Jo Betz is not your typical widow. Through the power of storytelling, Jo gives grief a voice. Whether it's reliving her own story of loss while public speaking, or guiding people in her book, Grief - a guided journal, she helps others to find the good in grief.
Photo: Meg Reed Photograpy
Q. What inspired you to create Grief, a guided journal, and become such a presence online for giving grief a voice - something that must have been incredibly difficult?
Jo: To be honest, I never understood the impact grief has on our lives, until my husband unexpectedly died from an asthma attack in 2017 leaving me a widow and a solo mother. My whole world felt like it had been tipped on its head and I found myself in a whole new world of grief. It was messy, uncomfortable, emotional and I had never felt more isolated in my experience. So, I began to share my experiences and it ignited a passion in me to give my grief a voice, so that I could connect with others experiencing the same, as well as giving insight to those who might be caring for someone who is grieving and feel unsure of what to do.
My book ‘Grief, a guided journal’ came to be because writing can be so helpful when we are wanting to express and process all the emotions that come with grief. I set about creating a safe space for people who are grieving to just let it all out, with no judgment. While I have always loved writing, after the death of my husband I just had no idea where to start, so I wanted this book to provide gentle writing prompts to help grievers on their way. It’s been one of the most heart filling projects I have ever worked on and I have been so grateful for the enthusiastic response towards it.
Q. What does self-care mean to you and what role does it play in your life?
Jo: To me, self-care means taking some time away from our often busy and hectic lives to focus on ourselves and do things that make us feel good. Self-care now plays an incredibly important role in my life. My life is challenging and very overwhelming at times as I adjust to my new world, particularly as a solo parent. I have to prioritise self-care now more than ever so that I can rise to the challenges and overwhelm and not burn out.
Q. How do you like to practice self-care? Are there certain activities/rituals that best work for you?
Jo: I try to keep it really simple. I simply focus on things that make me feel good. Not long into my grief journey I actually created a Feel Good Five that I stick on my fridge and is actually now a section in my book so others can create their own Feel Good Five. I list five things that I enjoy doing and I practice them whenever I can.
So, for instance my Feel Good Five are:
1. Walking – I walk the block every school day after drop-off, though I’d prefer to hike in nature when time permits.
2. I love a good cup of green tea, using the fancy tea leaves and in a nice pot.
3. Reading a really good book, where I switch off my phone and the TV and just relax.
4. Spending time with family and friends.
5. Travel – I try and head away a couple of times a year for a solo holiday which I find so re-energising.
Q. Self-care isn't always easy. What advice do you have for anyone who's struggling to prioritise themselves?
Jo: I am so happy you’ve said self-care isn’t easy, because it can be really hard to find the time. However, what I’m learning is that the responsibility of my own self-care lays with me and so I have to make the time for it. I’m certainly not perfect but I try to set up a schedule of my week every Sunday. So, I schedule in my daily walk and if I have something on in the morning, I schedule it for lunch or on the way to pick my daughter up from school. I also then take a look at my schedule and will actually write in time for reading/friends etc and then it just all falls into place. I also feels it lessens any anxiety I have over a busy week when I know everything I have to do is accounted for. I suffer a lot from guilt but I’m slowly learning that a burnt-out Jo, is not good for me, my relationship with my daughter, my work, my body, my mind. I have learned that if I invest time in myself it’s better for so many aspects of my life.
Q. Do you have a favourite quote, mantra or role model that inspires you to practice self-care?
Jo: Great question! I guess my mantra really is ‘I deserve joy’, we all do. One thing grief has really taught me is that experiencing joy and feeling good is what life is all about. I still have really tough moments with my grief, so when I experience joy and feel good, I grab it with both hands and really go with it.