Mark Negley has a passion to help others navigate through difficult life experiences. This has inspired him to serve as Founder and Executive Director of Survive-Alive-Thrive. In his new book Survive-Alive-Thrive, Negley uses his story and the stories of several others to teach a new model of grief recovery from the perspective of those who have experienced loss themselves. Most importantly, readers will know that they are not alone in their experience or on their journey; they can navigate from loss to hope, and then from hope to happiness. They don't have to settle for survival; they can thrive again.
Q: Mark, thanks for doing this interview with us. Let's start with yourself: tell us a little about your current ministry.
Thank you so much for the opportunity. I founded Survive-Alive-Thrive.Org after going through several loss experiences in my life and finding it difficult to relate to or find comfort in the grief support tools and models that were available. We are a non-profit ministry inspired by those experiences and designed to provide community, insight and navigation tools for those who have experienced loss. What makes us unique is that in addition to providing tools to help users identify where they are in their grief journey, in June of 2021 we begin hosting virtual grief support groups on our website that are targeted across many loss-related themes and topics. Attending our support groups is accessible to anyone who registers and is free of charge. This approach allows us to offer useful advice and tools to help process loss experiences while providing direct connections to others that have been through loss themselves.
Q: You have a new book coming out -- can you briefly tell us what "Survive--Alive--Thrive" is about?
I wrote Survive-Alive-Thrive to help people understand and address loss so they would better understand that they are not alone on their journey. The opening section is a first-hand account of reallife struggles with loss and grief from my personal experiences and with insights shared from hundreds of people I have interviewed on the subject over the past 5 years. Importantly, these insights are real life experiences from those of us who have been through loss rather than from doctors, therapists or other 3rd parties.
The middle section of the book provides navigation tools to help readers identity where they are on the grief journey and with strategies on how to move forward in the healing process. The final section is about finding hope despite the tough events we may have been through in life. Built on my worldview that embraces God as a loving and constant companion, it's my hope that readers will be inspired to pursue and find a path to living a joy-filled life.
Q: Why did you decide to write a book about overcoming grief?
Following the traumatic death of my wife Victoria in 2015, I was heartbroken and devastated. While grieving her loss, I was provided numerous books and various materials by well-intended friends and family to help me on my journey. I found it hard to relate to them and discovered through facilitating grief support groups there was a huge need for a book that that could provide advice and insight on how the grief experience actually works and feels from the perspective of first-hand experiences. Over the next five years and through the process of interviewing hundreds of others who had been through loss, I experienced healing on my journey and wanted to pass that insight to others who a currently struggling with grief.
Q: How can this book help those who are suffering from grief right now?
The most important think that I can communicate is that you are not alone. I know from experience that it can sure feel that way, but Survive-Alive-Thrive will help you see that there are many of us- millions in fact- that are going through similar challenges. One of the most important 1st steps you can take is to better understand where you are on the grief journey and that there is hope for the future. Like the "You Are Here" kiosk sign in a mall, the book provides a map that includes strategies to take one step at a time in the healing process. Knowing where you are where you are attempting to go can the relieve stress and anxiety that can handcuff us emotionally and help you find hope you will get through this with the help and support of others and a God that cares about you.
Q: Does this book help those of us who may not be suffering grief, but we have friends and family members who are? And if so, what help can this book provide?
Yes it does, as supporting others who are dealing with loss is a critical issue! One of the most interesting aspects of my journey has been interacting with others while grieving. I've discovered this is an emotional and compelling topic in the grief support groups I've facilitated and in hundreds of conversations I've had on this topic.
First, let me state that when a friend or family member is grieving we all want to help in their time of need. Comments that can be hurtful are virtually always wellintended but misguided attempts to bring comfort. The fact is that we frequently don't know what to say- but we say something anyway. Survive-Alive-Thrive provides a suggested list of "Do's & Don'ts" when supporting someone you love, and is broken out by each of the 3 stages. What to say (or not say), in the 1st week following loss (the "Survive" stage), is very different than how you would approach the topic when someone is in the "Alive" or "Thrive" stages of the grief journey. For example, the book addresses the common phrase "Let me know if there's anything I can do." (hint- it's a "don't" say.)
Q: What are some practical ways we can offer support to a friend or family member who's walking through grief?
It's important to note that walking through grief is journey that takes time. Further, navigating grief is not a destination end-game. For those of us who have been through loss, that experience will always be an ongoing part of our story. As the 3 stages of Survive-Alive-Thrive describe, how we respond emotionally on day 5 following loss is very different than 6 months or 1 year later. Similarly, how you provide support to a loved one is also different by stage. For example, in the timeframe closest to the loss event, the book describes the act of being "merely present." In other words, making yourself available to sit quietly and listen without providing advice or cliché anecdotes can be invaluable.
Another example is to engage in proactive acts of kindness and support without being asked. Seemingly small tasks such as cleaning the dishes, taking out the garbage, mowing the lawn or dropping off food or flowers can be incredible blessings to someone just trying to get from one day to the next. Later on, these support strategies change and suggestions are provided in the book on a stage by stage basis.
Q: Can you relate a specific example from your own life where you have applied what you have been teaching to your own situation?
Great question! While the model and each stage of the Survive-Alive-Thrive navigation method has been developed from my personal experience and with input from hundreds of others, two lessons stand out to me as particularly relevant to my life journey. The first is that while I have walked through a gauntlet of painful loss experiences I have relied on God and the grace of Jesus Christ. No matter how difficult the experience or broken I feel, I lean on and depend on Him and have never been let down. To be clear, although pain following loss does not magically go away and I do not always get exactly what I want, I am comforted to know He will never let me down in the long run.
Finally, the joy I experience in my life today is largely based on a key strategy shared in the book regarding the "Thrive" stage. Giving back is the process of helping others get through challenges you've been through yourself. As the Rev. Billy Graham wrote in his devotional "Unto the Hills" (Nov 10, 2010); "The sufferer becomes the comforter in the service of the Lord." In my experience, the act of serving as a comforter is a great blessing and has brought me joy despite the loss experiences that are woven into the fabric of my life journey. I encourage others to join us at www.Survive-Alive-Thrive.Org to share your experiences and provide others with comfort; I believe you will be rewarded for doing so as I have.