Welcome to

Bearing the Unbearable

A Wisdom Academy Online Course with Joanne Cacciatore and Karla Helbert

When we love deeply, we mourn deeply. Over ten lessons, grief expert and Zen priest Dr. Joanne Cacciatore and Karla Helbert help us navigate our path through grief, showing us a model that allows us to be with our grief and, over time, transform it into compassionate action in the world.

Preview lesson 1 for free now, and enroll anytime to have ongoing online access to the course!

What You’ll Learn

  • The Selah grief model, which mindfully guides those who are grieving through three phases: being with grief, surrendering to grief, and doing with grief
  • Self-care practices and tools to help you in your grief journey
  • Meditation practices and movement exercises for being with your grief
  • How to identify grief and its effects cognitively, socially, and somatically
  • How to find meaning through doing with your grief: transforming it into compassionate action in the world

About this Course

Dr. Joanne Cacciatore is an acclaimed bereavement counselor and bereaved mother herself. In this course, she reveals how grief can open our hearts to connection, compassion, and the very essence of our shared humanity.

Over the course of these ten lessons we learn what grief is and how we can identify its effects within ourselves. Dr. Cacciatore guides us through the Selah model of grief, which emphasizes not overcoming grief but rather creating space for it in our lives in a threefold way: by being with our grief, surrendering to it, and finally, doing with our grief—or transfiguring it into compassionate action in the world.

Dr. Cacciatore opens a space to process, integrate, and deeply honor our grief, with her lessons augmented by guided meditations and yoga exercises by co-teacher and fellow counselor Karla Helbert. Through this course, you’ll not only learn how to care for yourself in your grief but also how, by staying with the pain, we can make the world a beautiful place for the ones we have loved and lost.



Lesson 1: Understanding Grief

Joanne Cacciatore helps us understand what grief is and how to identify its expression in ourselves—in our emotions, body, behavior, social life, and more. She shares an overview of the Selah model and how it can help us fully inhabit our grief—and bear the unbearable. We are also led in vipassana meditation and movement exercises with coteacher Karla Helbert.


Lesson 2: Being with Grief

In this lesson we are introduced to the first stage in the Selah model: being with grief. We learn the value of cultivating a practice of being self-aware, rather than avoiding our grief, and gain insight into what a restorative coping model looks like—in ourselves and our communities.


Lesson 3: Being with Grief: Self Care

We further delve into being with grief with an exploration of the value of and methods for self care. Dr. Jo teaches us about the effects of stress and techniques for self care that are expressions of compassion for our suffering, while Karla guides us in movement exercises, a loving-kindness meditation, and an altar-making exercise that allow us to more deeply be with our grief—compassionately.


Lesson 4: Surrendering to and Reflecting on Grief

Dr. Jo shares what it means to surrender to and turn toward our grief, even years or decades after the loss of our loved one. She underscores how meditation practice can lead us into our pain, rather than avoiding it, to a place where we are transfigured. Karla leads us in yoga for deep relaxation.


Lesson 5: Surrendering to Grief: Trusting Ourselves

Dr. Jo shares with us how it takes courage to remember and regrieve the loss of our loved ones, especially as life goes back to its mundane routines like paying bills and going to work. She also explores how grieving with intention may help us find our own innate capaciousness. From this, eventually, our lives have the potential to get bigger—not smaller.


Lesson 6: Surrendering to Grief: The Nature of Trauma

Dr. Jo explains the physiological responses of the body to trauma. She notes that when fear associated with that subsides and we open ourselves to working with our emotions, when ready, pain often moves and even transforms. Dr. Jo also leads us in a guided meditation and chanting practices.


Lesson 7: Pausing to Be

In this lesson, we pause to be: to surrender and see the next phase in our journey, yielding to a new life that we never planned and one in which we can consider, when we are ready, devoting to the service of others to honor our loved ones. Dr. Jo shows us the possibilities for our broken hearts to move toward transfiguration, or post-traumatic growth, when we experience our “dark night of the soul.”


Lesson 8: Doing with Grief

Dr. Jo shares with us the next stage in our grief journey: doing with grief, demonstrating how we can make the world a beautiful place for our loved ones who have died and because of them. She recalls the story of rescuing the horse Chemakoh and invites us to see how what our own practice in service of others may look like. In addition, we are lead in yoga movements based on the elements and chanting practices.


Lesson 9: Doing with Grief: The Meaning in Meaninglessness

In this lesson, Dr. Jo shares how grief can turn into compassion; as our hearts break open, our capacity for compassion can expand. She relays how she does with grief by telling the story of the Kindness Project and how ahimsa or non-harming of all beings is the centerpiece of her practice, and also shares how we can be impacted by transgenerational grief. Karla leads us in yoga movements in this lesson and we also hear four testimonials from individuals about how they are doing with their grief in the world.


Lesson 10: Doing with Grief: Creating Your Practice

In this final lesson, Dr. Jo and Karla discuss their own grief practices and encourage us to start our own, in addition to offering us guidance on the next steps in our journey in grief.

About the Teacher

Dr. Joanne Cacciatore is a tenured research professor who studies traumatic grief at Arizona State University and spearheads the graduate Certificate of Trauma and Bereavement. She graduated with her doctorate from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2007. Since 1996, she has worked with and counseled those affected by traumatic death, using nature-based, mindfulness approaches. She started the first therapeutic carefarm in the United States (www.SelahCarefarm.com) based on green-care and has 41 domestic and farm animals there that she rescued from abuse, torture, neglect, and homelessness.

She is the founder of the MISS Foundation, an international nonprofit organization with 75 chapters around the world aiding parents whose children have died or are dying. She also began the Kindness Project in 1997 as a way to help many grieving people honor their beloved children, siblings, grandchildren, and others who have died.

Her research has been published in almost 70 peer reviewed journals such as The Lancet, Death Studies, British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Social Work Education, Journal of Mental Health Counseling, Seminars in Fetal and Neonatal Medicine, International Journal of Nursing, Birth, Social Work, and Families in Society.  Her latest book, Bearing the Unbearable: Love, Loss, and the Heartbreaking Path of Grief, won the Indies Book of the Year Award in self-help for 2017.

Dr. Cacciatore is a medical consultant and trainer who has presented grand rounds and provided individual and agency consulting and training all around the world. She is the recipient of the prestigious Hon Kachina Award, the Sr Teresa Compassionate Care Award, the Empathic Therapist of the Year Award, Arizona Foothills Arizona Women Who Move the Valley Award, and the Parents of Murdered Children Father Ken Czillinger Award.

On a personal note, she is an outspoken ethical vegan (meat/fish free since 1972) who hikes barefoot and is a voracious reader.

Her entire body of work began on July 27 of 1994 when her baby daughter died. Since then, she has committed her life to the service of others suffering traumatic deaths.

She is a mother to five children, now all grown, "four who walk and one who soars.”

Karla Helbert, LPC, C-IAYT, E-RYT, is a licensed professional counselor, internationally certified yoga therapist, yoga teacher, Compassionate Bereavement Care® provider, and an award-winning author. She is also a bereaved mother. Karla found the MISS Foundation after her first-born son died of a brain tumor in 2006. Currently, she is a MISS Foundation support-group facilitator, chapter leader, and member of the Foundation’s Bereaved Parent Advisory Board. She is the yoga consultant for the Selah House Respite Center and Carefarm, as well as creator and co-teacher of the yoga curriculum for the Compassionate Bereavement Care® Yoga Provider (CBC-Y) certification course offered through the MISS Foundation.

Karla’s therapy practice has a focus on loss, grief, and bereavement, working in particular with those affected by trauma and traumatic death. Additionally, she has trained in Integrated Movement Therapy™, a holistic therapy approach using yoga’s philosophical, spiritual, and physical framework to address the needs of a whole person. Karla is also a self-taught artist, reiki practitioner, and aromatherapist and uses these modalities in individual ways with clients as well in her own personal practices to support and address mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional needs. Seeking to remain as aware and present as possible to all of life, she sees grief, her own and that of others, as both a learning and a growth process. She is the author of the award winning books Finding Your Own Way to Grieve: A Creative Activity Workbook for Kids and Teens on the Autism Spectrum, Yoga for Grief & Loss, and The Chakras in Grief & Trauma: A Tantric Guide to Energetic Wholeness. Karla lives and works in Richmond, VA with her husband and their daughter.