Ed Cohen | Exploring the Path to Healing and Transformation | K&C 25

Ed Cohen Exploring the Path to Healing and Transformation K&C 25-2

Ed Cohen Exploring the Path to Healing and Transformation K&C 25-2

Are you looking for a fresh perspective on healthcare and healing? In this episode, we delve into the historical shift in medicine’s focus, from healing as the primary goal to the modern emphasis on diagnosis, treatment, prognosis, and billing. Dr. Cohen argues that true healing is a biological phenomenon inherent in all living organisms, emphasizing the importance of supporting individuals in enhancing their overall well-being.

The distinction between healing and curing is a central theme, highlighting the transformative power of embracing life’s journey, scars, challenges, and all. Dr. Cohen challenges the traditional definition of healing and discusses the limitations of the current healthcare system, particularly regarding access to care and the financial burdens it imposes. Tune in and discover a new way of approaching your own well-being.

Meet Ed Cohen Ed Cohen | Exploring the Path to Healing and Transformation | K&C 25

At thirteen, Ed Cohen was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease—a chronic, incurable condition that nearly killed him in his early twenties. At his diagnosis, his doctors told him that the best he could hope for was periods of remission. Unfortunately, they did not mention healing as a possibility.

In his book, On Learning to Heal, Cohen draws on fifty years of living with Crohn’s to consider how Western medical practices turn from an “art of healing” toward a “science of medicine” deeply affects both medical practitioners and their patients. He demonstrates that although medical sciences provide many seemingly miraculous therapies, it is not solely the way to enhance healing. Exploring his own path to healing, he argues that learning to heal requires us to desire and value healing as a vital possibility.

As a therapeutic process, Ed’s practice, Healing Counsel, encourages us to embrace the potential for healing embedded in even our most traumatic experiences. From his sessions, people can expect to gain clearer insights about the intelligence that illnesses often reveal and to develop strategies for cultivating more healing relations to their “self” and to the world. Healing Counsel seeks to reframe illnesses and other challenges that are thrown our way as invitations for healing, thereby broadening our repertoire for living unconstrained and with greater grace.

His practice emerges from the skills and resources that he has developed while living and thriving with Crohn’s disease. Over the last 40 years or so, this experience has challenged him not just to desire to heal, but also to recognize that healing is a value.

Reclaiming Healing: Journey from Illness to Empowerment

Reclaiming healing as our birthright is a powerful concept that challenges the current approach to healthcare. Dr. Ed Cohen’s journey with Crohn’s disease serves as a poignant example of the limitations of modern medicine and the importance of embracing healing as an integral part of healthcare. Dr. Cohen describes living with a severe form of Crohn’s disease for 10 years, enduring numerous medical interventions and surgeries. However, it was a near-death experience followed by an unexpected healing event that led him to question the path he was on. Faced with the choice between continuing down a medicalized route or exploring a new way of living, Dr. Cohen chose the latter.

Healing Rediscovered: Restoring the Heart of Medicine

Dr. Cohen highlights the historical shift in medicine’s focus from healing to diagnosis, treatment, prognosis, and billing. He explains that healing was once considered the primary goal of medicine, with doctors working to support and encourage the body’s natural power to heal. However, as medicine became more scientific and less artistic, healing was marginalized and eventually dropped from the framework of modern medicine. This shift has resulted in a healthcare system that prioritizes symptom management and the eradication of illness rather than supporting individuals in enhancing their overall well-being. Dr. Cohen argues that healing should be seen as a biological phenomenon inherent to all living organisms. It is not something that can be erased or reversed but rather a process of changing and growing in response to illness and life’s challenges.

Healing vs. Curing: Embracing Life’s Journey in Medicine

The distinction between healing and curing is an important one. While curing aims to eliminate illness and return individuals to their pre-illness state, healing recognizes that life is a continuous journey and that experiences of illness shape who we are. Healing focuses on enhancing the quality of life and creating conditions for growth, regardless of the presence of illness. Dr. Cohen acknowledges the vital role of medicine in acute care and life-saving interventions. However, he argues that medicine falls short when it comes to chronic conditions and the complex interplay between individuals and their environment. The individualistic and reductionistic framework of modern medicine fails to address the broader social, psychological, and environmental factors that contribute to illness and well-being.

Reimagining Health and Embracing Life’s Journey

Dr. Cohen discusses the limitations of the current healthcare system, particularly in relation to the lack of universal healthcare and the financial burdens placed on individuals seeking medical treatment. He emphasizes that true healing goes beyond simply treating physical ailments; it involves addressing the structural and administrative problems that impair people’s access to healthcare and leave them burdened with debt. Furthermore, Dr. Cohen challenges the traditional definition of healing as the absence of disease or ailment. Instead, he proposes that healing is a transformation that accepts the scars and challenges that come with it. He suggests that dying can also be a form of healing, as it is a natural part of life that everyone will eventually go through. He shares personal experiences of witnessing individuals find healing in the process of dying, highlighting the complexity and depth of the healing journey.

Resources Mentioned

Kindness & Compassion on Instagram
Ed’s Website
Ed on Instagram
Ed on LinkedIn
Ed on Twitter

Gordon Brewer
Okay, if you want to do the little blurb Hello, I'm

Ed Cohen
Ed Cohen, founder of healing Council, the therapeutic practice that's designed for people interested in healing, often those with chronic and life threatening illnesses. And today we're going to talk about why healing dropped out of medical discourse and medical training, and trying to understand how we can reclaim this birthright which all of us have access to, and we can enhance if we desire and value. Awesome.

Gordon Brewer
Well, hello, everyone, and welcome again to the podcasts. And I'm so glad for you to get to know today. Dr. Ed Cohen. Hi, Ed, welcome. Hello.

Ed Cohen
Thank you. Yes, yeah. So

Gordon Brewer
as I start with most everyone, tell folks a little bit about yourself and how you've landed where you've landed?

Ed Cohen
Well, I, I'm a professor at Rutgers University, and Women's Gender and Sexuality Studies. But that's sort of beside the point of what I'm doing here today. My story here has to do with the fact that I've had Crohn's disease for over 50 years. And for the first 10 years of that experience, I was very acutely ill. And under high doses of immune suppressing drugs during adolescence, which I now refer to as my adolescence on steroids. And then when I was in my early 20s, I almost died. I had one of those out of body near death things. And, but I didn't, luckily, I was in Stanford University Hospital at the time. So fortunately, I had excellent medical care. But when I came back to myself in the ICU, something new started to happen, which was that I started spontaneously going into trances which nothing in my life had ever prepared before, as I like to tell people, you know, my mother was a communist, my father was a physical chemist, they were both Jewish atheists, and my family matter was all that mattered. And yet there I was, you know, obviously, on a lot of drugs, but going into these trances, and which I could somehow take this light and wrap it around the parts of my abdomen that had been or, you know, my various organs that have been taken out, and, and sort of pack them with light, just thought I was doing pain management, it seemed to kind of work that way. And then I was able to just drop into another kind of space, that was not the hospital, which, if you've ever spent a lot of time in hospitals, you know, you'd rather not be there. And, and, yeah, it seemed to do something. I mean, I didn't really think much about it. But you know, I had no intention. It wasn't, you know, something that I called upon, it just sort of happened. And then, a couple of months later, when I finally left the hospital, I had an exit interview with my surgeon. And he said, This thing to me that just sort of seared itself into my brain. He said, You were the sickest person who I've operated on in five years, who's still alive. And I have no idea how you got better so quickly. And that was shocking, both because it broke through my denial, I hadn't really been focusing on the fact that I almost died. And also, but it was really the first time a doctor said I don't know and what he said that he didn't know. It's like, how I had gotten better. And that made me wonder, why had I never heard any of my doctors ever mentioned the idea of healing before? Like, why was healing not something that, you know, was part of the way that they explained? Illness? I mean, when I am diagnosed at the age of 13, with Crohn's disease, in case people don't know, Crohn's is a an inflammatory bowel disease that can affect the entire digestive tract from the mouth to the anus, and I had huge inflammation in my small bowel. And when they finally you know, came in it with the team. I was in the teaching hospital. And so there's always a team of young doctors eager to tell you about, you know, what you've got. And I always think of it as like, it was the reveal, like on HGTV, you know, it's like, Oh, here you go. Here's your thing. They so they say, Well, we think you have Crohn's disease, and it's a autoimmune illness. And, you know, I was 13 I had pretty big vocabulary, but you know, autoimmunity was not one of my basic words. And so then they tried to explain it to me And they said, well, it's like you're allergic to yourself. Not so helpful. And then they said, it's like part of yourself as rejecting itself. Again, not really clear. And then finally they said, Oh, well, it's like you're eating yourself alive. Okay, now that I could understand. But that is not something anyone should ever tell anyone, especially known as your old who's really very ill. And then they went on to tell me that it was incurable. That Crohn's disease, like there are now 80 to 100 illnesses that are considered to have autoimmune etiology is for which not none, there are no cures for any of them. They are all treated pretty much in the same way, which are recent medical review article characterized as the sledgehammer of immunosuppression. So you know, basically, I started taking massive doses of prednisone, which again, if you've ever been on prednisone is a very powerful, very life saving drug, but has a lot of secondary side effects, some of which are psychological, anxiety, depression, mood swings, in addition to all of the physiological ones, weight gain, Kushite, face skin thinning, bone thinning, cataracts, all of it, and I had all of the above. But nobody seemed to think it was anything. Because I was an adolescent. And they just were like, Yeah, your mood swings. You're you're a teenager. Yeah. At one point, I actually asked my father, and, you know, could I go to therapy, I was like, send me to therapy sent me to therapy, because I knew something was wrong. And my father said, you've seen too many Woody Allen movies. And that was the end of therapy. So So basically, I lived with this illness, you know, a very acute form of it for 10 years, I had a near death experience, I had a radical, completely unexpected healing event. And then I had this realization, which was like, okay, I can either keep going through this process that I've been going through, which would likely, you know, require, you know, incredible medicalization, and, you know, perhaps more surgeries, because that is one of the things that happens, or I can try to learn some new way to live was like, very stark choice. And I was like, I think I'll try that. And, by just, I don't know, by virtue of making that decision, suddenly, all of these different teachers who I've never would have had any connection to or inclination towards, began to appear in my life, and they were amazing. I mean, just really amazing. So, you know, for the last 40 years, basically, I've been focused on on the first learning to heal so my book that is called on learning to heal, basically, it chronicles my learning curve. It explains the first 10 years of incredible medicalization, in which healing was not even offered. To me. Or to anyone. I mean, healing is not part of what modern medicine does it for more than 2000 years healing was medicines raison d'etre. It was referred to as the Viessmann, Atrix Natori, the natural power of healing and what doctors tried to do was to support it and encourage it. That's what Hippocratic medicine does. But beginning at the end of the 19th century, when medicine tried to become more like a science and less like an art, healing dropped out. And so now, medicine, as we understand it, basically is focused on while diagnosis, which has always been the trademark of medicine since 500, BCE. Treatment, prognosis and billing, those are the basic parameters for medical care, but not healing. Like, yeah, so yeah, so what I'm trying to do is to reclaim healing as our birthright, it's every living organism since the first cell that sprang into existence has had the capacity to heal. It's a biological phenomenon, without which none of us will be alive. And yet, we take it for granted.

Gordon Brewer
Right, right. Yeah. That's amazing, amazing story. I really appreciate you sharing that. That's yeah, so As we think about the difference between the approach medicine takes now. And the difference between that and healing, can you? Can you flesh that out for us a little more?

Ed Cohen
Yes, absolutely. So I make a distinction between So firstly, I just want to emphasize, in no way do I am I trying to disrespect medicine, I would have died on a number of occasions, without mess, and I'm very happy to be here to be, you know, a success story, a poster child for you know, the things that medicine can do. Be that as it may be that there's also things that medicine could do that it doesn't do, that it's lost track of in a certain way. And so the difference between healing and curing, I like to say is healing doesn't imagine that we can erase our experiences of illness to go back to the way we were, before we got ill. I mean, in life, there is no going back. Healing represents our vital capacity as living organisms to enhance the quality of our lives, and the conditions in which we live them, whatever they may be. So it's about changing and growing. And medicine is about it. In western medicine in particular, I mean, that's what medicines is, there are other kinds of therapeutic practices, but it's really good if you're acutely ill, if you're acutely, Ill get yourself to a doctor. But especially for now, for the many, many chronic conditions that people experience, all of the autoimmune illnesses, cancers, lung COVID, you know, medicine is not equipped to do that, in part because of the frameworks that its knowledge practice is based on which are a highly individualistic, and have like this kind of assumption, that what we are as living organisms is sort of bounded by a skin envelope, and that we are these little, you know, bubbles of life that are separated from everything else. And, and that, you know, that the environment, our relationship to the environment, meaning not just the physical environment, but our social environment, our psychological environment, our spiritual environment, and literally our environment right now, like, the biosphere, like, let's face it, the planet needs healing right now. And, I mean, there's so much that needs healing, that our cultures need healing, our nations need healing, you know, our rivers need healing our oceans need healing, I mean, so, you know, what I like to suggest is that, you know, partly, you know, because of its desire to incorporate the knowledge that the new techniques of, of bioscience, in the course of the 20th century, have come up with, which are remarkable or are absolutely, you know, until the 21st century, and the things that can be done now are seemingly miraculous. And yet, the ethos is not one that is about supporting and encouraging the our capacity to live better, it's about keeping us alive. And you know, that's a good baseline. But, I mean, that seems like setting the bar kind of low. And we don't even do that super well, given that, you know, we don't have universal health care, you know, and so many people's, you know, health care is impaired by all different kinds of structural and administrative problems, you know, not to mention financial problems, not to mention, you know, the amounts of debt that people are in because they've received medical treatment, I would say, none of that is healing techniques might have saved your life. But if you end up with hundreds of $1,000 in debt, that is not a healing context

Gordon Brewer
is. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. So it's, it's, you know, I was just sitting here, thinking, as you were explaining that, you know, thinking about what is the definition of healing, in terms of, you know, what, what does that mean for somebody to be healed? You know, I guess initially, I think, you know, well, they're no longer they no longer have a disease or they no longer have an ailment or they no longer have those things. But what you're saying is, is really more about a transformation in a way that accepts the scars that come with it.

Ed Cohen
Yeah, no, absolutely. And Moreover, sometimes dying is healing. You know, I mean, the thing is that, you know, and again, you know, no disrespect to medicine, but you know, medicine, it's anti deaths, as if we all weren't going to die, you know. So when I tried to say that healing is about growing and changing, that includes dying, dying is a kind of changing that we will all go through. And, you know, I mean, I personally have, you know, in my, you know, like, with my father or with my friends, I mean, I've been with people for whom dying has been incredibly healing, you know, so, I mean, I'm not promoting dying as the best way of healing, but I'm just saying, yeah, it's

Gordon Brewer
perfect sense. Yeah.

Ed Cohen
I mean, you know, and you often hear, like, you know, you hear people say, getting cancer was the best thing that ever happened to me, or, you know, that, like, there are opportunities that get presented to us as obstacles, you know, and the question is, you know, and this would be a healing orientation, rather than approaching an obstacle as an affliction, or, you know, as an indication of some, you know, kind of deficiency or, you know, the question would be, well, how can I learn to grow? And to be more who I am through this process? Because it's all life? Yeah. It's all life. Yeah, the question is, in this life, how can we become more expansive, more graceful, you know, more loving, more compassionate, you know, you know, how you know, or whatever the qualities are, that are important to you in this life? I don't know what emotions choices are. But but, you know, these things that often seem to come at us, you know, like that my book is called on learning to heal or what medicine doesn't know. But it was, originally, I wanted to call it Shit happens. The publisher wouldn't let me. But that such shit happens all the time. Right? Yeah. And those are the moments at which we have to pause and become aware of like, well, what is going on? Right now, I can't take this for granted anymore. I mean, much of the time, you know, many people operate just on kind of autopilot, you know, I mean, and, you know, which is no disrespect to me, you know, just subsistence living for many people, you know, that just takes up all of your time and all of your energy and, you know, creating a life for yourself and your family and your community. I mean, that's a lot of work. So, you know, we get we have these habituated ways of being in the world. And weirdly, illness is one of the ways that we are offered the opportunity to stop and to think about, well, what are these values that we assume are self evident? Like if we can't do certain things anymore? Or who are we are? Have we lost ourselves? Or is this the possibility that we can become something more than we were before? And you know, that I'm in and I speak about that, from my experience. I mean, I mean, I'm not advocating people have Crohn's, I'm not advocating people beyond immunosuppressant drugs for 10 years, I'm not advocating people who have near death experiences, bleed out, and you know, horrible things happen to them, none of that I would have chosen let me tell you, however, retrospectively, I can tell you that that was the most amazing, you know, impetus to changing that could have happened. And, you know, and it really, as I was saying, given my background, it just like, there was nothing in my background that prepared me to move in the direction that I then have been moving in for the last 40 years. So, you know, so as I like to suggest, you know, holding the capacity of healing, which we all have, you know, allows us to kind of entertain the possibility to act as if these things that we see as afflictions might also be opportunities, which isn't to say they're not painful, or difficult, or we would rather not have them, but they're there.

Gordon Brewer
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. You know, as you are, as you were talking yet I was. I was reminded of Victor Frankel's book, Man's Search for Meaning. And just Thinking about the the horrific things that he went through in the German concentration camps and how he came out of that, in many ways, and these aren't his words, but he came out of that more hole into some degree. And that he found, he found meaning and what happened to them. And so it was like he had a better the transformation was a new, it was a different understanding of him, self and others through that through that whole experience. And I think that's kind of what I hear you saying is is that, you know, is your right shit happens, life happens. And we're all going to be faced with adversity as we're, as we're recording this, we I've, and I've shared this with a little bit on the podcast, my wife is now in hospice care. And so seeing the all of that transformation, and all of that sort of thing, and like, like you've mentioned, you know, went through my father's death, and just all of those, all of those things that are not, are not fun things they suck. It's terrible stuff for anybody to go through. But you're right, I think there is so much healing that can come from that. And then it causes us to be transformed in a way that's, it's really hard to put words to.

Ed Cohen
Absolutely. Well, yes, absolutely. I definitely have had many of those experiences. Where and, and that's sort of, I mean, ironically, I mean, I guess maybe one of the joys of being alive, is surprising yourself at who you can become that until we have these opportunities, let's call them, you know, there are aspects of ourselves that remain unrealized. And they're huge resources. And, you know, for whatever reason, you know, crisis happens to be one of our preferred ways of, of addressing change. I mean, it's not the only way, it's certainly not the most graceful way, it's certainly not the most pleasant way. And nonetheless, it is a common way, you know, both at the level of for individuals and collectives, and right now, the whole world, you know, and to be able to be like, Oh, yes, I've been assuming I, I, or we are what you know, are like this. But turns out that there was something else there all the time, that I didn't have to pay attention to, because the circumstances that I was living in, didn't ask of me to question myself in such a way that I could find these aspects of who I am, that actually are quite wonderful, you know, that, you know, have great capacity capacities to help me and others learn to live otherwise, you know, and, you know, and if, you know, if we think that living otherwise might be something that we're interested in doing, because, you know, obviously, not everyone is, I mean, some people, I mean, there are a lot of people in our country who just want to go back to some thing. Before which, you know, as I like to say, there's, as I said before, there's no going back, going back, but if you're in that frame of mind, then this is not going to appeal to you. I mean, many people are, like, Doctor fix it, you know, like, like, as if it's like, you're taking your car to a mechanic, you know, like, do the, you know, it's like, if, if that's your orientation, you know, I'm, that's you, I can't do anything. And I'm here to say, that's not the only way to be.

Gordon Brewer
Yeah, well, and I've got to be respectful of your time. And this has been a wonderful conversation. tell folks how they can get in touch with you and find out more about your book and that's where

Ed Cohen
so if people are interested, my website is called Healing counsel.com and it has a lot of information about my practice and my life and where I come from, and you can get my books through my website. The most recent book is called on learning to heal or what medicine doesn't know it's available also on that Amazon are blindly at bookstores, near you, and I'm happy to be in touch on my website, healing council.com There's a contact page, if you want to be in touch, send me an email, and I'd be happy to talk to you.

Gordon Brewer
Awesome, awesome. And we'll have links here in the show notes and shares summary for people to get to that easily. Yeah, I'd love to spend more time talking with you just around this whole topic, because I think it's Yeah, I think it's, it's, yeah, I think, if when when someone can grasp this concept of healing, and and I've heard it put, usually, I think of this whole concept in terms of kind of a spiritual realm to some degree. And, you know, I think people follow that path in their own way in their own, you know, in their own meaning. But I think you've really hit on something that I think the more ways we can communicate this, which you've done through your book, I think the easier it is for people to grasp it.

Ed Cohen
Well, I hope so that's certainly a would be a really, that would be a really great thing. You know, that I feel like I could have contributed if, right,

Gordon Brewer
well, thanks. Well, thanks, Anna. Hopefully, we'll have another conversation here saying,

Ed Cohen
Oh, that'd be lovely. And good luck to you. And you know, I hope that your wife's transformation is as graceful and loving as possible.

Gordon Brewer
Thank you. Thank you. Appreciate that.

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L. Gordon Brewer Jr., LMFT |Podcast Host – Gordon has spent his career in helping professions as a licensed therapist, counselor, trainer, and clergy person.  He has worked with 100’s of people in teaching them the how to better manage their emotions through self-care and the practices of kindness and compassion.  Follow us on Instagram and Facebook .  And be sure to subscribe to our newsletter.


Pavel Ythjall | The Power of Kindness Through Being Present | K&C 22

In this episode, host Gordon has a conversation with Pavel Ythjall as he tells his story about the miraculous survival of a tragic car accident with his wife. Pavel shares the challenges he and his wife have faced in the seven years since the accident, including his recovery from a broken neck and his wife’s paralysis from the neck down. Pavel’s story is both inspiring and heartbreaking as he discusses the trials and tribulations of their life after the accident. Gordon and Pavel talk about the healing and power that comes from simply being present with people through their pain.

Meet Pavel Ythjall

Pavel YthjallPavel Ythjall is one of the top contemporary fitness photographers in America. He came to the United States from Sweden to pursue the American dream. He was well on his way when tragedy struck. Kat was a major in the US Air Force. An American born and raised in Belize, she was an avid fitness enthusiast, marathoner, and triathlete, earning pro status with the International Federation of Bodybuilding. Today, Kat runs a family home command station for Pavel and their four Yorkies, managing her caregivers while taking online classes for a second master’s degree in psychology.

Miracles Come From Unexpected Sources

We often think of miracles as a divine intervention, something that is beyond our understanding and control. But sometimes, miracles come from the most unlikely sources. Take the story of Pavel Ythjall, for example.

Seven years ago, Pavel and his wife were in a tragic car accident. Just one year after they got married, both of them broke their necks. Pavel was lucky enough to be able to get back to life, but his wife remains paralyzed neck down. It was an incredibly difficult time for the couple, filled with trials and tribulations.

However, what was miraculous was who showed up for them. Their families didn’t want to be a part of it, but doctors, friends, and even strangers who heard about their accident on Facebook, came to their aid. This created a whole new family of people who wanted to help them, and it was truly a miracle.

This story is a powerful reminder that miracles can come from unexpected sources. We often think that we have to rely on divine intervention to get us out of difficult situations, but sometimes, the people around us can be the ones to provide us with the help and support we need. It’s important to remember that no matter how difficult life can be, there are always people willing to help us, and that is a true miracle.

Support Each Other in Tough Times

It is not always easy to accept help from strangers, especially when we are struggling with difficult situations. We may feel embarrassed or ashamed to ask for help, or we may not even know who to turn to. But it is important to remember that there are people out there who are willing to offer us their support, and that we should not be afraid to reach out and ask for it.

Pavel emphasizes the importance of being a good caregiver. It is not always easy to take on the role of a caregiver, especially when we are dealing with our own struggles. But it is important to remember that being there for someone in need is one of the most powerful forms of love and support. It takes courage and mental fortitude to be a caregiver, and we should be grateful for those who are willing to do it.

In times of difficulty, it is important to remember that we are never alone. There are always people around us willing to offer their support and help us through. It is important to be open to receiving help and support, and to remember that even strangers can be the source of a miracle. Together, we can help each other through tough times, and that is something to be thankful for.

Finding Meaning In The Midst of Tragedy

Gordon and Pavel also mention Victor Frankl’s book, “Man’s Search for Meaning”, which is a powerful reminder that even in the worst of times, we can still find meaning and purpose. Frankl’s story of surviving in a German concentration camp is a testament to the human spirit and its ability to endure.

Pavel’s story is also a reminder that good people still exist, and that even in the midst of tragedy, we can still find meaning and purpose. We can still choose to take our tragedy and use it as a way to help others, and in doing so, we can make a difference in the world.

When tragedy strikes, it can be hard to see the silver lining. But if we look close enough, we can often find the opportunity to make something out of our tragedy.

Pavel’s story is a reminder that even in the midst of tragedy, there are still good people in the world. The people who helped Pavel and Kat through their ordeal are a testament to this. From the therapists who worked with Kat to the people who supported Pavel and Kat emotionally, they all helped to make their journey a little easier. They are a reminder that there are still people in the world who are willing to help others in need, and that is something that we should all be grateful for.


Pavel’s wife, Kat, remains paralyzed from the neck down.  Despite this, she was able to use her strength and determination to become a licensed family therapist and work full time for Space Force. Her story is an inspiration to all of us, and it is a reminder that even in the darkest of times, there is still hope.

Pavel is still a caregiver to his wife. Pavel realized that his wife had always been an adventurer, and that taking care of her was like a crusade of doing good. He was able to find a way to make his tragedy into an adventure, and it gave him a sense of purpose.

Pavel has worked hard to document their lives together, creating a short, fast-paced, and very emotional documentary. This documentary is now available on Netflix for everyone to watch and gain inspiration from.

In addition to his documentary, Paul has also created TrueLoveTheBook.com, where people can connect with him and learn more about his story. Through his website, Paul offers support and advice to those who are also in the role of caregiver. He is available to connect via email, text, and messaging, and he is always open to talking to other caregivers.

He was able to talk to others about his experience and the book he wrote,  True Love and Suffering; A Caretaker’s Memoir of Trauma, Despair, and Other Blessings and also make a documentary, Moment of Impact

Taking care of his wife gave him an opportunity to do something meaningful and help others. Pavel and Kat’s story is an example of how we can make something out of tragedy. It is important to remember that tragedy can bring us closer to others, and that it can even give us an opportunity to do something meaningful. We can choose to take our tragedy and use it as a way to help others, and in doing so, we can find meaning and purpose in our lives.

Well, hello everyone and welcome to the podcast and I'm really excited for you all to get to hear from somebody I've recently become acquainted with. And that's Paval y'all. Paval welcome. Thank you, Gordon. Thank you. I'm happy to be here. Happy to share. Yes. Yes. And I, I, I learned about Paval from some fellow podcasters and got to listen to his interview and you've got an amazing story.

Thank you. Yeah, it's an amazing in the sense that well in many different ways, I guess, but both me and my wife are unlucky to, to both, both break our necks. But we were lucky in the sense that we got an enormous amount of, of help and love and the trials and tribulations after these seven years.

I've become sort of my, my passion and purpose now to share with other people and see if we can't get more people help, so to speak. Yes. Yes. And I think This is just a relevant topic for, for any of us going through what we go through in life. And I think you know, I dare, dare I say on the tail end of Covid and, and really people being aware of when life gets hard, you know, how do we help people and how do we, how do we live into the really the power of being present with people?

Yeah, that's a good, it's a good question, Gordon. I don't wanna put, take your podcast down too much. But after our accident what was miraculous in a way was to see who shut up for us. Like we were two strong athletic people in the, in the, in the prime of our lives. But with broken necks, you, you're very vulner liberal both mentally and physically, and both of our families did not show up for us.

So yeah, our blood families that. They just didn't want any part of it for different reasons. Right. But who did show up was doctors friends that heard, heard about our accident on Facebook that had gone through similar things. So it became, we became a whole new family of people that wanted to help.

Just by, by word of mouth. And that was miraculous. Yes. Yes. So maybe a good place for us to start is as I start with most everybody on this podcast is tell us a little more about yourself and how you've landed where you've landed. Wow. Okay. I'm from Sweden and immigrated to America 14 years ago.

Hollywood, you know, America, Hollywood. Mm-hmm. I was a photographer and always dreamt about Comedy America. And I did, and I, I found success pretty fast here in America. America loves hardworking people and I'm certainly that. So I was in, I was in an, on an upward tra trajectory in the fitness business, shooting for all the big magazines, and that's also how I met my wife Kat.

She was an, a major in the air force. Just a, a force of nature. Also a triad leaf, a marathon runner, and a, a bikini fitness pro. So we met on a rooftop in Hollywood at a, at a fitness party. So that, that was the, the love, the love, the, the true love and, and just the dreams, right? And then we just, one year after we got married on an island in Belize.

So that's the happy background. And then the tragedy. Yes. And so for folks that might not be aware, I know that you and your wife were in a terrible car accident, and it's a miracle that you're both alive. It is. It truly is. We were both in a, in a big S u v a Range Rover which are a big, heavy cars.

We we were going down to a couple of friends in Laguna Beach over the Christmas holiday, so it was a happy time for us. We were very ha newly in love and we were happy. Going down in the car, cat leaned over to put on some Christmas music. And, and we just heard a, a crack, like a big, big sound underneath the car.

And the hu course shook and the car started sliding and it started sliding towards the, the side of the road. And it cut up gravel. So there was gravel and dust and, and just a cloud everywhere. And then we hit one of those street signs that says Laguna Beach, 45 miles or whatnot. And the car started rolling.

And I remember I remember vividly how. Bounced my head in the windshield and I, I thought this is gonna hurt. And after that it's, I just blacked out and I woke up upside down with blood just pouring down my face. And I, I looked over at a cat and like, how are you babe? How are you? And she's like, go get help.

I've broken my arms. But she hadn't broken her arms. She had decapitated herself instantly on impact. She just couldn't move. And so her military training, Believed her to think that she had broken her arms, which is logical, but mm-hmm. Yeah. Instantly paralyzed. Yeah. And from there on yeah, the story continues.

Right, right. So it's been quite a recovery part, process for you guys. Yeah. So one of the, one of the things I know about your story is, is that when, when it came down to it, the people that you thought you could count on really weren't the people. That ended up being there for you in the long run.

Yeah. One big part of our story is the, the caregiving part of the story, so, mm-hmm. This didn't, it didn't become, become like a it didn't show itself until after we got home. So cuz when you're in the hospital, you're taking care of 24 7. Like my dad said, the hospital is the easy part. You got doctors and nurses.

Trauma people. You got everything you need 24 7. You just ring a little bell or blowing a little pipe and someone will be there for you. So it was, even though that was really hard, obviously the, our worlds fell apart. It was when we got home that, when, that's when the real struggle started. Mm-hmm. Because all of a sudden you're, you're alone.

It's me with a broken neck, my wife with a broken neck, she can't move and we need 24 7 care. And you just stand there to drop the ambulance drops you off and you're like, what? What do I do now? And that's when really when my world fell apart and her world fell apart and suicidal thoughts came up and all that.

Oh, sure. So we just went down to really deep, deep rabbit hole of blackness in the beginning. Right. So Right. So there, but that's, and I, that's when I discovered that none of our families had the opportunity or. To come and help, but then in some way I understand it. There's, there's so much sorrow and I mean, people have so much trouble just dealing with their every everyday problems.

So coming to help us and seeing the sadness every day just, just takes an enormous amount of courage and, and mental fortitude. Something we've built up both of us now. But in the beginning it was, it was, it was hard, right? So, yeah. So that was the start of it. What did happen was that while our families were not there for us, strangers started appearing.

So I've just, just premiered a documentary about the heroes in, in a, in a book I wrote. And I screamed out on Facebook. I was just really screaming out for help and, and in my blog post and people that have gone through similar stuff contacted me and asked how they could help and, and one after the other.

So, and after. Not too long. I had a whole bunch of people around me, loving, caring people that went grocery shopping, that came to dishes that came and helped take care of Kat and people that were just there in the morning to listen when I was angry or disappointed or just needed to talk to someone, so.

Right, right. Yeah, it's a, it's as I've shared on the podcast before and we chatted just briefly about, and just my own journey of being a care. For my wife who has had a brain tumor and is, you know, in a wheelchair and, you know, dealing with dementia and that sort of thing it really takes a toll on people in, in just the, the caregiving mode and just thinking about what it means to have support and so, I think you're exactly right in that I think maybe people hold back on providing support because they don't know what to do necessarily.

And it's not that you need 'em to necessarily do anything, but just be right. Present, right. That is so right. Gordon, I remember one time in a hospital, one of my big, big body building friends cuz I was shooting fitness and his, his name is Matus and he's from former Jigo. He doesn't necessarily have all the words, but he came by my bedside and he just sat there and I asked him to put his hand up on the railing and I, I put my hand on on his, and that's what I needed.

I just needed someone there like mm-hmm. And, and he's a big guy and he just, his size felt comforting, to be honest. Mm-hmm. So I just held his hand and then he just sat there and that's all I needed to, to get me through that hour or that day. And So, yeah, I try to be cognizant of that. Now the night when I help other people.

I also want to add that you being a caregiver might relate that it took me quite a while to be a good caregiver myself. I, I readily refused in the beginning cuz being a caregiver would, it would mean that I would've to give up all my dreams. And, and I was lucky in the sense. I had my mobility, so in a way I could just leave Cat and continue my journey.

Innately something inside me, it's told me not to do that, but, but I still, I still held on to the, to the dreams I had, like I wanted my previous life. I didn't wanna change it, so it took me a long time to, it actually took me until Kat said, she looked me straight and eyes and said, what if it was you?

What if this happened to. And then, then empathy came in and I'm like, yeah, what if this was me? Mm-hmm. What would I want my wife to do for me? And that it switched me. It really switched me. And from that point on, I pride myself to pride myself of being, I mean, a, a good, as a good of a caregiver as I can be.

But I'm, I'm present. I'm there for her and I'll fight for her, you know, every second of. Right. Right. Yeah. That, that, that resonates and I think something that you kind of allude to there is moving, moving from the resentment of it all. Yeah. To more acceptance. Yeah. And so, yeah. So what was that process like for you of just kind of moving from that, those two places?

I think one thing. Saved me in the sense is that the way I looked at things. So my wife has always been a, an adventurer and she made me adventurous. So we, before me we met, I was from Sweden. So I'm very organized and structured and I get things done, but I'm may not be the most happening person in the world, may not.

And she made me adventurous. We got married in Belize and we did all these trips. So in a. In a way, me being a caregiver be, be, became like a, a crusade of good or a crusade of doing good, a crusade of helping others. And that in itself became adventurous. Mm-hmm. Now I'm talking to you, Gordon. I've written a book, I've done a documentary, I'm gonna do a feature film.

So there was a way to swivel it for my mind to cope with it, I guess. Mm-hmm. This took a while. It took 3, 4, 5 years to really swivel it, but now I'm. I I usually tell people this, if I had the choice of the accident happen or not happen, I would want it to happen if it was only happening to me. And God knows I've gone through some bad times.

I mean, I had a halo mountain on my face. My, I broke my neck, I stroked out. Both my shoulders are dislocated, so I've, I've been bad, but it made me a better person and being empathetic and being able to, to help another person and see the gratitude and. It's just there's no other feeling. There's no nothing that makes you feel better than helping other people.

It just, mm-hmm. The stepping stone to get to that point is really high. And that's people, that's why it's so hard. But once you get there and I think you're there yourself, Gordon, it's just, it's beautiful. There's nothing better, even though you're tired you know, wept out and maybe whatever you are, it's just, it's just this beautiful feeling of being able to help.

And it's cuz they're meaningful. It gives you purpose. And that, and that's what drives me now. So, yeah. Sorry, I forgot what you asked Gordon. Oh, well, it's just that, yeah, just thinking about moving from resentment about things to, to acceptance of things you know, but what, as you were saying saying all that one of the things that I'm reminded of is, is that, you know, when.

When there's a tragedy of some sort or there's some sort of catastrophe. You know, the thing that seems to be the redemptive part of it is when you see all the people that show up. Yeah. To help. I mean, I'm thinking like, you know, In recent years, you know, hurricanes and natural disasters and that kind of thing, people showing up for that has a way of grabbing at us or, or touching us in a way.

Yeah. That, that just kind of puts all the other nonsense of life to the side. Yeah, it does. And it's, I I, I do call it like a, a calling to adventure because it is, it is an adventure. It gives you a sense of purpose and a, and you're doing something and it's, it's. Above and blind and is going outside your little box.

So yes, so caregiving can be an adventure, and I agree. We, it was, we just saw that little girl in Turkey, right, rescued from the ruins and it engaged the whole Turkey and it against the whole world. I think we couldn't grasp 40,000 being dead. It's just like the number's too big, but that little girl, it just mm-hmm.

Everyone wanted to help, so, yeah, for sure. Yeah. Yeah, and I have the best, I mean, I have the. Most intimate relationships with other caregivers. Now, other people that helped Johnny Courier, a local person here in Los Angeles, he started Next Step, which is an organization for people with paralysis. He started that organization after being paralyzed himself.

Mm-hmm. So it's like a self-fulfilling thing and he now helps, I mean, thousands of people and, and it's, I it's miraculously to see what we can. We can do it so much. Good. You know, if we want to, so, yeah. Yeah. Well, you know, the one thing that occurs to me in just thinking about, just kind of putting on my clinical hat here for a little bit, you know, when in, in my work with people that maybe, maybe struggling with depression or any sort of thing like that, There's this inward focus that comes with that.

I mean, you're really consumed with your own stuff, but when you can start turning that outward and really focusing on others, that tends to go away, tends to. The other thing that comes to mind is, is just how much meaning that brings for people. Yeah. And I think that's what you're, you're hitting on there.

Pav is The tragedy that you've, that you've had and you and your wife have had, there has been some meaning that has come out of that for the two, the two of you. I make an assumption for your wife as well, but yeah, no, for sure. I mean, we. I mean, you have a choice. I think you have a choice, Gordon.

When thumb something happens to you, you can either go down the, the abyss and maybe never get out. Right? Or you can try to make something out of it. And we, we were strong enough to try to, to make something out of it, so to speak. And I think, I think therapists have a huge role in tr trying to help people bridge that little bridge, that bridge because it's not easy at all, so to speak.

When it comes to my wife, She's just a force of nature in that after the accident, all she can do is move her, her, her neck and her shoulders. But she works with a stick in her mouth called a stylist, and she's now almost a licensed family therapist. Mm-hmm. So she's doing a practicums. She also works full-time for space force.

So, so there is no, it's interesting to see like we're living. Day and age where we complain about everything, or many people complain about everything, and as you said, live in words. Mm-hmm. And I have wants, but when you look at Kat, my wife, and you can see what she does with her one finger, her stylist and voice control.

She works full-time for space force and you know, national defenses. And then she said almost a family therapist. Then it makes me look at myself and say like, excuse me for swearing, but stop being a little bitch Pavel. Just, just get to it. You know? Right. Just, just get to it, you know? Yeah. So, And that has her accident, has empowered so many other people, it makes them be better.

So yes, that there has been something positive, even though Kat might not agree, she has brought out the best of us. And I think that's what caregiving does too, Gordon. It brings out, it brings out the best of us. Yeah. You know? Yeah, I love that. I love that. So, yeah, another another thought that comes to me is just thinking about when people.

Go through a tragedy and their, and they find meaning with it. I, I was reminded of Victor Frankl's book, the Man Search For Meaning. Yeah. Yeah. And just what he went through and being a part of the German concentration camps and Yeah. As a, a Jewish person and how he came out that in, in many senses, more whole than he was when he went.

Right. And that's, irony is probably the wrong word, word here. Mm-hmm. But yes, I've, I've read that book several times and in a way it saved me just, just a, just a purpose part that as long as you have something to or hope, actually in his part, I think he was hoping to, to come back and meet his family, if I remember it correctly.

And so, as long as you have hope or dreams, dreams is the same sentiment, I guess. Jeromes, they're so important to have something. To look forward though, to look forward to plus living in the moment, obviously, so yeah. But yeah. Right. For sure. This is great. So Pavo, what, what advice would you have for people that are maybe going through hardships and going through just kind of as we like to refer to the trials of life?

How do they, how do they make their way through that? Yeah, good question Gordon. I wish I had an easy answer. I mean, I really do. It's. There is a lot of trials on the way. I think you have to what? So what? I can only say what I did. So what I did, I quickly realized I didn't have the, the mental capacity to deal with this.

I, I needed something. So I I, while I had this metal thing on my head, which was a halo, which fixated in my head to my body, I put on my headphones and I walked the beach and I listened to podcasts and I listened to everything. I mean, I listened. Rich role. Joe Rogan. Jordan Peterson, the the Earlie stuff, the, the stuff when he's professor and he talks to his students.

I listened to, to athletes, I listened to, to just about anything I could find to, to gain knowledge. And I did find knowledge. I found bits and pieces from here and there. I found some wise words from Jordan that I could implement. I found some wise words from from therapists that I could implement.

That all combined helped me to, to get outta my shell, so to speak, and, and move forward. I think, I don't want to be self-promoting, but I did write a book about my journey and I think that could help. It's called True Love and Suffering, mm-hmm. And that I know that has helped other people. I'm, I'm brutally honest and frank in it, and I think my honesty helps people cuz I, I do tell them that I failed, like I failed my wife.

I told her in front of, Military people. I don't, I don't want to be a caregiver. I don't want to help her. But I, I needed to say that in order to then be able to help her. So my honesty, I think helps people. It helps people to, I give like, it's, I guess I give it legitimacy to being honest, to being able to say that I don't want to help her.

Cuz you have to say it first and then you can like start overcoming it and want to help her, right? So I think. Yeah. In, in, yeah. My book is, is one way to start at least. Yeah. It helped me to write it and I know people have gotten help from it. Yes. Yes. So tell us about the documentary that's coming out on Netflix.

I had so yeah, so all these people helped me for seven years and I w I was so self-absorbed in the way that I needed to, I needed to be strong physically and mentally to be able to help. I realized that early, so I had all these people helping me and they didn't want anything back and that's fine.

But I realized that I needed to pay them back. Somehow. I needed to give back. So this is my love letter to some of the people that helped us. So the 10 closest people that helped us, I needed to, to show them something to I needed is a world to see them. I needed the world to see why they helped us and to needed to show the world that there are good people out.

And I forget who said it, it was an Indian doctor. I said, who said something like, when, when something good happens, it needs to be documented because there's just too few examples of it. So that's why I did it. So I worked pretty hard a, a year. Documenting their lives, edit, editing together a pretty short 40 minute documentary.

Fast paced, but very emotional and I think it makes people better watching it. They'll get inspiration from it. Right, right. And it's on Netflix, is that correct? It, it will be. Not yet, but yeah, it'll be, yeah. Okay. That's awesome. That's awesome. So, well Pavlo, I wanna be respectful of your time and I'm hoping that we can have more conversations here in the future, but tell folks how they can get in touch with you and connect if they would like to.

Thank you, Gordon. Yeah. I've really en enjoyed this and I hope to talk to you again. True love the book.com, that's where most things origin from. So true love the book.com, and then you can sort of find and connect with me there. And I'm, I'm happy to connect. I, I message and text and email people all the time and, and yeah, I'm happy to talk to other caregivers.

Awesome, awesome. That's, and we'll have the, the. The links and the show notes and the show summary for people to get to it easily. And, and I know I'm ready to connect with you just around caregiving, cuz I know that's a, an area of support that for those of us in this role of being a caregiver for a spouse is definitely needs the support.

Yeah. Yeah. Caregiving is, yeah. Yes, Gordon. Yes. Yes. Well, thanks again. Thank you.

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L. Gordon Brewer Jr., LMFT |Podcast Host – Gordon has spent his career in helping professions as a licensed therapist, counselor, trainer, and clergy person.  He has worked with 100’s of people in teaching them the how to better manage their emotions through self-care and the practices of kindness and compassion.  Follow us on Instagram and Facebook .  And be sure to subscribe to our newsletter.



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