and a deeper respect and understanding for the grieving and healing process. People will "get" the value of listening to a griever with understanding and respect, in knowing that no two people grieve alike or in the same time, and the value of finding words for our experiences, losses and feelings. So important to assist grievers in finding healthy ways to express those feelings and thoughts.  I help people find helpful ways to deal with anniversaries, special days and other very personal times of remembrance of a loved one who has died. Audiences come away with an understanding of what they can do when a loved one is dying or ill, how they can create memory books, suggestions of how many others have learned to include the memories of a deceased loved one, in their present celebrations if they choose. Feedback from audiences say that they feel I am knowledgeable, engaging and compassionate with a sense of humor which helps. My passion is to normalize grief and loss in our grief avoiding and "get over it" society. My goal whether sitting with a family, presenting to a group of 20 or 500 or one on one is to create a safe space for people to be where they are at. and teaches others to do the same which enables people to acknowledge, identify and express their grief.  teaches healthy ways to identify, handle and express the normal and natural feelings and thoughts that follow a loss of any type. 
 
Years ago I realized that a significant amount of the patients admitted to the hospital's psychiatric unit had experienced multiple losses either in childhood  or recently, whether it was a death of a significant person, loss of relationship through divorce, loss of purpose or identity through retirement, loss of job, estrangement in relationships, domestic violence, moving, emotional, sexual or physical abuse as a child, a past traumatic experience,  bullying, abandonment or other secondary losses as a result of their addictions or depression or other symptomatology. There were also many patients with a mental health disorder who had needed immediate stabilization and aftercare follow up. Lisa also served as the Coordinator of Education and Outreach for Good Grief. Good Grief is a resource for grieving children, teens and their families. This non-profit organization provides free, year round peer support programs for children, teens and adults coping with loss due to death. Lisa led 4  thirty hour facilitator training sessions for Good Grief.
  • Lisa has been trained by the Glasser Institute in Choice Theory, Lead Management and Peaceful Parenting.
  • Lisa has trained and became certified as a Grief Recovery Specialist with the Grief Recovery Institute in California.
  • Lisa has been trained in Post Traumatic Stress Management through the Traumatic Loss Coalition for Youth, by Robert Macy, PhD. Lisa completed two full days on Protocol of Handling a Suicide or Homicide for the School Setting. She serves on the Union County, Essex and Middlesex County Traumatic Loss Coalitions for Youth : School and Community Based Responders.  Lisa also serves as a volunteer for Comfort Zone Camp, a camp for grieving children ages 7-17. Lisa also serves on the advisory board of Good Grief, as well as being a speaking consultant. 

Lisa Athan is a member of: 

  • ADEC (Association for Death Education and Counseling)
  • AAB (American Academy for Bereavement)
  • ACA (American Counseling Association)
  • IATP (International Association of Trauma Professionals)
  • NAGC (National Alliance for Grieving Children)

Lisa on top of Mt. Mansfield, Vermont
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Nature is a wonderful healing agent for grieving
lisa@griefspeaks.com
(973) 985-4503