Surviving the Traumatic Journey of Caring For and Losing a Chronically Ill Child
Play • 28 min

Dannelle speaks with Shirley Riga about surviving a traumatic journey caring for a child with chronic illness. You’ll learn about some of the helpful strategies and tools she learned to manage fear and anxiety while dealing with uncertainty and loss.  

“I've learned a lot. That's why I call my daughter my teacher. I didn't know I was in a classroom. I had no idea, but what I have learned about myself continues to grow.” - Shirley Riga 


  • 02:37 Shirley’s 3 core values and how they relate to her life and caregiving experience 
  • 03:25 How Shirley’s core values have changed over time 
  • 06:01 Shirley’s experience when she first learned of her daughter’s diagnosis 
  • 10:34 Shirley’s coping tools for grief 
  • 12:57 Square breathing and other techniques Shirley learned in therapy 
  • 15:51 Scripts Shirley used for discussing how she and her daughter were doing with acquaintances 
  • 19:31 More tools that helped Shirley 
  • 23:23 Reparenting ourselves to better support ourselves 
  • 25:48 What Shirley is passionate about outside of caregiving 

Actionable Tips

1) We all deserve love. Even if we don't feel that we're receiving it from an external force, we can give it to ourselves. Consider writing yourself a letter to create a reminder about how much you love yourself, and then read it out loud.   

2) When life and death is at stake, it's no wonder we worry about what's going to happen. When we stay grounded in the present, we're more open to see what's possible in the moment. Try touching your nose and saying, “I am right here” or have sticky notes around your space that say, “I am in the present”. 

3) Plan and enforce boundaries to create emotional safety and protect our hearts and mental wellbeing. We're our own best advocates to determine what that looks like. 

4) When we're caught up in a stressful moment, consider some of the coping strategies Shirley mentions including square breathing, passing a coin from hand to hand, or self-massage

About Shirley Riga

Shirley Riga is the author of two books focused on surviving and thriving as a caregiver while living with daughter’s chronic illness. An advocate for self-care and a teacher of meditation, Riga is a Certified Psychosynthesis Counselor, a Spiritual Director and a Psychic Medium.  Riga came to this work after a lifetime of intense challenges –alcoholic family home, childhood abuse, toxic relationships, chronic illness, and the death of her spouse and her daughter. She struggled with poor self-esteem, immobilizing fear, and lack of a belief in a Higher Power.  She learned to turn around challenges into lessons and tools, rebuilding herself while witnessing the firsthand positive changes rippling down to her children. Riga works with clients and groups as a coach, motivational teacher and trance healer sharing the process of finding empowerment through adversity. 

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