By Ms. Brittany Nelson (IMCOM)December 20, 2018
Paula Stephens has taken her hardship and grief and used it to help others build resiliency.
Stephens spoke at Fort Sam Houston in Dec. 14 as part of the Resiliency Guest Speaker Program.
Stephens became a Gold Star mother in 2010 when she lost her oldest son who was in the U.S. Army. She spoke about the adversities she deals with due to the loss.
"It would be really easy to say the initial shock or the fresh grief was the hardest but now being eight years out the difficulty comes in knowing I'm losing memories," Stephens said. "I will try and remember a moment or one of his brothers will say something and I will say, 'I don't remember that.'"
Stephens spoke about the resiliency elements of grief to soldiers and civilian professionals. The elements include connection, self-care, letting go, gratitude, and love and compassion.
Stephens stressed the importance in finding a community that you connect with who has been through the same situation you have.
"Leave yourself open to a different community, sometimes deaths are specific like a suicide loss or a combat loss or a car accident. We have to have a community where those people can mirror back your experience because you don't have to explain or justify it," Stephens said.
Stephens has been public speaking for a while throughout her various jobs.
"When my son died my first thought was not I am going to be a public speaker on this. After a while opportunities presented themselves for me to share my story and what I've learned and how I've grown. I have a message that needs to be said so it was a nice meeting of my skills and life experience," Stephens said.
Stephens also has a book, "From Grief to Growth". Stephens said the book came about very organically thanks to the grief classes she was teaching online.
"At the five year anniversary of Brandon's death I held an online class for five weeks and I shared five elements that I had learned in the last five years," Stephens said. "I recorded my weekly talks and after the classes ended I got them transcribed. My friend said wow that's practically a book so I worked with an editor and got it published. I literally spoke the book into existence."
Self-care is one of the elements Stephens stresses because it can build resiliency. She mentions that people sometimes confuse self-care as solely physical.
"The point of self-care is to create resiliency but I don't think that we communicate it that way. We communicate it in ways like if you keep your body physically healthy you won't get high blood pressure," Stephens said.
Stephens currently teaches in the Human Performance & Sport Department at Metro State University in Denver and is a yoga instructor. She also has three other sons and resides in Colorado where she was born and raised.
U.S. Army North pairs with the Fort Sam Houston Vogel Resiliency Center to host the Resiliency Guest Speaker Program.