Wanda Gronhovd: Using her artistic gifts to support those experiencing loss and grief

Wanda Gronhovd is a musician-healer who connects people to the Divine through sharing love and holding space for deep emotion, especially loss and grief. She has spent the last year digging deep into what she can offer to us especially as we are grieving due to the many losses the pandemic brought to us.
She brings years of nursing to her artistic practice, where she stood with people in their most trying times. She brings this capacity to her music, stories and spoken word poetry.
Gronhovd has released three studio recorded albums over the past seven years and listeners have said they feel loved and connected listening to her music. During the past three years, Wanda has performed at several music festivals as well as having toured Western Canada three times as a solo act.
In addition to being a composer, pianist and vocalist, Wanda has also just released her memoir called Shifting Sands.
Gronhovd is a multi-faceted creative force, balancing her creative roles as musician, speaker, author, healer and facilitator.

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Personal Links:

LINKS:

www.wandagronhovd.com where I post my latest offerings as far as workshops etc. 

Unfolding the Path of our Grief is an interactive workshop in which she presents songs, stories and spoken word poetry to help the participants explore their own grief. This is a trauma informed event.  Wanda is planning to have workshops every couple of months. The next one will be just before Christmas. 

Contact: [email protected] for more information about workshop.

https://found.ee/DLdI6, Shifting Sands, the book

https://wandagronhovd.bandcamp.com/album/pieces-of-her-heart

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/wgronhovd

Spotify link for “Pieces of Her Heart”: 

https://open.spotify.com/album/2FdjotYev8wwTrY8vkpooh?si=4W-AqgQmQRin2nJZuNGGCA 

Soundcloud links:

“Pieces of Her Heart” https://soundcloud.com/wgg13/sets/pieces-of-her-heart

“Three Angels” https://on.soundcloud.com/pxQSt

“Sorry, I’m so Sorry” https://on.soundcloud.com/i39ow

Thanks for listening.
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Transcript:

Wanda Gronhovd: 0:03

“Leftover pieces of her heart. Leftover pieces don't fall apart.”

Sharman Nittoli: 0:21

Welcome to the Live Your Bloom podcast, where I interview people about their ongoing journey to blooming and fulfillment. My guest this week is the multidimensional artist, Wanda Gronhovd. A musician healer who connects people to the Divine through sharing love and holding space for deep emotion, especially loss and grief. And the older we get, the more we learn what that means. She is a vocalist, a songwriter, a pianist, and an author. Welcome, Wanda.

Wanda Gronhovd: 0:55

Thank you so much, Sharman. I'm so happy to be here.

Sharman Nittoli: 0:58

Oh. So I'm so happy to have you because, you know, I've been a fan of yours since we first met. In the amplified program for Indie musicians. I give a shout out to Cheryl B. Engelhardt because it is a fantastic program. Right now we're listening to one of your songs called "Pieces of Her Heart," from the EP of the same name, released in September, 2020. Can you tell me more about this song?

Wanda Gronhovd: 1:23

Yes. Pieces of her heart. It's interesting because that EP, though I did release it. I had an online show. It felt kind of like, you know, it fell because it was at the beginning of the pandemic. But I did write that song, because I really needed to talk more about what it was like to have children whom I didn't have with me all the time. And though those lyrics aren't really specific, that the whole EP is kind of about that, it's like coming out as being gay was easier than letting people know that my kids didn't live with me all the time. And so, you know, that whole song, it really, I don't know, it hits me in the heart a lot. I think that the music does that for people, even if you don't kind of know what it's about. But it really was about my first kind of encounter where my ex-husband and I were trying to decide about what to do around custody arrangement. And I know that there are lots of people who need to go through that kind of experience, right? Lots of people get divorced for tons of reasons, but that's really what that song is about ,and how, you know, the pieces of my heart felt like I had to sort of give my kids up in a way in order for them to be alright, right? Not to split them apart. It was a very challenging time for sure.

Sharman Nittoli: 2:36

You know, and I give you a lot of credit because I think adults, parents, if they can communicate to their kids that, "I'm also your mother and a human being, and I have my own path to follow," and sometimes you're not on it. Although you're always there, but what is the best thing for the child? Because we hear the lines, staying together for the sake of the child, which I'm not one to say whether that works or doesn't. And I think that's a very brave choice if you choose to do that. But it will be at the expense of your life.

Wanda Gronhovd: 3:08

Yes. I remember, probably a year or two after I had split up with my ex, he actually was the one to point out that all the pictures in the year before, when we were together, I looked sad and very, very unhappy.

Sharman Nittoli: 3:22

And he sounds like an extraordinary person to make that observation with no bitterness, you know?

Wanda Gronhovd: 3:28

Yeah, not then, I don't think. But yeah, certainly he had his own journey to go through, for sure.

Sharman Nittoli: 3:33

Yeah, well, I know that you are indeed a multifaceted creative artist. That's how I was drawn to you in the beginning, because I always said, "Boy, she comes from, she sings from that place." And that's very bold to do that. But now you are an author, a published author. In fact, your first book was just released, "Shifting Sands," which I read in Kindle form. And I congratulate you because I found it to be such a brave, honest, passionate, and insightful book in which you talk about many of the challenges that you have faced in your life. Why did you write this memoir?

Wanda Gronhovd: 4:09

Thank you so much, Sharman. I wrote it because I really felt I needed to, and in the writing process, once I knew where to start, it kind of wrote itself in a way. I just really, I don't know, I felt compelled to talk about my experience, it feels really similar to writing music. In the sense of, you know, it was for me as much it was for other people, and the longer that I kept thinking I can't release it, I'd hear stories that other people are telling their difficult stories and how much it helped other people. I'm certainly not the only one who has had to be challenged with their relationship with the church. You know, when they've come out or their relationship with their kids and what they're doing with family. All the things that I end up talking about in the book are sexuality, like all of those things. It's not unique to me, but I do hope, you know, I was told by people, it's part of why I did publish it. This story needs to be told for other people. And I'm like, "Well, aren't there lots of people who are telling this story?" And others have told me, "No, it's not. There's not actually that much out there. Speaking about that experience from." You know, an older person, I'm 63, this happened to me in my thirties, but you know, it's a specific experience of a specific time, right?

Sharman Nittoli: 5:20

Yeah, and I know also that sometimes we have this illusion that the grass is always greener. And very often it is, but sometimes it takes us a while to get to that pasture because it's not about just "boom." You know, I always wanted to be a witch like Samantha from Bewitched when I was young. Boom, there we are. It's not like that. The bold move that you made probably revealed so many things about yourself that you needed to work through in order to get to that greener pasture.

Wanda Gronhovd: 5:54

Yes, it took years. In fact, one of the stories that I was just revising yesterday for my retreat workshop I'm having on the weekend was exactly saying that. You know, it took 14 years of kind of learning about myself and getting out of crappy relationships. And it was a long, long time.

Sharman Nittoli: 6:12

Yeah. Yeah. And so how long did it take you to write the book?

Wanda Gronhovd: 6:16

Yeah, I don't think the writing of it took that long. We, you know, we have a cabin, and I wrote it there mostly. And I feel like the draft probably only took me a few months, but then I had it, you know, I had writing groups listen to it. And you know, it took probably four or five years, I guess, before I felt like it was how I wanted it.

Sharman Nittoli: 6:37

Yeah.

Wanda Gronhovd: 6:37

Then it kind of sat on the shelf for about six years.

Sharman Nittoli: 6:41

Wow. Okay.

Wanda Gronhovd: 6:42

I convinced myself that I didn't want to publish it. It was just for me. And then, I was in a call with Cheryl that we just talked about.

Sharman Nittoli: 6:51

Yeah.

Wanda Gronhovd: 6:51

She talked about completing things so you could go on to other things, and I'm like, "Oh, I think I do need to do that."

Sharman Nittoli: 6:56

Good, good. Well, I'm so glad because it's like I said, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and even though I did not have the same experience, I did relate to the choices that you made, which were bold and brave, and they were hard, very hard. There was a price to be paid, and I'm so glad that it's all worked out for your happiness now.

Wanda Gronhovd: 7:18

Thank you. Thank you. Yeah, I feel that if I didn't do that then, I don't think I would've just been not living my own life. Like I realize now, but of course that's all with hindsight, right? In the moment, I didn't know that. But 30 years later, it's like, "Oh, I'm glad I didn't decide, because I know others who've decided to stay where they are." And then, they reap the consequences in some ways.

Sharman Nittoli: 7:40

Right, right. That's a price to be paid as well. Sure. Yeah, well, you know, also, Wanda, as a composer, you are really quite prolific. You have three CDs, Awakening, 2014, Shifting Sands, which is the CD by the same name, 2017, and Pieces of Her Heart, 2020. What fuels your passion for writing music? Writing and recording?

Wanda Gronhovd: 8:06

Oh, I love to perform. I've learned that about myself. I really think the music, I mean the first real songs I wrote was after I came out. It was a way of processing the feeling, the emotions, and what my experience was and how and to cope with it really. You know, I think of confessional poetry. It's a little bit like that, although I've probably moved away from that somewhat. Like, it feels like the three CDs kind of are all about, you know, coming out the challenges. And then that chapter's closed a bit. And I'm writing about other things, have moved into other things. Yeah, being prolific, I guess so. I just, It makes me think about the, my bio writer who in my second CD said, "Oh, many people never do a second CD." And I was like, "Oh, is that a thing?" Like it's kind of like people saying people have left music in the pandemic. I'm like, "What? Why would you do that?" Like, it feels so much like what I need to do now. I don't even question that I'm doing it.

Sharman Nittoli: 9:04

And this is like an entire second life, a second career for you, because the whole first part of your life was spent in the medical field.

Wanda Gronhovd: 9:12

Yes, and nursing. I do feel that some of the many gifts that I have from nursing certainly will help me. Doing retreats and workshops and like being with people in that kind of space. And also, I think with performing, it's also true. Someone has pointed that out to me. You know, like being able to be present with people is a gift that I had at the bedside as a nurse, right? That was my best gift. Besides, you know, the technical things and knowing medicine and all that, but yeah, being able to be with people in their experience. Yeah, that was what I brought to my work as a nurse.

Sharman Nittoli: 9:49

Well, speaking of passionate songs, let's give a listen to your most recent release from 2022. A song called "Three Angels."

Wanda Gronhovd: 9:58

You're in my son's eyes. My sister's eyes. You're with my mother.

Sharman Nittoli: 10:08

I love this song. Can you tell us a little bit about what inspired you to write it?

Wanda Gronhovd: 10:14

Well, the honest answer is that I was in a healing session. A friend of mine who I used to work with as a nurse is like a body talk person and she's all kinds of other experience. And well, we talked about many things. We talked about like, who am I? Who were my musicians that inspired me? KD Lang, Sarah McLaughlin, Joanie Mitchell. Those are my three angels in a way.

Sharman Nittoli: 10:38

Yeah.

Wanda Gronhovd: 10:38

But she also, in a spiritual sense, told me that I'd lost some of my soul when I was young, and that there were pieces that came back to me. In a sense, safety, and now forget the third one. But that was the inspiration for the song. And my mother was not well at that time, so that's why she also enters into it. And really where the rest of the lyrics came from. I'm not quite sure. I know, like, where the chorus that makes sense to me. Not really sure about the rest of it when I listen to the words, although the part I like the most is, you know about lies, right? The idea that once our secrets are revealed, right? We're really different people when that happens.

Sharman Nittoli: 11:19

Right.

Wanda Gronhovd: 11:19

And I guess it's, you know, I think since I've retired in the last few years. Though, I've always been a spiritual person. It's been the biggest piece that's opened up for me and that we have, for me anyway. I try not to put names on, you know, the universe or someone bigger than ourselves. our higher power. But there's someone else who's helping out or just that I don't have to do it. I'm a control freak, right? That I don't have to actually do it all.

Sharman Nittoli: 11:45

Yeah.

Wanda Gronhovd: 11:45

Letting things unfold, which I don't know how one would have this particular career either, because you are letting things unfold, right? When you are doing entrepreneurial work or artistic work, it's really outside of that very square kind of.

Sharman Nittoli: 12:02

Yeah.

Wanda Gronhovd: 12:02

Do you know what I mean? Like, going to a job, getting paid so much, like a very secure kind of experience, right?

Sharman Nittoli: 12:07

Yeah, but I am a believer in the universe aligning itself and leading you and opening up opportunities for you. Have you any experience with that?

Wanda Gronhovd: 12:18

Well, the last while certainly feels that way. In September, I was starting to pitch this idea. I was calling it something else but signature, concert, workshop, right? Kind of the same thing around grief and loss. And I met this woman from a retreat center and like she just understood what I wanted. She's booked me for a retreat to be a facilitator next spring and to also do a show, and I'm like, I didn't even know I wanted to do it, right? But now I know, it kind of shifted my whole direction.

Sharman Nittoli: 12:48

Right, right.

Wanda Gronhovd: 12:49

And I was like, "Wow." And then there's all this other space that's opened up.

Sharman Nittoli: 12:52

That's what I'm talking about. That kind of thing where you're like, I didn't even think about doing that. Oh, you know, I know I was led into writing and I never, I mean, I wrote term papers, very good term papers, you know. But I never thought I was a writer. But then that's where the universe was pushing me and I co-wrote with somebody, and I co-wrote with my husband a book, and I am working on a book right now and trying just to keep my mind free to express myself the way I want. And I will decide what I want to do with it later on. But it is quite an experience. I found it was interesting to shift from third person to first person and all of a sudden it just took on a whole different type of thing. And it reveals to me my journey. So it's fun. I look forward to writing it. So we'll see where it goes, you know. Speaking of the workshop, besides being a musician, composer, author, you also have your hands in something else right now. So could you tell us a little bit about your recent workshop, "Unfolding the Path of Our Grief"?

Wanda Gronhovd: 13:54

Yeah, so the idea of it really is to use art to help people process their feelings. And to use questions to sort of open up the space and support them with music and stories at the same time, and spoken with poetry. I've started to write some of that, which also has a whole other kind of feeling about it. And I'm reminded by a mentor that I worked with for about a year and a half, who said, "Make sure it's medicine for you. It needs to be medicine for you and for other people." Right?

Sharman Nittoli: 14:24

Yeah.

Wanda Gronhovd: 14:24

So that certainly for me right now, it's like what I'm offering also is medicine for me.

Sharman Nittoli: 14:31

Yeah, I understand that. Totally understand that. Because what we both write from an introspective place. And I imagine that the workshop also feeds that part of you that needs to be expressed. I don't know about you, but there are some songs. Every time I sing them, I just get a deeper understanding of myself and I think a lot of other people relate to it better knowing that I'm coming from that place. Because I know that's what I like to hear in a singer-songwriter, is to sing from that heart, from that space, you know.

Wanda Gronhovd: 15:02

Well, and I do know, you know. If you are willing to be vulnerable, it opens up vulnerability for other people. It allows them to move into that part of their own heart.

Sharman Nittoli: 15:12

Right. Right. Which we tend to bottle up and hide from so often. Yeah.

Wanda Gronhovd: 15:17

Oh yes. People don't want to talk about, you know, the losses. I mean, I'm specifically focusing on the losses we've had in the last couple of years. I know. I just want to graze over things. There were lots of things that were difficult. And I think we don't allow ourselves to then move forward in the same way, if we're not willing to kind of allow the grief to be there and not just going to push past.

Sharman Nittoli: 15:41

Oh, you know, before we go any further, I would love for the audience to know. You mentioned your cabin, but that's not where you live. That's where you vacation. I would love for you to tell them where you live, and what is your life like there?

Wanda Gronhovd: 15:53

I live in a lovely bungalow in Regina, Saskatchewan, in a city of like 200,000. And, yeah, my wife works in the day still, so I have lots of space to be able to do my work.

Sharman Nittoli: 16:06

Yeah.

Wanda Gronhovd: 16:07

So I think that's a piece. I'm a very disciplined person anyway. So that is what really allows me to have this life of being creative and entrepreneurial together. And we do have a cabin in the northwest part of the province. That is a very basic kind of place, but it's close to the lake. And I don't know, I feel like I'd live there if I could. I don't know if that's really what I want, right?

Sharman Nittoli: 16:28

I just can tell our audience that  it’s  just beautiful, absolutely beautiful. And if you are to visit Wanda on her Facebook site, you'll be seeing a lot of those pictures. Well worth it. That brings me to the next question, which is about managing all the projects that you're in. You don't just conceive of them, but you will finish them and you develop them. That is something that in my group, Live Your Bloom, and the membership Work-It, that is something that we are working on finishing what we start. How do you manage all that?

Wanda Gronhovd: 17:00

Well, I think, you know, being a baby boomer, there is part of the culture that tells you to just get your work done. There's part of that, right? I think it's a personality trait. But also, it's just too important not to finish, like in the passion part of it, right? Just feels too important not to. I think that, you know, my first project, really, I had been doing little house concerts and stuff before, but my wife kept saying to me, "You need someone else to hear your songs. Like you need someone else." And that's when I went to this music producer who I knew through someone else. And once I did that project, I think just, well, I finished it. You know, nothing too much happened with it because I didn't know what I was doing, but I think because I finished it.

Sharman Nittoli: 17:43

Yeah.

Wanda Gronhovd: 17:44

And then I found other teachers. Like I invested as Cheryl would say, I invested in my own development. Got somebody online to help me figure out what to do next as far as like building a business, sharing what I'm doing, and I just kept writing. I just kept writing music.

Sharman Nittoli: 17:59

And this is something that a lot of members, as we get older, we reevaluate the things that we want to do. And very often we'll say, "I'm not going to waste money on myself." I don't say that because I've always spent money on my own education because I'm a musician, a filmmaker, and many things where I needed more information. So I took courses. But a lot of our listeners have creative projects that they've been dreaming about. And holding onto for far too long. I call those projects "Dream Seeds" because they're there. You planted them. They're not going anywhere; they just haven't blossomed. And that's why I developed the membership of which you're a member, where I just hold space several times a week for dreamers and procrastinators to meet, commit what they're working on, we support each other, and it feels wonderful. Just feels wonderful to be in the now that you're doing it. Now, lots of times these people work so hard and show up for everybody else but not themselves. Allowing this inner critic, you know, to have far too much power. What do you have to say to them?

Wanda Gronhovd: 19:05

Well, I have to say that, you know, as women who tend to be codependent on other people and other people are more important. It really does come down to some personal exploration as to why am I not putting myself in the center, right? I just heard a podcast with Melody Beatie, who wrote "Codependents No More" in the eighties, I think, and she's still saying the same thing, more or less. Being able to say what I am doing is as important as anyone else. I mean, I guess for me, it was always my work in the nursing community too. I wanted to say to my colleagues, "What are you doing?" "Why are you working overtime?" "Why are you not taking better care of yourself?"

Sharman Nittoli: 19:46

Yeah.

Wanda Gronhovd: 19:46

But we have, our culture has told us. This is how we're valuable, especially us women. I think that it takes a lot. So then why would you allow yourself to put all that energy into your own project? If you really didn't believe that it was allowed, right? There is some real work to do.

Sharman Nittoli: 20:01

I say, like, if it's there, if it's still nagging at you and you're going to make that statement, you know, I always wanted to play the piano. I've always wanted play the guitar. I've wanted to get back to my art. When you say, "I've always wanted to..." It's the thing what's stopping you? Because there also is that thing when we retire that we have too much time.

Wanda Gronhovd: 20:23

Oh, yes.

Sharman Nittoli: 20:24

And we have the choice to do nothing and put our feet up and watch murder she wrote "Neat Bond Bonds." We can do that too. And there's nothing, believe me, I have my days where I just call it a flex day. I'm doing nothing today. I'm tired. My brain's tired or whatever. The thing that is most concerning to me is when you put a value on that project and somehow you come up short. I'm not really that good. Who wants to hear my book? Who wants to hear my songs? How long will it take me to play? It's about the journey. It's just about the journey because it's so joyful that it spills over into everything else you do. You just develop this sense of confidence and self-esteem that you wish you had when you were 21.

Wanda Gronhovd: 21:10

No, no, that is the thing. You know, I think about why I started playing the piano more to accompany myself. It was really, because I couldn't afford to have somebody else do it.

Sharman Nittoli: 21:20

Yeah.

Wanda Gronhovd: 21:20

And I was like, "Well, I guess I'm going to figure this out or else I'm not going to perform," right? It was sort of like, "I'm not going to be able to share my songs unless I figure out a way to do it."

Sharman Nittoli: 21:28

Exactly. Yeah.

Wanda Gronhovd: 21:29

You just reminded me of that, right? It was like, "Oh, okay, well I'm going to go back to this stuff I did and had when I was in my twenties." It's not totally lost to me, right?

Sharman Nittoli: 21:39

Yeah, yeah, yeah. You know what? I want to hear another of your compositions, and this is an upbeat song about reconciliation and forgiveness, which I told you, I love the fact that it's not real serious and sad and languishing. It's upbeat. This is also from "Pieces of Her Heart." And it's called, "Sorry. I'm so sorry."

Wanda Gronhovd: 22:00

Sorry. I'm so sorry. For not being kind to you.

Sharman Nittoli: 22:09

And yeah. I love that song. It's such fun. This is different song for you, though. You know, usually I don't hear this kind of rhythm. It was a lot of fun. What motivated you to write this one?

Wanda Gronhovd: 22:21

Well, my ex-husband was here in Regina in 2019. We went out for lunch. He has family here. He doesn't live here, and out of nowhere I apologized to him for the fact that I didn't know enough about myself before and that I'd caused so much trauma. Shocking to me that I had more to say, like, we've been apart for 30 years. And then, I don't know, a couple weeks later, the song, you know, came up, right? It wanted to be written, and I realized that all of the things in the verses were true, right? We really were young love and had these things in common, and that was not the case any longer.

Sharman Nittoli: 22:57

Yeah.

Wanda Gronhovd: 22:57

And then I said, I was sorry about the way it turned out for him. But it also took me a long time to be able to see things from his perspective. That probably is part of what happened.

Sharman Nittoli: 23:06

Oh, sure. Yeah. And you do have two beautiful boys, right?

Wanda Gronhovd: 23:09

I do. I do. Yes.

Sharman Nittoli: 23:11

Yeah.

Wanda Gronhovd: 23:12

Yeah.

Sharman Nittoli: 23:13

Well, thank you for sharing this journey with us. You know, you're one of my favorite people. So I really appreciate you coming on the program, and I have no doubt that a lot of my listeners will be inspired by your journey to bloom.

Wanda Gronhovd: 23:27

Thank you so much, Sharman. I appreciate you so much and have loved knowing you for such a long time now. It feels like it's only two years, I guess. But yes, thank you for your support and for your lovely words, and I love having this conversation with you.

Sharman Nittoli: 23:41

Always, always. And I just want to tell everybody that on the landing page for the podcast, all the contact information for Wanda is there. Including where you can hear her music, where you can get her book, and who knows what she's going to be doing next year. She just keeps evolving. Thanks again.

Wanda Gronhovd: 24:03

Thank you so much, Sharman.

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