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Beyond the mask of grief: Rachel Crawford teaches us how to heal by choice

Written By | Sep 26, 2014

WASHINGTON, September 26, 2014 — It was 2008 and Rachel Crawford and her husband anxiously awaited the arrival of their twin girls Aubrey and Ellie. They had wanted so desperately to have more children and were thrilled at the thought of having twins. Their story would turn tragic, however, when complications arose and the twins would find their fragile little lives swept away a month after arriving in this world. “My daughters died in my arms and losing them devastated my life. I was overwhelmed by the grief of their loss and I did not realize until much later that I was suffering from PTSD,” Rachel remembers.

It was a visit from her sister Crystal Tenpenny that set in motion the events that would come to change Rachel’s life in a way she never expected. “My sister could see how I was suffering and the way that my heart was so terribly broken over the loss of Aubrey and Ellie. She was suffering also because her heart was broken as well over the loss of the twins and because of her love for me as a sister,” Rachel says. It was then that Crystal said, “I wish I could put something in your tea that would make you feel better.” Rachel said, “That was when the light bulb went off in my mind and I said I’m going to find a tea that has the ability to help me heal emotionally or I am going to make one that does!”

Rachel had always loved tea. She says, “I consider myself a tea enthusiast and I have been blessed to travel the world and experience the cultures of many countries and how tea is such an important part of their lives. Rachel and her sister Crystal Tenpenny created Teamotions Tea Company. Rachel used her knowledge of tea as a foundation and spent the next year doing research and consulting with experts on herbal medicine. “I would ask people for ten minutes of their time just to talk about how natural remedies could be integrated into teas.”

As the wife of a Marine Corps officer who has served multiple overseas deployments, Rachel became all too familiar with the wounds that war can inflict, both visible and invisible. Rachel Crawford saw her husband, their friends and neighbors returning from Iraq and Afghanistan suffering not only from physical injuries but also from the effects of PTSD.

Rachel realized that Teamotions was the key to helping the wounded minds and troubled souls of these noble warriors held in the grip of a war they had long since left. “The loss of Aubrey and Ellie sensitized me to the pain that others were feeling. I knew from the first moment that I saw my husband and his friends and our neighbors struggling with the nightmares and the devastating effects of PTSD that I just had to do something,” Teamotions became the hope for healing that so many had searched for.

“What I really want for Teamotions is to let people know that everything is going to be okay, and that when they sit down with a cup of Teamotions tea they can have some comfort from the stress of their lives. Nobody is exempt from some level of stress, despair or confusion. It is not just military families who are having difficulties, but everyone and I want to help them. Teamotions began as a tribute to my daughters Aubrey and Ellie and at its foundation is the pain I suffered and how I overcame that pain,” Rachel says.

Rachel Crawford is filled with a boundless compassion that is evident in everything she does. “If I can help those people who are struggling to find the way to feel better and find healing in their lives I would love to do so. I will pack my car with tea and go where I am needed and speak to five or five hundred about how Teamotions has helped so many others and me heal from their pain. I would love to reach out to survivors of domestic violence, child abuse and any trauma that causes them great pain and help in any way I can,” Rachel says.

In 2012, Hurricane Sandy weaved a path of destruction that totaled sixty-five million dollars in damages, according to the National Climatic Data Center, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The devastation included the east coast of the United States, with New York City being one of the hardest hit areas. As Rachel watched, she was so deeply moved by the heartbreaking loss many suffered that she knew she had to do something. Partnering with the organization, Rachel packed her car full of tea and headed for Staten Island.

Her work with Teamotions helped Rachel Crawford embark on a healing journey that would bring into strong relief a highly neglected population in those struggling with grief. She realized that so many were suffering in silence and no one had taken the initiative to help these individuals begin to heal. Rachel began exploring the grieving process and talking with experts and reading all of the current research. She recognized a push by the medical community to classify grief as a disorder and fought vehemently against labeling a process that with the correct tools could be resolved individually. Rather than be defined by grief “each person is not “the sum of all things that happened to him or her.” Rachel says. As her knowledge increased, so did her drive to take action to help those in the embrace of the gray abyss known as grief. “I have such compassion for anyone who has lost a child and it breaks my heart to see anyone lose hope. I understand what it feels like to have your heart broken into so many pieces that your life becomes a shell, a hollow reflection of the person you used to be.” Rachel says.

In April of 2014, Rachel and her sister Crystal partnered with Kiley Hanish from the movie “Return to Zero” to organize a weekend retreat in Ojai, California for mothers who had lost children. Hanish and her husband Sean lost their son Norbert to stillbirth in 2005 and told their story through the movie “Return to Zero.” Rachel’s experience in dealing with her own grief had transformed her life and she felt an undeniable drive to share her knowledge and understanding to help others heal. Teamotions became a vehicle for Rachel to reach out to those suffering and once she began to see how much of a difference her efforts were making in people’s lives, she knew she had to do more. “I saw the transformative power of healing at work. People trapped in a dark place waking up to find new meaning in their lives.” Rachel says.  During that weekend retreat Rachel and her sister discovered that the women who attended all had strong feelings about what they didn’t need in their lives. They had no idea what was going on in their own hearts and how to get in touch with their grief.  The retreat opened Rachel’s eyes to exactly what tools were lacking in the grief community and the success she and her sister encountered during that weekend exceeded their expectations.

“Heal by Choice” is the second retreat organized by Rachel Crawford and her sister Crystal Tenpenny for mothers who have lost children. Scheduled for November 6-9th of this year, the location is the beautiful Santa Ynez Valley in California. During each of the four days, those who attend will experience yoga classes focusing on helping the body experience and process grief. Private video confessionals will allow for the outpouring of emotions that accompanies the process of actively processing grief. Participants can take home a copy and also participate in interviews that record the healing journey. Nature walks in the nearby countryside will relax and refresh those who attend. The Dutch town of Solvang is within walking distance of the retreat. Rachel and Crystal will teach daily classes that address the nature of grief and provide tools for dealing with grief on a daily basis. Those who attend will be encouraged to journal with guided writing exercises and group discussions that will help explore grief and healing. A nearby farm will provide vegetables and a menu of entrees designed to help calm and heal the body will be jointly prepared by those who attend using the cookbook Rachel Crawford designed. The cookbook will be included in the overall package of the retreat, which will be all inclusive, and participation in activities will be left to each individual’s comfort level.

Special guests include documentary filmmaker Carrie Pascual Executive Producer of the STILL Project. In 2002 Pascual and her husband suffered tragedy when their daughter Elena Rebekah was stillborn. In response to their grief, the STILL project was created as a vehicle for making a feature length documentary telling the stories of those who suffered pregnancy loss and infant death. The exploration of her own grief led Pascual on a journey that has been the catalyst for an honest conversation about how we handle grief as a society. During the retreat, Pascual will help document the healing process by interviewing participants who are willing to speak with her.

Singer and songwriter Alisa Turner will lend her musical talents to the retreat helping to heal the spirits of those who attend. Turner lost her son, London, who lived only seventy-one minutes after being born. “She has a very gentle and healing quality about her and having her at the retreat will serve as an inspiration to others. Alisa channels her grief through her music and she shows us how to find that unique pathway to heal that works best for us as individuals” Rachel Crawford says.  Most of all, the Heal by Choice retreat will bring together those with a shared experience and allow them to feel they are no longer alone. It will give them a chance to look inside their hearts and find not only a way to heal but also a reason to heal. Rachel Crawford has opened her heart to those suffering a loss and found the greatest reward of her life in helping others heal. “I can’t imagine doing anything else. When people ask me how I can do this as a career I have to say I can’t imagine not doing it. Life has given me many challenges and it is only with the strength, love and support of my family and the daily inspiration that God blesses me with that I stand here today this far along the path to healing. Helping others heal from their loss has helped me heal my broken heart. It is my gift to Aubrey and Elle, my twin daughters who are now in heaven and I hope that when my time comes and I see them they will be proud of me. Not a day goes by that I don’t miss them but my heart has learned to love again and that is a gift I am glad I can share.” Rachel says.   To find out more about the Heal by Choice retreat go to the Heal by Choice website and on Facebook:


Jerome Elam

Jerome Elam is President and CEO of Trafficking in America Task Force. Raised in a broken home by an alcoholic parent, he is a survivor of child abuse/domestic violence, child sex trafficking, and child pornography. Brought up in the South, Jerome enlisted in the United States Marine Corps at the age of seventeen. The decision to serve was made, in part, as an effort to escape the tragic circumstances he was trapped in. Through the experience of serving his country, Jerome found a new beginning and embarked upon a journey that showed him the world. This opened his eyes to the strength of the human spirit. After his completion of eight years in the United States Marine Corps, Mr. Elam attended the University of Florida, earning a Bachelor of Science degree. He went on to spend several years working in the Biotechnology sector. Motivated by the painful memories of his past, Jerome found his inner strength and began to speak out about his abuse. Through this journey, he found the healing force of God's unconditional love and discovered the joy of starting his own family. Today, Mr. Elam is a fierce Advocate for all children deprived of their voice. He is a public speaker, a staff writer, and known columnist for Communities Digital News. Recently featured as one of New York's New Abolitionists, he remains dedicated to the protection and empowerment of trafficked people. Staying true to values he learned in the Marine Corps continues to provide a safe harbor for all, regardless of age, race, gender, sexual identity, or immigration status. When asked to describe his life experiences Mr. Elam stated, "I have struggled against many things in my life and somehow I found a way to survive. Writing is my passion and it keeps me in touch with the wealth everyone holds deep inside their hearts and minds. I share my experiences in the hope that those suffering in silence will find the courage to speak out and share their voices. I have been blessed to have God reveal His purpose to me in saving innocent children from predators." Jerome has received the Award for Courage presented by the National Council of Jewish Women for his work in the advocacy arena and has been appointed a Special Advisor to the Attorney General of Utah.