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Meet Claire Chew

Today we’d like to introduce you to Claire Chew.

Hi Claire, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
I know how it feels when clients come to me, feeling stuck, burnt out, grieving, and not knowing where to turn to because I’ve been there. In 1976, my parents told me we were going on “vacation” to the U.S.—After landing in San Francisco for a few weeks, I was ready to go back home to Hong Kong, except we weren’t going back. That was my first experience with loss. I believe that loss is not only about death and dying; it is about every unprocessed disappointment we’ve held onto. For me, assimilating to a new country while leaving everything I knew behind was my first experience with loss. Not being able to grieve the loss of not being able to say goodbye to the nanny who raised me turned into shoving down feelings of abandonment, being bullied, emotional and physical abuse from parents who sacrificed everything for a better future for me. While I graduated with a 4.2 GPA into college, all the grief I endured growing up surfaced as stage 4 bone cancer. Even then, I couldn’t make the correlation between being in survival mode and dis-ease. I overcame cancer, went onto graduate to earn six figures in advertising, bought a beach house, got married.

Outwardly, everything looked great on paper, but inside I was a mess. I experienced anxiety and pressure to perform daily. It wasn’t until my dog unexpectedly passed away from cancer that my life shifted. On a serendipitous flight from NYC to LA, I struck up a conversation with a business executive. We talked about design, business, and out of nowhere, I told him I also designed jewelry to honor deceased pets. Five hours later, I walked the planks to the gate with a deal memo for 10k scribbled on a cocktail napkin, and Luxepets was born. A company dedicated to celebrating, cherishing, and commemorating the human-animal bond. At the same time, I obtained an M.A in Spiritual Psychology and became a certified grief coach. In coaching clients through grief, I became their guide in creating a new life after loss. From road trips, new life experiences, it was about creating a life well-lived. For the past 15 years, I’ve helped thousands of pet owners celebrate the life of their pets and provide a refuge in their grief. A year ago, right before Covid, I was invited to provide compassionate fatigue support to Veterinary first responders who care for the animals we love. This pivot was meant to be! Today, I provide coaching and workshops for over 600 veterinary team members on healthy coping mechanisms to maintain health and life balance.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
Moving through grief is not for the faint of heart. Growing up first-generation Chinese, there were many cultural norms that I was expected to adhere to, and one of them was getting a corporate job / W-2 was the “safe” way to go. Becoming an entrepreneur has not always been smooth or easy, especially in a career that centers around grief and loss, especially pet loss. My parents used to call and ask, “So when are you getting a real job?” There have been times in the past where I’ve questioned myself about taking the road less traveled. Pet loss definitely was not something that was on people’s minds 15 years ago.

As I continued on my own spiritual journey, I worked on my own belief system patterns that stemmed from childhood and many of the clients. Working on a growth mindset, releasing old patterns of self-worth where other people’s needs came first or having financial success be the end all be all. The old paradigm to strive, work hard, analyzing, pushing to make things happen is outdated. We can only burn the candle at both ends for so long before it leads to burnout. In my work with Veterinary Medical Professionals and Pet Parents, I help connect the dots between the unspoken toll we feel in caring for others (tired, numb, that it never feels enough, shame, guilt) to creating a practical plan for breaking down the patterns that bind us. I love the work I get to do today and building something that becomes a beautiful BIGGER result that ripples out.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
“Working with trauma is as much about remembering how we survived it is about what is broken.” — Bessel Van Der Kolk — Trauma resides in all of us. It’s what happens to a person where there is too much, too soon, too much for too long, or not enough for too long (Duros & Crowley, 2014). When we encounter stress, our body goes into fight or flight, a survival response. With survival being our only option, we go into protection mode. Our system gets stunned and ends up in a state of autonomic imbalance. We are just trying to get out of the situation we are in. Over time, patterns form in how we respond to stress and challenging life transitions. For those who are in the role of helping others, the stress of this is repetitive. Without coping tools, this can lead to compassion fatigue, secondary trauma, burnout, and even chronic illness and dis-ease. Similar stress patterns show up for those experiencing other life transitions, whether it be caring for a terminally ill pet or person, ups and downs of break up/divorce, or the loss of a job.

I provide compassionate support for the helpers. I help veterinary medical professionals and other helping professions restore their wellbeing after experiencing compassion fatigue, burnout, or loss so that they can continue doing the work they love without depleting their own reserves. For hundreds of pet lovers experiencing a deep sense of loss when they have to say goodbye to their best friends, I help them remember, celebrate, and find ways to honor the incredible love they shared. Loss makes most of us uncomfortable. It’s not something we learn about until we have to. But grief and loss move beyond the realm of death and dying; it’s about every broken promise, loss of hopes and dreams, and unresolved disappointments that get swept under the rug. For those grieving, I provide a safe space to pick up the pieces and examine the bits that help us return to our wholeness. What sets me apart is more than what textbooks and credentials can provide. Most of us don’t learn about grief, trauma, or burnout until we have to. Over the decades, it’s been quite a journey for me.

Today, while supporting clients, I continue to walk my talk to help others make lemonade from lemons. I’ve: overcame stage 4 bone cancer at 19 naturally healed myself from Hashimotos post-cancer NDE when my appendix burst while getting ready for a tradeshow overcame infertility to naturally conceive even though I was in perimenopause and every fertility doctor in Los Angeles said it would never happen lost my mother to suicide the same week I found out I was pregnant bounced back from grief to pivot a new career calling (yay!)

We all have a different way of looking at and defining success. How do you define success?
For me, it’s about living every day with my whole heart, authentically showing up for myself and others. It’s less about finances and more about how rich I am with love. Success is giving back to the world, and that is something I do every day while making a difference. It’s about being a lifelong learner, being compassionate with myself and others through all of life’s ups and downs.

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Image Credits:

Jacquelyn Tierney

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