Debbie Ford dies at 57, the bestselling author and teacher known for her work in helping people break free of their emotional baggage and fears, died in her home in San Diego, California on Sunday, February 17, 2013. She was surrounded by friends and family. This marked the end of a long journey with cancer that she first shared with the public in an interview with Oprah Winfrey.
Considered a thought leader for her generation, Ford burst onto the scene with her first book, The Dark Side of the Light Chasers, in 1998, showing the world that even loving and self-aware people have a darker side. She took readers on a journey of identifying, facing, and embracing their shadow selves. Her Shadow Process Workshop became the foundation of her work in nearly two decades to follow. She penned nine best-selling books related to that topic, and was working on her 10th book at the time of her death. Her books are translated into over 20 languages and have sold millions of copies.
Having overcome a drug addiction, a difficult divorce, a heartbreaking betrayal, and many hard knocks in the University of Life, Ford was never shy about sharing her personal story. In fact she often mused, with a laugh and a roll of her eyes, that a great deal of her wisdom and insight came through her own difficult life experiences.
Ford's books are still considered pioneering work in the world of emotional and spiritual education. Her books include: The Dark Side of the Light Chasers (1998); Spiritual Divorce: Divorce as a Catalyst for an Extraordinary Life (2001); The Secret of the Shadow: The Power of Owning Your Story (2002); The Right Questions: Ten Essential Questions To Guide You To An Extraordinary Life (2004); The Best Year of Your Life: Dream It, Plan It, Live It (2005); Why Good People Do Bad Things: How to Stop Being Your Own Worst Enemy (2008); The 21-Day Consciousness Cleanse: A Breakthrough Program for Connecting Your Soul’s Deepest Purpose (2009); The Shadow Effect: Illuminating the Hidden Power of Your True Self which she wrote with Deepak Chopra and Marianne Williamson (2010); and Courage: Overcoming Fear and Igniting Self-Confidence (2012).
Early in her career, Ford realized that one of her gifts was to bring large groups of people through the transformational process. To facilitate this work, she founded the The Ford Institute for Transformational Training and began to train others in her life-changing processes. She trained thousands of transformational life coaches around the world to utilize her innovative coaching models, tools, techniques and processes to support others in healing their hearts, clarifying their goals, creating lives beyond the limitations of their old beliefs and behaviors, and embracing and integrating their whole selves.
Her quick wit, ability to stand strong in the presence of human pain and suffering, and true belief that we are all encoded with the ability to serve others and love ourselves gained her the admiration and support of the greatest spiritual teachers of our time. She was known for her straight talking, honest approach to helping others heal their own self-hatred and release self-criticisms with forgiveness.
"It's easy to love yourself when you feel good enough, when you feel special enough, when you're loved enough, when you have enough money, and you're appreciated," she said in a 2010 interview. "But what about loving yourself when you're crying and you're in pain, feeling powerless and hopeless; when you feel like a reject and nobody loves you? That is love and that is what shadow work demands from you. We were birthed with one soul to take care of, and we must take care of it."
In 2008, Debbie founded The Collective Heart, a nonprofit organization with the mission to encourage people to make a difference in the lives of others, especially children. Inspired by Oprah's commitment to educate girls and at the urging of her friend Vivian Glyck, founder of the Just Like My Child Foundation, Ford and her son Beau committed to building the first "Children's Academy for the Collective Heart" in rural Uganda. With contributions from around the world, the first school was built, and began educating students in the spring of 2009. Since its inception, the Collective Heart has raised over $350,000, and provided the resources and provisions for six primary schools to be built in two African nations – five schools in Uganda and one in Kenya – that will empower thousands of children over the next 20 years with the lifelong gift of an education. In her latest endeavor, Ford helped inspire her community to raise $100,000 in support of The Girl Power Project, a dynamic year-long leadership training for adolescent girls in Uganda.
Ford earned her Master's Degree in Psychology with an emphasis in consciousness studies from JFK University, and in 2001 received the Alumni of the Year Award for her outstanding contribution in the fields of psychology and spirituality. In 2003 she was awarded an honorary Doctorate from Emerson University, and in 2004 she received an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from the John F. Kennedy University Board of Regents.
She is survived by her son, Beau Bressler; her mother Sheila Fuerst; her sister and brother-in-law, Arielle Ford and Brian Hilliard; her brother and sister-in-law, Michael and Anne Ford; her step-mother Judy Ford; her step siblings, Scott Fuerst, Randy Fuerst, Nancy Belazi, Randy Dobkin and Joelle Dobkin: and nine nieces and nephews.
The family requests that in lieu of flowers donations be made to Ford's foundation www.thecollectiveheart.org for the Girl Power Project. If you would like to share your memories and stories about Debbie, prayers for Debbie, or messages for her family, please visit www.RememberingDebbieFord.com
–by Laurie Sue Brockway
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