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Hidden Gems: Meet Susana Morell of Shielding Hearts

Today we’d like to introduce you to Susana Morell.

Susana, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
Unfortunately, my mother passed away in 2013 after living in a nursing home for ten years. She suffered a stroke in 2003 and was left half paralyzed, lost her ability to speak, and needed a feeding tube to eat. My eldest sister tried to convince my father to stop feeding her. I intervened and advocated for her. If her vital organs had not been compromised why would we starve her? My mother and I were extremely close she had me late in life she was forty-two and I was her companion in many ways. She was a very strong and independent woman who worked a full-time job during the week, sold MaryKay in the evenings, and worked on the weekends selling clothing/lingerie at a Bazaar and to sustain the household. I was her little helper and early on she molded me into a savvy business-minded individual. I was extremely fortunate to not only have her as my mother but as my mentor.

At 19, I became pregnant and she was my co-parent and helped me raise my son so I could pursue my education. She obtained a family attorney and took his biological father’s rights away so he would not have access to me or my son. He did not protest resigning his rights and was thrilled to write me and his son off and not be financially responsible. I obtained my bachelor’s and proceeded on to obtain my Master’s. She was determined to see me not struggle and be able to provide for my son. Her not watching me walk the day I obtained my Master’s was heart-wrenching because she earned it just as much as I did. She knew I desired to be a phenomenal counselor and change lives. I really do believe that the injustice I endured, heartache, mistreatment, and emotional scars molded me into an empathetic and insightful counselor. It has been the greatest reward to date to help children, individuals, couples, and families go from being in crisis to living a healthy and meaningful life because I know personally that it’s possible. In 2016, I lost my father his loss was very difficult due to me being his caretaker. It was an honor to care for him and be able to give back to him what he had given to me as my father.

After I lost my nephew Lewis to suicide in 2017, my heart ached like I could have never have imagined. I set out to create a curriculum that would support children to process their feelings in a healthy way so they would not believe that suicide is an option. My program is different from any other program due to the way children are guided out of their heartache. They don’t need to be told that they are depressed, grieving, or experiencing emotional instability. They are needing to be provided a “skill-set” to improve their lives and that’s the mission of the Hearts Matter Project. The Hearts Matter Project is a curriculum designed to assist students to adapt and adjust to unfortunate experiences with losing a loved one, a loved one becoming ill or just being angry. Children, pre-adolescents, and teens don’t have anything to reference when they are subjected to heartache, hurt, loss, anger, or unhealthy relationships in their families.

Now, their hearts have a voice. The program provides insight into their emotions, they feel heard, they feel that they are not “misunderstood”, and most importantly, they allow themselves to process their feelings to understand them. They exit the program regaining control of their emotions, communicating in a positive manner, and feeling empowered by the positive changes in their lives. Most importantly, they are happier and healthier individuals whose hearts are no longer weighing them down.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
My experience and education allowed for me to push through all the negativity and hardships in getting my program established. In 2017, I obtained three contracts and was provide grief counseling to students in three different school districts. In 2018 – 2019, I was down to two contracts due to TEA funding cutbacks. Today, I am only in one school district. I continue to reach out to all districts in the hope that the program would grow. The school districts are not comfortable with me not being as reputable as they are used to. It’s puzzling to them how one individual could make a difference. Unfortunately, my setbacks and frustrations fall on deaf ears. There is definitely a need for this service and I have the metrics to prove it. In August 2020 in the middle of the pandemic, I decided to put all that I had financially and move forward with establishing a nonprofit. As a nonprofit, I am able to apply for grants, obtain private donations, and corporate gifts and other fundraising campaigns to be able to offer the program for free to every school district. I am in the initial start-up phase. It’s very difficult to grow or bring awareness. Every phase requires financial investment that I don’t’ have. I have a long road ahead of me but I am determined to see the program be successful and give a child’s heart a voice to process their anger, hurt, resentment, heartache, grief, and loss.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
Shielding Hearts is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization committed to advocating for improving grief and loss process for children ages 6-17. In the past five years, there has been an increase in referrals to our program due to children losing a loved one, a loved one becoming terminally ill (such as with cancer or other terminal diseases), children affected by divorce, disruption within the family dynamics, and most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic. The Shielding Hearts agency utilizes the Hearts Matter curriculum, which is culturally responsive and respectful of various cultural backgrounds shared by students in your community. Students are taught a valuable skill set which assists them in processing their grief and loss by utilizing hands-on techniques to improve their coping skills, which address the child’s immediate social-emotional needs.

This unique and empowering curriculum has proven successful in improving a child’s mindset and gaining a new perspective to handle unfortunate situations they are currently experiencing and equipping them to face difficult situations they will surely encounter in future years, as we all do. Shielding Hearts is located in Kemah, Texas and was founded in 2016 by Susana Morell MS, CGRS, Counseling Services. Ms. Morell has over 20 years of experience supporting clients as they navigate from crisis to self-sufficiency. Through her personal losses, Susana developed a strong passion to improve the grief and loss dialogue and outcomes with children. Her driving force is to educate and help those who suffer in silence to become aware of their pain and heartache and to address those emotional wounds to provide a strong foundation for change and to make future healing and success attainable for children and families who have experienced trauma.

We’re always looking for the lessons that can be learned in any situation, including tragic ones like the Covid-19 crisis. Are there any lessons you’ve learned that you can share?
The crisis created a strong desire not to walk away from my program. I contracted the virus and was deathly ill for nine weeks. I did not lose my life and this provided me an opportunity to reevaluate what I treasure most and that is the willpower, dedication, and perseverance to help others. I believe that I have a purpose and I am determined to advocate for children and cut through all the red tape and push back that I endure. I don’t have a B plan so I will be successful.

Pricing:

  • $12 Book sold online/ Facebook
  • $180 for schools to pay for six weeks of counseling for one student.
  • $275 for teachers, counselors, crisis specialists, and other counseling staff to get certified on the Hearts Matter Project Curriculum

Contact Info:

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