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  • Writer's pictureCait Donovan

Jess Brennan: Grief, Burnout, and COVID. That Time When We Were All Soul-Weary Simultaneously

Updated: Sep 28, 2022


“Grief is inevitable,” says Jess Brennan, founder of Held Massage Therapy. “Every single one of us will lose something precious.” Jess explains that grief doesn’t just occur after a death; instead, the grieving process can occur any time our expectations for the future are unexpectedly taken from us. From losing a loved one to getting a divorce to having a long-awaited graduation cancelled due to COVID, there are countless times in our lives when our visions for what “should be” are ripped away without warning.

That’s where Jess comes in. Not only has she been a birth doula for 15 years, but she is also an end-of-life doula and a spiritual mentor for times of loss and transition. She founded Held Massage Therapy after undergoing a period of intense change in her own life and hopes to provide others with the level of care she yearned for throughout that tumultuous time.

Tune into the season finale of FRIED. The Burnout Podcast for a powerful and emotional discussion with Jess Brennan about grief, burnout and COVID. Learn about the differences between grief readiness and loss literacy, the critical role that doulas play both at birth and in death, and how best to support yourself and others through the grieving process. You won’t want to miss this intimate conversation between two friends about the collective grief we have been experiencing as a people post-COVID and how to begin the healing journey.


  • My experience of both grief and burnout, having known both of them, is that it’s an introduction back into futility and powerlessness and humility, and it’s wild and painful and, as Westerners, those things are kryptonite for us. We’re not ready for them, we don’t like them, we want to escape and numb out at all costs from those things, but no matter how hard we try to rage against the truth of what is, it’s immovable.” (3:56-4:31)

  • “She listened as I talked, and she just said, ‘Yup, yup, yup.’ She literally held me and let it be exactly as it was and communicated in so many ways that I was loved and that she trusted me with myself.” (9:49-10:02)

  • “We’re very low on grief readiness and loss literacy, which I think of as two different things. Grief readiness is for ourselves, and loss literacy is how well are we prepared, how skillful can we be, to support the people around us going through a loss.” (22:15-22:30)

  • “The biggest lie that we tell ourselves in grief is that all I have to do is get myself back. All I have to do is get back to who I was before.” (22:45-22:55)

  • Many of the remedies are annoyingly obvious and simple. And so we don’t want to do them because it’s like no, I want a sophisticated answer, I want a complicated thing….Tend to the mammal, tend the human mammal. Give your animal body what it needs.” (28:46-29:19)

  • Grief is not a pathology. It’s a natural human response to losing something we love, and we live in a world where nothing is permanent, so it’s inevitable….Every single one of us will lose something precious.” (33:52-34:15)

  • It’s a similar skillset to grieve fully as to be with one who is grieving. The difference is that when you’re grieving, there’s the vulnerability and the freefall. You have to be willing to just free fall. When you’re with somebody, companioning a grieving person, the groundedness is essential. Being safe enough so that that person can fall in your presence and can say everything that they need to say without fear of judgement, without feeling like they’re going to be corrected.” (51:42-52:12)




If you know that it’s time to actually DO something about the burnout cycle you’ve been in for too long - book your free consult today:


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