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How Petra’s Journey Birthed Beauty From Ashes Enterprises – Exclusive Interview With Petra Gordon Talks About Grief, Loss, And Widowhood

Have you ever experienced a loss so profound that it not only changed the trajectory of your life but completely changed you? If you answered yes, know that you aren’t alone. Petra Gordon, owner and founder of Beauty From Ashes Enterprises, can relate to this. She experienced the sudden and unexpected death of her husband in December 2018, just one year after her father had died after battling with Lou Gehrig’s disease for nearly seven years in 2017.

 

Petra was 38 years old then, and her husband was 42. Navigating the death of her husband made her painfully aware of how people don’t know how to support someone grieving a loss. This ignorance, at times, causes unintentional harm to the griever. What also became clear to Petra as she continued her journey was that Society and culture lacked understanding about grief, its different expressions, and what is helpful versus unhelpful. 

 

As Petra was grieving the death of her father and her husband, a growing agitation towards the lack of services for and representation for widows grew. This resulted in Petra launching her company to service widows and provide grief education to help communities and the society at large become more grief-informed and give more support to those who experience different types of losses daily. 

 

Petra has combined her lived experience, training, and certifications in grief education and coaching, plus her 20-year career in Social work, to help adults navigate grief, loss, and life transitions.


Image photo of Petra Gordon

Petra Gordon, Certified Grief Educator, Grief Coach


Can you give us an overview of your business and how it helps your clients? 

 

Here at Beauty From Ashes Enterprises, I provide a variety of services. I provide grief counselling and psychotherapy through my private practice, Beauty From Ashes Counselling and Psychotherapy, where I have my license to practice in Ontario, Canada.


Services also include one-to-one coaching for any loss, spousal, sibling, child, or pet, including losses that are not related to death. My work focuses on acknowledgement, validation, grief education, and exercises and interventions that are grief-focused and relevant to the griever. 

 

As a certified grief educator, I provide education using different social media platforms. I am also a featured speaker at events and panels and a guest on podcasts about grief and loss. 

 

My work provides a safe environment for those grieving to be seen, heard, and understood, to have their grief normalized and acknowledged without judgment or criticism. I support my clients in living with grief and addressing some or all of the most pressing issues that they are dealing with in the present moment as a result of the loss. 

 

In addition to providing counselling, coaching, and speaking services, I help those grieving through my writing. I self-published my first book in 2020, Faith In The Fire: A Story of Resilience: Turning Tragedy into Triumph. Writing is a powerful therapeutic tool for processing grief and any painful emotions.

 

Share about your journey so far. How did you end up where you are in your career?

 

If I can be fully transparent, grief work was the farthest thing from my mind. I didn’t want anything to do with the word widow. I was 38 years old when my husband died, and it seemed unreal to me that I was widowed along with my senior adult mother. I resisted having anything to do with the word widow and had no interest in doing any form of grief work. 

 

It seemed like God had other plans for me. During that first year after the death of my husband, I would see several promotions for events specific to relationships. Every status was represented, “Single, Dating, Married, Divorce, Remarried,” and nothing for the widow. I heard this tiny voice from within asking, “What about the widow?” I brushed it off. Each time I saw something that excluded widows, that small voice kept coming. I continued to ignore it until it got so loud that I couldn’t ignore it any longer.

 

I feel this work is more of a calling. I decided to answer the call because I see the need for this work. I also want to provide for widows and those navigating grief and loss with the type of support and services that I did not receive when I lost my dad and husband.

 

This is year six since the death of my husband, and the vision has grown to service widows and to provide more grief education to the society at large and those who navigate grief and different losses.

 

How do you balance your work with grief and your personal life? What do you like to do when you are not working? 

 

My career over the past 20 years as a Social Worker has involved family violence, trauma, and child maltreatment. I’ve had to work very hard to develop the personal boundaries to be present enough with my client to help them process and work through their pain while at the same time not taking on their pain as something I had to carry. It is not easy to do when you care for people. However, it is necessary to prevent burnout. 

 

When I first had the confirmation to start on this path to do grief work, I was scared. It had only been two years since my husband died, and I did not know if I was ready to witness the grief of other women with similar losses. However, I have used my lived experience to connect with and relate to other widows in this work. I’ve also been able to continue to do my work outside of the work I do with clients so that I am also working on my grief and emotional health.

 

When I am not working, I enjoy taking walks and doing hikes. There is something about a body of water that is so calming and relaxing. I enjoy parks. I love getting together with friends and family. My spirituality and faith are essential; connecting with my church community throughout the week and the weekend brings me joy. I love great food and live entertainment; live theatre or a musical production is my favourite. I am passionate about personal development and growth, so when I’m not working, I participate in masterclasses, conferences, or events that will help me grow.


Who are some people you look up to? How have they influenced what you do for work?


From a business perspective, I greatly respect David Kessler in the grief space. He is a well-known grief expert in the United States and mentors me and many others through his grief education certification program. David gave language to experiences I had in grief, both with the loss of my dad and husband that I did not have at the time of their death. 


Dr. Dharius Daniels and his wife, Coach Shameka Daniels, are a couple I respect in that they have modelled how to combine faith and personal development. Through their programs, mentorship, and coaching, I have been able to gain insight into my emotional health and heal from deep emotional wounds that, at the time of those experiences, I didn’t have the knowledge or tools to address it. Their influence and the help they have provided me on this journey have inspired me to help other women address their old emotional wounds and unmet emotional needs. I have found that grief can trigger old wounds that have been left unaddressed. 


Last but certainly not least, I look up to my mom. I saw her navigate grief and loss long before my dad took his last breath. Lou Gehrig’s disease, also known as ALS, is a terrible disease. I watched both my mother and brother be primary caregivers to my dad. I saw her walk through that season of her life with such grace, love, and devotion to my dad. She embodied those marital vows “in sickness and health, till death do we part.” She modelled to me that it is possible to live with grief and still love life and have things to look forward to after loss. I bring that forward with me in the work I do to serve widows and those navigating different types of losses. 


What do you hope to accomplish personally and for your business?


My goal is to continue to grow, remain relevant, and be connected to those I am here to serve within the grief space. To deliver the best service to my clients, creating emotionally safe spaces where healing and growth can occur for them on this journey, even while grieving and without guilt. To build and sustain a business long-term, you must build up yourself and lead yourself before you can effectively lead others. Regarding my business, I want to disrupt how we understand and respond to grief. To normalize conversations about death and dying. To shift how corporations, families, and communities treat grief and those grieving. I recognize the magnitude of the vision and that it cannot be done alone. One of my mentors always says, “You don’t go as far as your dream; you go as far as your team.” I hope to have others that I can hire to be a part of the team to execute the vision and, in doing that, transform the lives of those navigating grief and loss. 


Do you have a favourite book or movie that has meant something to you? If so, what is it, and why? 


So many incredible books and movies have impacted me. If I had to choose one, it would be a 90-day devotional by Bishop T.D. Jakes called Crushing. “90 devotions to reveal how God turns pressure into power”. This devotional was very instrumental in providing comfort and perspective to me when I was knee-deep in the grief and loss of my husband. When I did not have the words, I would read a devotional from this book once a day. Each day, something that I needed spoke to me and helped me face the challenges of that day and keep going amid the grief and unknowns that stood before me on the widowhood journey. It was the first time I understood that it was possible to turn this pain into something purposeful and meaningful that could heal and transform not only my life but the lives of others. 


To Wrap things up, can you share one thing you want people to understand about grief?


Grief is a natural and normal response to loss. We all experience losses and will undoubtedly continue to experience them. It’s a part of being alive. Though loss is universal, grief is unique and personal. We don’t express our grief similarly, so responding to those grieving with compassion and care is vital, rather than judgment and criticism. 

 

Grief has not been talked about or modelled to most of us as children and into adulthood. The fact that people don’t know how to respond to grief results from how little time has been spent on understanding it and working through it. 

 

I desire to be a catalyst in shifting our perspective on grief and our response. I will continue to do this work with compassion and care to support widows and those navigating grief, loss, and life transitions. 


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