Love Gladiator Podcast Episode 6: Addison Brasil – Letting The Loss Live – Honoring The Grief Inside Us

Addison Brasil lost his father to suicide and his brother to cancer, then was in a car accident that killed a dear friend and left him learning to walk again. He was on the verge of taking his own life – until he found a way to let his losses live and honor each moment.

“Honoring The Grief Inside Us” with Addison Brasil, author and co-founder of tethr interviewed by David Vox.


Writing letters to his future son and imagining himself becoming a great father gave Addison the hope he needed to push forward. Since then, he has written a book and co-founded Tethr, a peer-to-peer support community app for men that has helped thousands connect to care for their emotional wellbeing and honor their losses.
In this episode, learn more about:

The ONE important question to ask someone who’s grieving, depressed, or hurt. We shouldn’t pretend or expect to know what is good for someone, or what they need, so honoring their state of grief can require different needs of support at different stages.

The importance of turning our “why” into “who” when seeking answers during grief. Don’t ask yourself “why” someone did something that hurt you – instead, try to imagine “who” the person truly was at that time.

How writing letters to his future son saved Addison from ending his life. He turned his unborn child into a lighthouse for his healing process. 

Why it’s important to let the loss live and honor each moment – this includes the (sometimes unbearable) silence that eventually visits. 

What Addison says or shares with someone who is grieving. “Condolences” are often not enough – it’s vital to create a safe, sacred space where those grieving can receive the support they need. The silence will come, and that ‘space’ will become a sanctuary. 
Copy of Copy of Copy of Website  (Instagram Post) copy.png
Why Addison is our Love Gladiator:
“Having been in moments of deep despair myself, I feel privileged to welcome Addison Brasil to this episode of the Love Gladiator. 
To transform so much suffering into service for others takes a big, open, courageous heart – and Addison is grace reincarnated. His gentle words have such profound meaning as they come from his lived and embodied experiences.
We truly believe his work in this world will revolutionize the mental health industry, as it has already provided support for over 10,000 men. Addison is such a unique human being whose wise sensitivity guides us to the depth of our own human experience.
I hope you’ll enjoy this episode as much as I did.”
-Lots of Love from David & the Love Gladiator team


Addison’s Instagram

What Addison shares when someone is grieving:

“After the casseroles and condolences fade away, there is a quietness that will be waiting for you. A quietness that will never be truly soothing, but so necessary. It is the sound equivalent of what’s been lost. At first, it’s hard to sit in that silence for longer than a few seconds. You will want to turn the TV on, pick up your phone, call somebody, or literally run away. Trust that silence, though. Sit in it a little longer each time and honor everything you feel in your mind and body. Let the loss live, honor the journey, and if it gets too hard, I know that I’ll still be here when the silence comes. Sending you love.”


David Vox: Addison Brasil, welcome to the Love Gladiator podcast. It’s such an honor to have you here.
Addison Brasil: Thank you so much for having me. I’ve been looking forward to this one.
David Vox: Same here. And I cannot wait to hear more of your story because I know you’re writing a book. And I know that we have many similar chapters in these journeys that we have had so far. So, I would love to hear, why did you start writing a book? What motivated you to go into this process?
Addison Brasil: Yeah, and I’ll start by saying that I never thought that I would be writing a book. I never had any intention to end up in the mental health space or in the grief space, but as we know, life doesn’t always work out exactly as we think or hope or plan for and I’ve spent the last decade really honoring that. And part of that journey has been losing my brother to a brain tumor, finding my father after his suicide. And then on the cusp of kind of getting things together and finding my way in the world, I went out to celebrate with a friend and was in a really bad accident on the way home which left her dead on the scene and me, relearning to walk and navigating a brain injury and really just trying to make sense of everything again.
So, where the book comes in is… The working title right now is Just to the Left of Death and really what it is is an exploration of what it’s like in these formative years of being in my 20s when you’re already sort of trying to figure out who you are to begin with. A really honest and radical guide of a grief journey and as much of my story that can serve the reader, but also things that I’ve learned along the way that I’d like to pass on as sort of a fellow traveler, if you will.
David Vox: So, so beautiful. And right now in your life, what are you doing? What are you working with?
Addison Brasil: So, I’m what I self-call a very intentional multihyphenate. After years of people telling me, “You need to pick one thing. You need to focus. You need blah, blah, blah.” Need isn’t in my vocabulary anymore, but it’s still in many others. I really do a lot of things. And one of my main jobs right now is I’ve co-founded and built Tethr, which is a men’s mental health and well-being brand, and it’s reached 10,000 men worldwide over Covid, and has gotten a lot of coverage. And really worked to provide, not just awareness for men’s and men’s mental health and the suicide rate that particularly affects men, but also to give them tools to move beyond that awareness and give them actual tools. So, that’s something I was very passionate about, obviously, in memory of my own father, but as I’m sure we’ll talk about later, I myself got to a spot where I found myself in a suicidal depression. So yeah, that’s my main focus right now is working on Tethr.
And then if you can have a second main focus, which I believe you can, because we make the rules, it’s writing the book. And there’s a bunch of fun other stuff. Real estate is my fantasy football, so I have a license in California and sometimes, I dabble there. And I’m always trying to be a part of some sort of creative process, whether it’s screenwriting or producing or for instance, I was Executive Producer on a short film that’s circulating right now. A mental health film called The Great Artist at the festival circuit. So yeah, if you look at my Instagram, you’ll see I kind of like, I’m on a red carpet, but then I’m at a retreat, and then I’m writing and hiding. So that’s, I’m very intentionally a multihyphenate because that’s how my brain works. And that’s how I can use my brain and what I’ve been given to serve other people, when I honor that.
David Vox: In regards to service, you’re creating a story that will serve so many around the globe, and you tapped into suicide and this month is mental health month for men, and over 70% of all suicides are actually men.
Right now, there is mental health month for men and there is truly a deadly epidemic for men that has been going on for so many decades, which is suicide. The suicide rate for men in most countries is over 70% of all suicides. Why do you think that is?
Addison Brasil:
I think there’s a lot of factors there, but I think the one that sort of is the elephant in the room is that for a long time, it just wasn’t considered masculine for men to have an emotional vocabulary and to express how they were feeling and to ask for help when they need it. It’s very built into our programming, even if like in my case, you had the most liberal loving parents who wanted you to do all of that. We still somehow learn that. I still somehow picked up that it was my job to be the protector, be [inaudible] to mask emotions with overachieving whatever it was, whether it’s machoism or whatever. It seems to be something that’s readily available for us to learn and much harder for us to unlearn. So, I think that’s a very, very big part of it.
David Vox: And where do you see the importance? You have thousands of men that are coming together in your app to support each other, to have brothers that are supporting through the many transitions of life. How do you see that affect them and their mental health?Addison Brasil: It’s really been honestly incredible to witness over the last two years, the way these men come together and one thing that their research showed us moving into Tethr was that men specifically, and I’m obviously very passionate about this problem, as a son who lost his father to suicide, there’s that part of me that’s always trying to make sense of what happened and how it could have been prevented. And as we’ve taken the mental health journey 10 years later, it’s a much different world now for men. But one thing that the research really pointed to is that men respond to model the behavior by other men, especially men that they trust. So, we really set out to build a culture and a community where we weren’t telling men what they needed to do. We weren’t telling them that it was okay that they didn’t feel good.
It wasn’t so much about awareness, but allowing a space where tools could be shared and built, where they could experientially learn by seeing other men in the space, progress from them. And we really saw that in our emotional fitness pods, which is our emotional group fitness programming that we ran through Tethr. And the cool part about my job is all of this, in building the brand, every facet of the brand is sort of being in the lab. And it’s an exploration of what will really work for men. What’s the tool that’s really, we’ve never been caught up on one thing needing to work. If it’s an app, great, the app goes. If it’s a different part of the brand that really connects with men, like the programming or speaking or interactive events, whatever it is.
What is the tool that will truly bring down, which I think that suicide rate number is much closer to 80% in most countries now. At least the last update that I got, I think is 78%. And that’s to work that out for people who are listening, sometimes these numbers that can kind of just sound like a number, but that’s one person every 40 seconds. So, just in the time that I’ve been answering this question, that’s probably around four people, and three of which would be men. So that, it just really puts it into perspective for you when you think about it that way. And I kind of have this purpose and rage that blends together that when I think too much about these things at night, it turns into me needing and wanting to build something that can exist, so yeah.
David Vox: It touches me so deeply, because I’ve also been on the edge for most of my life when it comes to suicide. And my healing journey had sort of a strange turn because I think as a child being suicidal, it almost felt safe and good to know that you’re not scared of death. You’re almost waiting for it, because it’s so painful. And now, on the other side, I’m starting to fear death because now I don’t want to die because life is amazing. And it’s unbelievable that in just a matter of a year, so many things can turn around. And today, I was working with Patti, which we both worked with for our books. She’s sort of the doula, the writer, the strategist for transformational teachers that are birthing very big stories that are of service in this world.
Addison Brasil: Yes. The lady behind the men.
David Vox: Yes, truly. And she pulled something I’d written that was in the beginning of the book, where I said, “This is for all of you who thought about letting go of everything.” And every single time I think about it, it just really hits me because so many are on the edge or do not know how to move forward. And I’m wondering how you transform that for you? Where were you when you met the edge?
Addison Brasil: Yeah, absolutely. So after, as I mentioned in the beginning, when I was in that accident, that brought on a new thing for me, which was chronic physical pain. I was in pain to, like, I would say 95% of my body was in pain 95% of the time, and it created sort of the way I was explained it, it was like if you’re in a peaceful place and a fire alarm started going off, then the fire alarm never went off again. And it’s just going and going and going and that’s sort of what the pain in my body felt. Not to mention, I was now grieving, not only these three really complex and comparative losses in three different ways, in a compounded way, but also I was grieving just what I thought my life would be.
And I had really, after losing a brother to cancer and finding my father after suicide, I thought maybe I had sort of done my part. That I was just going to coast and maybe things would be a lot simpler, if I just sort of manned up and got through those things and decided to continue. And it turns out that what happened with the accident became my greatest opportunity to learn and dip into my humanity. But because of the compounding of the physical pain and the emotional pain, I did get to a place where I was assessing quality of life.
And I felt like, I always say to Patti, I was in game seven of a championship series and I was down. And I had to start telling people like, “Oh, no, I know I’m the comeback kid, but I don’t think I’m going to make it this time.” And what that involved me doing, I’ve always from the day I was born, I was a co-parent. I always sort of had a hand in my own parenting. We all worked together in my family. And I never really had given up control until that moment, where I actually went back to my mother’s house out on the ocean and in Canada, and handed her the keys to my life and said, “I think this is as far as I can take this. I’m going to finally let you be my mother. I’m not co-parenting. You babysit me. I cannot do this to our family. Please, please help me.” And-
David Vox: So, you surrendered?
Addison Brasil: Surrendered, exactly. And that’s… One of the S’s that I play with in my book is that, surrendering. There’s a lot of other S’s and maybe another S word that comes before, before you get to that surrendering. It’s just very scary, because I used to always have this question in my head like, “What happens to the third Brasil boy?” Meaning, my brother and my father, and then I’m this third boy in this Brasil family. And what happens? And I learned that summer, in that suicidal depression that he dies, too. Everything I knew and believed in the operating system, he had to die. There was no way I could carry forward what I thought life should be with what life now was. There was just no way. And I literally kind of had to let every part of my defense mechanism die.
And I was very frightened that I would actually physically possibly end my life. And that’s why I had a team of doctors and coaches and… My wealth in life is just my community that I cultivated. The fact that I could go to a community and this is before Tethr and say, “I’m really in trouble here.” And nobody even blinked, nobody. There was no stigma in my community. There was no… It’s like, “Okay, how can I be helpful?” Even if that’s not being involved. “What is my version of helpful?” So, I was really lucky and I’m very fortunate.
I’ve actually really started to realize, as I tell this story more and more in the last two years and just as I get to meet so many people around the world, I am sort of, I got this royal luck. I have a mother that knew how to unconditionally love, and I’ve only learned recently how rare that can be. And that was a really big part of me getting to be here, just being able to tell one person the truth and to surrender my own control over the situation. And it did get to a point where I really wasn’t sure. And even I felt stigmatized about calling a suicide helpline. And so, I did, eventually.
And this is sort of where, right now, my book lightly starts is, I did call them. And when I got off the phone, I couldn’t stand up, but I just sort of gripped the end of my mom’s bed. And I hadn’t talked to God since my father had died, although I always used to, or the universe, or whatever it was for me. And I just looked up and I said, “If you get me through this, if you get me to the other side, I promise you, I will go back for the others. I know what it is to be here. I know how this feels. Please, I’m the guy. If you get me through, I promise on the other side, I’ll go back.”
And I’ve been really lucky. I’m 100% pain free. So many different healing forces came in from that moment forward when I fully surrendered and also brought spirituality back into my life, the fact that I surrendered to something greater than myself. Because I was very sort of like a parent, very mad at whoever maybe created this for me for a long time. And when I surrendered back to that state and allowed sort of that rebirth, for lack of better words to happen, I’m now completely pain free. I didn’t do any of the surgeries they wanted me to do. They wanted me to cut out ribs and fuse hips, and I didn’t do any of it.
And now, I’m so grateful I just got to be in the health that I am, which is definitely my wealth. You can’t buy this health. You can’t buy this time that we have, and it doesn’t feel like I owe anything back, but fulfilling that promise that I made that day has become my meaning and my purpose. It’s just in the healthiest way because I’ve started charities before. I was trying to give back, or survivor’s guilt. I’ve done all that. I’ve learned from that. And now I’m really in a place where I can [inaudible] fully for myself, and that means I can show up fully [inaudible] very healthy, beautiful way where I get to kind of be part of this global healing conversation, so exciting stuff [inaudible].
David Vox: It is. And in regards to grief because there is this quote that says, “How brave are you to love as an immortal, because all have love transitions in one way or another.” And for me, grief has been very interesting because for me, it feels like a tsunami, because you can’t possibly comprehend what happens when it comes and just shatters everything. And you’re upside down and you don’t know, “Where am I?” Everything has to be reorganized. And then comes wave after wave afterwards with emotions and despair and loneliness and it’s a world where there’s less or more, but you feel alone. And it’s just all of these millions, million goodbyes. It’s like bubbles to the surface all the time in every moment.
And for me, grief has been a bottomless teacher, because it also goes to the depth of the human experience and how deeply we love, as deeply we also grieve. And I feel like grief as the teacher has also scared me quite a bit in regards to how deeply I dare to love again. So, every time I meet someone that goes through this healing process and I see that they’re feeling and deeper and deeper, claiming more and more of their heart again, expanding it, I just get mesmerized by their courage.
Addison Brasil: That’s the real stuff right there. And that’s where I’m at in my journey as well as really working on being able to do that in a full, full way. I really aspire and I’m inspired by anyone who can lose in the way that I haven’t and open back up. That’s what it’s all about. And yet, mostly the scariest thing and I love what you said about it being a teacher. And also grief, I define grief and I encourage it, and in the book, I’m not going to tell people what grief is. I want to encourage them like I have with masculinity in the men’s mental health space, just to find their own definition, the definition that works for them.
And what works for me is grief is the loss of anything that’s meaningful, because a lot of people get caught up in it having to be a physical death. But we’ve seen in Covid, we’ve seen everybody grieve the way they thought things were really meaningful, life transitions have occurred. And people haven’t known to put the word grief around it. And that’s where I kind of step in and go, “Okay, well, don’t hold the definition of grief just to what I’ve been through and physical deaths.” It is the loss of anything meaningful. And if you acknowledge that and start to allow yourself to call it grief rather than even disappointment, or getting caught in one of the stages of grief like Kübler-Ross, those stages even, but not in an overall way allow yourself to realize that you’re grieving.
And grief can be this big thing like the three big grief experiences of my life. But also, when I was a perfectionist, I was grieving by 10:00 AM every day because I had an idea of what would happen in a meaningful way, every morning. And by 10:00 AM when traffic hit and I missed a meeting or I didn’t get a role on a TV show, I was just grieving all the time, because I was trying to call the shots, right? And so, it is this like really crazy sort of surrender that no one wants to sign up for. But in a world that feels very divided and exclusive and we’re searching for equity and inclusion, the one thing that’s inclusive to all of us, to all living beings is that we will all die and we will all grieve the death of something or the loss of something meaningful. And so, I think there can be a lot more community than there historically has been around grief. I think we can open it up.
David Vox: And we can see it also maybe in different dimensions because if you want to know how deep someone has been loved, you can just listen to them grieving. I had this really strange situation where my cousin found this amazing woman and they became parents together and I hadn’t met her because I was in Spain. And then suddenly, she was killed in an accident and I went to her funeral and I never met her. I got to know her in the funeral, and I got to see how deeply she was loved through all of the grieving that was there and how deeply she was honored. It’s quite an immense teacher. It’s almost like a speed course in surrender, as you’re saying. And also, I think for many in spirituality, because it taps way beyond the unknown, of what we think we’re capable of feeling and also, our own resilience that we have to actually face.
Addison Brasil: Yeah, absolutely. And I love that idea of really getting to almost meet someone after they’re gone. To meet through the experiences and the imprint they left on other people, I think that’s so beautiful to even think about and it would make anyone wonder, how would you get to know me if it was through, how other people talked about me or what you could find?
David Vox: It was one of my biggest teachers in my life. It was my uncle, who they would probably say that he was mentally challenged, but he was like a forever child. And when he died, I remember sitting there in my teenager years thinking, “Why is this church so full of people?” It doesn’t make any sense. He didn’t really accomplish anything else. He had a bike that looked like a circus and he loved fishing. But what everyone was saying was that he was the guy who gave them the biggest hugs, he was the hugger. And from that moment, I aspire to be him that one day in my funeral. Even though I won’t be there, people will come and they will say that I was a great hugger. That I will have made an impact just with my heart. And I see, again, grief, what a great teacher, because only through those transitions can you sometimes see straight into the bone marrow of life itself.
Addison Brasil: Yeah, wow. Yeah, that’s beautiful. And I share that with you. My brother was like that. And I love that you said, “I’m going to keep that with me, a forever child.” Because, in essence, we didn’t know but my brother is a forever child. He never, he didn’t go past 18, so there’s something really beautiful about that and there was some sort of wisdom with my brother. We’re the same thing where he had all these friends from age 2 to 72 and he just got it. And I was worried about studying and getting into a good school and all this future, future stuff. And he was just so aware that making someone laugh right now, stopping and connecting with someone, hugging somebody like this is what’s truly important. This is the imprint.
And it’s hard. It’s hard to keep your parents happy and be like, “I’m thinking about the future, but also the present, it’s confusing.” And I think parents, with all the information we get about grief and the understanding on the importance of life, it’s a hard job now for parents to really find the balance of helping children to start honoring their journey, as I say. There’s nothing to fix when it comes to mental health, when it comes to grief, when it comes to loss. There’s nothing to fix. There’s just a lot to honor. And if we can start that process as early as possible, when a child is growing and forming, that we’re not fixing you, we’re honoring you. We’re honoring what you’re feeling, or trying to find a way forward where you can feel like you can thrive around this rather than just survive it or fall victim to it, I think there’s something really beautiful.
And as I’ve gone deeper and deeper talking about death. I’ve gone deeper and deeper in talking about what happens from the time we’re born and, and what we learn as children about life because we’re sort of learning how to live, right? And so it’s very interesting. And I have this beautiful existence right now where I’m just talking like this with so many people. And you just really learn how specific and different every grief processes, every loss is, but also every birth and every learning. It’s just so, so different. And so, to try to come out and say that there’s one way to grieve or one way to deal with mental health or one way, I knew that, that, that was not going to work and that was not going to be my gift back to the world.
I think it’s in acknowledging that uniqueness of each loss and that it’s going to be a teacher for everybody and encouraging them to build their own toolkit. What does your hammer look like? How do you get a nail in? You might use something different than me, but it’s the same if it works in the end, that’s what matters. It’s not, “I’m not going to put on to what grieving looks because I’ve been through these grief processes that people seem to want to look into.”
But one of the things actually as we’re talking about being a child and being brought up, one of the things when I was in that suicidal moment, one of the only activities that brought me passion, and I know Patti shared this with you, was I started writing letters to my unborn son and they were called, “Before I Was Your Dad.” And I had no intention of ever publishing them. I don’t know if I ever will, but I just, because it was small and manageable and the one thing I always wanted to be was a father. And I realized with that suicidal depression, that there was a very big chance that I wasn’t going to get to do that. And so, I’m really grateful that I still get to do that, so I might get teary-eyed. But I started writing these letters.
And part of it, too, was my biggest wish was my dad. I was born and my dad was my dad. That was his job to me and anytime he wasn’t the best dad, he had failed. And then later, after he was gone, I realized he was a human being that had his own [inaudible], his own parenting challenges, and all that stuff. So, I really loved this idea of sort of, before I ever had a child to build these letters for them, this idea that before I was your dad, it was a fully feeling human being. And now, they’ll have Google. If you Google it and look at some of these podcasts from before you were born, I really went through it and I really made sure I was healthy before I brought you into the world. But, I’ll always be learning and I’ll always be flawed and I’ll always be fully feeling.
And that, I wanted that to be the major gift of one day, my kids knowing I was human. And as much as I was their dad and I wanted to do anything for them, that I was also a human being, because I sort of missed that lesson. I really missed that. My mom was my mom and my dad is my dad, and when they didn’t fulfill my expectations, I lovingly, and in a child way, was very disappointed. You had me. I’m here. Why aren’t you doing anything? Blame. And I say that, there’s a very high bar because I was brought up in so much love, but I had no concept of this, what’s a real human being and obviously, my dad ended up passing of suicide. And so obviously, there was so much there that I’ll never really fully understand, but in my work, and in my exploration of my own mental health and grief process, I go, “Wow, wow. This was a fully dimensional human being.” I know I would want my kids to get that as soon as possible.
David Vox: I am so wondering, what did you write to your future son when you were in those darkest moments?
Addison Brasil: I think it was very therapeutic in the sense that something would come up for me  that I was trying to process, and I’m heavily coached. I had the mindset stuff all in place, so I really wasn’t in a good place about it. And I’m very, I’m very observant about when I sort of dip back into more of a victim mindset or a survivor mindset. And I want to thrive and be as interdependent as possible, so I was very aware of that. And I was reconciling these traumas and these conflicts because of the deaths, yes, but there’s a lot of how everyone reacted around those. And a lot of, in my formative years, where I needed support, having to allow and accept others of their experience, that did hurt me. It did hurt me. Or having to come into contact with people who didn’t have the love that I had growing up and just having to understand that.
So, what I thought about was, who is the one person I can explain all of this to, where I don’t dip into what’s unhealthy for me, and I don’t dip into victimhood. And there was no way I’m going to look into what I would assume would also be the green eyes of my child and not explain this in a delicate and beautiful way. And in a way that even the conflict I had with my own father and what happened, that’s their grandfather. So, how are we going to explain this with love and clarity?
And when you do that through that lens, it’s part of the healing of why I still got to be here, because those letters were written to a point where it might have been my suicide, but was not obviously as I get to have this conversation today. It was very therapeutic to go, okay, if I’m going to sit down and look, what’s my child in my eyes? And explain to them what happened with their uncle, what happened with their father, what happened to me. And when you’re explaining something like that to a child that you really want to thrive when you’re trying to like when you think of it like that, it was just, this really beautiful thing to go, “Oh, well, that’s kind of victim me. I can’t go down that name-calling route, because that’s not how I would explain this to my child.”
And to try to explain that when I did, just things like that, the humanity around it, and it gifted a lot back to myself trying to explain this in a way that I thought, with integrity and grace, my child could adjust and sort of that would be their inheritance. Of course, I’d love to leave all the money for all their dreams, but the true inheritance, my inheritance from my father was a mental health education, and to prioritize it, and to make sure that I got to be here for my children. And I think my children’s inheritance will be the next level of that. And if we keep going that way, I don’t think we’ll see the men’s mental health epidemic we were talking about earlier, so predominantly for men. But I think that there’s a lot of, around parenting specifically, that shifts with that conversation in fatherhood for me.
David Vox: In regards to parenting and everyone who has ever lost anyone, especially to suicide, there is this one question that I know everyone asked themselves that takes them into the deepest, darkest place of humanity. Did you ask yourself why?
Addison Brasil: Yes. And what I will say to that and anyone who’s [inaudible] really resonate is I asked why from every part of my being, and all of the parts of my feeling. I wanted to logically understand why, I wanted to medically understand why, I wanted to as a son, who I obviously was left in a position to find my father. I don’t think that’s all intentional, but there were so many micro whys within that macro why. And I did, and like I’m saying, when I switch for this is for a parental experience like I had. But when I switch to the who, it got a lot easier, and it makes a lot more sense a lot quicker.
David Vox: I know that.
Addison Brasil: When you get off the why and you go to the who, who was this person? How much love did they want to give? What did they expect? My father never, ever, ever, ever sat in his life and thought that that is how his life would end and that I would be such a traumatic part of it. I know that. I know that and we visioned, we manifested, we talked about what we thought. That was not in there, so the why I think in suicide, the why is something that we cling to as survivors, but now having been on both sides of suicide, meaning that I found myself almost attempting suicide myself, and then also losing. And my dad is just one of a few people that in my circle that I’ve lost from suicide personally, but from being on both sides of suicide, you realize that there isn’t really a why.
There is sort of just a closing, a lens of how can I make this suffering end? And that is sort of where I got to mentally. And there wasn’t this bigger why that I assumed there would be when I had my own personal experience. And so in a very, very weird way, me, almost me attempting suicide and almost attempting suicide was the closest I’ve ever felt to my father after he passed. Because I came out, because I luckily and gratefully got to come out of it because I put myself in the care of other people and took all the precautions that my mental health education allowed. I got to come out of the other side and I really realized in that fog how everything sort of goes away. I was like, “Why didn’t he think of me? Why didn’t he?”
And I talk to a lot of men. I’m the head of a community of 10,000 men worldwide for mental health. And there’s actually, online, there’s videos where I’m moderating and interviewing and I’m asking these men who have attempted suicide, what stopped them. And they say to me on the live recording, “I thought of my son.” And so, you can imagine trying to interview and stay composed when someone says that, because, and I’ve written an article about this as well, it’s like, “Well, why didn’t my dad think of me? Or did he, and it wasn’t enough?”
And that, that is all part of the honoring of the journey, that is all part of the processing. There’s no skipping those thoughts. There’s no skipping working through them. But on the other side of doing that, in a healthy way, I realized that that wasn’t what I needed to focus on. And that was very much for my own ego versus the who, the position of where this person was in their life and how they could ever get to a point where they thought there was more value, especially for their children to not be here, so yeah…
David Vox: I think also… I love what you’re saying with turning the why into how, because I had a very abusive background and I went out into the world looking for the answer to the why. How can someone abuse a child? How can someone do horrific things to a child? And I ended up speaking to a survivor of the Holocaust, who had a PhD in suffering, compared to me. And I asked her, “Why do you think they did this? Why do you think that they could do something so horrific?” And she looked at me in the eyes and she said, “Child, that question will drive you mad. I don’t ask myself such a question.”
But I kept asking myself that until I was on the brink of my own suicide in my late 20s and I had failed several businesses, the relationship with my ex, I exploded that one. And I was standing at the mirror, I’m like, “I can’t do this anymore.” I have so much shame and so much guilt and so much suffering. I felt completely out of place in the world, that I will never be able to fix it. Not knowing that you, a few years later that I’ll have a million-dollar investment and travel the world and enjoy so much. I couldn’t see the light in the tunnel at all.
And it wasn’t before I sat down in the shower and starting the things you do when you’re preparing yourself to do something very horrific that my parrot at that time opened the door to the bathroom and came in to my lap, and was sitting there in the water and in the blood, crying, looking at me. And I remember looking into his eyes, seeing those innocent eyes, just crying, remembering my own innocence in all of this, which I think so many of us have forgotten completely. Because we’re so diluted with everything that has been thrown through our lineage, through all the hows, through all the whos, that we forget that in the core of who we are, we are completely innocent.
And that became like the turnaround for my journey. I just had to start working but it was so hard for me because I didn’t want to ask for help. I didn’t want to show anyone I was suffering. I didn’t want to say it to anyone. I was too proud, not proud, but you have that type of resilience that is not so positive on the outside. I was too armored up and I had to really go in and do deep work to be able to get to the other side. When it came to your work with yourself, how did you bring yourself back to this version of Addison now that is dancing around in the world and doing so many incredible projects?
Addison Brasil: I think, like we said, letting the Brasil boy that died that day, the third one, me before the rebirth, I think even that very idea of what I did after the accident, I wanted a comeback. I wanted to prove I could come back, and a comeback really wasn’t possible in the end for me. However, a come through with everything that I had been through, a thoughtful come through, I realized was possible. And when I let go of that perfectionist idea of this comeback.
And obviously, I moved to LA, I screen write, I’m in that whole world. You naturally see that my life felt like a movie and you’re like, you think, “When’s the moment where I come back or I don’t. The tragic bottom of that, too. How does this go?” And that’s the way my brain kind of works. And I really had to let go of that and realize that it is just a daily honoring of the journey and it’s literally every day for me. It’s every single day. I have to check back in. I have to renew my relationship with each of the losses.
I get to do these things. I get to because I almost didn’t get to do it. I don’t even want to say I have to. But I get to do them. And I think that that was the biggest piece that allowed me, but what I always want to say is that my wealth, which is something anybody can build, is my community. And that’s why I became very passionate about helping other men build a community.
When we started Tethr, my co-founder, he really wanted to build a community of men who never had and a community for men that he never had. I was wildly interested because when I looked back at the last 10 years, the glue, the reason I was here, and it wasn’t the first time I dipped very low that was concerning, at that point when it was very extreme, but there were other points. That I always had someone I could tell the truth to. I always had a space, safe space to go to, to process. I was never judged. And I had to look back and go, “What’s my IP?” And it’s this ability to cultivate these deep, meaningful trusting relationships that last 20 years.
If I could gift that to everyone, if I can find a way to build a safe space where that’s easier to do, because I know it was easier for me because I got a lot of the love that maybe people didn’t get as a child and in my development. I know that that’s my privilege, that’s my wealth. And so, how do I share that? And how, more importantly, do I create tools or opportunities for people to build that wealth themselves? And that’s the way I always kind of look at it.
When I was younger, before I met my coach… Her name is Jenifer Merrifield, and it’s really magical. There was one time before I talked to the person above, and I threw my hands up. I was being called back to Canada to deal with very intricate things. I basically inherited my father’s divorce and my father was married to someone that really didn’t help our relationship evolve. It really separated us a lot. And again, that has a lot to do with their upbringing and the love that they needed that they didn’t get. And that’s one thing. That was the biggest change.
I met this beautiful stranger on a plane the next morning. I said, “I need help. I need help. I’m not flying there without help.” And when I got on the plane the next day, I turned to my right and I started talking to this beautiful woman. And I said, “Well, what do you do?” And she said, “Well, actually I just coming back from a client. I’m a transformational life coach.” And I went, “No fucking way.” And she has been the guiding light of my well-being trajectory. Even though we don’t work together weekly anymore, we’re somehow sort of best friends, life colleagues, coaching mentee-mentor.
And she just… She, for five hours out of the goodness of her heart, just invested in me, so that when I landed, I wasn’t thriving when I landed, but I certainly had an understanding of everything I did from that moment forward. How I would be leaning into more of my own victim mindset, and where I was at. It was the greatest gift. And from that moment forward, the biggest takeaway from that was, I used to always look at other human beings and go, “They need to (blank) because I do. They need to love more, they need to be like this, they need to.” And it really shifted after that conversation, “Wow, they didn’t get love around that when they really needed it, okay.”
David Vox: And also-
Addison Brasil: And I did, so it’s like, “Okay, okay.”
David Vox: Yes. And also, what can be my medicine can be your poison. It comes completely down to what process they have. Because I have a lot of people that ask me like, “Should I do Ayahuasca? Should I do this? Should I do that?” That is something that you need to find for yourself and for you to really honor and respect that journey and that teacher. Because what works for me, it doesn’t mean that it works for you. You are your own individual little universe.
Addison Brasil: Yeah. And your grief process, your honoring of your journey, it is a, well, what the Constitution was supposed to be. It is a living, breathing document. I mean, my manifesto, my daily, it changes every day. This conversation is going to completely change parts of my manifesto of what works for me, what I take forward, how I phrase things, how I felt saying certain things. And if we have that ability, in the mental health space, I call this daily emotional fitness, this checking in every day. But if you’re in any sort of process and you’re honoring any sort of journey, being willing and committed to checking in and always being willing to change the rules.
If you’re looking for five rules to survive grief or five… That’s not my book. The idea is to inspire at a peer level. I’m not a doctor. I didn’t study grief for years. I experientially was in the arena like Brené Brown says with the other peers. And if me sharing that like it has with Tethr and it has in the other experiences I’ve had. And if me sharing and building a community around that can help people to activate the part of them that checks in daily and is willing to change the rule, and let go of rules, and especially invisible rules that never really existed, all that stuff. If they can start to do that around their own grieving, I think that, like I said earlier, there’s that really cool community opportunity to infuse a lot more love into grieving, which is something we don’t often talk about.
David Vox: I feel sometimes when we grieve, we have this tendency to sort of just shut the curtains and close ourselves completely. And why I feel you are this Love Gladiator is that you’ve been through that process and you chose to open up. And it requires so much courage to open up when everything is saying just shut down now and turn off the lights.
Addison Brasil: And that’s another thing that I will openly say, and this actually happened this morning and I think it’s sort of magical. But whenever somebody else loses someone, people will either come to me and ask me what to do or they come to me and tell me they’ve lost somebody, and they’re starting a grief process. And 10 years later, after all the deaths, after all the talking, after all the writing, I still felt a loss other than encouraging people to honor this journey that we’re talking about.
I know that casseroles and condolences were well-intentioned, but they really didn’t mean it for me. They didn’t help me. “Sorry for your loss” was something that really just… I got hugged so often, I started telling people I didn’t want to be touched, because it felt more about them than about me because they didn’t know how to deal with me and my loss. And now, this is something that I’m actually actively, I now have to go back into the world, I get to go back to the world and say, “Always willing to correct that.” Get to go back into the world and say, “I actually really do love to be touched. I’d really love to hug you when we meet.” That’s something people started saying, so people stopped sort of mobbing me when they didn’t know what to do.
And so, it’s really interesting, but I’d love to share. I’ve been saving this for this if you’d be willing, what I write back when I find out someone’s lost someone and it’s just, it’s what I finally come to. So, rather than saying, “Sorry for your loss,” this is what I write. And I actually just wrote it an hour ago because a dear friend of mine lost his father. And was on a hike and just went, “Okay, I’m not going to say sorry for your loss. I’m going to say the thing that I know.” So, this is what it is.
“After the casseroles and condolences fade away, there is a quietness that will be waiting for you. A quietness that will never be truly soothing, but so necessary. It is the sound equivalent of what’s been lost. At first, it’s hard to sit in that silence for longer than a few seconds. You will want to turn the TV on, pick up your phone, call somebody, or literally run away. Trust that silence, though. Sit in it a little longer each time and honor everything you feel in your mind and body. Let the loss live, honor the journey, and if it gets too hard, I know that I’ll still be here when the silence comes. Sending you love.”
David Vox: That is pure magic.
Addison Brasil: And that’s what I guess I wish. It’s kind of like the letters to my son, that’s what I sort of wish somebody had been through what I’ve been through and could have said to me on that Day 1, “Hey, don’t try to fix anything. There’s nothing wrong with you.” Honor it all.
David Vox: Let’s-
Addison Brasil: Laugh, cry.
David Vox: And let’s add that into the show notes because I feel a lot of us can get completely empty for words in different situations like this. And again, I feel it’s so important what you’re creating with your app, and the community, because for me, the healing journey didn’t really take off before I felt I had a safe and sacred space to be witnessed. And when I am in the process – grieving, anger, frustrating, depressed, whatever it is, I don’t like people touching me. I do not like people coming into my space. I want to give people permission for that. I don’t like when people are going into the automatic, “Oh, my God, that’s horrible, how do you feel?” Don’t ask me.
So, I love that we can create spaces where we can be a community and set healthy boundaries and set individual boundaries. And also have a space where we’re not trying to fix each other. We’re not trying to sort of throw medicines around. We give people that space to settle in that silence, as you say.
Addison Brasil: Yeah. It will play around till they’re okay and honor their own journey. And this is the number one thing I get asked is, “What do I do?” Because people want to show up to other people who are grieving or have loss or are struggling with their mental health. And the one thing that people never seem… It’s like they’re looking at me with these big eyes when I say this, “Ask them what support looks like for them.”
David Vox: Beautiful.
Addison Brasil: Don’t come with an idea of what support is. Ask the human being who has a very unique process. My grief is unlike anybody else’s, because it’s my relationship with the person that I lost. It’s my relationship with what was meaningful, right? So, it’s like a mother and a son, there’s no binary grief relationships, right? So, if you’re going to be empowered to do anything, if you feel open enough to walk up and grab someone and say something that could make them not feel better, why not be open enough just to simply ask, “What does support look for you right now?” Because for me, I didn’t want to be alone, but I also wanted the people who are willing to sit in a room with me quietly, so I knew someone was there, but they didn’t make me talk and they didn’t ask any questions and we were just there together.
But I couldn’t ask for that and nobody asked me to tell them what I wanted because… So, it’s very tricky to not feel rude in asking for what you want. So, the one thing I think people can do in supporting someone who’s dealing with loss, and again, not just the physical death of someone, but anything meaningful, is to just simply actively listen and then ask, “What does support look for you?” It might be something really weird. You might end up kite surfing or it could be a really cool opportunity. And I think that that’s one thing that I would love to kind of just pass on, if it works for people
David Vox: Yeah. And there’s this quote that I read after my grandmother died, which is, “The sadness now is a part of the happiness then.” And when she died, I was the only person who knew her, so when she got cancer, when she was 76, she came out of the closet because death was more scary than shame. So, she sort of opened up the curtains of shame, so I could look straight into her soul and she told me about all the women and how I wouldn’t be born if she grew up in this time, because she would have went with a woman instead of a man. And I felt so deeply in love with her and then the grieving became so much harder. And I think that a part of that is that we are all capable of loving more and deeper than life itself.
And that’s why it gets so hard afterwards, because love was actually bigger than life itself, so it doesn’t really make sense when someone like that goes away, because that silence and that emptiness becomes a void that feels complete. And I’m really grateful now for having been able to be touched by a human being so deeply and been able to go through a grieving process like that. And I’m also extremely grateful that there are amazing transformational teachers like you sharing your journey, so that we can navigate this as a society in a better and healthier way. And also, take care of ourselves in a way where we are not alone when we go through these different transitions of life.
Addison Brasil: Yeah, yeah. I am really grateful that I get to sort of be here and be a forever student and a peer to people and share on my level and see how that sticks or doesn’t stick. And yes, this has been a really incredible conversation. I’ve had so many downloadings. And even now I’m going to call Patti, our book coach and editor, back and be like, “Okay, I just have the knot, the why. It’s, all the chapters are forming.” But yeah.
David Vox: Thank you for sharing your heart with us, Addison. I really appreciate it.
Addison Brasil: Anytime. And thank you for everything that you’re doing, too.
David Vox: Thank you, my friend.