Welcome to In the Rising Podcast "Let's Build One Another Up!"
July 20, 2021

Episode 85 [Interview] Shannon Dingle: From Tragedy to Having Hope

You decide.  You decide to walk forward on the dusty and dark path through tragedy. There is no guarantee for when the sunshine will penetrate your heart again. But, each step forward pulls you towards light.

Shannon Dingle describes her story of abuse, tragedy, love, and loss with her new book 

Living Brave: Lessons from Hurt, Lighting the Way to Hope. 

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 email: Bettina@intherising.com



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was a phrase that I heard often while working with clients going through cancer, and so I created this podcast. I also saw that there is a gap in knowledge about cancer, lymphedema and how to manage recovery, so I created Fit after Breast Cancer.

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Speaker 1:

Hello . Hello and welcome to in the rising podcast. My name is Bettina brown, and this is the platform I've chosen to talk about living a life that's really in alignment with our hopes, our dreams, our goals, and our vision of what we can be, and not just with her eyes of what is leaving behind that shame, blame game and all that negativity that really leads us. Nowhere really leads us nowhere fast. And I like to start off every podcast by saying, I am not a licensed counselor, psychologist, psychiatrist, but I am a certified life coach and a Christian life coach. That means I do believe that for those of us that believe regardless of our religion , um, but that there's something greater than us. It just gives us a feeling of being part of a whole being, being a segment and inclusive because so much of life is really divisive and separating us. Right? And so part of what is inclusive is, is having the time to reflect and pull answers from deep within ourselves and time in our silence and time in our sadness. And that can be through podcasts, conversation, reading books, journaling, but one of those great conversations I had , um , came because of my own podcast. And it's with an author. Her name is Shannon Dingle , and she's the author of living brave, a brand new book where she talks about her own trauma, which is great. Um, a lot of sexual abuse, a lot of sexual trafficking as a young child and having to put a smile on and go to church on Sunday and look like everything's fine. Everything is okay. And she describes in this book a very traumatic event, which is what we really talk about mostly in our podcasts and that's the death of her husband while they were on vacation. So she is now the single mom of six children, and she had the time to talk to me about what gave her, the bravery, the courage and how she's moving forward in life and how she is using her faith to help her with that, but how she is using her story to help so many other women.

Speaker 2:

So your book living brave lessons from hurt lighting, the way to hope just was recently published. And I finished it. I got to read a copy, which I absolutely find this to be a phenomenal book, not because of the tragedies you described, but the courage you show within that. And I wanted to just highlight is that Glennon Doyle on the top says that Shannon Dingle's bravery is dusty, tired, honest, raw, and real, the kind of brave that can be trusted. You know, just hearing that back. Shan , what does that make you think about yourself and your, and your work, all of the feedback so far from Glennon's endorsement to hearing your feelings about it, to Twitter replies and other things has been so encouraging and amazing writing can be a pretty isolating event because it's just me and words for so long. And it has been , um, little terrifying because everything's so vulnerable, but mostly just really lovely to have this thing that I have been pouring myself into for the last couple of years, be entering the world. Yeah. And you describe it, like birthing another child into the world. Oh yeah, it is. Um, uh, the, the work and labor is different of course, but yeah, this book is my baby. Good. And you talked about the word vulnerability and you often describe Dr. Brenae brown within your , your text as well. He talks about vulnerability and shame having, you know, this book was written right in the midst of a very tough time for you. How, how has that vulnerability and shame how's that evolved for you in the last couple of years since finishing? Cause it takes some time to publish. Yeah. Um, I was in a place where I don't even think that I could have chosen not to be vulnerable when I was writing the book, my husband had just died. I was figuring out how to do anything without him. We had been together since I was 18 and he was 19. So being 37 and for the first time having to navigate adult life on my own was something that took all of my energy. And I didn't have any left over to even try to mask any of the emotions or rawness or realness of what I was putting out there now. Um, there are some parts of the book that I go, wow, I've grown a lot from there. Um , but a lot of it, it's just, it's still just as true because as I make this point several times, he is still dead. And so we are still at living this life that was not at all what we expected and along with his death, the death of the future that we had planned , um, is something that I'm grieving as well. Point that out several times in the book, because certain people may grieve things. You know, I have some friends that have had miscarriages and they're , they're like, but I'm still grieving, but it didn't happen. But it is true. You're grieving a future every single day. You know, that future is not what you had planned, right ? And we're far more comfortable talking about grieving past events. And I think that's because we are almost allergic to grief in our culture. And so if we just think about grief as something from the past, then maybe there's a hope of getting over it, getting to the other side. But if it's the future too, if it's something that has just pat a Strava plea , changed everything, then the reality is there's no getting over it. I'm not going to get over my husband dying at 35 and perfectly healthy. I'm not going to get over the , um , reality that being a single mom now is really, really hard. I'm not going to get over the comfort that my children need regularly, as they're reflecting on good memories or hard memories or fun things, or really sad things about remembering their dad and talking about him. And I wouldn't want to rush them through getting over anything. And I think most people can understand that when it comes to kids who wouldn't want to wash what a rush them through the loss of their dad. So it makes no sense in the same way for us to rush adults through the catastrophic losses that we face. Yes. Yes. And that's very well put. And in your, in your book, you even described the day after he died, the sun was shining, quote , like nothing ever happened and that you knew that one day, I'm going to quote you here. I know the feel of the sun on my skin, and I can trust that. I will feel it again in the moments where the darkness seems like there's all there is. So this was written a few years ago. How was this translating to events now? I mean, the darkness doesn't just lift , but how would you say that sentence kind of follows you? Um, I would say that it comes and goes less than being quite as constant as the darkness was early on, but grief I've learned. And I think I knew before, but I know much more intimately from my own experience. Now isn't a linear thing. And so there are days and experiences that I am feeling just as dark as when I found out that he was dying and that's a normal part of things, grief doesn't follow rules. Um , even the stages of grief that we talked about have basically been disproven , um, as, as they had been presented in the past. Um, and so for rule lovers like me, like I liked to know what the rules are. I don't always like to follow them, but like, I want to know what the rule is as I'm breaking it. Um, it's really hard to not know when all of a sudden something is going to surprise me. Uh , my husband was a member of one of the federal urban search and rescue teams , uh, that the us uses for , uh , he was a structural engineer on the team, so he would help firefighters and other , um, other first responders access a building that wasn't safe, but had people in it. And so the , um, collapse of the building in Miami, I would have known lots of details about it, even ones that like, I probably didn't care about as much. Um, but I also, like he would have probably been deployed to go down there and assist with all of the efforts. And so all of that happening and in the news caught me up in a big way, emotionally that I wasn't expecting, you know? And then there's the ones that I do expect next week , um, is the second anniversary of his death. I know that's most likely gonna suck. And so, you know, I , I do expect some of the things, but there's other things that just all of a sudden hate you. You're absolutely right. And you say grief has no rules. Grief is an emotion. And you also write in your book that you describe that being a hundred percent in our feelings without ever engaging our intellect is unwise, but so is being a hundred percent or into like without ever engaging our feelings. How do you feel like your faith has helped you engage in both? Um, I see my faith and just who I was created to be as both intellectual and emotional that I wasn't created just toward one end or the other. I am a Christian, I write from a Christian perspective, but I'm not writing for a strictly Christian audience. Um, and so , uh, explaining some things in ways that don't pull in a bunch of Christian Christianese was , um, as a part of my , my attempt with things. And I do Haley really, really love diving deep into the intellectual stuff. I liked research, I liked numbers. I liked things that can be proven or disproven, and that's not how grief works and that's not how life works. And so one of the things for me, like for some people they're all up in their feelings and have to kind of learn to engage that intellectual side more for me, oh, if I could just stay all up in the intellectual side, that would be my comfort zone. And , um, and I've had to learn that, okay, these feelings are valid and they matter, and I'm allowed to and made to have them. Exactly, exactly. And I'm a little similar to you. So that definitely resonates with me. And I'm sure with many people, because it's easier to think about it than to feel it, because if you feel it, you have to deal with it. Right. Yeah . Um, and so you've, you've described so much in your book and you've described tragedy traumas and they all lead to something. They have to either lead to perfectionism, promiscuity, alcoholism, depression, abusive relationships, suicide, self-injury the pain has to go somewhere and you're absolutely right. You know, the pain and the research shows it , it goes somewhere. It can physically break you down. What are you doing to your, for yourself and your children to help them navigate that pain go somewhere? Um, instead of just inward. Yeah. We , um, I've been a huge advocate of therapy whenever possible, you know, be it financially and , um, access to resources and whatnot. I know that it is a privilege for me to be able to have the level of mental health care that I do and that our kids do. But , um, everybody's in therapy. Like I, my kids are going to be confused when ever they meet somebody whose parents like didn't believe in therapy or something because they, it is such a normative part of our life. Um, but there have been times when I've needed to adjust meds with my psychiatrist or I've needed to , um, have more weekly sessions than usual. Because for me, that is really where I have carved a place to allow myself to be fully vulnerable and to be willing to engage with the hard things. And it helps that I have been working with my therapist for years, and also that her husband died a little less suddenly, but still too young, three months before Lee died. And so there's even just things that kind of become interwoven in , um, the shared experience of both being widows at a time that we didn't expect to be. Right. Um, and so, yeah, the, I am, and I'm a huge fan, a huge advocate now for having those therapeutic things in place, because when Lee died, I was able to be texting my therapist through it all I was able to, before I told the kids, call the therapists that some of them were seeing, they weren't all in therapy then, but, and talk through, okay, here's my plan for telling the kids. And so , um, I've realized the great benefit of having some of those resources in place before the crisis hits. And , and , and that's, that's great to have those resources there cause you also mentioned, you know, hashtag self care , but this therapy is part of self-care . It's not just all bubble baths. Yeah. I mean, and there are therapy sessions that are freaking hard, you know, that , um, uh, are not , um, you know, it's not like just sitting down and having coffee with a friend, you know , um, and that knowing our , and caring for our bodies and understanding that our brain and psyche is as much a part of our body as our big toe is , um, is something that allows us to understand self care in a much more holistic sort of way. Yes. Yes. I really, I appreciate your feedback on that. And you describe your mom, you have six kids, you basically have a small team. Yes. Your , your pregnancies , and you also described that several of your children have rather serious health issues with your adoption process. Were you drawn to children that were likely to have a more difficult path because of your own experiences in your childhood? Um, a little bit largely we were drawn to adoption because we knew from my childhood that there are kids who are not safest growing up in the home that they were born into. And I was never , um, in the system. And so wasn't , uh, able to experience a new or different loving home where someone believed me and , um, listened to me and cared for me. And all the ways that I didn't know that grownups were supposed to, at least not at that time. And we , uh , began our adoptions after we had our first two children, biologically and I taught special ed. When I was first out of college to us, it didn't make the difference what the realities were. We wanted to be a family for a child who needed one. And we knew that most acutely, the need falls with kids who have different medical needs or disability related things. And we live in Raleigh, North Carolina, where we've got great hospitals in Raleigh and also at duke and at UNC all within about 30 minutes from us. And so unlike some families who would have to travel a great deal to be able to get good health care for a child, with a chronic illness, we are in a place where it made sense for us to be able to handle some things that other families might not be able to. And yeah, so that was our approach was very much along the lines of kind of the same way that we with our biological children didn't like say, okay, well, we only accept that. We'll only accept them if they have these things going on, but if they don't have, you know, or they do have this thing that we consider too hard, we're not going to take them home from the hospital. That's , um, kind of how we felt about , um, about saying no universally to a lot of different things in adoption. And , um , our kids are amazing. Wonderful. Well , bless you. I'm going to finish real quick on this last one, we have just a minute left. So you pressed upon the reader, the value of hope, how you plan to add it to your middle name. Um , cause you did not have one, you signed it at the end that way. And I saw the word hope in the title. How would you say this word hope has transformed you? Um, within the last, the word hope has shifted for me a great deal because it's not this cheap Pappy smiley face emoji sort of thing that it's often presented as hope is hard and hope is work and hope is being willing to believe that the sun still will shine at some point, even when we're in the darkness. And so to me, hope is both hugely important. And it's also an action of how do we move forward? How do we do things in or with hope because that's been instrumental in helping us survive the things that I've survived, the things that my kids have survived. Well, gosh, thank you so much for your time and having the courage to do what you've brought to the world. Um, and for being such a wonderful mom that is willing to see the health benefits and know the mind body connection you're going to do brilliant work and you already have, thank you so much for your time. Thank you for having me.

Speaker 1:

I had several takeaways from this interview with Shannon and the one that was the greatest for me was her description of hope. Hope is hard. Hope is action. And I think sometimes we , we just sit there and wait for, oh, I hope something will happen. And I hope this will be, and I hope this, but not realizing that true hope is not passive. It is full of action and it's full of messy action, but it's forward movement. And that if you're in a hard place, it doesn't mean that that's a time to give up. Maybe that's the time to hope even stronger than before. So I appreciate your time today. You know what time is precious and once it's gone, it's gone. So I appreciate the time that you've given. And if you enjoy this podcast, I encourage you to leave a five-star review. It really helps this podcast out and just reach and impact more people that may need this message today. And until next time let's keep building [inaudible] .