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Is a Broken Heart a Physical Ailment: Understanding the Grief Recovery Method [Podcast]

Posted July 29, 2021

Listen to this episode of the Healthy Vitals Podcast.

Love Akron Executive Director Kemp Boyd and Advocate Tracy Carter discuss what the Grief Recovery Method is, why its important to Akron and specifically to the black community.


Featured Guests:

Kemp Boyd, MAOM, BL | Tracy Carter

Kemp Boyd, MAOM, BL is a diligent connector and convener, who has forged relationships across the city Akron over the years, from faith community, civic and non-profits to profit organizations alike. He is skilled in Community Engagement, public speaking, Program Development, Sports Management, Coaching, and Athletic Training. With over a decade of leadership experience and a passion for motivating others, Kemp’s mission is to empower those around him to reach their full potential. 

Tracy Carter is a Summa Health Director for Legislative Relations but also a strong advocate and past participant of the Grief Recovery Method.



Scott Webb (Host):  We've all suffered grief and loss, perhaps, especially so over the past year, and joining me today is Ken Boyd, executive director of love, Akron, who also serves as an associate pastor for local church in the city of Akron and even coaches, a local high school football team. And I'm also joined by advocate Tracy Carter. 

And they're here to discuss the grief recovery method at love, Akron wide, so important to Akron and specifically the black community, and how Summa health is supporting their efforts. 

This is Healthy Vitals, a podcast from Summa Health. I'm Scott Webb. So, first off I want to thank you both for joining me. We're talking about grief today and the grief recovery method. As we get rolling here, Kemp I wanted to start with you. What is considered grief?  

Kemp Boyd, MAOM, BL (Guest): You know, thanks so much, first of all, for having us. It's really an awesome opportunity just to be able to come on and talk about I think a very serious subject. And so, you know, your first question I think is an important one because I think it's what we see grief as, right? It's like the loss of someone. When somebody passes, we grieve that, but really, you know, grief is the normal and the natural emotional response to the change or loss of any kind, including death, divorce, moving, any financial changes, health changes, relationship changes, and on. Right? Well, grief is also the result of any unmet hopes, dreams, and expectations, but also it's the loss of any intangible concepts, such as safety, trust, security, respect, faith, dignity, and hope. So, I know that was a lot, but I think a lot of times when we think about grief, we really only think about death as a result of loss, but not all of these other things. 

Host: Yeah. There are so many things that kind of fall under the umbrella of grief and all of us as you know, are just humans, right? We've all suffered grief. We've all suffered loss. And along those lines, Tracy wanted to bring you into this and ask you if you could, share a personal story of grief.  

Tracy Carter (Guest): So, I appreciate the opportunity to talk about this because the truth is we all are grievers. As you move through life, you will experience loss. And so what we are promoting is the opportunity for people to get help when their mind, their heart helps this grief recovery that we are passionate about will help them feel better over time. For me, my grief story is I went through a very devastating divorce. Which took about two-plus years to process. And so you talk about losing. I lost the dream of a marriage, the dream of a family, honesty, transparency, peace, financial stability. For what I spent on alimony and attorney fees, I could have funded both of my kids' college education at a private institution. 

Going through that trauma, that pain, took a lot out of me. Pastor Kemp mentioned the emotional toll, but there's also a mental and a physical toll. After you go through the storm for a period of time, it does take a lot out of you again, your mind, body, and spirit is affected and hopefully, we can help people access some tools, some support again, make them feel better because everyone grieves. 

Host: That's so true. Everybody does grieve. And Kemp I wanted to ask you, maybe you could share a personal story of grief and loss in your own life.  

Kemp: Yeah, I'll tell you what, hen January 2020 came, right? Like it's January. So we get into Happy New Year's and the New Year's Resolution. And so I think for me, I was going to this thing like, hey man, this is going to be the year that man, I finally get out of debt or I'm going to buy this home. I'm going to do these types of things, but then, you know, March 2020 happens and everything gets shut down because of COVID. And so I had just transitioned into a new place of employment. I'm leading this nonprofit here in Akron called Love Akron, and I spent maybe five months as far as before we were restricted, we were locked down and man, I had these great initiatives and plans for our organization and what we're going to do. And now everything's shut down and you're not even having this ability to meet in person because the unique thing about an organization is that our value adds to the city is, is that we're the great connector and convenor that leads to collaboration with change-makers. Well if you're shut down in your house, you ain't doing a lot of connecting or convening. And so that was a loss for me, for some unmet kind of expectations if you will. 

Host: Yeah. And I think we can all identify with that, right? We, we all had these plans, these dreams, whatever we imagined 2020 being. And then as you say, as we sort of went into isolation or hibernation or whatever we're calling it and everything got put on hold. And you know, we learned some new things, we learned to be creative. Everybody learned to Zoom with their families or even just what Zoom is, right? Yeah. And so one of the fascinating things about the work that you're doing is this grief recovery method. And I wanted to have you both talk about that a little bit and how GRM has helped you.  

Tracy: Um, so I will share, for me, and I am grateful that Summa, in partnership with Love Akron and the Summit County ADM Board all are working together to try and better equip individuals across the community to have this training so that whenever someone says I'm hurting, again my head and my heart are hurting from some pain, we can step up and help them move through a process that's proven to work. When I went through grief recovery, I accessed it through my church and it was a 12-week support group, with a trained, specialist, a grief recovery specialist and what the grief recovery method does, it can be accessed again in a one-on-one or a group. 

I did a group, some people do one-on-one, format and you go through a different weeks of discovery, learning and support. And the process is, the first step is to first admit that you're hurting. You make a decision to recover. Someone said that there is no action without change. So you get, you got to choose to get better. 

You then name what your losses are. You go back in time and identify those life events that cause you to feel sad, painful, or negative. You then start to reflect the on how you handled those losses and some of us handle loss better than most. There's positive behaviors or negative behaviors called short-term energy relieving behaviors called STERBs. The positive is some of us, you know, do support groups. Some of us, we exercise, we talk to a therapist. Some of the  negative is that some of us start to turn the alcohol. We start to get addicted to certain behaviors or situations that are not good for us. So, understand how you handle those losses is important. 

Then you start to look at all the losses you've endured because grief is cumulative. The older you get, you start to accumulate some losses. Prioritize which loss you want to deal with first. And that's the beauty of the method is I can take any loss in my life, and as Pastor Kemp said, there beyond death, there are other losses we are enduring as humans. I have to prioritize what loss I want to deal with first, through this process. And some people I could tell you have done grief recovery more than once. And I think that's a beautiful thing, but prioritize that which is limiting your life or restricting you from moving forward, from concentrating, from being healthy. 

And once you identify that priority loss, then you can move through a process where the grieve recovery method asks you to complete a relationship graph, where you actually unpack how that relationship worked for you. What happened? It requires you to talk about the positive, the negative aspects of that relationship and be honest about your role with the relationship and the other person. And when you start to do the deep dive on a relationship, you start to discover what is unfinished about that relationship? What hurts you about that relationship and in that you understand better that you do have unresolved feelings, thoughts, or wishes that you wish you could have shared with that person. And once you are at that point, you move to what we consider completing a loss step, where you actually are now closer to recovery, where you are closer to being better, because when you're in that state, you're more open to apologies, forgiveness and making some significant emotional statements. 

Like I love you. I hate you. All those things come out in your deep dive relationship graph step. And when you are at that point, you are at a better place, a stronger place to complete your grief recovery letter. And that letter is so powerful because that's where you put pen to paper, all that you're thinking and just release it. Do you send this letter to the person? No, you do not, so we advise against that. But there's such a weight lifted emotional, mental, and physical when you get to that release letter. So, those are just at a high level of what people go through. Again, when I went through the grief recovery method, I did it in a support group format. 

It was 12 weeks and it's hard work. It's emotional work. It's uncomfortable work, but if you want to get better, you have to do it, just  to move forward in life. It requires a lot of personal work, personal growth, and I'm glad I did the work to get better. 

Host: Yeah, it sounds like you definitely did the work and it sounds like it really paid off for you. And Kemp I wanted to ask you, you know, so Tracy took us through these steps in this amazing program  and what a great success story she is. Why do you believe it's so successful? 

Kemp: You know, I think it's successful because it, it kind of puts you in that position to where you have to communicate, right?  We learned so much the importance of communication. However, it forces you to go into this vulnerable state and being comfortable in that vulnerableness, if you will. And so I think the success of it is for some people, you're not going through it alone or by yourself, you're going through this with a specialist and the great thing is I think most of the specialists who are taking people through this process, they went through it themselves, right? So,  you're familiar so you can identify some of those triggers. And some of the things that participant is experiencing, man, it's so relatable for you. 

Cause you've been there, done that. So, it's not like you're just talking to somebody who is this quote, unquote professional, but this is somebody that's actually went through the method themselves. And so they're not sitting in a seat of judgment, but they're almost sitting in a seat of patience, but also one that is saying, hey, I understand exactly what you're going through. Let's sit in there for a minute. Let's not try to rush out of it, but let's stay in that place. And I think that's one of the ways I think the method has been so successful is because of the specialists. 

Host: I'm sure you're right. And whether it's, you know, dealing with grief and loss or those trying to recover from addiction, you know, a lot of times having people there who've been through exactly what you've been through, it's so instrumental in helping us to deal with these emotions mentally, physically,  and to recover and to get better. Don't you think so Tracy? 

Tracy: Absolutely. And I agree with Pastor that the method is powerful because it requires you to communicate a lot with yourself. A lot of us have to be honest about what happened, how we're feeling and what we need to do differently to get better. So, having honest communication among ourselves, I think is one of the most powerful parts or steps in the process. 

It is a process that people have to understand, you can't rush it. You have to approach it with honesty, patience, vulnerability, as Pastor said. And I think because of those things, I think a lot of people get better by following the method which is available across the world. Anyone who is willing to do the work, put in the time, can move through the method. I will tell you that the hardest step, I think for most people, when they move through the method is when they have to sit and reflect upon their losses through life. When I did the method, I may have had to reflect back on 45 years of my life and the go back to childhood and like, oh, wow, that was a loss, I just recognize it. We moved, we had a pet die. I mean, I had a friend leave me. Those were all losses that I never was aware of. But as I said before, grief is a cumulative. So, the method does teach you to be more aware as we move through life. Loss is normal, and there are ways to deal with those losses in a more healthy way, a more respectful way, for yourself and for whomever you're trying to complete or move away or toward. That's what I think is powerful about the method. 

Host: Yeah, it sure does sound powerful. And Kemp I wanted to talk to you about, you know, basically who can participate. Sounds like just about anybody whose suffered grief or loss or trauma, which is really all of us. And also wanted to ask why is it important to encourage African-American men in particular to participate?  

Kemp: That's a really great question. Yeah. Everybody can participate that is willing to go through this process, right and really process their grief on multi different facets or levels that they go through it. I particularly think this as important for African-American men, because I think we need to know that it's okay. Right? We need to know that it's okay for us to acknowledge our grief and our hurts because I think for so long and I'm going to speak for myself being an African-American male, I think we were brought up and taught this kind of man just grit your teeth and bear it. Right? Just kind of get over it. Right. Like,  

Host: Rub some dirt on it.  

Kemp: Absolutely, like, yeah, just rub some dirt on it keep on moving. part of life type of thing. Hey, you're a man. So be a man. So this is what men do. Right. But what was happening I kind of equate it to the whenever you go buy a trash can that's kind of overflowing, sometimes our initial reaction or response is not to actually take the trash out. What we do is that we put our foot in it and we smush it down to make more room. And I think for us as African-American men, that's how we've lived emotionally. Like we suppress and we continue to push down, if you will, our feelings more to make more room, to build more capacity, thus suppressing. That's going back to what Tracy said before, where that grief, it starts out as grief, but it's spiraled into other things now. 

Now my depression is up. My anxiety is up. Now I have a full blown mental health situation now, right? And I'm using substances to cope with something that man, all I had to do was just go and seek that resource or that information. And I think right now it's just so pivotal. Even when I look at where we live at, the suicide rate, if you will, amongst African-Americans is at an all time high in our city. 

And I do think one of the reasons for that is because we are dealing with some unresolved grief because we have suppressed it over the course of years. And you just heard Tracy say it best. She went back 45 years. Like, man, what does that look like to look back over 45 years of your life, because there's things that we have been willing to forget or thought we forget or thought that we have gotten over. But here's the thing, the method gives us an opportunity to say, hey, there's nothing wrong with me. And man, I have an opportunity to get the help that I need in order to be better, not just for myself, but for my family and not just for my family, but for my community. 

Host: Yeah, that's such a great analogy, and I think for a lot of men, a lot of us, you know, we were taught as kids there's no crying in baseball  like it's just, it's just a part of life. Your dog died, your friend moved away. We're moving schools, you know, Tracy, like, as you say, I'm 52. And I think back I've just been sort of all these things are flooding through my head. As I'm listening to you speak, and   I'm going all the way back myself and I'm starting to add it up. Well, this happened when I was four and this happened when I was seven and it's a lot, it's pretty overwhelming. But as you said earlier, we can take them one at a time. We can prioritize. Okay. I'm going to deal with the loss of that pet today. Like that's the next thing on my list, right?  

Tracy: Absolutely.  And it's a method, it's a process. Once you go through it, you can use it for the rest of your life. And I'm excited about that. I wish I had this understanding, awareness in my twenties, thirties... 

Host: Hmm.  

Tracy: But I, we are here. And so Kemp and I in partnership with the Summa family, Love Akron, ADM, we're all trying to again, equip more people across our community with this education and training so that wherever they are, be it in the home, the workplace, the faith-based setting, community rec center. If these specialists come across individuals who are hurting, who say I welcome help. I welcome emotional support; they can walk them through this process. Now we, know that grief recovery is just the first step, it's the first conversation many need to have about their emotional and mental health wellness. And so we are also partnering with therapists. What are, our community effort to make sure that when people complete grief recovery, if they say, you know what, I need to talk to someone long-term, build a relationship with someone that I can trust to respect my secrets, my pain, my hurt, and help me move forward in a more mentally and emotionally healthy way, we want to better refer people to therapists just so they can continue to be the best they can be mentally, emotionally. Because we know the mental and emotional also impacts the physical. That's the more comprehensive approach we want to take our local wellness programming. 

Host: Yeah. And it's such an amazing program just in general, as you say, it's available to everybody, but Kemp for folks specifically in Akron, what a benefit to have this GRM program, to have it really at their fingertips. Right? 

Kemp: Absolutely. Yeah. Because it provides another resource. Right? And kind of going back to Tracy's point about our specialists, our specialists are individuals who have went through it themselves, so they kind of know about it, but they're also from Akron. And so, there might be people within their not only just community groups, but within their churches, on their work sites that can go through this. 

And I think right now in Akron, we are going through such I think a place of thriving and this is that next level, right? Like we wanted to bring this type of resource within our community because I think we talk about mental health in a sense of broadness, but I think to be intentional to talk about grief. Grief often gets just slipped under the rug as again, what is it, man, when somebody dies. 

We don't understand that, man, just grief is the loss of anything, right? It's the loss of a pet. It's if we move or we have a certain shift or change within our lives that sometimes we say, well, hey, well, I just changed my job. Should I be feeling this way? Well, yeah, you're grieving and it's okay. And so I think that's so important that that's available here in Akron to help people and to provide another resource within our community. 

Tracy: Kemp just mentioned  that Akron is thriving, but we also have pockets of  pain and trauma that continue to keep leaders up at night. And so when you look at our black infant mortality rates, a lot of individuals or families are hurting from that. They need grief recovery. We have an alarming black youth violence rate, particularly among young black men. Those families, definitely could benefit from grief recovery. 

We talked about COVID earlier, how that has devastated many of us from our social patterns, our health, our economic situation. Those are major losses that would benefit from grief recovery. And so just think Akron is ready, willing, and able to accept this service. And our goal is to just get more people trained, get them rooted in the community so that they could be available wherever people are who say I'm ready for emotional support. 

Kemp: Yeah. And to that point, Tracy, so that we can get to thriving. Let me say it like that. 

Tracy: That's right. That's right. Amen. Pastor.  

Kemp: There you go. 

Host: Let's get to thriving and I love that. I could see that on a T-shirt don't already have those made.

Tracy: Yeah because the reality is many people are just surviving. Wouldn't it be nice to get to thriving and to make that shift? My gosh, there's a lot of focus, or support that needs to be on that mental and emotional piece of us, that physical piece. And this is one tool that we're activating to move people from that state of surviving to thriving. 

Host: I love it.  

Kemp: Absolutely. 

Host: You know, that's going to be my takeaway today is that let's get to thriving you know, but as we wrap up here, Kemp, I want to give you final word here. What are your takeaways? What do you most want folks to know about the grief recovery method, the availability in Akron and the importance of anyone who suffered trauma, grief, loss, to have them reach out.  

Kemp: Yeah. we're making an accessible to everybody. If you go to the, our website, and just click on the menu button, you'll scroll down to about, and in our about is the grief recovery method. If you click on that page, all you have to do is scroll down and you can fill out if you're in need of this resource, or this service, all you have to do, you can fill it out online. 

And that goes directly to us and we can get you connected as soon as possible. And so that's what we want people to know. We were making this as easy as possible for people to access this resource, just at their convenience and when they need it. And so it's going to be there again, our website is, go on it, click on the about tab or the menu, then go to the about tab and you will see the grief recovery method. 

And so this is the time for us to go from just surviving to now thriving, because that's what 2020 was for us. Right? We're just trying to survive the pandemic right into each and every day. But now man, now it's time for us to turn that page and go to thriving. 

Host: I have to say, Kemp, you are very inspirational. Tracy, you are so knowledgeable, so passionate. I want to get to thriving and people can do that at I feel like we could speak all afternoon, but we're going to wrap it up and I'm going to thank you both for being here and you both stay well.  

Kemp: Hey, thank you. 

Tracy: Thank you.  

Host: Learn more by contacting Love Akron at or calling 330- 384-8124 or by email at And if you found this podcast to be helpful and informative, please share it on your social channels and be sure to check out the entire podcast library for additional topics of interest. This is Healthy Vitals, a podcast from Summa Health. I'm Scott Webb. Stay well, and we'll talk again next time. 

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